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Everything posted by A.steve

  1. I used to think that... In the past few months, I decided I was wrong. I am, now, very interested in the technology. I think this speculation in worthless "coins" is idiotic - a bubble even more ridiculous than tulip mania... but the speculative shenanigans is not what's interesting to me. I would like to see the people who launch Ponzi schemes to be held accountable... they are already illegal... and I see no reason to treat them as anything but a Ponzi. It is obscene if (regulated) banks have (even thought about) putting this nonsense on their balance sheets as an asset. On the other hand, the ideas about NFTs and distributed trust are extremely interesting. I have no interest in buying any Bitcoin or Altcoin - through my bank, or any other way.... BUT... I would be very interested to establish a blockchain record of my contractual relationships with all sorts of institutions. I'd like to have a permanent, cryptographically verifiable, record of contractual terms. The more formally that these can be defined, the better. I'd love to know that my terms and conditions can't be changed unilaterally. I'd like to know that - if push came to shove - it wouldn't be the word of an individual that one piece of paper (or PDF) is the trustable record - if a large corporate says it is a different bit of paper (or PDF). I think there are numerous very interesting contexts in which blockchain technology could be very effective. I'm just disinterested in the "Double Spend" problem having (allegedly) been solved.
  2. Units of fiat have an arbitrary scale. If we renamed pennies as pounds, could we argue that anyone became richer? There would be a lot more millionaires. Similarly, if all the numbers increase, by a similar proportion, is there really any meaningful change? There's a narrative about 'win-win' associated with liberal democracy and free market capitalism... I don't think it's entirely without merit... but it doesn't tell the whole story. Not only do people seek new wealth from new productive activity - but they are also aware that their lives are influenced by a 'pecking order' in society - where the rich find themselves on top, and the poor are subordinate. I believe that many people (especially those occupying positions of dominance/authority) are especially keen to retain their privileges... and, at some level of abstraction... at least, this means wanting the poor to remain poor... as it is relative, rather than absolute, wealth that finds advantage. For those who do not personally identify with "providing labour" - then rising labour costs are indistinguishable from a shortage... as the same financial resources get less labour done. If someone, who depends upon labour, wanted to maintain (at least) the status-quo, the counter to rising labour costs are other increased costs... including all kinds of "economic rents"... obviously: domestic housing costs, but also rents for commercial spaces; insurance costs; amazon/ebay fees - etc. etc. etc. A big problem for the poor, under such circumstances, is that fear of loss is a far more potent motivator than desire for gain. Hence, systemically, evenly increasing wages across the board (rather perversely) will (in all likelihood) adversely affect the poor. The nominal increase in purchasing power will be rapidly eroded - (and very probably exceeded) by increasing costs of living. The fundamental problem faced by the poor, relative to the rich, is not that they don't have enough money - or that the wages of those who do work is too low. The fundamental problem is that the interests and opportunities (both tangible and intangible) for those who are poor (or who provide labour) are subordinated to those of the rich (who, typically, do not provide labour - or, if they do, they are less dependant upon doing so.) It is for this reason that collective bargaining by the labour force is self-defeating... it entrenches subordination. It simply doesn't make sense to think about preventing everyone being poor - because poverty is relative. The only way to establish meaningful progress is to permit social mobility... which, realistically, has to be on an individual basis. Collective bargaining (whether one is actively involved in it, or a passive 'beneficiary') represents the death-knell for social mobility. People suffer poverty because they have inadequate control over their own lives and are easily exploited by others. Just as being given a Rolex doesn't help someone who is mugged every time they leave their house... giving people who provide labour a proportional wage rise is not going to help them take control. Given the broader picture... it's obvious that everything meaningful in their world would remain unchanged. The only hope for the unfortunate demographics is to do something different - to change direction; to take the initiative and stand up against exploitation... recognise where there are adversarial relationships - and 'play' that game more effectively. If food costs more, I don't see a problem with that... but it does disproportionately affect the least affluent... as a greater portion of their income is consumed (pardon the pun). I don't have a problem with the idea that there should be a free market for labour (and other services) and that... if there were to be a reversal of the balance of power in the relationship between two demographics... this does not justify government intervention. For as long as the rich retain exclusive access to opportunities to take (informed) economic risks - while the poor are prevented from doing similarly - we should expect to see no meaningful change to the status quo. The rich will be the elite, and the poor their subordinates. In bygone eras, aristocrats boasted about the how many people were "theirs" (as peasant tenants, or as slaves) - perhaps this metric makes more sense than counting fiat?
  3. M4 was defined as a broader (and subtly differently defined) measure to M3 - and includes longer maturities. I think the M4 statistic is interesting, of course, but I am very wary of any interpretation of it. I think there's a risk of falling for a monetarist fallacy - and being mislead. I'll (try to) explain. Monetarists believe that one can measure the amount of money - in a way analogous to the way in which one can count houses, registered citizens or minted coins. Fiat, however, doesn't work quite the same way... money is debt - and valid debt has a finite time-to-live... we call debts that are never repaid 'bad debts' and they are not supposed to underpin fiat money. On the surface, at least, measuring the total nominal value of monetary assets seems sensible.. but, perhaps, it isn't. Assume a money-supply metric of "m" at time "T", and a money-supply metric of "2m" at time "T + 1 year". A naive interpretation is that there is "twice as much money" after one year... but isthis meaningful? Consider this scenario: On day 1: Bank A has a £1bn bond - which, for arguments sake, represents money lent to consumers and spent into the economy. Bank B lends A £1bn against it... which bank A deposits with Bank C - creating a new £1bn asset - which can then be used to repeat the process on day 2. Interest charged and interest earned cancel each other out. If we ignore potential issues with debt service costs and administrative fees (which might not balance out exactly) every other transaction in this story has zero impact on the 'real economy'... but... every interaction creates fresh financial assets - and there is no theoretical limit (ignoring risk of fraud and default for a while) to the number of these fresh financial instruments that can be created... if there is will to do so. These fresh monetary instruments, in their own right, however, will not have any meaningful consequence. It is nothing more than a paper-shuffling exercise between bankers... It doesn't extend new credit to consumers; no-one earns the newly created money... and, eventually, it will be destroyed when the loans are repaid. Obviously, the complexity and counter-party risks are not insignificant. However, the key thing to realize is that the nominal sum of all the financial instruments is not what matters most... What needs to be properly understood is not the nominal sum of all the instruments - but the specific, and systemic, risks associated with each and every individual contract. Of course, money supply metrics like M4 provide some insight into the total nominal sum of instruments - but it doesn't provide any meaningful insight into inflationary pressure... because we don't have information about the purpose of the loans, or about the parties to whom the borrowed money has been paid.
  4. My thoughts exactly. Boris wants us to oxidize carbon wherever possible. Don't tell the arsonists in Newport.
  5. Never under estimate human ingenuity if a prize is at stake.
  6. This economic argument is bogus... not because it's too cynical - but because it isn't cynical enough. Why would someone who only cares about there being lots of economic activity care that you or I are the ones who get economic benefit (i.e. that our wishes are being served when economic transactions occur)? While it's easy to see why those with investments will want their benefit from your (or my) economic transactions... there's no motivation for anyone else to care about who makes the transactions. Think logically: why not get rid of the fickle, inconvenient, humans and replace them with AI that reliably manage debts and buy whatever is offered to them?
  7. I'm pleased that we both insist that "science" needs the quotation marks when used in this context. I just want to clarify... while I actively dislike Dawkins' rhetoric, and feel dismay at the beliefs of his fan base... I have not approached this with any beliefs of my own about "Intelligent Design" - or otherwise. The scientific method is undeniably a profound philosophical tool. We can credit it with having delivered a vastly improved (but still imperfect) knowledge about the natural world. One might also credit these ideas as having been a necessary foundation for substantial societal progress during the C17-C18 - where a broader range of people were empowered to question the entrenched power and authority of Monarchy and Church. Problems emerge where there is intellectual over-reach... where principles that were insightful in one domain are transformed (either honestly, or otherwise) to serve as a basis for influence and decision making in unrelated domains (c.f. Cargo Cults). For example: the theory of Darwinian evolution represents a compelling narrative about the 'Origin of species'... but Social Dawinism (which seeks intellectual credibility by tenuous association) is a poisonous doctrine that lacks meaningful foundation and depends upon uncritical acceptance of fallacies. The Enlightenment - the period during which scientific principles became established - is also known as 'the age of reason'. Today, it seems, a significant proportion of the public has lost its way with respect to the necessity to apply reason. The inadequately educated/informed masses, centuries ago, were principally guided by the hierarchical authorities of Church and State. Today, it seems, a similar demographic remains - and, today, are guided by people who claim the authority of "Science" - rather than the authority of "Almighty God Himself" or the "Divine rights of Kings". The irony, of course, is that those who appreciate the significant Enlightenment-era advances in human comprehension would also recognize that "appeal to authority" - even when that authority is labelled "Science" (or other words that sound superficially scientific) is entirely fallacious. Such fallacies demonstrate failure to embrace reason - and, as such, violate every valid scientific principle. My fundamental objection to Dawkins is not just that he has an odious personality (we all have our crosses to bear) but that he misrepresents his ideas as conveying scientific "truth" when, in reality, they fail even to make the bar as scientific hypotheses. Dawkins fails to appreciate that the scientific method depends upon honest, open, rational criticism - and is incompatible with assumptions that "science" provides "truth" when, in reality, it just provides a framework within which some ideas can be objectively questioned and empirically tested. You might be right. However... We live in a global society. The British represent less than 1% of the population. I think most people (the British Government, opposition politicians and myself all included) thought that a substantial majority would continue to support the status-quo before the Brexit referendum. This assumption was wrong.
  8. In the 1930s, in Germany, many private businesses decided that it was "better for business" to treat Jews as second class citizens and refuse to serve them. A little later, once they had been de-humanized, the government found it much easier to commission mass extermination. Interestingly, the arguments that these private businesses should have been free to discriminate, however they saw fit, and that the government was not to blame either - because they did not explicitly require the discrimination in question - are not without precedent. I had understood that, from the 1950s onwards (at least) such ideas did not have mainstream support. Precedent suggests that, if one assumes responsibility for stopping (any type of) "it" spreading... the strategy will be to focus on scape-goats... typically identifying them by physical attributes, and/or political/ethical/religious beliefs: curtail their rights; undermine their dignity; promote disgust - then exterminate them. "Better safe than sorry..." - they'll say... and ask for gratitude for having courageously taken the initiative. There will be a story about how much worse everything would now be if no-one had done what appears to have been evil. This story about necessity will be promoted as if were true - because it can't be empirically tested. It recurs throughout history. I guess everything depends upon whether you are terrified at the prospect of dying yourself. I am not. I'd prefer to live - but how I live is far more important than how long I spend doing it.
  9. I attended a presentation by Richard Dawkins (a bit more than a decade ago). It was a real eye-opener... "Science" is a religion - the congregation are those who don't comprehend philosophy... and subserviently worship a clergy who dress their sermons in a superficially technical garb.
  10. While I'm genuinely surprised you can describe any aspect of this a "triumph"... perhaps your broader point is interesting. If you're right - then, perhaps, we can anticipate what's next... a global religious war, pitting the Church of "Science" against everyone else? LOL!
  11. While you didn't accuse me of being a troll, the preposterous behaviours of governments (and NGOs) when acting in this domain, have (and still do) terrify me. I'm not afraid of the vaccines as substances... though I am very frightened by the preposterously abusive manner in which they have been foisted on the public. I fully appreciate why intelligent people find they can only oppose the situation tooth-and-nail... on every front. I, personally, believe the content of the syringes is "just another flu vaccine"... not very effective... but fairly unlikely to result in severe adverse reactions... having been engineered to deal with a relatively minor potential illness. The propaganda, on the other hand, has fundamentally damaged the credibility of both governments and the entire medical profession. I expect billions of people, today, feel they can no-longer continue to trust the establishment... because their trust has been abused by sustained misinformation from organisations and individuals allegedly acting in their interest... but, actually, doing something very different. I expect millions to die from preventable causes because they feel they can no-longer trust doctors or hospitals - so avoid seeking help. I expect millions more have suffered severe psychological trauma. At best, these people will struggle to look after themselves in the medium-long term... but some may - in due course - adopt problematic behaviours that may result in even greater tragedies. I feel this entire debacle has been a woeful trek in a despicable direction. I hope that civilization can recover... though I certainly empathize with those who can't forgive and forget. The issue is entirely political and economic in nature... not clinical. The dark, stark, reality is that, today, there's a lot less trust in "the establishment" - and who can even begin to predict what will be the consequence of that?
  12. Does anyone else see it as a remarkable coincidence that we're seeing this sharp increase in Gas prices at just the same time as Nord Stream 2 has been completed, but not turned on, and is ready to provide an additional 55bn m^3/anm supply to Europe (via Germany)... if the EU (and perhaps the USA) permit it. With significantly expanded supply, one would - traditionally - have expected falling prices. 🙂
  13. No-way! Someone at the FT must have tuned into my neural resonant frequency and stolen my scoop! I'd check for convincing evidence, but the FT page is insisting that I pay a subscription read my own ideas. 🙂
  14. I'd noticed... and Chris should be in his mid-30s... unless Chris is an alias for Peter Pan. Gives the whole situation an air of timelessness, doesn't it? Next week I'll respond to Plato. I'm reading about Prussian history at the moment. It gives a different perspective on how the rates at which various things change. It feels, to me, as if the current situation demands an understanding on a century, rather than decade, scale...
  15. I'm also in my 40s. I was dismayed about people my age, and most of elder generations, from the age of about 6. I've not noticed an increase in ignorance... but continue to feel considerable disappointment with the human race. The only thing that's changed is that, when I looked younger, almost everyone automatically assumed I must be ignorant (so assumed I should not deserve to be taken seriously.) These days it only seems to be the assumption of about half the people I meet - and I observe them treating others worse than they treat me. Progress is possible - sort of... In my opinion, ignorance is a minor problem. If the problem was ignorance, then it could be tackled using knowledge. This strategy rarely works. The bigger problem is not ignorance itself, but the relentless, dangerous, baseless confidence that the spectacularly ignorant can exude. In my experience, the elder the person, typically, the less questioning their nature and the more likely that any ignorant idea cannot be challenged using a rational approach. I don't think this is a new phenomenon... but I do think it takes on a new dimension in today's world. Modern communications have revolutionized access to information - and it seems inevitable that mankind's ability to make sense of the world... in the context of this novel (over) abundance... will lag behind. In my opinion, every significant guiding principle for mankind (e.g. religions/churches; monarchies and aristocratic hierarchies; economic ideologies from Marxism to Libertarian Anarchocapitalism; atheism and belief in scientific authority - etc. etc) all depended upon followers accepting the idea they were given... while coping with the cognitive dissonance arising from the contradictions... typically by trained/learned ignorance. For millennia the vast majority of people who have ever lived survived by accepting preposterous ideas - and ignoring the glaring contradictions that led the less 'experienced'/'educated' to doubt. It should come as no surprise if this sort of thing still happens today.
  16. I concur that Gove's move (and his weird recent antics) seem significant. However... there are several ways to interpret your question... Do you think that there is going to be some externally triggered event that results in crisis in the housing market? If this is your thinking, then - surely - we're talking about Evergrand, Chinese Debt and potential international contagion? I'm not sure I believe this... but, I guess, a case could be made that Evergrand represents international high-yield investment - i.e. leveraged speculation in risky bonds while pretending they are safe collateral for other loans. Perhaps, if there are large capital losses, it will result in investors demanding dramatically higher yields and supporting a much smaller total nominal debt. The Evergrand stuff is curious for many reasons... One thing that struck me is the scale of $300bn... this reminds me of Long Term Capital Management's $300bn debacle when Russia defaulted in ~1998. The US authorities 'fixed' that problem by apportioning losses to big banks... but, perhaps, that was only feasible in the context that the debt in question had been sovereign debt. China's problem debts, it seems, are private sector... and, I guess, were arranged in Hong Kong under the rule of (something a bit like?) British Law. Could this break the illusion that all bond prices should be extraordinarily high - and result in interest rates spiralling upwards? Might we actually see something (which, right now, might seem a perverse consequence of an economic failure in China): might this upset international capital flows and cause the Yuan to appreciate - with steadily increasing international prices for anything China exports? Do you think that... rather than an externally triggered systemic financial event.... that Gove will (intensionally, or otherwise) create an epic mess himself? I sympathise if you find him difficult to trust. I still can't work out what sort of hold he has over Bo-Jo... the dynamic of their relationship is not what one would expect from their relative roles. Gove's family background is also curious - especially if you find it surprising that an adopted child would rise to the aristocratic-smelling role of Chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster - after mooching around Notting Hill... then Whitehall... 'under' a PM who treats him with kid-gloves. Do you think the mess will be domestic in nature - arising as an 'unintended' consequence of interventions like the stamp-duty-holiday?
  17. Awww - come on - it's not an awful attempt. How would you manipulate it to make it better support the headline?
  18. We're in more complete agreement than I could ever have imagined. 🙂 I would expect greater demand for drivers... because there's been a shift away from shopping in person in shops. On one hand, I'm hugely impressed at what gets delivered, at amazingly low cost. On another hand - I feel a bit frustrated that the world isn't exactly as I'd prefer. For many things, I'd prefer to be in a physical shop, in person... but for a large number of other things... I'd like a 'lower effort' solution. I would describe it as wanting 'a cheaper solution' - but that would likely be misinterpreted as me wanting to pay less... Actually, for many things I order (e.g. second hand books; clothes; etc.) I'd be happy to say 'add it to a monthly drop-off'... I'm not concerned about it being here today - or this week... as long as I know it'll arrive eventually... that's all I'm after from delivery... Surely there'd be more profit in that than having low-paid workers scuttle around with individual items? I can see a place for next-day delivery... but I care more for a low-effort delivery mechanism for low-urgency low-value items... and... when there is urgency - then I prefer not to wait until the next day... for urgent things, I'd like to collect them. I think this desire to collect 'urgent' things (e.g. fresh fruit and veg) entrenches supermarkets. I think that 'bare shelves' is political dynamite... even if they are bare for a very short period... for "technical" reasons. My recent supermarket visits have been to Tesco, Asda, Lidl and Aldi. Asda had always had a fantastic wide choice... and few unavailable items... until recently... when I've found the shelves sparse. With Tesco the shelves have also been sparse on several visits... and I was very conscious that I seemed to be taking the last of many lines when I made selections. This never seemed to happen in the past. Both Lidl and Aldi have done much, much better - in my view... with Aldi beating Lidl on quality and price by a narrow margin. Aldi has consistently out-performed my expectations with quality - and their prices are an unnecessary bonus. At Aldi, there aren't any shortages; I've seen no deterioration in quality; there appears to be no problem with supply chains. This makes me wonder... for supermarkets charging significantly more... why can't they keep their shelves as well stocked? It can't be about a general shortage of drivers - because their competition seem to have solved the problem with ease. With Tesco, I looked at the share price... which abruptly fell last year... I looked into why that might be - and found they'd returned ~£5bn in cash to shareholders... suggesting that Tesco had decided that it didn't need to invest in anything... and their value as a business fell by a slightly higher proportion of their market cap - suggesting that investors disagreed. I note that Tesco big-wigs have left Tesco... and familiar names seem to be involved, now, in a bid to buy Morrisons. I wonder if there are any connections among all that?
  19. I am aware of the proliferation of people who have promoted new narratives - and then attempted to corroborate them at any cost. I find this stuff interesting - but that doesn't mean I think it's accurate. I appreciate the critical analysis of any theory - whether I believe it or not. For example, as a recreational distraction, 'flat-earth' is always entertaining... I'm prepared to debate that over a beer - and I'm prepared to let you choose if I take the position of a 'flat' or a 'ball' earther... if you promise to defend the opposite position. I feel the proliferation of 9/11 obsessives has arisen because the mainstream narrative is implausible. It depends upon (fallacious) appeal to authority. I think a good analogy would be the the struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and non-religious thinkers during the first 2/3rds of the last millennium... especially astronomers and alchemists. Sure... the alchemist's quest to turn base metal into gold was a spectacular dead-duck... and many very clever people 'wasted' their entire lives in this fruitless, often dangerous, pursuit. Astronomers, whose consideration of the physical world impinged on theological posturing about the same subject, was dangerous in another way - and is widely documented as having resulted in persecution. Despite these daunting problems for those who doubted the omniscience of the Clergy, the authority of the Church did diminish... and "The Enlightenment" emerged. This marked the birth of mankind's current, irrational, 'religious' obsession in (whatever ideas superficially appear to have the authority of) 17-18th Century science. Trump not attending the ceremony is interesting. I'm reminded that he made cryptic remarks about wanting to declassify things when he became president - but being unable to do so for ongoing reasons of National Security. I've not actively followed the releases following Biden's orders... but I am aware that some stories about initial (redacted) documents have focused upon the connection to Saudi Arabia. In the last couple of years, I have (tried to) read about Saudi Arabia - and, I have to say, even the mainstream narrative about that country's affairs seem freakier than the wildest conspiracy theory. I strongly suspect that very few people properly understand the situation there. [If you're intrigued, and want a taster, I was blown-away by reading Adnan Khashoggi's Wikipedia page as one historical perspective.]
  20. Thanks for the robust and detailed answer... Whether you intended to, or not, I feel it corroborates my suspicion about the narrative presented in the press. It does not sound, to me, as if the issue is a sudden shortage of drivers... so much as a failure (especially by large corporates) to manage anything beyond immediate requirements... coupled with systemic failures to address genuine business risks. The cynic in me wonders if supermarket executives are using a narrative about shortages to establish political concessions (which would allow them to minimise their costs long term... by undermining wage negotiation positions of drivers.) If the board of directors is prepared to accept shortages - rather than negotiate terms with suppliers of services... then it becomes much more difficult to drive a hard bargain against them. Is that what's really at stake here?
  21. Perhaps this investor was intending to buy them from, erm... themselves?
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