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Selling up

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  1. Just to make some sweeping generalisations:

    More intelligent people tend to go to university than dumber people.

    Surely what's needed is a study of people who _could_ have gone to university, but didn't, rather than just looking at averages earnings of each?

    Even if not "more intelligent", one might consider "more self-confident" or "more ambitious". So you're right that the figures are deeply flawed. On the other hand, short of randomising a group to "uni" and "non-uni" it's hard to see how you can adjust for the self-selection bias.

  2. Virtually every sacking I have seen is because the employee is rubbish at their job in some way or other. Less than 5% has anything to do with unfair dismissal.

    That's not exactly been my experience. I think plenty of sackings occur due to personality clashes; where the employee is bolshy and hard-to-like but not actually incompetent, and the boss is bolshy and hard-to-like but not actually incompetent.

  3. I would like to agree with you that the government will stop trying to defend house prices.

    However, if they do let prices collapse, the banks will be in even deeper trouble.

    You are probably right that they will continue to try to prop up prices.

    But can they succeed? Could the dutch government have maintained the inflated price of tulips? I don't know, and as far as I can see, nobody really knows...

  4. The winter death toll is set to rise steeply as official figures show that nine elderly people died every hour because of cold-related illnesses last year. The number of deaths linked to cold over the four months of last ­winter reached nearly 28,000.

    I suppose they calculate this by noting the excess number of deaths in the cold months over those in the warmer months.

    It's true, no doubt, but I think there is an interesting historical reflection to be made.

    Respiratory viruses, bronchitis and pneumonia are commoner in the cold months. These can prove fatal to the frail elderly. I imagine they account for most of the excess winter deaths.

    BUT remember that it was not long ago that pneumonia was called the "old man's friend": The frail elderly people susceptible to death from respiratory infection will typically have other underlying conditions such as cancer and heart failure; cold-related respiratory infection used to be seen as a way of dying that is shorter and less symptomatically unpleasant than dying from, say, cancer or heart failure.

    I don't claim to know who is right and who is wrong. I just know that our society seems to assume that all death must be a tragedy; former societies have considered that some deaths might be preferable to others, and that cold-related respiratory infection is one of the better deaths available.

    Edit 1: and of course the fact that somebody dies of a cold-related illness does not mean that they were cold. There are simply more people with a cold about in winter who can pass it on to an elderly person, no matter how warm and comfortable that person's house...

    Edit 2: Realising I don't come across well here: If old people are cold, that is bad. The extent to which they are dying of cold-related illnesses, however, does not tell us whether they are cold - see edit 1 -, and may or may not be bad, depending on the situation.

  5. It's important not to confuse responsibility with blame.

    If a borrower borrowed unwisely, repaying the loan should be his or her responsibility.

    Is the borrower to blame? Maybe, maybe not. I personally don't feel much blame towards, say, a young couple with a child on the way, who were not prepared to tolerate the insecurity of UK rental contracts, and whose bank, newspaper, TV, friends and parents all assured them that house purchase was a one way bet.

  6. In 2003 the gap between average asking prices in London and average sale prices stood at £6,574, or about three per cent. But by this year it had exploded to more than £79,000 or 24 per cent.

    I've not been able to find details of the original research, which (according to the article) compares Rightmove asking prices with LR sales prices.

    But I strongly suspect that it's not been carried out on a house-by-house basis; instead I think someone's just said: Overall average London asking price on RM is 400k, overall average London LR sold price is, 320k so the gap is 79k.

    Fine, but that gap could, for instance, simply mean that only cheaper houses are selling, and that they are selling for 100% of asking price.

    So, as usual, we can't conclude anything without more information on the methodology.

    :angry:

  7. The BBC never report rightmove. Or at least that's what I thought until someone informed me that the 3.1% rise from last month was reported.

    And people argue the BBC isn't biased.

    But it's more likely laziness than incompetence [edit: I mean "conspiracy"]: I would imagine that when the figures are negative for any of these indices, the press release is written to sound as non-newsworthy as possible; when the figure is positive, I guess it gets a big attention-grabbing headline etc in the press release. So reporters naturally notice the positive ones more.

  8. Try to be more of a perfectionist. They don't do "happy" because they are never satisfied.

    Or a narcissist: I was told this week that that's what I am. What we narcissists do, I'm informed, is act happy when we think it's appropriate, while deep down we're in a spiritual hell of self-loathing. Well that's useful to know. It's another possible option for Sadman.

  9. "Compare Britain today to Japan in 1997 and there's not much difference. They had zombie companies, we're in danger of creating zombie households," say report authors Danny Gabay and Erik Britton

    I thought that the view of the majority of economists on Japan was that the government should have allowed a quick deflationary depression rather than propping up a slow deflation over 20 years. Am I mistaken?

    Becuase this article seems to be advocating propping up a slow deflation over 20 years.

  10. Why should people be ashamed of debt...the government have enough of it...the banks were bailed out because of it....

    Exactly. What's shame got to do with it?

    The government and banks have worked over the last 30 years to liberalise and extend lending; borrowing is a synonym for "confidence" in economic circles; the entire economy is geared towards making people borrow.

    Why should any good borrower-consumers feel shame? They were simply following the model that permeates government, business, economics and society at large: Borrow, leverage, repeat.

    I choose not to play this game, and think that those who do are frequently foolish. But what should they be ashamed of?

  11. Some rather unhelpfully black-and-white views on this thread.

    Surely the obvious fact is that some employers are exploitative and some employees are useless?

    I've been in the position of trying to sack a poor employee without leaving the company open to legal challenge. Yes it's difficult.

    But I've also got involved with supporting other people against bullying bosses. A boss can do a huge amount to make an employee's life miserable.

    Neither side has it easy; Lord Young may be right that the balance at present leans too far one way, or he may not be. I can't see that that is an easy call at all.

  12. My mum and her husband made a big (six figure) bridging loan to his daughter a few months back. Now all hell's broken loose over repayment. As I understand it, they didn't get a proper contract, they just assumed that everything would be okay with a quiet chat.

    Now it turns out that the parents' understanding of the terms and conditions bore no relation to the daughter's understanding. All the relationships involved are going to suffer because of it.

    I wouldn't go within a mile of such an arrangement.

  13. 13 pages in, I think it's fair to mention that it was me (I?) who brought up the idea of a citizen's income on the other thread which inspired this one.I'm delighted that it has inspired such intelligent debate. (Edit: And thanks Ologhai for bringing it to a wider audience)

    But, as a proponent of the idea of CI, I want to make one general point.

    Many here have said that the CI encourages idleness.

    For my money, the whole point of the CI is that is less of an encouragement to idleness than our present system.

    CI says to the unemployed: you don't have to work but you'll get more income if you do.

    Current system says to the unemployed: you'd better not work because you'll lose income if you do.

  14. I think I've read this differently here. The issue is that if the seller is asking for 125K, which meets your budget, but the bank says it's only worth 100K and they'll only lend you finances for that, then you have to persuade the seller that they need to drop to 100K. And we all know how keen sellers are to drop their prices...

    However, if one surveyor says it's only worth 100k, it is likely other surveyors will say the same. One might point this out to the seller; that in fact the seller is not facing a choice between selling for 125k and selling for 100k, he has a choice between your 100k now, and the 100k the bank will lend the next buyer, and the next one etc etc.

  15. An interesting idea.

    At what level would you suggest the Citizen's Income to be set at? (Not necessarily in pounds and pence, but would you expect to pay enough that someone could live on their Citizen's Income and nothing else?)

    Also, would the same Citizen's Income be given to minors (or to parents on their behalf)? Or would they receive a lesser amount... or none at all?

    It would have to be a level that was just livable on, since for instance those who can't find a job will end up living on it. I suppose the devil is in the detail: I wouldn't particularly want to have to decide how much that is! (Also I think there would have to be some political will to bring down housing costs before this would be feasible.)

    The children question is tough. If you start giving extra to parents then essentially it starts being a targeted benefit, and we lose the whole principle that the system that can't be "gamed". So I'd have to say that everyone over 18 gets their own, but there is none for children. If people are bringing up children, they will be expected to find the money themselves.

    Is that harsh or simply self-evidently how human society has functioned for thousands of years?

    Edit: P.S. SarahBell: I had a BigTrak.

  16. It's an inherently fair and sensible principle that universal benefits should be cancelled - i.e. none of this stuff for the well off elderly who are sitting in large houses worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

    No, it's not an uncontroversial principle at all.

    For all benefits and services, there are two options. Either they are universal or they are targeted (at those most in need).

    The problem with making them universal: a tax bureaucracy taking a large amount of tax on one hand and giving some of it back on the other, giving the state a lot of power.

    The probem with making them targeted: there is now an incentive against improving your situation, since you might lose benefits (currently a huge problem with housing benefit).

    So while there may be specific arguments for changing some of our universal benefits into targeted ones, it is not the case that targeted benefits are clearly preferable on principle.

    In fact I would like to see all targeted benefits replaced by a citizen's income, a single universal benefit payed to millionaires and paupers. No targeted benefits, no administrative bureacracy, no competing to show whose need is most with doctors notes etc etc... Here's your money, same as everyone else's, off you go.

  17. IO'd love to see gross market lending as a proportion of the average house price at the time.

    Sept 2010 - average house price £160k (?), lending 12.1 billion = 750,000 houses?

    Sept 2000 - average house price £100k (?), lending 10 billion = 1,000,000 houses.

    So not just a little less, but effectively 25% less than in 2000.

    I believe that gross lending includes remortgaging though, so this exercise isn't really informative.

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