Why we have narcissistic rich guys

I like this:

The job of billionaires is to live a better life, and while doing that pay for it to go from being an expensive luxury to a cheap and universal commonplace.

People moan about “trickle down” economics, often claiming that it doesn’t even happen. I only have to look at my flat screen TV, upon which I am now happily watching cricket, to know that this is wrong.

Brexit didn’t stop London’s cranes

While I’m on the subject of postings past, here is one from the old blog from exactly five years ago, featuring a crane cluster photo, which I have also just transferred to here. Brexit was then being hailed by its enemies as the latest bringer of economic doom. So, I asked, would Brexit mean the departure of all the cranes from the London skyline?

Hasn’t happened so far. I’m not getting out nearly as much these days as I’d like. But, here is a photo that a friend recently photoed in Stratford, with all its Olympic stuff, of the present state of the Olympic village:

It’s been a while since I’ve even set eyes on all the cranes in the Battersea/Vauxhall area, but they can’t all have disappeared by now, even if their number may now be starting to diminish.

And if the story I linked to recently about how there are 587 new towers in the pipeline is anything to go by, the cranes will be around for quite a while.

2008 and all that didn’t stop the march of the cranes, and Brexit hasn’t either. People all over my bit of the internet are celebrating that Brexit, economically, seems to be working out okay, five years after the vote. This has been my celebration.

When taxation is defenestration

Daylight robbery, …

… via Mick Hartley, to whom thanks.

For this guy, only the window tax is “daylight robbery”, because that’s the only tax he can photograph.

Whereas, for this guy

Quota gallery of Broadway progress

As foreseen yesterday, today was indeed, although well worth the strain, … strenuous. And I am now determined to keep this posting short, unlike last night’s exhausted ramble.

In among yesterday’s sunshine and strenuosity, I photoed these photos, of progress on the Broadway:

They’ll be posh flats, basically. I seem to recall recently wondering if this project would ever make a profit. Well, another photo I photoed yesterday was this, which has a bearing on that matter:

Although, that could just be inflation happening before anyone official is prepared to talk about it already being on that sort of scary scale. But, even if inflation is now surging, the fact that house prices are also surging suggests that houses, or in this case flats, are at least keeping their value.

These new places will not be to all tastes, because new buildings seldom are. But I think I’m going to rather like them. Apart from down at ground level, where all new modernist buildings are invariably dull and unwelcoming, on account of modernists not knowing how to do front doors, but refusing to do them anciently, which would cheer things up no end. But like I say, they refuse to do that.

And that’s your lot for today. I’m off to bed now.

McCloskey summarised by Scheidel

I have recently been reading Escape From Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity by Walter Scheidel. Scheidel himself summarises the arguments in this book in this piece.

Better yet, Scheidel also provides (pp.489-490) a very short summary of Deidre McCloskey’s very long trilogy about how the bourgeoisie ignited the Industrial Revolution:

Deirdre McCloskey has advanced a bold thesis that places values at the center of modernization and the Great Escape. In her telling, “liberal ideas caused the innovation” necessary to sustain this process. By 1700, talk and thought about the middle class began to change. As “general opinion shifted in favor of the bourgeoisie, and especially in favor of its marketing and innovating commerce and investment in human capital expanded as a consequence of this shift, rather than precipitating it. This led to a sweeping “Bourgeois Revaluation” embodied in a new rhetoric that protected the pursuit of business: whereas aristocratic-inflected discourse had previously stigmatized it as a vulgar pursuit, it now garnered acceptance and even admiration. This new mode of thinking permitted the bourgeoisie to join the ruling class and to infuse and enrich it with innovative and competitive traits. In the final analysis, the idea of liberty and dignity for ordinary people was the principal driving force behind this change.

According to McCloskey, this process unfolded in a series of steps. The Reformation together with the growth of commerce, the fragmentation of Europe, and the freedom of their cities enabled the Dutch bourgeoisie to enjoy freedom and dignity. Over time, Dutch influence that encouraged emulation of their practices regarding trading, banking, and public debt converged with the spread of printing and English liberties in similarly liberating and dignifying the British bourgeoisie, whose efforts subsequently unleashed modern economic growth.

Thus, “the Four Rs” – reading, reformation, revolt (in the Netherlands), and revolution (in England in 1688) culminated in late seventeenth-century England in the fifth and ultimately decisive “R,”the revaluation of the bourgeoisie, an “R-caused, egalitarian reappraisal of ordinary people.” Democratic church governance introduced by the Reformation emboldened the populace, and northern Protestantism encouraged literacy. McCloskey regards political fragmentation as vital to these processes: these forms of improvement worked better on a small scale. But political ideas, and ideas more generally, took the lead: “rhetorical change was necessary, and maybe sufficient.” She consequently documents at great length the emergence of a pro-bourgeois rhetoric in Britain during the eighteenth century.

As one who has struggled to plough through all of McCloskey’s three books, I am very grateful to Seidel.

I have dipped extensively into the McCloskey trilogy, and my guess is that if I joined up all my dippings, so to speak, I would conclude that these books are long on illustrated assertion but short on actual arguments to the effect that what is asserted is right rather than just asserted. As it happens, I share McCloskey’s admiration for the bourgeois virtues and I think she is right to believe in their transformative importance in British and global economic history. But if I didn’t already agree, I don’t believe that these books would do enough to convince me of much besides how strongly McCloskey believes what she believes. And what I actually believe also, but for other reasons.

On people not having to put up with too much crap at work any more

Seen today on Twitter:

A lady cleaner jacks her job in after getting a dressing down from her horrid boss. I don’t know the details, or whose fault this really was. Maybe “Julie” behaved very badly. But maybe the cleaning lady had driven Julie to distraction with her wrong ways of cleaning.

But, let’s now assume that whatever Julie’s reasons were for flipping her lid like that, it was indeed very unfair on the cleaning lady and could have been handled much better by Julie. Julie shouldn’t have bawled her out like that. Well, that means that Julie is now in some trouble, even if that trouble is only the fear of trouble. (Only!) Julie now faces being investigated by her superiors for perhaps provoking this contretemps and for making the bank look bad on Twitter.

I think the key change here is that your typical worker in a country like ours does not any longer have to take this sort of crap (assuming this was crap). Two hundred years ago, what percentage of the working population could be unemployed for a month without staring death by starvation in the face? And what is the answer to that same question now? Very different, I think we can be sure. And I think this is a very big change.

A century and more ago, this cleaning lady and all the people at her economic level, i.e. most people, just had to put up with this sort of humiliation. But not any more. Upping and leaving isn’t necessarily any fun, but for millions of workers now, it is now doable, if the alternative is made too horrible to endure.

As a result of this profound economic change, there is now a huge industry, populated by people who trained as actors and actresses (I have a couple of friends of this sort), which instructs middle managers in how to combine two things which can be hard to combine, namely being kind and polite, and yet still saying what is wanted. The danger is that if you are too nice, you’ll stop communicating clearly, which can then be torture of another kind. So you have to learn to be as kind as possible, while still being clear about what you want from your underlings and colleagues. Because such skills can be easier to describe than to master, these middle managers often have to practice doing all this, by playing out scenes, wrongly and rightly.

And note this. The process of them learning to be nice while remaining sufficiently clear and assertive has itself to be done in a way that works, but is also nice enough for them not to up and jack in their jobs because it’s all too damn humiliating and also a load of bollocks.

Patrick and I talk about Enoch Powell

The latest Patrick Crozier/Brian Micklethwait recorded conversation is now up and listenable-to. We talk about Enoch Powell, of whom Patrick writes:

Enoch Powell was a prominent politician in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his views on immigration although he was also friendly towards libertarian ideas especially on economics. While a large part of our chat is inevitably taken up with immigration we also discuss Margaret Thatcher, Steve Baker and the end of Empire.

I embarked upon this conversation fearing that I had not done enough homework. But during Powell’s career itself I was paying attention, and, stimulated by Patrick, I found myself remembering a lot more, of the sort that I had not, so to speak, remembered remembering beforehand.

Also, I wasn’t expecting to notice the Powell/Steve Baker parallels. Both took/take ideas more seriously than they took the mere achievement of office, and both consequently had/have a big Parliamentary impact. Baker also resembles Powell in being extremely clever and extremely industrious. (Baker also resembles Powell in not being a racist.)

This is the biography of Powell that Patrick had been reading.

Happy Easter!

I hope you are having one.

I definitely am, and I will tell you (a big part of) why. This, on YouTube, from Steve Baker MP, no less.

Just over two minutes long, so not a big chunk out of your life it you follow the above link and watch it all.

I’ll surely have more to say about this by way of thanks. But, busy day for me today, and I could hardly postpone at least noticing this here.

Ask, and you shall receive. This exploiting my impending death to achieve a dose of upward social mobility thing is really working out well.

Patrick and I talk about the current state of libertarianism

I’ve had a busy day doing other things, but last Tuesday, Patrick Crozier and I recorded a conversation about the current state of the libertarian movement, and I can at least today report that Patrick has now done the editing and introductory blogging and linkage, and you can listen to it by going here. It lasts, after Patrick had sliced out the pauses (which we discuss at the end), almost exactly an hour.

As the title of Patrick’s posting alludes to, we speak in particular about how libertarians happen to have been divided about recent Big Issues of the Day, like Brexit, Trump and Lockdown. In each of these arguments, libertarians have been on both sides. However, we both express guarded optimism that libertarians will be more united in the argument that will soon be raging about how best to recover from Lockdown. Our voice may not win, but it will at least be more like one voice.

For further clues about the kinds of things we discussed, see the categories list below. Notice that “Education” is not in this list. For some reason we failed to even mention this.

BMNB QotD: On the sunk cost fallacy

Ryan North:

I’ve learned far too much about the sunk cost fallacy to stop now.

And I might as well carry on blogging, given how long I’ve been at it.