Never ascribe to mendacity

…that which can be explained by incompetence.

Let’s be honest, we all have a secret place in our hearts for the occasional conspiracy theory. Some people believe the moon landings were faked, others think the Jews are the secret rulers of the world, some poor deluded souls even believe Kylie Minogue can hold a tune.

The fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral has set off a plethora of conspiracy theories. My favourite is that the fire was set by Muslim terrorists and has subsequently been covered up by the dhimmis in the French Government.

As I wrote over at Tim Newman’s gaff, “because that’s what terrorists do, isn’t it; destroy a cultural icon and then not tell anyone”.

This is why William of Ockham’s razor is so useful; the explanation which requires the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the truth.

This podcast is the best example of the conspiracy mindset. Stefan Molyneux is a famous YouTube and podcaster, and like the proverbial stopped clock he sometimes gets things right.

This is unlikely to be one of those occasions.

As I understand it, the evidence suggesting an arson attack and subsequent governmental over up is as follows;

– The fire started after workers had left the site.

– Other churches in France have been attacked.

– A brown man was seen smiling nearby

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps some terrorists set the fire, didn’t call Le Monde to claim responsibility and the French authorities have hushed it all up.

Or, perhaps sloppy work practices by the renovators resulted in a spark lighting a fire in a church with plenty of dry wood.

We’ve always been at war with the Eurasia Group

The usually sound Ambrose Evans Pritchard regurgitates a press release from the Eurasia Group risk report in the Telegraph (Sydney Morning Herald paywall avoidable version here);

The answer to questions like this in headlines is almost always, “No, you’re just trying to get eyeballs“.

Oh, that’s worrying.

By that I mean, it’s worrying that the UN isn’t also in the list of global institutions past their sell-by dates that are in crisis. In the words of Saint Augustine, “Oh Lord! Make me pure, but not yet!“.

Bloody hell, we’re almost on the brink of another world war? There’s no way the government will allow that, just think what it would do to their plans for annual skiing holidays and the values of their Caribbean villas.

It all sounds very worrying though, whatever might be the cause?

Ah, it’s just another #OrangeManBad #LiterallyHitler article.

One of these political thinktank pieces isn’t compete without an economic prediction, of course;

Sure, the EU is going to have a few challenges ahead, especially if the UK is lucky enough to exit without a deal and gets to keep the £39bn ransom, but we’re heading for deflation, are we?

Given that the USA inflation figures for 2018 were 2.54% and projected to be ~2.44% this year, I wouldn’t go holding one’s breath for it to turn negative. Something like a meteor strike would have to happen in 2019 to turn that into deflation.

Oh goodeee, another article telling us the reason why we voted to leave the EU.

Personally, it was Magna Carta, 800+ years of Common Law, legislative sovereignty, the right to determine our own immigration laws and the fact that calling 73 MEPs for a population of 67m “democracy” seems like a sicker joke than anything Louis CK could come up with. But no, Eurasia Group, do tell us why we voted Brexit.

As for the problems between China and the USA, yes sure China is not running as hot as before (-16% sales of smartphones was an interesting recent data point), however, Xi looks to be trying to rapidly build bridges with Trump. It’s almost as if, I dunno, Trump’s strategy is working. Perish the thought.

So, after you’ve scared us half to death, what’s the chances of any of this happening?

“Muddle through”.

We do like a good old fashioned muddle.

Bill’s Opinion

As you were, platoon. We’ll be just fine.

Against the envy of less happier lands

Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt gives the following speech in Richard the Second on the subject of Britain’s natural defences;

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Consider then, the current UK Home Secretary’s strange assertion on the problem of illegal immigrants paddling across the 21 miles of sea from France;

Bill’s Opinion

Au contraire, Mr. Javid; there are several historically-proven easy answers;

1. Have the British Navy patrol the limit of the UK’s territorial water between England and France (12 nautical miles?).

2. Tow any vessels illegally entering the territorial waters back to the nearest French port.

3. If the French authorities complain, robustly suggest that they consider doing their damn job in future.

It would seem there are easy answers to the problem of maintaining national borders, after all.

Update; thanks Sam Vara for the correction to Javid’s job title.

Questions we can answer

Traditional bricks and mortar retailers are suffering as people switch to cheaper, more convenient ways to shop.

Here’s a question for anyone who owns or runs a business;

Q. What do you do if your competitors are carving into your margins and market share with cheaper prices and more convenient services?

Do you;

A. Look at your cost base and search for efficiencies that will allow you to reduce prices?

B. Work to create a better consumer experience?

C. Investigate whether there are alternative goods or services you could offer to complement or replace the loss-leading lines?

D. Lobby the government to impose special duties, taxes and levies on the consumers who purchase from your competition?

Bill’s Opinion

If you chose option D, congratulations! You are officially a member of the crony capitalism class.

Welcome to the internet and the 1990s, Australian retailers, spoiler alert; get to see Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Motörhead in concert at the next available opportunity.

The answer to the question might not be very welcome

Those readers who find themselves in Sydney at the start of September may consider the following opportunity to “analogue troll” for $45.

Of all the breakout sessions, this one piqued our interest particularly;

Where to start? In the words of Luke Skywalker, “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong“.

Let’s answer the question asked in the session’s title last and pick off the sentences in the description first.

42 billionaires now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.

Interesting use of language there; bottom half. I think they mean poorest half if we’re trying to not be judgemental or insulting. Anyway, the relevant question to ask about that statement might be, how does this situation compare against previous periods in human history? Is the trend improving or worsening?

Pick your data source and point in time for comparison but it has been estimated that for most of human history, the average daily income was the equivalent of $1.

At the time of Croesus, the world’s population was approximately 115 million.

Comparing averages is dangerous statistical activity, as is comparing net wealth with income, but let’s assume half of the people alive with Croesus had an income of $1 a day in modern terms. Let’s also assume that they had no real savings to speak of and were living hand to mouth. So, do we think Croesus’ net wealth was less than $57.5m, i.e. half of the population multiplied by a dollar a day?

Similar examples might be made with Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, several of the Emperors of China, the Pharaohs of Egypt, various Indian emperors, etc.

What about any number of other historical figures who concentrated massive wealth and land? Do we think their wealth was above or below about $57.5m in modern terms? If above, we’ve just dismissed the first statement of our Sydney Socialist friends as being irrelevant.

Let’s look at the next assertion;

In a world that’s never been richer, hundreds of millions remain trapped in poverty, facing starvation and disease, especially in the so-called “third world”.

Well, the world has indeed never been richer. This is an interesting chart from The Atlantic (a publication not known for blindly supporting free market capitalism) showing GDP per capita over the last few hundred years;

Gosh, I wonder what might have caused that huge improvement since 1800 in Western Europe and the USA? Sure, that’s about the time Marx and Engels wrote their envious little book but, in the real world, something was happening in England that was changing the level of wealth and finally breaking the Malthusian model.

The statement about hundreds of millions remaining trapped in poverty is less accurate and, in fact, increasingly wrong as time proceeds. Don’t believe us? Ask the UN. The target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty was achieved 5 years early.

Again, why do we think that happened?

The last sentence is a question, which we’ve already shown to be asked from a false position;

What has led to this obscene situation, and who is to blame?

Bill’s Opinion

The answer to the question, “Why is the third world so poor?” could be as simple as “Collectivism, i.e. Socialism”.

Perhaps the better question to ask is, “Why is the third world being lifted out of poverty so rapidly?

To which we would offer the answer, “An embracing by the general population of free markets, international trade and the individual desire for self-improvement”.

Capitalism, in other words.

Before the industrial revolution, people were living in abject poverty in hand to mouth existences. Marx and Engels could have watched the starving farm workers being buried in the ground if they had visited rural England. Instead, they went to the concentrations of populations gathered around the new factories. The conditions they saw were also terrible but, and this is the elephant in the conference room at the Sydney Socialism event, it was better than the rural alternative. That’s why the farm workers voluntarily moved to the cities in the first place.

Let’s just leave this chart here and ask ourselves whether the Sydney Socialists really have the answer to the problem;