Free Trade - Still a Good Idea?

Back in the far off days when I was studying Janet and John economics (actually An Introduction to Positive Economics, by Richard Lipsey, followed by various others) there were several standard subjects that students had to write essays on. One was the effect of changes in exchange rates on the UK economy, and one of the others was a discussion about Free Trade and the theory of Comparative Advantage. Comparative Advantage is one of the fundamental arguments for Free Trade, so let me explain. At it simplest, suppose Janet and John both produce widgets and floggle-toggles. If Janet is more efficient at producing widgets, and John better at floggle-toggles, then it makes sense for Janet to concentrate on widgets, and John floggle-toggles, selling them to each other. The theory is that each is cheaper, they all make more of them, and everyone is happy. Taken to it’s limit, Free Trade between countries should result in everyone being better off and more prosperous. Of course, Janet and John are countries, and it’s a lot more complicated than that (it always is!).

BRexit - What Now?

Well, the dust has settled a bit. As I feared, we’ve voted to leave the EU. Also, the idea that the money saved will be ploughed into the NHS, and that immigration will be greatly reduced because of this have already been denied. Apparently they were only suggestions. Our credit rating is down and our exchange rates are down too - as just about every expert predicted. I will be charitable, and assume that the country took this all into consideration when they voted, and are getting what they wished for.

The question now is what is likely to happen in the future, and how can we take advantage of it all. Bear in mind that our treaties with the EU (and everyone else) have not actually changed yet. And it unlikely to until at least September 2018, depending on when the UK gives official notification that it is leaving.

The EU Referendum

On June 23rd, we will be voting in a referendum that will probably have the most important influence on the lives of people in the UK for many years. Most of the arguments either concentrate on what will happen in the short term, or are totally fatuous. For example, I saw on Facebook someone suggesting that the reason we have privatised coal, steel, water, electricity, gas and the railways was that we were in the EU, implying that, if we were out of the EU, we would have publicly owned corporations making healthy profits from these industry sectors. In fact, it seems to be fair game to blame almost anything that has gone wrong since the war on the EU. We also hear about the European Court of Human Rights. This is NOT actually an EU court, but is under the aegis of the Council of Europe - another organisation that has 47 member states, of which the UK was a founder member. when it was set up in 1949. Even if we leave the EU, we would be bound by the European Convention of Human Rights that this court administers, and people (or states) could still appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Off-Shore Companies and How to Avoid Tax

Some of you may be wondering how off-shore tax companies save you tax, and how it all works. It may surprise you to know that I looked into it about 20 years ago, when I was getting fed up with the enormous amount of tax I was paying. And no - I wasn’t earning enough to make it worthwhile.

Some details have changed, and I have simplified the situation, so please don’t take any figures I am quoting as exact - they are merely an illustration to give you an idea of how it all works.

First of all, why do we have a problem. Well, the answer is that we pay an awful lot of tax, one way or another.

Referendum - EU Directives

As the day of the referendum draws nearer, we are sure to get bombarded with people complaining that faceless bureaucrats are forcing hundreds of rules and regulations on the UK against our will. There have, in the past, been suggestions that other countries are deliberately trying to “do us down” in some sort of underhanded way. Actually, most of the EU thinks of us as being like a badly behaved child. You know, the one that insists on joining in everyone else’s game and then constantly cheats and wants to change the rules.

A visit to France - 2012

About three years ago, I kept  a blog about my trip to France. Then I changed my web site and the blog disappeared. I stumbled over it again today, and thought I'd post it here, just in case anyone's interested. Originally, each day was separate, but I've posted them all together here. I don’t know when I fell in love with Paris. I remember the first time I went there, but I don’t think it was then. A colleague and I were in Paris in the very early 70’s for a high-powered project meeting. It must have been late November, because we were offered newly arrived Beaujolais Nouveau, which neither of us had ever heard of before. Well, it was before it became a  craze. We had at least a bottle each and I was not a well boy the next morning!

The Middle East Crisis

It’s not often I comment on global politics. But these are what the Chinese might refer to as “interesting times”. When looking at the world situation, you have to remember that international politics is amoral. It is seldom, if ever, anything to do with right or wrong. It is simply about what will benefit the particular nations interests most. In my case, this refers to the UK and, more generally the West.

Of course, wrapping up actions in the cloak of moral or religious imperative is a great way to sell policies to the electorate, but that isn’t the root cause.

On Islamophobia

don’t know why I feel driven to write this. Perhaps it is because I have one or two Muslim friends. More likely it’s because I’m getting fed up with what I see and hear going on around us all, and the responses from both the left and right wing politicians. There are some terrible things being done in the name of Islam.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram have kidnapped more than 200 girls and plan to sell them. Their justification was that apparently they are following Muslim teachings. I think I saw a quote where their leader claimed he was told to do this by God.

A Plan for Northampton

Here’s a thought for Northampton. Knock down the bus station, adjacent car parks, and as much of the area around it as you can. Even perhaps the Grosvenor Centre. Build a huge subterranean, multi-storey car park and turn the top of it into a large square and park area. The car park itself should be well lit and have some architectural detailing to make it look attractive. Arrange bus stops and shelters along one side, but only allow buses and taxis there.