Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Choose your Strawberry Seller carefully.

In the market yesterday I bought four 400g punnets of strawberries for a total of £2-00 - I plan to make jam. A little later I noticed that Sainsbury had a special offer - 400g punnets of strawberries reduced from £3-99 to £1-99, so still almost four times as expensive as those in the market.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Hidden Numbers

I recently bought a new washing machine. When I decided to activate the manufacturer's five year parts guarantee I needed the serial number, which is hidden away on the back of the machine, and so accessible only with great effort.

That reminded me of the time I needed a spare part for my cooker, and found that the model number and serial number, while on the front, were at the very bottom, so the only way I could read them was to lie flat on the kitchen floor and peer through a magnifying glass.

Does anyone check such things before equipment is put on sale ?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Keynes as Prophet

It is strange that people should still cite Keynes as an authority, 65 years after his death and 74 years after the publication of his General Theory.

Indeed, to anyone who considers Economics to be some sort of science, it should seem odd that its practitioners need to appeal to any prophet at all.

Scientific theories rest on their ability to survive  tests and provide a coherent account of phenomena. There is a dynamic interplay between theory and experience. We need not look back at observations made seventy years ago, because a useful theory will be used and tested all the time.

Recent appeals to Keynes supposed authority have not even been accurate.

Keynes famously advocated government deficits as a remedy for economic recessions, and opposed attempts to balance budgets during the recession of the 1930’s. He has recently been cited by people who oppose a reduction in our budget deficit. Yet there is this time no proposal to balance the budget.

The appeal of Keynes is his support for wishful thinking. Reduction in government expenditure and increases in taxes are disagreeable, so it is pleasant to have an ideology that tells us we needn’t bother. People who are usually hostile to what they call laissez faire seem willing to make an exception for the belief that the budget deficit will sort itself out without our doing much about it.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Demonstrations and Riots

The difference is of degree rather than kind, and it is easy for one to turn into the other.

There is something odd about a crowd of supposedly peaceful people marching on a line of soldiers or police. Do they really expect to be allowed through, do they intend to fight their way through, or are they just pretending ?

I have reservations about applying ‘peaceful’ to any large gathering of people that blocks streets or obstructs access to public buildings. Even if no force is actually used, force is implicit in such demonstrations, because such demonstrators are creating a physical obstacle to other people’s access.

Such demonstrations are justifiable only as part of an attempt to remove the government, or to change government policy, by non constitutional means. That is only justifiable if there are no constitutional means for achieving the same ends because the government is a tyranny.

Police and troops defending a constitutional government against coercion by a large group of people are justified in firing, whether or not members of the crowd fire first.

Soldiers defending a tyranny are likely to fire, because that is what the servants of  tyrannies do.

In neither case is it sensible to be shocked or outraged by the event. It is indeed reasonable to be outraged by the existence of a tyranny, but having recognised it for what it is, there seems little room for further indignation because it behaves as we should expect.

Those observations were prompted by the recent discussion of the so called ‘Bloody Sunday’ shootings of 1972.

It appears that soldiers fired without being given orders to do so. That is a serious failure of discipline. The deaths seem to have been counter productive, that is a good reason for the soldiers having not been ordered to fire. Therefore the soldiers should not have fired. However that does not show that those who died were innocent victims. The good reason for not shooting them is that their deaths were very inconvenient. The fuss and bother on the part of friends and families is quite unjustified.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Isaac Newton Apples at last

My Isaac Newton tree, a specially grafted clone of the tree that grew in the garden of Woolsthorpe Rectory in Newton's day, has at last set fruit.

I've had the tree for at least 15 years and it didn't flower at all until two years ago, and then only sparsely, but this year there were lots of flowers, and today I spotted several tiny apples.

Incidentally the variety is Flower of Kent, though I think the only ones grown are the clones of the Woolsthorpe tree.