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Category archive: Economics

Friday July 03 2015

This posting is not so much me passing on advice as me seeking to solidify some ludicrously overdue advice from me to myself, about how to photograph speakers.

Don’t try to do it when they’re speaking.

Last night I took about two dozen photos of Dominic Frisby, who was address the Libertarian Home crowd at the Two Chairmen pub in Westminster.  Almost all these photos were useless.  This was because Frisby was talking, and when people talk, they move.  The indoor light was very scarce, so the slightest motion meant a blur, and a succession of blurs was accordingly all that I got.  My only photographic successes during the Frisby talk were when I switched my attention to the people listening to him.  They were keeping still.

People like Richard Carey:


And Rob Waller, who was the “organising fascist”, as he put it, of the meeting, i.e. he set it up and did the introducing:


I think Rob clocked me, don’t you?

The only half-decent Frisby photos I got were during the Q&A, when, just like the two persons featured above, he too was listening rather than talking:


Doesn’t he look adorkable.

As to what Frisby said (on the subject of Bitcoin), well, it was all videoed, although the video camera was being hand-held, as this further snap of Richard Carey, helping out with that, illustrates:


I include that snap also because of the John Lilburne reference, Lilburne being a man whom we libertarians should be bigging up every chance we get.

Finally, a book photo.  On account of Frisby’s talk beginning a few minutes earlier than I had been expecting it to, I arrived a few minutes late, and the only seat I could find was the one with Frisby’s books on it, which he had presumably earlier been sitting at.  That explains the odd angle of this photo:


Both books highly recommended.  More about Frisby by me (+ further links) in this Samizdata posting.  In this I mentioned that Frisby was working on a Bitcoin book.  As you can see, that book has now materialised.

It helps that books, like people who are listening, or for that matter doing photography, and unlike people who are talking, do not move.

Sunday June 14 2015

Can artists learn about how to do art when they get old, from sportsmen?  Can sportsmen learn from artists about how to handle their career twilights?  I face my own twilight now, so I read Ed Smith’s piece about such things with keen interest.

Choice quote:

The weird aspect of sporting maturity is that it happens so early in life. An athlete’s career is played out in fast-forward.  Professional and emotional maturity are wildly out of sync.  Andrew Flintoff told me recently that his cricket career was practically over before he felt at his most confident as a person.  Many sportsmen feel the same.  By the time they’ve grown up, it’s gone.  The period of critical decision-making and the exercise of power arrives frighteningly early.  Only when they retire do sportsmen become young again as they rejoin civilian time.

Yes, if you leave pro sport but land on your feet afterwards, much as Ed Smith himself seems to have done, it might be like being born again, rather than the slow death that it often seems to be for many sports people.  But, no chance of any such resurrection for those artists, or for me.  This is it.

Today there was a reminder, for cricket followers anyway, of how sports careers, like lives, can be cut cruelly short.  Sometimes, sportsmen only get to have just the one (short) life.

Two cricket fielders, both running for the same catch in the outfield, collided and had to be taken away in ambulances.  The match was called off.

I learned about this in an odd way.  Cricinfo was doing basic commentary.  Just runs, dots and wickets as they happened.  No frills.  No explanations.  And then, the commentary just stopped.  What was going on?  A complicated run out.  Rain?  But they usually say if it is raining.  Eventually I tuned into the BBC’s radio commentary, and got the story.

Google “Burns Henriques” and maybe also “Surrey” during the next few hours and days, and you’ll get plenty of hits.  Rory Burns and Moises Henriques are the names.  Surrey is their county.  At first I thought Surrey were maybe looking at another death (to add to this one, which caused havoc at the club).  So, I imagine, did everyone who was at the ground and who saw it happen.  But now that seems unlikely:

One piece of misinformation circulating was that Henriques was receiving CPR. Thankfully, rumour was quickly replaced by the sight of Henriques and Burns both sitting upright and giving the thumbs up as they were lifted into ambulances and taken to nearby St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

So, can you get hurt, do a thumbs up, and then go to hospital and die?  What do I know?

Get well soon, gentlemen, and hopefully well enough to play again, also soon.

More sports news, old sports news, from a movie I’m watching in the small hours of tomorrow morning on the TV.  I know - how does that work? - time travel.  The movie is Secretariat, about a champion horse in 1970s America.  So, the horse’s champion jockey, the usual diminutive jockey size, walks into the Belmont Ball on the eve of the big race, with a tall and gorgeous blonde on his arm.  He is asked how he convinced the tall and gorgeous blonde to attach herself to him.  He says:

“I told her I’m taller when I stand on my wallet.”

Old joke?  Maybe so, but first time I heard it.

I had no idea how Secretariat would end.  But I know the end now.  Secretariat won Belmont (on June 9th 1973, by the way) by thirty one lengths, a Belmont winning margin never seen since.  Even I know that’s a lot of lengths.  I did not see that coming.

LATER: Burns (a confusing name in a story when injuries are being listed): facial injuries.  Henriques: seriously broken jaw.  Nobody died or is going to.

LATER STILL: One man’s facial injury is another man’s opportunity.  Arun Harinath, playing for Surrey for the first time this season in place of Burns, has just scored a century against Glamorgan.  Such are the downs and ups of sport.

Tuesday June 02 2015

Today I attended an event at the office of the ASI, at which Tim Worstall spoke about his latest book.

I took photos, but almost everything I took was terrible.  This one, much cropped and enhanced, was one of the least worst ones:


That’s Sam Bowman in the middle there, with his back to the window, and on the right, Worstall, holding his glasses, waiting for Sam to finish his intro.  That almost everyone had their backs to the windows didn’t help me photo their faces.

The only half decent photo I took was when I got outside, and photoed people who were saying those prolonged goodbyes that happen at these kinds of events.


Through the upstairs window you can see the party continuing.

The gist of Worstall’s talk was that the Green claim that the earth’s resources are about to run out is based on a failure to understand the meaning of the word “reserve”.  Reserves are not all the resources they even know about or know how to go looking for; they are the resources that they already have lined up to be extracted, given current market conditions and current technological ability.  The entire point of “reserves” is that they are already on the warehouse shelf, metaphorically speaking, and are indeed about to “run out”, aka be consumed.  That these “reserves” are about to be consumed does not mean that all the earth’s resources, known and unknown, easily obtainable at today’s prices and with today’s technology or difficult, are all about to vanish, any more than the fact that all the food now in warehouses will soon disappear and then immediately be replaced means that we are all about to starve.

I have long suspected-stroke-assumed something along these lines.  Good to hear it spelt out in detail.

Saturday May 30 2015

Paul Johnson’s appealingly brief biography of Mozart looks like being a lot of fun.  Here is a bit from near the beginning (pp. 9-11):

Mozart’s musical progress began in 1759, at age three, when he began to remember themes and pick out chords.  The next year he was taught brief pieces on the clavier and reproduced them correctly.  In 1761 he began to compose pieces, which his father wrote down.  It was essential to his father’s belief in his miracle-genius that his son should be displayed “to the glory of God,” as he put it.  In 1757, when Mozart was two, Leopold had been appointed court composer by the prince-archbishop, and as a senior musician, had opportunities to show off his son.  But in Salzburg they were limited, so in 1762, when Mozart was six, he took him to Munich, capital of Bavaria, to play before the elector.  Nannerl went with them, as a co-prodigy, and by now a very accomplished one.  But as a child of eleven, she did not raise much of a stir.  Mozart did, and was feted at many fashionable gatherings.

Next they went to Vienna, capital of Austria and of the German- speaking musical world, in so far as it had one. Maria Theresa, the empress, who had survived the attempt by Frederick the Great of Prussia to destroy her and was now a formidable woman, received them graciously but, though a robust Catholic, showed no signs of treating Mozart as a personified miracle.  She was not unmusical.  On the contrary, she was gifted, a fine singer, and had been educated musically by her vice Kapellmeister, Antonio Caldera. But her advisers were strongly against spending much on music.  Under Emperor Charles VI, her father, and his Hofkapellmeister, Johann Joseph Fux, there had been 134 musicians in the imperial chapel.  Under Maria Theresa, the number fell to 20.

Hence, the empress received the Mozarts, but that was all.  Her daughter, Marie Antoinette, picked Wolfgang up when he fell on the slippery parquet flooring.  Her mother listened patiently when he played a difficult piece by Georg Christoph Wagenseil.  When he jumped up onto her lap and kissed her, she made no complaint. Leopold got a bag of Maria Theresa thalers; the children, presents of court dresses, in which they were painted (not too well).  But no job was offered. Later, when her son did offer some kind of job, she objected, in a devastating letter: “You ask me about taking the young Salzburger into your service.  I do not know why, believing you have no need for a composer or useless people.  If, however, it would give you pleasure, I would not hinder you. What I say is so that you do not burden yourself with unproductive people, and even give titles to people of that sort.  If in your service, this debases the service when such people go around the world like beggars. Furthermore he has a large family.”

The last point is curious as Leopold did not have a large family.  Otherwise the letter gives a telling glimpse of how a sovereign saw music on the eve of its greatest age in history.  Musicians were exactly in the same position as other household servants - cooks, chambermaids, coachmen, and sentries.  They existed for the comfort and well-being of their masters and mistresses.  The idea that you took on a composer or performer simply because he was outstanding, when you already had a full complement of household musicians, was absurd.  And of course performing music for money, outside palace or church employment, was mendicancy.  There was plenty of it, of course.  The trade was overcrowded.  Groups played at street corners for coppers.  In London there were “German Bands.” There were also Italian street musicians, who played “Savoyards,” what we would call hurdy-gurdies, or barrel organs. All this was begging, and beggars usually had, or came from, large families: hence the empress’s error.

In short the only respectable way a musician could earn his living was in salaried employment at a court, a wealthy nobleman’s house, or a cathedral or major church.  Leopold had such a job, but it was at a low level and miserably paid.  To rise higher - at a court like Vienna or the elector’s in Munich - required interest. That was a key eighteenth-century word, usually to do with family connections.  When George Washington distinguished himself in colonial service during the Seven Years’ War, when Mozart was an infant, he aspired to rise in the British regular Army or its Indian offshoot.  But he had no interest at the Horse Guards (War Office) or the East India Company in London.  So he went on to become a revolutionary leader, and first president of the United States.  When Napoleon was a young teenager in Corsica, he greatly admired the Royal Navy ships that anchored in its harbors.  But he had no influence in the London Admiralty, and so a commission in the Royal Navy was out of his reach.  He went on to become emperor of France and conquer half of Europe.  Thus history is made.  In Mozart’s world, to become a court painter, architect, or musician required interest, and his father had none.  Fortunately in his case, he could go on “begging” by composing and performing.

Wednesday March 11 2015

Nothing from me here today, other than this.  But, I posted a review earlier today at Amazon, here, of the book Inflation Matters, by Pete Comley.  Five stars.

Tuesday March 03 2015

Yesterday evening’s rather blatant quota photo was because yesterday, I (a) failed to do my blogging duties here in the morning, and then (b) went on a photo-walk, from which I returned in a state of exhaustion.  It was all I could then do to pick out just the one nice photo and shove it up, accompanied by just enough words for me not seem rude.

Single photos are good when I have nothing much to say, nor much time or energy to say it with, because they take very little time to do or to look at.  They don’t exhaust me.  Nor do they take up much of your time unless you decide that you would like them to.  It’s up to you.  You can be done with a photo in a second, literally, while still quite liking it.  Or, you can contemplate it for as long as you like, even for as long as it might take you to read a quite long essay.  What you do not want from a blogger who is posting only for the sake of it is a long essay, which turns out to be saying nothing.  That you can not get a nice little second of fun from and be off, certain that you probably missed very little.  Hence quota photos.  Hence also quota quotes, provided they are short, and to a point.

Tuesday February 24 2015

This blog is where, among other worthier things, I boast about what a clever fellow I am, given that not many other people are in the habit of saying this.  A recent incoming email from Michael Jennings, entitled “You told me about this 12 years before the New York Times did”, gives me another opportunity thus to indulge.

The New York Times piece is this, which is a about how rich people have less stuff than poor people, because stuff is now so cheap.

And I said this in this, just over twelve years ago, as Michael says.

I’m guessing it’s the BJT Bosanquet reference that he particularly remembered.

Monday February 23 2015

This coming Friday I have another of my Last Friday of the Month meetings at my home in London SW1.  This coming Friday is, after all, the last Friday of the month, so the logic is inexorable.  Every Friday (even if the last Friday of, say, December 2014, happened to be Boxing Day, as it was) there is a Last Friday of the Month meeting at my home.

I have been having email problems, in the form of people using gmail suddenly not receiving my emails, so even if you thought you were on my list but hear nothing via email, be assured that this meeting will happen.  Try emailing me (which should work) and then telling your spam filter not to reject my reply, which you will have to do despite it being a particular individual reply.  I know, crazy.  I hope to write more about this problem in a posting at Samizdata, Real Soon Now.

Or, if you intend coming to this particular meeting, you could leave a comment below, and I will respond saying message received and look forward to greeting you.

Anyway, this coming Friday (Feb 27), Pete Comley will be talking about inflation.  He has recently published a book on the subject, which you can learn about in this posting at Comley’s website.  And you can hear what Comley sounds like and a little of how he thinks by listening to this short interview with Simon Rose of Share Radio.


The thing about Comley is that he takes a long-term - very long-term - view of inflation.  He began a recent talk I attended by discussing inflation at the time of the Roman Empire.

And in the long-term, there are not one but two major influences on inflation.  There is, of course, the supply of money, by the powers that be who have always insisted upon supplying money.  And when they make too many coins, too many bank notes or create too much bank credit, the price of regular stuff in shops goes creeping, or rocketing, up.  But there is also the demand for that regular stuff.  In particular, human population fluctuates.  At some moments in history, population shoots up.  At other times it falls, or at the very least the rate at which it increases falls.  Just now, in country after country, the birthrate is falling, and that has consequences for inflation.

Before you say it, I’ll say if for you.  Many simply define inflation as the first of these two processes but not the second.  Inflation is what money issuers do to the money supply.  A price rise caused by rising demand is simply not inflation.  It is a mere price rise.  Fair enough.  It certainly makes sense to distinguish these two processes from each other, however hard it may be for consumers to do this when both are happening to them.  And if you do that by restricting the definition of inflation in this way, then be aware that Pete Comley’s talk will be about inflation thus defined and about price rises sparked by rising demand, and for that matter about price stability caused by static demand.  (He says, by the way, that we might be about to enjoy just such a period of price stability.  And although you can never be sure about such things, better handling of the recent financial crisis, and we might have got there already.)

There is also the question of what causes money issuers to inflate, in the second and more restricted sense of inflation.  They seem to do this more at certain historical junctures than at others.  Inflation, restrictively defined, does not just cause bad economic experiences; it is itself caused, more at some times than at others.

All very interesting, or so I think.  Libertarians like me tend to be quite well informed about recent monetary history and about the evils of fiat currencies, the Fed, the Bank of England, and so on and so forth.  We tend to know a lot less about similar episodes in the more distant past to what he have recently experienced.  In general, we are more interested in the fluctuating supply of money than in the way that population fluctuations influence prices.

Pete Comley has a small but particular soft spot for me, on account of me having been the one who drew his attention to this book about the long-term history of prices (The Great Wave by David Hackett Fischer), which seems to have had quite a big influence on his latest book, which is called Inflation Matters.  It certainly does.

Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
Cheap long-haul flights coming soon
Scandinavia comes out on top according to the HDI …
Thoughts on habits and on changing incentives with the passing of time
Dominic Frisby on the Hype Cycle
How the internet is cheering up Art
Marginal Eurostar economics
At the Libertarian Home cost of living debate
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Bond car
ASI Boat Trip 4: Groups of posing people
ASI Boat Trip 3: Drink!
Cashing a cheque by photoing it
I need a new passport but just now passports are a problem
Compact Cats buried under London’s poshest homes
How much does it cost to power up a mobile phone?
Anton Howes – James Lawson – Will Hamilton
Nothing from me here today
Well that’s a relief
Green screen blue screen
Sam Bowman on Bleeding Heart Libertarianism
Detlev Schlichter talking about Von Mises (and being videoed)
Big Things happening in the City
Happiness is still Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Happiness is Gold Blend at only £3 instead of £4.50
Anton Howes at the Rose and Crown
Corrie Chipps pictures the Zimbabwe inflation
The next four Brian’s Last Fridays (including December 27)
Amazon pricing puzzle
The Times of May 24th 1940
Bad and good in bad weather
Views from Kings College
Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd
The mystery of the one good photo
Better a year late than never
Photoing people who are photoing food
Click to see the big picture
And on my other personal blog …
Talk by Frank Braun about Bitcoin at my home on Aug 3rd
Why I do not share Johnathan Pearce’s admiration for Bjorn Lomborg
Steve Baker MP
Occupy St Paul’s pictures
Street social services management integrated command sub-centres
James Tooley discovers private schools for the poor in the slums of Hyderabad
Matt Ridley’s demolition of CAGW
Go Gary Johnson!
Freedom Tower and Gary Johnson at Samizdata
A review of Detlev Schlichter’s new book (multiplied by 4)
Kevin Dowd last night
Thrashing India
David Friedman on the similarity between fractional reserve banking and insurance
My personal Fixed Quantity of Blogging unfallacy
Empty tables and empty chairs
Words for bloggers to live by
No fruit juice
Bitcoin etc.?
Five pictures of me
Science can relax about the harm done to it by Climategate
Rally Against Debt signs
Gordon Brown curses the United Kingdom
Nil scrap value
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom not threatened by the end of the Big Thing Boom
Pictures of Detlev Schlichter
Everything competes with everything
The Big Dig and some smaller digging
Quota choke?
Cat news
Let us now trash infamous men
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Wot inflationz?
Climate science as make-work for former Cold Warriors
Potential dental interruption
Me and Patrick Crozier talk about the banking crisis and its possible consequences
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
Emmanuel Todd quoted and Instalanched
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
Obamanomics dod not work
Talk at Christian Michel’s
The joy of error correction
Those cameras are getting cheaper
“I was banished to a separate room …”
Help with Audacity please
Mmmmmm … Asian skyscrapers!
The curse of interchangeable lenses and how I want my category killer
K Street - metonym - synecdoche
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Happy hundredth
Andy Flower urges England fans not to punish cricket for being corrupt
Ten thoughts about the Pakistan cricket corruption story
Toby Baxendale on what went wrong and what to do about it
A picture I want to remember
Reading various bits of Roger Kimball
Snappy quote from Victor Davis Hanson that may or may not actually be true
Tim Evans looking happy
Sneezing chat
At the launch of Alchemists of Loss
Spare A3 paper
Big box computers versus laptops
As strong and sweet as the free market itself
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom twitter of the day before the day before yesterday
Darling and Darling cat
Watching IPL cricket beats watching England play rugby
Happy New Year and how to save seventy thousand quid
Burj Dubai looking semi-sane
The Shard is definitely being built!
Picture of an aftershock of the credit crunch rippling around the world
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Apple mobile phones are very profitable but Nokia mobile phones are not very profitable
Wuhan railway station under construction - with sunset behind
Pictures of Anthony Evans
Going global
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Paul Marks on the financial crisis and on the badness of Obama
Under a hundred copies
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
Another London lump?
Laptop for emails
Minimum Wage flatvert at Guido’s and Iain Dale’s
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
IPL continues to literally trump proper cricket
Croziervision of default
Fantasy budgets
My opinion of yesterday’s budget
The Vita-Mix 5000 at the Veggie Show
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
Lawrence H. White on the Scottish experience of free banking
My confusion about free banking
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Kevid Dowd video now up and watchable
Work begins on the Shard of Glass
Don’t blame banking
Paul Marks on the financial crisis
Work photos
TARP stuff - and a trip to Sheffield
Do nothing?
Meme for the New Depression
Kevin Dowd says what should be done
Commenting about the Dowd lecture at Samizdata
London continues to build big
Kevin Dowd
Michael Jennings on shoring up the bad old economy versus building a good new one
Is the contemporary art bubble bursting?
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
The Official Story and the Most Confident Alternative
I have not been living beyond my means
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
Cheap CDs and sopranos I’ve never heard of
It’s over
Ruminating about politics and ideology
Another pendulum theory
Metaphor muddle alert
Guido Fawkes conflates the Monetarists and the Austrians – needs to chat with Antoine Clarke
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Antoine and Michael on what to do now
Antoine Clarke on the financial turmoil and the US election
Gordon Brown to guarantee everything
Tom Burroughes on the banking crisis
Not the book I want to read right now - maybe later
Chinese Friday?
Profundity and silliness
It only takes One Rich Lunatic
On classical music voice addiction
Armed is less dangerous
The British Public continues to dislike too-high-and-rising taxes
Voice of God journalism
Eurovision sense from Squander Two
To let – one Ark
Paul Marks told us so
Big, Bigger, Biggest - starring Heathrow Terminal 5
Flat pictures for flat screens
Cuba before Communism
The petty cash effect cuts in for Linux
Linux versus Windows - the bigger tiny laptop breakout
The economics of Jonathan Ross
Has global warming stopped?
Another don’t-get-it-right-get-it-written Samizdata posting
A bog standard (but rippling and therefore ultra-cool) tower soon to be built in Chicago
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
When the penny drops
The bridge that was going to make Westminster a fine city and London a desert
Eurostar says goodbye Waterloo hello St Pancras
Aid rewards low growth
Will China fail?
Filthy rich
The double thank-you moment
Antoine Clarke on Sarkozy
Free trade explains the success of the Swedish Model
Serious tax cutting
Darrin M. McMahon and me and George Orwell on the pursuit of happiness
Emmanuel Todd (4): From ideology to economic progress
The visitor
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Geek girl I like your thinkings - are nice - I want have sex with it
It only takes two idiots
Should blogs - this one in particular - specialise?
Remembering the Alternative Bookshop experience
Two Red Bull pictures
The Wealth of Networks
That’s it
Pauses - Indian accents - English names
To be controlled in our economic pursuits means to be dot dot dot controlled in everything
Some economics
“The basis is economic development”
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps