Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Economics

Wednesday November 07 2018

One from the I Just Like It directory:

image

That’s the view you get of Central Hall Westminster, that you now get looking over where New Scotland Yard used to be.  I walk past this view whenever I go to St James’s Park tube.  Well, that’s the view you get if you go to as much trouble as I did to frame Central Hall Westminster with a concrete pump.

There is now a glut of new luxury apartments in London, so I suppose it’s possible that this view may become a bit less temporary than it would have been two or three years ago.  But my guess is that Ten Broadway, which (from a helicopter) will look very approximately like this…:

image

…, is now too far advanced for it to make sense for them not to finish it.  Although maybe not as ostentatiously as that picture suggests.

Thursday October 18 2018

Russell Roberts, Tweeting in response to a Tweet that has vanished, but it’s still worth quoting:

If you think the economy is a zero-sum game and getting rich makes people poor, you have trouble explaining the last 250 years. That wealth can be created and not just rearranged or come at someone’s expense is so basic but may be the single most important insight of economics.

I prefer “fixed-sum” to “zero-sum”, but otherwise, my sentiments exactly.

I am not now Tweeting, merely perusing the Tweets of others.  If I were Tweeting, this would be a Tweet.

Saturday September 22 2018

At my home on the last Friday of this month (Friday September 28th – which is in six days time), Michael Jennings will be speaking about Iran, and in particular about how he recently spent some time exploring its capital city, Tehran.  The easiest link to learn more about Michael’s amazing globetrottings is to this list of his Samizdata contributions.

Each month, I solicit a few words from the speaker, to email to my list of potential attenders.  A few days ago, Michael sent me rather more than a few words about what he’ll be speaking about, more words than I need for that email. But I don’t want all these words going to waste, so, with Michael’s kind permission, here they all are.  In the email I send out tomorrow evening, I will be quoting from this, but will include the link to this posting, so that all who want to can, as they say, read the whole thing.

So, Michael Jennings on “Exploring Tehran”:

In recent years, I have done quite a lot of travelling in the Middle East.

From the western perspective - and particularly from the perspective of the western media - it is very easy to look at the Muslim Middle East and see something homogeneous. If you are inclined to see militant Islam and related terrorism as a threat, it is easy to see it as a single threat. However, there are two main strains of Islam, Shia and Sunni, and these are centred in two quite different cultures and civilisations: the first in Iran and the second in the Arab world.

These are two of the three largest cultures in the Muslim Middle East - the third being Turkey. These three cultures speak three unrelated languages - Farsi, Arabic, and Turkish - and the history and differences between these three cultures go back thousands of years - long before the time of Mohammed. These cultures are tremendously divided today. Iran fought a truly ferocious war with Arab Iraq between 1980 and 1988, the memory of which hangs over the country the way World War 1 probably hung over Europe in 1935. Much of the wars of the past 15 years in Iraq and Syria have been about Shia Iran (Persia) and Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia jostling for position in the Middle East. As to where Turkey stands in all this - I think Turkey is trying to figure this out.

I am not remotely an expert in any of this stuff. I have, however, spent a considerable amount of time travelling around the Middle East and North Africa in recent years. I love to explore cities on foot. I have done this, or attempted to do this in many places. Slightly less than two years ago I spent 10 days exploring Tehran on foot. Despite the fearsome (justified) reputation of the regime that rules Iran, I found - from my perspective as a Christian westerner - the most culturally familiar and welcoming culture that I had found travelling in the Middle East. Despite the fact that Iran is the only country in the entire world where all women are required to wear a headscarf at all times, I was struck by the fact that the role of women in public life was clearly much higher and that women are clearly much better educated and have a far more prominent role in the economy than in any Arab country I have been to. The Iranian middle class is substantial, and it is a very westernised middle class. At times in North Tehran I found myself in cafes and restaurants that easily could have been in hipster areas of Los Angeles, apart from the lack of alcohol.

I also found something that I should have known already - Iran is a trading, commercial nation. In South Tehran I found myself in shopping streets and bazaars that resembled East Asia - possibly commercial districts of Bangkok or Hanoi - more than anything elsewhere in the Middle East. I found myself sitting in stores being made tea (and being offered illicit alcohol) by merchants who wanted to tell me all about their trading trips to Shenzhen. It was fascinating.

And yet, this is a country that faces sanctions, and is cut off from the official system of international trade. What happens when you cut such a country off from the official system of international trade, and international academia, and international everything and so impoverishing the country, even though this is a culture that wants to participate? Come along to my talk, and I will speculate. Or possibly just show you my holiday pictures.

The basic point of my meetings is for people to attend them, but another point of them is for me to spread a gentle wave of information about people who have worthwhile things to say and interesting stories to tell, even if you do not actually attend.  This posting now means that, this month, that second mission is already somewhat accomplished.

Sunday September 16 2018

I am currently reading The Closing of the Muslim Mind, by Robert R. Reilly, with a view to reviewing it for Samizdata.  Brilliant.  For as long as I’ve been reading this book, finishing reading it has been my number one concern.  Shoving up brilliant stuff here has … not.  Some Facebook friends of mine have been choosing the books that have most influenced their thinking, and this book looks like it will be added to my list.

Here is a typically illuminating paragraph from this book (on page 144 of my paperback edition – which I am happy to note is towards the end of it):

The enormous influence of Saudi Arabia today in the Muslim world is often thought by Westerners to be almost completely due to its oil wealth - petro-Islam. However, this discounts the fact that many Muslims, including in countries like Egypt, which are traditionally opposed to Saudi Arabia, see this wealth as a direct gift from Allah. Can it be only an accident that these treasures are under the sands of this particular country? No, they must be there as a reward to the Saudis for following the true path. Why else would the oil be there? - a question that has to be answered not by geologists, but within the understanding that God has directly placed the oil there as He directly does all things. The presence of petroleum gives credence to the Saudi claim that its Wahhabi form of Islam is the legitimate one. It is because of the oil that other Muslims are willing to give this claim consideration. This is why Wahhabism has spread so significantly, even in parts of the world like Indonesia that would seem, from their cultural backgrounds, to have little sympathy with its radical literalism. Therefore, it is not only through Saudi oil largess but also because of where the oil is that Wahhabism enjoys such prominence.

For the sort of Muslim Reilly is writing about (and that’s a hell of a lot of them), what we in the West refer to as “reality” is continuously created by Allah, in a succession of miraculous whims.  Even to study the laws of nature is to presume to place limits on what Allah might choose to do, and is accordingly a blasphemy.  Whatever happens was done by Allah, and is accordingly right.  Might is right.

And if the Saudis have most of the financial clout in the Muslim world, that means Allah must be on their side.

Wednesday September 12 2018

Earlier this evening, I attended a fascinating Libertarian Home talk given by Jazon Cozens, one of the founders and bosses of Glint.  (Scroll down there a bit, and I think you will see why I think I smell yet another two-man team.) Glint enables those who think that currency ought to be gold-backed to get there hands on just such a currency, thereby personally reversing, as it were, the decision by President Nixon, in 1971, to take the US dollar off the gold standard.

This talk was excellent, and was clearly saturated in Austrianism.  In the highly unlikely event that Jason Cozens has not met up with a conversed with Detlev Schlichter, he should.

Here is a photo I took of Mr Cozens waving an ancient gold coin from Roman era Britain, which he had come by in some way that he did describe but which I immediately forgot:

image

And here is that coin, and him holding it, somewhat closer up:

image

Glint, however, does not deploy actual gold coins.  Any gold it arranges for you to own stays in a vault in Switzerland.  You get yourself a Glint account, with whatever combination of gold or other popular currencies in it that you want, and you can buy stuff with your card, which looks and works like any other credit/debit card.

Glint would appear to be well worth investigating.

I also found the evening very advantageous on a more personal level.  I was able to solidify no less than two future Brian’s Last Fridays talks, and was able to woo two other potential future speakers of great interestingness.  Others present seemed equally busy making connections of their own.  Which is a lot of the point of such meetings, and which is all part of why I believe in organising a steady stream of them.

Tuesday August 07 2018

Nice Twitter exchange about how Ryanair provides a leg-up for young airline pilots.

Tom Chivers:

Saw the pilot of the Ryanair flight I’m on and honestly if I worked in a bar I would have IDed him

My friend and followee Michael Jennings replies:

Ryanair is a good place for a young pilot. They fly lots of hours and get promoted to captain fast. Then, with this on their CV, they go somewhere else where the working conditions are nicer.

Tom Chivers:

I remember reading that other airlines love Ryanair for exactly that reason. Steady supply of good trained pilots who are grateful not to work for Ryanair any more.

So, Ryanair is, from the employment, first-rung-on-the-ladder point of view, … well, see above.

I still miss Transport Blog.

Wednesday July 18 2018

Here.  Video, lasting just over twenty minutes.  Just watched it.  Good.

Particularly interested by what he says about how, without cheap paper, the revolutionary changes ushered in by the printing press could not have happened.  Mass produced printed matarial printed on animal skins not economically doable.

Harford ends on what he thinks is a depressing note, about a woman who supplies the final bit of muscle to a huge warehouse system, by receiving verbal orders from an all-powerful robot, which she simply obeys, second by second.  Go here, get this, this number, take it here, ...

Well, it’s a job.

Personally, I think that having to think all the time about your work, when you are at work, is hugely overrated.  Whenever I have had a “job”, I liked it when my job was my job, but my thoughts were my own.  Best job?  Driving a van, delivering number plates.  Drove on autopilot most of the time.  Thought my own thoughts.  Didn’t “buy into the company vision”.  Not “committed”.  Wasn’t “invested” in the work.  Just did it, mostly without having to think about it.  Bliss.

Sunday May 06 2018

I remember when the internet was nice.  My part of it, the blogosphere, was nice, anyway.  Every blogger, no matter what he thought about things, was a comrade.  Every commenter, ditto.  In those magic few years from about 2001 until about 2008 at the latest, when a whole generation of people the world over found themselves short of cash, the internet was a nicer, more trusting place than it is now.  Since then, less and less.  Now, the internet is not to be trusted further than it can be spat, and it can’t be spat at all, can it?

Which is why, when I go on holiday and leave my flat unattended, I tend not to broadcast the fact on this blog, by posting postings which are clearly from this or that holiday location.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: broadcast?  This blog, a broadcast?  Well, no, not to regular humans.  But to all those cash-strapped desperadoes out there, it is a potential opportunity.

I don’t know if there are any internet creatures who spend their time working out, from blog postings and social media postings, that this or that person has left his home unattended, and then selling lists of such trusting persons on to people who might be able to do something bad about that, but this is not a chance I now care to take.  I prefer only to be telling you about photo-expeditions after I am back home.

Also, as you get older, you get more easily scared.  The less you have left to lose, the more you fear losing it.  This may not make calculational sense, but does make evolutionary sense.  The young need to be willing to take risks, to be willing to bet everything for the sake of their gene pool.  The old have less to offer in such dramas.  Or something.  What do I know?  Anyway, whatever the reason, we oldies get more timid as we grow older.

So yes, I was on holiday last week, in Brittany, and then yesterday, on the way home from there, I was in Paris, as I yesterday reported, once I had got home.

I took enough photos while in France to last me a month of blogging, and I expect about the next week of postings here to be about nothing else.  Here is just one photo from my travels:

image

That was my first view, again, this time around, of Quimper Cathedral, seen through the rather sunglassesy front window of my hosts’ car, on what was already quite a dreary afternoon, the day after I arrived, Sunday April 29th.  Quimper Cathedral – to be more exact, one of its towers - was responsible for the timing of this visit.  I’ll tell you more about that in a later posting.

The internet is no longer a nice place
Talking with - and without - a microphone
I need a link dump
Deidre McCloskey on how genetic diversity in a rich Africa will yield a crop of geniuses
But are we any happier?
Deidre McCloskey praises the Bourgeois Deal
How computer dating erodes racism and strengthens marriage (and rearranges tribes)
Tilbury (2): Pop faces on a footbridge
How robots will augment human performance
Horse spotted in Putney this afternoon
Photoer photos at the top of the Walkie Talkie
Me and Patrick Crozier talking about WW1: If only?
Dissing the Walkie Talkie
Aug ‘17 OSB10: Kevin Kelly on the myth of superhuman AI
Tom Burroughes
A quota photo of the Shard with foliage and two ridiculous problems solved
Digital photography has made trophy views more valuable and New York skyscrapers taller and thinner
Three dead screens
Food photoing
On the popularity of high-rise living: People in high-rises like to look at other high-rises
Mark Pennington at the ASI
Signs
And Africa’s rivers don’t help
Industrial predictions from Peter Laurie in 1980
London rules the Premier League
Arthur Seldon Centenary photos
Scum?
Smith versus Marx
Beersheba footbridge
Brilliant Brian’s Last Friday talk
Introducing Mark Littlewood
Deirdre McCloskey - The Great Enrichment – Using a smartphone as a mirror
Benevolent Laissez-Faire photos
Some pyjama blogging
Today I am checking out the Big Olympic Thing
Brexit as a clash of pessimisms
YAAI3DP
Matt Ridley on the Chinese economic miracle
How things like 3D printed blood vessels may be improving education in rich countries
Matt Ridley on Epicurus and Lucretius
New chairs
Peter Foster on Robert Owen
Moving speaker – unmoving listeners, video holder and books
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
Tim Worstall on “reserves”
Paul Johnson on what the young Mozart was up against
Amazon review of Inflation Matters
Why quota photos?
I said it twelve years ago
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
Ubernomics
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 …
Meow
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
Exploitation?
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
SAY NO TO GOVERNMENT MOTORS
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
Environmental
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Great speech by Kevin Dowd in Paris which should be available to listen to soon
Slumponomics
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
What-iffing
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
Banks
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
IPL-lag
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
Jott
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