Tim Worstall

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Tim Worstall is an Englishman who has failed at many things. Thus his turn to writing, the last refuge of many who could make a living no other way. He is, as an example of his business and financial perspicacity, the head of the international scandium oligopoly: the only commodity which has not risen in price in the past decade.

We can't all live by taking in each others' washing

Worstall @ the Weekend There's an old jokule, vaguely traced back to Mark Twain, that the people of the Isles of Scilly used to eke out a living by taking in each others' washing. Yes, another economic thigh slapper: but the really weird thing is that for all of us seven billion humans in aggregate, we do really do that. This is something that makes …
Tim Worstall, 25 Oct 2015
Data scientist image via Shutterstock

R&D money for science – from your taxes?

Worstall on Wednesday The Observer treats us to another one of those give us more money pieces. This time it's a call from Athene Donald, a professor of experimental physics at Cambridge, telling us all how neither the government nor private companies spend enough money on research and development. Therefore, of course, we must all be taxed so that …
Tim Worstall, 21 Oct 2015
Old beardy man thinking. Pic: Henadz via Flickr

So just what is the third Great Invention of all time?

Worstall @ the Weekend So here's a fun little game for a Sunday morning: what was, or is, the third great invention of all time? I have a candidate for it and it's very much to do with what youse guys do all day. But I'm not entirely sure that it is the proper winner of third place: certainly, most economists wouldn't rate it there at all. Of course …
Tim Worstall, 18 Oct 2015
Don Draper is Sad

Dry those eyes, ad blockers are unlikely to kill the internet

There's worry out there that the spread of ad blockers will kill off the internet. Or at least, the idea that people are paid to create stuff for it but that people aren't charged to look at it. You know, like, umm, El Reg. This has all come up as Apple has allowed the technology in iOS9, and people started to offer the …
Tim Worstall, 14 Oct 2015
Househusband: Man in apron wields broom. Image via Shutterstock

OH GROSS! The real problem with GDP

Worstall @ the Weekend Last week, when I wrote a column about the nature of cold hard cash from a rabid free marketeer point of view, commenter Chris Miller asked about the intricacies of GDP: is it actually a bad measure of how well-off we all are or is it used just because it's simple to calculate? Basically, the answer is “yes”. With a few minor …
Tim Worstall, 11 Oct 2015
Uber launch party by https://www.flickr.com/photos/5chw4r7z/ CC2.0 sharelalike attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Join Uber in a tale of rent seeking and employment law

Worstall on Wednesday Dabbsy was chuntering on about Uber and TfL finally deigning to take note of the regulations under which they should offer services, and it reminded me that we've got three lovely pieces of economics wrapped up in this whole sharing economy story. The first is one well known to youse guys in the tech industry: network effects …
Tim Worstall, 07 Oct 2015
Apple logo on glass fronted building. Licensed under cc0 / editorial use only

'Apple's now as big as ALL of America's GDP!' Oh do shut UP, you fools

Worstall on Wednesday Apple's results are out and it's time for the traditional game of trying to work out which nation state the company is richer than. With sales at $58bn for the quarter, and profits of $13.7bn – and depending upon how absurd we want to make our method of measurement – this makes it the same as the US economy, the size of Ireland …
Tim Worstall, 07 Oct 2015
Trading Places

What is money? A rabid free marketeer puts his foot in lots of notes

Worstall @ the Weekend Several of you have asked for the skinny on what money actually is. So, here's the full fat Worstall take on cold, hard cash. Answer: It's a way of keeping score. Who has the right to call upon the resources of others in that same society? And that, other than a couple of footnotes which we'll deal with overleaf, is pretty …
Tim Worstall, 04 Oct 2015
wolfie_smith_648

It's the white heat of the tech revolution, again!

Worstall on Wednesday It's more normally Mr Orlowski around here shouting that Mariana Mazzucato is a poopyhead, but given that she's just been appointed to Corbyn's economic advisory team, perhaps it's time to add to the chorus? For Mazzucato is, as we all know, the economics professor who insists that actually government really invented the …
Tim Worstall, 30 Sep 2015
Oliver Twist

Dear do-gooders, you can't get rid of child labour just by banning it

Worstall @ the Weekend I think we'd all agree that we'd like the world to be a better place. And I think most of us would, if it didn't take too much effort, support attempts to make it such a better place. There's even some more energetic than I who go out there and do in fact make it a better place: and well done them. However, we do need to, …
Tim Worstall, 27 Sep 2015
Masai in red toga talks on his cell phone from the grasslands of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in North Kenya, Africa

Mobile phones are the greatest poverty-reducing tech EVER

Worstall on Wednesday I have mentioned before around here that the mobile phone seems to be, in terms of reducing poverty, the finest invention humanity has ever come up with. Details of exactly how it does so are here, talking about sardine fishermen off Kerala, and my discussion of the overall economic effect is here, just to revisit that overall …
Tim Worstall, 23 Sep 2015
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You want the poor to have more money? Well, doh! Splash the cash

Worstall @ the Weekend Phillip from London writes in to note that I'm really not a fan of the minimum wage. So, given that we don't want the poor starving in the streets, or that we might actually think there is some minimum income that a rich country should provide just because, what's the recommended Worstall method of achieving this? To which the …
Tim Worstall, 20 Sep 2015
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Robots, schmobots. The Rise of the Machines won't leave humanity on the dole

Worstall on Wednesday El Reg tells us that we journos are some of the least likely to have to worry about our jobs being eaten by the robots. Phew, gosh and that's lucky, eh? Although I'm not really all that certain about this: a Worstall Article Generator, along the lines of the PoMo one, should be easy enough to generate. Retell story, snark, …
Tim Worstall, 16 Sep 2015
De Vaartkapoen. Pic: Bianca Bueno

As we all know, snark always comes before a fall. Mea culpa

Worstall @ the Weekend So, to set the scene: a couple of weeks ago, when writing in another place, I commented upon a piece in the New York Times. It seems that researchers have shown that we use a certain part of our brain when thinking about valuations of things which we normally think about the valuations of; things that we value and purchase in …
Tim Worstall, 13 Sep 2015
Amazon Kindle Touch e-book reader

Well, what d'you know: Raising e-book prices doesn't raise sales

Worstall on Wednesday One of the things those within economics think that the subject gets generally correct is microeonomics, which itself is generally a discussion of the price system. There are those who insist that this is all well, true, insisting that since we're not all rational agents, don't have perfect knowledge, then that standard …
Tim Worstall, 09 Sep 2015
A garden gnome depicted stretched out across picnic table... with a pipe in one hand while the other props him up. Has a confrontational look in his eye...

So Quantitative Easing in the eurozone is working, then?

Worstall @ the Weekend Much as some of us love international biz editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard over in The Torygraph, it is true that he can occasionally get a little bit excited about whatever it is that he's spotted. His latest revelation about how eurozone money supply is growing is a case in point. Evans-Pritchard is looking at this information …
Tim Worstall, 06 Sep 2015
"Typical E-scrapping dismantling operation. 100,000 such migrant workers labor in Guiyu breaking down imported computers in hundreds of small operations like this one in a four village area surrounding the Lianjiang River."

Au oh, there's gold in them thar server farms, so lead the way

All these servers that we pack into the data centres have a limited life span, they're made of metal, metals even, and scrap metal has a value. So, what's the stuff that's in there and how much is it worth? As metal that is, once it's done its job of pumping the electrons around? Not a lot when you consider what they cost to …
Tim Worstall, 03 Sep 2015
The northern end of the huge water-filled pit, showing the coal seams in the rock at Broken Cross Muir opencast coal mine

West's only rare earth mine closes. Yet Chinese monopoly fears are baseless

Worstall on Wednesday As El Reg's dodgy metals dealer it's incumbent upon me to tell you all that Molycorp has just closed Mountain Pass, the western hemisphere's only rare earth mine. This will, of course, mean disaster because we've suddenly no source of those lovely minerals with which to build all sorts of exciting gadgetry. Prepare for a …
Tim Worstall, 02 Sep 2015
Human cannonball

So, was it really the Commies that caused the early 20th Century inequality collapse?

Worstall @ the Weekend What with both the Corbynistas and Sandersistas on their various sides of the pond bringing back into the political mainstream the somewhat discredited ideas of state directed economies and socialism lite, perhaps it's time to have a look at one of the arguments used to bolster those ideas. Which is that post World War Two …
Tim Worstall, 30 Aug 2015
Babel Fish

Perhaps the AIpocalypse ISN'T imminent – if Google Translate is anything to go by, that is

Worstall on Wednesday There's been quite the little chortle in this part of Central Europe this week regarding the actions of a tourist board in Moravia. To set the scene, Moravians are thought of as the slightly slower country brothers of the Bohemians, (or “true Czechs” ... one local bar has “We have Moravian and Czech wine” in the window) in …
Tim Worstall, 26 Aug 2015
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The good burghers of Palo Alto are entirely insane

Worstall @ the Weekend El Reg treated us last weekend to the tale of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto, where the owner has a small ethical dilemma to deal with. The 4.5 acre site is apparently worth $55 million and the city council would like to buy it, but they've only got $39 million. The dilemma is that if he sells to the city council …
Tim Worstall, 23 Aug 2015

Why do driverless car makers have this insatiable need for speed?

Worstall on Wednesday I get the point of driverless cars: once they actually work they're going to be great for everyone except the recreational driver, and it wouldn't be a surprise to find the technology being made mandatory for use on some of the public road network some decades down the line. But what I've not been able to grasp is why are all …
Tim Worstall, 19 Aug 2015
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Hey, folks. Meet the economics 'genius' behind Jeremy Corbyn

Worstall @ the Weekend I recently read this piece in The Times. It tells the world a bit about Richard Murphy, the, uh, “economist” behind many of the ideas which make up Jeremy Corbyn's platform about money 'n' stuff. It piqued my interest as I've been waging a near decade-long battle against the ideas (and at times, the person) of Richard Murphy. …
Tim Worstall, 16 Aug 2015
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Typewriters suck. Yet we're infinitely richer for those irritating machines

Worstall on Wednesday One of the things we greybeards have a seriously difficult time getting over to the youngsters is quite how much life sucked back in the old days. It's easy enough to look at the bald economic statistics and see that incomes haven't moved up much (for the UK) or even at all (for the US) in recent decades. Yet when anyone who …
Tim Worstall, 12 Aug 2015
Road closed

Perhaps middle-aged blokes SHOULDN'T try 34-hour-long road trips

Worstall @ the Weekend As the result of a so far successful, but probably not worth it, piece of tax avoidance I can tell you three things. First, something that should be blindingly obvious: middle-aged men can't do long road trips with quite the ease that their younger selves could. The second is not so much to tell you but ask you: what's the …
Tim Worstall, 09 Aug 2015
A gold buying house in Africa. Pic: Sasha Lezhnev

Clueless do-gooders make Africa's conflict mineral mines even more dangerous

Worstall on Wednesday I have muttered around here more than a few times about the various idiocies of the Blood in the Mobile campaign. This was the idea that we could stop the appalling (and true) levels of violence in Eastern Congo's mining trade by making American companies fill out lots of documents. The idea was that if they all had to say …
Tim Worstall, 05 Aug 2015
Cash on scales. Pic: Images Money, Flickr

Stop forcing benefits down my throat and give me hard cash, dammit

Worstall @ the Weekend This rise of the gig economy might mean that we should redefine the whole concept of being an employee, as compared with being a contractor. There is a political argument going on around this very subject already. There's plenty of people in the US arguing that Uber's drivers – and all those other people at TaskRabbit, Lyft …
Tim Worstall, 02 Aug 2015
Uber launch party by https://www.flickr.com/photos/5chw4r7z/ CC2.0 sharelalike attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Hurrah! Uber does work (in the broadest sense of the word) after all

Worstall on Wednesday There's a certain, perhaps too cynical strain in economics, best exemplified by Mancur Olson, who was prone to pointing out that all governments are just bandits living off the population they oppress. It's better to be ruled by stationary bandits rather than nomadic ones, to be sure, for they will at least farm you rather …
Tim Worstall, 29 Jul 2015

So what the BLINKING BONKERS has gone wrong in the eurozone?

Worstall @ the Weekend A while ago, one of The Register's anonymous cowards posted a question about inflation. Can anyone explain why printing truckloads of money was the correct thing to do for UK and USA while restricting the money supply and austerity was the necessary [thing] for every other advanced country in Europe? Was it simply that all …
Tim Worstall, 26 Jul 2015
Unicorn. Detail from Domenico Zampieri fresco in Rome

Greece? Zzzz. EU bank says TWEETING can move the stock market

Worstall on Wednesday What is it that Twitter is better at than Google at doing? Over and above the obvious point that Twatter is better at broadcasting 140 character apercus to the world, while Google is better at telling you the answer to something? That answer is, as the boys at the European Central Bank (PDF) have just told us all, predicting …
Tim Worstall, 22 Jul 2015
Three cows image via Shutterstock

Being common is tragic, but the tragedy of the commons is still true

Worstall @ the Weekend Something popped up in the comments from BobRocket a couple of weeks back, namely that the Tragedy of the Commons is a myth spread by the landgrabbers, and Elinor Ostrom proved this was wrong. Well, no, not really; not at all in fact. What Ostrom did show was hugely more interesting than simply disproving Garret Hardin's …
Tim Worstall, 19 Jul 2015
Acropolis by https://www.flickr.com/photos/adeelanwer/ CC 2.0 attribution https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Bitcoin fixes a Greek problem – but not the Greek debt problem

Worstall on Thursday Hallelujah and may the Lord be praised! Someone has finally managed to find a decent economic use for Bitcoin. This isn't what those of us interested in the nitty-gritty of economics ever really expected, to be quite frank. We have looked on the alt-coin world as a rerun, a recapitulation, of every scam, fraud and mistake that …
Tim Worstall, 16 Jul 2015
Still from the movie Zoolander: Derek and a fellow model try to get the 'files' out of the Mac by smashing it to pieces. copyright Paramount Pictures

Attention dunderheads: Taxpayers are NOT giving businesses £93bn

Worstall @ the Weekend So I was a little surprised to be told by The Guardian that corporate welfare in the UK is, by a conservative estimation (obviously not a Conservative one, for it would be doing the victory dance if this were true) some £93bn a year. I was told this by that graduate of modern history, Aditya Chakrabortty, someone I have …
Tim Worstall, 12 Jul 2015
Unicorn. Detail from Domenico Zampieri fresco in Rome

Tech bubble? Pah. IPOs just return cash to early-stage investors

Worstall on Wednesday A internal presentation from Andreessen Horowitz aimed at its limited partners, that has to be taken with the appropriate shovelful of salt, has emerged – and the insights it reveals into the “tech bubble” are absolutely fascinating. U.S. Technology Funding -- What's Going On? from a16z Take it with a shovelful of salt …
Tim Worstall, 08 Jul 2015
A large hand flicks an icon of a little red man. Image via shutterstock (Lasse Kristensen)

Adam Smith was right about that invisible hand, you know

Worstall @ the Weekend We have a nice little empirical proof that Adam Smith really was right about us all being guided by that invisible hand. Yeah, I know, you're sooo tired of the free market maniac telling you that governments are all wet and laissez faire is where it should be. Except that's not something Smith ever said nor is it what he meant …
Tim Worstall, 05 Jul 2015

Teaching people to speak English? You just need Chatroulette without the dick pics

Worstall on Wednesday The latest of the X-Prizes is an attempt to increase adult literacy through the power of the mobile phone. Given that our own Prime Minister has been known to think that LOL means “lots of love”, it might not be a bad idea to update digital literacy. However, that's not quite what they mean: they want to take those adults who …
Tim Worstall, 01 Jul 2015
Boutique ISP, anyone?

Why OH WHY did Blighty privatise EVERYTHING?

Worstall @ the Weekend Given that I'm a Senior Fellow At the Adam Smith Institute and we pretty much invented – at least in the British political sense – the idea of privatisation, I've responded this week to an interesting request from the commentards as to why in the hell we did this. Especially since some of the best run privatised firms now seem …
Tim Worstall, 28 Jun 2015
Stacks of bitcoin CC2.0 attribution by FD Comite https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/

Hey, Sand Hill Exchange. Shouting 'blockchain!' won't stop the Feds

Worstall on Wednesday Matt Levine tells us the story of the Sand Hill Bitcoin Exchange, another one of those bright ideas that turned out not to be so bright and ended in a $20,000 fine from the SEC. The real underlying point is that it really was a bright idea: one that would improve the economy by making the valuations of large pre-IPO tech …
Tim Worstall, 24 Jun 2015

Why is it that women are consistently paid less than men?

Worstall @ the Weekend There is undoubtedly a gender pay gap in our society. Even a number of them across our various societies. In the US the usual number given is that women make 77 cents on the dollar that men do and here in the UK we've recently had a government shouting that the part time gender pay gap is as much as 37 per cent. This could …
Tim Worstall, 21 Jun 2015
happy_woman_at_desk

Foxconn's going to 'exploit' Indian labour? SCORE! Bye, poverty

Worstall on Wednesday El Reg serves us up the news that Foxconn is looking to India to set up production lines, presumably for the assembly of Apple's products. This is excellent news as it means that now Indian workers will get exploited and become rich, as those Chinese have in recent decades. And yes, it is indeed exploitation and yes they will …
Tim Worstall, 17 Jun 2015
Trainspotting

Why is that idiot Osbo continuing with austerity when we know it doesn't work?

Worstall @ the Weekend That austerity doesn't make the economy grow, is one of those things we all know to be true. And yet we've also got a government insisting that a recession, when there's spare capacity and we'd really rather like the economy to grow, is a great time to be cutting government spending and thus instituting that austerity. This …
Tim Worstall, 14 Jun 2015
Facepalm

MIT bods' digital economy babblings are tosh. C'mon guys, Economics 101

Worstall on Wednesday We've one of those lovely open letters floating around. Where the Great and the Good, the Wise Thinkers, tell us all how we've got to organise the world to accord with their prejudices about how it should be ordered. This particular one, an “Open Letter on the Digital Economy” (versions here and here) is about what we've got …
Tim Worstall, 10 Jun 2015

So why the hell didn't quantitative easing produce HUGE inflation?

Worstall @ the Weekend There's two simple answers to the question of why quantitative easing (QE) didn't set off some massive burst of inflation (to answer commentard Gordon 10's question posted here). The first being that it did, the second being that some people, fortunately this time the people running the central banks, got their economics right …
Tim Worstall, 07 Jun 2015

Elon Musk's $4.9 BEELLLION taxpayer windfall revealed

Worstall on Wednesday That Elon Musk is a decamillionaire is true. That he's a great salesman is also true. But to whom is he selling, and what is it that he sells so well? There's a very reasonable argument that what he's actually good at is selling to bureaucrats what bureaucrats want to buy with our money. And while that's obviously a useful …
Tim Worstall, 03 Jun 2015

The rare metals debate: Only trace elements of sanity found

Worstall @ the Weekend The scene is an early morning current affairs radio show. Very important people talk to the nation here. John Humphrys (for it is he): Mr. Worstall, why is it that your new report shows that soon all will be dead? Worstall: John, it's 7am. Currently there is food in the fridges of the nation for breakfast. But in two hours …
Tim Worstall, 31 May 2015
Buzz Lightyear

Why are all the visual special effects studios going bust?

Worstall on Wednesday An interesting read popped up on Motherboard recently: if all and every movie now uses ever more visual effects, then why the heck are all the visual effects (VFX) studios going bust? The answer given was apparently that Avatar didn't win the right Oscars. This is both amusing and wrong. The actual answer is that this is how …
Tim Worstall, 27 May 2015

NEVER MIND the B*LLOCKS Osbo peddles, deficits don't really matter

Worstall @ the Weekend What with another budget just coming up, to correct the one that chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne kidded everyone with before the election, it might be time to answer the question of whether deficits really matter? For Osborne is most certainly going to continue shouting that they do and, equally certainly, everyone …
Tim Worstall, 24 May 2015
Flying Toaster screen saver rebuilt in CSS

Well YES, Silicon Valley VCs do think you're a CRETIN

Worstall on Wednesday A couple of weeks back I pointed to some rumours about what the stealth (and hugely VC backed) company 21 Inc was up to, with the idea being, seemingly, to stick a Bitcoin mining chip in your toaster. So, as well as that breakfast comestible you could lose money on your electricity bill by attempting to mine for Bitcoin, …
Tim Worstall, 20 May 2015
Canary Wharf at night

So why the hell do we bail banks out?

Worstall @ the Weekend Much to my joy, I have been asked a question I can actually answer. As opposed to those difficult ones, like does my bum look big in this, do you love me and has your cocaine use ever been more than recreational? That question, coming from commentard John Smith 19, and it is, in essence, well, why do we bail out the banks? …
Tim Worstall, 17 May 2015

Why Joe Hockey's Oz tax proposals only get five out of 10

Worstall on Wednesday I was fascinated to see El Reg's report on the new proposals to change the Australian tax system, as put forward by Joe Hockey. It's a strange mixture: half is the very sensible plugging of a hole in the tax regime, while the other half shows shocking ignorance of the basis of another part of the international tax system. The …
Tim Worstall, 13 May 2015