Tim Worstall

Contact Mail Follow Twitter RSS feed
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.
"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
silicon_valley_shutterstock_map_648

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
jeremy_corbyn_648

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
typewriter_wtf_648

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 to …
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 time …
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 the …
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 to …
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? One …
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

The BIG stretch: Software and flexing your firm's size

A mathematician (a Fields Medal winner, so a real one) once asked an economist whether there was anything in economics that was non-obvious and non-trivial. Well, the answer that came back was: "It's all obvious or trivial except Ricardo on comparative advantage." So, once explained, this analogy is both obvious and trivial, …
Tim Worstall, 11 May 2015
By Henrik Ishihara licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Pinning a value on big tech's top names. Not as easy as it looks

Does the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH among friends) have any value when looking at tech companies in the enterprise and data centre world? EMH does not mean markets are the efficient way of doing things. There is no implication at all that healthcare, scientific research or the military should be delivered by market …
Tim Worstall, 11 May 2015

So what would the economic effect of leaving the EU be?

Worstall @ the Weekend Now that the election's over (result unknown as I write) it's possible to perform for a reader request: what would the economic effect of Britain leaving the European Union be? Given that I'm a known 'kipster I didn't want to do this pre-election: I'm here at El Reg despite my 'kipness, not because of it and thus wanted to steer …
Tim Worstall, 10 May 2015
David Cameron

Facebook echo chamber: Or, the British media and the election

Comment Given that the election results are nearly all in it's going to be some few femtoseconds before Guardian writer Polly Toynbee starts claiming that it's the right wing media that woefully misinformed the British public and that's why the forces of all that's good and proper didn't win. Given that that's not actually how the media …
Tim Worstall, 08 May 2015
Stacks of bitcoin CC2.0 attribution by FD Comite https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/

Hey! Want a FREE TOASTER that makes BITCOIN? What? You DO?

Worstall on Wednesday The Official Greatest Business Plan Of All Time was back at the time of the South Sea Bubble of the Georgian Age. A promoter made a stock offering for “A company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage but no one to know what it is.” What made it the officially greatest ever was that this was, obviously and clearly, a …
Tim Worstall, 06 May 2015
The Queen and Prince Philip visit Bletchley Park

Why OH WHY is economics so bleedin' awful, then?

Worstall @ the Weekend As Her Majesty the Queen remarked a few years back, why was it that no economist actually saw the crash coming? There's actually two answers to that. First, the cute one: that sort of violent change cannot be predicted. If it could be predicted then prices would move before it happened, meaning that it would have already …
Tim Worstall, 03 May 2015
Landfill. Pic: Bill McChesney

Free markets aren't rubbish – in fact, they solve our rubbish woes

Worstall on Wednesday The UN noted last week that there's rather a lot of computing and other electrical and electronic waste around. Meeellions upon millions of tonnes, in fact. As they say, it might be a good idea to think about recycling some of this crud. However, if we're going to do that then we need to get the economics of this right: and I've …
Tim Worstall, 29 Apr 2015
Steve Jobs memorial in Russia

Apple BIGGER than the U.S. ECONOMY? Or Australia? Or ... Luxembourg?

Analysis Apple's results are out - and it's time for the traditional game of trying to work out how much richer than which country the company is. With sales at $58 billion for the quarter, profits of $13.7 billion and depending upon how absurd we want to make our method of measurement this makes it the same as the US economy, the size …
Tim Worstall, 28 Apr 2015
Hungry goat licks lips. Pic: David Goehring

So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

Worstall @ the Weekend To break with tradition: this week let's see if we can propose something sensible rather than doing our usual liverish snarling at whatever it is that grips my goat this week. So, let's see if we can work out how we should actually be taxing capital and the returns to it. This, of course, involves the taxation of corporations as …
Tim Worstall, 26 Apr 2015
Hungry goat licks lips. Pic: David Goehring

What is the REAL value of your precious, precious data?

Data Pair – Part 2 Multitudes are getting very excited about what all of this data flowing around the system is worth. If we can know lots and lots about lots and lots of things then obviously that's really valuable, yes? And to some extent this is even true. We're not just in a bubble here – the more we can do with data these days, the more that …
Tim Worstall, 22 Apr 2015
Stock market. Pic: Alberto Carrasco Casado

London man arrested over $40 MILLION HFT flash crash allegations

Comment As I've mentioned around here I'm a bit of an aficionado of scams and scammettes: not because I partake in them but because the inventiveness of the human mind in hoovering up cash never ceases to amuse me. This morning we've a classic of the genre, as one bloke working out of his mother's basement* in Hounslow is alleged to …
Tim Worstall, 22 Apr 2015
Google UK reception. Pic: Bob Dormon

Google versus the EU: Sigh. You can't exploit a contestable monopoly

Worstall on Wednesday So, the EU Commission is going to call Google in and give it a really hard talking to for offering what Google's users rather like to have. And if they decide that, well, Google has been giving the consumers what the consumers desire, good and hard, then they're going to fine the Chocolate Factory up to 10 per cent of global …
Tim Worstall, 22 Apr 2015

So why exactly does almost ALL tech live in Silicon Valley?

Worstall @ the Weekend It was Ben Bernanke who pointed out that economics isn't really all that much good at predicting the next recession (and the long-standing joke is that economists have predicted 11 out of the past three), but it is pretty good at working out why the world is the way it is. Which brings us to the cutting edge of modern economic …
Tim Worstall, 19 Apr 2015

In some ways, dating apps are the anti-internet

Worstall on Wednesday Given the massive, but not startling*, success of dating apps like Grindr and Tinder it might sound, well, it will sound, a little odd to state that in one way at least they're like the anti-internet. For what that internet does is abolish geography as a binding limit on who one can socialise with. From the earliest BBS through …
Tim Worstall, 15 Apr 2015

The Walton kids are ABSURDLY wealthy – and you're benefitting

Worstall @ the Weekend One of the great statistics being bandied about in the great inequality debate is that the Walton family have more wealth between the four siblings than the bottom 40 per cent of Americans do in total. Apparently this is something most shocking – and, of course, something must be done. I would argue that there's nothing very …
Tim Worstall, 12 Apr 2015
grab_that_cash

Instead of public sector non-jobbery, Martha, how about creating REAL entrepreneurs?

Worstall on Wednesday One of the general complaints about the British economy and its capitalism is that we don't seem to aim large. We are good at coming up with new ideas, we've even people who know how to make ideas work. Yet we very rarely seem to build up new entreprenurial companies that then go global. Why hasn't Britain (or even Europe?) …
Tim Worstall, 08 Apr 2015