minimum wage

Breaking character, Ed Miliband has committed to some kind of political stance and has pledged to increase minimum wage to £8/hour by 2020.

Upon closer inspection this is less interesting than it initially seems and Ed has preserved his reputation of doing absolutely nothing useful: At 4% inflation, minimum wage should grow to £6.50 * 1.046 = £8.22 in 2020. Yep, Ed has committed to doing absolutely nothing differently. I am still finding it difficult to work out if Ed has some kind of election campaigned lined up and just feels it’s too early to unleash it, or whether he genuinely has no interest in being elected. I suppose we’ll find out soon.

The greens previously came out and said they’d raise it to £10 in the same time frame. I say the greens have the right idea but they are still too conservative and should have given a bigger number. At the moment, low paid employees are subsidised by all sorts of state benefits and this is necessary because it is simply not possible to live on minimum wage alone. This is an example of socialism gone wrong where we use the state to subsidise corporations. In simple terms, a company is asking the taxpayer “I’d like to make this person generate some profit for me, but I don’t want to pay them for it, will you pay them for me and I’ll keep the profit?”. This is ludicrous. The minimum wage should be set high enough that somebody working full time can be expected to support themselves with no intervention from the state. The expectation by employers of free labour in this country is as baffling as it is damaging.

As well as directly benefiting extremely low paid workers, this has the benefit of kicking off some competition in the employment market from the bottom upwards. If minimum wage were raised today to £10 (let’s assume this is roughly the figure that someone on minimum wage currently makes once benefits are factored in), suddenly high stress/high responsibility jobs at £11/hour and £12/hour wouldn’t look so appealing so the numbers would have to rise and average worker salaries would gradually start eating more into companies’ earnings, making an overall more equal distribution of income. At the moment it is difficult to have a true insight into what your wages are worth at the lower end of the scale (which, due to the unbalanced distribution of earnings, includes most people), because you compare them with a number that is artificially low and doesn’t really mean anything.

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The boring option prevails again

Scotland votes no. Not really a huge surprise, but maybe a bit disappointing. There are two things I think should be noted:

1. Turnout was incredibly high at around 85% (vs 65 in the last general election). I think this shows that people do vote if they are interested in something and feel the outcome is important. The reason we never see this level of turnout at general elections is not because people don’t care, but because they perceive the options as indistinct.


2. 45% is still a huge number. David Cameron became prime minister while securing only 36% of his vote. The yes campaign had the odds stacked against them all the way by extremely biased media coverage, which gave a lot of air time to people with nothing interesting to say. In this I include the many businesses and banks who said a yes vote would be terrible – usually when private companies make political statements, it is not your benefit they are concerned with, but pretty much every news outlet covered this by implying it meant doom and gloom for the average person. Had the yes campaign instead enjoyed such biased coverage we would probably have seen the result inverted. It would have been better if the decision had come instead with less external pressure.

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you scots are a contentious people


I’m still erring on the side of a yes vote. I fully expect ‘no’ to win by a comfortable but not huge margin, but I do still think that Scots should regard ‘yes’ as the smarter vote.

This is a letter the no campaign have been sending:

This appears quite baffling because most of the points raised are legitimate criticisms of the UK and therefore legitimate reasons to leave. For example, Alex Salmond is going to accelerate rent increases even faster than the rest of the UK? really? because that would be quite an achievement. Also it’s very surreal to complain Salmond is going to devalue your pensions, and then have your letter signed by one of the very few people who can claim to have personally and directly devalued UK pensions, Gordon Brown.

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The infection rate for the Ebola outbreak is exponential, with infected numbers doubling approximately every two weeks, and is now in the order of thousands. This is terrifying.

We seem to have largely ignored this as an African problem so far, which could be a big mistake. That it is continuing to grow exponentially is very worrying because exponential functions get very big very fast. Although 4000 people seems like a drop in the ocean right now, and it is, by the time the numbers get worrying in an absolute sense it will be far far far too late to do anything about it because it will be growing far too rapidly. It’s not the number of infections that is the worry, it’s the rate at which it is infecting new people. If we can’t slow it down when there are 4000 carriers, we sure as heck aren’t going to be able to slow it down when there are 8000, 16000, 32000 …

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Independence Day

Scottish independence: I’m English and I think you should vote yes, because I think the UK is a stupid pseudo American country that screws over most of its inhabitants, and you have a genuine chance to break away from the root causes of that (i.e. Westminster) and fix it.

I think it’s ridiculous that we have a minimum wage which is so low that it requires benefits to top it up to a living wage, thereby meaning that the state subsidises greedy employers.
I think it’s ridiculous that at the last general election the only thing we really agreed on was “none of these, please”, and at the next election, in less than a year’s time from now, we basically get exactly the same choice again, except we’ve replaced Gordon Brown with someone even less electable (which, frankly, is a huge achievement). It doesn’t matter who we vote for – we will get a public schoolboy Oxbridge graduate.
I think it’s ridiculous we charge students £9000 per year for university. And it’s even more ridiculous that they pay for it by taking out a loan from the state which they won’t actually ever pay back. The state is footing the bill for this in the stupidest way possible.
I think it’s ridiculous that we have a housing crisis which fuels our growing economy with imaginary money, and everyone is apparently content to let it run away with itself and eventually crash horribly because 33% of MPs are landlords and are raking in (real) money from it!
I think it’s ridiculous that in a time when employment and wages have struggled, we’ve mostly responded to this not by stimulating sustainable long term growth or by reassessing the distribution of income, but instead by attacking benefit claimants.

A yes vote is risky, but a no vote is hardly safe. The UK in general is not on a promising course right now.

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bake off :(

I never thought I would see the day that I would be incensed by a baking scandal.

From twitter:

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Personally I feel that Alex Salmond’s credibility would improve dramatically if he were to announce that an independent Scotland would introduce its own new currency, the poond sterling.

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