Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thursday, 31st December

Or is it still March? Time's dragging. We had some statistical claims today, which were by and large fair enough. The choice of 1992 as a start date to compare the UK economy is basically a Tory device, but when comparing with France or Germany then any start date would do after 1990 (though Germany was the fastest growing of the three in the 1990s due to a unification spurt (and of course partly has been the slowest in the 2000s because of a post-U slump)).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday 29th March

Little to report on today, with even the statutory attack on Polly Tonybee lacking any bite. Where are the legendary attacks on her statistical claims with worse statistical claims? Have we achieved our aim to get a greater standard of statistical accuracy at the cost of no statistics at all? Is the Law of Unintended Consquences going to be our undoing?

Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tuesday 28th March

This post on acccountancy seems muddled-headed. Rules restricting accountancy firms from offering consultancy services if they also do audits are not uncommon, and I think was one of the main reforms instigated in the US after the Enron/Arthur Anderson and other scandals.

For example:

In response to recent accounting scandals, new Federal legislation restricts the nonauditing services that public accountants can provide to clients. If an accounting firm audits a client’s financial statements, that same firm cannot provide advice on human resources, technology, investment banking, or legal matters, although accountants may still advise on tax issues, such as establishing a tax shelter.

I imagine Tim doesn't believe such laws should exist, or even a requirement that firms have their books audited. He would argue that the free market should take care of it and firms that aren't audited would be shunned. I think that would have been a better line of argument than the "Isn't the EU crap" jeers.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Monday 27th March

A new week and another piece having a go, albeit a mild one, at Paul Krugman. Not this time because Tim disagrees with him, but because he doesn't believe Krugman should think like this.

Basically Tim's argument is this:

1. Krugman is a liberal and believes in income and wealth redistribution. Krugman is an internationalist so should be indifferent between Americans and foreigners.
2. Mexican immigrants gain more from working in the United States than poor Americans lose from lower wages and less jobs because Mexican immigrants are working in the United States.
3. Point 2 is therefore income redistribution.
4. Krugman should therefore like it.

I can't say I agree with point 1. There are many reasons why one might place more weight on the welfare of poor Americans than potential immigrants. Even if you don't feel any particular emotional link to other citizens of your own country, there are obvious practical issues, most of which stem from the fact that newly unemployed/poor 'native' citizens aren't going to be deported.

Having said this, Krugman's column is a bit of a shocker. It would have gained from a line at the start of the effect of "If I was to make a case against immigration, this is how I would do it". The estimates he uses on the costs to lowly-educated 'native' Americans are the ones at the high-end of the range studies have found. He doesn't suggest other means by which the impact of immigation could be improved. But this isn't KrugmanWatch, so I'll shut up.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A bonus post

We're now just over a week into this site, and its reception has been just fantastic. Already (in the comments!) we've been attacked by Timophiles, for being pointless, bad at grammar, a non-English speaker. But we've also been criticised by Timophobes for not being ruthless enough in destroying his arguments, or something like that. This is all based on writing only about two substantial posts.

"Quit whilst you're ahead", goes the old saying. But that would be too easy. We're in this for the long term. Or a least four weeks, depending on whether it gets sufficiently warmer in Europe to allow a holiday.

Sunday 26th March

Oh dear, I actually got off my lazy backside and wrote a long piece, which I seem to have deleted. I'll be quick then - the Tim post which is worthy of a comment today is the one on education and women's earnings.

To summarise the post which is now sitting in some cache in the sky.

1. Tim has written a lot of good and informative posts on this.
2. I think he rather glosses over the use of the 'educated' in Alison Wolf's article, which in turns means 'professional' and refers (in this case) to only 13% of women in employment.
3. The full article though also mainains that the large pay gap of 66% of lifetime earnings for the least educated women (compared to 12% for educated women with children) is due to rational choices on part-time work and bringing up children.
4. That educated women are having fewer children because of a 12% lifetime pay gap seems strange, and Wolf's article doesn't really explain it, though I think she means also in terms of time at work foregone and the cost of bringing up children.
5. Where I might differ from Tim here is that I think his policy desires would make things worse. The nation has an interest in its poplation being maintained. That less-educated women have children therefore is a good thing. The huge pay loss they take (66% of lifetime earnings) is partly made up by government subsidies - child benefit, child trust fund, free heathcare and free education. Tim wants to do away with this and replace it with a negative income tax. This would almost certainly lower the income of lower-educated women, and would certainly raise the relative cost of having children. It's unclear what it would do for the choices of higher-educated women.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday 25th March

Nine posts but nothing that particularly stands out as worthy of a comment. This Watching lark is easy than you might think if you don't actually bother to write anything.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I missed a classic Worstall.

He in one post says:

It’s? Its? Do you still get marked down for grammar and punctuation these days?

So, someone wrote It's, rather than Its. This Worstall believes is worthy of a post. A reason to avoid a company. A commenter notes however in a post just two below that Worstall has written:

Or take it further and connect the delightful young heiress, that very same Paris Hilton, with the full phrase in all it's original glory

Oh dear.

Thursday 23rd March and Friday 24th March

Less than a week gone and already I'm falling behind. Hello to all my new readers - and thanks for the kind comments and tips.

So two days and another 14 posts. Not a great deal to say about most of them again.

This post on Paul Krugman is weird. It's admittedly rather hypocritical for a Watcher like myself to label someone else obsessive but Worstall does seem to have some issues with Professor Krugman. Today's post is particularly strange. I think Worstall's entire criticism is that Krugman uses the word 'rich', which means someone with a large wealth, when he is really describing someone with a large income. That rather minor linguistic quibble gets him so overexcited he begins the post:

Oh dear. Ooops, indeed. Even Heh.

For otherwise there is nothing wrong with Krugman's analysis. As pointed out in the comments, Gates' has an enormous income, far higher than 'middle class'. Furthermore spending your wealth does not make you have a negative income. Obviously.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wednesday, 22nd March

Here we go again. 14 posts. Most of them pretty bog-standard.

Only one classic Worstall. He declares that France isn't a market-economy, and rubbishes a claim by an economist that labour regulation doesn't affect the overall level of employment. Nothing is provided in terms of evidence, indeed it is left to 'Dsquared' in the comments to point out that in fact this is what a report indeed shows.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


There's a lovely Pooterish moment on the Daily Ablution today:
The implication here is that the opinions of a "professional" - like, let us say, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - are somehow superior to those of the average informed and interested observer. I see no reason to assume this to be the case. If I was to become established as a highly paid professional blogger (Inshallah!), while Ms. Alibhai-Brown simultaneously quits her job to maintain a non-income-generating blog, would the objective values of our observations suddenly be transposed?

21st March 2006

Blimey, they keep on comin'. Today's 13 (count 'em) posts are again not particularly contentious, though we have the usual embarassing spectacle of Worstall attacking Polly Toynbee for her grasp of economics. His record on this is not brilliant.

In response to Toynbee's assertion:

Ernst & Young is quoted all over the rightwing press with a spurious calculation that households now pay "the equivalent of" £9,000 extra tax under Labour. Weasel words, "the equivalent of". That would be the case only if every household earned the same and paid the same taxes, rolling in business and all other taxes. But that's nonsense in this wildly unequal society.

Worstall says :

Err, all taxes are paid by households. Just as all income flows, in the end, to households.
This is an obvious misreading of her point. I think what has happened is Worstall knows that people often make the mistake of saying that businesses pay taxes, when in fact at the end of the day only people can pay taxes (though it's more complex than this, obviously), and he hasn't bothered to see if Toynbee has made the mistake. Her point is of course that households pay different taxes, and earn different amounts of money. In other words the 'average' is not representative (as in fact is surely the case).

To her point that the corporation tax is the lowest in Europe he offers this:

Given that the amount raised in Corporation Tax has been rising, difficult to see that NuLab cut anything but the rate, isn’t it?
No, it isn't difficult. The amount raised by corporation tax could be rising for three reasons. Most obviously that the burden of it has been raised, which is what Worstall wants to argue. But also of course the amount raised will rise with a) an increase in the rate of taxable profits, and b) an increase in inflation. Worstall provides no information for us to come to any conclusions.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday 20th March and the bloody weekend!

Oh lord. Tim blogs on the weekend too. This wasn't realised. Anyway it gives us an excuse to be brief.

The post on Single Double Time makes some claims about the position of Britain - to the West of Europe - that are only partially true. Parts of France, most of Spain and obviously Portugal and Ireland (though they are also on GMT) are further west.

The post on taxation perhaps illustrates what's the worst thing about Worstall's site. He is very keen on repeating things he reads in newspapers without checking what they actually mean. In this case Minford's 'study', which is repeated in more detail in The Business and very similarly, but apparently based on the author's own work, in The Sunday Telegraph.

The Times basically misreported it - the calculation is of a marginal tax rate, ie it's what you pay on every extra £100 earned, not on every £100 earned. This was not made clear in the Times' report. Furthermore it is not clear on what basis the numbers have been calculated - it is not easy to work out what is paid in VAT or excise duty on marginal income, as it has to be spent, not saved, and then spent on things that incur either.

Nothing that remarkable in the rest.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday, 17th March

Not the greatest of launch days for this blog, as Worstall's output is relatively fact-free today. And I'm not going to start going over old posts. So all in all, very depressing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Welcome to WorstallWatch, a blog which aims to look at the statistical accuracy of British right-wing pundits and bloggers, in particularly Tim Worstall. The reason for forming this blog his hopefully not to continually point out errors in the pieces, but encourage a better standard of right-wing blogging. Indeed Worstall is by no means the worst offender, and his blog is one of the better ones, but his voluminous output at least means we might have something to write about.