Opt in should be rule for any deductions

May 29, 2015

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing a law change which could drastically reduce Labour Party funds:

. . . After leading the Tory Party to its first majority for 23 years, Mr Cameron unveiled legislation that could see donations to Labour fall by tens of millions of pounds every year.

In a surprise move the Conservatives introduced a new law to reform the way union activists pay a “political levy” to Labour.

Under the Conservative plans, union members will have to opt-in to paying an annual amount to Labour, rather than opting out as at present.

It will dramatically reduce Labour’s funding from the unions and would significantly hamper the party’s ability to fight general elections.

In Northern Ireland, which has an opt-in system, fewer than 40 per cent of union members chose to pay into political fund. Under the current system in the rest of the UK just 8.8 per cent of union members opt out. . .

It’s a long time since I paid any union dues. Back then membership was compulsory and I have no memory of being asked my views on the union donating to any political party.

Now that union membership is voluntary does anyone know if union deductions here are opt in or opt out and how much say members have on donations from the unions to political parties?

This move may well be politically motivated but it is based on an important principle. The rule for any deductions from people’s pay should be opt in not opt out, except those like tax, child support and fines which are mandatory.

The opt-in rule should apply not only to deductions from pay but to any add-ons to purchases, for example insurance or other extras when you book travel, too.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


Bureaucracy trumps science & animal welfare

April 28, 2015

This is the triumph of bureaucracy over science and animal welfare:

British organic farmers are being forced to treat their livestock with homeopathic remedies under new European Commission rules branded ‘scientifically illiterate’ by vets.

Although homeopathy has been branded as ‘rubbish’ by the government’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, organic farmers have been told they must try it first under a new EU directive which came into force in January.

The regulation means that animals could be left diseased or in pain for far longer than necessary and organic meat could end up containing higher levels of bacteria, vets have warned.

John Blackwell, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “We should always use medicines which have a strong science base and homeopathic remedies are not underpinned by any strong science.

“Disease is painful and farmers have an obligation to reduce that pain and not allow their animals to suffer so this regulation is troubling. It may lead to serious animal health and welfare detriment.

“If animals are not treated promptly it could lead to an underlying level of pathogen which could mean that the animal was no longer fit for human consumption.” . . .

The directive states that: “it is a general requirement…for production of all organic livestock that (herbal) and homeopathic products… shall be used in preference to chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary treatment or antibiotics.”  . .

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs admitted that organic farmers were bound by the new regulations but said they could resort to other means, such as antibiotics, without losing their ‘organic’ status if homeopathic remedies proved to be ineffective.  . .

But what about the suffering of the animals while they wait for treatment that will work?

Vets in Norway have also called on their country’s Food Standards Agency to delay fully implementing the directive in protest at the “ridiculous” guidelines.

“We think it’s totally unacceptable from a scientific point of view because there’s no scientific basis for using homeopathy,” Ellef Blakstad, scientific director of the Norwegian Veterinary Association, adding that the move was “scientifically illiterate”.

“If you start using homeopathy, you prolong the time when the animals are not getting adequate treatment and that’s a threat to animal welfare.” . .

Antibiotics should not be used indiscriminately but no good farmer or vet should let animals suffer for bureaucracy when there’s a scientifically proven way to treat the problem.

A friend who was overseeing an organic farm received a call from the manager telling him sheep were dying in large numbers.

The overseer took one look at the stock and told the manager to drench them.

The farm lost its organic status but the stock survived and thrived.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


I’d be prepared to pay a bit more tax for . . .

August 19, 2014

About half the people polled in Britain say they would be prepared to pay a bit more tax if it went directly to the health service.

That is what they say but Tim Worstall points out what people say is not the same as what they do.

. . .The reason it’s not true is our old friend revealed preferences. We should never try to divine what people really want from what they say: we should instead look at what they do. And we do have a method of being able to pay extra tax: simply send the cheque to “The Accountant, 2 Horse Guards Road, London SW1″ and they’re absolutely delighted to apply it to whatever area of public spending you wish to inform them you favour. Admittedly it’s a few years since I looked into this but in that year an entire 5 people had actually done so and four of them were dead, leaving bequests.

So revealed preferences tells us that exactly one live person was actually willing to pay higher taxes for any reason at all, not just for the NHS. . .

Would a poll in New Zealand have a similar result?

Probably, but anyone in New Zealand could send money to Treasury or the ministry or department of their choice now but how many do?

I suspect it is very, very few.

I used to be deputy chair of a health board and we often got donations from grateful patients and their families.

A whole range of charities which work in areas where the government provides services survive on donations from thousands of people.

Would those people give as much if they paid more tax?

Would they prefer to pay more tax than to keep more of their own money to do with it what they wished?

They might say yes would but their actions suggest a very strong no.

Government services need our tax revenue but it takes more than a dollar in tax to provide a dollar of services.

Most of us would prefer to keep more of our own money and be free to donate directly to organisations where every cent gets to the destination we choose.

Every organisation has administration costs but with some administration costs are covered by local committee fund raising, and donations all go to projects. Save the Children is one which operates in this way.


70,000,000 reasons for sale

August 10, 2014

Tim Worstall, writing at Forbes, says there’s 70,000,000 reasons for selling Lochinver Station:

There’s a slightly bizarre argument going on over in New Zealand over the ownership of a large farm, Lochinver Station. The argument is over whether it’s right or not for it to be sold to a Chinese company. There’s so many things wrong with even having the debate that it’s difficult for we foreigners to get our minds around it. For a start the very definition of private property is that you can dispose of said property as you wish. If you can’t then it’s not actually private property any more. But more than that the basis of the argument against allowing the sale seems to be that the sale should be in New Zealand’s economic interest as a whole. Which, of course, it is, there’s 70 million benefits coming into the country in the form of the $70 million that’s being paid for it. Why the debate continues after this is a mystery. . .

The debate continues because of emotion and politics.

. . . To which I would just add that one about the 70 million benefits. A foreigner (a corporation, an individual, it doesn’t matter) is bringing money into the country to pay for Lochinver Station. The price that’s being paid is, by definition, everyone’s best guess as to the total current value of all of the future profits from that farming operation. This is thus an addition of $70 million to New Zealand’s capital stock. Before, there was the farm worth $70 million. After the sale there will still be the farm, which will still employ people, pay taxes and so on. And also the family operation that used to run the farm now has $70 million. The deal adds to the capital stock of the country and what makes a place richer is increasing the amount of capital that is added to the labour of that place. Thus there’s 70 million benefits to the sale, each dollar being paid over being a benefit of one dollar.

Other than a xenophobic appeal to economic populism (and those with long memories might care to ponder on where said autarkic populism led the economy under Robert Muldoon) there’s really nothing at all to support the idea that Lochinver Station cannot be sold to anyone at all who wants to buy it.

Private property rights and economics mean nothing to the xenophobes opposing the sale.

They also fail to see the benefits to the seller and the country from those $70,000,000 and all the other money the would-be purchaser, Shanghai Pengxin,  will have to put into the farm to meet the very strict criteria of the Overseas Investment Office.


Quota bad for health

July 21, 2014

Tim Worstall shows that public health campaigners  don’t understand economics:

. . . The European Union is taking the next step in reforming the entirely absurd sugar regime, making it marginally less awful. The public health wallahs are shouting that this might make sugar cheaper, to the point where everyone will explode from eating too much of it.

No, really:

Controversial agricultural reforms by the European Union could cause sugar levels in food and drink to rise, experts have warned.

Campaigners said it was “perverse” that the EU was planning to lift sugar production quotas at a time when health authorities are advising people to reduce their consumption of the ingredient. . . .

The move is expected to make sugar cheaper for food and drink manufacturers, prompting fears it will encourage them to use rising levels of the ingredient. Dr Aseem Malhotra, science director of Action on Sugar, a campaign group, said it would be “disastrous” for public health.

Oh dear.

They’ve really not understood what’s going on here at all.

In the nightmare world of EU agricultural policies the abolition of quota does not mean that prices are going to fall. For what actually happens is that if you grow sugar beet then there’s two prices which you can sell that deformed mangelwurzel to the processor at. One, a guaranteed one, much higher than a free market price, is only available if you have quota to go with your sugar beet. The other price is very much lower than a free market price and almost no one ever tries to grow beet without quota as a result.

The important point about the abolition of quota is not that it abolishes quota. It is that if there is no quota then beet with or without quota cannot gain that guaranteed price. Thus the price on offer to Europe’s sugar beet growers is going to fall: all other things being equal we’ll thus have less beet being grown. And thus less sugar being taken into storage and then subsidised by the EU when it is later dumped on the food manufacturers.

The abolition of quota will lead to less sugar being produced. And the public health campaigners are arguing against the abolition of quota to stop less sugar being produced. . .

Removing quota will not just have economic benefits, contrary to what the campaigners say, it could have health ones too.


Floral fiends

May 8, 2014

An elderly couple have been told the flower bed outside their home is ‘criminal damage’ by a council which has demanded they rip it out.

An elderly couple have been warned they face a court charged with ‘criminally damaging the highway’ – after they planted a flower bed outside their home.

Colin Halsey, 77, and his wife Kath, 76, had decided to grow daffodils, pansies and other bushes and plants as long ago as 1999 to stop motorists churning up the grass verge whenever they parked their cars.

But almost 15 years on, a council official carrying out an inspection of the village where they couple live, spotted the illicit flower bed growing at the front of their former council house.

He spoke to Mr Halsey claiming his ”planting activity” was a ”criminal offence” under Section 131 of The Highways Act 1980 and then warned the retired salesman, the plants and bushes had been ”planted without permission.”

Afterwards he fired off a legal letter when the pensioner failed to remove them warning he had even added extra plants. . .

Gosh, imagine what the world would look like if we let floral fiends like these two indulge in “planting activity” without the necessary permission.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


Rural round-up

February 16, 2014

Price fixing doesn’t work Part XVII – Tim Worstall:

Thailand is finding out, in a most painful manner, what happens to those who try to fix prices:

Thailand, once the world’s biggest exporter, is short of funds to help growers under Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s 2011 program to buy the crop at above-market rates. After the government built record stockpiles big enough to meet about a third of global import demand, exports and prices have dropped, farmers aren’t being paid, and the program is the target of anti-corruption probes. Political unrest may contribute to slower growth in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.

In order to curry favour with the rice farmers who compose a substantial part of the electorate prices were fixed and fixed high. The inevitable thus happens, magically more is produced than anyone wants to consume and here at least it is looking like the government will go bust over it. “Produced” is of course a flexible word: there are long running reports of rice being smuggled over the Burmese border to take advantage of those high Thai prices. . . .

NAIT helps clear Northland TB infection:

ONLY ONE bovine tuberculosis (TB) infected herd remains in Northland.

Six other herds have been cleared by TBfree New Zealand. The single, remaining infected herd has recently had a whole herd TB test and is also on the verge of being cleared of the disease. The six other herds were linked by stock movements made before the disease was diagnosed.

TBfree Northland committee chair Neil MacMillan QSM said the cooperation of farmers and landowners in allowing TB testing and wild animal control contractors’ access to their properties to remove the disease was appreciated. . .

Rain and visitors pour into Waimumu – Terry Brosnahan:

It was cold, wet and muddy, but the money still poured in at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu, near Gore, this week.

Persistent rain on the second day of the three-day event didn’t deter farmers from attending and spending.  

Exhibitors spoken to reported strong sales and enquiries. They said farmers and contractors had done their research and were ready to do business rather than just come for a day out.

Field days chairman Mark Dillon said 12,100 people paid to attend the first day and 12,500 the second. Figures for Friday, the final day were not available when Farmers Weekly went to print. In 2012 a record 33,000 people went through the gates of the biennial event. Based on the area filled, a record number of cars were parked. . . .

Biocontrol bugs on show at Waimumu:

THEY’RE CREEPY, they’re crawly, and they’re on display in the Environment Southland marquee at Southern Field Days.

Following on from biocontrol success in several areas, a raft of biocontrol agents including Dung beetles, Broom galls mites, Green thistle beetles; Gorse soft shoot moths and Ragwort plume moths are making an appearance in the council’s tent this year.

Senior biosecurity officer Randall Milne says it’s an opportunity to educate the public about biosecurity and biocontrol agents. . .

Success: farming smarter, not harder

Fifteen years ago Doug Avery was locked into failure.

The Marlborough sheep and beef farmer was barely coping, personally and financially, after years of successive drought had ravaged his farm.

“The severity of eight years of drought, including four one-in-one-hundred-year droughts, was so bad that I recognised the road that I was travelling was completely stuffed,” Avery says.

His 1500ha farm, Bonaveree, overlooking the Dominion Salt facility at Lake Grassmere, has been in the family for nearly 100 years.

But the glorious sunshine and drying nor’westerly winds that create perfect conditions for extracting salt from seawater were destroying the 59-year-old and his farming business.  . .

From white gold to kiwi gold:

Exchanging the dairy farm for kiwifruit vines came down to seeing the golden-sweet potential that was ripe for the picking for Bay of Plenty couple Elaine and Wayne Skiffington.

After 28 years of dairy farming, the couple decided to invest all their efforts into kiwifruit around 12 years ago and have never looked back.

“We saw the potential kiwifruit had to offer and went for it,” Wayne says.

Originally purchasing their 50 hectare property in Pongakawa, in the Western Bay of Plenty 20 years ago for run-off purposes for the dairy farm, it also happened to include a kiwifruit orchard. Not knowing much about kiwifruit but not wanting to get rid of the vines, the couple decided to lease the orchard to Direct Management Services (DMS), while they ran the farm. . .


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