When do markets work?

In some situations the free market seems to work reasonably well – the equity markets in ordinary conditions for the largest companies, for instance. In others, the unfettered market (at least as currently set up) does not seem to be as efficient: the internal market in the NHS might be one example, the monopolistic behaviour […]

Tories are heirs to Blair

From The Guardian: The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, will say today that the Conservative party is the heir to Tony Blair’s reforms of hospitals and schools, not Gordon Brown. (A rather better monument than Tony is likely to get from his heirs, taken in a church in Milan.) First reaction: yes, Tony’s policies are not […]

Levels of abstraction

A review by Jerry Fodor in the LRB (of Consciousness and Its Place in Nature by Galen Strawson) brings to mind an issue I’ve been meaning to write about for ages: the importance of a tall tower of abstraction for some kinds of emergent behaviours. Fodor says: The third of Strawson’s leading theses is a […]

About to be antiquated

There is a picture in the new Tate How We Are: Photographing Britain show of bear baiting in an English village, dating from 1910. It looks much older: we can hardly believe less than a hundred years ago that was going on in England. Here’s something that will seem equally odd soon. It is a […]

Am me up, Pa

There is a lovely post today on the often insightful Calculated Risk on reverse mortgages. Here’s the issue. Older people, particularly retired people, might have a valuable house but a low income. If they sell the house they take the risk that the funds raised run out before they die. What they need is an […]

What does safe mean?

It is an interesting question. Nothing is safe, 100% robust under any set of circumstances. If a two hundred foot high sea monster climbs out of the Thames and starts munching on Canary Wharf a few disaster recovery plans would doubtless be found wanting. There are at least two issues. The first is to encourage […]

Going nuclear

Tony and Gordon have bottled energy conservation and renewables, and instead see a new generation of nuclear power stations as key to meeting our energy needs. As we already knew over a year ago they would. Just one question. Can we afford them? After all, despite the expert’s protests, we know that nuclear power stations […]

The short gamma of short gamma

Very roughly, a short gamma trading strategy is one that profits from not much happening and loses a lot of money if there are big moves, whereas a long gamma strategy loses a little money every day there isn’t a big more, but makes a lot if there is. Short gamma traders (in the widest […]

Believing the worst

Shamelessly stolen from Overcoming Bias: In 1983, NASA was planning to bring back Martian soil samples to Earth. Contaminating the Earth with alien organisms was an issue, but engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratories had devised a “safe” capsule re-entry system to avoid that risk. However, Carl Sagan was opposed to the idea and explained to […]

The Folly of Choice

Folly care of the Sham Castle, Bath. Mark Ravenhill makes an interesting point today: What I want is a nice politician who’ll say: “I’ll offer you one school, one hospital, one justice system – and it’ll be well-funded and well-run. And we’ll fund the service by cutting all that admin bollocks it takes to offer […]

The death of the dirty vehicle?

So Ken is to impose a £200 a day charge on high pollution lorries in London? Just when you are really starting to dislike him again he comes up with an excellent idea like this. Well done Livingstone – unlike that spineless and strategy free road lobby toady Ladyman, he is actually doing something to […]