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Topics - Vanadium Gryllz

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From The Times, highlights and commentary by me:

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There are all sorts of ways to run a successful economy. In France, in Finland, in Belgium and in Denmark state spending is equivalent to more than half of the economy while in the US and Switzerland it is just a third of national income. Free higher education, generous state pensions and nationalised industries are common in continental Europe. The Singaporeans insist that their citizens save for their own health care and pensions.

We in the UK could choose to have a bigger state, or a smaller one, and still succeed as a nation. We could have more regulation or less, more state intervention or less, more welfare spending or less. The last Labour government did increase spending. The current government wants to get it down. But donít forget that the state today, in terms of the fraction of national income devoted to public spending, is almost exactly the same size as it was in 2008 after a decade of Labour government.


I think this is a slightly misleading sentence because in 2009 spending spiked (bailing out banks?) and has been falling since then.

Is this due to the way i've noticed economists (and politicians) like to frame some values as inflation-adjusted and some not or has public spending actually been going up in numerical (real terms? I don't know some of the right vocab here) value in line with inflation?
I just looked this up - it looks like it has indeed been going up in real terms but down related to GDP

Despite this, the national debt is still increasing.



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The publication of the latest Labour manifesto changed the terms of that debate. If implemented it would have shifted the UK up the international league table of public spending. It would have taken taxes to their highest level in peacetime. Less remarked upon, but just as radical, were the proposals for dramatically increased labour market regulations.

This programme has, wrongly, been characterised as being principally about a rejection of austerity. It was much more than that. Rather than overturning the fiscal policy implemented by the coalition and Conservative governments since 2010, it would have represented a step change in the size, role and scope of the state relative to anything we have seen in the past 30 years.

That is a crucial distinction. A rejection of austerity would mean more borrowing and more spending in the short run. It need not mean a bigger state in the long run. The complete abolition of student fees, the nationalisation of companies operating in rail, energy and water, the introduction of sector-wide collective bargaining have nothing to do with ending austerity. They have everything to do with creating a bigger state with greater powers to direct economic activity.

There are serious economic arguments about the appropriate speed of deficit reduction, otherwise known as austerity. They have generally been couched in terms of the gains to the economy, from more spending on the one hand set against the risks and costs for future generations associated with higher debt on the other. The logic of the anti-austerity argument is that economic circumstances are not currently propitious for spending restraint. It tells us nothing about the appropriate level of spending over the long run.

Here is a point that I think I lean more conservative on - How can public spending be increased if debt is already rising at current spending levels? Is the counter-argument that more spending ( on the right things I suppose - schools and infrastructure etc. ) are good for the economy and therefore, in the future we'll be able to pay off the debt due to how great we all are now?

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The arguments for a permanently bigger and more interventionist state are different. They depend not on a view about the appropriate level of borrowing today, but on a view about the role of government in a market economy. Just as reasonable people disagree about the appropriate pace of austerity they can also differ about the long-term role and scope of the state. Labour has opened that second debate. It is a hugely important one. There has, as yet, been remarkably little serious engagement with it.

As a good two-handed economist I can see the arguments for and against austerity and for and against a bigger state. It is not obvious whether we would be better off devoting the current 38 per cent of national income to public spending as opposed to the 45 per cent or so spent by many of our continental neighbours. In any case, not all government spending is the same. Quality matters as much as quantity.

If that is true on the spending side of the ledger it is true in spades when it comes to taxes. If you get spending wrong, in most cases the worst that you will do is waste money ó and at least the people you waste it on might be grateful. If you get tax wrong you can do serious damage.

The trouble is that political expediency can take you down dangerous routes when it comes to raising taxes. Much was made of Labourís desire to increase taxes on the rich. The fact that the vast majority of its proposed tax rises would actually come from companies ó and by no means only through reversing cuts in corporation tax ó came in for rather less scrutiny. What these ways of raising tax have in common is that they appear to leave most voters unaffected. That is a false impression. In the end taxes on companies have to be paid by people through higher prices, lower wages or less valuable investments, including those held in the pensions of private sector workers. Thatís a simple statement of logic. Big and poorly designed increases can also hit investment, and hence have big negative consequences for wages in the longer term.


OK so here I hear two arguments made against raising taxes - first, of the rich, is that they will pack up and leave and then we won't get any tax money from them. I don't really know if this is true but it doesn't sound right to me. It's not that simple (is it ever?) to even just define 'the rich' - someone making 100,000 a year is in a very different financial situation to those making huge multiples of that but they're still the 5%.  Where am I going with this? I suspect that the 'super rich' are already avoiding paying a much tax as possible.
I don't really believe that they would leave the country if taxes were raised, particularly not those on the lower end of the 'rich' scale.

I know it's a kick in the balls getting your 'hard earned' money taken by the tax man but ideally the money is being used to make everyone's lives better (ha. ha. ha.)

The second point, about raising corporation tax, I think is a more valid one - not that they will stop doing business in the country, that strikes me as absurd, but saying that the costs of increased taxation will be pushed onto the consumer and/or employees seems likely.
I guess the Labour answer to that is more power to trade unions... not sure on that one.

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What really worries me, though, is not the detailed arguments over this tax policy versus that, itís the sense that we seem increasingly to inhabit a world in which we really think we can, in Boris Johnsonís words, have our cake and eat it. It is delusional to believe that we can have a permanent increase in public spending without having to pay for it. If only policymaking were so easy. Iím afraid that here as in all contentious areas of politics there are trade-offs. We need to grow up and recognise them or we will find that the cake we hoped to enjoy just got a whole lot smaller.

Nothing here to disagree with. It's not just economic policy that gets oversimplified or has its more contentious points swept under the rug.

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Bring and Brag / Fun with funghi
« on: January 06, 2017, 07:23:28 pm »
I like to walk through a nearby forest and take pictures of mushrooms.

Here are some of them.








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So I came across this paper recently: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/36/26/7039

From https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160912111913.htm

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Researchers have clarified important mechanisms involved in the formation of neural circuits in the brain. This group also discovered that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive substance also found in cannabis, causes disruption of neural circuits within the cortex. These results explain why cannabis may be harmful and have potential to find application in the functional recovery of brain injury and in cases of dementia.

But a) I don't know anything about neuroscience
and b) I don't have access to the paper

I would be interested in hearing the views of our resident expert(s) on the findings.

On the other side of the coin, there's been another cross-parliamentary group recommending legalisation for medicinal purposes in the UK, a high CBD strain is apparently available in Switzerland, Germany is making rumblings and more US states have got some form of legalisation on the ballot this (or next?) year.

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Literate Chaotic / Can you hear the screaming?
« on: May 20, 2016, 04:47:09 pm »
Can you hear the screaming?
The wailing or the keening?
Some screams aren't made for ears
These screams are made for you
From fears.

You can hear them when it's quiet
When you let your mind run riot
Questions bubble forth unbidden;
What? How? Why? WHY?
Focus and they all embiggen.

Thought alone can't find the answers
To these amorphous concepts
Down that path lies rising panic
The screaming just gets louder
AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH




The idea for this has been rumbling around in my head for a while - I thought I wanted to do a rant for a while but I don't really have the conviction for it.

I actually wanted to do another couple of verses too but for the progression of the piece I felt that they should be more positive & about how to progress out of this state of being.. unfortunately I don't know how to do that just yet.

Also I haven't ever really written poetry before so feedback/discussion is appreciated/encouraged.

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Aneristic Illusions / UK General Election 8th June: Shake it all about?
« on: February 23, 2016, 02:54:34 pm »
So the date for the EU referendum has been announced. Whereupon the decision as to whether Britain will stay a part of the EU or leave to chart its own course will be decided by the masses.

I really have no idea as to what the pros and cons are for each choice. I am leaning towards 'in' right now - I think that the federalisation (is that the right word?) of Europe is probably a good thing.

Then again, I wonder how the Germans feel about that.
Also Cameron wants us to stay in and being in agreement with the Cambot makes me nervous.

I also get the sense that we're fucked either way.


What do you guys think?

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RPG Ghetto / New DM and a new player
« on: October 21, 2015, 07:53:51 pm »
I have been considering running a game of 5e D&D as DM with my partner as the only PC.

She's never played any kind of RPG before and I have played a few games but not since 3.5e.

You guys seem like you have had both good and bad experiences so i'd appreciate some advice - what can I do to make the game fun and not terrible?

I think that for the first session or two we'll just run semi one-shots with a consistent character but basically little story arcs that can be completed in a few hours of gameplay. If we turn out to be having fun I can start planning some settings with more substance.

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Aneristic Illusions / UK general election 2015
« on: May 06, 2015, 02:02:59 pm »
So voting is tomorrow and I still have no idea really who I will vote for or why indeed I should vote for anyone in particular.

There is so much rhetoric and one-sided opinions being thrown around by not only party leaders but the TV/newspapers/internet. I guess part of the problem is I don't know who or what to believe when i'm told things.

That raises an interesting point on the skill of critical thinking and whether we are adequately taught such a thing as we grow up but that's probably a discussion for another thread.

What are all your thoughts on the matter?

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Or Kill Me / Asking the right questions
« on: February 28, 2015, 02:48:19 pm »
Recently I have been struggling with a renewed crisis of identity. It rolls around every so often (late teens, again around 20, and now at 24) and in the past I have dealt with it through various methods of escapism. Relationships, alcohol, video games, weed have all worked pretty effectively throughout the years at staving off that sense of ennui. Furthermore, I have watched others doing exactly the same things and some seem to be content with such passtimes. Why is that enough for some and not for others? Or am I looking at others in a too-superficial level and maybe I have to understand that nobody else has the answers either and they're looking for the same things I am. The combined fallacies of consensus and uniqueness pushing up against each other.

Nevertheless, I feel like these are all imperfect coping mechanisms and are not serving to answer that underlying, nagging question: "Who am I and what am I doing?"

Now, I could tell you a myriad of facts about myself. My nationality,  my occupation, my education, my Myers-Briggs type, what I had for breakfast, etc. etc. But compiling this list of labels doesn't seem to clarify my image of myself within my own mind so I can hardly imagine they are much better descriptors for those who don't know me.

So these days the favoured method of escapism is endless trawling of the internet. I know that it's not a constructive use of my time when there's concrete, material things to be done such as cleaning the house or paying bills or actually doing some work instead of sitting at my computer pretending to be busy. But then I wonder if cleaning/working and the more 'productive' uses of time are just more escapism. I look at my brother who is 22 and has a house with a fiancee and a dog and a job selling houses and don't believe that he is any happier or knows any more about himself than I do. Maybe responsibility is a different escapism.

So then if intoxication isn't the answer, and neither are electronics or responsibilities or relationships or religion then what is? What was the question again?


I hope that made some sense - and apologies if it comes off as angsty and self-centred. It's remarkably hard to translate thoughts into coherent, written-down ideas.

I would appreciate your thoughts though.

Edit: Then you've got questions like Am I a good person? What does it mean to be a good person? Do I need to be a good person? Enough to tie a young man's brain in knots.

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Or Kill Me / Personal religion
« on: February 21, 2012, 05:04:06 pm »
Personal religion or the evolution of me.

So one of the greatest things my parents ever did for me was bring me up in a strictly religion-free household. I wouldn't even say we were 'atheist'. It just wasn't a topic that came up. As I got a little older and started going to (Church of England) schools I was introduced to Christianity, mostly through singing hymns and saying the Lord's Prayer once a week during assembly. This was all pretty outside of anything my 5-11 year old mind cared about though so I didn't think of it.

Right then, at this point i'm getting a little bit older and more self-aware. From somewhere (probably books) I had been hearing about the sort of fancy-pants religion that most tribal people have in books - you know the type, a god of rocks and a god of the trees and the sun god etc etc. I thought this was a pretty cool idea and made up gods for all kinds of things. The God of Sheds, God of Exams, God of Pianos... the list goes on. Aaanyway so i'd heard that if you pray to God then they basically do what you want them to, right? So I pray away to the God of Exams and lo and behold the outcome doesn't differ from what i'd expected sans prayer. My whole belief system comes crumbling down around me! To be honest it was more like religion slash pokemon - just making up gods because it was fun at the time.

So that wasn't such a big deal. But I got a little older and start crashing blindly into puberty. The internet comes along!  What a wonderful combination that is. SOMEhow I end up reading these weird new-age occulty forums that talk about stuff like crystals and the mayan calendar and dreams and all kinds of shit. I was big into this for quite a while (although less the crystals, i've never understood that one). I'd make a dream diary and learn what my birthdate was in the Mayan Calendar and do lucid dreaming trying to find a spirit guide and all that schtick. I can't remember anything particular that turned me off this path, mostly just reading the forums and thinking how sickeningly nice and accepting all the people were. It made my skin crawl.

Pass a few years, i'm probably.. 17. I'm playing some DnD online and some crazy is yammering on about being a Pope. He points me to POEE and I lurk for a while, eventually getting a copy of the Principia. "This book makes no sense!" I think. But for some reason I leave it nearby. A few days later I read it again. And again.

So i'm starting to think that maybe there's some sense in the crazy ramblings and decide to check out Illuminatus! (not an Official(TM) Discordian work, I know) This book is even crazier! But I read it again anyway. To this day it's my go-to book for long journeys because I find that each read brings some new bubble of thought to the forefront of my mind.

Then university starts and I am too busy drinking and working to be thinking too hard about some kind of religion. Anyway, I am now four years into my degree now and i've started reading what you guys spew because sometimes it makes my brain tingle like it did the first time I read the Principia. I've realised that throughout my life I was looking for some point in life - somewhat like the way Christians say to atheists "Well if you don't follow God's teachings how do you have morals/why don't you just jump off that building right now if there is no point to life?" <--- that actually happened.

I've realised though that Discordia - or my interpretation of it - stuck with me for these most recent years of my life and evolved into a personal creed. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Sort of. I take the viewpoint that life is one clusterfuck of people that don't have a damn clue what's going on so you may as well sit back, smile and enjoy the show.

In the first few pages of Illuminatus! we hear FUCKUP(or Leviathan?) narrating the introduction of the book whereupon the world is described as a travelling, millenia-old circus. That is a fairly close representation of the way I see the world right now. And this thought has brought me more happiness than any other belief system I have dabbled in. If you can look at the world and laugh it makes you feel like a fucking zen master.

So.. yeah.

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Or Kill Me / Welcome to the ratrace.
« on: March 31, 2008, 10:18:49 pm »
I'm 17 now, just about to take my A-levels. I do well, I get into the university I want, get a degree, get a job. Welcome to the rest of my life.
I was at a party recently. Kids with dyed hair and catchy tshirt slogans. What are they going to be doing in 10 years? Most of them, I think, will be sat at a desk, thinking back to those good times, wondering where everything changed. And you say 'Well they have the choice to do something different.'

Do they really? Sure you can have green hair now, you're 17! you are just learning how to express yourself. Green hair after university? Good luck getting a good job, friend. Good luck having a comfortable life. You can be different, as long as you are different in Their way. As long as you are the same as everyone else, you can be different.

Back to the ratrace. Remember your first day of school? Wasn't it amazing? There were all these people, and a nice lady to tell you exactly what to do. There's no point in not doing what she says, she's smiling! Sometimes she might give you some colouring to take home and bring in the next day. As soon as you get home, let's sit down and do that work! You love colouring, and look how your parents smile!

Now you are 10, the work is a bit harder but hey, you've been doing what they tell you for five years, why stop now? And after all, they obviously know what's best... they get PAID to do this kind of thing.. and they are so old and wise. Sometimes theres a kid that might do something reactionary, maybe that kid was you. 'What do you mean you didn't do what I told you? Your parents are going to hear of this!' Not the parents. They are so disappointed. And everyone knows. The WHOLE CLASS. You'll probably never be able to go to school again because of the embarrassment. No way are you going to do that again.

17 now are you? Well done, you got all the way through, and even carried on when it 'wasn't compulsory.' But everyone knows that's a lie. It's compulsory if you want to have any kind of life at all, desperately searching for that Easy Ride.  You might be thinking to yourself that some things the teacher says is wrong. You definitely don't enjoy doing all that work they tell you. But you suck it up punk, otherwise you're going to fail your exams. That's right, FAIL. And you'll be worse than those people who didn't even get here. You'll have wasted our time and yours.

So you get the results, you worked your ass off. You are at the University you want to be at, doing the degree you want to do. Everybody's telling you that you are Free. Fucking yeah. You are free to have the most fun you possibly can, and meet new people. You might even like some of them! If you are really lucky, you might even learn something that actually interests you.

But those years... they've flown by. You have a degree now mate, what are you going to do with it? You are a full-blown adult now, you should probably grow up. Don't be immature! Get a job; we need more monkeys at the typewriters: Othello hasn't quite been finished yet.

Oh who's this again? I remember you from my whole life. You were 'teacher' before, you've changed a bit. I have to call you 'boss' and you won't teach me anything any more. Still though, you tell me what to do, and what to think. It's a good job I accept this otherwise you'd have to tell the WHOLE OFFICE. I'd probably never be able to go to work again because of the embarrassment. Anyway, my whole life people have been telling me that this is what's going to happen. There's so many of them... and they said it so loudly. Who am I to speak up against them?

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