Monthly Archives: November 2011

Interesting Times

The government’s latest announcements are sounding increasingly like NuLab Lite: government to intervene in markets, to pick winners and losers, to pour other people’s money into selected places.  Selected by whom?  You can be sure the job of administering pots of public money like that will be a magnet for corruption!

  • Taxpayer to pour yet more money into housing (and the debt bubble) by underwriting banks losses on big mortgages.
  • Slush fund for lending to small businesses.

On a more positive note, I expect that they’re taking another leaf out of NuLab’s book, and that some of these announcements will lead to very, very little action.  Let us hope!

But something more interesting is happening.  Instead of the mainstream media cheerleading all these interventions, they’ve united to rubbish them.  Across the political spectrum, we have a remarkable degree of agreement:

Ian Cowie in the Telegraph (political right): You really could not make it up. Government proposals for taxpayers to underwrite looser mortgage lending for first time buyers may help buy-to-let landlords exit the housing market with handsome profits before house prices fall further. But they are unlikely to be of lasting benefit to anyone encouraged to take on excessive debt before interest rates rise from their current historic low and more homebuyers find themselves in negative equity.

Mary Ann Sieghart in the Independent (political centre-left): The one thing missing from today’s housing strategy will be an outright acknowledgment that lower house prices would be a good thing. It’s still too much of a political taboo. But ministers know that it’s exactly what the younger generation need. So do prospective buyers and their parents.

Matt Griffith in the Guardian (political left): While some of the initiatives – notably the government’s pledge to provide insurance for mortgages to new-build properties – are the equivalent of an intergenerational mugging: the state underwrites young people taking on a huge debt for an asset that is clearly overvalued.

Andrew Ellison in the Times (political right): A strange conspiracy maintains the high cost of homes – hence these weird schemes to help the first-time buyer.

James Saft at Reuters: Under the plan both builders and the government would contribute funds to partially indemnify lenders against what I am betting are the inevitable losses. Borrowers, who are almost by definition younger and less well off, will still bear all losses, but will be rewarded with the chance to take out the kind of loan which has proven time and again to be a bad idea.

Wow!  They really are all singing from the same hymn sheet.  Just a shame they took so long to notice the problem!  Evidently this blog was ahead of its time, for example in August 2007:  … the taxpayer money going into this helps inflate the price of anything nice, by lifting the market in general.

Eventually perhaps they’ll put the final pieces of the picture of overpriced housing together:  If chickens can’t come home to roost now for property millionaires and bankers, we’re transferring yet more burden onto the productive economy.  And that’s tilted towards the young (because fewer of them own property) and high-earners (who pay more tax).  That’s precisely the people who will be most welcome in other countries, when the burden of subsidising our fat-cats gets too much for them.   If we drive too many of them out, the economy is basically gone!

Pavlovian Terror

Some time ago I had the misfortune to rent a flat and find myself with neighbours from hell.  Two of them, brother and sister.  Both of them would frequently turn the stereo right up at any time of day or night: thump, thump, thump, audible from ten (big) houses away.  And since they kept irregular hours, a quiet start to the night was no reassurance against one of them coming in at 2, 3 or 4 a.m. and turning it on.

My body (or was it my mind, or my subconscious) developed a Pavlovian reaction.  I’d be lying in bed, with all quiet.  The bedroom was at the back so the road was distant, but still I’d suddenly be aware if a car stopped or passed slowly outside.  It could be perfectly innocent: anyone other than the noisy ones, but it still struck fear into me.  I had become hypersensitive to the danger.

I’m happy to say that when I got out of that place, the fear and hypersensitivity instantly vanished.  That despite my next home being on a busier road with my bedroom at the front.  With no worse nuisance than a van that commonly parked overnight outside and whose alarm went off any time it rained or the wind blew, I could get back to a more normal/healthy state.

The current place has noise problems, though not so serious as those neighbours from hell.  I recently blogged about one such: the busker from hell.  This morning I again heard an amplified flute from the town centre, and was struck with dread of another miserable day.  It took some time to realise this one was actually different: still annoying, but less muzaked, a player who wasn’t totally devoid of ability, and I think I might even have found it tolerable for a while if I hadn’t been conditioned by the other one.  Take away the amplification and this one might be OK!

I had already planned supermarket shopping for today, and when I got back he’d packed up and gone.  I wonder how I’ll react now if I hear another busker on an amplified flute?  Will I be struck with instant terror, or will I be able to give it the benefit of the doubt until I’ve heard more than the sound?  Likely both!

Seasonal Concert

Our next concert is Bach’s WeihnachtsOratorium, to be performed next Sunday, November 27th at the Guildhall, Plymouth.

This work will need no introduction to Bach fans.  For others, this exciting music shows Bach at his most joyous and exuberant.  It is the very music that claimed the crown of all the best tunes for the Lutherans after two centuries dominated by the Great Enemy.  If you’re within evening-out distance of Plymouth, this’ll be a good evening out!

For the benefit of one of my readers who tells me he doesn’t know it, here’s a taster from amongst those available on youtube.  Different performers venue and occasion of course, but same music.