Greece can leave Hotel California

Noted economist Yanis Varoufakis has promoted the ‘Eagles Doctrine’ to the view that Greece cannot leave the euro – i.e. you can never leave.

Suppose the Greek PM were to announce that tomorrow morning he will be tabling a piece of legislation in Parliament that paves the way to (a) an exit from the euro, to be effected by next week (an extremely short space of time in which to organize a new drachma issue capable of financing economic activity nationwide), and (b) a default on Greece’s debt… I submit to you dear reader that within minutes all ATMs in Greece would dry up, as Greeks withdraw all the cash they can. Within an hour, banks will have to shut shop, overwhelmed by the number of customers demanding their savings (and if the announcement is made after hours, the banks will simply not open the next morning). In short, all economic activity will cease for at least a week. For a country already in recession, this would be tantamount to collective suicide.

The problem is of course that his and Stuart Hollands proposal, promoted by the Greek Prime Minister, but not accepted by the ECB, for them to effectively take on the Greek Debt, has been rejected and Panendraou and the EU have nowhere else to go.

At least in theory though the Eagles doctine can be avoided.  A bank run happens if there is there is a preference for cash, or money is transferred away electronically.  Electronic transfers would punish those transferring out of a country that floats as it would drive down the currency destroying wealth of those transferring out.

Preference for cash in hand is only a problem because we have cash in hand.  That is not irresolvable.  Electronic transfers would be rationally undertaken with others offering goods and services.  Lets not confuse economic laws with those contingent with a currency system, especially as those systems seem to have lasted no longer than 40-70 years at any time before restructuring to overcome previous limitations.

The NYT also reports concerns that a default would trigger a Lehman brothers like collapse.

The thinking goes like this: though banks and other investors have done much to pare their Greek holdings in the last year, if they are forced to take a loss, and the ratings agencies declare Greece in default, investors would start selling in a panic. And they would not sell just the bonds of countries struggling with debt — Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. In a hasty retreat into cash, traders would unload more liquid assets as well, everything from high-grade corporate bonds to American and emerging market equities — as occurred in 2008 after Lehman failed.

Debt default is only a problem if it creates a flight to cash.  Is the answer so hard to grasp?

Publicopoly – privatising local monopolies, the $20 trillion market

Hard right american think tank the American Legislative Exchange Council is promoting a breathtaking initiative called ‘Publicopoly’

Privatise local givernment monopolies, even down the lamposts and parks, and your gandchildren will pay for the privilege.

Dylen Rattigan quotes Quadrant Estate Advisors

 “Most assets are monopolistic in nature and have limited competitors, creating the opportunity for stable, long-term investment returns. Investment choices include economic assets and social assets.” Quadrant notes that the market size is between $12-20 trillion, roughly the size of the American mortgage market. “Given the market and potential return opportunities, institutional investors should consider infrastructure a strategic investment allocation.”

Rating agencies are into the racket rating municipalities high if they significantly privatise.  With debts and cuts they might feel obliged to.

Black Wednesday for Town Planning

This is black Wednesday for town planning. The publication of the ‘Draft Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development’ – see previous post – sees a reductive ‘definition’ of sustainable development as neigh-on equivalent to all development.

The importance of development plans is downgraded, as are social and environmental matters.

Planning just gets in the way, so it is barged out of the way.  Planning is only considered useful so long as it says ‘yes’, so yes where ‘possible’ which means almost always, its always possible.

Little chance to say – no until you get it better.  Appeals wont be decided on what is best for a site, only if it meets the new lower, way lower thresholds.  The ability to negotiate real improvements will be cut away.

Planning inspectors will become mere commissars of the pickensian state, enforcing costs against councils because they didnt swiftly and immediately approve the rubbish presented to them but had the gall to say a developer had had cut corners and could do better.

Councillors, despite being told that the new rules will mean that they must approve schemes the planners despise will, as ever, feel they cannot vote for unpopular schemes.  Back to the dark ages of appeal-led planning.

Green belts and gardens are sacrosanct, as are open areas valued by the community – everywhere.  So plans will not progress as there is nowhere left except the industrial estates that cannot be protected, even if they are full, and there is nowhere else for business to go.  The real enemies of enterprise will blaim the planners of course.

Councillors locked in rooms will be told they have a duty to cooperate, but no sanction if they dont, so they wont, and no indication if they should provide jobs just enough for their shrinking working age population, or enough for a tiger economy.  As soon as more land is provided for business it will be built on for housing, so why allocate any at all?      Just sit it out, 70% of local planning authorities have, so a few more years wont make a difference.

Parishes will fight tooth and nail against the housing pushed away from growth areas and strategic green belt releases, leading to massive displaced pressure to small country towns and villages the government now sees as the mainspring of growth.  Why rush to prepare a neighbourhood plan if it means endorsing a core strategy allocation for that area – sit it out first.

Chief Planners will take redundancy, the job wont be filled, look its a saving were protecting front line services! Jobs will be merged.  Six months later the chief planner post will be advertised, they will create a tier below them but with no budget natural wastage will pay for it, less planners to do the work.

When the economy finally recovers the shortages of housing caused by the abolition of targets will lead to prices shooting up.  Burst, bubble, burst.  The houses will be empty and half built, the economy in ruins, they will say no-one needs the houses, look they are empty, and blame the planners for it all.

Its here – Presumption in favour of sustainable development=tackling the deficit!!! Are they serious?

Here Press release
and document

They make it clear it is not a consultation, just a first sight of what will be in the consultation.

A few initial impressions

  • Very similar to practitioners draft, not a good sign. A few tweaks forward a few back.
  • It includes Greg Clarkes bizarre redefinition of the Brundland definition, just how many definitions of sustainable development does the government now have – three at my last count

Our approach to sustainable development involves making the necessary decisions now to realise our vision of stimulating economic growth and tackling the deficit, maximising wellbeing and protecting our environment, without negatively impacting on the ability of future generations to do the same.

So our inheritance to future generations is to ensure their ability to stimulate growth and cut their deficits?  I think a logic bomb went off in the ministers head.  Are they really serious in saying that sustainable development=cutting the deficit?  Even fiscal decisions have to be sustainable and that may also mean not cutting the deficit too quickly.  Does the minister not know of the caselaw that says that financial considerations are not material unless they relate to the use of land.  Will, for example, the post office selling a depot in the greenbelt claim that it is sustainable and must be approved because receipts will go towards cutting the deficit?  It could also mean that planners are pressured by their chief executives to approve developments contrary to planning policy because they generate receipts.

  • A tiny but more balanced than before

The three ‘pillars’ of the economy, society and environment are interconnected. Our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, and paying due regard to social needs.

But implies that the environment is only a ‘resource’ to be exploited.  It is ‘our’ environment – a totally anthropocentric, exploitative and reductive view of nature.  There is no concept of a biophysical bottom line or of the natural environment and biodiversity being a good in its own right.  Everything is driven by economic growth which clearly is given prioity place.  Johathan Porrit was right – the NPPF is the last rights to sustainable development.  It represents a clear felling view of sustainability – cut, clear for development, plenty more resources where that came from

  • No reference to social inclusion as a key part of sustainability.  So if people are getting poorer despite economic growth and cut deficits is that a good thing, it would seem poverty is a good thing so the poor wont use ‘resources’?
  • At least something on other material considerations, so it would be less blatantly unlawful (see here)

All of these policies should apply unless the adverse impacts of allowing development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policy objectives in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.

  • A welcome reference to planning positively.
  • What is the difference between the ‘key sustainable development principles’, ‘policy objectives’ and ‘policies’ of the NPPF – plenty to keep the lawyers happy.
  • This is planning’s blackest Wednesday (update see here)

Decision Theory for Planners #109 Multitasking is a Waste of Time

We are know the situation.  You are working something important.  Then a minor office crisis occurs.  Your boss asks you to work on it.  Shall I drop what im doing?  No theres a deadline please try and do both?

The problem is nothing destroys productivity more and leads to things being late more than multitasking.

When goals go unmet (or are delayed beyond promised due dates), the first place I look to place blame is at the feet of multitasking.  Jeff Johnah

Why is this?

Bad Multitasking is the act of dropping a primary function or activity for any length of time, in order to take up another task, simply to show that progress is being made on more than one project.

The trouble is the effect this has on the end completion date of all tasks.

Task A should take 9 hours.  After 18 hours it is still not complete.  Tasks A+B should take 16 hours to complete, but it isnt after 18.  The three tasks should take 23 hours to complete, C will take 21, B 22 and A 20.

When you are scheduling work to hand over to others it creates chaos.  Rember the previous talks about bottlenecks and the importance of even throughputs.  We have created a bottleneck.

Also when you switch from task to task, you introduce overhead into the equation.  Whether setting up a machine or reading into a new subject.

Note we have only referred to bad multistasking.  That multitasking that slows you down and is avoidable.

Good multitasking may be an essential part of your job. Or you may be working on something where you really need to switch to something else after a little while in order to recharge your batteries. Bad multitasking is the enemy.

Bad multitasking is created by lack of focus and planning, or even worse trying to use the ‘level resources’ function on microsoft project.

The brain finds it hard to multitask. Many researchers believe that  the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Psychiatrist Richard Hallowell has described multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”(Crazy Busy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast-Paced Life. 2007. Ballantine Books)

Professer Earl Miller at MIT has studied multitasking with CAT scanning

He scanned volunteers’ heads while they performed different tasks and found that when there is a group of visual stimulants in front of you, only one or two things tend to activate your brain, indicating we’re really only focusing on one or two items.

In other words, our brains have to skitter to and fro inefficiently between tasks.
But the real problem occurs when we try to concentrate on the two tasks we are dealing with, because this then causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity.

This is particularly true when we try to perform similar tasks at the same time – such as writing an email and talking on the phone – as they compete to use the same part of the brain. As a result, your brain simply slows down.

Elinor Ochs of UCLA believes habitual multitasking may condition brains to an overexcited state, making it difficult to focus even when people want to.

This may explain research Stanford University, the people that multitask most are the people who are worst at it

But to avoid multistasking we have to be ruthless about prioritisation – next section.

Multitasking causes car crashs – think about it.

Historic Freedom of Speech Trial starts today

The City of London police has spent £1 million persuing London Plumber  Ian Puddick for ‘creating a threatening blog’ exposing a top city executive.  He has gone on trail at the Old Baily today for ‘harassment’.

Despite the firm doing everything possible to shut down this website it has now moved abroad   Pass on the link.

Not ‘watering down’ sustainable development – who are they kidding?

Planning reports that members of the  Practitioners Advisory Group for the National Planning Policy Framework defending the acqusations that the draft both waters down the definition and importance of sustainable development.

Greg Clarke is also defending its Brundtland based definition – very odd as it is not the definition used at DEFRA.

“In terms of my view of sustainability, I believe in the classic definition, the Brundtland definition, that the future generations shouldn’t be impeded by what the current generation does in terms of the choices they make and also I think that the pillars being economic environmental and social are integral to sustainability.”

John Rhodes, a director at planning consultancy Quod, said “We’ve tried to suggest how a planning system could work within the principles of sustainable development to encourage more of the right development.”

But unless you define sustinability in a meanigful way, not just the right of future consumers to be as greedy as we are, as Clarke does, then a presumption in favour of development is simply a presumption in favour of everything.  Which is just what the NPPF implies (click on categories and select NPPF under urban planning for my analysis).

Simon Marsh, acting head of sustainable development at charity the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and another member of the group, said: “Even though it’s a very pro-growth document, it does recognise that, if we’re going to have development, not only does it have to mitigate any environmental effects, it also has to bring environmental benefits.”

So sustainable development is just about mitigation of environmental effects then, so its ok to build in an unrestrained way if you plant a few trees and to bring mitigation and environmental benefits.  Sustainability then is apparently nothing to do with economic and social factors?  Simon yours is just a definition for the birds.

No wonder Jonathan Porrit has announced last rights for sustainable development.

‘Greenest Government Ever’, about as creditable as Gordon Browns claim to have abolished the business cycle.