‘Its Their Lawns or Our Jobs’ – Victorian arguments about HS2

Interesting Campaign Posters going up on Tuesday from Yes to High Speed Rail.  More paddocks than lawns though.  Despite the Frost Report style images perfectly sums up the trade off.

The Queen is worrying it will spook her horses –  arguments which sound oddly familiar to those of Victorian times of fears of cows dying from the shock.

Nothing really changes, Leigh Deanult writing about opposition to victorian railways says

Almost all railway construction during this period was contested in one form or another, as each line had to be sanctioned by Parliament. A system of railway hearings was established in the House of Lords, requiring companies to weigh the potential benefit and harm of their proposed schemes. Railway historian Frederick S. Williams writes: “A rumor that it was proposed to bring such a thing as a railroad within a dozen miles of a particular neighborhood was enough to elicit adverse petitions to Parliament, and public subscriptions were opened to give effect to the opposition.” (p. 23, Williams) There were however, few cases that brought the nation together in protest: most of the opposition was by nature local, consisting of persons who were not, in theory, opposed to the idea of rail transport, but who fought railway encroachments on their own territory…

Landowner opposition was strong, particularly among the wealthier classes. They worried that the railways would “contaminate” the bucolic rural landscapes that had come to embody middle-class dreams of “arriving,” which had inspired artists and poets as the height of natural perfection, and had nurtured generations of middle and upper class British with visions of a “green and pleasant land” as a national ideal.
However, not all parties in the railway debate viewed the landlords as protectors of a rural tradition. “As a rule,” wrote historian W.T. Jackson, “the landlords thought much more of the peacefulness of their own estates and mansions than of the public good, and the mental picture of a railway with its tail of smoke curling across the countryside … was to them the symbol of all that was disagreeable, vulgarizing and mercenary.” (p. 497, Jackson)

Capitalism’s Last Frontier #11 Out of Eden

Until the Holocene all modern-humans were hunter gatherers.  Modern remaining  hunter-gatherer societies give us some insights but caution is needed.  They have been confined to the most inhospitable and inaccessible regions through competition with agriculturalists and few ‘pure’ hunter gatherer societies remain, most combining some forms of plant rearing and animal husbandry.

In these communities gathering, mainly by women, predominates over hunting, a some what hit and miss affair encouraging feasting when it succeeds.  Their diet is extremely diverse and thereby balanced, between 3,000 and 5,000 plants were gathered as food in North America.

In the  Pleistocene hostile climatic conditions, and in the early Plesistocene abundant maegafauna in temperate regions must have encouraged hunting.

Megafauna tend to have great longevity, slow population growth rates, low death rates, and no or few  natural predators capable of killing adults. This makes them vulnerable to  human over-exploitation.  In modern times there has been many mega-fauna extinctions as man has colonised islands.  But the hypothesis of the march of man causing extinctions is less clear in  Africa and Southern Asia.  The extinction pulse near the end of the Pleistocene was but one of a series of megafaunal extinction pulses that have occurred during the last 50,000 years, with Africa and southern Asia being largely spared.

These areas correspeonded to the areas where humans first evolved.   They may have been coevolution of the megafauna of Asia and Africa evolving with humans, and so learning to be wary of them, as well as a classic predator-prey interaction leading to man and prey keeping in balance.  Such a balance could be violently shifted by the invention of more specialised hunting tools in the middle stone age, but the survival of megafauna in Africa, and Southern Asia to a lesser degree suggests that the predator-prey balance remained, although man is highly adaptable in his food source he is not constrained by the predator-prey balance if their are multiple species to hunt.

The specialisation of hunting technologies appears to have been prompted by the spread of man across the earth requiring hunting tools adapted to local ecosystems, in these areas where magafauna was less accustomed to man  the wildlife was likley to be ecologically naive, especially on islands, and easy to hunt.

The hunting-overkill hypothesis, popularised by Jared Diamond and by Paul S Martin, is that that humans hunted megaherbavores to extinction. As a consequence, carnivores and scavengers that depended upon those animals became extinct from lack of prey.  Other argue that the increase in trees after the end of glaciation reduced habitate for maegafauana such as Mammoths, of course reduced habitat can reduce the range of animals making them vulnerable to hunting.

The close correlation in time between the appearance of humans in an area and extinction there provides  some backing. The megafaunal extinctions covered a vast period of time and highly variable climatic situations, suggesting that climate change alone could not have been the cause. the only common factor is the arrival of humans.  The scale of extinction in North America, appears to be closely  linked to the first colonisation by humans, 80% of the North American large mammal species disappeared within 1000 years of the arrival of humans in the Americas.  Bison were not survivors, they arrived from Eurasia only 240,000 years ago.

This rapid extinction in North America, and the subsequent loss of methane from the atmosphere, may have contributed to a rapid return to glacial conditions in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere between 12.9–11.5 years ago, an event known as the Younger Dryas and which led to the temporary advance of glaciation and the return to dryer conditions.

Work by David Nogues-Bravo and colleagues has used  mathematical modelling to separate the two hunting and climate change factors affecting the extinction of mammoths. The results show that the mammoth suffered a catastrophic loss of habitat, with the species 6,000 years ago relegated to 10% of the habitat available to it 42,000 years ago (when the glaciers were at their biggest). But things were much worse for the mammoth 126,000 years ago when globally high temperatures restricted its habitat even more than at 6,000 years ago. At both of these times, the climate-related habitat loss would have forced the species to the brink of extinction. However  6,000 years ago was that the mammoth also faced evolutionarily modern humans.

The advance of man into temperate climates and subsequent extinctions of the main source of prey had several adaptive effects.  Firstly it would have led to more competition for resources and an ever further advance and specialisation of hinting to find new sources of protean.  Secondly it would undoubtedly have restricted growth of human populations and probably led to the extinction of human sub-species most adapted for hunting of mega fauna – including Neanderthal man.  Thirdly it would have prompted alternative food strategies by humans, including domestication of animals and ultimately the development of agriculture.

How Japan is Getting its Stranded Ships Back to Sea

Everyone thought the same thing after seeing the terrying videos of Japans Tsunami, how would it get those shios stranded in streets back to sea?

There is a story on this today in the Scotsman and a video at AP.

ship owners have banded together to jointly negotiate a contract with a logistics company to move five of the vessels in a deal insurers have agreed to cover. Even with a group discount it will cost around £620,000 to move each ship.

In the fishing town of  Kesennuma alone authorities estimate 17 ships weighing more than 20 tonnes and another 1,000 smaller fishing boats were swept onto land around town. Some of the bigger ships washed further inshore will be cut up for scrap, but vessels closer to the sea with little damage are being rescued.

National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #18 Development Management

The practitioners draft contains a fairly short section on development management.

There is no real equivalent in current policy as PPS1 doesn’t cover development management issues at all whilst ‘The Planning System General Principles‘  covers practical issues such as material consideration, conditions and obligations.  It is not clear at all what will happen to some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of policy such as the conditions, costs and planning obligations circulars – there is only a very short section on conditions and obligations which presumably replaces them.

A suggestion is given on the practitioners letter to the SoS that a separate good practice guide on development management is prepared, but by whom, and any planning inspector at the moment is confident of imposing or not imposing a condition because of the firm policy given.  Lack of a firm policy will only open up routes to JR as it then would be down to each inspector.  It is sensible to farm out such nuts and bolts issues from the NPPF, including issues of enforcement (again only covered by a very short section), and a joint working party might prepare a document such as ‘Development Management; Operational Principals’ but the SoS would need to endorse it in the frontispiece as policy not guidance for it to have any weight.

Such a document could flesh out with examples what might be meant by terms such as ‘indeterminate, silent, unclear and out-of-date’.  Although this phraseology will simply encourage local plans to be vast all encompassing documents to cover every eventuality in case the dreaded ‘presumption’ applies, exactly like that did under the pre 1991 system.  Perverse incentives will simply encouraging ba bulking up rather than a simplification of planning.

The first section is somewhat repetitive of earlier sections and principles so I will only highlight two statements:

“The primary objective of development management is to foster the delivery of sustainable development, not to hinder or prevent development….
approach development management decisions positively where practical – looking for solutions rather than problems so that applications can be approved wherever it is practical to do so.”

It doesn’t of course need to say ‘practical’ twice.  Note the inconsistency with ‘where possible’ used before.

Wherever you have a consent based planning system its prupose is logically not just to say yes but to give the option of saying yes or no.  Without this possibility local democracy becomes just a cipher, indeed development control becomes an inconvenience.  All you need is a checklist system on compliance of use and size which doesn’t even need planners. I have seen such a system first hand in the Middle East and where it clearly doesn’t work is for planning of major developments as it completely misses out the potential of improving a scheme, especially one which pays no attention to a sites potential or surroundings, and securing such improvements are only possible if there is the option of saying no.

The founders of planning in this country would have been agast that the ability to say yes and no were not placed on the same footing.  They saw the purpose of planning as stopping it in the wrong places, such as green belts and national parks, and moving it instead to the right places.  You only need a presumption one way or another if you don’t have a plan, you can move or change development.

At times our planning system has become unbalanced, where there is an absence of plans planning simply becomes a means of saying no.  You create a rod for your own back, as the government has done, if they abolish plans and don’t want the system to be negative.  Hence the violent swing to yes.  The rational approach is not to cause disequilibrium, which some future politician will react against by being violently anti-development,  but by restoring equilibrium, by putting yes and no on an equal footing, no presumptions, no burdens of proof, and letting the evidence and the plan speak for themselves.

In terms of practical negotiation what is the ability of planners to negotiate better schemes, and a related issue, where is the onus of proof.  I read the NPPF as a whole as firmly shifting the system to one where an LPA must prove a scheme should be approved rather than one (in theory rather than practice) where there was no onus of proof.  In those cases where a development plan is not determinate etc.  the presumption applies unless the test of ‘significant and demonstrable harm’ against the NPPF applies.  However the NPPF uses language on matters such as ensuring a ‘good standard of amenity and not having an ‘unacceptably poor’ design (ill cover design in more detail in a future section).  This gives some leverage on amenity but very little on design.  The expectation will be that you should ‘look for solutions rather than problems’ so developers will say if you don’t like the design you design it, ok no resources approve it then.  In an ideal world LPAs would be better resourced and skilled to enable a more positive approach to control in this manner.  But in the real world it may not be ‘practical’ to do this. So LPAs will likely feel they have no alternative to approve bad schemes developers don’t even both to improve or hire good architects on, because they will know in quoting the NPPF and threatening costs at appeal the scheme may be approved.

Back to the bad old days of circulars 22/80 and 14/85 (Lifting the Burden) that many of us had the displeasure to live through, and where some of the wording in the NPPF is lifted wholesale.

In the next sections Ill look specifically on the new rule on prematurity, conditions & obligations and enforcement.

Giant Coins Become World Heritage Site – and What it Tells us about Money

“Everyone, except an economist, knows what ‘money’ means”  Quiggan 1949

There are many theories about the origins of money, about what ‘value’ is and certain preconceptions about what functions it performs.

We have though an example of money so unique and so durable that today will be declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco at its annual convention in Paris.

The Yap islands are a small group of the Caroline Islands in the South Pacific, they have a unique form of giant stone money, Fei or rai.

We tend to think now of money as originating as specie, metal coins, however as AH Quiggin points out a vast range of different things have functioned as money in the past

Salt, red ochre, tea, feathers, slaves, human skulls, woodpecker scalps, flying fox jaws, teeth, pigs, horses, goats, sheep skins, cocoa beans, almonds, rice, beeswax, tobacco, cloth, giant stone disks and countless other objects have been ‘money’ at various times and places. ( A Survey of Primitive Money. The Beginnings of Currency(London, 1949))

We may also have been influenced by ideas that States demanding taxation is the origin of money; for some theorists (Chartalists) this is even the definition of money.  This is false most traditional societies evolved money, the main exceptions being some scattered hunter gatherer cultures.

Current thinking amongst archaeologists is that money originated as a store of value, or rather a memory symbol of a store of value, especially in cultures where subsistence depended on the labour of a family, and the loss of a family member, or a bad season or weather event, could lead to starvation.  Given that food is perishable finding a store of value enabled exchange of that store for another agricultural surplus that year.  The ability to exchange surplus for a bride, to compensate for the loss of labour, may also have been key (WILLIAMS, J. (Editor) Money: A History (London, 1997))

Of all the many forms of money used by man it is precious metal which in Asia Minor, perhaps in the 7th century BC, became flattened, rounded, weighed and stamped, that came to dominate economic life for the entire world. This traditional money of Asia Minor, which today are called ‘coins’, originated in a region of caravan routes and safe harbours with little tidal influence and the resulting busy markets. Most importantly there was access to gold. Despite being relatively easy to counterfeit (compared to shells for example), and even easier to debase, precious metal based coins had the advantage of reproducibility, standardisation, convertibility and fungibility (something that is interchangeable, exchangeable or substitutable).

Coins could also be stamped with the mark of a king, a king who could demand payment in taxes. We should not confuse the origin of specie with the origin of money which has much older roots.

The particular form money takes though will very often depend on contact with and trade with other societies. The earliest European accounts of Yap do not tell of the stone money, though there was trade and barter with Europeans. If a group traded part of its surplus then it created risks. You cannot eat into your subsistence. However you could trade with other islanders for that subsistence.

“If somebody was in real dire straits, and something happened to their crop of food or they were running low on provisions and they had some stone money, they might trade,” so says  Scott Fitzpatrick, an anthropologist at North Carolina State University who is an expert on Yap.

Whilst Yap had shell money giant stone money developed as store of value. It was quarried from argonite on the Island of BabelThaup, one of the Pialu Isalnds, 400 miles to the South West.  In return for the quarrying the island required construction of a stone street.

The giant coins of Yap have long fascinated ethnologists and economists alike.

In a paper ‘Island Money’ by Micheal F. Bryan of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland writes:

The size of the stones varies; some are as small as a few inches in diameter and weigh a couple of pounds, while others may reach a diameter of 12 feet and weigh thousands of pounds. A hole is carved into the middle of each stone so that it may be carried, either by coconut rope strung through the smaller pieces, or by wooden poles inserted into the larger stones. These great stones require the combined effort of many men to lift. Expeditions to acquire new stones were authorized by a chief who would retain all of the larger stones and two-fifths of the smaller ones, reportedly a fairly common distribution of production that served as a tax on the Yapese. In effect, the Yap chiefs acted as the island’s central bankers; they controlled the quantity of stones in circulation. …

The quarrying and transport of rai was a substantial part of the Yapese economy. In 1882, British naturalist Jan S. Kubary reported seeing 400 Yapese men producing stones on the island of Palau for transport back to Yap. Given the population of the island at the time … more than 10 percent of the island’s adult male population was in the money-cutting business.

Why would it be rational to expend 10% of labour resources on production of money? This is one of the key problems with the ‘labour theory of money’

In The island of stone money: Uap of the Carolines (1910) W.H. Furness writes:

‘The simple hearted natives of Uap, who have never heard of Adam Smith or Ricardo…have solved the ultimate problem of political economy and found that labour is the true medium of exchange and the true standard of value’

But why not expend half the islands labour on quarrying for money? The pure labour embodied theory cannot account for this. The amount of labour expended produces a product which can be exchanged for subsistence, and the opportunity costs of that labour is in subsistence. The value of labour is ultimately the value of food commanded, and the amount of labour rationally expended on producing a means of exchange depends upon the proportion of food surplus forgone as insurance to secure subsistence. It was the difficulty of production, equal to the amount of labour that could be expended otherwise on subsistence, that gave them value, not their symbolic nature. Symbolic value was a necessary but not sufficient condition of the creation of money value.

The first coins were quarried with Shell. In 1875 an Irish-American Adventurer Irish American David O’Keefe was being shipwrecked on Yap he returned to the island with a sailing vessel and iron quarrying tools and proceeded to import a large number of stones in return for a bounty of copra.

Yap stones went from being “very rare” in 1840 to being plentiful—more than 13,000 were to be found on the island by 1929.

No longer restricted by shell tools and canoes, the biggest stones arriving grew from four feet in diameter to the largest 12-foot stones.

A small fei, the size of a small plate would buy a family’s monthly supply of fish, yams, and taro. A stone the size of a man would be worth ‘many villages and plantations’.

Since the stones of Captain O’Keefe were obviously more easily obtained they traded at much lower value, he had debased the coinage.

Bryan continues

Yap stones were not the unit of account for the islands. Pricing goods and services in terms of the stones would probably have been difficult for the average islander. One couldn’t have simply valued goods in terms of so many feet (or pounds) of “Yap stone,” since the stones were generally not valued by their relative size but by the costs associated with bringing them to the island, and this was distinctive to each stone. According to Paul Einzig, prices on the islands were set in terms of baskets of a food crop, taro, or cups of syrup, staples that would be easy for a typical islander to appreciate.

He concludes:

The problem that money solves, then, is that it reduces the costs associated with a “lack of a double coincidence of wants.” That is, it allows
me to trade with someone even though that person doesn’t possess a good that I value sufficiently high, but who is willing to offer a sufficiently high claim on the general production of others.

But in its purest form as on Yap that doesn’t even require a bank.

Physical possession is not necessary for the transfer of purchasing power. You only need only communicate that purchasing power has been transferred. One Yap stone sank from a canoe to the bottom of the ocean. The crew made it back to the island and told everybody what happened. And everybody decided that the piece of stone money was still good — even though it was on the bottom of the ocean.

After recording an exchange involving a fei (stone coin) too large to be moved its ownership is simply recorded.

This feature of it fascinated Milton Friedman, who in a short note in 1991 recounted that when the Germans purchased the islands in 1898 that wished to extract some form of ‘tax’, to ensure paths were repaired. Disobedient islands who failed to do this had their fae pained with a black mark meaning the Germans now owned them, this lead to the islanders repairing the paths. Freidman compares this to how gold bar exchanges were made through painting dots on them in central bank vaults.

The standard definition of the functions of money is medium of exchange, unit of account, and a store of value. But Yap money shows that unit of account could be performed by any other commodity, only the two other functions are essential. Given that exchange is a transfer of value the store of value is the key function.