July 2020: shambles and zombies

Lockdown continued to dominate the news in the last month.

Poor old Australia seems not to have escaped Covid so lightly after all. Victoria, at the time of writing, is bearing the brunt of it. With a population of just over 6m, i.e. about the same as Scotland, they now have 11k cases, with 116 deaths to date. Their new daily cases figure of almost 400 amounts to, by my calculations, around 60 per million – which would put Victoria in the worst quartile in Europe.

New daily cases in Europe, Tue 28 July. Source: The Times

BoJo would like us to think of these increases as presaging the ‘second wave’. His government is now adjusting the settings almost daily, across several dimensions. One moment, in Oldham a lockdown is applied; the next moment, people across the North West can’t meet others indoors. One moment, masks are now (finally) compulsory in shops; the next moment masks are now required in all indoor public spaces. Meanwhile across the country nobody can now get married, whereas as of yesterday they could.

One government policy, one shop, one day – two ministers.

This leaves everybody having no idea any more.

BBC Radio 4 Today program, as transcribed by FT Alphaville
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How much should you save?

A common question, especially for ‘normal’ people in their rare moments where they ever think about saving, pensions, or their financial planning, is ‘how much should I save’? It is a key question. Unfortunately, a lot of the typical answers you’ll hear/read are misguided or even wrong. Instead, I think anybody asking this question must be told three things.

For example, I was riled recently by something that the (normally sensible) Wealth Dad posted on Twitter:

Wrong-headed advice for many people

I don’t mean to pick on the Wealth Dad because he is far from alone. A quick Google search of ‘how much should I save rules of thumb’ yields the following:

The 50/15/5 rule of thumb
Bankrate’s rule of thumb: save at least 10% of your income towards your retirement

It’s not surprising that investment firms like Fidelity advocate fairly chunky savings rates. But it isn’t just them.

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June 2020: Disadvantage month

Well, it’s nice having some new news. I would struggle to mention any big stories over the last six months except Brexit and Covid-19. But June has been ‘disadvantaged minorities’ month.

The month began with the awful George Floyd story ricocheting around the world.

Thousands around the world protest against George Floyd's death in ...
Protests over George Floyd’s death spread to Europe (Source: CNN)

My first reaction was to think of this as a very American thing; my conclusion from reading Robert Caro’s masterful biography of LBJ was that America not having apartheid to the present day was a close run thing. And the American policing system is in a western world of its own, helped by those archaic constitutional clauses about the rights to form militia / bear arms / etc. Closer to home, I didn’t approve of the ‘anti statue’ brigade, siding with those who see it as rewriting history.

Edward Colston statue pulled down in Bristol, England during ...

A month later, and my thinking has changed significantly. I’ve woken up to some of the ongoing issues that are easy to ignore in the daily grind. I’m slightly more aware of the UK’s own role in the shameful American legacy (whose colonies were they, after all, when slavery was legalised in 1640?). I now concede that statues are as much style/decoration as they are historical record, and that a town square’s/Oxford college quad’s choice of statue can be seen as a contemporary aethestic choice. I don’t want to see statues destroyed, but I do accept that some might be better moved to a museum rather than left in pride of place.

Is Oriel College, Oxford, right to remove the statue of Cecil ...
Oriel College, Oxford
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