Daily catch-up: the feeble-mindedness of ‘predict and provide’ in air travel

The Heathrow decision, the Labour leadership contest and the decimal separator

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The Independent Online

1. I haven’t read Howard Davies’s report on airport capacity in the south east of England yet, but it confirms what I already think.

And what I already think is that we don’t need more airport capacity in the south east of England, or indeed anywhere else. We fly too much as it is (real-time tracker, above), and aviation is one fast-growing source of greenhouse gases. The simplest way to curtail that growth is not to build more runways and to rely on market forces to allocate existing runway space most efficiently.

Davies seems to make the case that a third runway at Heathrow would stimulate economic growth. This is the old “predict and provide” fallacy: no one knows whether tax-favoured air travel (kerosene for international flights is untaxed because governments could never agree to tax it) would be a better way of encouraging growth in future than, for example, investing in computing skills.

All we know is that Heathrow is full and landing spaces are expensive. That doesn’t mean that expanding capacity is the best use of resources. And even if it did, Heathrow is the worst place to put it, because 30 per cent of all the people in the European Union who are affected by aircraft noise live around Heathrow.

I still think, as I did seven and three years ago, that Heathrow expansion is never going to happen.

2. This is an excellent guide to the Greek crisis, by Anil Kashyap of the University of Chicago.

3. Liz Kendall’s speech on the economy at Reuters yesterday is here. It is worth reading, not least for its invocation of Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden and Harold Wilson as the heroes of the Labour tradition of fiscal responsibility.

“When people say that fiscal responsibility is a Tory idea they are wrong. Worse, they are playing into our opponents’ hands.

“Sound public finances are not an alternative to Labour values: they are Labour values. And they are the country’s values too. Remembering this is the first step we take in winning back the trust of the British people.

“Balancing the books is not just about how much you spend, it’s also about how much you earn. That’s why we need economic reform alongside fiscal responsibility, so that living standards can rise and everyone can share in the country’s future success.”

4. This is also good from Progress: “Any sense that the new leader did not hear the message of the voters risks hardening the attitude of Tory switchers.”

5. Map of the Day, created by Shibo77, via Tim Bale. Places that use a dot to mark decimal places in blue, a comma in green:



This includes the momayyez (red), like a forward slash, used in Arabic, but not the mid-dot or interpunct, a dot in the middle of the line that I used as a child and that The Daily Telegraph used until  some time between 2005 and 2010 (thanks Rich Greenhill).

6. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

“The moon landings are at the top of the moon stairs.”