The Declaration of Independence in American – by H. L. Mencken – 1921

The Declaration of Independence in American – by H. L. Mencken – 1921

The Declaration of Independence in American – by H. L. Mencken – 1921

Text used

For Mencken’s reason for making this “translation” of the Declaration of Independence (apart, that is, from humour) see below. I’ve made this version because it’s helpful to compare the original text with Mencken’s “translation”. I particularly enjoy Mencken’s versions of 4, 7, 16.4 and 16.8. For more information about the Declaration of Independence go here.

To ignore the preamble, and go down this page to just read the original declaration and Mencken’s “translation” click here.

But: Mencken’s language was of its time (1921) and in particular three words used by Mencken in his “translations” of sections [2] and [10] – the numbering is mine, not an official one – are very offensive nowadays. I originally intended to reproduce Mencken’s text unaltered, but on reflection I’m going delete those three words, and slightly change Mencken’s text in those sections so the slightly amended version still reads well. To do that I’ve:

* changed one word from Mencken’s version of [2], and I apologise in advance to anyone – French or not – who objects to me using “frenchies”; for what it’s worth I’d point out to anyone considering that I’m endorsing their view of the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” that:

** from 1914 to 1916-1917 on the Western Front the French army held firm against the German army, admittedly with the large help of the Russians on the Eastern Front, and with the increasingly large help of the British and parts of the Commonwealth and the British Empire, not forgetting the Italians on the Italian Front (I use 1916-1917 rather than 1918 because from 1916-1917 to 1918 it’s arguable that on the Western Front the British and their associated armies were effectively the main forces fighting the German army, although the French army was still a very important factor, and the Americans were making their presence felt)

** a small but significant part of the French population was in the resistance to the occupying Nazi forces, and I doubt that had the Nazi forces been occupying the UK (practically very unlikely: there was no real prospect that the Nazi forces could have successfully invaded Britain – the military and logistical difficulties of crossing the English Channel in sufficient force were too great) or the USA (literally impossible) that the proportion of the population that actively resisted the Nazis would have been all that different to the proportions that actively resisted in the countries that were actually invaded and occupied by the Nazis

* replaced seven words with one word in Mencken’s version of [10]

I’ve shown where the changes are by using “[***]” instead of “**” to indicate Mencken’s version, and used [*change*] to show where the omitted words were and the changes are.

I’ve left Mencken’s gratuitous insult to South Americans in [2] because I think – possibly wrongly – that it’s less offensive than the other three words

My guess is that Mencken would not have approved of this, but if you want to read exactly what Mencken wrote go to the links just below (my judgment is that you’ll miss very little if you don’t) or just search the internet – Mencken’s original text is readily available: indeed, the text on mencken.org is slightly different to that on xroads.virginia.edu.

* Text of the Declaration of Independence taken from: archives.gov

* Mencken’s THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE introductory note and text taken from: xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr

* Mencken’s Baltimore Evening Sun introductory note taken from: mencken.org

When this was reprinted in A Mencken Chrestomathy, the author added the following note:

From THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE. THIRD EDITION, 1923, pp. 398-402. First printed, as Essay in American, in the Baltimore Evening Sun, Nov. 7, 1921. Reprinted in THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, SECOND EDITION, 1921, pp. 388-92. From the preface thereof: ‘It must be obvious that more than one section of the original is now quite unintelligible to the average American of the sort using the Common Speech. What would he make, for example, of such a sentence as this one: “He has called together bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures”? Or of this: “He has refused for a long time, after such dissolution, to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise.” Such Johnsonian periods are quite beyond his comprehension, and no doubt the fact is at least partly to blame for the neglect upon which the Declaration has fallen in recent years, When, during the Wilson-Palmer saturnalia of oppressions [1918-1920], specialists in liberty began protesting that the Declaration plainly gave the people the right to alter the government under which they lived and even to abolish it altogether, they encountered the utmost incredulity. On more than one occasion, in fact, such an exegete was tarred and feathered by shocked members of the American Legion, even after the Declaration had been read to them. What ailed them was simply that they could not understand its Eighteenth Century English.’ This jocosity was denounced as seditious by various patriotic Americans, and in England it was accepted gravely and deplored sadly as a specimen of current Standard American.”

Baltimore Evening Sun – 1921-11-07 – page 10 – Essay in American

The following attempt to translate the Declaration of Independence into American was begun eight or ten years ago, at the time of of my first investigations into the phonology and morphology of the American vulgate. I completed a draft in 1917, but the publication was made impossible by the Espionage act, which forbade any discussion, however academic, of proposed changes to the canon of the American Koran. In 1920 I resumed the work and have since had the benefit of the co-operation of various other philologists, American and European. But the version, as it stands, is mine. That such a translation has long been necessary must be obvious to every student of philology. And this is Better Speech Week.

The great majority of Americans now speak a tongue that differs materially from standard English, and in particular from the standard English of the eighteenth century. Thus the text of the Declaration has become, in large part, unintelligible to multitudes of them. What, for example, would the average soda-fountain clerk, or City Councilmen, or private soldier, or even the average Congressman make of such a sentence as this one: “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures”? Or this one: “He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise”? Obviously, such sonorous Johnsonese is as dark to the plain American of 1921 as so much Middle English would be, or Holland Dutch. He may catch a few words, but the general drift is beyond him.

This fact, I believe, is largely responsible for the disaster which overtook those idealists who sought to wrap the Declaration around them during and immediately after the war. The members of the American Legion, the Ku Klux Klan and other patriotic societies, unable to understand the texts upon which the libertarian doctrines of such persons were based, set them down as libelers of the Declaration, and so gave them beatings. I believe that that sort of faux pas might be avoided if the plain people, civil and military, could actually read the Declaration. The version which follows is still far from perfect, but it is at all events in sound American, and even the most advanced admirers of the Hon. Mr. Harding, I am convinced, will find it readily intelligible.

Mencken’s apparent suggestion in his Baltimore Evening Sun introduction that the “Ku Klux Klan” was a patriotic society is almost certainly ironic – for example read:
Baltimore Sun in 1991
Nieman Reports
Oxford American

But from Wikipedia I learn that Mencken had views on race and elitism which I mostly flatly disagree with. Later in the Wikipedia article Mencken’s opinions on science are described, and I consider that at least when it comes to mathematics and physics Mencken was way out of his depth, and should have known that he was. The following extracts from Wikipedia summarise this. In the interests of brevity I’ve omitted some nuances where Mencken has a point (for example on Oliver Lodge’s belief in spiritualism): to make up your own mind read Wikipedia and/or a biography of Mencken.

Mencken supported biology and the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, but spoke unfavorably of physics and mathematics. In Charles Angoff’s record, Mencken said:

[Isaac Newton] was a mathematician, which is mostly hogwash, too. Imagine measuring infinity! That’s a laugh.

In response, Angoff said: “Well, without mathematics there wouldn’t be any engineering, no chemistry, no physics.” Mencken responded: “That’s true, but it’s reasonable mathematics. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, division, that’s what real mathematics is. The rest is baloney. Astrology. Religion. All of our sciences still suffer from their former attachment to religion, and that is why there is so much metaphysics and astrology, the two are the same, in science.”

Elsewhere, he spoke of the nonsense of higher mathematics and “probability” theory, after he read Angoff’s article for Charles S. Peirce in the American Mercury. “So you believe in that garbage, too – theories of knowledge, infinity, laws of probability. I can make no sense of it, and I don’t believe you can either, and I don’t think your god Peirce knew what he was talking about.”



Mencken also ridiculed Einstein’s theory of general relativity, saying “in the long run his curved space may be classed with the psychosomatic bumps of Gall and Spurzheim”.

It’s possible that Einstein’s theory of general relativity will one day be replaced, but perhaps only in the way that it replaced Newton’s theory of gravitation, that is Newton’s theory and Einstein’s theory essentially agree in their predictions for many cases, but in some cases Einstein’s theory works and Newton’s doesn’t. I can imagine a hypothetical mathematically and physically competent Mencken mocking the actual Mencken for comparing the theory of general relativity to phrenology, by asking when did phrenology explain an anomaly in the precession of the orbit of Mercury, or make two predictions (gravity deflecting light and red-shifting light) which were subsequently confirmed by observations and experiments.

The Declaration of Independence – in American

In the following plain text was written by the American 1776 revolutionaries (or by others, or by me!), and the “translation” by Mencken is in italics.

1: In Congress, July 4, 1776. – The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

** When things get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are not trying to put nothing over on nobody.

2: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

[***] All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, me and you is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time whichever way he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else. That any government that don’t give a man them rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don’t do this, then the people have got a right to give it the bum’s rush and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don’t mean having a revolution every day like them South American yellow-bellies, or every time some jobholder goes to work and does something he ain’t got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them [*frenchies*], and any man that wasn’t a anarchist or one of them I.W.W.’s (*) would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain’t hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won’t carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them.

((*) I.W.W. refers to the Industrial Workers of the World, a now almost defunct trades union)

3: Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

** This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won’t stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has pulled:

4: He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

** He vetoed bills in the Legislature that everybody was in favor of, and hardly nobody was against.

5: He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

** He wouldn’t allow no law to be passed without it was first put up to him, and then he stuck it in his pocket and let on he forgot about it, and didn’t pay no attention to no kicks.

6: He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

** When people went to work and gone to him and asked him to put through a law about this or that, he give them their choice: either they had to shut down the Legislature and let him pass it all by himself, or they couldn’t have it at all.

7: He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

** He made the Legislature meet at one-horse tank-towns, so that hardly nobody could get there and most of the leaders would stay home and let him go to work and do things like he wanted.

8: He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

** He give the Legislature the air, and sent the members home every time they stood up to him and give him a call-down or bawled him out.

9: He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

** When a Legislature was busted up he wouldn’t allow no new one to be elected, so that there wasn’t nobody left to run things, but anybody could walk in and do whatever they pleased.

10: He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

[***] He tried to scare people outen moving into these States, and made it so hard for a man [*…*] to get his papers that he would rather stay home and not try it, and then, when he come in, he wouldn’t let him have no land, and so he either went home again or never come.

11: He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

** He monkeyed with the courts, and didn’t hire enough judges to do the work, and so a person had to wait so long for his case to come up that he got sick of waiting, and went home, and so never got what was coming to him.

12: He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

** He got the judges under his thumb by turning them out when they done anything he didn’t like, or by holding up their salaries, so that they had to knuckle down or not get no money.

13: He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

** He made a lot of new jobs, and give them to loafers that nobody knowed nothing about, and the poor people had to pay the bill, whether they could or not.

14: He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

** Without no war going on, he kept an army loafing around the country, no matter how much people kicked about it.

15: He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

** He let the army run things to suit theirself and never paid no attention whatsoever to nobody which didn’t wear no uniform.

16: He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

** He let grafters run loose, from God knows where, and give them the say in everything, and let them put over such things as the following:

16.1: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

** Making poor people board and lodge a lot of soldiers they ain’t got no use for, and don’t want to see loafing around.

16.2: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

** When the soldiers kill a man, framing it up so that they would get off.

16.3: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

** Interfering with business.

16.4: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

** Making us pay taxes without asking us whether we thought the things we had to pay taxes for was something that was worth paying taxes for or not.

16.5: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

** When a man was arrested and asked for a jury trial, not letting him have no jury trial.

16.6: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

** Chasing men out of the country, without being guilty of nothing, and trying them somewheres else for what they done here.

16.7: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

** In countries that border on us, he put in bum governments, and then tried to spread them out, so that by and by they would take in this country too, or make our own government as bum as they was.

16.8: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

** He never paid no attention whatever to the Constitution, but he went to work and repealed laws that everybody was satisfied with and hardly nobody was against, and tried to fix the government so that he could do whatever he pleased.

16.9: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

** He busted up the Legislatures and let on he could do all the work better by himself.

17: He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

** Now he washes his hands of us and even goes to work and declares war on us, so we don’t owe him nothing, and whatever authority he ever had he ain’t got no more.

18: He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

** He has burned down towns, shot down people like dogs, and raised hell against us out on the ocean.

19: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

** He hired whole regiments of Dutch, etc., to fight us, and told them they could have anything they wanted if they could take it away from us, and sicked these Dutch, etc., on us.

20: He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

** He grabbed our own people when he found them in ships on the ocean, and shoved guns into their hands, and made them fight against us, no matter how much they didn’t want to.

21: He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

** He stirred up the Indians, and give them arms and ammunition, and told them to go to it, and they have killed men, women and children, and don’t care which.

21.1: In Thomas Jefferson’s original draft this passage now appears:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

* I don’t really understand what Jefferson is saying here, especially the second half, but it looks dangerously like a slave-owner complaining that he’s being enslaved, which might be one of the reasons why Congress struck out the whole of this passage in making the actual Declaration of Independence. This seems to be a mis-reading, but the correct reading doesn’t seem much better: Wikpedia on Slavery and the Declaration:

… The apparent contradiction between the claim that “all men are created equal” and the existence of American slavery attracted comment when the Declaration was first published. As mentioned above, Jefferson had included a paragraph in his initial draft that strongly indicted Great Britain’s role in the slave trade, but this was deleted from the final version. Jefferson himself was a prominent Virginia slave holder, having owned hundreds of slaves. Referring to this seeming contradiction, English abolitionist Thomas Day wrote in a 1776 letter, “If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.” …

There’s also an article at the New York Public Library,which includes:

… The section regarding the slave trade, or ‘reprobating the enslaving of the inhabitants of Africa’ is found in the list of grievances against the King. This section is on the third page of the ‘fair copy’ draft. It is interesting that Jefferson thought slavery had been foisted upon the Colonies only as they were designed to bring economic gain to England. The specific words about slavery were later removed by Congress. In his Autobiography, Jefferson wrote:

“The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause, too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little tender under these censures, for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.”

22: In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

** Every time he has went to work and pulled any of these things, we have went to work and put in a kick, but every time we have went to work and put in a kick he has went to work and did it again. When a man keeps on handing out such rough stuff all the time, all you can say is that he ain’t got no class and ain’t fitten to have no authority over people who have got any rights, and he ought to be kicked out.

23: Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

** When we complained to the English we didn’t get no more satisfaction. Almost every day we give them plenty of warning that the politicians over there was doing things to us that they didn’t have no right to do. We kept on reminding them who we was, and what we was doing here, and how we come to come here. We asked them to get us a square deal, and told them that if this thing kept on we’d have to do something about it and maybe they wouldn’t like it. But the more we talked, the more they didn’t pay no attention to us. Therefore, if they ain’t for us they must be agin us, and we are ready to give them the fight of their lives, or to shake hands when it is over.

24: We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

** Therefore be it resolved, That we, the representatives of the people of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, hereby declare as follows: That the United States, which was the United Colonies in former times, is now a free country, and ought to be; that we have throwed out the English King and don’t want to have nothing to do with him no more, and are not taking no more English orders no more; and that, being as we are now a free country, we can do anything that free countries can do, especially declare war, make peace, sign treaties, go into business, etc. And we swear on the Bible on this proposition, one and all, and agree to stick to it no matter what happens, whether we win or we lose, and whether we get away with it or get the worst of it, no matter whether we lose all our property by it or even get hung for it.

Signed by 56 representatives of the 13 states.

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Short-ish and simple-ish guide to using some HTML tags in comments sections of some websites

Some websites allow you to make comments on some of their webpages. Some of those allow you to use a limited part of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) to help format your comments. For example, I find it useful to differentiate me quoting someone else from my own comments, and at the moment for that quoting I use “italics and inverted commas”: the inverted commas mark it as quote and the italics differentiate it clearly from my own text.

What follows is intended to be a very simple guide to this assuming you know nothing about HTML.

Some websites use IntenseDebate.com to handle comments.
On this IntenseDebate features page about halfway down is:
More neat features
HTML Formatting
You can also customize your links and add some photos to your comments. IntenseDebate supports the following HTML tags:
<a>, <b>, <i>, <u>, <em>, <p>, <blockquote>, <br>, <strong>, <strike>, <img>.

  • * the “a” tag is a bit (not very) tricky, so I won’t explain it – it enables you to insert a link to another webpage, but on IntenseDebate you can easily do that by just using the address of the webpage, so it’s not essential that you know how the “a” tag works;
  • * the “u” and “strike” tags seems to mean different things and/or are deprecated depending on which HTML version you’re using, so I’ll avoid explaining them;
  • * I’m not at all sure I want to encourage people to post images in a comment, so for now I’m not going to explain the “img” tag;

That leaves these HTML tags to use in comments using IntenseDebate:

(1) b = bold, i = italics, em = emphasis, strong = strong emphasis;
the HTML for that: b = <b>bold</b>, i = <i>italics</i>, em = <em>emphasis</em>, strong = <strong>strong emphasis</strong>;

(2) p = paragraph which groups a chunk of text; blockquote = indicate the quotation of a large section of text from another source – taken from Wikipedia.

(3) br = new line;

Each of the tags in (1) and (2) formats text between a starting tag and a closing tag.
Example, no italics here, text in italics, and more text without italics.
HTML: no italics here, <i>text in italics</i>, and more text without italics.
I turned on the italics by putting a starting tag <i> immediately before the text I wanted in italics, and turned off the italics by putting a closing tag </i> immediately after the text I wanted in italics.

* For each of the HTML tags in (1) and (2) the starting tag is just the name of the tag enclosed by < and > and the closing tag is the same as the starting tag except immediately after the < is /

You can use more than one type of formatting on one piece of text:
Example: this is in italics and this is also BOLD and this is not formatted;
HTML: this is <i>in italics and <b>this is also BOLD</b></i> and this is not formatted;
*BUT* each starting tag must have a matching closing tag, and the matching should be on a “last in – first out” basis. That example would be wrong if the closing bold tag was after the closing italics tag. So if I’d wanted the “BOLD” to be bold but not in italics, then I’d have to do this:
Example: this is in italics and this is also BOLD and this is not formatted;
HTML: this is <i>in italics and <b>this is also</b></i> <b> BOLD</b> and this is not formatted;

I think that’s all you need to know about (1).

For (2) the “p” tag groups text into a paragraph. You don’t need it on IntenseDebate because you can just use an empty line to separate paragraphs.
You might find “blockquote” useful for large quotations – I haven’t yet used it in a comment, but I might experiment with it in the future.

For (3) the “br” tag starts a new line: unlike the tags in (1) and (2) it only has a “starting” tag – there is no closing tag for a new line. (The “br” is short for “break”.) You don’t need it on IntenseDebate because you can just start a new line

WARNING: If you’re lucky, the website you’re posting a comment on will let you preview the comment, and if you’ve made a mistake you can correct it before you make your comment definite. But if you can’t preview your comment, then be careful. For example, more than once I’ve started italicising something and then either forgotten to put a closing italics tag or have accidentally used another starting italics tag instead, with the result that the italics continue to the end of my text: that did not look good! So my advice is to be sparing of your use of tags, and when you do use them be careful that each starting tag has a matching closing tag in the correct place.

BEWARE: At least one website which uses IntenseDebate seems to have the annoying feature that if you’re reading a webpage, and someone makes a new comment, then the entire webpage is refreshed and more than once that appears to have made me lose a comment or reply I was typing in myself. So my strong recommendation is not to type text directly into a comment or reply box on the webpage, but instead draft your reply in a text editor (for example Microsoft Notepad or the also free and in my opinion much superior Metapad) or open up your email, and draft your comment or reply as a draft email. When you are happy with your draft, select and copy all the text, including any HTML tags, and then paste that into the comment or reply box on the webpage. (I’ve just tried that and it seems to work with GoogleMail.) Then either delete (or don’t save) the draft, or do save the draft just in case your comment or reply doesn’t work or mysteriously disappears (that has happened to me), and only delete the draft when you are sure your comment or reply has “taken root” on the webpage.

If you have any questions, or have a suggestion for making this short explanation clearer, then leave a comment (I don’t know if WordPress accepts HTML formatting in comments – my guess is yes, but I’ve never tried!) or contact me via the Contact link near the top of this page. I don’t guarantee to reply, but you’ll probably get a response from me, albeit not necessarily very quickly.

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Ode to a Teacher

Twists and Tales

There is a memory that has been playing on my mind lately: I was six I think and my Year One teacher (if that’s what the English equivalent is, it was the year where you learn to read and write) asked me to stay after school because he wanted to discuss something with me.

Blackboard Blackboard (Photo credit: rickerbh)

I was, quelle surprise, a precocious child and he had recently discovered that, while everyone else was mastering words, I could actually already read full sentences. He was a very popular  teacher; our school quite hippy-ish in its approach anyway (No, not quite Steiner 😉 ) and had the policy to address teachers by their first name, except for the preschool years in which we could address them as “Miss” (or “Mum”, if you forgot where you were).

This teacher would actually effectively kill off “Sir” and “Mr” by theatrically shouting…

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In memory of a Maths Teacher

Twists and Tales

Today, on my sister’s birthday, some sad news reached us: one of our old maths teachers died of a heart-attack whilst out cycling with his son.  My flatmate remarked it was a very Dutch way to go.  When I say old maths teacher, I don’t actually mean his age: in fact, he is a similar age to my parents and I dare anyone to call my mother old to her face!  (Still, the fact is a little terrifying.)

Mr H. was a great teacher, even though he never intended to go into teaching. He wanted to a carpenter or do something more creative. He met a girl, got married, had a family and decided he needed a more stable career to provide for them.

He was one of the rare teachers who, despite 25 years of teaching experience – oh didn’t we all know it- , didn’t believed there was just one way of doing things. If…

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Estimates of the probability of Donald Trump being replaced as President of the USA before his first 4 year term ends

(1) The current (that is 13.July.2017) online betting odds – and so implied probability – of Donald Trump being replaced as President of the USA before his first 4 year term ends seem to be rather high. Below are are odds taken from betting websites and calculations showing the probabilities (net of implied bookmaker’s margins) implied by those odds. Don’t take this probabilities too seriously, and in particular if a range of probabilities is given that is merely the range given by these odds and the calculations made: the actual probabilities might be lower or higher that the naive might think implied by that range (or by a single figure).

That said, I don’t know if Trump holds the record for the 20th and 21st century USA President with the highest first presidential year odds of being replaced before the end of his first 4 year term, but he must be a very strong contender for that record.

(1.1) Odds (and implied bookmaker’s margins) can differ quite widely. So using only Coral, which seems to have smallish spread of bookmaker’s margin of 9% to 11%, and has the advantage that odds are given for Trump being replaced in 2020 (all other odds I found were for Trump being replaced in 2020 or later), here are some odds and calculations of implied probabilities net of bookmaker’s margins as at the afternoon of 14.July.2017:

q= aproximate probability net of an estimate of bookmaker’s margin
o= *approximate* odds net of an estimate of bookmaker’s margin
O= odds including bookmaker’s margin

* Trump replaced within 12 months: q= 0.23 o= 3.5/1
* Trump replaced within 15 months (mid-term): q= 0.26 o= 3/1
* Trump replaced in 2017-2020: q= 0.45 o= 1.25/1
check: Trump To Leave Office Via Impeachment Or Resignation Before End 1st Term:
O= 11/10; q= 10/(11 plus 10) / 1.11 (margin) = 0.43
which is reasonably close to 0.45, and anyway should be smaller:
the 0.45 should be including the possibility that Trump dies in office by 2020;
* Trump replaced after 2020: q= 0.55 o= 0.8/1;
check: Trump to serve full first term: O= 8/11;
q= 11/(8 plus 11) / 1.11 (margin) = 0.52
which is reasonably close to 0.55

* May replaced within 12 months: q= 0.4 o= 1.5/1
* Next General Election within 12 months: q= 0.27 o= 2.75/1

* Trump & May replaced within 12 months: q= 0.23*0.41 = 0.094 o= 9.5/1
* Trump replaced & GE within 12 months: q= 0.23*0.27 = 0.062 o= 15/1

http://sports.coral.co.uk/politics/international/us-elections/donald-trump-specials-7055847.html
When Will Trump Be Replaced?
2017 = 5/1; Q = 1/(5 plus 1) = 0.17; q = Q/1.11 = 0.15;
2018 = 5/1; Q = 1/(5 plus 1) = 0.17; q = Q/1.11 = 0.15;
2019 = 8/1; Q = 1/(8 plus 1) = 0.11; q = Q/1.11 = 0.10;
2020 = 16/1; Q = 1/(16 plus 1) = 0.06; q = Q/1.11 = 0.05;
2021 = 11/8; Q = 8/(11 plus 8) = 0.42; q = Q/1.11 = 0.38;
2022 = 33/1; Q = 1/(33 plus 1) = 0.03; q = Q/1.11 = 0.03;
2023 = 40/1; Q = 1/(40 plus 1) = 0.02; q = Q/1.11 = 0.02;
2024 = 50/1; Q = 1/(50 plus 1) = 0.02; q = Q/1.11 = 0.02;
2025 or later = 8/1; Q = 1/(8 plus 1) = 0.11; q = Q/1.11 = 0.10;
total Q = 1.11 implying bookmaker’s margin = 11%; total q = 1.00;
Trump being replaced within 12 months q = 0.23;
approximate calculation q2017-Jun.2018 = q2017 plus 6/12 * q2018

http://sports.coral.co.uk/politics/uk/uk-politics/theresa-may-specials-6129146.html
Year May Is Replaced As Prime Minister
2017 = 5/2; Q = 2/(5 plus 2) = 0.29; q = Q/1.09 = 0.27;
2018 = 5/2; Q = 2/(5 plus 2) = 0.29; q = Q/1.09 = 0.27;
2019 = 9/4; Q = 4/(9 plus 4) = 0.31; q = Q/1.09 = 0.28;
2020 or later = 4/1; Q = 1/(4 plus 1) = 0.20; q = Q/1.09 = 0.18;
total Q = 1.09 implying bookmaker’s margin = 9%; total q = 1.00;
May being replaced as Prime Minister within 12 months q = 0.41;
approximate calculation q2017-Jun.2018 = q2017 plus 6/12 * q2018

http://sports.coral.co.uk/politics/uk/uk-politics/next-general-election-7329939.html
Year of Next General Election
2017 = 5/1; Q = 1/(5 plus 1) = 0.17; q = Q/1.11 = 0.15;
2018 = 11/4; Q = 4/(11 plus 4) = 0.27; q = Q/1.11 = 0.24;
2019 = 5/2; Q = 2/(5 plus 2) = 0.29; q = Q/1.11 = 0.26;
2020 = 12/1; Q = 1/(12 plus 1) = 0.08; q = Q/1.11 = 0.07;
2021 = 12/1; Q = 1/(12 plus 1) = 0.08; q = Q/1.11 = 0.07;
2022 or later = 7/2; Q = 2/(7 plus 2) = 0.22; q = Q/1.11 = 0.20;
total Q = 1.11 implying bookmaker’s margin = 11%; total q = 0.99;
(I’m ignoring the 0.01 rounding error in q)
Next General Election in or before Jun.2018 q = 0.27;
approximate calculation q2017-Jun.2018 = q2017 plus 6/12 * q2018

What follows gives an indication (no more than that) of the spread of the odds amongst bookmakers.

(2) Example calculated implied net of bookmaker’s margins probabilities for Trump ceasing to be President:

  • 23% to 31% for being replaced in 12 months July.2017 to June.2018
  • 26% to 36% for being replaced in 15 months July.2017 to mid-term elections November.2018
  • 40% to 52% for being replaced in 2 years 6 months July.2017 to December.2019
  • 45% (Coral) for being replaced before January.2021
  • 55% (Coral) for surviving to January.2021

(3) Odds for Trump being replaced from Coral and Oddschecker on 13.July.2017:

Trump replacement year Coral BetVictor PaddyPower Betfair SkyBet
2017: 5/1 4 3 34/5 6
2018: 5/1 3 4 10/3 10/3
2019: 8/1 11/2 7 24/5 4
2020: 16/1
2021: 11/8
2022: 33/1
2023: 40/1
2024: 50/1
2020 or later: 5/6 4/5 9/10
2025 or later: 8/1

(4) Calculate implied probabilities before adjusting for bookmaker’s margins

examples: 3 is 3/1 giving 1/(3+1) = 0.25; 34/5 gives 5/(34+5) = 0.13;

Trump replacement year Coral BetVictor PaddyPower Betfair SkyBet
2017: 0.17 0.20 0.25 0.13 0.14
2018: 0.17 0.25 0.20 0.23 0.23
2019: 0.11 0.15 0.13 0.17 0.20
2020: 0.06
2021: 0.42
2022: 0.03
2023: 0.02
2024: 0.02
2020 or later: 0.55 0.56 0.53
2025 or later: 0.11
==== ==== ==== ====
total 1.11 1.15 1.14 1.06
implied bookmaker’s margin 11% 15% 14% 6% assume 10%

(5) True probabilities for exclusive and exhaustive events should add up to 1. But bookmaker’s need to cover their expenses and make a profit, so they must reduce their odds, which implies increasing the apparent probabilities, so the sum of the implied probabilities for exclusive and exhaustive events will add up to more than 1. See Wikipedia – Odds – Gambling odds versus probabilities and Wikipedia – Mathematics of bookmaking – Overround on multiple bets.

(6) Calculate implied probabilities net of implied bookmaker’s margin
example: Betfair 0.13/(1+6%) = 0.13/1.06 = 0.12

Trump replacement year Coral BetVictor PaddyPower Betfair SkyBet
2017: 0.15 0.17 0.22 0.12 0.13
2018: 0.15 0.22 0.18 0.22 0.21
2019: 0.10 0.13 0.11 0.16 0.18
2020: 0.05
2021: 0.38
2022: 0.03
2023: 0.02
2024: 0.02
2020 or later: 0.48 0.49 0.50 0.48**
2025 or later: 0.10*
==== ==== ==== ==== ====
total: 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00

* 2020 or later = 0.60 = 0.05 + 0.38 + 0.03 + 0.02 + 0.02 + 0.10
** 0.48 = 1.00 – (0.13 + 0.21 + 0.18)

(7) Other implied probabilities net of implied bookmaker’s margin

Trump replacement year Coral BetVictor PaddyPower Betfair SkyBet
(7.1) 2017 annualised: 0.28 0.31 0.39 0.23 0.24
(7.2) Jul.2017-Jun.2018: 0.23 0.29 0.31 0.24 0.24
(7.3) Jul.2017-Nov.2018: 0.26 0.34 0.36 0.29 0.29
(7.4) 2017-2019: 0.40 0.52 0.51 0.50 0.52
(7.5) 2017-2020: 0.45
(7.6) 2021 or later: 0.55
  • (7.1) the 2017 probability is for Trump leaving in the 6 months July-December 2017;
    this annualised figure is for comparison with the 2018 and 2019 figures for full years;
    example 2017 annualised for Betfair: 1.00 – (1.00 – 0.12) * (1.00 – 0.12) = 0.23

  • (7.2) probability for Trump leaving in the 12 months July.2017-June.2018;
    example for Betfair: 0.12 + (1.00 – (1.00 – 0.22)**0.5) = 0.24

  • (7.3) probability for Trump leaving in the 15 months July.2017-November.2018;
    example for Betfair: 0.12 + (1.00 – (1.00 – 0.22)**0.75) = 0.29

  • (7.4) sum of probabilities for Trump leaving in 2017, 2018, 2019;
  • (7.5) sum of probabilities for Trump leaving in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020;
  • (7.6) sum of probabilities for Trump leaving in 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 or later;
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Will the real Howard Flight please stand up?

Prompted by this article by Howard Flight on ConservativeHome advocating a higher minimum wage, I made a search of that website for other articles by him making significant points on the desirability, or otherwise, of a minimum wage, including its impact on productivity.

I did that because I was curious that a – as I see him – relatively right-wing commentator was apparently in favour of not only a minimum wage, but a higher one, when I (someone who is to the left of the Conservative & Unionist Party and to the right of Jeremy Corbyn) am not wholly persuaded that a minimum wage is the best way to enhance the income of the low paid: I wonder if a negative income tax – or the similar tax credits introduced by Gordon Brown – might be better. I want something done to improve the lot of the lower paid (and those unable to work), but I have no ideological preference for any particular way to do that. I do, however, suspect that the current enthusiasm for minimum wages on both the left and right of the United Kingdom political spectrum might partly be because it’s easier to persuade the electorate to vote for employers paying more to their employees than to vote for money being transferred – via taxation and negative income tax or tax credits – partly from voting taxpayers.

(I note in passing that two economists who Margaret Thatcher was reputed to be rather fond of were in favour of negative income tax or minimum income: Milton Friedman, albeit in his case some brief internet searching suggests that he was reluctant about negative income tax and may later have changed his mind, and from Wikpedia I learn that “In his 1994 “autobiographical dialog,” classical liberal Friedrich Hayek stated: “I have always said that I am in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country” … Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue by F. A. Hayek, edited by Stephen Kresge and Leif Wenar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994)”.)

But I digress. I was intrigued to find that Howard Flight’s policy recommendations seemed to have shifted more than somewhat between 2009 and 2017. Moreover, as far as I can see (I am not an economist) the reason he gives for now having a higher minimum wage – that as a by-product it should increase productivity – also applied between 2009 and 2015. I believe his points on ConservativeHome about minimum wages can be summarised as: in 2009, 2014 and 2015 he thought the Minimum Wage was a necessary evil (not his words – my summary of his arguments); in 2010 it was “economically wrong”; also in 2014 as I understand it he wanted both tax credits and the minimum wage abolished. In particular, in August.2010 he appeared to be arguing for a lower or zero minimum wage: “faced with the growing competition from Asia, the minimum wage is now pricing large numbers of people out of work”.

His first mentions of the effect of a minimum wage on productivity seem to be in August.2016 and December.2016, when we are told that the increases in the minimum wage should stimulate an increase in productivity, at the cost of pricing some people out of work. Finally, in the current article of June.2017 is: “Here, there is a strong case for a significantly higher minimum wage, which should have the by-product effect of increasing productivity”. What I’d like to know is if that’s true now and in 2016, but apparently not true – in his opinion – from 2009 to 2015, what were the differences in economics and politics between 2009-2015 and 2016-2017 which led to him changing his mind?

Below are verbatim extracts from the relevant articles by Howard Flight on ConservativeHome. I have tried to avoid quoting out of context, which is why some extracts are longish. I believe that I have not misrepresented him, but am willing to consider including longer extracts and/or extracts from his other articles on ConservativeHome if anyone provides reasoned arguments showing that I have.

  • 15.October.2009: The Conservative Party needs a manifesto to promote growth in the private sector … In an economic climate where the key objective must be the creation of new jobs in the private sector, it is demonstrable that the Minimum Wage reduces potential employment and thus serves to increase the welfare expenditure bill. Labour’s introduction of employment tax credits makes it difficult not to have some level of minimum wage as otherwise employers would be incentivised to cut their labour costs further, and exploit the tax credit top up. …

  • 31.March.2010: [Labour Party Government budget] Darling’s last stand – The Budgetary challenges bequeathed by the Chancellor to the next Conservative government … Increasing the minimum wage by 2.2% – albeit economically wrong – will be welcome to low income earners. …

  • 16.August.2010: Growing the (Private Sector) Economy John Llewellyn and Bimal Dharmasena have written an interesting CPS Paper reviewing what Government could do to create the conditions which will lead to an increase in the UK long term growth rate. As it points out, avoiding bad policies is as important as promoting good policies – particularly relevant with regard to taxation. While the political reasons for apportioning the restoration of sound public finances at around 33% increased tax and 67% cutting or freezing expenditure, are readily understood, it is also clear from an economic standpoint that an approach of 100% (or even 120%) cuts and no tax increases (or a reduction in tax) would be better for encouraging economic recovery. Their proposals for labour market reforms are broadly sensible but they duck the crucial issues that in work tax credits are a major disincentive for individuals to increase their skills, where for the majority the differential in post tax-credit take home pay is small as between the more skilled and the less skilled: and, secondly, that faced with the growing competition from Asia, the minimum wage is now pricing large numbers of people out of work. …

  • 22.January.2014: The cost of the EU … Tax credits and the minimum wage … Back in 1974, the Heath Government sought to introduce a negative income tax regime, essentially similar to the tax credits introduced by Chancellor Brown. The leading Labour politicians then argued, convincingly, against a negative income tax on the grounds that it would lead to the suppression of natural pay increases and end up costing a fortune, much as had the “Speenhamland” system in the early 19th Century. This is precisely what has happened. I argued against Tax Credits being introduced at the time, quoting the well-considered opposition of previous Labour politicians back in 1974 to the negative income tax proposals.

    Not surprisingly, the Government is now considering increasing the minimum wage to try to offset the effect of tax credits in holding down pay and so ballooning their costs. This would, however, represent little more than a sticking plaster measure. The tax credits regime needs to be abolished, to allow wages to reach their natural, market levels, with compensation where required via the welfare payment reforms.

    In the wake of the 2008/09 financial and economic crisis, it may have been a good thing, in the short term, that tax credits suppressed wages, thus enabling employment levels to hold up; but in the longer term, wages need to be driven by market forces, and individuals need to see that if they improve their skills, their take home pay increases. Moreover, the sort of massive subsidisation of employment which Tax Credits represents leads, inevitably, to over-employment in many areas and a fall in productivity growth, (as occurred with the Speenhamland system) as we have seen over the last 5 years. Hiking the minimum wage by Government dictate may reduce the current costs of tax credits, but will also serve to price unskilled employees out of work.

  • 8.June.2015: What must be done now that we’ve won … Now is also the time to take measures to increase the savings rate. This is necessary both in order to help those under 60 to provide more adequately for their retirement years, and also to correct our economic imbalance – illustrated particularly by the ballooning current account deficit. There is a limit to the assets which can sensibly be sold to foreigners to finance it without this leading to strategic problems. A higher level of saving would also underpin a higher level of investment, and in turn productivity growth. Iain Duncan-Smith’s welfare reforms have clearly made work pay with dramatic success, but subsidies for those in work are also a major cause of holding down wages, sector over-employment and poor productivity growth. I remain of the view that the income tax credit element of Universal Credit should be phased out. It is having the same effect as what was known as the Speenhamland System in the early part of the nineteenth century. …

  • 3.August.2015: The stealth taxes in Osborne’s latest Budget would have made Gordon Brown proud … Many have criticised the increased minimum wage – now termed the National Living Wage (NLW). I do not like Governments interfering in pay, especially where growing regional differences in the cost of living should allow pay rates to be determined locally. But where Government (the taxpayer) continues to subsidise pay – outdoor relief as it used to be known – an adequate minimum wage cannot be avoided, in order to stop employers constraining pay deliberately and optimising the government subsidy. The cost of in-work tax credits has increased from around £8 billion to over £30 billion per annum over the last decade. …

  • 28.March.2016: We simply cannot afford to carry on protecting spending on welfare, the NHS and schools … Iain Duncan Smith’s commitment to get people into work is to be praised and has protected large numbers of people from being thrown out of work post the financial crisis. But, looking forward, taxpayer subsidy of those in work has to be phased out. It serves to put downward pressure on pay and encourage over-employment – a major cause of poor British productivity. It is a nonsense that many working 16 hours a week and receiving substantial income tax credits enjoy a similar overall income to many working 40 hours a week. The Universal Credit is a good idea from an administrative perspective, but I believe that the Income Tax Credit element needs to be phased out. …

  • 1.August.2016: Conundrums of economic policy in the wake of Brexit … This, in turn, raises the issue of productivity. The reason why productivity growth has been negative is that there has not been an increase in GDP matching the two million increase in those in employment. As Alastair Darling has pointed out, Labour’s working tax credits have served to put downward pressure on wages (why should employers pay up if tax credits are subsidising employment), in turn encouraging ‘labour hoarding’ when labour costs are cheap. The inevitable result is a fall in productivity. Arguably, the Universal Credit will also increase the downward pressure on pay. The coming increase in the minimum wage should serve to address this issue, but at the cost of pricing some people out of employment altogether. … Finally, I would advise the new Government against socialist-leaning Government sponsored measures, intended to address perceived inequalities and perceived market failure. These are inevitably costly, and often have unexpected outcomes. [Added to emphasise how little advice Theresa May’s Government seems to be taking from Howard Flight: whether that is or is not a wise position is another question.]

  • 5.December.2016 We are spending too much on health, education and welfare … The higher minimum wage should stimulate an improvement in productivity, although it will also price many out of work. …

  • 26.June.2017: The Government must tackle Britain’s low productivity … An important factor restraining capital investment is relatively cheap UK labour costs. As Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, has conceded, Labour’s tax credits, intended to raise living standards, have largely had the effect of reducing pay. Why should the employer increase pay when the Government will pay up? With labour relatively cheap to the employer, many businesses have more staff than they really need, and as an alternative to capital investment. It is interesting to note that poor British productivity has coincided with the introduction of tax credits: when we finally got back to pre-crash GDP in 2015/16, it was with some two million more in employment – productivity had fallen. Here, there is a strong case for a significantly higher minimum wage, which should have the by-product effect of increasing productivity. Businesses will not employ more people than they need and will look at investment as an alternative. …
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Whose English Is It Anyway?

Chok Notes to Self

Whose English Is It Anyway? – The Immigrant Experience

– my notes for the panel discussion at Waterstones Cheltenham, Aug 13th 2016. With novelist and writer Susmita Bhattacharya and chaired by Zeba Talkhani.

The title brings to mind
– “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” – comedy, improvisation
– “Mind Your Language”, the TV comedy show about immigrants to the UK
– question of authenticity

Fluent in English but not considered a “native” speaker.
I grew up in Malaysia speaking English as my first language. It’s not that common. Quite specific to the era whereby my parents lived during the time the British were still in power in Malaysia. They aspired to be be part of the British education system. They were, I think one of the first waves of teachers who trained in the UK. This specific history and relationship to the EMPIRE. The status of English language and the…

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