Some discoveries, like Madeira, are accidental

The island of Madeira was often a last port of call from the 15th Century for sailing ships head to the New World or the East Indies. The local wine loaded on to the ships would quite often spoil because of the heat and motion of the voyage. To prevent this from happening, a small amount of alcohol distilled from cane sugar was added to bring up the strength and kill unwanted bacteria.

The heat of the voyage, especially in the confined holds of the ships, plus the motion of the ship, transformed the wine, giving it the familiar tart edge that distinguishes it from port.

See More

What Happened On This Day? – November 26th

November 26th might seem like a fairly ordinary date, but it has marked some significant historical events. It was on this day, calendar amended, that the Second Triumvirate was formed in Rome by Octavius (later Augustus), Lepidus and Antony. It presaged future civil war and the Roman Empire.

In 1688, Louis XIV declared war on the Netherlands, starting the Nine Years War, during which William of Orange became King of England, a fact that Louis ultimately and reluctantly accepted.

See More

Logical Fallacy: Argumentum Ad Hominem or Zero Sum Game

As the author of a book on logical fallacies, I am often asked what is the most common fallacy committed by politician and political writers. The answer, perhaps disappointingly, is the “argumentum ad hominem (abusive),” the fallacy of thinking that because you have attacked the arguer, you have also attacked his or her argument. Of course it is untrue, as is fairly obvious. If I were instead asked what is the most important fallacy committed by political people, the answer would be different.

See More

£350m a Week For NHS. We’re Out!

Those who like to look behind the headlines to spot the implicit stories that accompany them are not all conspiracy theorists. Some point out things that follow logically from the initial story.

Today, for example, a massive pre-birthday present is announced for the NHS, at 70 now approaching what some think should be its retirement age. Arguments can rage, but probably won’t, about whether we should be doing a major restructuring, even a privatization, rather than committing ourselves to pouring ever more cash down its insatiable maw.

See More

The Case for Winding up Public Health England

Some of what Public Health England does is worthwhile. This includes protecting us from public health hazards, and preparing for and acting upon public health emergencies.

It claims to promote healthier lifestyles, to advise government and to support actions to achieve this. Unfortunately it has taken as its remit to urge more controversial laws intended to promote what it sees as healthier. It pushed for the sugar tax and relentlessly pursued smokers. It recommends alcohol limits plucked out of thin air without scientific basis, limits so low that everyone laughs at them.…

See More

Taking over from parents

The UK government is now considering legal limits on the number of hours children can spend on social media. There is already a minimum age of 13 for sites such as Facebook and Instagram, but no checks on whether children enter their age accurately. Now government says they will have to prove their age, though they don’t say how a 13 year-old without a passport can do that. A .pdf of a birth certificate is easily forged.…

See More

I can hurt my citizens more than you can hurt yours

From Dr. Madsen Pirie:

Many things in the USA use aluminium or steel. It’s not just cars, white goods and buildings; it’s little things like the foil in cigarette packs or the safety caps on medications. By putting tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium, President Trump is making American manufacturers pay more to make their goods, and raising the prices they pass on to their customers. He’s enabling US producers of those metals charge higher prices than they otherwise would.…

See More

Fun runs are not fun for some

Dr Madsen Pirie wishes to remind us all of Bastiat, the unseen, or that there are always opportunity and third party costs:

The weekend saw the Cambridge half marathon; many other similar weekend events are held in various towns and cities. They are no doubt good for the health of those who participate – the occasional death notwithstanding – and they benefit charities with the money they raise, and sponsors with the publicity their backing secures.…

See More