Worth Reading 149: Cato gets his wish, and dies

Low oil prices – a threat to the dollar – Some interesting speculation from Jim Bliss on the longer-term implications of the falling oil price and crashing rouble.
Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies – Something for the family that hates each other.
Ayn Rand helped the FBI investigate whether ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was commie propaganda – This one isn’t a spoof, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was.
Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty – The problematic consequences of social media creating automatic content.
Right to own – Why aren’t capital unions treated the same way as labour unions?

How much does it cost to rent a quote?

The Taxpayers Alliance have got their calculator out again, this time to spuriously calculate the ‘cost to taxpayers’ of public employees being allowed to take part in Union business. But, this got me thinking about what the cost to the public sector – and hence the taxpayer – of the Taxpayers Alliance might be.

Let’s assume that Taxpayers Alliance-originated churnalism, generates around 500 media enquiries to various public bodies a week. That might sound a lot, but across the various councils, police authorities, primary care trusts, government departments and whatever else they have in their sights, it averages out at less than one TPA-related press enquiry a week. Let’s also assume that each of these enquiries take up an average of around half an hour of public employee time, either in searching for the right elected person to provide/authorise a quote, tracking down the relevant spending figures for that body and other work it might generate.

We can see that from those entirely accurate and not at all spurious figures that an average of 250 hours a week (about 7 full-time staff) are spent responding to these queries. Now, let’s assume that these hours come from employees earning around the national average salary of £25,000 and working a 35-hour week (though I’m sure the TPA would claim they’re all earning at least double that for half the work) which equates to an hourly rate of about £13.70 and an annual total of £180,000. I’m sure you can use your own spurious costs to calculate just how many police officers, nurses, teachers, doctors or soldiers that money could employ instead.

Of course, that’s using some relatively low figures – I’m sure I could tweak quite a few of those numbers using logic that seems entirely reasonable to get the figure up into the millions, but proper made-up research like that takes time to generate the seemingly relevant statistics and links that purport to support it and I’ve already spent half an hour on this.