This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
There are two announcements in the recent press that involve 50 and both seem to ignore the real world the rest of us live in.
Of course, one suspects that there is a great deal of Nero-like fiddling going on (as well as the more usually expenses fiddling).
In the first story 50 is the speed limits the government wants to impose - not for any environmental reason this time but because "it will save lives".
But will it?
This is a reduction from 60 to 50 and a similar reduction is proposed from 30 to 20.
The change from 30mph to 20mph would be a great life saver if it could be shown that all the lives lost were lost to cars driving at between 20 and 30mph.
What I suspect is that those that will break a 30mph limit will just as surely break a 20mph limit.
If it happens that most deaths are actually caused by drivers exceeding the 30mph limit then reducing the limit will have no effect except to make life more miserable for the rest of us.
So, where is the research upon which this great new idea is based?
The other 50 is the new 50% income tax.
Now I note the great care with which the government has been conducting a spin campaign against high earners (unless they are showbiz or footballers in which case they get invited to No 10 or politicians doing their expenses) but not all high earners are crooks and rogues and some. I am afflicted with the strange idea that in many cases high earnings go to people who generate wealth.
Ergo, increasing taxes disproportionately will simply cause the rich and clever folks to up stakes and live abroad and take their ever more portable companies with them.
Despite all the hoo-ha about "tax havens" and "off-shore" companies, they exist.
I am reminded of the situation in the US cities where workers paid a state tax, federal tax and a payroll tax. Pretty soon people decided they could live without the cities and soon the cities were left with a high proportion of their populations unemployed and drawing benefits and all the businesses leaving town.
Taxation is increasingly regarded as a means to punish wealth generators rather than act as an incentive scheme to attract high earners to live and work here and not somewhere else.
So, will Mr Darling's new measures help or hinder recovery?
I believe that China is looking for some entrepreneurs.
A 'rich' person is just somebody who has at least twice as much money as me. If I earned $100 a month I would think everbody in the UK and US was rich. A worse problem in the UK is rather that we continue to tax the poorest among us.
The tax increase to 50% will raise very little money, when one allows for the changes in behaviour that it will cause, loss of sales taxes on spending etc.. Its only purpose is to divert attention from Governments' chronic and puerile refusal to do grown-up budgeting of the form (1) how much money can we reasonably raise? (2) how can we best spend it? The fact that a Government's borrowing power is almost (but not quite) limitless deceives them into thinking that borrowing doesn't count. They use stereotypical Teenager Economics.
I don't think the 50p tax rate on high earners is a serious attempt to raise revenue. I think it's an early sign that Labour might revert to class warfare politics in the run-up to the next general election.
The way I see it, Labour only know two ways of winning a general election. The first approach is the recent 'New Labour' way, positioning itself in the so-called centre ground with a Tony Blair type leader. The second approach is the more traditional class warfare approach that was reasonably successful for Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan in the 1960s and 1970s.
For Labour the first approach is compromised by the fact that the Conservatives have decided to adopt it as well, and have got a Blair-like figure in David Cameron. The second approach is more viable than it may first appear. Gordon Brown is closer to the Wilson/Callaghan style than he is to Tony Blair. Labour got into trouble with the class warfare approach in the 1980s due to the infiltration of the 'Loony Left' making them appear unelectable, but the Loony Left problem has now faded away to a substantial extent. The Conservatives are also currently being run by a bunch of posh people for the first time in about 45 years, which may make the Conservatives more vulnerable to class warfare politics.
In my naivete I ignored this piece of reasoning, that is about money not lives:
I should know better by now.