The Full English – Envirobubble

What’s piqued my interest this week?

I’m returning to a couple of last weeks news ‘events’, because they’re rant worthy. First, there was this piece from the Beeb, “Why you have (probably) already bought your last car(1). What a piece of London-centric horse tripe.

The author accepts our incredulity, but goes on to state (1):
“A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we’ll all have stopped owning cars, and, what’s more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.”
So a group of industry-focused early adopters, who likely live in major urban centres, are suggesting that we should all do away with our regular transport. There are some valid points in the article. Electric cars are being widely adopted, are more efficient, simpler mechanically and will change the way people travel. Autonomous self-driving cars are also a great move, they’re safer in theory (watch out insurance services) and the idea of being able to work (or sleep, read etc) while commuting is amazing. I look forward to writing blogpieces at 60/mph on the M5.
The article falls down because it demonstrates a spectacular lack of understanding of anyone who lives outside a place with regular public transport, or who doesn’t work in one place. If you drive for work are you going to use a taxi everywhere? What about couriers, farmers, electricians, plumbers, gas line workers, etc. All of whom are going to multiple sites every day and rely on a vehicle to get them to where they need to be.
The following line grates:
Don’t worry that rural areas will be left out. A vehicle could be parked in every village waiting for your order to come.
Oh, so in my village of 300 people we’re going to only be able to have three or four people travelling at a time? I grew up in a village that size. We had four bus services a day, a 20 minute ride to the nearest town of a few thousand people. How are autonomous taxi services going to be cost-effective in that scenario? If I need to get somewhere I don’t want to wait 20 minutes for the next available taxi to travel over from the nearest town before starting my journey. Uber and public transport may be ubiquitous in the urban centres, but for rural areas the community-minibus remains a lifeline where market forces run out.
The second article I’m returning to is also environmentally focused. Quite a few outlets picked up the story about meat’s huge climate impact (2). Undoubtedly climate change is the biggest global threat currently, outweighing even Trump’s ego. The effect of meat is something we’ve known about for a while, but is rarely brought to the surface or acknowledged by politicians (3). The scare numbers in this story are simple, western meat consumption needs to fall massively, 90% for beef, to prevent a ‘climate breakdown’ (2). The meat produced to fill western diets is resource intensive, wasteful, and with intensive farming is hugely damaging to the environment.
Most of the articles point people towards becoming vegetarian the majority of the time, with meat reserved for special occasions. This is much more the diet that has been eaten historically up to the C19th, when greater wealth and the growth of middle class along with cheap transported or imported meat meant that the treat could become everyday. Since then the ‘meat and two veg’ has become ingrained in western culture. A culture we are exporting worldwide. Just look at how John on GBBO struggled with vegan food to see how deep that culture runs. Practically therefore changing our culture so everyone only eats meat once a week is going to be bloody hard. Try being the politician selling that song to your community hall.
Thankfully, I think market forces will come into play. Meat is expensive to produce. We recently started getting monthly boxes from a butcher, where they track all of our meat from their farm to my fridge. They upload monthly video updates from the farms on the animals. I pay for this premium. I know I’m getting meat from well-cared for animals, produced in a sustainable(ish) manner. The meat going into your McNuggets is not going to be grown to that standard. As the demand for a western diet rich in meat spreads, and supply struggles to meet (groan) demand, prices will go up.
Companies working to exploit this rise in price are already positioning themselves. Lab-grown meat is coming. Many of the start-ups have big backers, and are positioning themselves for high end consumers (4). It is effective proof-of-concept to those who will set trends (5). Theoretically lab-grown meat should have lower overheads and be cheaper to produce. It will lack the subtlety of the 28-day hung Aberdeen Angus, but it’ll do for your 99p McNuggets. I look forward to my ChickieNobs and conversations with MaddAddam.
Have a great weekend,
The Shrink
N.B. I’m off grid and on holiday for the next three weeks, so no more updates until Mid-November. Happy Halloween all!
Side Orders

Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading:

The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman

Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45786690
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/10/huge-reduction-in-meat-eating-essential-to-avoid-climate-breakdown
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45838997
  4. https://www.wsj.com/articles/is-lab-grown-meat-ready-for-dinner-1539701100
  5. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lab-grown-meat/
  6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45859722
  7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45860769
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45858107
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/11/tech/facebook-stock-dip/index.html
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45875599
  11. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45886791
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/14/dont-believe-world-bank-robots-inequality-growth
  13. http://www.thefrugalcottage.com/dividend-income-september-2018/
  14. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/living-a-simple-life-inspiration/
  15. https://tuppennysfireplace.com/things-we-cut-food-shopping-list/
  16. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/what-colour-is-your-parachute/
  17. https://drfire.co.uk/million-pound-question/
  18. https://inspiringlifedesign.com/posts/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-given-1-million.html
  19. https://earlyretirementplanning.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/what-would-you-do-if-you-got-given-1-million/
  20. https://mydebtdiary.info/2018/10/17/my-goals-update-for-october-2018/
  21. http://www.msziyou.com/my-anti-monetisation-manifesto/
  22. http://www.msziyou.com/quietly-saving/
  23. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/10/19/i-just-got-paid/
  24. https://indeedably.com/asset-allocation/
  25. https://indeedably.com/cashless-payments-disrupted-busking/
  26. https://indeedably.com/emergency/
  27. https://gentlemansfamilyfinances.wordpress.com/2018/10/11/pay-less-into-your-pension-to-retire-early/
  28. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2018/oct/18/the-fed-is-ignoring-trump-it-knows-this-is-a-fight-he-cannot-win
  29. https://youngfiguy.com/mr-yfgs-backstory/
  30. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/10/inflation-and-state-pension-increase.html
  31. http://diyinvestoruk.blogspot.com/2018/10/impax-environmental-markets-new-purchase.html
  32. http://monevator.com/an-ethical-quandary/
  33. http://monevator.com/what-did-low-us-treasury-yields-ever-do-for-us-anyway/
  34. https://ofdollarsanddata.com/what-is-your-financial-tipping-point/
  35. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/10/portfolio-review-2018-q3.html/
  36. https://agentsoffield.com/2018/10/14/jobs-to-do-this-month/
  37. https://twothirstygardeners.co.uk/2018/10/how-to-make-beetroot-chutney/

 

 

 

 

 

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The Full English – The Decline of the Middle-Class Brand

I referenced a Nil’s Pratley opinion piece in the Guardian on Tesco’s new budget store, Jack’s, last weekend. I’m returning to it as the comments are worth a look on their own. In amongst them is this pearl of wisdom.

What Aldi/Lidl are doing well is taping into the change in incomes and what “middle class” means now and that, basically, people aren’t really middle class.

We have a much smaller genuine middle class (2 holidays a year, 1 skiing, then 2 weeks in the sun over seas, new cars that they own, large house with minimal debts…) than we used to have and now there’s really just a much larger upper working/lower middle class who like to think that they can live the life but know that they really cant so actually need shops like Aldi and Lidl so that they can buy wine (as they can’t afford to from Majestic or whomever where it’s bought by the case, as a real middle class person would) and meat that they can claim is fancy still (not from a proper butcher, like real middle class would) to pretend that they are living well, but at a cheap price. (1)

Spelling errors aside, this observation is interesting. Is the middle class ‘brand’ sliding down as a consequence of aspirational executive types? I’ve noticed this amongst car manufacturers in my little hobby. The old executive companies; Mercedes, Audi, BMW etc, now produce small bland euro-boxes starting at very reasonable prices on solid finance deals. One argument is that this is a consequence of EU directives dictating all manufacturers reach a certain efficiency target. Others would say it’s good business sense, as the aspirational lower middle classes want ‘the brand’ and therefore will pay slightly more for a comparative bland euroboxcar with a three-pointed star than one from a Korean microwave manufacturer. That’ll be the (demise of) Daewoo (2, 3)?

Extend this line of logic out to supermarkets, and Aldi/ Lidl allows people to feel they lead a middle-class lifestyle; the food is more affordable so a bottle of wine, halloumi, olives and smashed avocado on toast dahling is less of a luxury item. The treats associated with middle class life can be every day. And to be fair, I’ve seen Bentleys being filled up with the weekly shop at Aldi, because you don’t stay rich buying Waitrose essential vermicelli nests (4, 5).

So if the lower middle-class have decided that Lidl and Aldi’s budget kale smoothies are a taste of the good life, where are the upper middle-class off to? The trendy local deli and the Riverford food box, or the organic inner-city farming co-operative (I regret nothing)? The hotly anticipated pop-up keralan-fusion van? Some other half-cooked, over-spiced ‘superfood’ containing slop cooked by an unwashed fake-prison-tattoo-sporting manbun-topped ‘entrepreneur’?

It seems they’re actually off to buy something of quality. Because that’s what they’ve always done. That’s what brands used to mean. There’s an excellent anecdote about the demise of Rover from when they were owned by BMW in the 90s. When BMW built seriously well-engineered cars (the same ones that can now be found drifting round empty retail car parks at night). The story goes that engineers were discussing a part at a meeting in Germany, and the question around the table was “How can we make this better?”. Those same engineers came back to Rover in Birmingham and were asked “How can we make this cheaper?”.

And now everyone is asking, “How can we make this cheaper?”, to squeeze every inch of profit from the ‘Brand’. But that’s not sustainable, because cheaper quite often means poorer quality, and engineered obsolescence and throwaway white-goods don’t fit with the fashionable sustainable movement. See the rise in repair cafe’s as an example (6). Miele may not be in every home on the rabbit-hutch new estates with financed-Mercs on the drive and 0%-interest Samsung american fridge-freezer in the kitchen, but it maintains it’s market share because it sells solid products. And you can buy spare parts and have them repaired. And they last 10 years.

How the hell does this relate to Jack’s? Lidl and Aldi buck the trend. They’re not focused on brand, they’re focused on reasonable quality for a value price. Tesco bosses also have to learn that lesson, and not sell Jack’s as a budget brand. Brands are dead. Long-live quality without a badge.

Have a great weekend,

The Shrink

Side Orders
Other News

Opinion/ blogs:

The kitchen garden:

What I’m reading:

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi – Fantastic world building in this dystopian Hugo & Nebula award winner.

Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

References:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2018/sep/19/aldi-and-lidl-wont-be-scared-by-tescos-new-discount-jacks#comment-120594908
  2. https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/daewoo-motors-demise
  3. https://www.economist.com/business/1999/08/19/the-death-of-daewoo
  4. https://www.buzzfeed.com/floperry/sesame-and-poppy-seed-thins
  5. https://thetab.com/uk/2017/08/10/a-definitive-list-of-the-most-un-essential-items-from-the-waitrose-essential-range-45294
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/15/can-we-fix-it-the-repair-cafes-waging-war-on-throwaway-culture
  7. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45714224
  8. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/04/elon-musk-sec-twitter
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45744552
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45757437
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/uk-house-prices-fell-sharply-in-september-amid-brexit-wariness
  12. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/man-who-got-swagger-back-for-aston-martin-is-ready-for-long-game-stock-market
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/05/unilever-scraps-plan-move-london-rotterdam-uk-netherlands
  14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxLw_wHOMGY
  15. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/09/30/september-2018-plus-other-update/
  16. https://simplelivingsomerset.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/fire-in-the-news-liar-liar-pants-on-fire/
  17. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/10/02/wired-for-financial-independence-an-immigrants-story/
  18. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-financial-independence-against-the-odds/
  19. http://monevator.com/the-slow-and-steady-passive-portfolio-update-q3-2018/
  20. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/09/are-investors-overpaying-for-diageo.html/
  21. https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/09/what-if-stocks-dont-crash/
  22. https://www.morningstar.com/articles/883860/so-much-for-the-bond-bubble.html
  23. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-anxiety-and-working-in-law/
  24. https://youngfiguy.com/unknowable/
  25. https://youngfiguy.com/mrs-yfg-7-things-ive-stopped-caring-about/
  26. http://www.msziyou.com/budgeting-by-values/
  27. http://www.msziyou.com/why-i-give-a-fck-about-the-news/
  28. http://www.msziyou.com/net-worth-updates-september-2018/
  29. http://www.realmensow.co.uk/?p=4707

The Full English Accompaniment – Diversification is sustainability stupid

Dear Readers,

A bit of a late Full English Accompaniment this week, as I’m working so typing away at posts in between seeing patients. MrsShrink and I have been for a holiday, a break from IT and a pause for reflection. I’ve finally been reading Tim Hale’s Smarter Investing (1), and this has prompted me to make some changes to my blogging process. One of the key points in the early chapters of the book is to turn down the volume; that most media reports, opinions and news about the market are confusing senseless noise and to make smarter investments you need to tune out the static. In a conscious effort to decrease my own contribution to that noise I’m going to reduce the quantity of my posts, and aim to  maintain a high quality. This means that the Full English will become an as-and-when type affair, for thoughts that aren’t significant enough to warrant a full Musing on… post. I’ll still aggregate other posts I’m reading each time, and other categories will continue at their current frequency. For now…

What’s piqued my interest this week?

Part of our recent holiday was spent in an AirBnB on a rural farm. Coming from a country background I was to be found discussing the owners business strategy and farming approach. Their (relatively) small acreage struggled under intensive farming methods to produce a profitable crop; the soil would need continuous improvement for arable, the setting meant high winds were common with minimal cover and they lacked the scale required to make cattle or similar sustainable. To make ends meet they had diversified. The farm now had a small sheep herd, a deer herd and a small number of hardy cattle. The owners had also converted farm buildings to cottages and flats for AirBnB, and worked a part time job for the local government. For many small farmers this is the only way to survive. Big farms in areas of poor fertility also struggle to find profits, as this fantastic comment piece in the Guardian outlines (2). As consumers, diversification of our food intake is healthier too. In agriculture, just as in finance, diversification brings sustainable profits.
Have a great week,

 

The Shrink

 

Side OrdersOther News

Opinion/ blogs:

What I’m reading:

Smarter Investing by Tim Hale – essential reading

Religio Medici by Sir Thomas Browne – the theological and psychological reflections of a C17th doctor. This is turning out to be real heavy-going.

Enchiridion by Epictetus – Bedside reading for a bad day

 

References:

  1. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Smarter-Investing-Simpler-Decisions-Financial/dp/0273785370/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/veganism-intensively-farmed-meat-dairy-soya-maize
  3. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/08/18/interest-rise-leaves-first-time-buyers-facing-extra-mortgage/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/aug/20/no-deal-brexit-personal-finance-what-does-it-mean
  5. https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-says-windmills-are-bird-killers-he-tries-revive-coal-industry-1079910
  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45244761
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/23/europe-to-ban-halogen-lightbulbs
  8. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scotland-floating-turbine-tidal-power-record-sr2000-scotrenewables-ofgem-a8503221.html
  9. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/19/governments-care-isa-plan-dismissed-by-sarah-wollaston-tory-health-committee-chair
  10. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45354846
  11. https://www.fool.co.uk/investing/2018/08/20/a-ftse-100-dividend-stock-that-should-pay-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life/
  12. https://www.physicianonfire.com/early-retirement-doesnt-suck/
  13. http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/08/a-short-history-of-emerging-market-corrections-bear-markets/
  14. http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/08/buying-emerging-markets-after-a-disaster/
  15. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/investing/article-6078749/Top-income-investments-trusts-revealed-British-American-tops-table.html
  16. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article-6092439/Half-Britains-bank-branches-closed-five-years.html
  17. https://theescapeartist.me/2015/03/02/the-aggregation-of-marginal-gains/
  18. https://theescapeartist.me/2018/08/28/to-defeat-your-enemy-you-must-first-know-your-enemy-part-2/
  19. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/ted-baker-dividend-growth-stock.html/
  20. https://www.ukvalueinvestor.com/2018/08/sage-dividend-growth-stock.html/
  21. https://deliberatelivinguk.wordpress.com/2018/08/29/why-you-should-calculate-imputed-rent/
  22. https://youngfiguy.com/when-cash-was-king/
  23. https://youngfiguy.com/insolvency-and-carillion/
  24. https://youngfiguy.com/was-carillion-like-a-ponzi-scheme/
  25. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2018/09/02/august-2018-plus-other-updates/
  26. http://monevator.com/weekend-reading-automatic-for-the-people/
  27. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/20/overdiversity/
  28. https://firevlondon.com/2018/08/13/recalibrating-my-portfolio/