Friday, 15 December 2017

Friday Night Disco - Love Potion Number 9 - The Coasters

When I was working at The Torch in 1971, I saw the Coasters live in the middle of the week.  Unfortunately, given that it was mid week, the attendance was poor, and those there weren't the most appreciative of the performance.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 10 - Part 30

In Chapter XXX, Ricardo defends the principle that the natural price is determined by the cost-price. This is in contrast to subjectivists such as Samuel Bailey who maintained that the natural price and market price were identical, and only determined by the interaction of supply and demand. For Ricardo, determining the cost-price/price of production remains the commodity value. The price of production of the commodity changes as a consequence of changes in its value, on the labour-time required for its production.

Suppose there is a hat maker, Marx says. They allocate 50 c and 50 v. If the labour-time required to produce the hats is halved, then only 25 v is employed. Assume that 10 hats are produced, and that the profit per hat is 10%. Initially, £100 of capital is advanced, £10 of profit is made, and each hat sells for £11. Assuming each hat still sells for £11, the cost for the hats is now 50 + 25 = £75 = £7.50 each. The profit per hat is then £3.50 = 46.66%.

“As a result of the fall in value, the new natural price will therefore fall to such an extent that the price only yields 10 per cent profit. The fall in the value or in the labour-time necessary for the production of the commodity reveals itself in the fact that less labour-time is used for the same amount of commodity, hence also less paid labour-time, less wages and, consequently, the costs, the wages paid (i.e., the amount of wages; this does not presuppose a fall in the rate of wages) proportionately decline for the production of each individual commodity.” (p 213-4) 

In other words, the cost-price/price of production would fall to £75 + 10% = £82.50, and the price per hat would be £8.25. The rate of wages for each worker remains the same. Less is advanced for wages only because less labour is employed, either because fewer workers are employed, or each worker works fewer hours.

It could have been that the value of the hats fell because the value of the constant capital fell. In other words, less labour-time was required to produce the material, tools etc. A fall in the value of these commodities can arise in two ways. Firstly, less labour-time can be required for their production, and this means that both less paid and unpaid labour is represented in the value of the commodity. If it requires 10 hours to produce 100 metres of cloth, and this divides into 5 hours required to reproduce labour-power, leaving 5 hours as surplus value, if the labour-time required to produce the 100 metres of cloth falls to 8 hours, it will still be the case that half this time is required to reproduce the consumed labour-power, so that it divides 4 hours paid and 4 hours unpaid labour. Secondly, there may be a rise in productivity, which raises the organic composition of capital, which results in a higher rate of surplus value, or alternatively there may be a fall in the rate of surplus value if wages rise. 

This doesn't change the value of output, only the division of that value between wages and surplus value. However, although it doesn't change the value of output, it does change the value of individual commodities that comprise that output.

Suppose the capital comprises 550 c + 1000 v + 1000 s = 2500. This comprises 1000 units at £2.50 each. If productivity rises, 750 c + 500 c + 1250 s = 2500, the total value of output remains the same, but if now the total mass of output is 1500 units, the price per unit falls from £2.50 to £1.66.

“Although the value of the wage does not determine the value of the commodities, the value of the commodities (which enter into the consumption of the worker) determines the value of the wage.” (p 214-5) 

The cost prices of commodities then rise or fall relative to each other as their values change. If productivity rises either less labour-time is required for the production of a particular commodity, or less labour-time is required for the production of the materials etc. that go into it.

The absolute amount of labour employed on it has been reduced, hence also the amount of paid labour it contains and the amount of wages expended on it, even though the rate of wages has remained the same. If the commodity were sold at its former cost-price, then it would yield a higher profit than the general rate of profit, since formerly, this profit was equal to 10 per cent on the higher outlay. It would therefore be now more than 10 per cent on the diminished outlay. If on the contrary the productivity of labour decreases, the real values of the commodities rise. When the rate of profit is given—or, which is the same thing, the cost-prices are given—the relative rise or fall of the cost-prices is dependent on the rise or fall, the variation, in the real values of the commodities, As a result of this variation, new cost-prices or, as Ricardo says, following Smith, “new natural prices” take the place of the old.” (p 215) 

So, in this schema, Ricardo identifies the natural price or cost price with the value of the commodity, and this value/cost-price provides the average profit. If, as above, the profit was higher than the average, because commodities were being sold at prices above these values, capital would migrate to these sectors, supply would rise, and market prices would fall.

Marx quotes Ricardo to this effect.

““Their price” (of monopolised commodities) “has no necessary connexion with their natural value: but the prices of commodities, which are subject to competition, …will ultimately depend …on [the] …cost of their production” (l.c., p. 465).” (p 215) 

One consequence of this, Marx says, is that after Ricardo, a string of economists, like Say, could reject the labour theory of value, whilst continuing to argue that the cost of production is the regulator or prices.

“This whole blunder of Ricardo’s and the consequent erroneous exposition of rent etc., as well as the erroneous laws about the rate of profit etc. spring from his failure to distinguish between surplus-value and profit; and in general his treatment of definitions is crude and uncomprehending, just as that of the other economists.” (p 215-6)

Back To Part 29

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 10 - Part 29

[c) Ricardo’s Two Different Definitions of “Natural Price”. Changes in Cost-Price Caused by Changes in the Productivity of Labour]

At the start of Chapter IV, Ricardo defines natural price as the value of the commodity. What he means by this is its exchange-value. In this context, he also means what for Marx is its market value, i.e. the social value around which its actual market price fluctuates. It is the equivalent of the equilibrium price in orthodox economics. However, Marx says, throughout the chapter, Ricardo actually means something completely different, when he refers to natural price. What he actually means is the price of production, and this is different to the exchange-value.

“Thus, instead of showing how competition transforms values into cost-prices, i.e., creates permanent deviations from values, he shows, following Adam Smith, how competition reduces the market-prices in different trades to cost-prices.” (p 211)

But, of course, these cost-prices, prices of production, should have been the starting point for analysing the variation of market price, not vice versa. Both Smith and Ricardo assume that commodities exchange at their values, and that this value is the natural price, but that, in practice, market prices diverge from it, but only temporarily, as a result of demand and supply.

““In making labour the foundation of the value of commodities, and the comparative quantity of labour which is necessary to their production, the rule which determines the respective quantities of goods which shall be given in exchange for each other, we must not be supposed to deny the accidental and temporary deviations of the actual or market price of commodities from this, their primary and natural price” (l.c., p. 80).” (p 211) 

But, later, Ricardo says,

““Let us suppose that all commodities are at their natural price, and consequently that the profits of capital in all employments are exactly at the same rate, or differ only so much as, in the estimation of the parties, is equivalent to any real or fancied advantage which they possess or forego” (l.c., p. 83).” (p 211) 

But, if each capital obtains the average profit, the prices of commodities cannot be equal to their exchange-values. Conversely, the natural price or equilibrium price, that Ricardo is using here cannot be the commodity value. It must be the case that capitals of equal size will produce different quantities of surplus value, dependent upon the organic composition of those capitals, and their rate of turnover, if commodities are sold at their value. It is only possible for these capitals to produce the same amount and rate of profit if the commodities are sold at prices of production, not at their values.

“By equalisation through competition, Ricardo therefore understands only the rotation of the actual prices or actual market-prices around the cost-prices or the natural price as distinct from the value, the levelling out of the market-price in different branches of production to general cost-prices, i.e., precisely to prices which are different from the real values in different trades.” (p 212) 

Ricardo actually describes the situation correctly in relation to the role of competition in creating a general rate of profit, but the reallocation of the total surplus value that results from this does not result in prices being equalised to values, but to prices of production.

““It is then the desire, which every capitalist has, of diverting his funds from a less to a more profitable employment, that prevents the market-price of commodities from continuing for any length of time either much above, or much below their natural price, It is this competition which so adjusts the changeable value of commodities,” “that after paying the wages for the labour necessary to their production, and all other expenses required to put the capital employed in its original state of efficiency, the remaining value or overplus will in each trade be in proportion to the value of the capital employed” (l.c., p. 84).” (p 212) 

The surplus value is reallocated by this very process. In those spheres where the surplus value is high, because the organic composition of capital is low, and the rate of turnover is high, the surplus value is reduced, because capital enters this sphere, and the increased supply of commodities pushes prices down below their exchange-value. The opposite occurs where the organic composition of capital is high, and the rate of turnover is low.

“To bring this adjustment about the price of one commodity must be raised above, and that of the other must be depressed below their respective real values, It is not the value of the commodities but their cost-price, i.e., the expenses they contain plus the general rate of profit, around which competition forces the market-prices in the different trades to rotate.” (p 212)

At the end of the chapter, therefore, Ricardo says that, in his further analysis, he will ignore these deviations of market prices above and below the prices of production. That is, of course, quite valid and Marx does the same thing. But, as Marx says, Ricardo has thereby failed to analyse the constant divergence of the prices of production from values.

Back To Part 28

Forward To Part 30

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 10 - Part 28

What competition affects, Marx says, is two migrations of capital. In the first migration, capital moves to those spheres where the rate of profit is highest. That is those spheres where the organic composition of capital is low, and where the rate of turnover of capital is high. As capital migrates to these areas, supply increases and market prices fall towards the price of production. This process tends towards the creation of a general annual rate of profit, but is continuous, because values and prices of production are continually changing. But, within each sphere, a second migration is also taking place, because, at any one time, actual market prices are fluctuating around the price of production.

“It is this latter, more superficial movement which Ricardo examines and at times unconsciously confuses with the other.” (p 209)

What drives both migrations is the desire for the owners of capital to employ it so as to bring the highest return.

“This tendency has the effect of distributing the total mass of social labour-time among the various spheres of production according to the social need. In this way, the values in the different spheres of production are transformed into cost-prices, and on the other hand, the variations of the actual prices in particular spheres from the cost-prices are levelled out.” (p 209-10) 

Marx then comes to the point referred to earlier, where he reflects on the achievement of Ricardo in describing the means of the reallocation of capital via credit.

“He was, however, only able to do this because the credit system was more highly developed in his time than in the time of Adam Smith”. (p 210)

Marx gives a long quote from Ricardo where this is described. Essentially, Ricardo explains that, in the modern world, firms utilise credit extensively. They use commercial credit between each other, and they utilise bank credit for short term loans, and cash-flow.

“When the demand for silks increases, and that for cloth diminishes, the clothier does not remove with his capital to the silk trade, but he dismisses some of his workmen, he discontinues his demand for the loan from bankers and monied men; while the case of the silk manufacturer is the reverse: […] he borrows more, and thus capital is transferred from one employment to another, without the necessity of a manufacturer discontinuing his usual occupation. When we look to the markets of a large town, and observe how regularly they are supplied both with home and foreign commodities, in the quantity in which they are required, under all the circumstances of varying demand, arising from the caprice of taste, or a change in the amount of population, without often producing either the effects of a glut from a too abundant supply, or an enormously high price from the supply being unequal to the demand, we must confess that the principle which apportions capital to each trade in the precise amount that it is required, is more active than is generally supposed” (l.c., pp. 81-82).” (p 210-11) 

By means of credit, therefore, the whole social capital can be reallocated to where the highest returns are achieved, and social needs met.

Credit therefore is the means by which the capital of the whole capitalist class is placed at the disposal of each sphere of production, not in proportion to the capital belonging to the capitalists in a given sphere but in proportion to their production requirements—whereas in competition the individual capitals appear to be independent of each other. Credit is both the result and the condition of capitalist production and this provides us with a convenient transition from the competition between capitals to capital as credit.” (p 211)

Back To Part 27

Forward To Part 29

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

May Blown On The Wind

At the general election, Theresa May proclaimed her credentials as a “strong and stable leader”. In fact, everything we have seen in the last year, shows her to be anything but. She is probably the weakest Prime Minister we have had in at least a century. Its said of Donald Trump that his ideas are simply a restatement of whatever the last person who spoke to him had said. Theresa May is similar in that her statements are merely a reflection of whatever political pressure she has last responded to. Like a snowflake or a piece of may blossom, she is tossed this way and that by the latest gust of political wind. It means she is continually led into contradicting herself, rather like the Stalinists have always been led to do, as they zig-zag from one position to another, because their politics is based on short-term practical politics, rather than any ideological principle, or theoretical clarity of understanding. And, like the Stalinists, May is then led to contort herself in trying to insist that these contradictory statements and positions are all fully consistent, and that “nothing has changed, nothing has changed.” No wonder the Tories seek the same kind of authoritarian approach, and minimisation of democracy that the Stalinists, and National Bolshevism relies upon.

The latest manifestation was May's speech on Brexit yesterday, in parliament. Looking at her meanderings over the last week or so, we have the following merry dance, as she was buffeted this way and that. Firstly, having spent a year and a half under accommodating the Brextremist fantasies that Britain was still some global colonial power, to whom Johnny foreigner would come running desperate to do a deal, May found that reality was somewhat different. Looking down from the precipice, and seeing the cliff edge of a no deal Brexit, as the EU showed no sign of changing its position to hang on to Britain, May realised that despite her repeated assertions, “No deal, certainly is much worse than a bad deal.” 

Having based their negotiating stance on the delusion that Britain would be given everything it wanted, and so there was no need even for David Davis to be very bright, or to even put any effort into preparing his brief for the negotiations, of for the government to do any impact assessments of the effect of Brexit on the British economy, or for the government to even have any worked out plan of what their end goal after Brexit might be, the fact that the EU gave Britain nothing, left May needing to prevent a complete collapse, which was looking likely by early next year. So, facing this pressure from the EU, she was blown in the direction of obliterating all of her previous red lines. Rees-Mogg was wrong in saying those red lines were looking a bit pink; they had been completely erased!

But, the weakness of May's leadership was then reflected by the fact that even the 12 members of the DUP, could blow hard enough to cause May to be dashed off in a different direction. The wind coming from the EU prevented her from going back in that direction, but now blown, off course by the DUP, she was forced to move even deeper into the territory beyond her previous red lines. Having already effectively committed to keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market, and to thereby accepting the role of the ECJ, she was now forced to commit to keeping the whole of the UK in the Customs Union and Single Market, so as not to have any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain. Her only fig leaf, was to dress this up, for the benefit of the Brextremist wing of her party, as being a commitment to “regulatory alignment” rather than what it actually is, which is de facto continued membership of the Customs Union and Single Market.

But, like the conspirators bearing knives under their cloaks, standing behind Julius Caesar, May found that her MP's, even as they were praising her, were already tearing apart the deal she had done, and blowing her in yet another direction. The Brextremists began to claim that “regulatory alignment” meant “regulatory divergence”, and the freedom for Britain to determine its own regulations divergent from those of the EU. The public face of Brextremism, David Davis, said that the deal May had done, was effectively not worth the paper it was written on, Gove said it and any subsequent deal arrived at in Stage 2 could be ripped up, by a future government, and so on. Its quite clear that for the Brextremists in May's government no deal has been done, and any thought that Britain has committed to paying its debts in the Brexit Bill, that the rights of EU citizens have been protected, or that Britain will align its regulations with the EU so as to avoid the need for a border in Ireland, is entirely misplaced. You might think, therefore, that May would need to quickly slap down such treachery, because otherwise there is no basis for there to be any Stage 2 negotiations after all. The Brextremists, who desire a no deal Brexit, might welcome that, but surely May does not.

But, May is so weak, that whatever she thinks, she was again forced to change course, yet again, once this gust of wind from the Brextremists blew in her direction. May had the possibility of slapping down the DUP and and the Brextremists, by relying on the votes of Labour and the SNP, but that would have meant opening up the potential of a civil war inside her party, and the destruction of the Tories in the longer-term. So, instead she did yet another volte-face, and herself reneged on all of the commitments she had given to the EU just days before. She accepted more or less in toto the claim by Davis that the deal was not worth the paper it was written on, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", and consequently that if the EU did not give Britain the trade deal it was demanding in Stage 2, the promise to honour its debts by paying the Brexit Bill, the guarantees to EU citizens in Britain, and the commitment to regulatory alignment so as to avoid the need for an Irish border would all be reneged upon! The rest of the EU, seeing this capitulation to Brextremism must surely conclude, when they meet on Thursday, that the deal is off, because they, like the British electors, have been lied to by May and the Brextremists.

May has tried to claim that in the deal she signed last week, the role of the ECJ is only in relation to Citizens Rights, and is limited to eight years. But, its clear that if there is to be “regulatory alignment” the role of the ECJ has to be much wider than that. In fact, if “regulatory alignment” is defined as “regulatory equivalence” or “regulatory divergence”, as the Brextremists want the role of the ECJ is even more necessary. With regulatory alignment, where the UK simply accepts and applies EU regulations, the role of the ECJ is minimal, and all that is required is to ensure that these regulations are actually being applied. But, if, as the Brextremists seek, there is merely “regulatory equivalence”, or “divergence”, whereby Britain is free to develop its own regulations on the basis only that the regulations strive for the same outcomes, who is to determine that that is the case? There necessarily has to be some body that examines UK regulations and compares them with EU regulations to confirm that they do indeed seek to achieve the same outcomes, rather than divergent outcomes, and the EU, as a $14 trillion economy that the UK needs to trade with, will undoubtedly insist that that body is the ECJ. Given that these regulations on a whole series of existing and new goods and services are changing all the time, Britain would find itself tied up in protracted, and expensive hearings in the ECJ, on all these issues, and would find being able to sell into the EU near impossible, even if there was a free trade deal, like that with Canada.

And, again, as I set out last week, the idea that a free trade deal is the same as being inside a Customs Union, or Single market, is another deception that the May and the Brextremists are attempting to put over on the electorate. May needs to avoid a border in Ireland, and has committed to that requirement. But, the only way to have no border is to have the Irish republic and the North of Ireland in a Customs Union and Single Market. That means they have the same set of regulations on all goods and services. That is quite distinct from having a free trade deal, such as that established between Canada and the EU – CETA – which Davis has touted as being the basis of a CETA plus plus plus agreement between Britain and the EU. What Davis and the Brextremists fail to say is that free trade between Canada and the EU covers only a limited number of goods, and does not cover services, but more importantly, it does not do away with either the border around the EU, or the border around Canada.

Indeed, Canada and the US have a free trade deal – NAFTA – but there is still a border between Canada and the US, and goods and services going in both directions continue to be checked as they cross that border, just as goods and services going to and from the EU and Canada continue to be checked at their respective borders. So, even if a comprehensive free trade deal is reached in the Stage 2 talks between Britain and the EU, that does not remove the need for a border in Ireland. The only way that can happen is if both Britain and the EU are within a Customs Union. And, indeed that was the basis that the deal last week was arrived at. It is what the Irish and the EU thought Britain had recognised and signed up to. Now, May blown by a Brextremist wind from her backbenches, and from the DUP, has dashed off in quite a different and divergent direction!

If I were an EU negotiator, or an EU Minister attending the Council of Ministers on Thursday, I would tell May to go back and try again, because it is quite clear that she is trying to take them all for fools, as she seeks to accommodate the Brextremists. The EU should be more than used to dealing with the duplicitous nature of perfidious Albion. For centuries, Britain tried to protect its own global interests by acting as a spoke in the wheel of European integration. Its role within the EU has continued to be determined by that imperative, although, in the last 70 years, it has also done that in conjunction with aligning itself with the global interests of the US, and thereby acting as an agent of US imperialism within the EU.

In fact, Brexit and the election of Trump have acted to strengthen the EU. There are, in fact, many reasons why other EU states would welcome Britain leaving, precisely because of its retarding role on EU development. Following Brexit, there has been an increasing trend towards forging an ever more perfect union within the EU, and Britain's absence from the corridors of power will facilitate that development. It will enable the EU to develop far more quickly, and thereby completely overhaul the relatively declining British economy, and its equally diminishing global status. It is precisely the kind of development that Churchill sought to avoid in WWII, that Britain sought to avoid in WWI, and that they sought to avoid in the Napoleonic Wars. If Britain is led, as indeed it must, unless it is to rapidly descend into the third and fourth ranks of global states, to apply for re-entry into the EU, it will find itself much diminished in power, stripped of its opt-outs, and rebates etc.

Similarly, Trump's election has had some perversely beneficial consequences. His comments about NATO have made clear that the EU itself should withdraw from a military alliance whose real purpose is to back up the global strategic interests of US imperialism. The EU could use its resources much more effectively to provide for its own European defence and security, and an EU state would certainly want to do so. Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, whilst failing to simultaneously recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, at least blows away the hypocrisy of US diplomacy over the last 40 years about support for a two-state solution, and indeed blows the fantasy of any such two-state solution out of the water along with it. It means that any progressive solution in the Middle East now rests upon the construction of secular democratic states, including a federal secular democratic state of Israel and Palestine, in which the rights of both Jews and Arabs are protected, and that, as with the EU, the longer-term solution is sought within a Federal United States of the Middle East and North Africa.

In fact, the EU was working towards such a development prior to 2011, as it gradually drew the economies of MENA into its orbit. The role of the US has been wholly destructive of that strategy, as has been its strategy of fermenting turmoil on the EU's Eastern border, by its incessant expansion of NATO, and the positioning of its military forces along the Russian border. The EU would have every reason to oppose these manoeuvres by the US, in the EU's backyard, if it controlled its own defence. So, the EU has every reason to take a hard stance against Britain.

Moreover, they should simply examine May's actions over the last year, and recognise that her weakness leads he to be blown in whatever way the latest political wind blows her. The EU, with its 500 million people, and its $14 trillion economy, can act as a mighty hurricane, against tiny Britain. There is no reason why it will not do so.

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 10 - Part 27

[b) Ricardo Confuses the Process of the Formation of Market-Value and the Formation of Cost-Prices]

“For the establishment of his theory of rent, Ricardo needs two propositions which express not only different but contradictory effects of competition. According to the first, the products of the same sphere sell at one and the same market-value, competition therefore enforces different rates of profit, i.e., deviations from the general rate of profit. According to the second, the rate of profit must be the same for each capital investment, that is competition brings about a general rate of profit. The first law applies to the various independent capitals invested in the same sphere of production. The second applies to capitals in so far as they are invested in different spheres of production.” (p 206-7) 

But, Ricardo confuses these two processes, and thereby the creation of market values, and prices of production. Ricardo fails to deal with the first, the formation of market value, and instead examines the formation of prices of production as market prices, on the basis of a predetermined general rate of profit.

“... in Chapter IV “On Natural Price and Market-Price”, he does not deal with market-price or market-value at all, although in the above-quoted passage he uses it as a basis to explain differential rent, the excess profit crystallised in the form of rent. But he deals here merely with the reduction of the prices in the different spheres of production to cost-prices or average prices, i.e., with the relationship between the market-values of the different spheres of production and not with the establishment of the market-value in each particular sphere, and unless this is established market-values do not exist at all.” (p 207) 

But, as Marx has set out, capitals of the same size, employed in different spheres will produce very different amounts of profit and rates of profit, if they sell their output at prices that are equal to their exchange values. That is because the organic composition of capital, and rate of turnover of capital, is different in each sphere. It is only possible to posit a general rate of profit on the basis that prices diverge from values accordingly.

So, it is competition, in both cases, which is the means of resolving the contradiction, but in opposing ways. Competition between suppliers, between suppliers and consumers, and between consumers acts, within a particular sphere, to reduce all of the individual values down to one single market value, but competition between spheres acts to create a single, general rate of profit.

“Competition in this second instance by no means tends to assimilate the prices of the commodities to their values, but on the contrary, to reduce their values to cost-prices that differ from these values, to abolish the differences between their values and cost-prices.” (p 208) 

But, oddly, as Marx points out, Ricardo considers this second process as the reduction of prices to values. Ricardo's error stems from the fact that he starts by equating value with the price of production, and this error is facilitated by his assumption of a general rate of profit. In other words, he begins from a presumption that a general rate of profit exists, without first identifying what profit is and what surplus value is. So, he simply assumes the existence of this profit. The question of the maintenance of this average then becomes a matter of movement of demand and supply. If you assume that values and prices of production are identical, and that capitals of equal size obtain the average profit, then, if prices in one sphere rise above this level, and so cause profits to rise above the average, the cause must be an excess of demand over supply, which requires additional capital to be invested in that sphere. Marx refers later to Ricardo's correct description of the role played by credit in bringing about this reallocation of capital.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Snow Laughing Matter

Its Winter again, and as usual everyone is taken by surprise that in Winter it snows.  The amount of snow is minor compared to what I remember from the days of my youth, and yet things come to a standstill.  I can't remember losing a day at school because of snow, but it seems to be the course each Winter now, which makes a mockery of the fines on parents who take their kids out of school to go on off peak holidays.  But, then it seems that the type of snow we get nowadays is also quite different from that of the past.

In the last couple of days I have heard News and Weather Reports that have given amber snow warnings.  In my day, the amount of amber snow was very minor, and you could spot it, by the associated urine smell that went with it.  According to some of the weather charts the TV showed, amber snow was falling extensively across a large band of the centre of the country.

In addition to this amber snow, there have also been news and weather reports about lying snow.  Obviously, all snow is slippery and hazardous, but we should clearly be wary of this lying snow, which is far more treacherous than honest snow.