A change of name?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 4:55pm in



it was put to me over the weekend that this blog may not be as appropriately named now as it was when it was launched more than 13 years ago. Tax is not its sole focus by a long way now.

I thought about alternatives and the best I could come up with was TAPER - Tax, accounting and political economy research.

Any thoughts?



Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/07/2019 - 5:12pm in



I quite often get asked if I am OK if I do not blog very much.

In that case I should explain that if I do not do so right now - or appear distracted from activity here - there is good reason.

I have been working on a book proposal.

And activities for the Corporate Accountability Network, including launches of ideas and fundraising for future work.

I also have four chapter to write for separate books by the end of October as I see out my existing job.

There are other activities also in progress.

And, rather annoyingly, I have to admit I am finite.

If I am distracted it is because I am quite busy. But this period of ending the old and starting the new will not last for long, thankfully. I will be back at full force sometime soon.

On trolling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/06/2019 - 2:37am in



I liked this from Gary Kasparov, from Twitter:

Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63)

13/12/2016, 19:08
The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.


That seems to summarise blog trolling just as well.

On the Cob

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 09/06/2019 - 4:30am in



It was pretty wet in Aberystwyth this morning. So, with plenty to read and a couple of computers in tow I caught the train to Pwllheli just to have a cup of tea. More than six hours of train ride for £8.50 - and amazing views. Plus a train where the vast majority of train announcements were not in English - and nor was much of the conversation. Farage would have been deeply uncomfortable. I loved it. And I got the chance to take this:

Honestly, that is a colour photo. For the train buffs, it is Lyd heading for Porthmadog across the Cob at about 3pm this afternoon taken from the mainline train about a mile further north. Any fuzziness is down the quality of window cleaning by Trains for Wales.

Some things are more important than tax, sometimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 07/06/2019 - 3:42am in



From the footplate on the Vale of Rheidol Railway this morning:

And when we arrived at Devil's Bridge:

On Moving Tables

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/06/2019 - 8:17pm in

Divide academic reputation up into three types. There is prestige attached to position -- the department one works for, the career stage one is at, whether one has a named chair, just in general the prestige attached to occupying a role. There is prestige attached to achievement -- here I mean prestige attached to publishing, and especially in certain venues, and being cited, or winning awards, or having established priority on some novel discovery of interest, or being known to have given a talk at conferences of sufficiently high standing, etc. Then there is prestige attached to persona -- this one is a bit harder to succinctly summarise with examples, but it happens that one can get a general reputation for skill or brilliance that precedes one's publications or which is not especially attached to any office one holds. An unpublished grad student in a lowly department can none the less have a high reputation if there is a "buzz" around them, and I mean the prestige attached to persona to pick out whatever makes this possible.--"The Perception of Merit" @The Sooty Empiric

Prompted by this blog post by Daniel Hicks (congrats!) [HT Dailynous], Bright writes about the intersectional uncertainty caused by the interaction of three kinds of prestige.* The whole post is worth reading (including its judicious quotations from Auden). I agree with his phenomenology, but I want to start with a nitpick. I have not yet encountered the third type, "the buzz" surrounding an unpublished grad student in a lowly department. And while it is dangerous to infer from personal experience, I seriously doubt this phenomenon exist.

Of course, I am not denying that buzz around a grad student exists. I have encountered such (the "boy wonder") buzz around the unpublished grad student in a prestigious department (with prestigious supervisors, etc.) And for all the changes in the profession--this phenomenon still exists. Such boy-wonder buzz is a joint construction of the person principally involved and the folk pushing it (by pushing it, we don't need to think of illicit stuff; I just mean invitations to high profile workshops, attendance at the parallel session, inviting buddies to come along, offers to co-author, etc.) So, the buzz surrounding the grad student is not really prestige of the person--it requires skilled anointing by others.

Sometimes such anointing is not very subtle. I have discussed the miserable time I have had on the job-market (2001-2005). The market then was in some senses less brutal -- there were (recall) fewer expectations about publication --, but I did experience being invisible at the smoker, being told at a ball-room interview that the interview was only a courtesy to one of my supervisors, being rejected while being the inside candidate, the cancellation of one of two APA interviews a week before the convention (with the request if I "could remain on standby"), and a number of other indignities (recall here and here). Don't cry for me. 

During this miserable run, my lovely and kind senior colleague Dennis Des Chene (later we became partners in blogging crimes) convinced me to present a paper in a workshop on the emotions he was hosting at WashU. I was very ambivalent about this because I was depressed about being passed over for a job in the department (and did not want to present in front of the folks who had just rejected me for undoubtedly sensible reasons), and the early word after the APA was not promising. I was reflecting primarily on my career options outside academia. But when it rains it pours. As Spring progressed, I was suddenly the back up candidate in multiple tenure track searches. By the time the conference came around, and as the top picks settled on their dream jobs, I started to receive multiple tenure track offers at excellent departments and attractive grants for post-doc positions. When Dennis introduced my talk, he made a point of listing my multiple job possibilities. 

I'll never forget the whatitislike of what followed next. During the subsequent meals I went from the side tables to the main table at the workshop. (It was not a big conference so the effect is undoubtedly exaggerated in my memory.) From being barely noticed, I was suddenly of interest to (ahh) my peers. I recall being quite astonished about this. In the small universe of early modern, I had been anointed. To be sure, at that point I had multiple publications -- precisely because I did not  get a tt job out of graduate school I started publishing, a lot --, and I had landed a job at a very good department. So, it's not like I will ever know what it's like to have a boy-wonder buzz. (I always imagine that such boy-wonders fail to be astonished at attention.)   

My response to this was a weird mixture of gratification and suspicion. I was self-aware enough to recognize that with a few more bad breaks I was going to leave the profession; and that I was no better a philosopher in the Spring of 2005 than in the Fall of 2004. I had been very invisible at all the APAs--to this day I cherish the two minutes of interest by John Perry in my work, while we were both waiting in line at a hotel Starbucks. 

Bright notes correctly that "the quest for prestige is miserable - in our hearts we know we want the wrong thing." But he does not note it is also a bad delusion. Our profession has extremely steep prestige hierarchies. This means prestige is an extremely scarce good. Only a few will come close "to be loved alone," but the rest of us not.  While this state of affairs may produce social benefits, and undoubtedly generates some goods for those at the very top of those prestige hierarchies (although near the top, the peaks undoubtedly stand out more vividly and, so, annoyingly), participation in this professional state of affairs is irrational for the individuals involved. And yet those who claim to embrace the love of wisdom, reconcile their professional fates, like hamsters in a running wheel, to it.

*I am unsure that 'prestige = academic reputation' is true but let's leave that aside.




Just in case you think I’m idling

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/06/2019 - 3:50pm in



I had an email that was, I am quite certain, sent with good intent yesterday checking whether or not I was OK as I had not blog posted over the weekend. I appreciate the concern, but thought it worth sharing what I do get up to in between posting here just to explain why every now and again I skip a day. 

By pure chance this will be the 16,000 blog post on this site. And, almost exactly, it’s been going for thirteen years. So, that’s an average of about 3.4 posts a day if I’d posted very day of that period. And some days I do take off. But near enough I suspect I hit average last month: call it about 100 blog posts. I suspect that means there were at least 1,000 comments to moderate, and sometimes reply to. 

I also finished a co-authored academic paper on which I am lead author. That took a lot of time. It’s now in for review. Fingers crossed. 

And I had another such paper published.

I submitted a chapter for a multiple-authored book that has been commissioned.

And checked another chapter in another such book that will be out next month.

I discussed two book proposals of my own, one of which was developed during the month: both are progressing, and will I think happens, although probably not simultaneously. One is targeted for very fast production.

I made some progress with another academic paper, of about 30 pages, although my co-author is now taking the lead there.

I wrote three pieces for magazines, not all out yet.

I set up the first Corporate Accountability Network event for July and began work on the paper I will present at it on the need for an IFRS on tax.

I prepared a paper for an event late in June proposing a new conceptual framework for accountancy that embraces environmental change and brings that issue into the core of the accounting requirements of companies. It’s radical.

I attended a seminar on that issue.

I took part in an all day meeting on the new Global Reporting Initiative country-by-country reporting standard.

I worked on another approach to data appraisal in accounting, which is exploratory right now but feels good.

I got two funding applications in for the Corporate Accountability Network.

I attended three (I think) board meetings, admittedly, mostly by phone.

I spent a lot of time on student marking and appraisal, because it matters to me. And I had some really good students this year. 

And a fair amount of time on a course being developed for the Coffers project to be delivered in September.

Follow up on tax spillover assessments for another big event in September also took place.

I went to Vienna to do a talk linked to the Coffers project. And I did another in Norwich. Both required preparation.

Three other chapters that have to be written over the summer had their outlines written: that means I do now at least know what they are going to say.

And I did the shopping for the family. The boys got fed, albeit not always be me. Sometimes I’m not here. 

I even managed quite a bit of hobby activity. Whilst sons were talked to and there was the odd evening (or more) with friends. And the dog got walked. 

But this weekend I took some time off. And since by Tuesday exams are over in this household I am taking a week off from Wednesday. On my own, for the first time I can recall for a very long time indeed. Just because I need a break, and some Welsh narrow gauge steam, and time to think on one of the books, in particular, because, I admit, that’s what I do on holiday. 

But if you wonder what I do all day, I hope you’ve got some idea now. 

Hits and Misses

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/05/2019 - 4:57pm in



Looking back at past posts, it’s enjoyable to find those where I went out on a limb and have been proved right by events, or at least supported by subsequent evidence. A couple of examples

It’s less fun when things don’t go as expected. Take Bitcoin as an example. Its uselessness is now even clearer than it was when I started writing about it 2013. Use in legitimate market transactions is almost non-existent, while the darknet illegal markets in which it is the preferred currency are being busted so frequently as to suggest that anyone using them is taking a big risk of losing their money, or worse. Meanwhile, the dream that Bitcoin would justify itself through the magic of blockchain has evaporated. As far as I can tell, cryptocurrencies on the Bitcoin model are the only genuine examples of blockchain technology in actual use (the label has been attached to some other projects for marketing purposes.

I’ve always said that, given the irrationality of markets, no one can predict when Bitcoin will reach its true value of zero, and I was careful to maintain this position when I posted on Bitcoin’s decline below $4000 late last year. Still, I have to admit that I expected this mania finally to come to an end. That hasn’t happened; in fact the price has doubled.

I won’t worry too much about the occasional (or not so occasional) error. My track record is still far better than that of the many pundits who predicted success for the Iraq war and continued claiming imminent victory years after the disaster had become evident. And most of them are still in business, apparently just as credible as ever to their audiences.

For all Ipswich Town supporters….

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/05/2019 - 1:00am in



Ipswich Town played their last match of the season today. It was a win. They were very rare this year. Next year, for the first time in more than sixty years they will be in what we used to call Division 3. Having been brought up in Ipswich in the days when Portman Rod was the place to be to watch football I can't help but notice that.

So, for those seeking solace, this song from Police Dog Hogan about being the wife of the goalkeeper at Ipswich Town. It seems appropriate:


Building online personas: Has social media become an exercise in self-branding?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/04/2019 - 12:45am in

In this post, Gal Oestreicher-Singer, Hilah Geva,  and Maytal Saar-Tsechansky, discuss the extent to which users of twitter use the platform in order to diversify their identities, or to maintain ‘on message’ branded identities. Presenting a novel methodology, their findings suggest that twitter has become a tool for targeted self promotion, behaviour that is especially prevalent in professional bloggers. More than 20 […]