Space disco, Kate Bush, and more: the ASI’s best of 2014

Ben:

Song: #####.1 by #####

Album: It’s Album Time by Todd Terje

Musician: The Pizza Underground

Movie: Grand Budapest Hotel, but I’m ashamed to say I only saw five

Book: Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Restaurant: Rex and Mariano, Soho (runner up The Manor, Clapham)

Favourite article: I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup, by Scott Alexander

Favourite moment: #Gamergate

Favourite person: Scottish highlander on BBC Question Time

Kate:

Song: Wild Child by Kenny Chesney, with Grace Potter

Album: 1989 by Taylor Swift

Musician: Jason Aldean (for continuing his tradition of writing songs about trucks)

Movie: Magic in the Moonlight

Book: Goodbye, Mr Chips by James Hilton (1939)

Article: Bring Back the Girls – Quietly by Peggy Noonan (WSJ)

Political moment: #Bridgegate

Person: Senator-elect Cory Gardner, CO (I have now forgiven Colorado for their nightmare decision in 2012. Ohio, on the other hand, I am still not speaking to)

Charlotte:

Song: minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix] by Aphex Twin (because it only took 13 years to come out proper)

Album: Rivers of the Red Planet by Max Graef (jazz/hip-hop/house, good background music)

Musician: Kate Bush (the year I got round to listening to her albums)

Movie: Under the Skin (amazingly shot)

Book: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (one of the few I actually read)

Restaurant: Bone Daddies, Soho (who can’t love a huge bowl of pig fat & garlic)

Article: The Socialist Origins of Big Data - The New Yorker (on Chile’s project Cybersyn)

Political Moment: The world thinking Kim Jung Il’s public absence was because he broke both his ankles because he ate so much Emmenthal (because obviously)

Person: Shia LaBeouf (for everything he’s given us)

Sophie:

Single: Shake It Off by Taylor Swift (I do not enjoy this song but LOVE watching Charity, one of my best friends and Swift’s greatest fan, singing it)

Album: Artpop by Lady Gaga (the pop genius’s works are not only the epitome of freedom of expression and individualism but Gaga demonstrates the natural force with which the world sucks up anything walking into a gaping hole in the market)

Musician: Kate Bush (my eyes opened to her brilliance and creations this year by Sam, her sounds and voice open creative avenues in my mind)

Movie: La Grand Bellezza (released 2013 but watched this year, you MUST see this, it’s an indulgent party for the senses to devour)

Book: The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley (only read this year though it was released in 2010)

Restaurant: Le Relais de Venise, Mansion House (holds fond memories of both an amazing steak and my first time dining with the ASI team)

Political moment: remaining a United Kingdom (were endless obscure and hilarious ones in 2014, though building up to the referendum for two years and the elation experienced at the result makes this undoubtably number 1)

Person: Malala Yousafzai (the 17-year-old global role model is courageous, ambitious and hard-working, existing to fight for others’ education—I was reduced to tears of inspiration when she spoke at my university)

Nick:

Song: Fancy by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX (albeit for entirely non-I-G-G-Y related reasons)

Album: Kenny Dennis III by Serengeti (see No Beginner, Off/On)

Musician: Jonwayne (partly for being the neckbeardiest rapper/producer going – see Andrew, Be Honest)

Movie: Locke (of the four or so I watched)

Book: Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis (1991) or The Rise of the Meritocracy (1958) by Matthew Young (honourable mentions to We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921) and Girl, 20 by Kingsley Amis (1971))

Restaurant: Jam Jar, Jesmond, Newcastle, if only for their Cow vs. Pig burger

Article:Tories should turn their backs on Clacton’ and ‘Voters, not the politicians, are out of touch’ by Matthew Parris, King of trolls (Times)

Political moment: The UKIP defections and the resulting betting, which netted me a sum of no less than £10

Person: For me, 2014 was the year of the unimullet (s/o r/YoutubeHaiku)

Sam:

Song: Attachment by Hannah Diamond (My top 50 singles of the year are here, Youtube playlist link here)

Album: It’s Album Time by Todd Terje (Thanks Ben for introducing me. I also enjoyed FKA Twigs’s album LP1 and got into Susanne Sundfor in a big way this year)

Musician: AG Cook / the PC Music grouping in general

Movie: Interstellar (but I only saw about 5 films all year)

Book: Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies (Worth it for the chapter on the Kingdom of Dumbarton Rock alone. Matt Ridley’s The Red Queen, on the evolutionary biology of sex, was a close runner-up)

Restaurant: Santana Grill (a burrito stand on Strutton Ground near the office—just delicious; I also ate at KFC at lot)

Article: An open letter to open-minded progressives, by Mencius Moldbug (I disagree with much of Moldbug’s work, but I can’t think of a more interesting contemporary political thinker)

Podcast: Serial

Political moment: Shinzo Abe storming to victory in Japan (also for his amazingly awkward handshake with Xi Jinping)

Person: Richard Dawkins (boring as an atheist, brilliant as Social Justice Warrior-bait)

Philip:

Song: Turn Down for What by DJ Snake and Lil Jon

Album: Syro by Aphex Twin

Musician: Matador

Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy

Book: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel Dennett

Restaurant: Gymkhana, Mayfair

Article / blogpost: How Farming Almost Destroyed Ancient Human Civilization by Annalee Newitz

Political moment: The landing of the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae probe on Comet 67P

Person: David Sinclair (for his work on lifespan extension)

Professor Dennis O’Keeffe

We are sad to announce that Prof Dennis O’Keeffe has died. He was a very distinguished educationist who did original and influential research on subjects that included truancy and teacher training. He was Professor of Social Science at the University of Buckingham. He attracted national attention with his report on “School Attendance and Truancy (1995),” taking the view that truancy was an almost inevitable result of poor courses that failed to entice the attention of students.

With the Adam Smith Institute he published “The Wayward Elite” in 1990, a major critique of British teacher-education, and sat on the ASI’s Scholars’ Board. He was a keen supporter of several of the Free Market think tanks in addition to the ASI, including the IEA, the CPS, and Civitas, and participated in many of their activities. His attendance was always appreciated at our lectures and lunches, as much for his goodwill and charm as well as for his considerable intellect.

OKeeffe

 

Prof. John Hibbs: an influential life

We are sad to learn of the death of Prof John Hibbs in his 89th year. Dr Hibbs was a celebrated transport economist who chose to publish many of his scholarly studies with the Adam Smith Institute. He was hugely influential in the denationalization and deregulation of the UK’s bus industry.

He wrote Bus Deregulation: the Next Step (1982), The Debate on Bus Regulation (1985), Deregulated Decade (1997, with Matthew Bradley), Tomorrow’s Way (1992, with Gabriel Roth) and Trouble with the Authorities (1998).

Dr Hibbs was an active supporter of the ASI, as a member of our Scholars’ Board and as a frequent presence at our lunches and lectures. He was full of courtesy and charm, and always found time to talk to our young members. A full obituary can be found here.

Welcome Sophie and Nick!

Sophie Sandor and Nick Partington are joining the ASI as gap-year employees for six months. We asked them to write this post to introduce themselves to our readers.

Sophie:

As I almost enter my third week with the Adam Smith Institute, I welcome myself as one of two new gap year students evolving in a world-leading think tank. And how thrilling it is to be here; immersed in the works of my favourite thinkers and a family of ambitious, intelligent minds. It really is the dream.

Crafting ideas that have changed our world before and will change it again. And if you love a challenge – even greater is the fun for the views we advocate are not the most popular or acceptable. Like our relationship with what we consume: we are not always attracted to the healthiest options. We are a consistent rebellion against common thought.

In my time so far I’ve witnessed eager 6th form students gather for our annual Independent Seminar on the Open Society, celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall with former European leaders and met and worked with a plethora of inspiring, hard-working individuals. I could not be more excited for my imminent future here and look forward to writing more about my educational and economy ideas.

Nick:

Having finished my A Levels in History, Politics, and Economics, not excited by the prospect of ‘finding myself’ while pretending to help build an orphanage in Mongolia, I decided to eschew ‘gap yah’ clichés and apply for the Adam Smith Institute’s gap year internship programme. Few places are as keen to engage with pre-undergraduate students as the ASI, and I am delighted to have been selected.

Being sceptical of what Jeremy Bentham called the “rhetorical nonsense” of natural rights theory, I admire places like the ASI which provide compelling justifications for a wide-ranging liberal programme quite apart from the vague philosophical assertions so often invoked by others. More than anything, I admire the ASI for so often saying the unpopular thing and holding the counterintuitive line against public opinion on so many issues. There are few institutions with the status of the ASI which approach consensus with such irreverence.

At the same time, the ASI makes prominent what I see as another powerful justification for free markets and the minimal state. For me, that classically liberal social and economic policy benefits those worst off in society is extremely important, and too rarely emphasised in circles on the liberal right (with one notable exception being Matt Zwolinski and the other Bleeding Heart Libertarians). Framed in this way, proposals such as freedom of movement across borders, sometimes dismissed by those otherwise passionate about reducing the coercion of the state, become powerful tools for ameliorating suffering in the most deprived areas of the world.

Working with and learning from the ASI’s employees, all of whom do fascinating work on policy, is a rare opportunity. Added to that are the various things which come about from working in Westminster and being able to live in London for the duration of the position. I am looking forward to taking advantage of these while I am here because, perhaps unsurprisingly, there aren’t many Institute for Economic Affairs events on the flat tax in rural Northumberland.

Also, during my time at the ASI, I am hoping to write further about how and when ideas of meritocracy, debates in libertarian political philosophy, and utilitarianism can (and should) affect politics and policy research.

The new population estimates are already being misunderstood

New estimates of future population size have only been out a day and already they’re being misunderstood. Firstly they’re being misunderstood by the people who actually made them:

Rising population could exacerbate world problems such as climate change, infectious disease and poverty, he said. Studies show that the two things that decrease fertility rates are more access to contraceptives and education of girls and women, Raftery said. Africa, he said, could benefit greatly by acting now to lower its fertility rate.

Piffle, stuff and nonsense. It’s a well known finding that access to contraception drives, at most, 10% of changes in fertility. It’s the desire to limit fertility which, unsurprisingly, drives changes in fertility. And the education of girls and women, while highly desirable, is a correlate, not a cause, of declining fertility. Economies that are getting richer can afford to educate women: economies that are getting richer also have declining fertility. It’s the getting richer that drives both.

But that’s not enough misunderstanding. We’ve also got The Guardian displaying a remarkable ignorance on the subject:

Many widely-accepted analyses of global problems, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s assessment of global warming, assume a population peak by 2050.

That’s not just piffle that’s howlingly wrong. The IPCC assessments do not assume any such damn thing. For example, the A2 family, which is the family that the entirety of the Stern Review is based upon (and yes, it’s one of the four families used by the IPCC) assumes a 15 billion global population in 2100. That is, it assumes a significantly larger population at that date than even these new estimates do. But you can see how this is going to play out, can’t you? Population’s going to be larger therefore we must do more about climate  change: when in fact these new estimates show that population is going to be smaller than the work on climate change already assumes.

As we might have said here before a time or two we don’t mind people being misguided in their opinions and thus disagreeing with us. We pity them for their mistakes of course, but that’s as nothing to the fury engendered by people actually being ignorant of the subjects they decide to opine upon.