Welcome Holly and Hunter!

Holly Mackay and Hunter Georgeson have joined the ASI as gap-year employees. We asked them to write this post to introduce themselves to our readers.


Having said in my interview that my favourite book was Harry Potter, I was both extremely surprised and delighted to find out that I’d landed one of the coveted gap year internship positions at the Adam Smith Institute. After finishing my A-Levels in Politics, Economics and Maths, I desperately wanted to fill my year with something that would hopefully allow me to build on my interest in those subjects, and working at the ASI is the perfect opportunity to do so.  Three weeks in, I’ve already had a fantastic time; I can’t wait for the rest of the coming year here.

I am an enthusiastic advocate of the ASI’s forward-thinking libertarian stance, and as Margaret Thatcher’s no. 1 fan, it’s a dream for me to have the opportunity to work with the masterminds behind some of her policies. As well as championing greater economic freedom, I also subscribe to the belief that individual liberties on social issues should be maximised too. I have already written my first blog post from this perspective, arguing in support of the Assisted Dying Bill, and I look forward to exploring so many more topics that are currently pressing British politics. Some of my personal interests include education, particularly in the wake of high levels of immigration and how we should cope with expanding demand, and how a freer market can actually be fairer for everyone- the Bleeding Heart Libertarian within me fully supports ASI campaigns to lower taxes for the poorest, get rid of the National ‘Living’ Wage, and reduce regulations on businesses to allow entrepreneurs to flourish and create higher earnings for everyday workers.

I’m so excited to learn more from my colleagues here at the ASI; their energy and hard work is hugely inspiring, encouraging me to look at economic problems from angles I’ve never considered before. I greatly admire the work the ASI does, especially its outreach to students and young people, and I look forward to being able to contribute myself.


Very aware that an entire year without a definite plan would become a sort of spiritual black hole, I leapt at the opportunity to apply for the ASI’s internship programme. After my first week here, I find it difficult to imagine that my time could be any better spent.

I did A-levels in subjects (English Literature, History, and Maths) that limited my ability to ask big questions – there’s only a certain extent to which you can explore the deeper political philosophy behind Thatcher’s privatisation reforms when you’re studying the history of modern Britain. Although the ASI’s work is on policy reform, there is behind the scenes a rich discourse on the ground-up basis for the free-market, libertarian perspective. It’s very exciting to be around people who feel just as strongly about explaining their own ideas and hearing new ones as I do.

My own introduction to the liberal-right perspective came with reading, firstly, Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and later, Mill’s On Liberty. I found the simplicity of the principles underlined by the authors refreshing, whilst the few nuances and inconsistencies only drove me onto further reading. My particular interests include the problem of whether we can, or should, regulate against monopoly in a market economy, and the idea of more localised government systems, specifically with regard to the fostering of competitive forces between regional health-systems – like in Sweden.

Outside of academia, I’m the drummer in a band called Topknot (it’s ironic, I promise!), and spend a lot of time working towards my ultimate goal of becoming an ascetic.

Can you spare a few pence for the regulator?

The announcement by the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations that there should be a new organisation to regulate the fundraising activities of charities was paradoxical in a sector supposedly grounded in voluntary action and philanthropy.

Sir Stuart Etherington and three members of the House of Lords recently authored a review in the wake of goings-on deemed to have been sharp practices by certain well-known charities in persuading some people to part with donations.

One of the report’s recommendations is to have a levy on charities’ fundraising to pay for such a new regulator – the Fundraising Regulator.

Apart from anything else, in ‘austerity Britain’ asking charities to fork out to fund such a thing is surely not on. Charities already get criticism for not spending enough on their stated aims, whether that perception is justified or not.

I can see it now:

“£1 in the tin for the Good Cause and don’t forget the extra 34 pence to help the deserving regulator.”

(Director’s note: cut to stock video of 87 administrators slaving away over iPads in a modern office – with appropriately sad musical soundtrack?)

Instead of reaching for the quango toolbox, just fix whatever the problems are. There are enough laws and codes of practice to assist in that. There is also the Charity Commission, for example. Then again, its chair has been quoted as saying:

‘”I think it is inevitable that the sector will have to assume much more of the responsibility for funding its regulator,” he said. “It happens in many, many other parts of society and there is no reason why it should not happen in this one.”’

So that’s all right then.

All that seems to typify a mindset all too common among quangocrats; the public has to pay for something that it (the public) decides to do voluntarily so that some superfluous bureaucrats can come along and charge the aforementioned volunteers (the public) to tell them whether they are doing it properly. Marvellous piece of job creation.

This country needs another public regulator for this like a hole in the proverbial. How much more effort has to be expended on box-ticking and draining resources from useful voluntary effort? Let alone in creating at least two regulators in place of one.


Geraint Day is a trustee of two charities and co-operative sector activist but has not sought permission to write the above from any nascent quango that might want to vet volunteered expressions of opinion on charities.

Freedom fighter John Von Kannon

We are sad to report the death, at 66, of John Von Kannon, a friend and leading figure in the freedom movement in Washington DC. He was Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, which he had served since 1980 as a thinker, doer and fundraiser – one of the founding generation that included Ed Feulner, Phil Truluck and Stuart Butler.

John – nicknamed “The Baron” – Von Kannon was one of the founders of The American Spectator where he learnt the art of raising money. Blessed with great humour, an easygoing manner but also great focus and determination, he helped raise the Heritage Foundation’s budget from $4m to over $90m. He was also instrumental in building up conservative and free-market think-tanks and campaign groups into an effective national network.

Among other awards for his work for liberty, he received the Heritage Foundation’s highest honour, the Clare Booth Luce award – previous winners included Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – and Ashland University’s John Ashbrook award. He was also elected a ‘distinguished member’ of the Philadelphia Society. He was a trustee of the Foundation for Research on the Economics of the Environment and Vice President of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a leading public interest law foundation.

John was charming, funny, effective and constant. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Young Writer on Liberty 2015 Winners

We’re delighted to announce the winners of our 2015 Young Writer on Liberty competition, and will be showcasing some of their work in the coming days.

The theme of this year’s competition was ‘The road not yet travelled: Three paths the next government should take for a freer United Kingdom’. Entrants wrote three, 400-word articles on this theme, each outlining a policy proposal to make the United Kingdom richer, freer and more prosperous.

We received dozens of entries and competition was fierce with incredibly high standards. This year for the first time, entries were spilt into ‘Under-18′ and ’18-21’ categories, with a winner and a runner-up in each.

The runner-up of the Under-18 category is Alan Petri, and the winner of the Under-18s is Theo Cox Dodgson. The runner-up of the 18-21 category is Tamay Besiroglu, and the category winner Theo Clifford.

Runners-up will have one of their entries showcased on the ASI blog tomorrow, and category winners will have all three of their pieces posted over the week.

Category winners will also receive £150 prize money, whilst both winners and runners-up will receive boxes filled with liberty-related books.

Check-in next week to read the entries!


Milton Friedman – a birthday tribute

Milton Friedman was born on July 31st 1912.  He was one of the two most influential economists of the 20th Century, the other being John Maynard Keynes, and he promoted monetarism as an alternative to Keynesian orthodoxy.  His economic scholarship was unimpeachable, and won him the award of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1976.

He was no less influential in promoting free market economics as an alternative to the once fashionable mixed economy consensus that prevailed in the post-war era.  He did this at a popular, as well as at a scholarly, level, with a series of articles in Newsweek and other popular journals.  He was an excellent communicator, able to explain complex ideas in simple, easily understood language.  His “Capitalism and Freedom” remains a classic to this day, still relevant, still persuasive.

His TV series, “Free to Choose,” together with the book he co-authored with his wife Rose, were immensely popular, and were hugely influential in gaining popular support for the economics of free enterprise, choice and incentives, and a widespread skepticism of government intervention.

He pioneered many ideas that eventually gained traction, including an end to military conscription in the US, floating exchange rates, and school choice amongst many others.  His monetarist views influenced the Federal Reserve’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.

He was a supporter of the Adam Smith Institute and took a keen interest in its work in translating sound economic ideas into viable policy options.  He addressed ASI meetings, and regularly chatted with its members at meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, which he continued to attend until his death in 2006.  He went out of his way to help others, to support student groups and to lend his wisdom and advice to free market organizations.  He even acted as my referee when I applied to Cambridge, with a hand-written note endorsing me.

He was engaging, personable and likeable, nearly always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he corrected economic nonsense from his opponents.  Happy birthday, Milton; we miss you.