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"Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice" - Adam Smith

The Beautiful Tree

Written by Booksmith | Tuesday 01 December 2009

There are plentiful reasons to recommend The Beautiful Tree, a book that challenges and inspires in equal measure. It is the remarkable story of Professor Tooley's discovery of how the poorest of poor are setting about improving the education of their children without the state and the often patronizing efforts of many in the development community. The implications this has for thinking about the history and future of education of children in developing and developed world are potentially profound.

The first thing to hit the reader is the immense task that Professor Tooley and his researchers have undertaken. The work behind the statistics that forms the background to engaging narrative is evident on every page. Beyond the geographical and administrative complexities, the willingness to set himself at odds with his peers in his quest for the truth is a commendable achievement that many in the claustrophobic and stultifying world of academia shy away from. With each step, Professor Tooley pulls away from the establishment as he moves closer to the colourful array of entrepreneurs who are already providing the education that the people want in most challenging parts of the world.

Many new insights are garnered from this work. A fascinating revaluation of the impact of British imperialism upon the Indian private education system is given in the penultimate chapter, while the last chapter answers the hanging question of what the rest of the world can learn from his findings in India, Nigeria, Ghana, China and Kenya. It is an upbeat message that could put private education beyond the moral and regulatory power of our politicians. Find out more here.

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Written by Booksmith | Wednesday 25 November 2009

The follow up to Freakonomics, the successful debut by Levitt and Dubner, has been out for over a month now. Superfreakonomics - subtitled - "Global cooling, patriotic prostitutes and why suicide bombers should by life insurance" is another fantastic book on economics laid bare in simple terms for the layman to understand. You can pick this book up and open it wherever, and read about why it's more dangerous to walk home drunk than to drive home drunk or indeed why experiments with monkeys had to be ended due to their behavioural changes when money was introduced into their community.

Superfreakonomics shines a light on the subtleties that incentives have on human behaviour and explains why certain things occur. They uncover the truth surrounding the infamous, Genovesse murder in New York and the connection between TV and crime in India and the US. The chapter on cooling the globe is fascinating as it raises the question about what we as humans are prioritising and whether it is the correct approach, especially as there are plenty of cheaper alternatives.

This book is a fabulous, eyeopening and educational read. A superb follow up to their previous work which, again, is easy to absorb and understand and can be read in an afternoon.

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Politicians turn nanny state into bully state

Written by Booksmith | Monday 12 October 2009

The nanny state has given way to a bully state in which politicians coerce the public into submission.

A new book by controversial former MSP Brian Monteith argues that the nanny state is dead but has been replaced by a much more malevolent bully state where we are not just preached at, but forced to do what the politicians think we should.

The Bully State: The End of Tolerance charts the movement from nannying health warnings about smoking, through compulsory motor cycle helmets and seat belts, to the bully times of today, when we can be fined for smoking in our own cars and Marmite is banned in schools.

Monteith warns: “We won't lose the freedoms that we cherish by a military coup or some great cataclysmic war engulfing us, but through the gradual invasion of our private lives by the very politicians we elect to protect us – and all in the cause of looking after our health.

“Today’s politicians think us mature enough to elect them, but too immature to decide what we should eat, smoke, drink or drive. So they give officials powers to snoop on us, enter our homes, fine householders without trial for using the wrong rubbish bins, and make shopkeepers hide the cigarettes under the counter.

“This is not just some left-wing campaign. It started when New Labour and Conservative politicians decided that information and choice weren’t enough in their brave new target-setting world. Now politicians of all colours simply bully us into submission if we do things they don’t approve of."

The book traces our evolution from nanny to the bully state, with its growing intervention into the realms of smoking, eating and drinking – including some truly bizarre and absurd examples of politicians’ latest bullying. An edifying and shocking read.

The Bully State: The End of Tolerance is published by The Free Society, price £5.99, is launched on Wednesday in Westminster.

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A failure of government

Written by Booksmith | Tuesday 08 September 2009

Click here to find out more about the latest publication from the IEA by Charles K. Rowley and Nathanael Smith of the Locke Institute.

In the Afterword to this work, Richard E. Wagner quotes Adam Smith:

“What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom."

Never a truer word...

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Political Economy, Concisely

Written by Booksmith | Thursday 25 June 2009

There are few public intellectuals with the wit and insight of Anthony de Jasay, so Booksmith is very much looking forward to an upcoming work from the great man.

Political Economy, Concisely will be a collection of essays examining the free society; it promises to attack head-on concepts such as property, equality and distributive justice, public goods, unemployment, opportunity costs, and welfare.

Booksmith has always found that Anthony de Jasay has been exceptionally skilled in conveying complicated ideas in a truly original way. His elegant writing style is rarely found in works on political economy, combining with verve a thorough knowledge of a first-rate philosopher and economist.

Click here to find out more about it.

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The Investing Revolutionaries

Written by Booksmith | Sunday 07 June 2009

This week booksmith recommends The Investing Revolutionaries. Marvin Zonis, professor emeritus,  at the University of Chicago has desribed it as: “The money managers that tell you they can ‘beat the market’ are the tyrants of Wall Street. Here’s a straight-talking yet powerful guide to growing your wealth through passive stock market investing." Click here to find out more.

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The Rotten State of Britain

Written by Booksmith | Thursday 26 February 2009

Will Hutton's The State We're In famously shredded the record of the Thatcher-Major governments. Now Eamonn Butler shows how – after a decade of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – the state of Britain has become very much worse than it ought to be.
Corporate publishers rejected Butler's picture of Britain as too cataclysmic and not worth publishing. But now, as the country slides into its worst recession in 70 years, his book The Rotten State of Britain (Gibson Square Books) shows for the first time exactly why Britain is in a worse state than any of the major world economies, how its democracy has been undermined by stealth, and why today's politicians are incapable of finding honest solutions to the problems that they themselves have created.
As an economist and Westminster insider, Dr Butler initially thought New Labour seemed purposeful and businesslike.  They promised a new, open kind of government to repair Britain. Two years later, though, he had become completely disillusioned. New Labour’s words were not backed up by deeds. From his vantage point at the Adam Smith Institute, he started to gather the material that is the basis of this deeply-researched book.
Gordon Brown's obsessive focus on central targets, and his party's willingness to subvert the apparatus of the state for its own party advantage perverted the state over the course of a decade. By stealth a new form of centralized and authoritarian government has been created that is the worst in Britain’s recent history.
Dr Butler scrutinises all aspects of our society and examines the political system, the sleaze, the justice system, the draconian powers the police and public officials have been given under the New Labour government, the surveillance and nanny state, public service bureaucracy and spending, the economy and how we need checks and balances to restrain our political leaders and the unelected advisors who actually control our lives. 

If you would like to come to the ASI launch party of The Rotten State of Britain, held at the ASI's offices (23 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BL) on the 3rd March (6-8pm), please email to be put on the guest list.

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Chinese New Year

Written by Booksmith | Tuesday 27 January 2009

With the Chinese New Year starting yesterday it is worth considering how far the country has come since the death of Mao. Booksmith has just started reading The Elephant and the Dragon by Robyn Meredith. So far it is proving an interesting read. In the opening chapter she gives a vivid description of life before Deng Xiaoping's reforms: very unpleasant. However, life is now considerably better for most following the relative economic freedoms now permitted in much of China. Lets hope political freedoms follow.

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Book of the week

Written by Booksmith | Thursday 20 November 2008

This week Booksmith recommends an excellent book by Wolfgang Sofsky entitled Privacy: A Manifesto. Translated from the German, it is at once rhetorically sparse and alarming. The argument is polemical, assuming a priori empathy with his position; as such much needless cant is dispensed with, allowing space for a rather idiosyncratic approach to the subject matter.

Flitting between history and novel, the work appeals as much to the emotions as to rationality. Capturing the zeitgeist of modernity with the echoes of fascism and socialism still ringing in our ears, Sofsky gives a stark picture of the world we live in and threats we face.

Avoiding well-trodden ground, Sofsky is original in suffusing the physical abuses that the state perpetrates against the privacy of the individual. This he does by assaulting the senses with descriptions reminiscent of Patrick Süskind’s Das Parfum.

It got Booksmith thinking. A moot point perhaps - given the horrendous abuses that those with the legitimate use of force commit against individuals in the name of security - but catching the state-run transport underground system certainly undermines Booksmith’s privacy, pushed beyond sanity by the inadequacies of the system. Cows travel for free in more comfort, and at least have the relief of slaughter at the end of it.

It would be a cliché to say this is a timely book, but it is. It also timeless: the battle for freedom is ongoing. Reading this, it is clear we need to reclaim privacy. It can be purchased here

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Book of the week

Written by Booksmith | Friday 26 September 2008

My choice this week is The Blunkett Tapes: My Life in the Bear Pit by, of course, David Blunkett MP (£9.49+pp). The working-class kid who overcame blindness to became a Cabinet minister is characteristically blunt as he talks about New Labour colleagues, his career and his two resignations. Amazingly for a politician, he admits where he got things wrong, so that should make it a collector's item. Check it out here.

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