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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

Blatherings and facts about the tax gap

Written by Tim Worstall | Sunday 13 October 2013

HMRC's just released their estimates of the tax gap. What should be paid under the law of the land against what is actually paid. And as a result we've got Richard Murphy shouting that HMRC's estimations are all wet for he's the guy with the real facts.

Now I am actually under a promise to Madsen not to mention Murphy too much here but he's given us a perfect example of why the numbers differ: because the definitions do. Here's Murphy on corporation tax revenues:

Instead let me just highlight some of the absurd anomalies in this year’s report that I have noted so far. Let’s take corporate tax avoidance for a start. According to HMRC in 2011-12, they year to which this report relates UK tax avoidance in that year was just £4 billion and was split down as follows: (chart excluded-Ed)Now this report in the Mail on Sunday in April 2012 – covering the same year as a result – gave an estimate (and in my opinion a fair one) of the tax avoidance of just a few giant tech companies: (chart excluded) That’s, as they note, £685 million lost to five companies. Microsoft and Yahoo are not in there. And there are, we know, plenty more playing such tricks. But apparently the total lost is just £1.5 billion. Actually, that’s because none of these losses to tech companies is in HMRC’s figures. They may have been in David Cameron’s sight lines when attacking tax avoidance but HMRC refuses top recognise they do anything wrong. And that’s ludicrous.

Now what he's talking about is of course the way in which various tech companies sell into the UK from Ireland or Luxembourg, paying their corporation tax there. Murphy is claiming that the tax on this money that is paid (or not paid) in Ireland is thus tax avoidance from the UK tax system. What he's missing is that it isn't. Here's HMRC on the subject:

In broad terms, companies are required to pay corporation tax in the country where they carry on the economic activity that generates their profits, not where their customers are located.

Hmm, so where the customers are is not the determinant of where the tax liability is. Not even in theory: in fact theory, that spirit of the law, operates exactly the other way around. That people are selling to UK based firms or consumers does not, in any manner, create a tax liability in the UK. It is entirely other and very different criteria that decide that question. And as HMRC goes on to state:

Non-resident trading companies which do not have a branch in the UK, but have UK customers, will therefore pay tax on the profits arising from those customers in the country where the company is resident, according to the tax law in that country. The profits will not be taxed in the UK. This is not tax avoidance: it is simply the way that corporation tax works.

So, the reason that HMRC does not include such numbers in its estimates of tax avoidance is that under the basic system of corporation tax, under both the spirit and letter of the law of this and most other nations, there's not any tax avoidance going on. This is the way that Parliament, the OECD and before them, the League of Nations (where the basic structure of international tax treaties come from) set the whole system up.

Murphy's numbers try to include such sums which is most odd for someone prclaimed as one of the nation's leading tax experts.

What is actually happening here is that Murphy thinks that settled law should not be as it is. Which is fine, of course, there's plenty of areas of life where I think settled law should not be as it is. I wouldn't be allied with a radical think tank if I didn't. But there is something important to therefore note about these tax gap estimates.

Murphy's numbers and thus, for they all run with them, those of the TUC, PCS, Unite, Polly, nef, Margaret, Lady Hodge and the rest of the rag tag groups that is the British left, estimate what the tax gap would be if the law were changed to conform to their prejudices and misconceptions about what settled tax law should be.

HMRC's numbers are based on what settled tax law actually is.

All of which does lead to a small amusement: those campaigning for tax law to be changed to reflect their prejudices are of course campaigning to increase the tax gap. For if the law were changed in the manner they desire then that tax gap would be closer to their figures: figures note which are larger than those under current tax law.

And it's very odd indeed to see lefties arguing that there should be even more uncollected tax around the place.

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America's shutdown to a Briton's eyes

Written by Miles Saltiel | Saturday 12 October 2013

What to make of the Yanks and their budget? As Newt Gingrich pointed out in last Saturday’s FT, we might start by dialling down the hysteria: shutdowns are no novelty.

“Democratic Speaker, Tip O’Neill presided over twelve…government shutdowns…with presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and even while Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress….No one in the O’Neill era saw shutdowns as catastrophic. They were irritating, complicated and frustrating but also part of the legislative process.”

The GOP is fussed about Obamacare, which no-one in the UK gets. Its main point is not to provide hospital care for indigents (something already provided under Medicaid and common-carrier obligations), but to oblige healthy youngsters to sign up so as to reduce costs by bringing them into the insurance pool. This makes some sense – it more or less happens elsewhere - but putting it like this explains why Americans see it as intrusive and the scheme is so unpopular.

More generally, the Tea Party is up in arms because the new obligations of Obamacare come at a time when the US (as pretty much universally) is testing the limits of what a government of free citizens can afford to take on. Hysteria is now extending to lefty commentators, who are calling apocalypse if the debt ceiling is not raised on 17 October, fearing without quite admitting it that the markets will bear down on the President. They have been joined by some big bondholders who ought to know. Now we hear that “constructive talks” are under way - on the ceiling at least. But recall that great changes in national direction only come with grubbiness and mess: think of Lloyd George threatening to pack the Lords after they turned down the Peoples’ Budget, Roosevelt menacing the Supreme Court over the New Deal, or Bevan getting the NHS past hold-out doctors by “stopping their mouths with gold”. That’s politics.

But is Obamacare a good thing? Hard for a Brit to say. US healthcare is costly by our standards, yielding outcomes which at their best are world-beating but not universal. Maybe they need more private “managed care” systems to reduce costs, but that is not the same as Federal intervention.

Back to the limits of government. King Charles I - the one who lost his head - had a legitimate gripe about the irresponsibility of his parliaments. They were bloody-minded, sent mixed signals (singe Papist beards; raise no new taxes) and generally messed him about something rotten (not to mention that losing the head thing). But they and their successors established the principle that the executive shall be controlled by the power of the purse, exercised by representatives of the taxpayers. The Tea Party is also bloody-minded and given to mixed signals. But it is fully seized of that most essential component of American DNA, snappily put by the Culpeper Minutemen, “Don’t tread on me!”

No doubt, the immediate outcome of this month’s stand-off will be the customary fudge. That’s politics too. But make no mistake: the Republicans in their confusion, the Tea Party zealots in their flyover-state gaucherie are onto something: where shall government find its limit? It’s not a trivial question and it won’t be answered in just one go.

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If you've not got the skills then maybe it's the institutions?

Written by Tim Worstall | Saturday 12 October 2013

There's been much fussing about education and skills these past few days as a result of another information release showing that various countries have higher educational skills than others. And also that various countries have higher incomes than others. An example here:

The good news for Americans in a new international study of adult skills is that the U.S. ranks near the top in gross domestic product per capita, behind only Norway. The bad news is that Americans are so far behind in their skills that it’s hard to see how they can stay at the top for long. The figures are contained in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development called OECD Skills Outlook 2013.

That's not quite the way that I would read it myself.

Think through this for a moment. Wealth, GDP, income, call it what you will, it's a function of two things, the endowment and the efficiency with which that endowment is used to produce the wealth, income, gilt and pelf. So, if we're got one nation full of dumb lardbutts which is still one of the richest in the world while we've others heaving with the highly educated and knowledgeable which are poorer then we've got to assume that the efficiency with which that endowment is exploited must be higher over there with the lardbutts. We could go to the PJ O'Rourke extreme at the other end of course and note Russia where chess is a spectator sport yet they're boiling stones for soup.

This is important: that education, that human capital, yes, it is indeed an addition to the endowment off which that GDP is created. But then so also are the various institutions through which it is exploited. So these figures do not quite show what everyone has been saying: that everyone had better get their education act together. Desirable though that is of course. For we are also able to note people with lots of that human capital which do not exploit it efficiently. To these countries we should be saying that you too need to get your act together: change those institutions.

And here's the thing. Just casting an eye along those whose income position is markedly higher than their human capital one, they do seem to be the places running some variant of that Anglo Saxon capitalism and free market racket. Perhaps those places do need to sort out their education: but the greater efficiency also shows that everyone else needs to sort out their institutions.

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Tor, Bitcoin and the Silk Road: three forces for good

Written by Charlotte Bowyer | Friday 11 October 2013

Since the arrest of Ross Ulbricht aka 'Dread Pirate Roberts' — the alleged mastermind behind the Silk Road — media attention has in part focused on the role of legal technologies Tor and Bitcoin in its operation. Silk Road was an online black market where all kinds of restricted and illicit goods (from illegal drugs to forged passports) were sold in an eBay-style setting. Because of the nature of its wares it made up part of the 'deep web' - accessible only by using software such as Tor, which enables user anonymity by obscuring their location and usage, making surveillance incredibly difficult. Its illegality also prevented customers from paying via card companies or PayPal, so business was done using the crypto-currency Bitcoin.

Whilst talk of Bitcoin and Tor is old hat amongst technophiles, reporting of Silk Road's takedown is probably one of the first times that many people would have heard about such technologies. And, understandably, when their raised profile comes in association with a giant underground marketplace in drugs and a man charged with charged with ordering an assassination, people may be swift to discount them as 'hacker tools', or look upon them unkindly. (The Guardian's leak of GCHQ's presentation 'Tor Stinks', which depicts an apparently typical terrorist Tor user masked and toting an assault rifle (and sat in front of a giant onion) is in this respect both amusing and depressing.)

However, Tor and Bitcoin aren't used just for shady dealings. Both can be used to great benefit — Tor in providing freedom and safety online, and Bitcoin in encouraging financial and monetary innovation.

There are huge numbers of people who aren't terrorists, sex offenders or drug barons who benefit from anonymising software such as Tor, and those whose lives may depend on it. Tor allows people across the globe to communicate freely when doing so is risk and the internet is monitored or subject to blocks. It circumvents national firewalls, empowering and educating citizens who would otherwise be restricted. It allows whistleblowers to divulge their information anonymously, journalists to share news, and activists and citizens to criticise, dissent and organise in protest. Millions around the world benefit from Tor.

And it isn't just citizens in oppressive regimes who benefit — Tor is used by the military in operations to protect their location whilst communicating securely. It could also be argued that concerned parents can help protect their child online by using Tor to mask their location. Whatever else Tor may be used for, its capacity to liberate and protect is great.

Similarly, the development of crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin carry with them great potential. Bitcoin is an open-source, peer-to-peer electronic currency. It has no central issuing authority; the money supply is increased as users's computing power crunches numbers to verify pervious transactions. This has made crypto-currencies very interesting to those who wish to abolish central banks and establish new forms of currency. But Bitcoin also has a growing number of practical uses.

Increasing numbers of vendors are accepting payment in Bitcoins and it can be used to pay for things from Wordpress services to pizza. It doesn't require any third-party intermediary such as credit card companies or PayPal to process payments, making transactions cheaper and easier. This can lower transaction costs for businesses, which, were Bitcoin to become widely adopted could also be passed onto the consumer. The Mercatus Center's primer on the currency suggests that this aspect of Bitcoin could also revolutionise the global redistribution of wealth. In 2012 immigrants to developed countries sent $401 billion back home to developing countries. The average fee doing so at places like Western Union is close to 10%, whilst fees for similar services using Bitcoin are less than 1% of the transaction. Wiring companies are looking at integrating Bitcoin services into their own, and if they were to do so this would be a tremendous boon for the poorer people of the world.

Transferring traditional currency into Bitcoins can also allow people to overcome domestic economic problems and the consequences of corruption. With tight capital controls and an inflation rate of 25%, it is no surprise that Argentinians are some of the most enthusiastic users of Bitcoin. Other great uses of Bitcoin, such as in conjunction with SMS banking in developing countries, are developing all of the time. Bitcoin definitely has the potential to be more than a plaything for nerds and a way of buying hash.

Cathy Reisenwitz is right: the world is less safe now that Silk Road is gone. The violence associated with drug dealing is not a consequence of the products, but of their illegality. As a stable, trusted and effective platform Silk Road removed that need for violence. Drug laws need a serious overhaul, and the user rating and delayed payment system of Silk Road offer a great model for a legal marketplace for drugs. I therefore think that it is great that technologies such as Tor and Bitcoin are being put to such use.

However, many will disagree. This is why it is important to point out the great potential and liberating capabilities of these technologies before people discount them, or worse turn against them. No technology in itself is 'good' or bad' - what matters is how it is put to use, and while we worry about the potential dangers of new technology, we should remember its use in positive ways too.

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Regulation, big government, public debt: not so benign

Written by Dr. Eamonn Butler | Friday 11 October 2013

What is it about Cambridge University economists? They've always been bad, but they seem to be waging some kind of orchestrated campaign right now. Every time one speaks (like Michael Kitson at this week's Economic Research Council Hayek-Keynes debate), they seem to produce the same sound-bites, designed to assure us that regulation, big government and public debt aren't so bad.

The first petition in the litany is: There is no such thing as a free market. All markets have rules, and couldn't work without them. So there's nothing wrong with government intervention in markets. That's crazy. All police forces have corrupt officers, but that doesn't mean we should have more corruption. It's true that markets only work if people respect certain rules – the basic rules of property, honesty and contract, which are happily agreed on by market participants. Government intervention beyond that is usually counter-productive (like the vote-seeking price controls now being canvassed in energy: remember the California blackouts, and invest in candles).

The second is: The British government debt was much higher, as a percentage of GDP, after the Second World War. And we paid that off. So don't worry about adding to the debt either. Hmmm. It took us 50 years to pay off all that debt. And at least it bought us victory over Nazism. All we have to show for today's borrowing is a bigger government and a few dud banks. And Britain's GDP was pretty shot after the War, making the debt a much higher percentage of it. Today's £1.16 trillion is no mean debt – and even that is just the official figure. Add in pension liabilities and all the rest and it is six times that. Affordable? Not if we keep adding to it as we're doing, and less so if and when interest rates rise. It's a dangerous risk.

The third is: Big-government countries like France grow just as fast as small-government countries like Britain. So we shouldn't worry about growing government either. Oh yes we should. There won't be much business done without defence, justice, so countries with some government spending on these things grow faster. But too much, and growth is damaged. It's called the Rahn Curve. A 2009 study of 15 EU countries put the sweet spot at about 30% of GDP. A 2008 study of 21 OECD countries found that higher taxes reduced growth. A 2011 report on 145 countries over half a century found that a 1% of GDP tax rise cut private investment and consumption by twice that amount. Andrew Sentance of PwC found that a cut in taxes produced growth and inward investment. And so on. Keynes himself thought the sweet spot was government spending no higher than 25% of GDP. Ours today is twice that. Cambridge economists please note.

And another thing

Oh, and one last thing that Michael Kitson told us the other day, and which Cambridge economists go on about. It runs roughly: Adam Smith only mentioned the 'invisible hand' once in The Wealth of Nations'. That means it obviously wasn't a big thing for him. So stop going on about it as if it explains everything. This again is utterly wrong. And not just because Smith mentioned it earlier, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments – or that it appears slap in the middle of both, which some folk think is significant.

No: in neither case does it really mean quite what we use it to mean today. But read The Wealth of Nations. Even if Smith never mentioned the 'invisible hand' even once, there is no escaping the fact that this is what the whole book is about. It is about people pursuing their own self-interest and as a result – without specifically intending to – benefiting others too. After all, nobody would voluntarily enter into an exchange unless they thought they would benefit from it. Market exchange benefits both sides in the deal. Government regulation, price-fixing or outright bans on trading eat into that benefit. Such intervention comes at a cost.

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Why have bureaucrats when markets already solve problems?

Written by Tim Worstall | Friday 11 October 2013

An interesting little snippet of news from the colonies:

Tonight in New York City, CEO John Legere said that the network is expanding home data coverage for Simple Choice customers to include more than 100 countries -- from Anguilla to Vietnam-- at no additional charge. Voice calls, meanwhile, will cost 20 cents per minutes in those same countries. "Wherever, Whenever," right? The new global data offering will go into effect starting October 31st, and T-Mobile says customers with qualifying plans won't need to sign up or pay a fee to access basic service. Legere declined to detail free speeds, but we'd expect 2G performance -- enough to use text-based apps like Twitter and email, but insufficient for media consumption.

For those of you who don't grok techspeak, that's the company announcing the end of data and call roaming. The idea that you should get charged a fortune if you leave the country where you normally reside. All done purely by market forces: they think that some customers will like this, like this enough that they will switch over to this provider and that they will therefore make more money.

Then we have events on this side of the Pond:

Neelie's plan is to get rid roaming charges across Europe by forcing operators to scrape them altogether, or offer customers the almost-impractical option of an Alternative Roaming Partner, but operators won't give up on their revenue stream so easily and are lobbying to water down the legislation before it goes to the vote. Speaking at the FT-sponsored Summit in Brussels, the unelected VP of the European Commission, told operators that the Net Neutrality and roaming-free legislation would increase investment and drive innovation, despite temporarily hitting profit margins.

Yes, the bureaucrat is going to insist, by law, that the companies must do what we can already see free market competition will bring if only the bureaucrats let it.

Which brings me to one of my suspicions about all politics and politicians. When they're being the most vehement about how something must be done it's usually because they know that whatever it is is going to happen with or without their intervention. They must therefore intervene otherwise how would they be able to claim credit for it happening, or even how could they, sans intervention, show us all how necessary they are?

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Royal Mail privatisation shares not too cheap

Written by Dr. Eamonn Butler | Thursday 10 October 2013

Around 700,000 people have applied for shares in Royal Mail, the letters and parcels business being sold off by the British government. This means that the share issue is around seven times oversubscribed, leading to calls that the government has sold the enterprise 'too cheaply'.

No, they haven't. You cannot win the politics of a privatisation sale. If you price the shares too high and nobody wants them, then the sale is a 'failure'. If you price the shares too cheaply, critics complain that the 'family silver' is being sold off at scrap rates.

It's nonsense, of course. After decades of practice, Britain and the world now knows how to organise privatisation sales. For a start, you get the financial institutions to underwrite the offer. You fix a reasonable price for the company, and get the institutions to agree to pick up any unsold shares at that price. So if for some reason the public do not subscribe for the shares, the institutions give you the money anyway. That is hardly a 'failure'. It just means that the institutions – who hold funds and investments on behalf of the public, their customers – buy the shares rather than the public directly.

If you pitch a privatisation share issue at a price which commentators think is a bargain, however, then huge numbers of people will scramble to get into that bargain. When newspaper and broadcast reports by respected analysts agree that the shares are likely to open higher than what people are being asked to pay for them, then it is perfectly rational for people to rush out and buy them, expecting an instant profit. That of course feeds on itself – like the 'must have' Christmas toy, which is only 'must have' because so many people want it that supplies run out, making it even more desirable. In privatisation sales, as more and more people bid, the prospect of buyers making a profit becomes more and more certain – so more and more of them subscribe.

Again, we have learnt how to deal with this. To overcome the political objection that rich folks are buying thousands of shares in order to turn a quick buck, we simply scale back people's allocation depending on the number of shares they requested. So everyone who asked for the minimum gets it, while people who ordered a great many shares will get less, or even none at all (which may be the case for those who have requested more than £10,000 worth of Royal Mail shares. So buyers have to 'game' it – working out what the likely demand might be and what allocation they might end up with if they subscribed differing amounts.

And remember that we never privatise the whole company at once. When the shares have been trading for a while, the government will know precisely at what price to unload the rest, maximising the potential yield. Clever, eh?

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The government should sell off £40bn of assets, says new Adam Smith Institute report

Written by Blog Editor | Thursday 10 October 2013

  • The government owns around £600bn of assets, many of which do not need to be in the public sector
  • A sale of less than a tenth of those holdings—the most peripheral and surplus items, including £23bn of real estate—would net £40bn to cut taxes temporarily or pay down the debt
  • Holding onto given assets regardless of price is inefficient on a basic level; valuable assets are best allocated by the market

The government could fund temporary tax cuts worth £40bn or reduce the national debt by the same amount by selling off a fraction of its assets, according to a new Adam Smith Institute paper released today (Thursday October 10th). The report, Cash in the Attic, shows the huge windfall that could be realised by releasing state-owned real estate and firms into the private sector. The government is estimated to own around £600bn of assets.

The report’s author, investment analyst and Adam Smith Institute senior fellow Nigel Hawkins, details how the government could bring in around £23bn from sales of excess real estate holdings and around £17bn from privatisations (excluding the bank stakes) by 2017-18.The report argues that useful resources are languishing in the public sector with no market assessment of their use to society.

Furthermore, the just-beginning re-privatisation of Lloyds TSB, as well as the sales of Royal Bank of Scotland, the government's stake in Urenco, and the Royal Mail, need to be a top priority, Hawkins says. The government should also part with a minority stake in Network Rail to raise around £7bn while still retaining control of the company.

Divestment of the Ministry of Defence’s estate would be another profitable area. Even a very limited approach to defence land sell-offs could raise £3bn, Hawkins says. In health, selling just 10% of Primary Care Trust assets would bring in £500m.

Along with these sales, agencies that already have plans to divest government assets—the Government Property Unity (GPU) and Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) need to be pressured to meet their targets, the report argues.

Sam Bowman, Research Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: “The government is sitting on hugely valuable resources that it should sell. The Royal Mail privatization is a good start, but going further would be win-win. Sell-offs of real estate and privatization of firms that the government doesn’t need to own would allow those resources to be used more productively by the private sector and net the Treasury some much-needed cash to fund temporary tax cuts to stimulate investment and job creation in the private sector.

“The £40bn of assets that we have identified as being ready for sale are just the tip of the iceberg. We need a slim, efficient government that is as cost-conscious as any business would be. It might be too soon to start planning to move government buildings to an industrial estate in Slough, but that’s what we should be aiming for.”

Read this report.

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Let's smash a cartel today

Written by Tim Worstall | Thursday 10 October 2013

I've pointed out here before that parts of the fertiliser industry seem to be run as a cartel. Now we've evidence that much of the fertiliser industry is run as a cartel.

C. Robert Taylor and Diana L. Moss have written "The Fertilizer Oligopoly: The Case for Antitrust Enforcement," as a monograph for the American Antitrust Institute. Those looking for examples of possibly anticompetitive behavior, whether for classroom examples or for other settings, will find the argument intriguing.

The effect of which is:

Taylor and Moss write: "Damages from supra-competitive pricing of fertilizer likely amount to tens of billions of dollars annually, the direct effects of which are felt by farmers and ranchers. But consumers all over the world suffer indirectly from cartelization of the fertilizer industry through higher food prices, particularly low income and subsistence demographics. ... [I]t is clear that corporate and political control of essential plant nutrients may be one of the most severe competition issues facing national economies today."

Part of the detail of how the cartel works is that it is not allowed to affect domestic US prices (Ho ho). So therefore the richest farmers in the world are not affected: but all of the poor world ones are. And I rather hope that you would be as disgusted as I am at this rent seeking and regulatory capture. For really, it's just not on to be rooking the poor farmers of the world to enrich a few companies and their shareholders. The price of fertiliser is, for those poorest of the poor, something that makes a difference to one or two meals a day. Allowing some to profit from artificially raising this price is, in my little moral universe of course, vile.

And of course it's also violating that Smithian point that the purpose of all production is consumption, we should only pay attention to the interests of the producer in so far as they are vital for said consumer. Thus smash the cartel and make those poor world farmers richer by those tens of billions a year. Sounds like a plan.

Except, of course, that's not what is actually done:

There was some bad news for York Potash project developer Sirius Minerals last week, after approval of its mine was delayed yet again, causing the shares to plunge.

Yes, that's right, the British Government will not allow a new entrant into this fertiliser market because there would be no market for the production. Even when we know that it's a cartel making super-normal profits.

I'm sure that someone tried to offer us "joined up government" a few years back. Whatever the hell happened to that idea?

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Why we've finally joined Google+

Written by Sam Bowman | Wednesday 09 October 2013

We've set up an Adam Smith Institute page on Google+, and — more importantly — a Google+ community for libertarians and classical liberals (and fellow-travellers) to share and discuss ideas and articles they find interesting.

To be honest, I've always been pretty sceptical about Google+. Though I think the functionality is superior to Facebook, it's not better enough to entice people to use it instead. And we have so many fans on Facebook and Twitter that I've always been wary about splitting the audience too much.

So why the change of heart? Two reasons. One, we've wanted to set up a forum for liberty-minded people in the UK to talk about things online for a while. Message boards are unwieldy, and the other social media sites aren't very good at allowing people other than page managers or prominent Tweeters to start discussions that go out to larger audiences. Google+'s communities are remarkably bottom-up: if you want to start a conversation about something in the group, you can.

The second reason is the thing I'm most excited about. Google+'s Hangouts functionality is superb. Hangouts allow us to broadcast live video conversations between up to eight users, with chat contributions from anyone else who wants to take part. The Real Asset Company has done this to great effect. I'm hoping that, if there's enough interest, we can start doing regular online conversations with all sorts of people who it wouldn't be easy to bring to events at the Institute, broadcasting to all the people who can't make it to those events.

If there's anyone you think we should ask to 'Hangout' with, let me know in the comments and we'll see what we can do. In the meantime, join the Google+ community and let's try to get the ball rolling.

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