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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

Won’t anyone think of the children?

Written by Philip Salter | Tuesday 29 July 2008

Last year The Independent produced an extremely shaky article on overpopulation. It ended with the dreaded words…

By the time you have finished reading this column, an estimated 100 babies have been born in the world.

Won’t anyone think of the children? Ah...wait a minute...

For an equally backward vision of the world read this recent interview with Paul Ehrlich (not to be confused with the Nobel Prize winning Immunologist). Remember it was he who said in an interview with Peter Collier in 1970 that:

Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make, ... The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.

Surely the question is: when will overpopulation loonies cut back their own number?

Recently, the excellent Walter Williams has written a straightforward defence of an increasing population entitled The Ultimate Resource:

The greatest threat to mankind's prosperity is government. A recent example is Zimbabwe's increasing misery. Like our country, Zimbabwe had a flourishing agriculture sector, so much so it was called the breadbasket of southern Africa. Today, its people are on the brink of starvation as a result of its government. It's the same story in many countries -- government interference with mankind's natural tendency to engage in wealth-producing activities. Blaming poverty on overpopulation not only lets governments off the hook; it encourages the enactment of harmful policies.

Thus, to protect the resource, lets premorse the cause. Not people, government.

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Low demand for economics

Written by Carly Zubrzycki | Tuesday 29 July 2008

At university, I've heard people advised not to take economics because "it's just codified common sense."  Be that as it may, people are quite bad at codifying and generalizing common sense when they aren't forced to, and the kind of common sense that economics deals with is fundamental to the functioning of society. That's why I was so depressed to read the following sentence on the BBC's website:

Only three economics teachers were trained on teacher training courses in the whole of England last year.

Three?!  Out of 38.000 new teachers? No wonder Labour is in power. Right now, twice as many students study Media Studies as study economics, and economics' popularity is expected to dwindle with the number of teachers.  The decline in popularity means that universities are also having a harder time getting students to study economics.

The more I hear the public discuss policy, the more convinced I am that the world would be a much better place if more people took the time to study economics.  We all vote, and at least understanding the basic language of economics is crucial to making sense out of policy. A functioning democracy requires an informed citizenry.  If economics continues to be neglected, I must say, I fear for the future...

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And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Tuesday 29 July 2008

It seems that the Kiwi’s really are stretching the boundaries of imagination with the names for their children. A recent case saw a child being made a ward court due to being named:  Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii. Yes that’s her actual name.

It is also alarming to read the names that have been blocked: Yeah Detroit; Stallion; Twisty Poi; Keenan Got Lucy; Sex Fruit; Fat Boy; Cinderella Beauty Blossom; Fish and Chips (twins). Even more alarming are those that have been allowed: Violence; Number 16 Bus Shelter; Midnight Chardonnay; Benson and Hedges (twins).

Still in this day age parents should be allowed to name their children what they like. But children should be allowed to change their names when they realise how idiotic the parents have been. Maybe with compensation thrown in for the years of suffering the parents caused!!

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James Lawson signs in

Written by James Lawson | Tuesday 29 July 2008

Hi! I'm James Lawson and I've just begun a week-long internship here at the Adam Smith Institute.

I currently attend Hampton School and I'm studying Further Maths, Economics and History; I've already completed French. My interest in free markets has developed as a result of my studies of Liberal England and economics. I've steadily become ever more cautious against excessive government intervention, while supporting a need for more freedom. I recently attended Freedom Week in Cambridge where I had a great time meeting others who held a similar interest and heard some brilliant speakers.

I wish to study an economics based degree at university and have been focusing towards PPE (philosophy, politics and economics).

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Blog Review 672

Written by Netsmith | Monday 28 July 2008

There was something sensible that Lenin said (no, really): "Kto Ktogo?", "who benefits?". Worth remembering when a group calls for regulations, standards, for members of that group. It's not from the milk of human kindness that they do so, but from pure self-interest, protecting the group against upstart competitors. Yes, even nutritionists.

We have an awards nomination, but perhaps one that the writer won't be all that happy to get: for the "least economically literate article in the mainstream press this year". Our congratulations to John-Paul Flintoff (for it is he).

Yes, land use restrictions have indeed been part of the cause of the housing bubble.

It seems that if we do have carbon taxes (or cap and trade) we don't need any associated carbon tariffs to deal with Johnny Foreigner.

Something a little different: NASA has now posted a database (perhaps a gallery is better) of some of their amazing images.

Something very different: Peter Rabbit meets Sven Hassel.

And finally, writing to a politician with advice.

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Comparing the costs of communism

Written by Tim Worstall | Monday 28 July 2008

Anyone with even half a brain has been able to note that communism, as actually practised, hasn't worked all that well. North v. South Korea, East v West Germany, Mainland China v. Taiwan, living standards and their rise or fall certainly do not make the case that we'll be better off by pursuing some sort of state socialism that might lead to a future nirvana (if it ever arrives).

But there's always those who argue with such comparisons: Taiwan is much smaller, West Germany and South Korea were heavily supported by the US while their comparators were not and so on. We can't make such a clear and simple case. And anyway, life was better in some spiritual matters, being free of the curse of materialism might be worth it and so on. Given the prevalence of such tendentious arguments I was interested to see this comparison made between Estonia and Finland as another way of making the same points.

In 1939 the countries were as similar as it is really possible to be: almost the same language and very similar economies. By 1994 life spans in Finland for men were 7 years longer, per capita GDP was more than three times higher, infant mortality just over a quarter of that in Estonia. More to enjoy in life then, a greater liklihood of having a life to enjoy and longer to do so.

But Finland was far from being a rip-roaringly capitalist economy over those years: it wasn't particularly intellectually free either, and the economy was quite closely aligned with that of the Soviet Union as well. The important point was this:

Despite close relations with the Soviet Union, Finland remained a market economy...

By leaving voluntary exchange unchecked, by having a price system that could inform on the allocation of resources, after only 50 ish years the place was creating three times as much wealth per head for the people to share than the place which did not retain those options.

I've said before here that capitalism and markets are two very different things: the former is a description of a method of ownership, the latter a description of a method of exchange. I've also said that if we were only able to retain one of the two I would unhesitatingly pick keeping the markets and capitalism can go hang. Finland during the post war years wasn't all that capitalist a place but it was indeed a market economy and the comparson here wth Estonia simply reinforces that belief of mine.


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It's their money

Written by Carly Zubrzycki | Monday 28 July 2008

A study suggests that most "international experts" (whoever they are) think that people should be prevented from having IVF if they have lifestyle factors that damage their chances of conceiving, like smoking or obesity.

Since IVF is covered by NHS, but more than 70% IVF doctors work privately, it's hard to know what to do with this information.  On the one hand, if taxpayer dollars are spent on a non-critical procedure for people whose lifestyles are preventing them from conceiving, it is completely reasonable to refuse service unless they stop smoking or eliminate other negative behaviours.

On the other hand, if private individuals are willing to spend money to conceive, even with a lower success rate, they should be able to do so- it's their money.  They should of course be aware that it is less likely to be successful, and of any risks to themselves that they might incur.  But if the only relevant difference between obese smokers and healthy non-smokers is the success rate of treatment, then the people who are spending the money on treatment should be the ones to decide whether it's worth it.  If it doesn't work, who cares? It's their money.

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Batman is watching

Written by Cate Schafer | Monday 28 July 2008

Last night I went and saw the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. First off, it was brilliant and I recommend seeing it if you enjoy a good action movie. But secondly, many of the themes that I noticed reinforced some of the opinions bandied about at the ASI.

Without giving anything away, (and trust me if this was all there was to the plot, it would not have been very good) Batman uses cell phone technology to create a vast tracking network. With this network he can find anybody’s location using voice recognition and sonar technology (at least that’s how my minimal tech knowledge understood it). The point here is that Bruce Wayne created a system that could find and track anybody, which is somewhat along the lines of a Bluetooth experiment being conducted in Bath.

Now it made me wonder, is it acceptable for the “incorruptible Batman", to use the words of the Joker, to monitor people in the name of protection and “good". Most certainly not, as his good friend and Bat-suit designer, Morgan Freeman, points out. So finally to my point: if Gotham’s saviour of the night, who performs his service in the name of ending crime and personal safety for all without any personal agenda isn’t a good enough authority to monitor ordinary citizens, what makes government more qualified?
They aren’t and they should take a page out of Batman’s script: no one should infringe upon citizens’ civil liberties of privacy in order to protect them. That is why expansion of FISA and an internet communications database are unacceptable and gross violations of rights.

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And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Monday 28 July 2008

After receiving a £30 fine for smoking in the workplace (on his own in a privately insured van), Gordon Williams of Llanafan said:

"I was just having a cigarette and causing no bother to anyone else. But this is like Big Brother is watching you."

How true…

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Blog Review 671

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 27 July 2008

Reviewing "Burn Up". Being very naughty while doing so as well. What do you mean you're going to look up the actual science?

Something the music industry might want to consider. There really are valid reasons why people prefer to steal the music you know.

Insisting that pupils stay in school for another two years, until they're 18, might not be the wisest move ever.

Reviewing "No One Makes You Shop at Walmart" implied, the important point is that isn't it wonderful to be able to?

Council housing has a number of underappreciated problems in practice.

A small reminder: America is much more a product of the Scottish Enlightenment than it is English traditions.

And finally, my, banks are getting cheap, aren't they?

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