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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

4-day week, anyone?

Written by Jason Jones | Monday 30 June 2008

Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah is bringing radical change to his state next month. Currently state employees work eight hours a day, five days a week. Starting in August, they will work ten hours a day, four days a week. The idea is to help employees save on gas and to reduce the state’s energy bills. By closing hundreds of buildings for an extra day of the week, the state will save $3 million a year.

Unfortunately, when politicians try to solve problems they usually make them worse. But this idea shows a keen understanding of supply and demand. Tariffs, taxes, minimum wages, and price controls distort markets because they work against supply and demand. But a four-hour workweek will help 16,000 state employees.

Further, the money workers save will be spent in other sectors of the market and the $3m the state saves can be invested in infrastructure, schools, or given back as tax breaks. In March, Utah was named the best-managed state in America and last year it had the most economic growth and it continues to perform well even as the economy slows.

Creativity, intelligence, and an understanding of economics. Imagine the possibilities.

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Eroded liberties 10

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Monday 30 June 2008

The law used to recognize the right of individuals to protect themselves and their property from illegal transgression. People who found themselves facing assault or theft were entitled to use what the law called "reasonable force" to resist such infringement of their rights, and to secure the safety of their person and their property.

Recently the determination of the police to exercise a monopoly of violence, coupled with a determination by lawyers and judges to protect those accused, has systematically eroded the common law right of self defence. Those who have apprehended criminals in the act of theft or assault have found themselves arrested for false imprisonment, kidnapping, or assault.

Our right to protect ourselves is surrendered to an impartial authority more likely to exercise dispassionate judgement, provided that it does indeed safeguard our interests. If that authority fails to protect, however, then people have to protect themselves. In undermining that right, recent decisions have also undermined the rule of law and the right to life and property.

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Blog Review 643

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 29 June 2008

'Twas ever thus: politicians seem insistent on subsidising the things that don't really need subsidising while refusing to subsidise those that might be worth it.

Here's a good example of what not to subsidise: an oil producer importing petrol and then subsidising it.

A quite excellent application of technology: tracking imports, container by container. There are simply so many uses for this.

Not what you might expect to see around here: Clement Atlee was correct on the NHS.

Why newspapers are like pop music.

What would happen if Harriet Harperson's ideas on equality were truly enforced.

And finally, no, not what you really want to happen.

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Politicians' expenses

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Sunday 29 June 2008

Following the various scandals about how MPs spend our money on 'expenses' for running second homes in London. Westminster is abuzz with ideas on how to ensure that parliamentarians keep their snouts in the trough without precipitating quite so much public outrage. The simple solution would be to pay themselves more and cut out the expenses scam entirely, but there never seems a good time to raise MPs' salaries, and this is certainly one of them.

One idea that's doing the rounds is that MPs should be given a flat rate £40,000 to help with second home costs. The idea is that this would leave less scope for abuse of the system.

But it would still abuse taxpayers. £40k for 646 MPs comes to £25,840,000, which is a fair chunk of change.

But look around London. It's getting to be a good time to buy property. According to my friend James Wyatt of John D Wood, there are quite posh riverside developments looking for buyers, in London SE1, SE11, SW1, SW3, SW6 and SW11. One bedroom flats here go at around £350-£400 per week, plus utility bills and council tax.

So call it £500 per week. That works out at £16,842,142. In other words, we could give every MP his or her own London flat, everything included, and still have £9,000,000 in change from the expenses plan that our great leaders are discussing. I think we should do it. Mind you, if we cut the number MPs by about half, we'd save even more money...

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Blame the government… Sort of

Written by Carly Zubrzycki | Sunday 29 June 2008

In the wake of the floods that have devastated Midwestern America, a recent CNN headline read "Insurance not required, FEMA told flooded town."  Long story short, a number of people blame the government for their failure to insure their homes against floods because the government did not require them to do so.  They "said they felt misled about the risks of not having flood insurance," and thought that the risks were "miscalculated." As a result, legislation is now being introduced to require that all people living in levee-protected areas have flood insurance.
The problem here is not that FEMA did a bad job or that the levees were improperly built. They were designed to withstand a hundred-year flood, and this one was simply bigger than that.  There is no reason to think that the risks were miscalculated; even events with very small probabilities will happen sometimes.  No, the problem is much deeper.  The problem is that people are relying on the government to make their decisions for them; they live in a levee-protected town, but will only make the decision to buy flood insurance if the government tells them that they absolutely must do so. 

This psychology of dependency, in which "the government" is responsible for anything bad that happens, is one of the most insidious results of a big government.  If people did not expect the government to have full knowledge of possible disasters, perhaps more than 28 of the families in the flood zone would have taken the responsibility on themselves.  Individuals should be thinking about their lives, their futures, and the risks that their various decisions might entail.  The floods were a tragedy, a natural disaster beyond the predicted levels, and were no one’s "fault," per se.  Nonetheless, freedom requires responsibility, and blaming the decision not to purchase flood insurance on the government only furthers the psychology of dependence that led the unfortunate victims of this flood not to consider insurance in the first place.

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Pointless government

Written by Cate Schafer | Sunday 29 June 2008

As a woman, I am all for equality. With that being said, parts of the recent Equality Bill are just silly and meaningless.

The recent Equality Bill is now allowing 'positive discrimination' in hiring practices. That is, employers can now favour women or ethnic-minority applicants over equally qualified males. This law doesn't require the employer to hire the minority, so if they are both equally qualified what is the point in the legislation? The male could still be hired if the employer sees their personality working better for the job. This is just another example of pointless legislation that causes the state to interfere.

The proposal is said to tackle the ‘problem’ of men dominating industries such as construction. Apparently women only make up 1 percent of the construction workforce. Honestly that doesn't surprise me, nor does it bother me. I don't know too many women who want to work in construction or who are qualified. Strength and physical fitness are important elements in entering the construction field and I'm sure if a woman was interested in this area and did hold the requisite muscularity she could find an employer.

In the end, this part of the bill is a purely symbolic legislation that is unnecessary and intrudes upon private business and also sets a standard that forces employers to categorize people into separate pools such as woman, minority or male instead of evaluating them as individuals, impartially and equally.

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Quote of the week

Written by Wordsmith | Sunday 29 June 2008

The history of liberty is the history of limitations on the power of government, not the increase of it. When we resist, therefore, the concentration of power, we are resisting the processes of death, because concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human liberties.

US President Woodrow Wilson

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Blog Review 642

Written by Netsmith | Saturday 28 June 2008

So how's that creative capitalism debate going, fuelled as it is by Bill Gates' ideas? A useful critique here.

An excellent put down of Marxist thought "Mistaking the birth pangs of capitalism for its death throes".

Analysing Zimbabwe's inflation rate: but don't worry, it's been worse elsewhere. Once.

Putting that disappearance of the Arctic sea ice in perspective.

Also, another possible explanation for that disappearance.

While this is the American experience, worth considering over here as State funding of political parties is discussed. Why campaign finance laws are in fact Incumbent Protection Acts.

And finally, not quite the Ladybird books you remember.



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The need for competition in airports

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Saturday 28 June 2008

altColin Matthews, Chief Executive of the UK airports operator BAA, has launched into the debate on the future of London's airports with a big speech at the Transport Times conference. There has been suggestion that more traffic should be decanted to other London airports; but, says Matthews, if people were unable to make connections at Heathrow (and, I suppose, faced a gruelling trip across London on the capital's ailing public transport system), it would be a major strategic mistake. Charles De Gaulle or Schipol airports would be only to happy to pick up those interlining passengers, and the UK as a whole would suffer.

So he is strongly in favour of a third runway at Heathrow, rather than resurrecting the old idea of building a new hub in the Thames Estuary. (That idea was floated in the 1960s, but dropped for environmental reasons, leaving Stansted to become the third London airport. I cannot imagine that environmental concerns have got any lighter in the intervening period.) And Matthews thinks the suggestion that Heathrow should be made better before it is made bigger is a false choice. Heathrow needs both new runway capacity and better terminal facilities, not just one or the other.

He's probably right on all these points, though critics like Ryanair's Michael O'Leary complain at the cost of BAA's new airport infrastructure projects, and that a lot of travel these days is point-to-point, which can be done using smaller airports that are presently underused. One thing I still think should happen, though, is that BAA's London near-monopoly (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted) should be broken up. We said that in the early 1980s in an excellent little paper called Airports for Sale. Competition works. It's time we had more of it in the provision of airports, just as we now do in airlines.

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How low can you go?

Written by Jason Jones | Saturday 28 June 2008

This week the Wall Street Journal published one of the best stories ever about how inconvenient political correctness and green living can be. Both US parties will try to host "green conventions," with the Democrats going to the extreme.

Some examples:

  • Union-labour and American made organic cotton caps, shirts, and fanny packs.
  • Bio-degradable balloons.
  • A rubbish brigade that will look to see that convention goers put recyclable rubbish in one bin and non-recyclable rubbish in another. After, the brigade will look through each bin to ensure no mistakes were made. "That's the only way to make sure it's pure," Andrea Robinson, a convention organizer says.
  • Food will be locally grown to minimize emissions from transportation.

Is this what is in store for the nation if the Democrats have their way? So many people accuse the neo-Cons of using fear to get what they want. How is the green madness movement any different?  

We need to recognize a few things. Life expectancy is at an all time high. We live better and wealthier lives with much a higher standard of living than ever. We can communicate with people instantly around the world and travel to every corner of the earth.

Technology and modern living carry trade-offs, but we are better off for it. If patronising only domestic goods made by union-labour with organic materials is the model of the future, the third world can kiss an prospect of future prosperity good-bye, and the first world will slip toward economic mediocrity.  

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