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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

Dumb quote of the week

Written by Wordsmith | Wednesday 04 June 2008

People who fail to tackle global warming are acting like the man who locked his family up in a cellar for 24 years.

Mr Mursell, bishop of Stratford

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Blog Review 617

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 03 June 2008

An excellent comparison: Gordon Brown is Hedley Lamarr. Other nominations in the comments please.

This is a little unfair isn't it? Sauce for the goose is turning out not to be that for the gander.

Similarly, an interesting use of the meaning of "principles" in government.

More on the duplicity with which we are governed, this time about recycling.

Sigh, yet more governance. Is this the sort of result that those people fighting the War on Drugs really want?

What's the best way to deal with waste? Make a profit out of it of course.

And finally, a decent newspaper advice page and errors in whisky naming.


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The point of privatization

Written by Tim Worstall | Tuesday 03 June 2008

One argument that's frequently deployed against privatization in general and in favour of State ownership in general is that private companies are only concerned with profit while a State owned (or directed if you prefer) company will invest the socially optimal amount of capital in its endeavours. Thus private or privatized companies will ignore the larger needs of society while a State programme of investment can take them into account and this will thus increase the social wealth of the country more than the purely profit grabbing capitalist running pig dogs.

Well, yes, it's obvious, given that we've been cheerleaders for the process of privatization over the decades that we don't think very much of that or any other arguments that those things which can be done by the private sector should not be.

But back to that first argument in favour of State ownership, that ability to invest the socially optimal amount:

Water UK, the body representing Britain's water companies, points out that since privatisation in the late 1980s, the industry has invested more than £70bn on capital projects, with still more desperately needed........"For much of the 20th century, investment in water supply and sewerage was the minimum necessary to avoid service failure," according to Barrie Clarke, of Water UK. "As long as there were no service failures, and no embarrassments like the 'Great Stink' of 1858 which led to the construction of the famous London sewer network, we relied on the achievements of Victorian engineers, with improvements and repairs only when necessary.

Ah, when Government did control the levels of investment they were even lower than they are now. Which leads us to one of only two possible conclusions. Firstly, that government was investing the socially optimal amount and private companies are doing more than this or the second, that if companies are investing at or below that socially optimal amount government invested even less. Given that we are told that more investment (and the tenor of the whole piece is about leakages from pipes, the needs for new reservoirs and so on) is "desperately needed" then it must indeed be that latter explanation.

Perhaps private water companies are not perfect but then what thing created by fallible human beings ever will be? But governments are even worse, at least at this.

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The end of immigration

Written by Steve Bettison | Tuesday 03 June 2008

I recently wrote on the apparent retreat of a commonality of culture within the UK and how the government was the primary cause through its obsessive enforcement of the twin doctrines of multiculturalism and political correctness. One factor I failed to address was how immigration has also impacted on culture. Dr Butler highlighted the issue of immigration, emphasising that there is nothing to fear from it, bringing more benefits than anything the state can hand down. The main reason is because immigration is purely natural. Unfortunately for us, the state’s interference has meant it has come at a cost for residents.

Culture and immigration go hand in hand, one only has to look at the history of America to see this. The same is true for the UK. Through the ages our culture has been built upon an inflow of foreigners, from either conquest or the movement of the persecuted. Britain’s culture has been changed by all of these. Due to the sudden nature of these shock waves, immigration has been often been seen as a threat. However, we now have a majority of the populace that is far more accepting of differences and this dynamism gives us a competitive edge making us more attractive to inward investment.

The 21st Century has bought with it a seasonal form of immigration based on economic need. What we are witnessing is an apparent transfer from overseas of temporary pockets of differing cultures. As seen recently with the Eastern European wave, the threat they pose is not cultural, as they are not seeking to impose upon us. When they return home, leaving some of their culture which enriches our own.

Compared with immigration and multiculturalism where new non-assimilated and unknown cultures are incorrectly given a moral superiority via the state we should allow a more natural flow of people. We need to remove the state from both immigration and culture, as all it has achieved is hate.

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Carly Zubrzycki joins the ASI

Written by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 03 June 2008

Carly is a fourth year student majoring in  “Ethics, Politics and Economics" at Yale University.  She plans to attend law school after graduation from Yale next May.

For the last few years, Carly has been a member of the Independent Party, a student debating society that is part of the Yale Political Union.  Her participation in these groups is largely responsible for her shift toward libertarian leanings.  She also serves as a researcher for Yale Development and as a research assistant for the Yale Center for Bioethics.

Besides arguing about politics, Carly’s major interest is music; she plays the euphonium and trombone.  She also enjoys skiing and watching American football.

Carly looks forward to contributing to the Adam Smith Institute this summer.

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Quote of the week

Written by Wordsmith | Tuesday 03 June 2008

The problem is not really politicians. The problem is politics. Politicians are chefs – some good, some bad – but politics is road kill. The problem isn’t the cook. The problem is the cookbook. The key ingredient of politics is the idea that all of society’s ills can be cured politically. It’s like a cookbook where the recipe for everything is to fry it. The fruit cocktail is fried. The soup is fried. So is the ice cream and cake. And your pinot noir is rolled in breadcrumbs and dunked in the deep fat fryer.

P. J. O'Rourke, The Problem is Politics

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Blog Review 616

Written by Netsmith | Monday 02 June 2008

So what should we be doing about climate change then? Well, almost certainly not what Stern and or Al Gore suggest it would seem.

On that subject of climate change, perhaps the worst thing yet from a major media company. An online game for children which calculates the age at which they should die to make sure they don't use more than their "fair share" of the Earth's resources. Umm, like at 1.4 years old.

Continuing with the environment, we have no shortage of landfill in the UK at all: we dig more holes in the ground each year than we can fill already.

Around here we cast just as critical an eye on the activities of big business as we do on those of politicians or unions. Here's one reason why.

Casting a similarly sceptical eye upon big bureaucracy. Why should you have to die if you pay for your own medical treatment?

On the tenth anniversary of the Euro, an interesting view of what it means in Spain.

And finally, yes, this is tax freedom day but this might be, while amusing, not quite the right reaction.

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Today is Tax Freedom Day

Written by Tom Clougherty | Monday 02 June 2008

It's here at last. Yes, today is Tax Freedom Day - that wonderful point in the year when the average taxpayer has finally earned enough to cover all their taxes and at last can start earning for themselves. 

It may come as a shock that the average UK resident has spent the last 155 days working solely to support government expenditures, but that is the reality of it. More than two-fifths of an average earner's wages is taken from them in taxes. So when people joke that they spend as much time working for the taxman as they do for themselves, it is very nearly true.

Of course, it wasn't always like this. When Gordon Brown became chancellor in 1997, Tax Freedom Day was May 26 – a whole week earlier. And if you go back to 1965, Tax Freedom Day came on April 27!

Unfortunately, the true picture could be even worse than our figures suggest. Last year Tax Freedom Day actually came three days later than forecast, because the economy grew more slowly than the government expected. The signs are that 2008 could be no different. And if government borrowing is factored in, Tax Freedom Day does not come until June 14.
Government spending will reach £600bn in 2008. That's £10,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK  – and twice as much as when Gordon Brown became Chancellor. If he had only raised public spending in line with inflation, he could have abolished income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax by now – leaving the taxpayer some £200bn better off. Something to think about, perhaps...

Anyway, a Happy Tax Freedom Day to you all!

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Jack the Ripper and moralising capitalism

Written by Jason Jones | Monday 02 June 2008

The other day I took a tour of the area where Jack the Ripper killed five women. The tour guide began by saying, “The City of London was the seat of the largest empire the world had ever seen and the richest square mile in the world. The East End was the polar opposite, with those exploited by unchecked capitalism crammed into the worst conditions imaginable."

Say what? Unchecked capitalism to blame? There were plenty of problems with the government at that time, but why are so many quick to blame capitalism for poverty?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is driven to “moralise capitalism." Seems France has been at it for decades by instituting 35 hour work weeks, creating useless projects, high taxes, and building the Concorde. The result? Low GDP growth, a low GDP per capita, and unemployment at almost 8%.

In a new development, the French government is now threatening to pass legislation to curb the pay of company executives and use its EU presidency to clamp down across the EU. Business executives are paid well because of what is at stake. Companies have to compete and the companies that invest the most will get the best. Executives that fail will be fired or demoted.

If Sarkozy really wants to moralise capitalism, he should leave it be. 

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Book of the week

Written by Booksmith | Monday 02 June 2008

This is unashamedly another plug for Junk Medicine: Doctors, Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy by iconoclastic doc Theodore Dalrymple, which I first reviewed back in January, and which our medi-blogger Dr Fred Hanson mentioned in his piece a few days ago.

Almost everything you know about heroin addiction is wrong, Dalrymple says. Heroin is not highly addictive; withdrawal from it is not medically serious; addicts do not become criminals to feed their habit; addicts do not need any medical assistance to stop taking heroin; and heroin addiction is more about mentality than biology. It's great stuff. And we've got it on special offer, well below the sticker price, for Adam Smith blog readers. You save nearly £4 off the bookshop price if you buy it from our online bookstore.

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