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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

And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Thursday 22 May 2008

"In response to climate change, Barack Obama said we can't drive our SUVs, keep our houses at 72 degrees, and eat all we want. When Al Gore heard we can't eat all we want, he called Obama a global warming fanatic! He's an environmental nut case!"

Jay Leno

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Blog Review 604

Written by Netsmith | Wednesday 21 May 2008

Tomorrow is of course the by-election. Guido and The Englishman team up to show us which is the toff in this particular contest.

The costs and economics of the various possible ways in which emissions might be controlled. There are also political science problems with cap and trade systems.

With food miles, given the difficulty of the calculations, market prices are probably more accurate. Not that the government seems to agree.

An interesting variation on the usual Laffer Curve arguments.

If a doctor is allowed (nay, encouraged!) to speak to the child of an economist in private, shouldn't the economist be allowed to instruct the child of the doctor again in private?

A rather Keynesian argument, but some merit still. With the constuction market in a slump, why not get on with necessary infrastructure?

And finally, shouldn't Congress now sue itself?

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Lib Dem liberalism

Written by Tom Clougherty | Wednesday 21 May 2008

In a speech at Policy Exchange yesterday, Nick Clegg said:

When Labour came to power in 1997, the Government took three hundred billion pounds a year in tax. This year the Government will take nearly double that. They take one thousand seven hundred million pounds of our money every single day of the year. That’s more than £18,000 a second.

Indeed – and isn't that a great way to put it? The whole speech is pretty interesting actually, as it marks a definite departure from the tax and spend, social democrat stance of the party – which characterized its last two general election campaigns – and a shift towards old-fashioned liberalism. Clegg says he wants to break the consensus on ever-higher spending and claims he " would not be interested in spending a single penny of people’s money unless I knew it was going to give a greater benefit than leaving it in their pockets". Which is excellent.

But while I don't doubt Clegg's conviction – it's always been clear that he is much more free market than most Lib Dem activists – I suspect this speech is more the result of a political realization than an economic one. The Lib Dems know that most of their key election battles in 2010 are going to be against the Conservatives, and are positioning themselves accordingly.

In either case, this is good news for British politics. When the Lib Dems position themselves on the left, it drags the centre of political gravity in that direction, pulling the terms of debate with it. Hopefully the Lib Dems' explicit embrace of freer markets, lower taxes and greater decentralization will have the opposite effect.

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Societal order via database management

Written by Steve Bettison | Wednesday 21 May 2008

In preparing for a data communications Bill in November’s Queen Speech, the Home Office is investigating the idea of a communications database. The government, which has already implemented the European Union’s Data Retention Directive (whereby telecommunication companies are required to keep records for 12 months of all calls made and text messages sent), is looking to extend this to include email and website visits. This is to be coupled with the haunting prospect of it all being gathered together in a database for easy governmental access, so that they may ‘protect us’.

We should be fearful of the inherent inability for the information to remain secure in their hands. This database would hold even more sensitive data (how many emails contain credit card details?) available for them to lose, data that could allow local governments to spy on our behaviour. The potential for blackmail or cash for access to that data is greatly enhanced as well. This creeping introduction of the ‘Big Brother’ state is nothing more than a reflection of a complete misinterpretation of the natural order of society. As the Labour government’s introduced legislation fails, they seek to control us via the concept of database management and its systematic appeal. They do so because they wish to create a perfect, stable un-natural order.

Currently we live under a system of continual surveillance, and have done since the 1970s. It is light in touch and the government’s use of it is held in check by the judicial system. ECHELON, which screens all telephone and email communication for any incriminating phrases, is a listening service that is at the government’s disposal so that it may deal with any potential threats to our security. This governments desire to understand and re-order us means that ECHELON is of little use to them. We could all inevitably face being entered in a database. Thankfully though, there are only 709 days left for us to live under this cloud. If there wasn’t a chance to vote for a change of direction we would, more probably than not, be turned into bar-code branded numbers.

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The unpopulist

Written by Philip Salter | Wednesday 21 May 2008

One thing is clear from the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Traditional class politics - epitomized by the ludicrous shenanigans of the Labour Party shadowing Edward Timpson with a young man dressed in top hat and tails - is well and truly dead.

The stunt has failed entirely to hit the right note with the people of Crewe and Nantwich. Gone are the days when political party affiliation was inherited lock, stock and barrel alongside support for the local football club. Those who aspire to better than what Gordon Brown has been able to offer thus far are ready to vote instead for the what the Conservative candidate is promising, and this is no doubt a good thing.

It was the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who shaped the current political climate. Blair was a populist, undercutting traditional party loyalties through a personal (even if fabricated) connection with the public. Brown’s inability to tune in to this, explains the Crewe and Nantwich tactics and it is much to the credit of the voters that the message of class is being ignored.

Gordon Brown is not a populist, but an ideological left-winger. His problem is that undermining the public’s individual rights, regulating their businesses and offering them pitiful state services has proven to make him very unpopular indeed, something transcending all class divides.

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And another thing...

Written by Junksmith | Wednesday 21 May 2008

A few stunts from Romania to help Brown hold on to Crewe and Nantwich.

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Blog Review 603

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 20 May 2008

This doesn't just apply in Latin America of course. The background to the Chilean reform of their pension scheme.

Exactly how you measure inflation makes a great deal of difference to whether inequality is rising or falling. Add in Wal-Mart and it's even more true.

On that embryology bill in Parliament. We've been creating chimeras a great deal longer than many seem to think.

Could there be anything worse than climate change? How about trying to solve climate change through the courts: after all, it worked so well for asbestosis, didn't it?

From the history books: the economic organisation of a POW camp.

Political advice: how to lose the next election.

And finally, another chick flick and the present for the Prime Minister who has everything.

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Junk Juncker’s Junk

Written by Philip Salter | Tuesday 20 May 2008

Jean-Claude Juncker, the long serving Europhile Prime Minister of Luxembourg and chair of the regular euro-area meetings, has claimed that EU finance ministers are considering hiking taxes to limit what he has dubbed the scandal and social scourge of corporate bonuses.

With rising inflation, times are relatively hard for many people in the EU. However, it would be an unforgivable mistake to cap corporate bonuses. It would be sure to push even more business out of the continent.

If the EU want help the relatively poor in Europe by cutting inflation they should bin the complex and expensive Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which keeps European food prices at artificially high levels, while forcing people into abject poverty in the developing world.

Although unlikely, it would be a revelation to see bold leadership from EU bureaucrats, biting the political hand that feeds them, scrapping the CAP and leaving alone the talented individuals whose business it is to make Europe wealthy.

Of course if they really want to cut excess waste, or link remuneration with productivity as Joaquín Almunia (EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner) has suggested, they could offer their resignations, shut down the behemoth and in so doing save the poor citizens of Europe billions of pounds each year.

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The Chinese earthquake

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Tuesday 20 May 2008

There could hardly be a stronger contrast between the response of the Burmese government to the typhoon there, and that of the Chinese government to last week's earthquake.  Terrible pictures have been shown of both disasters; the difference is that the pictures from Burma were taken without the consent of the ruling junta, who have down-played the tragedy to their own people and to the world beyond.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have invited the world to share their grief, and have not minimized the scale of the disaster to their own people or to the world.  They have acted with commendable efficiency themselves, and have readily accepted offers of help.  The pictures from China have been heart-rending, reminding us all of Adam Smith's observations that our very humanity leads us to empathize with the emotions of others, sharing their sorrows and their joys.  The pictures remind us that the common humanity we all share is more important than the political differences which separate us.

Perhaps it is a sign of Chinese self-confidence that they can show us the catastrophe which befell them with an openness unthinkable even a decade ago.  China has grown more self-assured as it has grown richer, and when it rebuilds it will probably do so with earthquake resistant buildings, as has been done in California and Japan.  It is rich countries which can afford to do this, as Alex Singleton points out in the Telegraph.  Those who decry economic growth might reflect on the fact that natural disasters fall hardest on poorer countries which lack the resources to plan against them or to cope with them when they strike.

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Quote of the Day

Written by Wordsmith | Tuesday 20 May 2008

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away

Barry Goldwater (1964)

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