"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
Lord Forsyth appears to have been reading one of our pamphlets again. Yes, of course raising the personal allowance is better than reinstating the 10 p band of income tax.
New words being invented. "Lukewarmer" rather describes Netsmith's view of this climate change thing.
Interesting responses to questions about where the tax money goes. "The Sheriff's Office will not grant interviews to explain....because officials say discussing the program fuels criticism." Not really an answer to that, is there?
I'm sure it's not quite what he meant: but George Monbiot seems to be calling for an end to organic farming.
A brief review of "Sex, Science and Profits". It's going to cause some controversy, arguing as it does that scientific research isn't a public good.
Oh dear. Paul Krugman hoist on his statistical petard. When looking at unemployment and economic participation, you do have to adjust both for gender differences and retirees.
And finally, the banking crisis reaches Japan.
The tabloid newspapers are greatly enjoying the story of Natasha Farnham: "Drunk at 12, liver failed at 14, now rehab at 18", as yesterday's Metro put it.
The young lady in question apparently began drinking at 12 and was drinking six bottles of wine a day by the age of 13 (well, at least she had some class). After a three-day bender aged 14, in which she consumed 16 bottles of wine, cider and spirits, she was diagnosed with liver failure. Now – to her credit – she is warning other children not to repeat her mistakes.
The most telling part of the story were the comments of Natasha's mother, Michelle, who said "irresponsible advertising" was to blame. Yes, that's right, her 13 year old daughter drank 6 bottles of wine a day (Did she notice? Did she care?), and it's all down to advertising!
The abdication of parental responsibility must surely be behind many of Britain's social ills. Yet in this, as in most other things, government is not the solution to the problem. Indeed, to a great extent, government is the problem. It is the long years of welfarism and the nanny state that have told people we depend on politicians, not on ourselves, for our wellbeing. It's a sorry state of affairs.
Dr Andrew Sentance clearly relishes the difficult jobs. By day, he's the Chief Economist of British Airways, which of course has been in the thick of it recently. And by night (well, the odd Wednesday at least), he's a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), in charge of setting interest rates. He came along yesterday to share his thoughts at a Power Lunch here at the Adam Smith Institute.
As usual, the lunch was off the record, though I can reveal that the economists around the table disagreed on pretty much everything, as of course you would expect. But they did seem to agree that the MPC is sailing through relatively uncharted waters. Global forces point as much to inflation as they do to downturn. The financial sector is in crisis but other parts of the economy still seem robust.
Still, after some years of over-easy credit, particularly in the United States, and government profligacy, particularly in the United Kingdom, I reckon it would be daft not to expect some 'adjustment' as economists call it. The interesting question is whether the MPC can manage things so that everyone gets back to normal without going into a blind panic because the value of their home is falling while their mortgage costs are going up. At least the banks are using the MPC's interest rate cuts to strengthen themselves a bit, so while that's no short-term succour to borrowers (or Gordon Brown) in the long run it at least makes further banking panics less likely.
Trouble is, the government share of the economy has been growing fast, while it's the rest of us who have to take the strain of all the past policy mistakes and the current policy prescriptions. Mind you, Andrew and friends wouldn't want life to be easy, would they?
Our friend Stuart Wheeler sends us the following message, which may be of interest to readers of this blog:
My Legal Case to Force a Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
I believe that there is an overwhelming moral case for a referendum on whether the UK should ratify the Lisbon Treaty because:
Fortunately there is a legal, as well as a moral, basis for demanding a referendum and I have instituted proceedings against the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in which I seek a judicial review and a declaration that the refusal to hold a referendum is unlawful. The case goes to the High Court on 22 April for a crucial preliminary hearing in open court.
The Liberal Democrats, who were instructed by their leader to abstain in the House of Commons on the question of a referendum, are to be instructed in the House of Lords to vote with the Government against a referendum. This will make it very hard, though not impossible, for an amendment in favour of a referendum to be carried.
The only other chance of a referendum in the UK is in my case. It will not be easy to win it but, if I do, and if the referendum is then won by those who oppose ratification, we may well have saved for our country its right to govern itself. We shall also have changed the course of European history because the Treaty cannot come into force unless every one of the 27 members of the European Union ratifies it.
I have a website about the case - www.stuartwheeler.co.uk - and it will be updated as necessary.
Unless you realize how wealth is created, you’ll fret about how to distribute it more equally, thinking the only way the poor can become richer is by receiving some of the wealth the rich have. Wealth is not created by industrialization, though it can be helped by this. It is created by specialization and trade. At the GI blog Tim Worstall draws attention to the wealthy trading towns of the Roman period. He cites the discussion on Marginal Revolution about the drop in living standards between Roman times and the 18th Century. The reason is the cutback over the intervening years in specialization and trade. It’s a timely reminder that while the application of potent energy sources to mass production assists this process, wealth was being created in the ancient world long before water and steam mills proliferated. It reinforces our determination to increase the wealth of poorer peoples by making it easier for them to specialize and to trade.
Lyric from a popular new song called "Place In My Heart" by David Jordan:
"I step out of my element
To see what's going on in my neighbourhood
A message from the government
Gonna spend all your money cause it makes them feel good"
He's just released his debut album and he reminds some people of a young Michael Jackson...
Further proof that markets are so often better than their absence. That point that Iran is the only place in the world with a market in kidneys for transplant and it's also the only place without a waiting list is getting another run around the park.
Whither the England of old? Netsmith rather preferred Shakespearean theatre to the security kind.
Explaining why you should never believe anything until Alistair Campbell has denied it.
Further shenanigans in Brussels. The bureaucrats really did want to see Hans-Martin Tillack's papers.
And yet more European joy: Spain's been hard done by the euro and there isn't any easy way out.
The full video of the arrest. Dancing to celebrate Jefferson's birthday is somehow a naughty thing to do.
And finally, a list of obssessive videos. How can you not be charmed by, for example, a listing of all of the utterances of the word "dude" in The Big Lebowski?
The ASI's latest report – Privatization - Reviving the Momentum – calls on the government to embark on a new wave of privatizations, which could net the exchequer in excess of £20bn. Given the worsening state of the economy and the increasing tightness of the public finances, the report notes that such an inflow of funds would be very welcome.
In addition to the revenues generated for the government, a new wave of privatizations would also deliver significant operational benefits, the report says. Previous privatizations have delivered a wide range of improvements, including increased investment, lower prices, greater choice and better service for customers – as well as underpinning billions of pounds worth of economic activity.
The leading privatization candidates identified by the report include the Royal Mail, Channel 4, BBC Worldwide, Scottish Water, Northern Ireland Water, Glas Cymru, the National Air Traffic Control System, as well as government stakes in British Energy and the Nuclear industry.
According to the report's author, investment analyst Nigel Hawkins:
"Privatization in the UK remains unfinished business. The task for Government, of whatever colour, should be to complete it and to reap the many benefits - including proceeds of some £20 billion."
Click here to download the full publication.
UPDATE: reported here in the Daily Telegraph.
92. "Genetic modification is dangerous and should be banned."
The reverse is true. Genetic modification offers the opportunity to solve problems in ways that are far less dangerous than what we already do. GM crops, for example – often demonized as 'Frankenstein foods' by NGOs looking for a good scare campaign – can enable us to produce more food and safer foods in environmentally friendly and less intrusive ways.
To produce enough food at present we have to make extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers which leach into the environment, and we have to use energy intensively to protect our crops from adverse weather. Genetic modification is bringing us crops that incorporate natural pest-resisting properties without the need for chemicals. They bring crops that can fix atmospheric nitrogen to fertilize their own soil. They offer crops more resistant to adverse weather, better able to resist excessive cold, heat, drought, floods, or salinity. In each case GM makes use of something nature has already developed, and applies it to more useful crops. The result is more food production, particularly on marginal land, and with less environmental impact. It can also give us foods that last longer, stay fresher, and are less likely to carry diseases.
But genetic modification is making much more possible. We can now get crops and animals to produce large quantities of cheap vaccines, enabling us to protect millions of children in poorer countries from life-threatening or disabling diseases. The 'golden rice,' genetically modified to incorporate vitamin A can save millions of children from the blindness which results from its deficiency. And genetic modification can enable us to modify anopheles mosquitoes so they no longer act as hosts to the plasmodium which causes malaria, the biggest killer of all.
The mindless scare campaign against GM foods has already cost the lives and the well-being of countless children across the world. We should embrace the technology that offers a better future for all.