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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

Blog Review 555

Written by Netsmith | Wednesday 02 April 2008

Indeed, enquiring minds want to know. As and when Gordon Brown announces that Cannabis will be upgraded again to a Class B drug, with 5 year potential sentences for simple possession, will those of his Cabinet who have admitted to "experimenting" (and not enjoying, giggle) be tried and jailed? And if not, why not?

That Lords report on immigration: another one who insists that it shows immigration to be justified on both utlitarian and liberal grounds. 

Some in the US insist that the blurring of the distinction between investment and commercial banking was behind the current little problems and that a solution would be to reinstate it (Glass-Steagal being the moniker). Oddly, the head of the French Central Bank, M. Noyer, thinks exactly the opposite: that universal banking as in Europe is why we have less to worry about. 

More bankinig: might be quite the right time to launch a new banking and payments system in the US? 

Yes, the Soil Association are contemplating indulging in a nasty little bout of protectionism. 

One of the more basic statistical tricks: claim that rising numbers needing food stamps shows how terrible things must be. But fail to correct for rising population.Tsk, almost as if there's an agenda or something.

And finally, 18 th century blogging and an Earth Hour well spent (NSFW). 


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Darzi's good idea

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Wednesday 02 April 2008

Here's an idea. Give patients in Britain's state-run National Health Service (NHS) their own healthcare budgets. Then they would be able to buy in the treatment they want, from whatever source they choose, rather than having to put up with the decisions of some distant central bureaucracy. Most patients, especially those with long-term conditions, know what kinds of treatment work best for them, so aren't they best placed to decide their own treatment regime anyway?

You might think this idea is just another rant from the swivel-eyed market zealots of the Adam Smith Institute. But no, it comes straight from Britain's government – a Labour government. Health adviser and clinician Lord Darzi (pictured) wants tens of thousands of patients with diabetes, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease to get their own budgets.

I welcome this move. We've long believed that patients, or at least their family doctors, should be in charge of the money that is spent on patients – and that politicians, the Department of Health, and local officials should not be. Then perhaps care might be delivered to serve the needs of patients, rather than for the convenience of bureaucrats. That was where the NHS was heading before it went up a lengthy statist siding under Health Secretary Frank Dobson MP in 1997. So awful was that experience that Labour reformers have been trying to get it back on track ever since. But of course, nobody can admit that Mrs Thatcher's GP-budgets policy was in fact on the right lines.

So, direction-changing as it is, the new initiative is as typically cautious and – well, bureaucratic – as you would expect from a highly centralist administration. It's limited to folk with these very long-term conditions. And they won't get cash to spend, nor anything like it – a new voucher scheme is imagined. (And I can well imagine all the bureaucracy that will go along with that.) I really do wish that our leaders could simply admit that their former Health Secretary made a mistake, apologize for the billions of wasted taxpayers' money that has been thrown at trying to correct it, and agree that patient- or GP-centred budgeting is indeed the best direction of travel for UK healthcare. Don't you?

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Common Error No. 79

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Wednesday 02 April 2008

79. "We should discourage use of private cars by making them more expensive to drive."

transport_pic_200.jpg Private cars are already hit by vehicle excise duty and fuel tax, in addition to parking fees and congestion charges. The money raised from these is part of the general budget, rather than earmarked specifically for transport purposes.

It is true that each car adds to pollution, but much less than they did a decade ago, and diminishing as new models incorporate new technology. Most of the pollution from cars is caused by older and badly-tuned models. A sustained campaign to improve those would achieve far more than a campaign to raise the costs of motoring generally.

It is also true that each car adds to congestion, but again, a sensible policy to reduce congestion at peak times and on peak roads would achieve more than a general increase in costs. Reducing the need for a 'school run,' for example, would cut congestion substantially.

The anti-car lobby does not seem to appreciate the benefits of private motoring. The extension of car ownership has opened up so many choices for so many people. It enables them to work from places ill served by public transport; it enables them to shop at places which offer more goods and at lower prices. It opens up the country, and even the continent, to ordinary people who had so limited travel opportunities before the spread of car ownership. It brings a degree of independence to people.

Planners might want to move people in blocks between chosen points, but the private car is far more flexible and versatile, allowing people to make different choices. Instead of pricing motoring beyond the reach of all except the rich, we should be promoting the technology which can make car engines use cleaner and less scarce fuels, and the techniques which can spread out their use to avoid the congestion that overcrowding causes.

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The Best Book on the Market

Written by Blog Administrator | Wednesday 02 April 2008


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Quote of the day

Written by Wordsmith | Wednesday 02 April 2008

Government is force, and politics is the process of deciding who gets to use it on whom. This is not the best way to solve problems.

Richard Grant, The Incredible Bread Machine

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Blog Review 554

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 01 April 2008

Apparently there are still one or two brave souls who are liberals on the subject of immigration.

A depressing look at the current emissions targets. For example, if the transport reductions are ten times more expensive than those from electricty and heating, wouldn't we do better to ignore the tranpsort reductions and spend the extra on the electricty and heating? 

Is Adam Smith of the left or the right ? Well, peraps the best answer is that given that he was writing before the fracture of the French Revolution which gave us our very concepts of right and left politically, possibly neither or both, but not one or the other. 

Those Sovereign Wealth Funds really might not be as wealthy as many think. 

How government really works: forms to detail your success at reducing form filling. 

Your guide to what the literati and glitterati really think of the London Mayoral election. 

And finally, l'internet est arrive and praising British judges

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Written by Blog Administrator | Tuesday 01 April 2008

The blog's comments function has been malfunctioning, and has been temporarily disabled while we upgrade it.

Hopefully it should be up and running again soon. 

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Making life difficult

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 01 April 2008

Is it me, or is someone determined to make simple stuff harder? Not long ago, when you applied to get your kid into a particular state school, you weren't always successful, but at least you got the impression that some human being had considered the application. Recently our youngest was applying for schools, but his application to the school that we thought best got no further because another school (which we considered unsuitable) "in the collegiate system"had accepted him.

Eh? The original idea of "collegiate schools" was that local state schools would collaborate so that the best ones helped the worst ones. Now it has become a way of squeezing out the last vestige of competition in the state system. Get an acceptance from any school in the network – even the worst – and the authorities can tick the box – satisfied parents. Except we aren't.

But it's not just the state sector. I've been tearing my hear out trying to open a bank account for my elder boy. The other day we went in and when they ran a credit check it was a case of 'Computer Says No'. Since he's never had credit in his life he can hardly be a bad risk, and I suspect the glitch is just that the Royal Mail changed our postcode recently and 'Computer' thinks that his address doesn't exist. But no human being seems to be able to sort it out.

State or non-state, the ultimate source of such absurdities is the same. Centralization and regulation. For a few happy years, state schools competed for students, because their income depended on it. But now, due to some central edict about "collegiate" collaboration, they've found a way to divide the pack of applicants cosily between them. And while I'd have thought that seven or eight banks was a fair measure of competition in a small place like the UK, the fact is that they now pursue the observance of government regulations more than the demands of their customers. Make a mistake and you get splatted by the reguator. It's much easier to say No. Or at least, get the computer to do it for you.

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Common Error No. 78

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Tuesday 01 April 2008

78. "Government investment is vital to protect industry and jobs."

britishleyland.jpgIt's a matter of historical record that government investment is reasonably fatal to industry and jobs. What government does is to take taxation from those industries which are successful, and redistribute some to those which are not. In doing so, it takes away resources which would otherwise be available for investment in expansion or the purchase of goods and services.

It puts these resources into industries for whose goods and services there is not enough private demand. Government tends to choose industries for political, not economic reasons, and to make bad choices. "Picking winners" means picking losers. For all of the public jobs created by public investment, rather more jobs will quietly disappear from the private sector in consequence.

Government investment in industry involves spending other people's money on somebody else. Since it is not their own money, the politicians and bureaucrats do not have the same incentive to make good and wise decisions as do those whole livelihood or reward depends on success. They do not have the same drive to ensure that the goods produced will be of the quality and price to hold their own in the marketplace.

Furthermore, government investment is usually called for when private investment has failed to materialize in support of certain industries. There is a very good reason why it did not appear; it is because private investors had low expectation of any returns to be made by doing so. When government does invest, the industries concerned become dependent on continual state handouts and unable to attract private funds in its place. The graveyard of Britain's industrial history is littered with the corpses of failed state investments, whether in steel, ships or motorcycles. Government investment in an industry is the kiss of death.

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April Fool's Day

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 01 April 2008

This being April Fool's Day, I thought I'd give you a few lines that you could use to make buffoons of your friends.

Start by telling them that the UK now has a higher tax burden than Germany. That the average Brit has to work more than five months of the year just to pay taxes. See if they believe that.

Tell them that household disposable income in the UK is now lower than it was when this government came to power in 1997.

Or tell them that after ten years of 'Prudence' and policies aimed to 'end boom and bust', the public's confidence in the economy is now lower (at -52%) than since records began. Twice as low as when John Major was in power.

Finish by telling them that despite record immigration, house prices are actually falling.

Unfortunately, it's no joke that all these things are actually true.

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