Homeschooling: the results


In the newspapers of late there has been a fair amount written about the gonvernment's concern over homeschooling. The familiar wheels of social engineering are starting to turn in Westminster, as there is talk of yet another review of homeschooling and the possibility of introducing more rigid curriculum for home-educated students.

There is no evidence to back up this particular scare. In fact, there is not a great deal of research on homeschooling in general, yet if the government were to look at what is available, they would see that homeschooling families could teach them a thing or two about education.

Paula Rothermel of Durham University has shown that home-educated children outscore their school counterparts, with those from lower socio-economic groups outperforming their middle class peers; while the Cambridge University Primary Review concludes that: “Studies of homeschooling children show clear and substantial evidence of high (and above average) performance".  The review goes on to describe a study in the U.S. in which the average home-educated student is one grade higher than an average public or private schooled student in grades one to four until by the eighth grade an average home-educated student is four grades higher than their public or private counterpart.

Of course, there are many other reasons why parents choose homeschooling. However, given that this government can only judge by test results it is necessary to defend our freedom on the same point. Unfortunately the ideology of this government seems intent on interfering in the running of some very successful families. One would think they would focus their attention on teaching the children whose parents still let the state teach them.

Blog Review 871


PJ on Adam Smith and current events. Another extract here.

Another prediction from Henry Hazlitt here.

John Wilkes, Guido Fawkes and Geert Wilders.

When regulations kill. No, really.

Government abuse of powers is not the last resort, it's the first.

On the decline of unions: it's because those companies that had unions shrank while those that didn't grew.

And finally, moving on from the Googleplex and the Bazillionty.

When legislation decides...


....what can be bought and sold then the first thing to be bought and sold will be the legislators, as PJ O' Rourke so wisely pointed out.

We can turn this around and ask ourselves who is being bought and sold and thus who has that power to decide. Or to tone down the outrage a little, who is attempting to influence whom, whose ears are being whispered into? That will tell us something about who has the power to influence decisions.

Senior civil servants responsible for contracts worth billions of pounds accepted tickets to Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show and the opera from firms carrying out government work.

Interesting, no? The late great Will Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks and he gave the immortal reply, "Because that's where the money is". A business is not going to spend money on entertaining those who will not increase its profits so we must therefore conclude that this expenditure will, in the minds of those spending it at least, lead to higher profits.

I realise that this might sound a little odd but I would much rather have the legislators being bought and sold as they made these decisions rather than the bureaucrats being so as they do so: at least we have that basic democratic opportunity of kicking the bastards out occasionally. So could we go back to a system whereby the elected politicians actually make the decisions. Please?



In the past there was the Golden Country, a place that many of us now dream of whilst trudging under the shadow of the Ministry of Truth. It seems that the slightest exposure to the ideas and thoughts of the Dutch MP Geert Wilders would turn us into a baying mob of vigilantes. We would turn on our Muslim brethren and tear them asunder. Or this at least must have been the thinking behind the Home Secretary’s decision to ban him from entering the country on Thursday. He is a controversial figure who is reviled by many, having called for the banning of the Koran and linking of Islamic extremists to that publication in his film Fitna. The controversy should be solely related to his pronouncements on the banning of the Koran ( which would be wholly illiberal).

Why was he excluded? According to the Home Office it was because his appearance, by invitation from a Lord of the Land, would cause, “a serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society," he "would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the U.K." A Home Office spokesman further explained: "The government opposes extremism in all its forms."

This government has finally allowed the terrorists to win. By caving into mob rule we have now lost our right to freely express ourselves. That right is essential to the development of mankind, and all that his exclusion achieves is a faster descent into tyranny and darkness. The interests of society are no longer ours. They have been collectivised and are now the Secretary of State is the arbiter of our words and thoughts.

The Golden country has been truewise dispatched into the memory hole. Now we must be goodthinkers, desist from crimethink and be doubleplusgood followers of Ingsoc. Or we’ll be in the joycamps or worse, unpersons!

The red button


The EU Parliament has decided that all video game devices need a "red button" as a kill swtich for parents to shut off the machines. They seem to think that parents are too dim to know how to shut a machine off and keep their children from playing it. reports on this farcical pronouncement from the EU meddlers. If the Parliament wasn't so serious, it would be hysterically funny.

The EU is actually under the impression that only children play video games and that all parents are luddites. Parents know how to shut the game off well enough; they probably even know how to fake it so it looks like has been turned off so they can come back to play after the young ones have been trotted off to bed.

Blog Review 870


An extremely important announcement. Unix geeks will be rooted to their machines.

There might be something odd going on at the Stanford Group. Very odd indeed.

Might pasta be a Giffen Good and if so, can you make money from that fact?

Can we please get this straight on the legal and economic incidence of a tax?

The problem with politicians (OK, one of) is that so often they make things worse. Much, much worse.

No, really, appallingly worse.

And finally, it does have to be said though that incompetence is not limited to politicians.

The trouble with central banks


The way Dr Yaron Brook (pictured, left) – the president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute – explained the problem with central banks in his speech at the ASI this week was a marvellously clear, so it's worth repeating now.

Put simply, interest rates are a price that tells you how expensive credit is.  You base your financial decisions on them accordingly. If the price (interest rate) is low you borrow more, and if it is high you borrow less.

In a monetary system without a central bank, market rates would develop which balanced demand for credit with supply. The money supply would be as stable and dependable as the food supply.

But once the government tries to set this price, they cause distortions. Let's use the food example again: when government attempts to fix food prices, they almost always get it wrong. They either set prices too high, and you get oversupply. Or they set prices too low, and you get shortages.

Food, of course, is a fairly straightforward commodity – and yet government still does not, and cannot, have the capacity to set prices accurately. But despite this fundamental economic truth, we expect a committee of central bankers to put a price on money – something altogether more complex and opaque than food.

So when you think about it, it's really no wonder that they got it so horribly wrong, with the financial consequences we are currently witnessing.

Brussels Dispatch: Economic Partnership Agreements


As Pat Barron commented last week: “[T]he reduction of development aid is an opportunity for [developing] countries to adopt their only hope of becoming "developed" countries, which is adopting capitalism to its fullest extent….Open borders to trade, without regard to reciprocity.”

This February in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted by 340 votes to 225 a Development Committee report on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) which moves the international development agenda forwards somewhat in this direction.  The EPAs are a vehicle for developing countries to augment regional free trade.

Capitalism and the free market represent the only known way for a country to work its way into prosperity.  Free trade is an important part of this process.  Tariffs, it should be remembered, in addition to raising revenue for the State, also ‘protect’ domestic markets from foreign competition.

So, the most important action that aid donors could perform, is to ask the question:  why are some countries good at generating wealth; whilst others remain impoverished?  The answer to removing people from absolute poverty does not lie in increasing donor expenditure; it lies in removing the inhibitions that currently impede development.

According to the OECD in the last 50 years, some $1.75 trillion has been spent internationally as Official Development Assistance on international development.  Which country is significantly richer through receipt of this largesse?

It makes me wonder whether the Left, which voted against the above report, and which defines itself by its commitment to the State and the State’s expansion - has an ideological vested interest in holding its dependents down.

Power lunch with Lionel Barber


Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times, was our guest at a Power Lunch in Westminster this week, talking about the financial crisis, the economic downturn and the political response to it. The discussion that took place (off-the-record, unfortunately) was certainly a fascinating one.

It seems to me that economists are more or less agreed on the root cause of our present difficulties: a massive credit bubble built up, then burst, and now we are suffering the predictable consequences. There is, of course, some disagreement on why the bubble got so large, with people like me blaming central banks and political interference, while others point to global imbalances and other factors. But where the real arguments are found is on the issue of what we do now.

Many respectable economists think that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and that doing nothing is just not an option. The Banks needed to be bailed out, and will probably need to be nationalized. Liquidity must be increased, even if it means printing money and dropping it from helicopters. And the government must stimulate the economy with fiscal measures, regardless of the deficits they run up in the process.

Others (and I lean towards this camp) think there's more or less nothing politicians can do to 'fight the recession', since it's an inevitable result of the distortions caused by the credit bubble. There will be pain while the market adjusts, and that's regrettable, but we need to let things work themselves out before we can see the green shoots of recovery emerge. The extraordinary measures others propose will only cause more trouble in the long-run.

Whichever way you look at it, one thing is for sure: we are indeed living in financial times!