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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 465

Written by Netsmith | Wednesday 02 January 2008

A very interesting point . Just because the UK and the US both have the internet and are democracies, it doesn't mean that the internet will (or even should be) used in the same manner in the futherance of said democracy in the respective countries.

A disturbing look at the quality of the science behind many of the decisions in our own democracy. 

On the subject of research in the social sciences, Netsmith would be happy to report back on this:

"You can't pull with a Ferrari in Copenhagen". This is a claim which should be tested.

We all know the arguments about copyright: but, empirically, what is the optimal length? 15 years sound about right

As if you don't get enough Tim Worstall blogging, here he is at the Globalisation Institute on the subject of Cornish coffee. 

A conundrum : outsourcing saves 15-20% on average. American women earn, on average, 77 cents for each dollar made by men. That is, the gap is higher than that which prompts outsourcing. So why isn't that work being outsourced to American women?

And finally , a definitive answer to one of Thoreau's questions. 

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Get ready for the energy wars

Written by Dr Fred Hansen | Wednesday 02 January 2008

ethanolpic.jpgThe US has sustained a series of energy bills with the intention to foster energy efficiency. But they have caused lots of headaches for consumers and are likely to cost a lot of money. Rent seeking special interests from the burgeoning eco business are rolling their pork barrels all over the place. Just look at the 1992 US Energy Policy Act.

Implemented in 1994 it forced millions of Americans to install water-saving toilets. But they performed so badly that people mostly had to flush twice, actually increasing water usage. Or the 2005 energy law that prescribed that agricultural-based ethanol must be mixed into the gasoline supply. Since then we learned that the energy and water needed to produce ethanol is huge, and also that biofuel production has driven up food prices. On top of that, ethanol generates less energy during combustion because unlike fossil petrol it is already partly oxygenated.

Despite these well documented shortcomings the latest US energy bill, which just passed Congress, includes a fivefold increase of ethanol in the gasoline mix. Other provisions likely to backfire are for new, supposedly energy efficient devices such as new light bulbs, boilers, refrigerators, dishwashers, cloth washers and air conditioners. Ben Lieberman, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, got it right when he said the following:

There shouldn’t be any mystery why these laws fail. They all involve Congress trying to force the public into using something the market place has rejected. If newfangled toilets or increased ethanol usage actually made sense, they would catch on without heavy-handed government mandates. Ditto the required modifications to appliances. More often than not, this kind of government interference with the free market works to the detriment of consumers. Washington may think it is passing energy bills, but all it’s really doing is proving the law of unintended consequences.

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Wednesday 02 January 2008

A man was giving a speech at his club meeting. He got a bit carried
away and talked for two hours. Finally, he realized what he had done
and said, "I'm sorry I talked so long. I left my watch at home."
A voice from the back of the room replied, "There's a calendar behind you..."

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Power and Plenty IV

Written by Tim Worstall | Wednesday 02 January 2008

Final little extract from Power and Plenty:

...France banned imports of many British goods and in October 1793 she banned all British manufactures. Meanwhile, the British blockaded the French coast. As Eli Heckscher  emphasized, measures of this kind were motivated by mercantilist reasoning, and in particular the desire to prevent the enemy from earning precious metals via exports.

As they point out, by the wars of the Twentieth century even the politicians had grasped the point that is imports which are the desirable items, exports simply the boring things that have to be done to pay for them. But that earlier gross misunderstanding of the whole point of trade did lead to some near insane actions: 1810, when Britain was suffering from a poor harvest but France had food in abundance, Napoleon authorized food exports to its enemy accounting for roughly 13% of English grain consumption of that year. Such a policy stance, based on the hope that one's opponent could be brought to its knees by supplying it with food in return for gold...

Well, the authors are too polite to go on to describe it as ludicrous but that's certainly how it appears to me. 

Fortunately the politicians of our own day have grasped at least part of this point: now all we need to do is to get them to understand that you cannot tax us into prosperity...and the CAP...and the CFP...and markets in education...and health...well, quite lot of things actually. 

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On the ninth day of Christmas...

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Wednesday 02 January 2008

My true love sent to me: nine ladies dancing, which probably refers in the song to the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, which include Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness and so on.

Well, it's a bit early for dancing, or even joy. Believe it or not, but if you live in the United Kingdom you are going to be working for the government every single day between now and 1 June, which is when Tax Freedom Day falls. Roughly 40 percent of what we make and earn is snatched from us by the tax authorities to be spent on things that our governments in London, Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast think that we should be given.

It's been scientifically calculated that the average Christmas present costs 14 percent more than the recipient thing it is worth. If you just gave cash instead, then the recipient could buy something they think is worth the money. When you buy something for them, they never think it's quite right, and sometimes they put it in the cupboard and just forget about it. And it's the same with government. They buy services for us which we don't want - usually because they are very ineffectively delivered. If they gave us the cash - or even vouchers - instead, at least we could get value for our money.

And actually, it's worse. The government isn't giving us all these useless present with their money. It's paying for them with our money!

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Blog Review 464

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 01 January 2008

We're often told that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear: an untruth that this little survey of the American legal system might help to dispel.

On leaving America

But above all I'll miss the Idea of America: an idea that, however
scuffed, endures and retains it's extraordinary power: an idea that
every man is endowed with the right to pursue his own idea of happiness
(every woman too, of course) provided that quest does not impinge upon
the rights of others. That remains a revolutionary concept worth
defending against enemies domestic and foreign.

A damn fine idea it is too. 

Gordon Brown's latest ideas about the NHS mean that it should be privatised. 

Yet more proof that Hayek was right about spontaneous order. 

As part of a book review : WWII was in part because of an ignorance of this liberal economics thing. 

Is it really necessary to overturn the most basic laws of property simply for an art exhibition

And finally, from the Department of Surprising Research Results. 

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Happy New Year!

Written by Anonymous | Tuesday 01 January 2008


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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Tuesday 01 January 2008

A young lady came home from a date, rather sad. She told her mother, "Jeff proposed to me an hour ago."
"Then why are you so sad?" her mother asked.
"Because he also told me he was an atheist. Mom, he doesn't even believe there's a hell."
Her mother replied, "Marry him anyway. Between the two of us, we'll show him how wrong he is."

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Biting the Archbishop

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Tuesday 01 January 2008

Not everyone agrees with Jeremy Clarkson, but the man does have a way with words. He doesn't seem to have thought much of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Day sermon.

Hmm. I'm not sure that I can take a lecture on greed from a man who heads one of the western world's richest institutions. As we huddle under a patio heater to stay warm while having a cigarette in the rain, his bishops are living in palatial splendour with banqueting halls, wondering where to invest the next billion.

He disputes the Archbishop's exhortation to shun patio heaters and Range Rovers "to protect the planet," pointing out that millions more have died in religious wars than were ever killed by global warming. The full article is worth reading, if only for the new year entertainment value of its pithy prose. It's a pity that it won't get the same widespread and reverent coverage as the pious woffle the Archbishop came out with.

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On the eighth day of Christmas...

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 01 January 2008

My true love sent to me: eight maids a-milking. In the Christmas song, A Partridge in a Pear Tree, these may signify the eight beatitudes or blessings in the Sermon on the mount: blessings to the poor, the meek, those who mourn, the just, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and those who suffer persecution.

But what of the milkmaids? Well, they and the cheesemakers are hardly blessed, thanks to a Catch-22 conspiracy of politics and interest groups. Britain's Office of Fair Trading has claimed that the big four supermarkets colluded to keep the prices of milk and dairy products artificially high, pocketing an estimated £270m in the process.

The supermarkets look like being forced to stump up huge fines, though they regard it all as a bit rich. After years of everyone complaining that they screwed down farm gate prices from their suppliers so low that it was threatening the future of the dairy industry, the supermarkets decided it was time to get together and be a bit more generous to the farmers. Prices were duly put up and...then the whistles started blowing. In business, you just can't win.

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