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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

Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Sunday 23 December 2007

Little Johny asks a pregnant woman: "What is in your tummy?'
'My baby!'
'Do you love him?'
'Of course I do!'
'Why did you eat him then?'

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The fourth plinth

Written by Steve Bettison | Sunday 23 December 2007

model_hotel.jpgIt's time to bring this farce to an end. The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square has been abused, in the supposed name of art, for too long now. November of this year saw the erection of "Model Hotel 2007" (pictured left), by Thomas Schutte, a few sheets of coloured glass, and some metal rods; this replaced the eyesore more commonly known as "Alison Lapper Pregnant" by Marc Quinn. Rather than commissioning any further pieces of artwork the Mayor of London should begin a campaign to raise the statue originally intended for that plinth: King William IV.

King William IV reigned from 1830 to 1837, during which time he played a key role in the poor law reform that led to the Reform Act of 1832, also under his reign slavery was abolished (even though he had previously spoken against this) and child labour laws established. He was the first truly constitutional monarch of Great Britain and he also served admirably (no pun intended) for his country in the Royal Navy. Thus qualifying him for his place in Trafalgar Square.

Yet it is highly unlikely that the current Mayor, Ken Livingston, would have high regard of someone who was a champion of the poor and who held the people of this country sovereign. It is also doubtful that he'd even allow the statue to be placed there as originally intended, even if it were privately funded, let alone publicly! But the real reason for not allowing the erection of a statue to someone who achieved so much could be the embarrassment it would cause to our current crop of politicians.

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Goodbye, ASI

Written by Alex J. Williams | Sunday 23 December 2007

alexwilliamspic.jpgSo the time has come to say goodbye to the Adam Smith Institute and move on to pastures new. After a Christmas that will be centred around friends and family, I will be paying a visit to Moscow, before taking up a new post at the Policy Exchange in January.

I am pleased to have spent this time at the ASI, and have certainly found it challenging. This is an exciting time for anyone involved in politics, and I wish the ASI the best of luck in helping to shape the future agenda.

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Blog Review 454

Written by Netsmith | Saturday 22 December 2007

Something to mull over. Linux shows that Hayek was right?

Highlights from the Scottish political year

If Chile is doing better than Venezuela and has been and is more econonimcally liberal, doesn't that show that neo-liberalism is the way to go

If the rich pay most of the Federal taxes, then most of the spending benefits the rich, right? No, both the taxation system and the spending are progressive

Great economic controversies of our time. Why is there so little sex going on? ("Speak for yourself matey" is a necessary but not sufficient answer to this question.)

Time to update the old rhyme: some are born little libertarians.

And finally, is Hillary Clinton really Honoria Glossop? The unnecessary but sufficient answer of "Yes" would explain a lot.


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The sickening effects of social democracy

Written by Alex J. Williams | Saturday 22 December 2007

News this week that a key mental health unit in Surrey is to close is yet another hallmark of a disturbing reality that plagues the National Health Service.

The principle behind the NHS is that politicians motivated by a desire to win elections will have an incentive to provide good healthcare to the public at large. This glib and simplistic and view – typical of the naive school of thought that forged the UK's public sector culture – overlooks a key clash of values between politics and health.

Politics is an industry that is essentially based around popularity, while healthcare is one based around necessity. It is because of this fundamental contradiction in values that the unholy nationalisation of British health has resulted in healthcare priorities being set by ill-informed politician under pressure from a largely ignorant populace. The end result is that a government's performance in health is measured in terms of how much money is spent rather than how much suffering is alleviated. Indeed, health and education must be the only industries on earth where rising costs and falling productivity are considered signs of success.

When healthcare is run by the state and driven by a desire for headlines, it is not surprising that NHS provision of mental healthcare remains shockingly low, with minimal funding and appalling disregard for the needs of the patient.

The government would be better to measure progress in new ways, for no matter how much money they say they have spent, when a priority patient still has to wait up to 3 months to see a psychiatrist it is time to start asking how many vulnerable souls have been allowed to fade from lack of available help.

It is unlikely that any government will be able to prioritise such 'unexciting' areas whilst still keeping up the required level of media-hype to stay popular, so perhaps it is time to consider the ultimate humbling of the NHS – to acknowledge that the present model reeks of failure and that it is time to try something new.

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Saturday 22 December 2007

Little Johnny said to his Aunt Betty, 'My God, you're ugly, aren't you!'
His mother overheard this and pulled Johnny into the kitchen. 'you naughty boy!' she screamed, 'How can you say to your aunt that she's ugly! You go right in and apologize to her! Tell her you're sorry!'
Little Johnny entered the living room, walked over to hus aunt and said, 'Aunt Betty, I am sorry you're so ugly.'

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No delivery costs?

Written by Xander Stephenson | Saturday 22 December 2007

Just throw the book at them...

Last week the French Booksellers' Union won their court-battle. The French people will now have to pay delivery charges for Amazon orders rather than be entitled to free delivery.

This is in order to protect French bookstores from 'unfair' competition. The result surely has to be that Amazon is more expensive for the French. However, customers buy books from Amazon for many good reasons; time, effort and cost; it is one of the most efficient ways of buying books. It is hard to believe that having to pay another 5 Euros is going to drive people onto the freezing streets of France this Christmas in order to patronise their local bookshop.

French people will continue to use Amazon for convenience but pay more for the privilege; if I was a French person – and luckily I'm not – I would be quite irate at the French Booksellers' Union for this early Christmas present. I would exercise this anger by voting against them with my money and continuing to use Amazon.

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Stocking-filler of the week

Written by Booksmith | Saturday 22 December 2007

Clues for the Clueless: Dogbert's Big Book of Manners (£5.69 + postage)

"Lots of things have changed in the millions of years since etiquette was invented. Microwave ovens, for example. And so it seemed like a good time to update the rules of etiquette. Of course, you could buy some other book on etiquette, and in it you might find such useful titbits as what kind of uniiform the upstairs servants should wear, or the proper way to address the Pope when you meet him in person. But if you want practical information - like what to do after you sneeze in your hand - then you have to buy this book. It's the only book that speaks to you as the unwashed heathen that you know you are. Thanks. And I'm not just saying that."

Buy it here, from the ASI bookstore. 

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Blog Review 453

Written by Netsmith | Friday 21 December 2007

Good sense on the special pleading coming from Bali by the less developed nations. No, you shouldn't get special treatment for your CO2 emissions.

Netsmith knows less about Rawls than he ought to: but is the fact that people play the lottery a refutation of the "Veil of Ignorance" argument? 

Ian Dale's new political magazine: there might be something interesting to this business model you know? 

We haven't been able to stop the absurdity of the European Parliament decamping to Strasbourg every month on cost or rationality grounds: perhaps we can on environmental

This may well be true but the last line tells us why it might not be useful

Harriet Harman's ideas on paying for sex are clearly bonkers: but are they also discriminatory

And finally, not something you ever expected to see written: fun Venn Diagrams

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Is it a tax, or not?

Written by Tom Clougherty | Friday 21 December 2007

rubbish2.jpgAre pay-as-you-throw rubbish charges a tax, or not? This is a question that seems to be occupying the Daily Mail at the moment...

The government has been very careful not to refer to the proposed charges as taxes, preferring to term them 'incentives'. But now environment minister Joan Ruddock has apparently told MPs: "I have just been told by that technically these charges are regarded by the Treasury as a form of tax." Unfortunately, she may be right. But that's because the pay-as-you-throw scheme being trialled by the government is not really a pay-as-you-throw scheme at all.

A proper scheme could work as follows: refuse collection is privatized; people choose from a number or competing refuse collection companies; people pay according to how much refuse they have to dispose of; council tax bills are reduced accordingly. Such a system would encourage people to produce less waste, encourage more recycling, and lead to a higher quality of service (if people were not getting enough collections, for instance, they could change to a different company). With lower taxes and competing service providers, you would get better value for money too.

The government's scheme, by contrast, seems to consist of fining people who don't recycle, and (just possibly) giving a limited council tax rebate to people who do 'go green'. It's is another example of politicians getting their hands on an economically sensible idea, messing it up, and making it unpopular with the general public. And that makes it much harder for the original, better idea to be implemented.

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