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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

IHS academic writing competition

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Wednesday 12 December 2007

The Institute for Humane Studies has launched an essay contest for full-time undergraduate and graduate students.The deadline for submissions is January 31st 2008.

Essays must be a maximum of 2,500 words on any topic that addresses "the conditions essential for prosperity, progress and human flourishing." The prizes are as follows:

First place: $1,000

Second place: $500

Third place: $250

There are separate awards for graduates and undergraduates, and the total prize money will be $4,000. Details at

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Blog Review 443

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 11 December 2007

These public lists of sex offenders . It's always been pretty obvious that things like this will happen, hasn't it?

Note to Guardianistas : this is how you deal with inequality. 

Some both useful and accurate estimates of the costs and benefits of legalising ecstacy. It's not just this freedom and liberty lark, it's that we'd be better off.

Giudo continues to follow the Sith Smith Institute story. Just what was Ed Balls being paid so much money to do?

The latest American move on climate change . We'll change the law so as to insist on the physically impossible say distinguished Solons. 

Jimmy Carter doesn't seem to have spent the 27 years since he left office reading up on economics. Pity really , as he appeared a little under-educated in the subject way back then.

And finally , quite possibly the most stupid question of the year and a better one asking the meaning of profit

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Rethinking the Union

Written by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 11 December 2007

In advance of his trip to Edinburgh yesterday to speak to Scottish Conservatives and businesspeople, David Cameron gave an interview to The Telegraph in which he set out his position on the Union, devolution, and the West Lothian question. The following statement sums it up fairly well:

[A]n imperfect Union is better than anything that threatens it. The Union always comes first.

Personally, I am not so sure. If Scotland actually wants to be independent, then why not let them? With the English subsidy tap turned off, the Scottish government would be forced to abandon their socialist tendencies and follow Ireland's low tax route to success (something Alex Salmond, the SNP first minister, has said he wants to do). A recent ASI briefing paper by international economist Gabriel Stein argued that ten years after adopting Irish tax levels, the average Scot would be £6,000 a year better off than his counterparts in the rest of the UK, whereas today the average Scot is £1,700 behind.

That assumes no changes in what remains of the UK. It's a fair bet, however, that with tax competition from north of the border, the Westminster government would start cutting taxes too, boosting economic growth and improving the living standards of their citizens as well. In tax and government, as in all other things, competition is a very good thing.

Of course, we don't actually need Scotland to be independent for any of this too happen. Scotland could become fiscally autonomous within the union (an idea that's becoming increasingly popular), setting their own tax rates and raising the money they spend. Indeed, if we devolved the power to set and collect income tax, corporation tax, VAT, local taxes and other charges and duties, they could easily cover their devolved expenditure right away.

My main worry with Cameron's position is that it may rule out such a course of action on the grounds that it 'threatens the union' – regardless of the benefits it could bring.

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Tuesday 11 December 2007

Are you allowed to kiss a nun?

Yes, but don't get into the habit.

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What do homophobia and Islamophobia have in common?

Written by Dr Fred Hansen | Tuesday 11 December 2007

Well, they are both on the minds of certain human rights activists and they are both sentinels of soviet-style denunciation because of anonymous bias-reporting systems in academia. These systems sprang from US universities (e.g. Virginia, Oregon State and Ohio State) and are spreading elsewhere. They are supposed to expose and punish people who make use of their free speech in a way the PC crowd regards as offensive and wants to be verboten. Their latest target is the well-known conservative publicist Mark Steyn.

The Canadian Islamic Congress has filed a "human rights complaint” against the prominent Canadian news magazine MacLean’s, because it published an excerpt of Steyn's book America Alone, considered by the plaintiff as "flagrantly Islamophobic". And at least two Human Rights Commissions are willing to hear those complaints. This is despite the fact that the book, which is published in the US, has already been best selling in Canada. Another way of looking at this attack on free speech is the worldwide rapidly growing list of Muslim Libel Cases.

In the meantime, many regard it as unfortunate that the erstwhile home country of individual liberty has become the "libel capital of the West" because in today's England the defendant in a libel case bears the burden of proof. The most notorious beneficiary of this is the Saudi Sheik K. S. bin Mahfouz, who has already filed 30 libel cases in the UK alone that usually result in banning books critical of Islam.

Steyn responds in the Weekly Standard:

The "progressive" left has grown accustomed to the regulation of speech, thinking it just a useful way of sticking it to Christian fundamentalist, rightwing columnists, and other despised groups. They don't know they're riding a tiger that in the end will devour them, too.

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Power lunch with Harry Bush

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 11 December 2007

Dr Harry Bush CB, head of economic regulation for the UK aviation industry, was our guest at a Power Lunch in Westminster this week. He spoke to the theme of the impact of the EU on regulatory policy in the UK.

Less than benign, I would say. If we're going to have regulation, then I can see that there are some things done better internationally. It might be better to have a common system of airspace regulation, for example, rather than lots of different countries doing their own, unrelated things. That being said, the 'Single European Sky' policy that has emerged is an over-regulated mess.

The airlines of most European countries started as national 'flag carriers' and public ownership of them is still rife. The whole sector, airports and all, has long been regarded as something that governments should own and run, or at least take charge of. The idea that airlines and airports can run in competition – or even that air traffic control might be contracted-out to competitive providers – or that regulation should be independent of government – ruffles no feathers in the UK any more, but is still thought to be pretty nutty in the corridors of the Berlaymont.

The Treaty of Rome is a surprisingly pro-competitive document, though its execution has largely been the opposite. For some years, with the Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy in charge of competition, though, even the UK government has been forced to bring competition into its public industries, like mail delivery, so let's be thankful to that. But in sectors like aviation, where governments have been deeply involved for years – and, with terrorism, the climate change agenda and immigration, there are more calls for them to get even more deeply involved – I think the UK could end up with less competition, rather than more.

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Blog Review 442

Written by Netsmith | Monday 10 December 2007

We come again to that old and most important question. Are violent video games (and thus such things as pornography) complements or substitutes? Increasingly it is becoming clear that they are substitutes. So far from banning such things through the legal system we should be subsidizing them through the tax one: to reduce the incidence of real world violence and sexual attacks.

Guido's right , we'd hope this would get a little more attention: the Labour Party guilty of racial discrimination? 

Tim Worstall 's still banging on about Greg Clark's book, "A Farewell to Alms". Lamarck rather than Darwin he says. 

Even left-wing MPs get the right idea sometimes. Harry Cohen has realised that some form of legalisation of drugs is better than the current unholy mess of the war upon them. It's Ian Duncan Smith we have to convince now....

There's rather more convincing necessary with The Observer and water: markets solve the allocation problems of scarce resources but they prefer to ignore that. 

A parlour game for all the family: which dictators could actually win a free and fair election? 

And finally , Ronald Reagan and Soviet jokes: he actually had State Department officials feeding real ones from the streets of Moscow back to him. 

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Frabjous Day!

Written by Tim Worstall | Monday 10 December 2007

Earlier in the year a prominent leftie journalist told me that something like this would happen. I'm afraid I rather choked on my pint and jeered at him at the time, for I didn't believe that something quite so simple and obvious would ever gain traction in Governmental circles.

Elderly people are to be given money to pay for their own care in a move being hailed as one of the most radical welfare reforms in a generation. They will have the right to decide how and where they spend the cash, instead of social workers dictating what help they need to live in their own homes. Personal budgets will also be set up for younger disabled people frustrated by their lack of choice.

We move, at a stroke, from the bad end of Milton Friedman's four ways of spending money to the good side: from spending other people's money on other people, to spending other people's money on yourself (with restricted budgets we get close to the very good end, spending your money on yourself).

Now I know, there are those who think there shouldn't be any form of Welfare State at all but let's look at political reality here shall we? Clearly, people shopping for the help that they need (yes! we've introduced markets to the monolith!) are going to get more of what they want than if they are the passive recipients of whatever the bureaucracy would like to offer them.

'When I was able to control their budget, I shopped around for their care, and interviewed different carers until I found the right person. Her carer now comes at 9am on the dot, but is also happy to take her to the GP, take them shopping and do other jobs that the previous person wasn't allowed to do.'

Hurrah! Trebles all round don't you think? We're finally getting people to see the basic problem with the construction of public sector services in this country. We don't actually have to provide the services from the public sector at all. In fact, we'll get much better services if we don't, if we simply finance them and leave provision to people buying what they desire on open markets.

Now that we've got our foot in that door, when do we start seeing the same happening with the NHS, with education...  

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Monday 10 December 2007

An old man was bragging to his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it's state of the art. It's perfect."

"Really," answered the neighbor "What kind is it?"

"Twelve thirty."

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Trust in a free society

Written by Steve Bettison | Monday 10 December 2007

A free society and a free economy rely on trust between individuals to function effectively. As trust breaks down, the clamour for a more invasive state grows.

One of the main reasons for the breakdown of that trust within our society was highlighted by Jane Shilling in The Times last week. A woman claiming to be a new neighbour asked for £7 so that she could charge her electricity key and rescue her children from the darkness of their new home. Ms Shilling gladly handed over £10 with the hope of helping a neighbour in need, based on the promise that the money would be repaid. Upon finding out that this woman and her friend had canvassed the whole street in this manner she is now faced with the dilemma of what to do next time.

Ms Shillings honourable actions reflect how she hopes others would act if she were a similar predicament. The fundamental difference though, between her actions and those of the professional thief she encountered, is that she would return the money. The honest amongst us who unfortunately might find ourselves in a situation where we are at the mercy of the kindness of strangers will now have to accept that a majority of the time we will find that no help is forthcoming.

The selfish actions of a minority have repercussions on the wider community since they destroy the trust that has been built up over time. We are no longer able to act out our natural instinctive behaviour of caring for others in need based on a reflective rationality. We now become cynical of everyone and are deterred from acting for fear of being lied to. The moral compass of our society has been shifted, much for the worse, by those who believe that they have a right to steal whilst praying on our best intentions. Thus society becomes more atomised and moves further from being free.

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