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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

The Future of Regulation

Written by Administrator | Tuesday 27 November 2007

There are still places available at our evening seminar tonight. Part of our new 'Shaping the Future' series, its theme is The Future of Regulation.

Tim Ambler of the London Business School (who co-authored our influential reports, Road Map to Reform: Deregulation and EUtopia) will be chairing the event. The guest speakers will be Stephen Littlechild, from the Judge Business School in Cambridge, and the Rt Hon. John Redwood MP, the Conservatives' regulation and economic competitiveness supremo.

The event starts at 6.30pm (doors open at 6), with plenty of time allowed for Q & A after the speeches. Drinks will be served from 7.30pm onwards. Admission is free of charge, and everyone is welcome to attend. The seminar will take place in our offices at 23 Great Smith Street, Westminster, SW1P 3BL. We hope you will be able to join us.

RSVP to events@adamsmith.org or 020 7222 4995.

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Blog Review 429

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 27 November 2007

Connoisseur though Netsmith is of odd and recondite bureaucracies, he has to admit that this one really rather surprised him. The Federal Duck Stamp Office ?

Every day into which a little Bastiat falls is obviously a good one. Here he's explaining why Amtrack isn't all that good. 

Another economic oddity: the upward sloping demand curve

Now this is indeed an extremely difficult question . Who wrote the worse column, the Yazzmonster or Johann Hari?  

To borrow from Marginal Revolution, markets in everything , even P60s and payslips for your mortgage application. Anyone know Peter Mandelson's email address?

Something of an oddity in the law about pornography. If it's truly extreme then it appears that it's not pornography.  

And finally , the ultimate in Glaswegian cuisine (no, it's not Gordon Ramsey): the battered, deep fried, kebab pizza. 

 

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Liberty and justice for all?

Written by Rachel Patterson | Wednesday 28 November 2007

According to the LA Times, welfare officers in San Diego, California have the authority to search through the homes of benefit recipients to root out welfare fraud. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (the regional court one level below the Supreme Court) ruled against an American Civil Liberties Union suit in favour of San Diego County. Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

This issue raises some interesting points. First, the prohibition of government officials from searching private homes without cause is protected by the US Constitution and considered one of the cornerstone civil liberties of the nation. But to what extent do individuals give up some of these rights when they receive public funds? If the government pays your rent, does your home belong to you as a private residence or to the state? Government handouts complicate civil liberties because those liberties are fundamentally based on the rights of autonomous individuals from state intrusion, not individuals living off state funds.

Nevertheless, setting a precedent that eroding the liberties of those receiving state funds is permissible is dangerous, especially given the growing number of people who receive benefits and might now be subject to warrant-less searches.

In the San Diego case, county officials claimed that their searchers did not violate the 4th amendment because they were not searching for evidence of a crime. Police in Boston used a similar argument when trying to convince parents to allow them into homes to search for guns hidden by teenagers. Police argued that they would not charge the teens, just remove the guns in an effort to get them off the street. These are the classic arguments of government, which naturally seeks to expand its own powers.

The libertarian solution would be to end welfare benefits, as they allow the state an avenue through which to constantly expand its power. For now, courts must prioritize the protection of civil liberties, even as they are complicated by the increasing role of the state in people's lives.

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There are times when I wonder...

Written by Tim Worstall | Wednesday 28 November 2007

...Why anyone bothers. Why is there this fascination with politics, with the power of the State to do things? We have people insisting that ID cards will make us safe, that we can ban by legislative fiat racism and hatred, that said State can make the world a perfect place for us. Then we see what actually happens when said powers that be take on a fairly simple, if important task.

Many blog readers will already know about the campaign to force the Government into doing what it should for the locally hired Iraqi assistants and translators for the British troops there. Indeed, what it is already legally bound to do under the UN rules on asylum. And then, as Dan Hardie points out , we come to the reality of what is actually being done. 

You can go to the Army base in Basra to apply for asylum: but the militias kill people who go to that base. You can flee to Syria and pick up the forms at the Embassy there. But the British Embassy in Syria hands out the forms via Syrian security personnel: not known to be people who look kindly upon "collaborationists" in Iraq. And people who worked for us before 1 January 2005 (so, say, those who might have worked with Private Johnson Beharry, VC) get no aid at all.

I am constitutionally a believer in the cock up theory of governance rather than the conspiracy one, so I don't believe this is all deliberate to make sure that the translators are all murdered before the paperwork is processed. But if plucky Denmark can fly all of their workers, with their families, out of Iraq, why can't we?

And why are there so many wanting government to take on tasks well beyond current capabilities, when they can't even manage efficiently the simple ones? 

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Wednesday 28 November 2007

An Alsatian and a Dachshund were standing in the snow.

"Cold on the toes, isn't it?" Said the Alsatian.

"Stop complaining," replied the Dachshund. "I've got my own problems."

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Freedom isn't free

Written by Steve Bettison | Wednesday 28 November 2007

On Monday evening the Oxford Union (OU) held a forum on free speech titled, "A Night of Discussion on Free Speech". Many of you may well be under the illusion that it was about something completely different due to the media coverage. Two of the speakers they chose were Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP and David Irving, the historian; both have a very close relationship to free speech.

They hold views that the majority of rational people would find distasteful. Irving has denied the scale of the Holocaust, whilst Griffin believes that immigrants (especially non–whites) should be returned to their homelands (we’ll leave aside the wide–ranging socialism of his party for now). They were not given a platform to vent on these issues though, and I suspect that even if they had then many in the audience would have easily deflated their arguments.

The alarmist nature of the media – mainly based on the shrill of those who despise different ideas and views being placed in the public domain – has, as always, meant that a logical and rational debate on free speech has had to be put aside. We should all be able to protect ourselves against the misuse of free speech. It is after all not a granted right; it is inalienable. The faith in our abilities should not be handed over to the government so that they may grant us the privilege of hearing, reading and seeing what they deem to be right. That is the path down which many of those bemoaning the invitation of those two speakers wish to take us. People are free to speak, as we are all free not to listen. We must have faith in all to ignore those with a message of hate.

The OU should be applauded for having the courage to specifically invite those two speakers to debate. They should be supported for believing that the students in attendance are rational and intelligent enough to make up their own minds.

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Blog Review 430

Written by Netsmith | Wednesday 28 November 2007

First, a call to arms. Greenpeace has decided to name a whale. As both Megan and Radley insist, and Netsmith concurs, the thought of some tofu-knitter having to call it Mr. Splashy Pants is simply too wonderful. So please vote (Mr. S-P currently has 72% but let's make certain, shall we?).

On the subject of fun and games Polly Toynbee's latest column drew more than the usual amount of jeering and stone throwing ahem, polite refutation. If UK newspapers employed fact checkers in the same way that American ones do, how much of a Toynbee column would survive do you think?

We don't normally endorse business ideas here but this one , whether run for profit or simply to get up the noses of all the right people looks most excellent. A YouTube which only posted those videos which embarrass dictators. If anyone actually knows how to do this, please leave a comment and Netsmith will come back to you.

Did you know that progressive income taxes are actually bad for the average living standard in the long run? Well, of course you did, but this is a lefty saying it , so perhaps people will take notice now? 

There's something very odd about the Labour Party's reaction to the David Abrahams revelations, as Stephen Pollard points out . It's inconceivable that people didn't know who he was.

Once again, people forgetting that the way to end poverty is by buying things made by poor people in poor countries. 

And finally , the value of public debate is made evident once again. 

 

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Quote of the day

Written by Wordsmith | Thursday 29 November 2007

This House has noted the Prime Minister's remarkable transformation from Stalin to Mr Bean in the past few weeks.

– Vince Cable MP, the stand-in Lib Dem leader, at yesterday's PMQs.

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Freeing the green in all of us

Written by Steve Bettison | Thursday 29 November 2007

There seems to be at the moment fad for prefixing the word libertarian with a politically descriptive term and proclaiming that the latter justifies the first somehow and that they are mutually beneficial.

A recent example I came across was "On Being a Green Libertarian" in the latest copy of The Individual, a publication by the Society for Individual Freedom.
The author of the article argues that his green beliefs can in fact be joined with libertarian ideology, creating an effective process for environmental protection. He correctly identifies the key tenets of libertarianism, as well as the irrational behaviour of most of the environmental movement in their clamouring for more legislation to enforce their arguments. But fails to expand on how the two ideologies can be married together successfully.

Most libertarians would suggest pricing, property rights and the common law as the answer. For example, if someone suffers from the ill effects of pollution then they can seek compensation through the courts. The person who pollutes will then be forced to price that compensation into their product before selling it on the open market. The negative environmental externalities would be internalized in the price, and people would then be free to buy their electricity (for instance) as they saw fit.  People would base their spending decisions on their own personally ranked concerns,  be they environmental, price or otherwise. The cost of developing nuclear power stations, tidal barrages etc would all be laid out in the prices offered to consumers, leaving them free – but not coercing them – to allow their beliefs to come into play. But power generators would indeed be reacting to the greatest demand, and how best to turn a profit – the free market at work.

In an ideal world it would be up to the 'greens' to argue, with well founded ideas, the best way forward and not seek to impose their ideology upon others through purely legislative means. They would change people's views so that they would then demand greener products from greener manufacturers.

Let the people decide how green they wish to be. They'll be libertarians...but with a hint of green.

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Joke of the Day

Written by Jokesmith | Thursday 29 November 2007

Did you hear about the NHS administrator who died and went to Heaven? St Peter said they'd take him in overnight but then he could go to Hell.

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