4 July 2008
July 4 2008
A 10ft bronze statue of Scottish economist and philosopher Adam Smith has gone on show in Edinburgh.
It was unveiled on Friday on the Royal Mile in the heart of Scotland's capital city, where Smith worked and died.
The statue, on a massive stone plinth, was created by Alexander Stoddart from Paisley - Scotland's leading monumental sculptor.
It was unveiled by Nobel laureate economist Vernon Smith in front of a huge crowd at 1215 BST.
Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: "This honour is long overdue.
"As author of The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith was the pioneer of what today we call economics. He championed the benefits of specialization and free trade, creating the very idea of the modern market economy that dominates the free world today."
The statue, which has been surrounded by sheets since it was erected last week ahead of its unveiling, is next to St Giles Cathedral, opposite Edinburgh's City Chambers.
Adam Smith taught at Glasgow University and lived and is buried in Edinburgh. He was born in 1723 and died in 1790.
He is known primarily as the author of two treatises: The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which was published in 1759, and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, which was first published in 1776.
Smith is also known for his explanation of how rational self-interest and competition can lead to economic well-being and prosperity.
The statue has been paid for by private subscription, organised by Dr Butler.
Published by the BBC here
4 July 2008
By Mike Wade (July 4 2008)
A skirl of the bagpipes, a billowing of canvas, and with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Adam Smith", Professor Vernon Lomax Smith, pulled the chord to reveal a new and daunting statue of Scotland's most eminent economist, staring down Edinburgh's Royal Mile and out to the North Sea and the world.
The bronze artwork, the first of Smith to be erected in Scotland, was created by Sandy Stoddart and is sited close to the Mercat Cross.
Depicting the economist with a grim face, clad in a gown from Glasgow University - where he taught - it is an undeniably powerful addition to the Edinburgh scene.
No surprise then that Professor Smith, the 2002 Nobel laureate for economics from Orange County, California, should have chosen to spend his July 4 holiday in Scotland.
His devotion to his illustrious namesake knows no bounds, and extends even to his necktie, a bootlace affair, finished with an 18th century flourish, in a silver clasp bearing the profile of Adam Smith.
“He's very excited about this," said Candace, his wife, as the professor took to the podium to praise “the first great post-Newtonian scientist".
He quickly went on to urge his audience of academics, thinkers, and slack-mouthed tourists to rush out and buy Smith's least-known major work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments.
For the Smith enthusiasts who had come from every corner of the globe, this had been a great day. It had begun further down the Royal Mile, at the 18th century economist's Edinburgh home, Panmure House, with a piece of good news.
Panmure has been on the market for months but yesterday it was confirmed that the city council had agreed in principle to sell the building to the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot Watt University, where it will become a student centre.
Lord Forsyth, former Secretary of State for Scotland in the last Conservative government, praised the statue, which was commissioned by the Adam Smith Institute and cost £250,000.
He said it was something the Tories should have thought of when in power, “It is quite severe, but it will remind the Scots of the importance of markets, which they certainly need reminding of."
Published by The Times here
4 July 2008
July 4 2008
A statue of Adam Smith, one of Scotland's most influential sons has finally been erected in Edinburgh.
Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, speaks about the long journey to get recognition for the economist in his home country
"Adam Smith's name may be known and revered all around the world. He was one of the leading figures of the Scottish intellectual enlightenment, and by any measure must be reckoned as one of the leading thinkers that Scotland has produced.
Yet it's taken two centuries for the country of his birth to give him recognition with a public monument.
Now at last it is happening, and an impressive bronze statue of the great economist and philosopher is being unveiled in Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile.
Perhaps Scotland did not understand Adam Smith's true message, or perhaps it forgot. Smith is too often, but wrongly, caricatured as the advocate of profit red in tooth and claw; of greed and Wall Street.
But now, more and more people are reading him, and discovering the true Adam Smith.
He believes in free markets, open competition, small government and a minimum of regulation, right enough.
But that's because he believes, on the basis of the evidence, that voluntary exchange is the best way to help the poorest and most disadvantaged people.
Regulation and big governments are good for businesspeople and politicians: free markets are good for the masses.
Smith's great book of 1776, The Wealth of Nations, was sensational. It was read by all the leading politicians of the day (imagine that now!).
And it led to practical change - deregulation, lower taxes, reduced barriers to trade - that ushered in the great 19th-Century era of free trade and rising prosperity that spread well beyond the traditional landowning and ruling classes.
Smith remains important today for this achievement, and for his insight - the so-called Invisible Hand - that a free society, bounded by a minimum of rules (property, honesty, contract) actually functions a lot better than one that is controlled from the centre.
That's why it survives, and why even the harshest totalitarianism of the 20th Century could not completely eradicate its spirit. Smith's humanitarian message is that freedom works, and it's worth protecting. "
Published by the BBC here
3 July 2008
By Madsen Pirie (July 3 2008)
One of the tests by which the next government is judged will be on what it does to benefit poor people. This government was big on talk, and even bigger on complexity, but woefully short on substance. An effective proposal would be to take poor people out of paying income tax.
You start to pay income tax at just over £6,000 of earnings. That's way too low. It should be at least £12,500, which is what you get for a normal work-week on the minimum wage, and equals half the national average wage. Someone who earns that little should not pay tax on any of it; they have a hard enough time getting by as it is.
This will cost money, of course. To raise the threshold like that would reduce the Treasury's tax take by billions of pounds. Our accountancy team is crunching out the numbers, and we'll publish the full, costed, proposal in the late summer.
Suffice it to say that some money will saved on the tax credits no longer needed if low earners can keep their own money. There will be savings not just on the payouts, but upon the costly and complex administration which supports them.
There will be more savings, too, on the welfare budget, because work will be more attractive than benefits if we stop taxing it for low earners. People will find it better to take low-paid jobs than to stay on welfare.
This still isn't enough, so we need to have higher earners contribute more, not in terms of their tax rates, of course, but in the total amount they contribute. In the 1980s both British and American high earners paid more in tax (and a greater proportion of the total) when their tax rates were cut. We need to see how we can reduce rates and raise thresholds at the top to pay for lifting the starting threshold to £12,500 at the bottom.
The Treasury will not allow themselves to take such calculations into account, and the Tory tax team has undertaken not to, either. Fortunately we, at the Adam Smith institute, have no such limitations. We also welcome suggestions to improve our study ahead of its publication.
Published by telegraph.co.uk here
1 July 2008
By Mark McLaughlin and Duncan Bick (July 1 2008)
FOR a man regarded as a giant of political thinking, his arrival could have been deemed a little undignified.
Yet after being lowered into place on his plinth, a statue of Adam Smith – the man regarded as the father of modern economics – took its rightful place in the heart of the Capital's Parliament Square.
The bronze was hoisted into place outside St Giles' Cathedral, ahead of a two-day series of events commemorating his life due to begin on Friday.
The statue, created by celebrated Scottish sculptor Alexander Stoddart, took its place outside the historic City Chambers.
The statue was welcomed by Paul Downie owner of the nearby Loch Ness 3D Experience. He said: "The way it's been done is in keeping with the rest of the Royal Mile."
Royal Mile stallholder Bobby the Tarot reader had doubts though. He said: "It's being opened a month before the Festival. It's just going to get stickered, postered and vandalised."
Dr Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, which commissioned the statue, said: "Adam Smith is buried in the Canongate churchyard but the monument there isn't very impressive, and you have to venture through the gravestones and bushes of the churchyard to get to it which can be very dark and foreboding.
"We felt that it would be good to have proper monument nearby.
"The site is ideal for a number of reasons. First of all, Adam Smith used to work near the site where the chambers are now.
"Secondly, it's the site of an old market ground and he was, of course, a great believer in markets and free trade.
"Thirdly, it looks down the hill, beyond the Canongate and on to the seat of Fife where Smith was born."
The statue is packed with symbolism representing the man's image and the things he represented throughout his life.
Behind him is a ploughshare which represents the old world order where people believed the economy revolved around agriculture and the shifting seasons.
Smith's ideas would help change that world view as the world shifted away from agriculture, and in front of him is a beehive, representing the world of industry that Smith foresaw.
Bees are traditionally seen as industrious, and Smith's cloaked hand can be seen resting on the beehive, representing the "Invisible Hand" of self-interest as an engine of community cohesion – a central plank of Smith's philosophy.
The statue is due to be officially unveiled on Friday.
Published by The Scotsman here
17 April 2008
By Nicolas Jones (April 17 2008)
It was modestly put but heartfelt nonetheless: bloggers believe that crap journalists are finally feeling the heat.
When a trio of celebrated bloggers were brought together by the Adam Smith Institute (16.4.2008) they were united in their belief that the collective strength of the new media was helping to start to improve the quality and accuracy of the main stream providers of news and information.
“Curbing the crap artists" was the ambitious claim of the organisers and each of the three speakers -- Tim Worstall, Guido Fawkes and Perry de Havilland -- had to explain why they believed the blogosphere could play its part in redefining the media, politicians and business.
Tim Worstall claimed an impressive tally of scalps and took great delight in having corrected even journalists as well known as Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot of the Guardian and Will Hutton of the Observer.
“Bloggers are taking the information which journalists such as these present to the public and then questioning it. Even if we only have a small audience for our blogs we are changing the world for the better because we are exposing the errors of the main stream media."
“Bloggers are a vital part of an information revolution and collectively we will always be better informed than any one individual journalist writing a newspaper article. We know when a journalist has got it wrong and we can point that out. The market place of ideas will sift and find the truth and that is the value of bloggers to a broader society."
Perry de Havilland (samizdata.net) thought the success of the new media was that it had changed the nature of information and the way it was handled. The impact on crap journalists, politicians and businesses was that it “makes the crap harder to hide" when they get it wrong.
Published by Spinwatch here
8 March 2008
By John Vidal (March 8 2008)
The provocative rightwing Adam Smith Institute has "investigated" Fairtrade and found - shock! - it's doing more harm than good. The rational free market economists, nappy-trained on Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher, say the popular system of paying a bonus to producers in poor countries and guaranteeing them an above-market price for their produce, helps only a very small number of farmers, favours some growers over others, pays inefficient cooperative farms and discourages mechanisation. Even worse, they add, it allows UK supermarket chains to profit more from the higher price of Fairtrade goods than the farmers themselves.
This is seductive but misleading. In a perfect world, with no trade barriers or subsidies or future markets or middle men, these academic points would be telling. But the free-trade system, which the Adam Smith Institute prefers and in which western consumers and small farmers must work, is heavily skewed against the poor. At the last count nearly 2 billion farmers were unable to get a decent price for their goods, and were earning less than $2 a day, something which might also be called "unfair".
Fairtrade is not perfect. It was only ever an inspiring idea to try to channel more money to producers in developing countries, and many people hold their nose when they see Tesco and others retailers making more money out of selling a fairly traded chocolate bar than the family who might have spent days labouring in the field to produce it.
But the extra cash that goes to the cooperatives does help. Some groups use it to provide their old people with minimal pensions, others use it to pay for school fees or increase their pay. The point is the group members choose what they do with the extra money democratically. And nearly 7 million people - farmers, workers and their families - in 59 countries now benefit.
Tellingly, nobody is forced to join a Fairtrade organisation, or to buy such products, so you might think that free market advocates such as the Adam Smith Institute would be happy to see the expansion of individual choice that it provides.
Published by The Guardian here
25 February 2008
Febuary 25 2008
Demand for Fairtrade products may be soaring in the UK but the scheme is leaving Third World farmers worse off and does not aid economic development, a UK think-tank has claimed.
A report by the Adam Smith Institute claimed the Fairtrade brand is a "nice idea" but questioned whether it helped farmers.
"There are a number of inconvenient truths about Fairtrade," the institute's Marc Sidwell said. "Indeed, on closer inspection it may not be that fair at all. It only offers a very small number of farmers a higher fixed price for their goods."
Sidwell added: "Given the way markets work, these higher prices come at the expense of many other farmers who, unable to qualify for Fairtrade certification, are left even worse off."
The report, which coincides with the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight, said the brand sustains uncompetitive farmers on their land, holding back diversification, mechanisation and denies future generations the chance of a better life.
Fairtrade is a brand competing with other ethical schemes and charities for people's money, the report claimed.
"Fairtrade's success rests on its skilful advertising and its ability to persuade corporations, schools, towns and even nations to 'go Fairtrade'," Sidwell said. "But when you look at the evidence it is clear that for all its good intentions, Fairtrade is not the only way to make a difference, and it is not the best way either."
Published by Just-Food here