Think Pieces

The folly of the public benefit test

Written by | Thursday 26 May 2011

This week the long running dispute between the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and the Charity Commission moves towards a conclusion in the courts. While Robert Pearce’s comments on Friday will come as a disappointment to association members hoping for clarity on the question of how schools may meet the new public benefit requirement, I can’t help but think that the issue has become little more than a distracting side-show.

Free Schools are heading for failure

Written by | Wednesday 11 May 2011

So now it’s official: of the 323 free school proposals received by the DfE as of 11th February, 282 were turned down. Less than 50 were given an amber light. It looks likely that roughly ten will open their gates in September. The century of civil servants seconded to process applications can breathe a sigh of relief and go back to whatever it was they were doing before they were so rudely interrupted, for it’s unlikely under the strictures of the new applications process that for 2012 there will be anything like the volume of the first tranche.

The impact of proportional representation and coalition government on fiscal policy

Written by | Monday 18 April 2011


For many years, there have been calls to change the electoral system within the UK from First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) to a more proportional system. This has featured in successive Liberal Democrat (formerly the SDP/Liberal Alliance) manifestos, as the FPTP system favours a two party system as the percentage of votes does not reflect the number of seats won in Parliament.

The case for NGDP targeting – lessons from the Great Recession

Written by | Monday 11 April 2011

The Adam Smith Institute’s latest report, The Case for NGDP Targeting by US economist Scott Sumner, argues that that the Bank of England’s inflation targeting regime was proved inadequate by the Great Recession, and should be replaced. Instead of targeting inflation, the Bank of England should target nominal gross domestic product (NGDP). This is sometimes referred to as nominal income targeting.

In making his case, Sumner argues that:

To have or to be? A reflection on the anti-cuts march

Written by | Monday 28 March 2011

As this Saturday was the first in a while that I've had to myself, I woke up early and resolved to make a particularly special effort to spend the day doing things that make me happy. One of these is to take a walk in Hyde Park around the Serpentine, maybe with a cup of tea, as my father and I sometimes do when he visits. When I got there, however, I discovered – to my horror – that the park was completely overrun with thousands of trade unionists.

What will the Bribery Act mean for business?

Written by | Thursday 24 March 2011

The Bribery Act 2010 may put Britain in a difficult position. The Act will require companies with a UK connection to put in place what the Act vaguely describes as “adequate procedures" to prevent bribery. The extent and costs of these procedures are unclear. The worst case scenario is that multinational firms and organizations, for legal reasons, may be wary of having any connection with the UK in order to avoid this strict liability offence (ie, no proof of intention required) and the associated costs and reputational damage of having to defend if prosecuted..

How Ireland can leave the euro

Written by | Monday 28 February 2011

Dear Minister,

Congratulations on your new appointment. As you read the civil service briefings on the present crisis, you will come to appreciate that Ireland's problems would be much easier to manage if your administration could choose the country's own exchange rate and interest rate. However, your officials and your colleagues may believe that there is no practical way to leave the present European monetary union and so achieve this flexibility.

A smarter approach to the welfare state

Written by | Wednesday 23 February 2011

After the Second World War, few people had a bank account. They were about one third as rich, had ten years less life expectancy, penicillin was the most expensive drug and a hip operation wasn’t even the stuff of sci-fi yet. So the state had to contrive a cashless system for the nation’s welfare and ‘free at point of delivery’ was born. This required a bureaucracy that over the years has fed on itself and is now so large that there is no template for its management and its expense devours funds needed at the coalface.

It’s freedom we need, not the nanny state

Written by | Tuesday 22 February 2011

Paternalism, or (as it is now called, in a strange shift of gender and status) “the nanny state”, has always had its defenders amongst the elite. After all, it is the elite who define what is good; what is virtuous. It is little surprise that they would seek to defend their mores, even to the point of crushing the individual freedoms of others.


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