Abolish the Poor

• It isn’t greedy employers, but greedy government, that is keeping people in inwork poverty; without tax on low earnings even workers on the 2015 minimum wage would earn a living wage.

• The government should raise the national insurance contributions (NICs) threshold along with the income tax threshold to let workers keep more of what they earn—without tax 37.5h on the minimum wage would give workers just 32p/h (or £670/year) less than the living wage.

• Employer-side NICs fall partly on employment and partly on workers’ wages— cutting them should also be a governmental priority.

• Unconditional benefits paid to those in work are not a subsidy to employers, in fact they may induce employers to offer higher wages; those such as tax credits go mostly through to higher wages. Rothstein (2010) estimated that in the United States 73% of the Earning Income Tax Credit went to the worker.

• Even if the minimum wage for the over-25s were increased to £9/hour under the current tax system, take home pay will be only 69p/hour above the untaxed level of the 2015 minimum wage. This difference will become even less significant considering planned increases in the minimum wage in the coming 5 years.

• Instead of imposing a mandatory National Living Wage, the Chancellor would have done better to remove taxes from the lowest paid, giving workers a similar level of post-tax income while forgoing the 60,000 higher unemployment and £1.5 billion lower GDP that the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts will accompany his plans.

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The impact of interest groups on public policy

Interest groups impact upon public policy in several ways.  Firstly, when legislation is being prepared, those drafting it consider the likely impact upon any specific and identifiable groups.  They consider the likely effect on the population as a whole, which is normally beneficial, but also consider any sub-groups of that population which might be adversely affected.  A proposal to open foreshore areas to ramblers will benefit those who might take advantage of their new-found rights, but might impact negatively on those who have previously enjoyed exclusive access.

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Seven Misconceptions About Europe

Myths and deceptions abound concerning the EU and Britain’s place within it or outside it.  Oliver Lewis in the Spectator has done a workmanlike and admirably brief summary of what he calls “Ten myths about Brexit,” identifying scare stories.  There are also 7 common errors about Europe that will almost certainly feature in the debate.  Some are misconceptions and self-deceptions, but all are untrue. (more…)

No Stress: The flaws in the Bank of England’s stress testing programme

In 2014, the Bank of England commenced a stress testing programme in an effort to test the capital adequacy of major UK-based banks. It concluded that its results demonstrated the resilience of the banking system. No Stress, a report from the Adam Smith Institute, suggests that we should be extremely sceptical of the Bank’s conclusions.

The report sees Kevin Dowd, Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute, professor of finance and economics at Durham University, and author of three books, ten book chapters, and dozens of journal articles on risk modelling, present a powerful and rigorous indictment of the Bank’s stress testing programme.

Dowd makes the case that the stress tests are significantly methodologically flawed and worse than useless, giving policymakers unreliable information about the strength of the UK banking system, providing false risk comfort, and creating systemic instability by forcing banks to converge towards the Bank of England’s models.

For these reasons and more, he concludes that we should end regulatory risk modelling and re-establish strong bank governance systems that make decision-makers personally liable for the risks they take.

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The No Breakfast Fallacy

The depletion of mineral reserves poses no serious threat to society, this new report from the Adam Smith Institute concludes.

The No Breakfast Fallacy: Why the Club of Rome was wrong about us running out of resources” argues that outcries over resource availability from environmentalist groups are based on a misinterpretation of numbers and a misunderstanding of what mineral resources actually are.

The monograph, written by Senior Fellow and rare earths expert Tim Worstall, says that groups that have warned about the world running out of rare mineral resources, such as The Club of Rome, have been using the wrong sets of data, mistaking the exhaustion of mineral reserves for the exhaustion of mineral resources.

Mineral reserves, the monograph explains, are simply the minerals that have been prepared for use for the next few decades; they are minerals that can be mined with current technology at current prices. Some reserves are going to run out in the near future, but this is a normal process. Every generation runs out of mineral reserves.

Mineral resources, however, refer to a concentration of minerals of a certain quality and quantity that have shown reasonable prospects for eventual economic extraction. These are much larger than mineral reserves.

Organic farming, for example, may be a useful idea, the monograph asserts, but the idea that it is a necessity because we’re about to run out of inorganic fertilisers is based on a falsehood. The reserves for minerals used in fertilizers may exhaust in the next few hundred years, but the exhaustion of resources is not estimated to occur for 1,400 years for phosphate and 7,300 years for potassium.

The report concludes that efforts to conserve and/or recycle mineral resources are wasteful and often end up being net harms to society, by diverting economic activity from more productive uses.

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