- Social cohesion is the strength of interactions between members of society. These interactions are characterised by a number of norms that include trust, a sense of belonging, and a willingness to participate.
- Measures of social cohesion include generalised trust, interpersonal trust, civic participation and volunteering.
- Evidence from the US suggests a strong relationship between rising diversity and lower levels of generalised trust. There is much less evidence for a relationship between diversity and other measures of social cohesion in the US.
- There are some cultural reasons to suspect that American evidence might not fully apply to Europe and the UK.
- European evidence at a national level does not suggest a negative relationship between diversity and trust or other social cohesion indicators.
- Evidence from the UK is mixed. There is some evidence to suggest an association between higher diversity and lower generalised trust – yet there is also conflicting evidence which finds no such association.
- There is little evidence to suggest a negative relationship between diversity and other measures of social cohesion such as: civic participation, trust in authority, or voluntary work in the UK.
This think piece sees Adam Smith Institute Senior Fellow Keith Boyfield explore a worrying aspect of the alarming growth of patent assertion authorities – often referred to across the pond as patent trolls. He highlights a particular brand of patent ‘trolling’ sponsored by foreign governments, and contemplates its implications for world trade and competitive markets.
Prof. Scott Sumner, who inspired the US programme of QE3 and was dubbed ‘the blogger who saved the US economy’ by The Atlantic, explains how central banks—not bankers—caused the 2007-8 crash. He goes on further, showing how the European Central Bank is repeating the mistakes the Fed and the Bank of England made in the dark days. And he argues that they can solve the slump and prevent future crises with a market-based, rule-based, stability-focused monetary policy of targeting the level of nominal GDP.
• Despite academics, politicians, and international organisations recognising that the UK is facing a housing crisis, it is currently far less developed than many imagine, especially when compared to similar countries. Indeed, only two members of the EU 27 have less built environment per capita than the UK: the Netherlands and Cyprus. 90% of land in England remains undeveloped, and just 0.5% would be required to fulfil this decade’s housing needs.
• Green Belts are not the bucolic idylls some imagine them to be; indeed, more than a third of protected Green Belt land is devoted to intensive farming, which generates net environmental costs.
• The concept of ever-expanding urban sprawl is mistaken and pernicious. In addition, Green Belts can give rise to “leap-frog development”, where intermediate patches of land are left undeveloped due to restrictions, a phenomenon indistinguishable from what many understand urban sprawl to be.
• By encouraging urban densification, Green Belts take green space away from those places where it is most valued. Each hectare of city park is estimated to be of £54,000 benefit per year, compared to a mere £889 per hectare for Green Belt land on the fringe of an urban area.
• There are substantial welfare costs of Green Belts. They have made accommodation more expensive and smaller, increased costs for businesses (especially relative to other European cities), and have contributed to the volatility of house prices.
• The avenue of reform we favour is the complete abolition of the Green Belt, a step which could solve the housing crisis without the loss of any amenity or historical value – if only politicians and planners had the courage to take it.
• Failing this, we conclude that removing Green Belt designation from intensive agricultural land would also enable the building of all the housing required for the foreseeable future, and could help ameliorate the catastrophic undersupply of recent decades.
• In the short term, simply removing restrictions on land 10 minutes’ walk of a railway station would allow the development of 1 million more homes within the Green Belt surrounding London alone.
Vishal Wilde’s series of think pieces continues with a radical look at the role of government in education. Why, he asks, do we assume that both children and society are better off when we make education compulsory in childhood? He suggests that using state coercion in this way is reprehensible and unproductive. Instead, children should be liberated from the constraints the state currently places upon them, for their own benefit and ours.