Austrian Economics - A Primer

Austrian School economists gave us the ideas of marginal utility, opportunity cost, and the importance of time and ignorance in shaping human choices and the markets, prices and production systems that stem from them. 'Austrian' economics has revolutionised our understanding of what money is, why economic booms invariably turn to damaging busts, why government intervention in the economy is a mistake, the importance of time and information in economic decision-making, the crucial role of entrepreneurship, and how much economic policy is just plain wrong. Eamonn Butler explains these ideas in straightforward, non-technical language, making this Primer the ideal introduction for anyone who wants to understand the key insights of the Austrian School and their relevance and importance to our economic situation today. Now updated with an additional chapter on Contemporary Austrian thinking.

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Global Player or Subsidy Junkie? Decision time for the BBC

This report, by media expert and former BBC producer David Graham, argues that the TV Licence Fee should be abolished, and that the BBC should instead become a subscription service. The report makes a number of points against the Licence Fee, but also makes a more positive case for reform, suggesting that shifting to a voluntary subscription model would encourage the BBC to compete with the big US studios, export more high quality content overseas, and spark significant growth in the UK broadcasting industry and its contribution to the wider economy.

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Taxpayer Value: Rolling back the state

'Taxpayer Value: Rolling back the state' urges the government to reduce the number of people employed by Whitehall departments and their QUANGOs by almost 27 percent. This would equate to almost 270,000 public sector job losses and deliver estimated savings of £55bn a year. However, the emphasis of this report is not on cutting for cutting's sake. Rather, the goal is to make the concept of 'taxpayer value' central to government activity and, in so doing, deliver better services at a lower cost. Among other recommendations, the report suggests that job centres be privatized and the tax and benefit systems integrated, that the military take over procurement from the MoD and purchase equipment 'off the shelf', and the Departments for International Development and Communities and Local Government be abolished.

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Response to the Emergency Budget

The ASI’s emergency budget response welcomes the fiscal consolidation proposed by the government and praises the changes to the personal allowance and corporation tax, while also pointing out that the Chancellor could have gone further on spending cuts, and should not have raised VAT and Capital Gains Tax. It goes on to argue that cuts should be achieved by fundamentally re-thinking the role of the state rather than salami slicing, and advocates radical welfare reform as an urgent priority.

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Estimated revenue losses from CGT increases

International evidence suggests clearly that increases in capital gains taxes above a very modest level result in decreases in revenue. Similarly, if capital gains tax rates are set above a relatively modest level, then their reduction will involve an increase in revenues. This paper uses new evidence from Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland combined with existing analysis from America, Australia and Britain to try and identify more precisely the revenue consequences of CGT increases in the UK. It looks at both revenue losses from capital gains tax and from other taxes.

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The Party is Over

In The Party is Over – A Blueprint for Fiscal Stability, city economist Nigel Hawkins argues that reducing public spending is the most pressing challenge the new government. His report goes on to point out that – assuming the Treasury's growth forecasts are correct – the government will need to cut spending by 3 percent a year to balance the books by 2015. That means finding more than £90bn of cuts over the course of the current parliament. Hawkins also argues that no area of public spending - even the NHS - should be ring-fenced.

 

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Re-Booting Government

In 'Re-Booting Government: How to deal with the deficit without cutting vital services', Dr Eamonn Butler argues that reducing deficits and debt is essential. Debt imposes a large interest-payments tax on citizens, limits the options open to governments, and it weakens political leaders both at home and abroad. But in the long run, a cheese-slicer approach to cutting spending is not going to be enough. We need to completely rethink the role of the state, what it does, and how it does it. In short, we need to reboot government.

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The Effect of Capital Gains Tax Rises on Revenues

This report reviews international evidence on the effect of capital gains tax rises on government revenues, finding that tax rises tend to decrease revenues while tax cuts tend to increase them. It suggests that aligning CGT rates with income tax, as the UK government has proposed, would significantly hit revenues and worsen the deficit, as well as discouraging much needed investment. It also refutes the idea that CGT is primarily a tax on the rich, suggesting instead that CGT hikes will hit ordinary families and – in particular – retirees. Finally, the report describes the idea that people can easily shift income to capital gains and thus avoid taxes as a theory in search of some evidence, pointing to numerous countries with high income taxes and low capital gains taxes where this does not seem to be problem.

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Treasury forecasts: the tendencies and consequences of inaccuracy

In this study, Liam Ward-Proud analyses the accuracy of Treasury budget forecasts for GDP growth by comparing them with the ensuing growth. Examining three different types of forecast, some key trends are found in relation to the correlation, absolute errors and a bias towards overestimation in the sampled forecasts. The consequences for fiscal planning are then spelled out and a solution for mitigating the damage of inaccurate forecasting is put forward.

 

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Why Britain needs an Economic Responsibility Act

This briefing calls on the next government to pass an Economic Responsibility Act, which would place legally binding restraints on government’s fiscal policies. Specifically, it would: (1) cap government spending at one-third of GDP; (2) cap the budget deficit at 3% of GDP; (3) cap the national debt at 40% of GDP; (4) require that off-balance-sheet obligations were fully calculated and openly stated; and (5) allow government to borrow only to invest in capital projects, not to fund current expenditure. This briefing also recommends that new rules be introduced to limit government’s ability to raise taxes.