We remember Adam Smith for his stunning intuition of the invisible
guiding hand that somehow enables rampant self interest to evolve for
the common good. Two hundred years later we face a similar paradox. We
know that the Earth is a benign and comfortable place for life and has
been so for most of its history, so how have selfish genes allowed the
evolution of so altruistic a planet? It is easy now to see how
Darwinian natural selection leads to the evolution of fit organisms but
how can the common good for all life also evolve by natural selection?
The hype is enormous too: Morgan Spurlock's movie Super Size Me hit
British screens this weekend. Calling itself a 'documentary', it
supposedly shows that when the hapless Spurlock had spent an entire
month eating only at McDonalds, he ended up 25 pounds heavier and with
a liver like fois gras.
The BBC - Britain's politically-correct state broadcaster - got in
on the act too, heralding the movie with its own 'Healthier Britain
Week' and commissioning opinion polls claiming that the Brits are
desperate for government to save them from their bad eating habits.
The American bank robber, Willie Sutton, was asked why he persisted in robbing banks.
"That's where the money is," was his rather puzzled reply.
And why do our museums spend so much time dogging the heels of
politicians? Because in their world, government is where the money is.
After all, if you can't charge people to come in, then visitors become
no more than a necessary nuisance, wearing out the carpets and
fingering the exhibits.
The Left's policy wonks have come up with another great wheeze to divide Britain's hard-working classes from their cash. Namely Inheritance Tax (IHT) changes which will (says the spin) 'cut tax in 87% of cases' – but which aim to rake in another £147 million by raising the tax on the other 13%.
Britain levies IHT at an already punitive rate of 40% on all estates over £263,000. And giving away your assets to your kids before you die is no protection either. Unless you live for seven years, the Treasury still demands a slice.
Our illusions about the National Health Service are breaking down. We used to call it 'the envy of the world'. Not any more. We now recognise that our health service is actually pretty poor compared with other developed countries. It has wonderful and dedicated people in it; but they are let down by a system which creaks with incompetence
One of the old NHS principles has been that GP services, including surgery appointments and house calls must be free.
In a new ASI paper, distinguished energy expert Prof Ian Fells says the government's energy policy is 'timid, complacent, and reckless'.
Media entrepreneur Eben Wilson says that a state-supported BBC is simply out of date in a world of 2500 digital channels. Politicians love the free airtime, but why should we pay? Time to sell Auntie and give every family a £200 cashback.
Tim Ambler of the London Business School says that up to £1b a year is being wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy in the research councils - and that we would get better science at less cost by allocating the research budget directly to the universities.
Do we need regulation, rule-books and new codes of practice to keep boardroom executives in check? Corporate-governance specialist Elaine Sternberg says not. The keys to getting on-the-ball, responsible management are competition and shareholder empowerment. Her punchy report takes on the regulationists and shows how to achieve good governance without politics.
The only booming sector in the UK seems to be the public sector. We've skimmed the Guardian's jobs pages and added up the cost of all those community awareness co-ordinators (30,000 of them each year, at nearly a billion quid in salaries). Our report, by Jonathan Woolham, shows exactly where your hard-earned tax money is going.