Ex Libris

This paper examines the need for public libraries, and the issue of their great expense for the public sector. It largely concludes that the system is of need of reform, and a user charge should be introduced, for both moral as well as practical economic reasons.

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The Challenge of Competition

This report comprises the edited proceedings of an important conference on the subject of local authority tendering, held under the sponsorship of the Adam Smith Institute at the end of 1986. At that time, the government had announced proposals to make it compulsory for local authorities to invite tenders for several services; though in the event, these proposals were postponed. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that the principle of compulsory tendering will soon be revived.

Even without official prompting, more and more local authorities are turning to contractors to perform their essential services. The teething troubles that are inevitable when any new market is established, have largely been overcome by those authorities and contractors with the longest experience in the field. Some of their wisdom, showing how they have defeated the problems and captured the benefits of privatization, is distilled in this report.

The savings that ratepayers have enjoyed because of contracting our undoubtedly run into hundreds of thousands of pounds; and as the contributors to this report argue, service quality has been improved at the same time. There is a general acknowledgement that public institutions have an obligation to provide the best service at the lowest price for those whom they represent. These papers illustrate one way of achieving that laudable aim.

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Britain and the SDI

This paper argues that Britain would be well advised to participate wholeheartedly in these developments, adapting her defence policy to the new circumstances, rather than being stranded with old weapons and old ideas. As the following chapter demonstrates, most of the charges that are levelled against strategic defence are false, misinformed, or misguided. Subsequent sections detail the substantial Soviet effort to develop strategic defences, the rapid technological progress that is being made in the US SDI research programme, and the political popularity of SDI. The conclusion of this paper is that strategic defence has much to offer Britain, that she has much of the technological know-how required to make it a success, and she should begin to carry out her own research in co-operation with the US with a view to deployment within the next two decades.

 

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Time to Call Time

In 1986 the Adam Smith Institute called for the reform and liberalisation of the archaic drinking and licensing laws of England and Wales. This study by the ASI compared Scotland and England and Wales after the laws had been changed North of the border. It found that even though alcohol was more readily available there, there was a reduction in the negative aspects of drink such as disorderly behaviour and health problems.

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It Pays to Cut Taxes

This report of a conference organised by the ASI in 1986 looks at the merits of reducing taxes. The conference was chaired by Andrew Neil and boasted a list of speakers which included James Gwartney, Lawrence Lindsey, George Gilder and Tom Bethell. At a time when much economic debate was and still is devoted to the relative merits of tax cuts or increased spending, the Adam Smith Institute felt that some consideration should be given to the effectiveness of tax cuts, particularly at the upper levels, in achieving greater revenues.

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Funding the BBC

'Funding the BBC' gives an account of a conference held by the Adam Smith Institute in 1985 to discuss how the BBC should be funded in the following years. Contributors include Saatchi and Saatchi, David Graham and Joe Ashton MP.  

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The Debate on Bus Regulation

Dr Hibbs argues for constraints upon the 'twin evils' that might be expected to arise in an unregulated market - the fly-by-night operator seeking a quick profit, and the large undertaking 'competing to kill' and thus stifling initiative and innovation, but adds the proviso that it might be possible to dismantle even these constraints after a period of adjustment.   

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Departure Time

In recent years there has been a steady erosion of the anti-competitive regulatory environment which was established in international aviation after the war. This briefing document outlines the history of IATA in fixing international air fares and the advantages claimed to be derived from it. The benefits claimed from IATA fare fixing are questionable. A number of alternatives to IATA such as zones of competition in air fares, licensing of non-IATA airlines, the deregulation of airline ticket retailing, charter airlines, and discounting are examined. These markets account for approximately thirty million air passenger per year in the United Kingdom.

The costs of IATA price fixing include the loss of regulatory authority and influence from governments to airlines, reduced airline efficiency due to price collusion, inefficient air[airports, neglect of the consumer interest, losses of tourist revenues, and increased costs to the traded goods sectors.

The Civil Aviation Authority should require that airlines submit their tariffs independently of the deliberations of IATA on fares. In this way the regulatory authority should establish a programme of promoting price competition between airlines.

 

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Milking the Consumer

The marketing of milk must be one of the most labyrinthine attempts protect producer interests in an economy that has seen more than its fair share of such systems. The tragedy is that, precisely because it is so cumbersome, the damage done to producers and consumers alike when it finally collapses will be that much more severe. This report is a fascinating document in economy history. It traces in meticulous detail the originals of the present milk marketing arrangements in the UK, and shows how the system grew and grew until it was completely divorced from market reality.

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