Jan Boucek

Markets deliver

Written by | Monday 16 January 2012

It was a good week for believers in markets. Once again, they have delivered what no amount of political hectoring, wishful thinking or global planning could as quickly or efficiently.

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Genome genie

Written by | Wednesday 11 January 2012

Same old problems got you down in this new year? Budget deficits, euro crisis, immigration? Ed Milliband’s promise of fairness in tough times doesn’t stir the soul? Thirty minutes quicker by train to Birmingham on HS2 a big yawn? Well, here’s something brand new to start worrying about.

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Actuarial truths

Written by | Monday 9 January 2012

An actuary isn’t where dead actors are buried; it’s someone who tells you about a problem you never thought you had and in a way you can’t understand. Actuaries are the butt of  jokes that they’re dull folk – accountants without the charisma. Their function is to assess the financial impact of risk and uncertainty, thinking through everybody’s worst nightmares – accidents, catastrophes, injury and death. In short, they talk about things we’d rather not.

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Antidote to New Year blues

Written by | Tuesday 3 January 2012

Well, that was a depressing kick off to 2012. Have you ever seen so much doom and gloom in New Year forecasts, starting with our own Prime Minister and on out to every pundit, analyst, politico, clergy and media outlet?

Here it is Tuesday morning after the bank holiday and the BBC’s Blues Combo is already in full throat with fraught reports on “failing” social care, private pension “collapse” and more hand wringing about the catastrophic consequences of a eurozone break-up. We’re quickly off to a long year of seeing every last bit of hope and optimism ground out of us.

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Unwinding the Iron Lady

Written by | Monday 19 December 2011

Recent weeks have seen a flurry of articles about the upcoming release of The Iron Lady, featuring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. A lot of these have been drearily predictable – superb performance of a dynamic personality but, heaven forbid, the writers could never vote for Thatcher and lament her destruction of a golden Britain that never was. One Guardianista admitted to being only six when Thatcher was ousted but still claimed to be opposed to everything she stood for.

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Bond seller’s blues

Written by | Tuesday 13 December 2011

Friday night in a north London pub and the downstairs room has a bunch of old blues musicians wailing about hard luck, bad women and hittin’ the road again. All those train whistles, pawn shops and late-night soup kitchens, however, seem a bit out of date and out of place in Crouch End, especially with a perfectly decent tapas bar next door. Still, it’s always been the lot of the hard-working right to see the best poets and musicians flock to the unemployed left.

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Cocaine, conifers and casinos

Written by | Sunday 4 December 2011

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Bank-bashing for pensioners

Written by | Monday 28 November 2011

What’s more satisfying than bashing bankers to help pensioners? There is something to the Occupy movement’s outrage at the rewards enjoyed by the banking industry but the hue and cry for higher bonus and income taxes and a financial transactions tax misses the point.

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Just do nothing

Written by | Tuesday 22 November 2011

Everyone is against red tape and vows to cut it back. Yet, year after year, there’s more red tape, regulation and form-filling than ever before. The trouble is that each instance of red tape and its ilk is usually tiny in the greater scheme of things and is spun strand by strand by otherwise insignificant busybodies nagged by vested interests. Over the long run, though, these strands together hold down the greater Gulliver.

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Déjà vu all over again

Written by | Monday 14 November 2011

To folks of a certain age, the world is eerily familiar to the 1970s. Those were depressing times, especially for normally upbeat and optimistic types like us aficionados of the Adam Smith Institute.

Consider the broader international economy. Back then, double-digit central bank interest rates were widespread. Now, rates of virtually zero are equally disquieting. Stock markets went nowhere in the 1970s, just as they’ve done for 12 years now. The IMF bailed out ancient European nations in the 1970s (the UK in 1976 and Greece in 1987) and is at it again now.

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