ISOS 2008


On Wednesday the Adam Smith Institute held its biannual Independent Seminar on the Open Society. Attended by around 200 sixth form pupils we had a highly impressive line-up of speakers.

Opening the seminar was the Institute’s Dr Eamonn Butler who spoke on whether or not our rulers have too much power. Needless to say, he concluded that they do, the challenge for him and the Institute is in finding ways to get it back. Next up was Councillor JP Floru. Having recently been selected to represent the Conservative Party at the 2009 European election, he discussed with verve the threat European politicians pose on the ability for the people of Europe to thrive. Interesting stuff.

The economist Paul Ormerod was next to speak, tackling the key factors shaping the economic realities for future politicians. With cutting accuracy, he showed that despite the growth in size of the state, the problems that it sets out to combat have not been solved but often exacerbated. The Institute’s president Dr Madsen Pirie spoke next, addressing the question of whether a libertarian can be a conservative. Much of the talk centred upon the highly regarded book Nudge, drawing the key practical and moral issues that come from Cameron’s Conservative Party being so taken with ideas contained within it.

After lunch, Dr Steve Davies spoke on the potential for the private supply of public goods. With refreshing iconoclasm, he showed that the state could be superfluous in providing everything (yes, including the police and the military). Journalist and author Ross Clark followed this with an exposition of the surveillance society, detailing the remarkable proliferation and failure of the ubiquitous surveillance camera.

Our penultimate speaker was Vincent Cable MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Liberal Democrats. Interesting as always, he spoke with his usual clarity on the fundamentals of the credit crunch. Last up was Dr Helen Evans of Nurse for Reform. Addressing the question of whether political factors thwart a rational healthcare system. The answer was unequivocally ‘yes’, once again an argument true to the spirit of Popper’s Open Society.

We plan to run another sixth form conference next March, if you would like your name or school to be put down for an early invitation please send us an email: