Welcome Holly and Hunter!


Holly Mackay and Hunter Georgeson have joined the ASI as gap-year employees. We asked them to write this post to introduce themselves to our readers. Holly:

Having said in my interview that my favourite book was Harry Potter, I was both extremely surprised and delighted to find out that I’d landed one of the coveted gap year internship positions at the Adam Smith Institute. After finishing my A-Levels in Politics, Economics and Maths, I desperately wanted to fill my year with something that would hopefully allow me to build on my interest in those subjects, and working at the ASI is the perfect opportunity to do so.  Three weeks in, I’ve already had a fantastic time; I can’t wait for the rest of the coming year here.

I am an enthusiastic advocate of the ASI’s forward-thinking libertarian stance, and as Margaret Thatcher’s no. 1 fan, it’s a dream for me to have the opportunity to work with the masterminds behind some of her policies. As well as championing greater economic freedom, I also subscribe to the belief that individual liberties on social issues should be maximised too. I have already written my first blog post from this perspective, arguing in support of the Assisted Dying Bill, and I look forward to exploring so many more topics that are currently pressing British politics. Some of my personal interests include education, particularly in the wake of high levels of immigration and how we should cope with expanding demand, and how a freer market can actually be fairer for everyone- the Bleeding Heart Libertarian within me fully supports ASI campaigns to lower taxes for the poorest, get rid of the National ‘Living' Wage, and reduce regulations on businesses to allow entrepreneurs to flourish and create higher earnings for everyday workers.

I’m so excited to learn more from my colleagues here at the ASI; their energy and hard work is hugely inspiring, encouraging me to look at economic problems from angles I’ve never considered before. I greatly admire the work the ASI does, especially its outreach to students and young people, and I look forward to being able to contribute myself.


Very aware that an entire year without a definite plan would become a sort of spiritual black hole, I leapt at the opportunity to apply for the ASI's internship programme. After my first week here, I find it difficult to imagine that my time could be any better spent.

I did A-levels in subjects (English Literature, History, and Maths) that limited my ability to ask big questions – there's only a certain extent to which you can explore the deeper political philosophy behind Thatcher's privatisation reforms when you're studying the history of modern Britain. Although the ASI's work is on policy reform, there is behind the scenes a rich discourse on the ground-up basis for the free-market, libertarian perspective. It's very exciting to be around people who feel just as strongly about explaining their own ideas and hearing new ones as I do.

My own introduction to the liberal-right perspective came with reading, firstly, Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, and later, Mill's On Liberty. I found the simplicity of the principles underlined by the authors refreshing, whilst the few nuances and inconsistencies only drove me onto further reading. My particular interests include the problem of whether we can, or should, regulate against monopoly in a market economy, and the idea of more localised government systems, specifically with regard to the fostering of competitive forces between regional health-systems - like in Sweden.

Outside of academia, I'm the drummer in a band called Topknot (it's ironic, I promise!), and spend a lot of time working towards my ultimate goal of becoming an ascetic.

Can you spare a few pence for the regulator?

The announcement by the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations that there should be a new organisation to regulate the fundraising activities of charities was paradoxical in a sector supposedly grounded in voluntary action and philanthropy. Sir Stuart Etherington and three members of the House of Lords recently authored a review in the wake of goings-on deemed to have been sharp practices by certain well-known charities in persuading some people to part with donations.

One of the report’s recommendations is to have a levy on charities’ fundraising to pay for such a new regulator – the Fundraising Regulator.

Apart from anything else, in 'austerity Britain’ asking charities to fork out to fund such a thing is surely not on. Charities already get criticism for not spending enough on their stated aims, whether that perception is justified or not.

I can see it now:

"£1 in the tin for the Good Cause and don't forget the extra 34 pence to help the deserving regulator."

(Director’s note: cut to stock video of 87 administrators slaving away over iPads in a modern office - with appropriately sad musical soundtrack?)

Instead of reaching for the quango toolbox, just fix whatever the problems are. There are enough laws and codes of practice to assist in that. There is also the Charity Commission, for example. Then again, its chair has been quoted as saying:

‘"I think it is inevitable that the sector will have to assume much more of the responsibility for funding its regulator," he said. "It happens in many, many other parts of society and there is no reason why it should not happen in this one."’

So that’s all right then.

All that seems to typify a mindset all too common among quangocrats; the public has to pay for something that it (the public) decides to do voluntarily so that some superfluous bureaucrats can come along and charge the aforementioned volunteers (the public) to tell them whether they are doing it properly. Marvellous piece of job creation.

This country needs another public regulator for this like a hole in the proverbial. How much more effort has to be expended on box-ticking and draining resources from useful voluntary effort? Let alone in creating at least two regulators in place of one.


Geraint Day is a trustee of two charities and co-operative sector activist but has not sought permission to write the above from any nascent quango that might want to vet volunteered expressions of opinion on charities.

Freedom fighter John Von Kannon


We are sad to report the death, at 66, of John Von Kannon, a friend and leading figure in the freedom movement in Washington DC. He was Vice President of the Heritage Foundation, which he had served since 1980 as a thinker, doer and fundraiser – one of the founding generation that included Ed Feulner, Phil Truluck and Stuart Butler. John – nicknamed "The Baron" – Von Kannon was one of the founders of The American Spectator where he learnt the art of raising money. Blessed with great humour, an easygoing manner but also great focus and determination, he helped raise the Heritage Foundation's budget from $4m to over $90m. He was also instrumental in building up conservative and free-market think-tanks and campaign groups into an effective national network.

Among other awards for his work for liberty, he received the Heritage Foundation's highest honour, the Clare Booth Luce award – previous winners included Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – and Ashland University's John Ashbrook award. He was also elected a 'distinguished member' of the Philadelphia Society. He was a trustee of the Foundation for Research on the Economics of the Environment and Vice President of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a leading public interest law foundation.

John was charming, funny, effective and constant. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Gentrification: Demolishing a Sense of Community?


In 1964, Ruth Glass first coined the phenomenon of gentrification having observed the transformation in the social-structure of Barnsbury, Islington, following the residential displacement of its local working-class population. However, residential rehabilitation is merely one particular feature of today's gentrification process that is now encompassing of broader strategies of, inter alia, economic, social, and spatial restructuring. Indeed, contemporary social movements like Focus E15 indicate that gentrification has become an extraordinarily politicised and contentious phenomenon in the sphere of urbanisation. Its mechanisms could be analysed through combinations of both production-side and consumption-side channels. Neil Smith's (1979) rent-gap thesis has served as a provocative explanation of the production-side factors, describing the process of gentrification as a gradual consequence of the systematic disinvestment of capital in certain localities. But, from a consumption-side perspective, gentrification could be understood as a process of changes in the consumption preferences of the middle-class demographic that have increasingly renounced the monotony of suburbia and have become intoxicated by the thrills inner-city life.

However, London's current process of housing stock transfers can be better understood through the concept of a third-wave of state-sponsored gentrification (Watt, 2009), whereby the state has actively encouraged the gentrification process within previously inaccessible, disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods, most of which are home to a plethora of low-cost socially rented dwellings, by promoting the investments of housing associations and privately-operated property developers into the construction of owner-occupied housing, and, in the meantime, validating the destruction of affordable social housing to accommodate these changes. Interestingly, for private-investors there is considerable potential for capital accumulation because of a state-induced rent gap that has come to being because of sustained state-disinvestment into London's urban infrastructure whilst the land that it is constructed on has continually risen in value because of market demand outstripping supply. London's individual councils have all used the rhetoric of mixed-communities, and their supposed benefits in terms of the reduction of socio-spatial segregation and improvements in social-cohesion, as a rationale to displace, and replace, substantial parts of those same communities. It is through regenerative programmes that are “discursively framed as community-led regeneration [initiatives]” (Watt, 2009), such as the New Deal for Communities, that the leverage of those residing in London's social housing against a market-led gentrification process has been removed. Indeed, London's gentrification process, at present, is not representative of a natural, inevitable market adjustment process, but is, in fact, a series of inefficient government interventions that have failed to treat the systemic causes of regional degeneration within the capital and, oftentimes, produced grossly socially inefficient outcomes.

So, what does the existing academic literature have to say about the outcomes of gentrification? Principally, the most commonly invoked consequence of the gentrification process is displacement, which can be defined as the “complex, multi-stranded phenomenon whereby low-income residents are pressurised out of their homes and neighbourhoods, either directly via removal through housing demolitions, landlord evictions and rent increases, or indirectly via the loss of neighbourhood resources” (Watt, 2009). Atkinson (2000) validated this phenomenon as a veritable outcome of London's 'urban regeneration' initiatives and found that in the inner-city boroughs of Hammersmith, Kensington, and Camden, increases in the number of those in professional employment, those with higher-education qualifications, and those that are owner-occupiers, were subsequently followed by elevated levels of displacement of the working-class, the elderly, and private-sector tenants. Naturally, the forced dislocation of these residents from their communities has staggeringly detrimental consequences for the most vulnerable subdivisions of society; the elderly, for example, which are disproportionately represented amongst displacees, could suffer from the removal of long-term, supportive community networks which are imperative for comfortable day-to-day life if they are displaced from the places in which they have legitimate economic and social claims. Whilst neighbourhood transition can, of course, be understood as an organic outcome of the interaction of market forces, and the supposition that a neighbourhood must remain a stagnant environment is entirely inaccurate, the direction of its outcomes, however, are malleable and could be, and ought to be, moulded by political interventions which counterpoise the effects of displacement rather than fostering them. Currently, London is pursuing its strategy of mixed-community development by increasingly utilising public-private partnerships to improve their existing inventory of housing in light of unprecedented levels of budget cutbacks. Yet, the government's benign motivation to dilute London's gravest difficulties of concentrated poverty has been achieved through considerably more hostile approaches by private-developers that have aggressively out-migrated residents of social accommodation. Therefore, this development strategy has circumvented any sense of social responsibility and, more importantly, neglected the “structural causes of regional and city economic decline and poverty” (Atkinson, 2003).

    However, gentrification is less-interestingly considered through residential displacement of individual households than through the effects that the threat of displacement imposes upon on the residents of pre- or post-gentrified districts. Professor Stephen Sheppard (2012) notes that “community improvement actions” are privately-produced public goods that, as is the case with many goods of this kind, unfortunately suffer from persistent under-provision and, as such, are not provided at a socially optimum level. Interestingly, unstable communities, by which I mean those that are consistently plagued by the threat of displacement, are denied investments into socially-beneficial community projects that every resident would profit from had this threat not existed. Ideally, a “perfectly organised” community would have devised institutions to ensure that community improvement actions were provided to a level where the marginal social-benefit of these improvements were equated to their marginal social-cost and, therefore, they would be provided at an efficient level. But, now suppose that residents of the community, regardless of socio-economic class, perceived there to be a considerable displacement risk, then this would have the effect of decreasing the expected benefit from some community improvement because said resident is uncertain whether they will benefit from it over the lifetime of the community. It is therefore clear that if these residents were to value community improvements below their true socially optimal level then, theoretically, they will be under-provided in such communities. Sheppard (2012) chose to test the hypothesis that a risk of displacement could be associated with considerable reductions in community benefit actions by estimating four different regressions; the chosen dependent variables to measure community improvements were the logs of the expenditure per thousand residents and the number of community improvement organizations per thousand residents, and the independent variables to measure displacement risk were the logs of the percentage of the population over the age of five that has moved within the last five years and the percentage of all the population that had moved within the metropolitan statistical area over the same time period. Sheppard found that the estimated coefficients were both statistically and economically significant. Indeed, considerable increases in displacement risk were associated with “a 52% to 72% decrease in community benefit expenditures per capita, or a 17% to 35% decrease in the numbers of organizations” (Sheppard, 2012). Consequently, there is evidence that there exists a social-cost borne by the community holistically, not only by those low-income households typically associated with bearing the brunt of gentrification. It is necessary that London's municipal governments assist in the provision of community improvement actions and that their policies address issues facing the retention of affordable housing such that these potential outcomes of state-sponsored gentrification are counteracted.

Furthermore, Sakizlioglu (2014), of the Urban and Regional Research Center at Utrecht University, explores the outcomes of this element of temporality in the analysis of displacement and has likened the state authorities targeting of Tarlabaşı, Istanbul, for urban renewal to a form of state-sponsored gentrification. Residents of Tarlabaşı found that, after having their locale announced as a 'designated renewal area,' they faced increasingly threatening appropriation strategies from both the public and private sector, suffered from substantial disinvestment within the district and observed the gradual deconstruction of the social-networks to which they belonged; as such, the inhabitants found themselves living in the long-shadows that displacement had cast some time before they were actually displaced. Today, Tarlabaşı is being transformed into the “Champs-Élysées of Istanbul” (Sakizlioglu, 2014), its residents, though, 'decanted' to the peripheral limits of the capital like those in Parisian banlieues.

London's borough of Southwark is similarly undergoing a process of urban regeneration, although it is more moderate in its approach than Istanbul's destructive transformation of Tarlabaşı. Indeed, Southwark Council's regeneration of Elephant and Castle actually comes with a promise that local people will benefit from a “dramatically improved physical environment,” have “access to more local jobs and training opportunities” and the chance to buy thousands of newly built homes (Southwark Council, 2015). However, whether such promises will materialise in the near future remains a much contested issue.

Southwark, of course, is home to two of London's most infamous 'sink estates,' the Aylesbury and the Heygate, which are characterized by extreme socio-economic marginality and serve as perfect symbols of the capital's urban blight and material dilapidation. Naturally, these estates were prime targets for Southwark's own plans for urban revitalisation and the introduction of  socially “mixed communities [which will] help to overcome the problems associated with areas focused on deprivation such as reduced local business activity, limited local jobs and employment ambitions, downward pressures on school quality, high levels of crime and disorder, and health inequalities.” (Aylesbury Area Action Plan, 2010); these are, of course, completely justified aspirations for estates that frequently feature as narcotic-infested backdrops for television's latest crime dramas.

The 'regeneration' of the Heygate Estate, however, has presented previous residents with a scenario that is the antithesis of the discursive vehicle used by Southwark Council. Indeed, the neo-brutalist council estate which formerly provided the local community with 1200 dwellings, the majority of which were socially rented, has recently literally been ripped down by the insatiable hands of private property developers who plan to build approximately double the existing amount on the site. Unfortunately, merely seventy-nine of those units are allocated to be socially rented and only five-hundred are considered “affordable” - I note that affordability in this context does not actually suggest that the estates previous residents could constitute the majority of tenants in the modern apartment blocks, the rent for a two-bedroom flat alone would require an income of almost £44,000, which far exceeds the £12,000 mean-income earned by tenants that socially rent (Wiles, 2014). Heygate's residents now find themselves forcibly decanted across London's other boroughs, many of them far from relatives and workplaces; as an aside, Southwark Council actually engaged in unethical tactics like permanently switching off the estate's district heating systems to flush out its remaining residents, leaving those that are vulnerable without even the most basic utilities. It appears that the previous occupants of the Heygate Estate won't be able to share in the proposed benefits of mixed communities, although it must be noted this is but one constituent of the wider redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle area. The future of the Aylesbury Estate, though, appears similarly bleak.

However, the anti-gentrification narrative, which typically presents neighbourhood transition as totally exclusionary of the locale's original residents, at times, discounts the positive consequences of revitalisation that Southwark Council had alluded to above. Primarily, gentrification can be associated with both absolute and relative increases in the average levels of income in gentrified neighbourhoods. But, to properly examine the net-effect of these absolute and relative changes, it's necessary to understand three possible underlying sources of these changes beforehand. First, those that move-in might earn an income that is comparatively higher than the localised average; we shall call this selective entry. Second, those that move-out might earn an income that is lower than the average; we shall call this selective exit. Or, third, those original members of the neighbourhood that are not displaced might actually experience increases in their level of income; we shall call this incumbent upgrading.


    The Center for Economic Studies (CES) (2010) found that both selective entry and selective exit played crucial roles in determining changes in income levels of gentrified neighbourhoods in the US. It found that in-movers in gaining tracts had incomes greater than incumbent residents by approximately twenty-five percent, which is broadly in accordance with the stereotypical pattern of gentrification which presumes that well-heeled homeowners move into lower-income areas. It also found that residents who moved out of the area earned an income considerably lower than the localised average and thereby helped contribute to rises in mean income levels. However, these two results are merely indicative of an increasing localised average of income and are of limited use in considering whether the remaining residents have actually profited from the gentrification process. Fortunately, the CES's data suggests that incumbent upgrading too had occurred in neighbourhoods undergoing economic succession; residents who remained in their housing units in gaining neighbourhoods experienced increases in real-income levels comparatively higher than their counterparts in non-gaining neighbourhoods. Now, although incumbent upgrading is not the most important contributor to changes in average real-income levels in gentrified districts, it's nonetheless still an important contributor and one which is frequently ignored in discussions of neighbourhood change – discussions that usually assume that indigenous residents themselves cannot drive community improvements. Interestingly, the National Bureau of Economic Research (2008) found that certain indigenous low-income ethnic groups with high-school diplomas actually stood to gain the most from gentrification.


What, then, are the sources of incumbent upgrading in gentrified neighbourhoods? Well, presuming that these communities were heretofore experiencing societal or spatial isolation from job opportunities, then the residential integration of well-heeled in-movers may serve to inject economic capital into the neighbourhood and facilitate access to localised employment that they previously were isolated from (Meltzer & Ghorbani, 2015). Furthermore, incumbents also benefit from ameliorations in information asymmetries concerning local employment opportunities and, therefore, their search costs will decrease. However, whether the original residents actually profit from the influx of business establishments is a contentious issue. Primarily, for the neighbourhood's original residents to benefit from the establishment of new businesses the probability that those firms choose to hire within the community must be moderately large. If service-orientated businesses resolve to set-up in the neighbourhood, complementing the consumption preferences of the middle-class, then these establishments will most probably employ the local labour force because they are unlikely to require skill-sets that are more technical than those already possessed by the neighbourhood's unemployed workers. It can be argued that this process will create positive feedback loops that encourage further employment. But, if the process of gentrification is to be inclusive of London's working-class we must endeavour to ensure that our public policies support the continuous employment of these residents.

However, Lester and Hartley (2013) posit that one possible outcome of economic upgrading observed in certain neighbourhoods is that a process of industrial restructuring had occurred as manufacturing businesses found themselves evicted from industrial buildings by commercial landlords, such that their buildings could, instead, be purchased by property developers or other commercial enterprises. Therefore, it is imperative that policy makers incorporate restructuring efforts, including additional re-training schemes and improvements in education, into their urban regeneration initiatives, such that the neighbourhood's transition away from employment in the manufacturing sector does not increase structural unemployment, further aggravating the phenomenon of spatial mismatch.

Moreover, through the process of gentrification, the appetites of the upper- and middle-classes for high-quality institutions puts pressure on important public services to improve the quality of the service that they deliver, thereby improving the quality of life for all residents within the community. 'More Coffee, Less Crime?' is a recent examination of the outcomes that gentrification has had on the crime rates of certain neighbourhoods in Chicago, playfully using the annual number of coffee shops operating as an “on-the-ground measure of a particular form of economic development and [the] changing consumption patterns that tap into central theoretical frames within the gentrification literature” (Papachristos et al., 2011). Its conclusion? That more coffee does demonstrate a negative relationship with the community's crime rate, especially with regards to serious offences like larceny and homicide. Its logic is simple; indigenous residents are able to benefit from the social, cultural, and economic capital of the more-affluent in-movers and so can demand better law-enforcement efforts that ameliorate crime rates at the neighbourhood and, potentially, city level. Furthermore, the process of gentrification not only improves such institutions but, also, has the effect of offering original residents economic and social opportunities that increase social-cohesion and further decrease delinquency. However, the investigation also found that certain neighbourhoods that have undergone periods of socioeconomic heterogeneity are sometimes less-capable of controlling crime internally than others; this effect was found to be particularly marked in Black gentrifying neighbourhoods where particular types of crime, including those of property and economic nature, have increased marginally. In London, though, it seems that the gentrified neighbourhoods are seeing that crime is actually falling precipitously, but we must question who does this really benefit?

Whilst some academics have argued that 'improving' the social-mix in less-affluent areas has, on aggregate, proffered greater investment into socially-beneficial projects for the local community, the distribution of some of these benefits within these communities has begun to reflect the socio-spatial segregation that has come to define classic anti-gentrification rhetoric and the oppositions notion of 'gentrified London.' Indeed, Butler, Hamnett and Ramsden (2013) have used cross-sectional data to argue that the process of gentrification in the Victoria park area of East London has resulted in “direct exclusionary displacement” of the existing lower-income population from well-performing local schools that have benefited from the influx of the London's upper-classes within the last few decades. Schools like Lauriston and Mossbourne Academy have become part of a middle-class narrative, and have readily submitted themselves to middle-class domination at the expense of inclusion and multiculturalism by constraining local resident’s choice of education through 'distance to school' regulations and increasingly bounded catchment areas. Only those with a certain threshold of social and economic resources are able to make the decision that their local educational establishment is unsatisfactory and, therefore, engage in socially reprehensible behaviour like purchasing property in close proximity to schools like Lauriston, such that their child's name is registered to an address in the school's catchment area, but subsequently renting the address out to other aspiring professionals. Consequently, such behaviour serves to displace children in the locale from what would otherwise be their catchment school, resigning them to under-resourced and under-performing institutions and, more importantly, denying them an opportunity to escape their immediate position in the UK's system of social stratification. Indubitably, one's choice of education has never been a truly free choice, naturally bound by the number of places that schools have to offer and, in the case of the private sector, one's ability to pay, but to further concentrate the freedom to exercise choice amongst the absolutely and relativity privileged (Power et al., 2003) by increasingly rationing choice through 'distance to school' policies is contrary to libertarian ideology and, at the same time, ultimately denies children from lower-income households of opportunities for intergenerational equality.

        It is these disparities in the distribution of outcomes between agents in locales undergoing initiatives of urban regeneration that serve to undermine the propounded benefits of mixed-communities that are premised on the economic, social, and normative, integration of people within heterogeneous neighbourhoods. Lees (2008) argues that the predominant policy assumption that gentrification can foster social cohesion is usually predicated on political conjecture. Instead, the evidence presented contrasted said assumptions and appeared to suggest that “gentrification [tends] to result in ‘tectonic’ juxtapositions of polarised socioeconomic groups rather than in socially cohesive communities” (Lees, 2008). It seems that socially-mixed communities cannot actually guarantee the upward mobility of the working-classes because the lifeworlds of each differing group rarely intersect, which, thereby, restricts the transference of social capital from high- to low-income populations. Furthermore, contact between these divergent groups “tend to be superficial at best and outright hostile at worst” (Uitermark & Duyvendak, 2007) which implies that communities that are socially mixed, and, therefore, home to disparate culture and social-classes, are equally likely to engender community conflict as they are harmony. Indeed, the state's promotion of urban regeneration through mixed-communities as a panacea to London's problems of concentrated poverty is a cosmetic policy that treats its symptoms without actually ameliorating the social conditions that affects its most underprivileged groups. Further, mixed-communities appear to be a completely one-sided strategy that are seldom advocated in equivalently socially-homogenous, but comparatively more-affluent, neighbourhoods; consequently, these strategies increasingly stigmatise the working-classes and, incorrectly, foster the sentiment that all of society should become, or aspire to become, middle-class.

    The literature of the Create Streets and the Policy Exchange's 2013 co-publication of 'Create Streets,' which found itself particularly well-received by those in favour of the UK's current form of urban regeneration strategies, reflects these attitudes that those who reside in local-authority housing require betterment of the socio-economic composition of their community in order to improve their immediate position. Create Streets utilises these thoroughly erroneous, but nevertheless well-established, attitudes as a fundamental component in the formula for the justification of the destruction of socially rented multi-storey tenements, and the facilitation of their replacement by privately-developed “real houses.” Its arguments are premised on the stigmatisation of the high-rise architecture of London's inner-city housing estates, which, apparently, intrinsically lends itself to “[making] people badder, sadder and lonelier” (Create Streets, 2013), despite London's love-affair with luxury condominium towers. However, its implications are concerning because it presents us with a false-choice between the current form of state-sponsored gentrification, a strategy marketed as one of the only instruments of growth within the context of a deteriorating city, or the continual social, and physical, degeneration of its neighbourhoods. Indeed, this nouvelle vague of state-led gentrification, premised on mixed-community policies, owes little to the age-old invisible hand of market forces, but much to an overbearing government with an insidious political desire to cease the municipal management of social housing. Unfortunately, the UK government's urban regeneration strategies are, at present, exclusionary of those that are in a position to profit the most from gentrification's localised outcomes, such as the increased availability of employment opportunities, because the issue of displacement is merely viewed as “an unfortunate corollary of processes that are revitalising city centres, attracting private investment and securing the physical fabric of architecturally valuable neighbourhoods” (Atkinson, 2003).

    However, I do not suggest that the government should endeavour to pursue alternative policies and impose regulations that merely serve to insulate impoverished neighbourhoods from the gentrification process, thereby condemning successive generations of those communities to a destitute existence. But, instead, I argue that gentrification's current form is generally delivering outcomes that are socially inefficient. Primarily, I believe that, instead of pursuing policies that exacerbate London's existing issues of affordable housing, its municipal governments must be observed to be actively involved in addressing the residential demands of its lower-income population. I propose that local councils must proceed to eliminate supererogatory regulatory barriers to residential development, whilst, also, providing long-term financial and technical assistance to entities that include substantial portions of both socially-rented and genuinely affordable units in their development plans; consequently, this commitment will demonstrate that affordable housing is an important component of the broader community. Furthermore, in lieu of dismantling its pre-constructed housing stock, London's municipal governments must support these commitments by promoting development on appropriate brownfield sites. I believe that an increasingly more laissez-faire approach to residential development would provide the necessary incentives for agents to re-optimize their behaviour and this would, therefore, help to mitigate the exclusionary displacement effects of gentrification

Furthermore, municipal governments must resolve to encourage the participation of representative members of localities into their urban regeneration initiatives, such that these members can identify their neighbourhood-specific needs and assist in the development of functional solutions. I suppose that the comprehensive engagement of the local community in addressing their residential requirements before their options become increasingly constrained by the process of gentrification will mitigate the degenerative effects that displacement risk can impose on the indigenous population. Currently, state-sponsored gentrification materialises the abstract concept that the demands of lower-income households are immaterial, this is, of course, clarified by the permitted retrogression of the economic, social, and physical capital in those areas targeted for regeneration; this is something that our policies must endeavour to change. Furthermore, incentivising the investment into, and the operation of, privately-managed community improvement institutions that could fulfil the demands of the community's residents, will exponentially ameliorate declining levels of neighbourhood satisfaction and, perhaps, could expedite other private-market investments that will further revitalise the locality.

Additionally, the policies of neighbourhood regeneration should not only focus on the production of affordable housing units but, also, on the retention of existing units. It is imperative that retention strategies concentrate on the continued affordability of residential units to mitigate the effects of increases in costs which can result in the secondary displacement of an area's residents. Increasing the accessibility of credit to lower-income households, those that may previously have been discriminated against, could potentially offset these sources of secondary displacement. Finally, instead of promoting mixed-communities as the preeminent strategy to resolve London's complex problems of concentrated urban poverty, I argue that public policies should precisely tackle the systemic causes of socioeconomic inequalities. I emphasise that refinements in the quality of educational establishments and improvements in the availability of employment opportunities will serve as the vehicle for reductions in poverty. Introducing 'Community Contracts,' for example, as an initiative to encourage commercial enterprises to provide unskilled employment for lower-income households in neighbourhoods undergoing gentrification, in return for regulatory support to take advantage of market conditions.  I believe that these opportunities would both increase the incumbent resident's capability to remain in the neighbourhood and support the development of commerce committed to hiring within the community, whilst also treating the fundamental causes that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

It is entirely possible that gentrification can produce mutually-beneficial outcomes throughout the various strata of the UK's society, but to achieve this we must re-evaluate the evidence of the benefits of mixed-communities that we have premised the current manifestation of state-sponsored gentrification upon and then, in light of this, we must proceed to reformat the gentrification process such that it is inclusive of all. It is only through doing so that we can begin to rebuild the sense of community that we've regrettably begun to demolish.

Resources used:

Gentrification, Education and Exclusionary Displacement in East London



http://web.williams.edu/Economics/ArtsEcon/library/pdfs/WhyIsGentrificationAProbREFORM.pdf  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/tesg.12051/asset/tesg12051.pdf?v=1&t=id76rz7l&s=21981188cc08039aa56a62f701407613d853d296 (SAKIZLIOG ̆ Lu) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1540-6040.2011.01371.x/asset/j.1540-6040.2011.01371.x.pdf?v=1&t=id8xindl&s=ac3bca2bf64c01a8445174a0bed9f651829ae9ba http://usj.sagepub.com/content/40/12/2343.full.pdf http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2014/feb/03/affordable-housing-meaning-rent-social-housing


http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/07/southwark-london-regeneration-urban-renewal-social-cleansing-fears http://ecgi.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=606070026007126072079077086080008086026071069006028088099020122064089026105068007022096019020106111061101117112017120105013081015046040047000096001094083108016125060034044026000092095099006072114075119070079092106007102081094024011118102124030125117&EXT=pdf

http://www.nber.org/papers/w14036 https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Files/PDFs/Community%20Development/Econ%20Mobility/Sessions/MeltzerPaper508.pdf http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=154782A3949BF5D494A1D55978836FFB?doi=
















Young Writer on Liberty 2015 Winners


We're delighted to announce the winners of our 2015 Young Writer on Liberty competition, and will be showcasing some of their work in the coming days. The theme of this year's competition was 'The road not yet travelled: Three paths the next government should take for a freer United Kingdom'. Entrants wrote three, 400-word articles on this theme, each outlining a policy proposal to make the United Kingdom richer, freer and more prosperous.

We received dozens of entries and competition was fierce with incredibly high standards. This year for the first time, entries were spilt into 'Under-18' and '18-21' categories, with a winner and a runner-up in each.

The runner-up of the Under-18 category is Alan Petri, and the winner of the Under-18s is Theo Cox Dodgson. The runner-up of the 18-21 category is Tamay Besiroglu, and the category winner Theo Clifford.

Runners-up will have one of their entries showcased on the ASI blog tomorrow, and category winners will have all three of their pieces posted over the week.

Category winners will also receive £150 prize money, whilst both winners and runners-up will receive boxes filled with liberty-related books.

Check-in next week to read the entries!


Milton Friedman – a birthday tribute


Milton Friedman was born on July 31st 1912.  He was one of the two most influential economists of the 20th Century, the other being John Maynard Keynes, and he promoted monetarism as an alternative to Keynesian orthodoxy.  His economic scholarship was unimpeachable, and won him the award of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1976.

He was no less influential in promoting free market economics as an alternative to the once fashionable mixed economy consensus that prevailed in the post-war era.  He did this at a popular, as well as at a scholarly, level, with a series of articles in Newsweek and other popular journals.  He was an excellent communicator, able to explain complex ideas in simple, easily understood language.  His "Capitalism and Freedom" remains a classic to this day, still relevant, still persuasive.

His TV series, "Free to Choose," together with the book he co-authored with his wife Rose, were immensely popular, and were hugely influential in gaining popular support for the economics of free enterprise, choice and incentives, and a widespread skepticism of government intervention.

He pioneered many ideas that eventually gained traction, including an end to military conscription in the US, floating exchange rates, and school choice amongst many others.  His monetarist views influenced the Federal Reserve's response to the 2008 financial crisis.

He was a supporter of the Adam Smith Institute and took a keen interest in its work in translating sound economic ideas into viable policy options.  He addressed ASI meetings, and regularly chatted with its members at meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, which he continued to attend until his death in 2006.  He went out of his way to help others, to support student groups and to lend his wisdom and advice to free market organizations.  He even acted as my referee when I applied to Cambridge, with a hand-written note endorsing me.

He was engaging, personable and likeable, nearly always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye as he corrected economic nonsense from his opponents.  Happy birthday, Milton; we miss you.

Antony Fisher, herald of freedom


One hundred years ago was born someone you have probably never heard of, but who helped bring freedom to large parts of the world. 

The story of Sir Antony Fisher shows how one person with a vision can change history. He was a Battle of Britain pilot in World War II – a conflict that claimed the lives of his brother and two cousins. After the War, he grew despondent that the freedoms his family members had died for were being casually thrown away. The radical 1945 Attlee government nationalized all the main industries – coal, steel, electricity, railroads – and created a ‘Welfare State’ with state healthcare, public housing, and ‘cradle to grave’ social benefits.

Fisher thought about going into politics. But by chance he read the Reader’s Digest abridgement of F A Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, a book that showed how European socialism morphed, too easily, into Nazi totalitarianism. So he visited Hayek, who told him bluntly to forget politics. Politicians just follow prevailing opinions. If you want to change events, change ideas.

Fisher went on to pioneer battery farming, turning chicken from a luxury to a staple food in war-impoverished Britain, and used his early profits to follow Hayek’s advice. In 1955 he created the Institute of Economic Affairs, which pumped out books and articles, explaining the advantages of personal and economic freedom over state control. When Margaret Thatcher became Tory leader in 1975, she devoured its ideas, famously forcing aides to read Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty and telling them “This is what we believe!”

The IEA gave Thatcher’s gut belief in freedom a deep intellectual foundation, making her not just a politician but a formidable champion of freedom. That made her a hugely important ally to Ronald Regan. Thatcher saw the Soviet Union as not just morally but intellectually bankrupt, and as such it could be faced down. She and Reagan succeeded.

But Fisher did not stop there. He helped create one new ideas factory after another – the Fraser Institute in Vancouver, the Manhattan Institute in New York, the Pacific Research Institute in California. He set up the Atlas Foundation as a catalyst to help start even more. By 1988 there were already 35 think tanks in the Atlas family. Today there are 450.

They are changing events all over the world – from land reform in Peru, through privatization in Britain, public debt control in Pakistan, to low-cost private education in India. And spreading the ideas of liberty in even the most unlikely places, in the Muslim world from Morocco through Turkey to Yemen and  Kazakhstan; in Africa from Mali and Ivory Coast to Ethiopia; in Europe and the Far East. 

Antony Fisher was an unassuming man who helped change history and who is now helping change the future. As Oliver Letwin MP put it in the Times in May 1994, that is “quite a chain of consequences for a chicken farmer.” Quite so.

STEM: men go to Mars, women go to Venus

Tim Hunt, the Nobel prizewinning UCL biologist recently chased out of his professorship by a baying mob for joking that women scientists cause problems by falling in love with their male counterparts and crying if you criticise them, was recently asked if he thought the relative dearth of women in harder sciences was a problem. He said, in the purest crimethink:

I’m not sure there is really a problem, actually. People just look at the statistics. I dare, myself, think there is any discrimination, either for or against men or women. I think people are really good at selecting good scientists but I must admit the inequalities in the outcomes, especially at the higher end, are quite staggering. And I have no idea what the reasons are. One should start asking why women being under-represented in senior positions is such a big problem. Is this actually a bad thing? It is not immediately obvious for me … is this bad for women? Or bad for science? Or bad for society? I don’t know, it clearly upsets people a lot.

Although not directly responding to Hunt, prominent Spanish language website Politikon has a piece up (kindly translated for me) pre-emptively denying that the sorts of relevant sex differences that might cause these differences ‘legitimately’ exist.

Of course everyone accepts that there are huge differences between men and women in some domains. For example no one thinks than men’s thicker jaws or higher basal metabolic rates are socially constructed. No one thinks the fact that even athletically-trained women are much weaker than normal men is down to society.

But some people, including author Guido Corradi, do think that social construction is responsible for men and boys being judged better at mathematical subjects. He attacks Simon Baron-Cohen as a main progenitor of this view, and suggests the perspective is speculative and lacking evidentiary backing. He accepts that men are stronger at visuospatial skills (e.g. 3Dmentalrotation), but not that they are stronger mathematically overall.

More recent studies (Lindberg, et al. 2010) support the hypothesis that there are no mathematical skill differences. It has to be mentioned that since they started to be tracked, differences in general mathematical achievement have been decreasing. In a seminal meta-analysis by Hyde (1990) this tendency is observed.

Lindberg et al. do seem to convincingly show us that girls and boys are equally good at maths on average. But this doesn’t mean that things are the same the whole way along the scale, because men may differ more widely than women. Corradi appears to know that this possibility exists, but completely dismisses the point without considering it seriously.

Lindberg et al. find a small variability ratio, of 1.08, but other studies suggest this is still enough for a substantial gap at the top end. Johnson et al. (2008) at the highest level of mental ability, there tends to be a ratio of two men to each woman. Deary et al. (2007) find, in a sibling study to control for genes and environment, that when you get to the top 2%, there are also about two times as many men as women.

We can see how this opens up a wedge when you start selecting particularly talented groups, e.g. SAT-takers:

And it widens by the time you get to GRE:

This explains part of the different attainment between men and women in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, but ratios at the level of tenure track positions are somewhere in the range of 7:1 to 14:1, leaving a lot left over. Is this down to discrimination? Stereotyping? Social construction? Different preferences?

One large part of the gap is down to the distribution of skills. Women who have high mathematical skills are more likely than men to also have high verbal skills, opening up a number of extra options the men at that level don’t have. Those with high verbal skills tend to take these options. This explains a fraction of the remaining gap.

On the other hand stereotype threat, which Corradi alludes to, is much in vogue. I myself, I must admit, promoted one of the studies suggesting that male-female mathematics differences could be down to stereotyping. But it doesn’t seem like these results have held up over replication (e.g.this meta-analysismoremoremore).

By contrast, men and women do seem to have starkly different preferences about how their lives should go. For example, women tend to like different kinds of relationships (one-on-one 'dyadic’ pairings vs. gregarious multipolar groupings), and they tend to do more child-rearing.

Women (even the most talented women) tend to want to work less and more flexibly; neither of which fit with the long blocks of hours expected at the top of STEM professions or in STEM academia. Goldin (2014) explains how this leads to no gender wage gaps in industries with constant returns to hours, and large ones in industries where 60 hours work in a week is more than double as productive as 30 hours.

Su & Rounds (2015) review 52 samples between 1964 and 2007, including209,810 male and 223,268 female respondents and find large differences in interests.

We found gender differences in interests to vary largely by STEM field, with the largest gender differences in interests favoring men observed in engineering disciplines (d = 0.83–1.21), and in contrast, gender differences in interests favoring women in social sciences and medical services (d = −0.33 and −0.40, respectively). Importantly, the gender composition (percentages of women) in STEM fields reflects these gender differences in interests.

Overall the evidence seems to tell us that though men and women are equally smart, men are more prominent on both tails: they are more likely to be very dull and very bright. This variance isn’t huge overall, but when you start selecting for the top 0.01% or the top 0.0001%, like Fields Medallists, Nobel Prizewinners, or Harvard Professors the differences become overwhelming. The women who do have these incredible quantitative skills often also have excellent verbal skills, giving them alternatives they prefer.

While there may be residual discrimination, there is substantial evidence that on top of differing variance and skill distribution, men and women also have different preferences. Women tend to prefer to do less hours and focus more on the other important things in life. Men want to compete, earn lots of money, and work with objects.

Corradi makes a rash and unwarranted leap: there is good evidence for multifarious sex differences—not just in cognitive ability but in interests and preferences—that make complete and exact similarity between men and women in STEM a mirage.

Magna Carta - and EU law today?


Lord Sumption has been telling the papers that we owe our freedoms more to the French Revolution and its Declaration of Rights than to Magna Carta, the 800th anniversary of which we celebrate this month. He is wrong. But each passing day makes him more right, and that is the whole problem. A real problem for freedom, not some merely smug debating point. Sumption may be a distinguished mediaeval historian, but he is a poor political economist, or legal scholar for that matter. He calls the Charter a 'turgid' document of its time, and says it has 'nothing to do' with our libertarian tradition.

He is right that it reads like something rather turgid and technical. It was indeed mainly a list of demands, and was never meant as a constitution. But what it demands is critical to the development of limited government and representative democracy in the centuries that followed.

Magna Carta is the re-assertion of property rights that Anglo-Saxon England enjoyed before the Norman Conquest. The limits it imposes on authority – preventing the King's arbitrary confiscation of people's property and freedom – occupy only three or four of its 63 clauses and are therefore easily dismissed by those who think the Charter was just a hotchpotch of 'trade union' demands by the aristocracy.

But those who drew up the Charter knew that these few clauses are absolutely crucial. They are there precisely to guarantee those property rights that are spelled out in the rest of the document. What good is it to have rights if they are unenforceable because the authorities can act without restraint.

From that assertion of property rights, grows parliamentary democracy. Sure, as Sumption sneers, the Charter is by no means a democratic constitution, and concerns itself only with the rights of a rich few. But it reasserted the pre-Norman tradition that the rules of taxation and justice should be based on agreement, not on the whim of monarchs. To reach agreement, you need debate. And to debate, you need some kind of representative parliament.

It also explains England's later history as a great trading nation, and the entrepreneurial flair that abides in the Anglophone nations. The Charter guaranteed property rights, and that principle was quickly expanded from just the nobility to everyone. So people could build up capital without fear of being expropriated by kings, ministers and officials.

And the common law that was reasserted by the Charter allows people to do what they want, provided only that others are not harmed by it. Top-down Continental law, by contrast, requires you to seek official permission first. It is obvious which one is likely to encourage more innovation.

Sumption also tries to show the Charter's irrelevance by dismissing its insistence that justice should be based on the 'law of the land'. The assertion as worthless, he says, because the King decided what the law actually was. But the whole point was that the Charter reasserted the commonly agreed fact that the 'law of the land' was much older and more fundamental than King-made law. It was the common law of the Anglo-Saxons, built up, by the common people over centuries. This law had evolved and endured, despite the efforts of feudal authorities to supplant it, because it worked and because it was made by the people as they went about their everyday business. This common law was a matter for everybody, not just for the king to decide and hand down to everyone else.

We have the same issues today, with Britain's common law tradition being swamped by top-down law in the shape of EU regulation. Here again, the Continental tradition that you need detailed regulation that says what you can do is at odds with Britain's common law approach that you are free to act as you choose unless there is some proven and agreed reason not to.

The difference is crucial, and that is why Sumption is so horribly wrong to suggest that our libertarian tradition owes more to France than to Runnymede. Perhaps our rights and freedoms are indeed being subjected more and more to this Continental legal tradition. But this legal harmonisation is something to be mourned and feared, not celebrated.

It's a wonderful life


The name of Nigel Vinson may not be one bandied across the breakfast tables of Britain, but he has done more, for longer, to promote the cause of personal and economic freedom than most. And, raised to the peerage (as Lord Vinson of Roddam Dene) for that and for his work in re-shaping and promoting British business, his impact continues. So it is good to see a new biography, Making Things Happen, written by Gerald Frost and published by Biteback, which provides fascinating insights into Vinson's quite remarkable life, ideas and approaches. He had a good start in life, but built up his own business – and fortune – from scratch.

In the 1950s, Vinson was one of the first to see the huge potential of plastics, particularly as an anti-corrosion covering for metal. Starting from a Nissen hut in Guildford, he overcame the technical difficulties to coat all sorts of metal objects, from refrigerator shelves to aircraft parts. He would later win the Queen's Award for Industry in recognition of the company's technological innovation.

As well as his insight and initiative, much of Vinson's success was cutting through the class barriers that dogged British business in the postwar decades. Vinson saw his workforce as a team, the only distinctions being the different tasks they each did. Even as the business grew, he insisted on personally meeting every new employee and on 'walking the ship'. He kept production units small, so that people felt part of a human enterprise, not cogs in a faceless machine. When he eventually sold the business, he shared a large part of his gain with those workers, even though he did not have to: they were not just his employees but his friends and colleagues.

Vinson's abilities as a successful entrepreneur and enthusiast of the potential of better-managed British business, put him in demand elsewhere. He joined the Council of the CBI and became President of the Industrial Participation Association and Chair of the Wider Ownership Group – again promoting his idea that employees of a business should be participants in that business. Many other businesses sought him for their boards.

Never slow to back the things he believes in, Vinson was an early supporter of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Centre for Policy Studies. In the early 1980s he also supported IOUS, an annual freedom conference for students: the new Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, was one of its first participants. IUOS eventually grew into ISOS, a series of sixth-form conferences run by the Adam Smith Institute, and the Freedom Week student training course, run jointly by ASI and the IEA.

Making Things Happen is an uplifting story of how much one person with a vision can achieve – though it makes you yearn to have just a quarter of Vinson's drive and energy.