Dame Janet Suzman insists her Belsize Village neighbours would really love a Co Op

This is not what Dame Janet thinks she is saying at all, but it is, once examined, what she is insisting:

An Academy Award nominated actress has been accused of "snobbery" over her objection to a new Co-op store in her north London "village".

Dame Janet Suzman, who made her name through performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company, said she feared the supermarket chain could negatively impact independent smaller businesses in "Belsize Village", near Belsize Park, after plans were revealed for a new outlet last week.

The 79-year-old, who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1972 for her debut film role in Nicholas and Alexandra, has previously campaigned against Tesco and Sainsbury from opening branches in the area.

Speaking to the Camden New Journal newspaper, she said: "Go away, Co-op, find a nice high street or some other lonely corner where you could serve a purpose, and leave Belsize alone."

"It's going to be tough on the small established shops already serving the needs of the Village and most likely put them out of business. What a rubbish way to find your profits - on the back of the ruination of others."

The Co Op is, of course, a cooperative, owned by its customers. Their pursuit of profit can be viewed in a different manner, if that’s what one wishes to do, than the activities of more capitalist companies.

However, look at the points underlying her statement. If a Co Op arrives then people will shop in it in preference to the current smaller and more locally owned (??) stores. That is, people would prefer there to be a Co Op.

Now, of course, they may and they may not. But the very statement that the new store will put the old out of business is the insistence that they will prefer the new. So, what is really being said here is - my neighbours would like a Co Op but I insist they cannot have what they desire.

Which makes a reasonable accusation against her selfishness not snobbery.

We have no doubt at all that this logic is entirely unexamined by Dame Janet. But then there’s a reason why actresses become rich and famous spouting the lines and logic written by others rather than themselves.

On Adam Smith's linen shirt

One of us recently bought a linen shirt. OK, it wasn’t top of the line, from one of the Inditex brands. It was also in a sale but then it was also £4.

Adam Smith uses the example of a linen shirt. His point being that one can live just fine without one. Yet if you’re in a society where not being able to afford one marks you out as poor, then in that society, if you cannot afford a linen shirt, then you are poor by the standards of that society.

The point here being that back then a linen shirt was an investment, something that one would consider - on labourer’s wages - the cost of. Substantial numbers of people would not be able to afford one. Today? It is possible to buy a new one for around half an hour of minimum wage labour.

It’s still, quite obviously, true that some people have more than others. But Smith’s specific example of relative poverty doesn’t really work in a rich world society today. Which is a useful measure of how far this capitalism and free markets mixture has brought us, no?

Be wary of solutions to perceived falling lifespans

We’ve been known - ad tedium perhaps - to make the point that we must understand the details of a number, a statistic, to quite grasp what it is that we are being told. If we forget the original composition it’s all too easy to fall into error while trying to craft solutions.

An obvious example is the American poverty line - this is calculated before the effect of near all that is done to reduce poverty. It is not possible therefore to argue that we should be doing more of what is done in order to reduce the number below the poverty line. Simply because we’re not taking account of those things that are done.

A similar problem will face us with these new numbers from ONS showing life expectancy falling. Or growth in it slowing.

Life expectancy growth has stalled to a record low, but there are more male centenarians than ever before.

Figures published by the ONS show that life expectancy has stopped growing in the UK, and is even going backwards in some areas.

Between 2015 and 2017 life expectancy at birth remained at 79.2 years for men and 82.9 years for women, the first time that there was no improvement at all from the previous data.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, life expectancy fell, with the largest drop, of 0.11 years, seen for men in Wales.

If we were, and Heaven Forfend, to leap to making a political point we might mutter something about the less marketised NHS Wales and NHS Scotland being less effective at preventing death than the more marketised NHS England. And we’d be right, too, but political sneering isn’t quite our style.

The important point here, as we’ve also pointed out before, is that no one at all is even trying to measure how long people born today are going to live. They’re measuring the age of death of people born 70, 80 and 90 years ago. Which means that there’s an importance to the composition of these numbers.

We will, undoubtedly, be told again that it’s inequality, or selective schooling, or relative child poverty, or something to do with the kiddiewinks at least, which is causing this slow down in life expectancy. The usual claim is that those things cause all ills after all. The problem with this allocation of blame being that whatever the effects of these things on current death rates they’re the relative child poverty and so on of 65, 75 and 85 years ago, not those of today.

Whatever we do about children today, whatever is happening to children today, is going to influence deaths in near a century’s time. Well, assuming no Herod solution being offered.

So, when solutions are offered to deal with these changes in life expectancy remember that we can reject out of hand any of them at all which refer to current conditions for younger people. Given the manner in which the statistic is compiled they have no relevance at all to the point at hand. The influence is of past conditions upon those ageing now.

The Future of Energy

Last week, we hosted Purdue University’s Dr. Lynne Kiesling who spoke eloquently on what falling transaction costs and platform business models mean for the future of the electricity market. Her new working paper is titled From Airbnb to Solar and she is also the author of the 2015 Adam Smith Institute paper Power Up: The framework for a new era of UK energy distribution.

You can view the slides from that lecture by clicking here, and listen to our Facebook Live recording here.

Witch hunting, South Sea, Mississippi, tulips, dodgy mortgages, recycling

Human society is subject to fads and fashions. We’re most familiar with those in financial markets, where speculations give way to manias as with the South Sea Bubble, John Law’s Mississippi scheme, tulips, possibly dotcom and subprime mortgages. But it’s us humans subject to the fads, the manias, not financial markets. As witch trials and now recycling show us.

Monthly bin collections have been introduced for the first time in England and Wales, causing fury amongst residents who say they are having to burn their rubbish.

The controversial scheme was launched in the county of Conwy, North Wales, following a year-long trial for its 11,000 households.

Almost the first duty of local governance, the reason for it being instituited in the first place, is to rid the city of piles of foetid, stinking, waste. That local government now insists upon creating piles of foetid, stinking, waste in urban areas would seem to be an error in our system of governance.

The reason given is that we must recycle more and that’s where the error is:

At least 18 councils across England and Wales have moved to three-weekly rubbish collections, with a handful trialling four-weekly collections as they come under increasing pressure to reduce waste and increase recycling rates.

Some recycling is an excellent idea. Collecting up all that scrap gold makes money, we’re adding value by doing it. Other examples present themselves. But this is not then to agree that the mania, that all must be recycled, makes sense. For recycling everything doesn’t but that is the delusion under which modern society is being driven to act.

We’re even told that we must recycle plastics. Something that costs us money - subtracts value, makes us poorer - and the basic justification doesn’t even exist. For we’re told that we must “save resources” and it costing more is evidence complete that we’re expending more resources. But without that, what resource are we to save? Plastics are made from natural gas (not so much oil these days) and these very same environmentalists will tell us that we’ve already found enough fossil fuels, that we cannot use those we’ve got. There’s no resource here for us to save, is there?

True, we don’t want to choke the whales but that means that plastics are a waste management issue, not a resource and recycling one.

The idea that everything must be, or even ought to be, recycled is a mania as extreme as any of those financial market ones. One we’ll wake up from at some point but it might end up being more expensive than any of those tulip and trade ones. For what is going to be the cost if public health breaks down because local government insists upon the creation of foetid, stinking, wastes in urban areas? Doing so in opposition to the very reason we have local government in the first place.

Jeremy Corbyn to reverse most successful economic policy of all time

It might be possible to cavil that this description of Jeremy Corbyn’s ambitions is a tad unfair. Certainly some would so complain. Yet we do think it fair to point out the counterparty to the claim he’s making:

Jeremy Corbyn has warned that the rich are on “borrowed time” as Labour unveils plans today for a multibillion pound raid on companies which would force them to handover 10 percent of their shares to workers.

The Labour leader last night said he would break the mould of “neoliberal economics” which had dominated political thinking since the Seventies, adding that a Labour government “was coming” for the “very richest in our society”.

Speaking at The World Transformed rally at the party’s conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn said: “What we're doing is challenging a neoliberal ideology that took over the world in probably, let's say, 1970s or thereabouts.

Note the claim, took over the world. Thus there will have been global effects. As, indeed, there have been. The greatest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species. We think that’s a pretty good result from a socio-economic policy, Jezza clearly disagrees.

We think we should probably continue with this successful economic policy too. The UN, with the development goals, thinks we can actually abolish such extreme poverty in the next 12 years - we think that’s an excellent ambition whatever our views on the UN and targets.

Yes, we do understand how political opposition works. Everything currently being done must be opposed because that’s what opposition politics is. But now we’ve finally got that policy which really does lift up the poor it would be a pity to reverse it just so a different grouping of Britain’s chatterati can sit on the government benches, no?

Greetings everyone!

A Gap Year Intern at the Adam Smith Institute is a title both piercingly thrilling and intimidating. When I found out I’d secured the place, I was glad to know I would escape the usual gap yah pressures of lavish drinking and virtue signalling, instead enjoying witty office banter and an obligatory Google Scholar addiction. I cannot wait to get started.

Having observed the ASI’s work whilst at school and won their essay competition, I decided to go from merely intellectualising on ideas of freedom to being an active participant in bringing such policies about. I feel the best way to achieve such a pursuit is, of course, through copious amounts of tweeting, witty memes and coffee. I am certain the upcoming year will provide all three.

Speaking of which, I am keen to spill the beans on future technological and innovative trends through my blogs. I am particularly interested in ways to ensure technological developments in the near future, such as in vitro meat and driverless cars, are allowed to flourish. I am intrigued by the (arguably ambitious) idea of private currencies and how property rights can be used to improve trading relations. Furthermore, as a recovering teenager I would find it hard to resist covering topical issues from feminism to fisheries, and I look forward to engaging with like-minded (and unlike-minded) people who are keen to exchange views. My more niche interests involve Viking economics (or as I prefer, Vikonomics!) which I have found fascinating paralleled with contemporary economic philosophy.

Finally, through far too much time spent on JSTOR and the ASI’s plethora of research papers, I look forward to not only witnessing the economic past of the U.K. but the economic future as well!

Venezuela Campaign: Individual tragedies lie underneath refugee statistics

Individuals stories should always be at the centre of reporting on humanitarian and social catastrophes. Venezuela is no exception. Staggering numbers of people have left the country, at least 2.3 million in recent years and up to 4 million since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1999. Early emigrants tended to be those who had suffered discrimination or persecution at the hands of the regime. In the last 5 years, however, many ordinary Venezuelans, including a large chunk of its young people, have fled the country as its economy and social fabric is falling apart. Here we will consider some of the stories of those who have left:

Yerilin & Richard

Yerilin & Richard

Yerilin and Richard are a young couple. They fled to Brazil when Yerilin was 8 months pregnant. They chose to have the baby in Brazil as Venezuela suffers from acute food and medicine shortages. Describing Venezuela, Yerilin says: ‘It was awful. Sometimes we’d eat just one meal a day, or sometimes we just ate rice and tomatoes, or salad and that’s all we could get.’ She says she was anaemic for months because of her poor diet and couldn’t get the necessary vitamins. Like hundreds of other mothers, Yerilin came to Brazil to have her baby in a safer country. She hopes her child will get Brazilian nationality, but their main concern is bringing up little Max in a refugee tent on the edge of Brazil. Despite the mosquitoes and the heat, however, the couple agree that it is much better than back home.

Sex workers on the border with Colombia

Sex workers on the border with Colombia

Two Venezuelan women sell sex on the streets of Cucuta, a town on Venezuela’s border with Colombia which is now home to tens of thousands of refugees. The women insist on keeping their identities secret. One of them has left her children behind in Caracas, while the other has brought her baby with her. ‘I can’t really tell anyone about my work, because people just discriminate against you,’ says one. ‘Most people just won’t understand that this is a huge sacrifice that I do for my family.’ The other also admits that being a sex worker is far from ideal. ‘I don’t really feel good about this work,’ she says. ‘Because you have to cope with a lot of horrible stuff, and I don’t sleep very well. But I have children and a family and I have to deal with it.’ Trapped and powerless, these women sell sex as they are unable to get a job in Colombia, a precarious situation which leads towards exploitation by gangs.



In January this year 18-year-old Jeanaury Jiménez was travelling to the island of Curaçao for the second time, having been deported back to Venezuela once before. This time, however, her fragile boat capsized, leading to her death and ten others’ who had made the journey in search of a better life. Jeanaury left behind two newborns, who are being cared for by their grandmother in a country where baby formula is all but unaffordable. Jeanaury’s family, like almost every family inside Venezuela, wonder where their next meal will come from. 20% of Venezuelans rely on CLAP, a government-run food distribution system which, in the absence of other sources of food, assures their compliance to the regime. Around 3 million Venezuelans receive money from abroad, mostly in dollars. Since the regime is greedy for cash, it takes a cut from all foreign transfers.

As should be clear by now, the Venezuelan government has no interest in the welfare of its citizens, at home or abroad. This tragedy can be met with determined action from the international community to help those who have fled Venezuela – and push for Venezuela to end its embargo on international aid, which is still in force and worsening the crisis there.

More information on the Venezuela Campaign can be found on their website

Market efficiency is market efficiency even when it's Albanian cocaine gangs

We’re not as coy as this:

“They have a long-term approach to success. They have got rich slowly. They now dominate drugs market prices by selling at the lowest price. They don’t impact upon purity by adulterating it — they make relationships upstream and establish staging posts through Europe and they have done everything in a slow, efficient, sustainable way.

“If they weren’t doing what they are doing, you’d take your hat off to them and say this is a fantastic business model.”

As is well known we’ve argued that such drugs should be legalised along with all of the associated branding, quality assurances and so on that would come with it. At the very least there should be decriminalisation.

And yes, market efficiency is still market efficiency and to be admired for that alone even when it is Albanian cocaine gangs. They’re providing people with what they desire at lower prices - leave aside that little difficulty over law breaking and that is indeed a Good Thing.

The point to this story though is this:

Saggers said the Albanians were so successful that they had “individually and systematically brought the price down from over £45,000 a kilo five years ago to about £30,000 a kilo now”.


One kilo of cocaine can be bought for as little as £3,800 in the jungles of Colombia


“I don’t think there is another commodity on the planet that generates that sort of difference between production and retail value,” he said.

We’re not entirely sure about that. These prices are rough estimates, but. Wheat is around £150 a tonne. Bread is in the £1 to £2 a kg range at the supermarket. That’s around a ten times price difference for the basic ingredient and the finished product. £3,800 to £30,000 is around ten times….

Yes, yes, yes, man does not live by toot alone and all that. But a ten times multiple from raw ingredient to finished product price isn’t that unusual.

It's not that the NHS won here, it's that drug regulation lost

This is being written up as the NHS having won a victory over the Big Bad Pharmaceutical Companies. When in fact it’s a failure of the Big Bad Pharmaceuticals Regulation System

.The NHS has won a landmark battle against drug giants paving the way for the health service to save millions by prescribing cheaper medicine.

Bayer and Novartis brought a High Court action against 12 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in the north of England, relating to a drug to treat the biggest cause of age-related vision loss in the UK.

The companies challenged the lawfulness of a policy adopted by the groups which prescribed Avastin "as the preferred treatment option" for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

Avastin, which costs around £28 per injection, is widely used around the world. However, despite being recommended by the World Health Organisation, it is only licensed for cancer treatment in the UK.

Yet the NHS groups were offering it as a course of treatment for patients with AMD alongside drugs called Lucentis and Eylea - drugs licensed for eye treatment.

Novartis and Bayer manufacture the two more expensive licensed drugs - Lucentis which costs £561 and Eylea which costs £800 a time.

Pretty much everything we know about Avastin does tell us that it’s just as good as the more expensive drugs. There have been proper tests of this contention.

However, it is not licenced for the treatment of this eye disease. It’s got all the documents and permissions to be used against certain cancers, but not in the eyes. Lucentis does have that eye licence. And it cost some hundreds of millions upwards to gain that licence for use in the eye as well. We’ve two different drugs (although we can have the most lovely arguments about how different they are) equally effective at treating this eye disease, one is licenced and expensive, the other is not for this purpose and is cheap.

This is Big Bad Pharma or a problem with the licencing system?