Blog Review 839

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Just another reason why a great splurge of Keyensian stimulus spending won't in fact work.

Identifying the partisan hack rather depends upon your definition of partisan hack.

A warning for those tempted into journalism. Make sure you check what the other people are going to be writing about on the same subject.

What super-contangos can tell us about the oil market.

Speaking truth to power.

The truth about how you might help one less fortunate then yourself: invest in them.

And finally, how to waste energy.

Politics and debt

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David Cameron and the Conservatives launched a poster campaign yesterday morning that highlighted how the nation’s newborns were being saddled with crippling debt due to the economic mismanagement of this country at the hands of Gordon Brown. Launching the pamphlet, Labour’s Debt Crisis the Conservative’s claim the the net government debt this country will be laden with by 2013-14, is somewhere in the region of £1,084,000,000,000. And as there will be roughly 63.6 million people in the UK by then, this amounts to the figure of £17,031 per person.

The report is full of alarming facts and figures on what the money could have been spent on, e.g. 1.8 million nurses. However, I’m not sure what we’d do with all of them, and I don’t think the Tories do either. They don’t really offer any solutions to the mounting debt crisis. In fact, speaking on Sunday Mr Cameron made it clear that he was happy to endorse the continued mismanagement of the economy to the tune of £645bn per year rather than £650bn. So are we to assume that under the Conservatives we shall have the same crippling government debt, and the same debt interest service payments? If so what’s the point of voting for either of them?

Neither party are offering a real solution to this problem. The current government are burdening us all with the mistakes of a few, but then I suppose this is what socialism is all about, sharing the burdens of a minority, making it easier for them to carry on, saving them from learning from their mistakes and making us all pay.  The coming election will do nothing but further entrench the political class and their associates and continue the destruction of productive output. The recession can and will be made longer and harder by the continual involvement of government. For the amount of money they are arguing over, for the solutions they are offering: it’s not worth voting anymore.

Too fat to adopt

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We’ve had Redbridge Council banning smokers from adoption, now we have a couple being denied because the husband is too fat.

Damien and Charlotte Hall are14 years a couple, 11 years married, but unable to have children. They deserve better than this and so does the child that they would have otherwise adopted.

This interview with the BBC shows you that there can be no other reason why they should not be able to adopt.

The Council workers did not even have the gumption to tell them in person. Instead they sent aweak willed letter. Here are some extracts:

I am writing to confirm that we are unable to progress an application from you at this time.

This is due to the concerns that the medical advisers have expressed regarding Mr Hall's weight.

I have discussed this with our medical adviser... who considers that it is important to alter lifestyle, diet and exercise in a sustainable way so that any weight reduction can be maintained in the long term.

I understand that you would like to begin the assessment as soon as possible and while appreciating your reasons for this, I consider it would be more appropriate to begin the assessment once Mr Hall's BMI is below 40.

Leeds Council and everyone involved in this should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. It is time for the smokers, eaters and drinkers of this world to stand up to these nannying bureaucrats and this unfair discrimination.

How to promote the free market in 2009

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I've uploaded a new 1000-word think piece entitled, How to promote the free market in 2009. It makes the point that although it is easy to get depressed about the way things are going at the moment, the economic crisis also offers an opportunity for those of us who believe in free markets. With people more interested in economic policy than they have been for years, now is the time to persuade them. And for every dyed-in-the-wool socialist out there, I'm sure there are plenty more who would embrace the ideas behind free markets if only they heard the arguments more often.

The think piece outlines five key ways the free market can be promoted in 2009: (1) offer a compelling narrative that runs counter to the 'common wisdom'; (2) oppose Keynesianism and the idea that government can stimulate the economy; (3) expose the government interventions and failures that contributed to the financial crisis; (4) advocate policies to raise productivity and economic competitiveness in the long-term; and (5) educate people about theories and ideas of the great free-market thinkers, particularly those of the Austrian School.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Is Atlas shrugging?

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“Who is John Galt?" This is the opening line to Atlas Shrugged, a novel by Ayn Rand, one in which the world collapses under the weight of an oppressive robber class of politicians/bureaucrats. Fraser Nelson wrote on the Spectator Blog, having linked to a WSJ article, about the similarities of this day-and-age to those in Rand’s fictional world.

The story in Atlas Shrugged isn’t quite the same, the governments of that world appropriate successful businesses so as to enable the redistribution of the profits whereas now they are bailing out unsuccessful businesses. Quite the reverse. With productive taxpayers bailing out unsuccessful business! But the underlying theme of the book is that the government isn’t there to help and in the end it is not only a hindrance but more likely to be the harbinger of failure. Rand draws into her characters the tenets of her philosophy of objectivism and how their selfish disdain for others is ultimately the driver of their success. Though she venerates selfishness to an extreme, it is understandable in the climate of hatred held towards those that achieve.

This book, though not a direct warning to us, holds within it an insight into how those on the left view the average human, and how the average human can be bribed to support their ideals. It’s a future that no rational person would want to live in, not unless they knew the way to Cactus Gulch.

If you would like to further your interest in Ayn Rand then the ASI is hosting an event on February 10th. Dr Yaron Brook, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Centre for Individual Rights will be speaking for around 45 minutes on Capitalism without Guilt: The Moral Case for Freedom. The event will be from 6pm for 6.30pm, following on Dr Brook’s speech there will be the usual question-and-answer session and drinks reception. If you would like to attend then please contact Philip Salter at events@old.adamsmith.org.

Blog Review 838

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Exogenous dosn't mean quite what some people seem to think exogenous means.

US job losses are high, yes, but how high? Compared to what?

Badger your library to purchase this book. Hey, greater economic literacy is a public good!

Yes, minimum wages do indeed have deleterious effects.

Comparing government to a dog. No, it's not the drooling part nor the fleas.

A progressive gets mugged by reality.

And finally, it's Motown's fiftieth. This is also good.

Calm down, dear

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It's only a recession.

I like Michael Winner, and I like his t-shirt in this picture. I also like Simon Jenkins and this excellent article in Friday's Guardian. Both, in their rather different ways, are making fundamentally the same point: economies have boom years and bust years, things go up and things go down, but in the end life goes on. Or in Jenkins' words, " the present crisis will pass and the current punditry will be seen as a silly and damaging exercise in talking down confidence".

Quite right, too. We are constantly being told that the current economic problems are akin to the Great Depression, or that credit crunch was as significant a blow to capitalism as the fall of the Soviet Empire was to communism. But these things are simply not true. Unemployment isn't going to reach 25 percent. People aren't going to starve. The stock market is going to recover. And capitalism itself isn't going anywhere.

Whatever happens, people will continue to make things, sell things, and buy things. People will continue to innovate, and others will continue to invest. Free exchange will go on. And that, ultimately, is what capitalism is. It isn't a system or a structure like the planned Soviet economies. It is a collection of free individuals pursuing their interests, and that's what makes it so dynamic and resilient. It might take time, but markets adjust, and ordinary service is resumed.

Now where can I get one of those t-shirts?

Beware the Ides of March

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The introduction of rules forcing Internet companies to keep details of every e-mail for one year will come into force on the 15th March this year. The new rules will come into force as part of a European Commission Directive. It will prove to be highly illiberal, costly and ineffective.

The Ides of March will give over 600 public bodies access to your emails. Granting access to the police is one thing, but letting local councils, health authorities, and the likes of the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Commission and Ofsted trawl through you emails is quite another.

Taxpayers will be charged to the tune of somewhere between £25 and £70 million to pay Internet Service Providers (ISP) for this. This is not small change. It will prove ineffective because as Dr Richard Clayton has made clear, much of emails are spam. As he says, “There are much better things to do to spend our billions on than snooping on everybody in the country just on the off-chance that they're a criminal."

Obviously the costs on Internet Service Providers (ISP) will be great. As such the Home Office has been hinting that smaller providers will be exempt. Thus, your average criminal is unlikely to be  signing up to Virgin, AOL or BT. This is not a loophole, but a black hole.

So as individuals, our privacy will be opened up to the whims of anyone with a name badge, but in generally our security would be no less improved. If you know anyone in the country that thinks this is a good idea, please refer him or her to their nearest mental asylum.

The true value of organic

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Has the bottom dropped out of the organic market? Probably. Alex Renton in The Times bemoans the fact that people aren’t willing to pay the extra for organic/morally superior foods: “The truth is that better food is more expensive food, and many of the ills in our present supply system could be tackled if we paid more for it." So why are we choosing not to pay more for our food? Why aren’t we purchasing this holier-than-thou food that would, and can, apparently carry us to the promised land?

His article is titled, “Forget thrift chic. If you want to eat well, we must pay for it." Quite. But in times like these money becomes tight, so they reassess the true value of the products they purchase. For many, organic food is now overpriced. Unfortunately for organic farming, this has come at the same time as a rise in feed costs for the animals, meaning that their meat prices (save for lamb) have been rising. This is why many farmers now want an organic feed exemption. Of course they could further help themselves by calling for a deregulated market in which they would be able to move between the two freely, allowing them to react quickly as costs shift.

When peoples’ budgets become constrained they pay more attention to value, they require more ‘bang for their buck’. This is nothing more than a natural process. Organic farming's added value is becoming little more than a mirage, built on guilt. After all a vegetable is a vegetable. This recession could spell the end for the organic fatted calf. but it could also lead to people regaining an understanding of the true value of what they eat.

Quote of the week

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The government is bailing out Wall Street for being evil and the car companies for being stupid. But print journalism brings you Paul Krugman and Anna Quindlen. Also, in 1898 Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal started the Spanish-American War. All of the Lehman Brothers put together couldn't cause as much evil stupidity as that.

by P.J. O'Rourke,   Bail Me Out, Mr. Paulson, The Weekly Standard