Obituary: Professor Norman Gash

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We are sad to report the death of Professor Norman Gash, former Professor of Modern History in the University of St.Andrews, at the age of 97.

Norman Gash was known to the world as a fine historian of the Nineteenth Century, and in particular the leading expert on the life and times of Sir Robert Peel – on whom he wrote a definitive two-volume biography. His thoroughly researched books on Peel, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Liverpool, and the politics of their age continue to command respect within the academic community.

Gash was also a leading Conservative intellectual, and at St.Andrews did much to encourage the thriving group of student activists whose members would go on to become MPs – such as Michael Fallon, Michael Forsyth, Robert B Jones – or active in the world of policy formation – such as Madsen Pirie and Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute and Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.

EU wants to run the internet

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Daniel Hannan MEP, has informed us all that the EU seems rather upset that the US "runs" the internet and is keen to do something about it. They want ICANN to be taken over by the G12 so that they can run it "for everyone". The internet was invented (by a British man) because of the American effort to protect itself in case of a nuclear attack. The EU expects the US to hand over the keys to a strategic asset merely because it offends their anti-American sensibilities. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" does not resonate with them much either it seems.

Hannan quotes this gem: "In the long run, it is not defendable that the government department of only one country has oversight of an internet function which is used by hundreds of millions of people in countries all over the world."

Obama might be keen to suck up to the Europeans, but even he would not be stupid enough to grant this request. I doubt most in the UK would be too keen on this idea eithe.

Blog Review 957

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So will the newspapers be able to charge for online content? Doubtful, but then many have bet against Rupert Murdoch before as well.

Nobody goes into politics to get rich, of course, but it's amazing the number who get rich from having gone into politics.....

The latest victim of the elfnsafety culture. One culture that may be even more pernicious than even those of banking or even politics.

There are (at least) two problems with torture. one is that it immoral, the other that it doesn't actually work.

Just as confiscating private property via government pressure doesn't work in creating future prosperity.

Yet another piece of the gender pay gap. If male jobs are more likely to disappear in a recession then they're more likely to pay more outside recessionary times.

And finally, another page from the modern dictionary.

Yaron Brook speech now online

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Earlier this year, Dr Yaron Brook, the president of the Ayn Rand Institute, spoke at the Adam Smith Institute (write-up here). His excellent speech, on Capitalism without Guilt - the Moral Case for Freedom, is now available to watch online. If you weren't able to join us back in February, these videos are well worth watching:

You can also watch the Q & A session in parts five, six, seven and eight. And as if that wasn't enough, you can also see Andrew Medworth (of the Ayn Rand Forum) interviewing Dr Brook before his speech: part one, part two, part three and part four.

Why are we ruled by the illogical?

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I've long been saying that recent events might mean we should have more regulation of the financial sector. It might also mean less and I'm certain it should mean different regulation. But could we please have an absolute moratorium on illogical, just plain counter-productive, regulation like this?

Today, as part of that effort to make markets safer, lawmakers in the European parliament are expected to back new rules that will force banks to retain 5 per cent of the securitised products they originate and sell.

Now a reasonable thumbnail sketch of what happened is that the banks went overboard in a wave of euphoria about the joys of securitisation. in fact, they thought that these whizzy CDOs were such fun that they weren't going to flog them on to the pension funds and the insurance companies as originally planned. Nope, these things were so super that they were going to keep them. And so they did keep them until everyone woke up with a hangover one day and realised that they weren't so whizzy or super duper and immediately started calling them "toxic assets". And then the banks went bust.

So the legislators suggestion to stop this happening again is that the banks should be forced to do what made them bust rather than just left to make a stupid decision like that on their own? Everyone's got to do it not just a few?

Now some will say that having to keep a portion of a securitisation will make the banks look a little harder at them and their risks. Perhaps, but this is the point. Up until 18 months ago the banks were indeed looking at these securitisations and they thought they were just peachy. Best thing since sliced bread in fact right up to the point that they thought that they weren't any more. So such a law would not have changed their behaviour at all. Except, of course,  for those people who didn't get swept away in the euphoria and so didn't keep the toxic assets on their books.

Yes, of course we need laws, of course some form of regulatory system has to be in place. But does it have to be so blitheringly stupid a one? One that forces every bank to do what has just sent half of the banks into bankruptcy?

Consult or cut?

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The Times reported last week that a management consultancy employed for its cost-cutting skills is playing a key role in helping the shadow cabinet draw up plans for power. The time-and motion crew have seconded a member of staff to the implementation unit run by Francis Maude, the paper says.

This will do no good at all. It will be like the time when Mrs Thatcher brought in a top businessman from the board of Marks & Spencer – then thought to be Britain's best-managed firm – to map out how to make the civil service and government systems more efficient. The civil servants listened politely as he explained how they could re-use the envelopes or whatever, and then after he had gone everything simply reverted to normal.

It was at this point, in 1982, that the Adam Smith Institute published its seminal report, Strategy Two. The first strategy, of trying to make government more efficient, had failed, it said. The second strategy, and the only thing that would restore the public finance, should be to make government smaller. It led, of course, to the great privatizations of telephones, utilities, carmaking and all the rest. Inside government, no amount of effort would have made them more cost-effective. Outside government, the chill wind of competition did the job in no time. Francis Maude should send the stopwatch bandits home and bring in a wrecking crew.

Dr Eamonn Butler's new book, The Rotten State of Britain, is now available to buy now. Click here to find out how.

TNG with Brooks Newmark MP

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alt Brooks Newmark MP, marked Obama's first 100 days in office with a speech as guest speaker at this months TNG meeting. In his description of the new President of the United States, he evaluated that a lot of his policies were, “Bush-like", pointing out that his policy of ‘Big Government’ and the immense fiscal stimulus were not dissimilar to that of his predecessor.

Nevertheless, the main scope of his speech embarked on what Obama has and will achieve in his Foreign Policy. The pull out of Iraq followed by the increased number of troops in Afghanistan is very much heading in the same direction a Bush. Newmark stated that Obama has put significant emphasis on his dealings with Israel, pin pointing that he will continue to promote a two state solution.

As well as this, he highlighted the importance of Iran and how Obama has attempted to improve relations with the country. For now this has wrong-footed Ahmadinejad, though he insisted that the President might be disappointed when his outstretched arm is not taken by Iran. If and when this occurs, it will be in interesting to see how comparable his reaction will be with that of President Bush.

The eYouGuide

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altThe gloriously named eYouGuide is the new effort by the EU to "educate" the masses on "their rights" in regards to intellectual property and things internet. This was a result of an initiative launched in 2007 by the EU to set people straight on their "rights" online. CMU digs deeper to some of the more stern warnings on the site.

The eYouguide states that copyright exists "to promote the progress of knowledge and arts", and warns that in some European countries copyright law may "provide civil or criminal sanctions even for infringements of copyright for non-commercial purposes". It says that civil sanctions "may involve paying damages or just an injunction ordering you to stop the infringing behaviour", while criminal sanctions, normally reserved for infringement for commercial gain, may include "the seizure of devices containing protected work, fines and in some extreme cases also imprisonment"."

So there, that's clarifed it for all of us right? To me it reads like a pretty strong threat with little on the specifics of what you should do to avoid such sanctions. There is really nothing that specifically speaks to those thorny issues like personal copying of material or the matter of where your site is hosted. In short, the eYouGuide is far more about telling consumers things rather than answering their queries. One issue fairly important to bloggers is whether or not you can be served with an arrest warrant if you offend some law in another EU country. Until such thorny issues are full explained its probably still best if you host your site outside the EU.

TNG with Brooks Newmark MP

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alt Brooks Newmark MP, marked Obama's first 100 days in office with a speech as guest speaker at this months TNG meeting. In his description of the new President of the United States, he evaluated that a lot of his policies were, “Bush-like”, pointing out that his policy of ‘Big Government’ and the immense fiscal stimulus were not dissimilar to that of his predecessor.

Nevertheless, the main scope of his speech embarked on what Obama has and will achieve in his Foreign Policy. The pull out of Iraq followed by the increased number of troops in Afghanistan is very much heading in the same direction a Bush. Newmark stated that Obama has put significant emphasis on his dealings with Israel, pin pointing that he will continue to promote a two state solution.

As well as this, he highlighted the importance of Iran and how Obama has attempted to improve relations with the country. For now this has wrong-footed Ahmadinejad, though he insisted that the President might be disappointed when his outstretched arm is not taken by Iran. If and when this occurs, it will be in interesting to see how comparable his reaction will be with that of President Bush.