Uber ruling expensive and excessive - Adam Smith Institute comment

Following the ruling forcing private hire drivers to take an English test, Sam Dumitriu, Head of Projects at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

"This ruling is a disappointing decision for private hire drivers across London. These tests are not only expensive but excessive, and will do little to improve public safety.

"We've already seen London taxi drivers of twenty years or more struggling with essay questions about the Aurora Borealis and snowboarding, do we need them to have read Shakespeare too?

"There's clearly no public interest here, only the interests of the vocal Black Cab Lobby. Sadiq Khan should listen to drivers and scrap them."

For further comment or to arrange and interview please contact flora@adamsmith.org, +44 75 8477 8207.


New report reveals dangerous effects of sizeable left wing skew within UK Universities

  • Strong left-liberal skew in British academia, which has risen since 1960s
  • Left-liberals make up around 75% of academics; conservatives only 12%
  • 90% of British Universities censored free speech on campus last year
  • IQ not the explanation, with top 5% of IQ roughly split between left and right
  • Excessive ideological homogeneity risks bias in scholarship, which may prompt governments to defund research
  • University gatekeepers must seek ideological diversity or lose trust of public and government

Groupthink mentality is rife within academia, with 90% of British universities censoring speech on campus last year, a new report released today by the Adam Smith Institute reveals.
People with right-wing and conservative views are underrepresented in British universities, making up less than 12% of academics, even though 50% of the general public vote for right-wing parties, risking systematic biases in scholarship.
The paper offers a number of explanations for how the world of academia has become so homogenous, discrediting the notion that smarter people are uniformly more left wing—in fact, the top 5% of intelligence is split along roughly the same political lines as the population at large.
Studies from the US reveal that conservative academics are discriminated against in grant reviews and hiring decisions, and more than 80% of conservative academics feel that there is a hostile climate towards their beliefs at work.
The report warns that without more ideological diversity in academia, the rejection of left-liberal values will increasingly equate to denying objective facts. It may also cause a right-wing backlash, with right-leaning governments defunding universities they see as ideological opponents rather than apolitical scholars.
Further adverse consequence of ideological homogeneity include the curtailing of free speech on campus, with 90% of British universities censoring speech in some form last year; biased research with areas deemed politically unpalatable ignored, mischaracterized and angrily expostulated; and skewed teaching, with economic textbooks already giving market failure six times as much coverage as government failure and only half recognising its presence at all.
The report urges universities to commit to ideological diversity with the same fervour they commit to gender, class and race diversity, and asks that academics be alert to double standards and the risk of bias in their work, embracing adversarial collaborations within the field. An increasingly homogenous academy, it warns, will lose the trust of the public and the right wing governments funding its research.
Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“Conservatives have left the academy. You find a fair few libertarians—people with economically right-wing but socially liberal views—but hardly any who admit to being socially conservative. 

“In principle, political views shouldn’t affect good scholarship, and it probably doesn’t matter if all our physicists are communists—unless they are passing nuclear secrets to foreign powers. But we should be less sanguine if all sociologists or anthropologists are, as they seem to be, there are obvious ways their views could infect their scholarship. 

“No one is suggesting quotas, but we should be mindful of too much intellectual homogeneity. As John Stuart Mill pointed out, we need to air views in order to find out what’s true.”
Noah Carl, author of the report and researcher at Nuffield College, Oxford, said:

“It cannot have escaped the notice of anyone who has spent time in British academia, especially in the social sciences and humanities, that there is a sizable left-liberal skew. One rarely encounters a fellow academic who supports the Conservatives, and I have never met one who supports UKIP.

“While differences in personality and interests appear to explain some of the left-liberal skew, discrimination may also be a factor. Moreover, growing evidence from the empirical literature indicates that the academy’s sizable left-liberal skew has had an adverse impact on scholarship.
“Universities are supposed to be places where perspectives are challenged, arguments are picked apart, and all ideas are up for discussion. This ideal is very difficult to achieve when the vast majority of scholars adhere to the same ideological precepts.”

Notes to editors:
For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at flora@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

The report ‘Lackademia: Why do academics lean left?’’ is available here.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, neoliberal think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.

Business rates are a good tax, argues Sam Bowman

Business rates are a good tax, Sam Bowman wrote in the Telegraph:

This year’s revaluation threatens to raise rates for London overall while cutting them everywhere else. It would be a revenue neutral change, but loss aversion means the businesses that will lose out are protesting much more loudly than the ones that stand to gain.

But economists, left and right, tend to think of business rates as a very good tax. Even though it’s businesses that write the cheque, they say, it’s landlords who actually pay business rates. When rates go up, rents go down by the same amount, and vice versa.

That sounds improbable to most people. But there’s actually quite a lot of evidence that it’s true.

Read on.


National Living Wage paper sparks debate

The ASI's latest paper calling for the National Living Wage to be scrapped has sparked debate in the media.

The Mirror reported:

Margaret Thatcher's favourite think tank today calls for the national living wage to be scrapped. The £7.20 hourly minimum for workers aged 25 and over is due to rise to £7.50 in April, benefiting tens of thousands of low-paid employees. But the free market Adam Smith Institute wants it axed, claiming it has become a political football.
George Osborne launched the “national living wage” - actually a rebranded legal minimum – in April 2016. The rate is set by the Government whereas the national minimum wage was decided by independent experts.

Ben Southwood wrote in City AM:

If government is setting minimum wages with no thought at all for their wider and long-term labour market impacts, then we could well see a relationship between hikes and unemployment. That might be nice for economists like me; I suspect the unemployed whose jobs never get created might disagree.

Sam Bowman wrote in Conservative Home:

The National Living Wage is being set without any care for that evidence. George Osborne’s main goal was to undermine Labour after the 2015 election. Well, fine, but they’ve done a good enough job of that themselves.
Politics shouldn’t trump the well-being of people who need to work, and whose prospects might be seriously harmed by further rises to the Living Wage. Let’s stick with what works.



New report calls for return to Minimum Wage set by independent Low Pay Commission

  • National Living Wage (NLW) a political football that must be scrapped
  • Long term studies show higher minimum wage risks increased unemployment and slower job creation
  • Artificially high labour prices accelerate job automation and raise consumer prices
  • Living Wage makes pay the plaything of politicians without regard for consequences
  • National Living Wage must be scrapped and power over the National Minimum Wage placed back in the hands of the Low Pay Commission

The National Living Wage is a political football and must be scrapped because it risks creating unemployment, according to a new report released by the Adam Smith Institute this morning.

The report, released ahead of the Chancellor's Spring budget, demonstrates how increases in the minimum wage can accelerate the automation of the workforce, increase unemployment and criminal behaviour, cut the bottom few rungs off of the employment ladder, increase consumer prices and hamper low skilled workers throughout their lives. 

Increases to the National Minimum Wage were decided by the politically independent Low Pay Commission until 2016, when the National Living Wage was introduced and politicians effectively appropriated control over it. The minimum wage for people over 25 years of age is no longer based on complex economic considerations, but hiked up for quick political wins which incur costs on the very workers the NLW claims to benefit. 

Businesses must find additional funds to pay for an increase in the minimum wage or see a fall in profits. They can either hire fewer but more skilled workers, invest in automating their business or outsourcing it abroad, or raise consumer prices to make up the higher cost of labour.

The report reveals how products produced by minimum wage workers, and most likely to be subject to a price increase, are disproportionately purchased by the least well off in society. If the NLW does not result in job losses, then it instead imposes a sales tax on consumers, especially poor ones, raising their cost of living yet higher.

Only around 5% of the UK workforce is currently paid the minimum wage, but this proportion is set to grow as the NLW rises rapidly from £7.60 in 2017 to £9.02 by 2020. The number of workers who’ll have their wages and employability dictated by political whims and maneuvering is only set to increase. 

The report calls for the Chancellor to abandon the National Living Wage and give the Low Pay Commission, with a mandate to boost worker’s wages without risking unemployment, full powers back over the minimum wage. The government could further raise the incomes of the badly-off by increasing tax credits and introducing a Negative Income Tax without risking unintended consequences the NLW incurs.
Sam Bowman, Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute and co-author of the paper, said:
“We need to do everything we can to raise the incomes of Britain’s worst off workers, but there is a huge danger that the National Living Wage will actually end up hurting them by reducing employment. There is an important difference between the National Minimum Wage and the Living Wage, in that the former is set by a panel of experts with a mandate to minimise the risk of job losses, but the Living Wage is set by politicians whose main interest is looking good on the Ten O’Clock News. That’s a recipe for disaster, and we believe that direct cash transfers like tax credits or a Negative Income Tax would be much less risky ways of helping people at the bottom than the National Living Wage.”
Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at flora@adamsmith.org | 07584 778207.

The report ‘Against the National Living Wage’ will be live on the Adam Smith Institute website from 00:01 Friday 24th February 2017 and is available here in advance.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, neoliberal think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.


Ireland legalises medicinal cannabis and the ASI gets more press coverage

As Ireland becomes the latest country to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for certain medical conditions, The Adam Smith Institute's Tide Effect paper received yet more coverage, months after its release.

The Express, The Sun, The Times and The Mirror all mentioned the report released by The Adam Smith Institute and Volteface, which was backed by a cross-party group of MPs, including former deputy prime minster Nick Clegg and former health minister Norman Lamb.

A step in the right direction, but the housing White Paper is still a missed opportunity says Ben Southwood

In response to the government's housing White Paper released today Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

UK housing has needed a shake-up for decades, and although today’s White Paper is a welcome step in the right direction, it might well be remembered as a missed opportunity.
Sajid Javid seems to understand Britain’s housing problems in a way that previous communities secretaries have not. However, many of the bold ideas that had been floated in the past few months have been dropped, presumably because not all his colleagues recognise the scale of the problem.
The government now finally acknowledges that housing demand is local—building housing in Doncaster or Rochdale will not relieve pressure in Cambridge or Bristol. It also understands that density does not have to mean Brutalist tower blocks, and it sees building in popular styles—such as mansion blocks and terraced houses—as one way to overcome local opposition to development.
But ultimately this is not the white paper we were hoping for. Knowing the problems is not the same as solving them, and changing council targets may end up having no appreciable impact on the market as a whole.
Seeing the green belt as a last resort for development is another mistake: much of it is ugly scrap land or intensive farmland with little amenity and high environmental costs. It is also an error to force developers to rapidly build on any sites they have permission for—the only reason they don’t do this already is our strict planning laws, and raising the costs of building further may actually prevent needed developments."
Like many others, we’re disappointed: there’s very little today that tackles the green belt, height restrictions, or perverse incentives that make people oppose development. But it would be a mistake to let that blind us to the steps forward in this, small as they may be.

For further comment or to arrange and interview please email flora@adamsmith.org.


Ministers let the green belt slide in housing white paper

As Sajid Javid “reaffirm[s] this government's commitment to the green belt” in the housing white paper, City AM covered Executive Director Sam Bowman's disappointment about the lack of change:

"Only a tiny amount of the UK's green belt would need to be freed up - less than two per cent to give us room for more than a million new homes. Britain has some of the smallest and most expensive homes in Europe, and a family-friendly Conservative government must create space for new homes to be built by the private sector."

The Independent also covered Head of Research Ben Southwood's comment:

"Like many others, we’re disappointed: there’s very little today that tackles the green belt, height restrictions, or perverse incentives that make people oppose development. But it would be a mistake to let that blind us to the steps forward in this, small as they may be."

Comment also appeared in The Sun, Financial Times, and The Sunday Times in print.

Sam Bowman's essay in The Conservative

As The New Statesman covered a week in the life of Daniel Hannan, they also mentioned one of the "significant Conservative figures" contributing to The Conservative, "a quarterly journal... sponsored by the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe", of which Hannan is editor-in-chief.

Sam Bowman's article "Making Immigration A Force For Good" is available on The Conservative Online.