Southwood debates what should, and shouldn't, be in the Autumn Statement

Head of Research Ben Southwood was in City AM this week debating what should, and should not, be in Philip Hammond's debut Autumn Statement.

Ben argued in City AM :

"Whenever growth is moribund, you will hear a chorus calling for infrastructure spending. The problem is entrusting nearly every bit of infrastructure to the state. The tiny bits we allow the market to tinker with – especially self-driving cars – are progressing in leaps and bounds that will revolutionise nearly every aspect of our lives.
"When the economy is stagnant, the best boost is tax cuts. Governments are bad at playing the markets – firms do it better. Instead of several £50bn projects in one sector, they invest across thousands of projects, directed by guesses driven by skin in the game and the profit motive, with an automatic mechanism to wind down failures – bankruptcy.
"If the government wants to raise productivity growth, it needs to raise investment, and let the private sector decide where to put that investment. If Philip Hammond cuts taxes, especially taxes like corporation tax, capital gains and stamp duty, which penalise research and capital investment, we will all reap the rewards."



Heathrow comments covered by City AM and the Daily Express

Sam Bowman's comments on the approval of Heathrow's third runway were covered by City AM and the Daily Express.

City Am reported:

Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, said: "It’s a big point in this government’s favour that it has finally gone ahead with the plans, and a sign that it might be willing to push ahead with other important projects that local NIMBYs don’t like.
"We shouldn't feel too sorry for local residents, no matter how vocal they are. Their house prices will have been lower to reflect the inconvenience of living in the flight path, compared to similar houses in quieter areas and, for anyone who has bought a house in the past four decades, also to reflect the probability of a third runway being built. So the trade-off for them is cheaper housing in exchange for a bit more ambient noise from aircraft."

A second City AM piece reported:

Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, said "we shouldn't feel too sorry for local residents".
Bowman said: Their house prices will have been lower to reflect the inconvenience of living in the flight path, compared to similar houses in quieter areas and, for anyone who has bought a house in the past four decades, also to reflect the probability of a third runway being built. So the trade-off for them is cheaper housing in exchange for a bit more ambient noise from aircraft.

The Daily Express reported:

Sam Bowman, executive director of the free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, said the approval of third runway was “long overdue good news”. 
He said: “Britain should be as open to air passenger traffic as possible, being one of the world’s premier tourist and business travel destinations.”

Borders after Brexit co-author appears in the Spectator

Ed West, co-author of he ASI's recent 'The Border after Brexit' paper, wrote a piece for the Spectator titled: In defence of small nation states.

The Spectator notes:

As I argued as a co-author of a recent paper for the Adam Smith Institute, there’s no reason why a frequent American visitor can’t swipe into Britain like he can swipe into the Tube. I’d go further and say there’s no reason why an American can’t freely live and work here. The social costs of free movement between rich countries are very minimal, and in future there will probably be increased competition to attract the small pool of very talented people. It is feasible we could have open borders not just with western Europe but also Japan, the US, Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand and, if and when its median income reaches a certain point, China. So there’s no reason why a world of 500 or even 1000 states would slow down the necessary free movement of skilled labour.

Green belt calculations in The Times

The Times, reporting on the 300,000 new homes to be built on the greenbelt, referenced ASI figures featured in our paper The Green Noose.

The Times reported:

"Paul Cheshire, a former government planning adviser, said that green belts benefited a small number of wealthy people and confined millions of poorer families to increasingly overcrowded cities. The Adam Smith Institute think tank calculated last year that a million homes could be built on the outskirts of London, within walking distance of a railway station, by sacrificing 3.7 per cent of the capital’s green belt."

The Times later reported in a leader story:

"The belief that the green belt is sacrosanct is one of the great shibboleths of our time. The Adam Smith Institute has calculated that a million homes could be built around London with the loss of only 3.7 per cent of its green belt."

Solar Panel paper pick up in The Times

Our latest paper looking at the efficiency of Solar Panels in the UK piqued the interest of The Times this week.

The Times reported:

Millions of solar panels installed with a public subsidy produce no power most of the time and have to be backed up by conventional power stations to prevent blackouts, a report says.
Solar power produced more electricity than coal in the past six months after a rapid rise in the number of solar farms but over the year they still account for less than 2.5 per cent of power generation, according to the report by the Adam Smith Institute, the free-market think tank and the Scientific Alliance.
Britain’s 32 million solar panels are highly productive, generating at more than half of their capacity, for only 210 hours, the equivalent of nine days, over an entire year, the report says.
Capell Aris, the author of Solar Power in Britain and a former senior manager in the electricity industry, used ten years of weather data to analyse levels of solar power production in the UK.


Study reveals extensive renewable energy deficit and recommends a focus on domestic use
Solar power produced more energy than coal in April through September this year in the UK, but we shouldn’t expect that to last, claims a new report from neoliberal think tank the Adam Smith Institute and the Scientific Alliance released today.

The paper, Solar Power in Britain, uses ten years of weather data to create a new and comprehensive analysis of the capabilities of solar energy in the UK, and finds it wanting.

The report reveals that solar panels are highly ineffective in UK climates, generating less than a tenth of their possible output over the course of a year. In fact, solar panels produce precisely nothing for over 30 weeks of the year and only manage to muster above 50% of the energy generation they’re capable of for 8 days annually.

Counter to claims that a combination of wind and solar power could smooth out this seasonal intermittency, the report demonstrates that even combined they would only exceed 60% of their capability for a day and half each year, and would be below 20% capacity for over half of the year and need to be constantly supplemented by more reliable sources of energy.

Currently the solar fleet produces less than 2.5% of UK electricity generation, the problem being both that there is insufficient storage for the energy generated in the summer months to provide in winter, and that solar panels are ineffective in the UK climate. The lifetime output of a 5MW solar park could be matched in 36 hours by a nuclear power plant taking up 50 times less ground space.

The paper addresses two effective storage options that could make solar power feasible in the UK, pumped storage and battery storage but demonstrates why these highly expensive and environmentally damaging solutions are unworkable. The author instead suggests that rather than trying to move faster than the technology available, solar energy should focus on providing for local customers’ domestic water and heating, leaving less seasonally affected sources to provide power across the country until a more realistic storage system can be manufactured. 

Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“We know that UK solar panels only generate electricity at 9% of capacity, but our paper shows that even this average level is a mirage. Power comes in stops and spurts and not when we want it.

“If we had ways to store large amounts of energy cheaply then it wouldn’t matter when the sun shines, we could just save up what we’ve generated in batteries. But even combined with the wind fleet, the supply is incredibly intermittent and variable: output is below 10% of capacity 97 times a year, for periods of 6 to 141 hours.

“In the future cheaper and more efficient generation and storage will solve the problem, but for now there is no way of squaring the circle: relying on solar and wind will force us to back up the supply with dirty fossil fuels, or the lights will go out!"

Author of the report, Dr Capell Aris, said:

“This work should convince anyone with an open mind that the current generation of renewable energy technologies is simply not up to the job of providing a reliable, affordable electricity supply.

“I hope that policymakers will take note and help provide the secure electricity supply consumers and businesses need before we find out the consequences of the push for renewables the hard way.”
Notes to editors:

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

The report ‘Solar Power in Britain: The Impossible Dream’ is live on the Adam Smith Institute 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.

The Scientific Alliance was formed to encourage politicians to make policy on the basis of scientific evidence rather than lobbying by vested interests. Its role is to encourage a rigorous and rational approach to policymaking for the benefit of individual citizens and the economy.

Out and proud, the ASI are neoliberals now

Coming out as the first self proclaimed neoliberal think tank this week the ASI saw write ups across the media.

The Telegraph published an op-ed from Dr. Madsen Pirie:

Most neoliberals are optimistic, thinking the world is better than it was and will become better still. They have confidence that human ingenuity and determination can solve most problems if left space to do so.
Sometimes names become bywords for unpleasantness – it happened to Boycott and Quisling, and might yet happen to Corbyn. But sometimes insults become commonplace descriptions. "Tory" once referred to Irish bandits, but the party now embraces the name, and the same could work for neoliberalism. The Adam Smith Institute has just taken the first step by calling itself a neoliberal, free-market think-tank.

Sam Bowman wrote for Conservative Home:

It has become fashionable on the left to describe anyone who has a fondness for markets as a neoliberal. The fact that almost nobody calls themselves a neoliberal makes it powerful: if the world is indeed neoliberal, and nobody is willing to stand up and defend neoliberalism, then that’s a pretty damning indictment of the current state of affairs.
We at the Adam Smith Institute think that the world is an excellent, successful, prosperous, happy place. Incomes grew strongly for every income group in the UK over the period 1988-2008, most of all for the bottom 10 per cent, and we’re now returning to growth after the Great Recession. Violence is at an all-time low in the history of our species.

Guido Fawkes picked up on the news:

Guido’s friends at the Adam Smith Institute are re-branding as neo-liberals. Many decades ago when Guido briefly interned at the ASI they self-defined as “libertarian“, nowadays that is apparently too radical a term, or so argues executive director Sam Bowman. He argues “libertarian” in Britain has a rigid meaning – “someone who is opposed to all but the tiniest night watchman state in every case”. The dictionary says libertarians uphold the principles of individual liberty, especially of thought and action.
Embracing neo-liberalism as your ideological descriptor might be good marketing, given it is so widely used pejoratively by teenage lefties to save them having to think matters through. They view neo-liberalism as akin to the political economy of Satanism. Bowman rightly points out that the words Tory, suffragette and Whig all began as insults but were adopted and appropriated by the people they were used against. The ASI setting themselves up as the defenders of neo-liberalism will guarantee plenty of attention.

And Ben Southwood explained the decision to CapX:

The fall of socialism and the return of market-driven policies has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty across the world. In the West, we are repopulating our cities, and creating the wealth that allows for beautiful things. Free marketeers often deny responsibility for the system we live under because it is not their ideal setup – but they shouldn’t. They should take the credit, and do so ostentatiously, by embracing the insult, as Whigs and suffragettes did before them. Which is why, as of yesterday, the ASI officially calls itself neoliberal.

Read more on the thinking behind the ASI rebrand here, here and here.

Leftwing pro-public sector Polly Toynbee agrees with the ASI

As the world continues to turn on its head the Guardian's Polly Toynbee agreed with the Adam Smith Institute this week, citing our Borders after Brexit report in her article "Take back control? Our Border Force is in no fit state to do its job,"

The piece noted:

Visa checks on people from non-EU countries are weaker, they claim, now visa offices abroad have been closed. “There are no standard interviews for student or visitor visas now. But you can’t rely on written references and qualifications,” says one officer who has worked overseas. “You need to see applicants to detect people who are not what they say they are.” During the present “surge”, there is only one forgery specialist each shift, instead of two or three: “They’re run off their feet.”
This isn’t just staff grumbling: the rightwing, anti-public sector Adam Smith Institute reported last month that the Border Force is “starved of funds and neglected”. Responsible for screening 225 million passengers a year arriving in the UK, it claims about 4,000 “high-risk” flights are landing without proper security checks.

You can read the article in full here if you don't believe us.

Sam Bowman defends immigration in the Daily Telegraph

Tom Ough's spoke with ASI Executive Director Sam Bowman for his piece in the Daily Telegraph, 'Radically increasing immigration? There couldn't be anything more Conservative'. The article reported:

What’s in it for the Shires? First, it is well-established that immigrants, because they tend to be younger, make a net contribution to our economy. We all benefit from this. There will be concerns that increased immigration will dilute British culture; Sam Bowman, the executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, is persuaded enough of this point to advocate significantly expanded rather than unlimited immigration.
"We can do things to mitigate that issue though," he says, "because we have evidence that freer labour markets make immigrants integrate more quickly. We might also look at the US Green Card system, which is careful to only let a certain number of people in from each country so you get a mix, rather than any single group coming in and ghettoizing."
The old argument of immigrants taking jobs is on the one hand unfair – immigrants create demand for labour as well as supply, their presence puts a premium on English speakers, and the jobs will simply go to another country if not here – and on the other at odds with a party of merit rather than internal economic protectionism.

Green light on fracking will help tackle unpredictable suppliers and high energy costs

Horizontal fracking can go ahead, the BBC has reported, in a landmark ruling for the UK shale gas industry.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site - yet more good stuff from the MP this week following his pledge to tackle the supply of houses in the UK.

Eamonn Butler, Director of the Adam Smith Institute, said:

Theresa May has complained about high energy prices. Producing more gas through fracking is a good way to keep prices down. It also makes us less dependent on oil and gas imports from unpredictable suppliers such as Russia and the Middle East. With all the world’s uncertainties, and with North Sea production running down, this is a good time to be exploring new energy sources, and making ourselves self-sustainable in energy.
Fracking is happening in other countries, with very few problems, and can only get better as technology and expertise improve. It will create and sustain employment and boost our productivity.
Twenty years from now everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.