Grounds for Complaint?

The fall in coffee prices has been caused by a 15% oversupply in coffee production. It is a market response to excessive production, rather than evidence of corporate wickedness. More efficient techniques and improved technology may cause prices to fall further. Those who advocate prop-up pricing schemes such as 'fair trade' may have the best of intentions, but they will probably encourage the less efficient producers to keep at it, maintaining the over-supply. What farmers should do is to diversify into other products. Instead of a token gesture such as paying a few pence extra for a cup of coffee, we should be opening our markets to their goods, and cease selling subsidized crops in competition with theirs on world markets.

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Paying For Localism

Britain's local government authorities raise only a quarter of their budget from local sources. Which means that they are in thrall to national politicians and bureaucrats. Turn-out in local elections is falling because people no longer think they matter. The solution? Make local councils raise all their money locally. Not with an extra tax, but by turning VAT into a genuinely local sales tax. Since VAT raises almost exactly the amount that counties and districts spend, the sums balance neatly. And with competition between authorities to keep rates low, there will be greater focus on value for money.

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How Government Can Get Us Saving Again

Distinguished actuary and government advisor on pensions Alan Pickering believes he has found a way to overcome the savings crisis that could just have everyone agreeing. Better education, simplification, a wider role for employers- but the key measure is to massively increase the basic state pension, while raising the retirement age too.

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Flat Tax: the British case

A flat tax is simple, letting people understand their obligations. It is fairer, with low earners paying nothing and the rich paying their due. And it unleashes all the talent and enterprise being held back by a devious and complex system.

Because the flat tax is paid on all income above that threshold, the rate can be very low. It ranges between 13% and 33%. The low rate encourages payment. There are no tax loopholes, nor the need for them, given the low rate. Instead of paying accountants to shelter income and move it offshore, people find it cheaper just to pay the tax. And a low rate makes it more worthwhile to earn more, which brings economic expansion.


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At Odds With Taxpayers

Sale of the government's racehorse betting monopoly - the TOTE - to a panel of racing interests would be a lucky windfall to wealthy owners but daylight robbery for the taxpayers who are supposed to own it, says Keith Boyfield. This ASI report led to a European Commission decision to block the government's cosy deal with the racing industry.


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Delivering Better Education

The fundamental problem lies with the way education is delivered. The aim of this short paper is to show that there are tried and tested alternatives around the world. They bring in delivery mechanisms that are responsive to what parents and students require, meet the needs of all, including the most disadvantaged, and succeed in raising educational standards. These are market approaches to education. But moving towards these alternatives need not be a party-political issue: the values that underlie them fit in with the emphases of the current Labour government as much as with the Conservatives' concern with freedom and choice.

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Better Science At Less Cost

Tim Ambler of the London Business School says that up to £1bn a year is being wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy in the research councils - and that we would get better science at less cost by allocating the research budget directly to universities.


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Competition in Corporate Control

Do we need regulation, rule-books and new codes of practice to keep boardroom executives in check? Corporate-governance specialist Elaine Sternberg says not. The keys to getting on-the-ball, responsible management are competition and shareholder empowerment. Her punchy report takes on the regulationists and shows how to achieve good governance without politics.

Read this report.