Rewiring Democracy

The UK's e-government strategy is fragmented and producer driven, says Andrew Lomas, and will never deliver its full benefits to the public. By contract, tiny Estonia has re-thought its government systems around the new technology – resulting in much higher online access to government and greater public satisfaction. 

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No Way to Run a Railway

Rail's woes are due to bureaucracy, not privatization. It's time for the government to release the railway from its overburdening grip. A grip entrenched in regulation that has far too many officials, or any proper functionality. Iain Murray, the author, says that for the railways to work, "the train operation companies must be given more control, and have a major say in how station and track improvements are managed. This will lead to more customer-driven investment decisions," he insists, "providing in turn much more of what train users actually want."


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Flat Tax for the UK

This report, A Flat Tax for the UK – A Practical Reality, calls for income tax to be simplified into a flat rate tax of 22%. Under the proposal, there would be a tax-free personal allowance of £12,000.

As the report says, the concept of a flat tax, a simple tax system that charges a single rate of tax on all income, is growing in popularity. It contrasts clearly with the current systems operated in most countries, with different tax rates depending on the level and type of income or on the personal circumstances of the individual taxpayer.


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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.

Read the full paper here

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.

Read full paper.