IEA Conversations
Is it time to delete the tech tax?

Is it time to delete the tech tax?

August 15, 2019

Last year the government announced a digital services tax on US technology firms – including Google, Facebook and Amazon – to make sure “these global giants with profitable businesses in the UK pay their fair share”. Former Chancellor Philip Hammond set out the case for the tax buy rehearsing populist themes: The tech firms are big and prosperous, they derive “substantial value” from operating in the UK, yet they don’t pay much tax to HM Revenue and Customs.

Opponents of big tech have used Amazon’s 25th birthday as an excuse to rehash accusations that the company is under-paying tax. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s message of ‘many happy tax returns’ was perhaps the wittiest remark of the lot, but does it show a real grasp of the economics or just a naked attempt to bash big tech to win a few political brownie points?

Joining the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes to discuss pressing the delete button on the tech tax is the IEA’s Head of Regulatory Affairs Victoria Hewson and the IEA’s Economics Fellow Julian Jessop.

Is the NHS broken and decades overdue reform?

Is the NHS broken and decades overdue reform?

August 8, 2019

In this week’s podcast, the IEA’s Digital Manager Darren Grimes is joined by the IEA’s Head of Political Economy Kristian Niemietz and Economics Fellow Julian Jessop.

The discussion is centred around the recent decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's £1.8bn granted funding for the NHS. Whilst cash injections may help in the short term, Dr Kristian Niemietz argues they will prove to be a waste of taxpayers’ money if structural changes are not made alongside investment. Far from celebrating the NHS and this cash injection by the Prime Minister, should policymakers should be considering wholesale reform of the centralised system to improve patient care and save lives?

Additionally, as the UK leaves the EU there are some that argue that the NHS might well be on the table in negotiations over a future US-UK trade deal, but Julian Jessop begs for a more evidence-based look at this perceived 'threat' to the UK's healthcare system.

Fully Automated Luxury… Communism?!

Fully Automated Luxury… Communism?!

July 31, 2019

In this week's podcast, the IEA’s Digital Manager Darren Grimes and Dr Kristian Niemietz discuss two new books in which the authors claim to lay out their socialist alternatives. The first book is Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Aaron Bastani, which explores everything from the route to communism through socialism to Universal Basic Services, but does the book explain why socialism has already been tried more than two dozen times and failed every time without exception? The pair discuss. The second book is called The Socialist Manifesto by Bhaskar Sunkara.

How ideas can change the world, with Deidre McCloskey

How ideas can change the world, with Deidre McCloskey

July 25, 2019

IEA Digital Manager Darren Grimes introduces Deidre McCloskey’s talk at the IEA’s THINK conference on how ‘How ideas can change the world’.

From 2000 to 2015, McCloskey was the Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). McCloskey’s ‘Bourgeois Virtues’ trilogy (2006, 2010, 2016) examines factors in history that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity. She argues that enrichment comes from “innovation” rather than capital accumulation as is frequently argued.

McCloskey is also known for her critique of the post-1940s “official modernist” methodology in economics (McCloskey Critique). In her 1985 book, The Rhetoric of Economics, she argues that economic modernism has ultimately taken equilibrium model-building and econometrics “absurdly” far.

She self describes as a "Postmodern, quantitative, literary, ex-Marxist, economist, historian, progressive Episcopalian, coastie-bred Chicagoan woman who was once not."

After her THINK talk and for this podcast, Darren managed to catch up with Deidre to ask a few more questions.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts and find more films, blogs, podcasts and reports at iea.org.uk.

Would John Stuart Mill back the nanny state?

Would John Stuart Mill back the nanny state?

July 18, 2019

John Stuart Mill articulated the Harm Principle in On Liberty, where he argued that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

So would he have backed the nanny state? Eating sugary food, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are legal activities. But politicians still use the law to discourage them. They raise their price, prohibit or limit their advertisement, restrict where they can be sold and consumed, and sometimes ban them outright.

So do these politicians thereby violate John Stuart Mill’s famous principle that people should be free to do whatever they like, provided they harm no one but themselves? Or is the nanny state simply protecting consumers from the harms and excesses of, well, excess. The IEA’s Head of Lifestyle Economics and the Programme Director of Big Tent and PhD student studying evidence-based policy Dolly Theis debate the topic.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts and find more films, blogs, podcasts and reports at iea.org.uk.

How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone

How wireless deregulation gave us the iPhone

July 11, 2019

The IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes sat down with Professor Thomas Hazlett.

Professor Thomas Hazlett's research focuses on public choice and public policy aspects of regulatory measures in the communications sector. The focus of his 2017 book: 'The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone' debunks the traditional view as to why the radio spectrum is allocated and licensed by regulators.

Hazlett argues that contrary to popular belief, radio broadcasting actually developed according to common law property rules and the 1927 move to political control was less motivated by a necessity to impose order on a chaotic system than as a result of pressure by incumbent radio stations and key policymakers – like Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover – to foreclose competitive entry.

Hazlett maintains that these developments have inhibited innovation rather than encouraged it. Hazlett's research, of course, has implications for current policy discussions, with issues like 5G and Net Neutrality both areas of debate for present-day communications and regulators. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

The truth about Denmark and Socialism

The truth about Denmark and Socialism

July 4, 2019

Martin Ågerup is a Danish economist and the current president of the think tank CEPOS.

The IEA's Director General Mark Littlewood sat down with Martin to discuss the meme that Denmark is somehow a socialist Valhalla to those on the Left. Martin dismissed the claim that Denmark is somehow proof that socialism is preferable to free-market capitalism, promising more happiness, greater wealth, or both.

Martin explained the contradiction between Denmark’s big government and prosperity, with its liberal social values, a reformed welfare state, broad tax base, low corporate tax, efficient services and discussed the public perceptions of it, and even offered a Danish liberal's perspective on the EU and Brexit.

You can subscribe to this podcast channel on Apple Podcasts.

The morality of tax cuts

The morality of tax cuts

June 28, 2019
Britain’s tax burden as a proportion of national income is at its highest for nearly half a century and our tax rulebook is one of the lengthiest and most complex in the western world.

Candidates in the Tory leadership contest have put forward proposals to reduce at least one tax or another. Boris Johnson has suggested raising the threshold at which the 40p rate kicks in, from £50,000 to £80,000 and Jeremy Hunt favours a substantial reduction in corporation tax, to 12.5 per cent. 

But there has been backlash on such proposals, that they are designed for the well off and big business, rather than with those on low or average incomes.

So what can be done? Are these the right tax cuts to be prioritising? Is there a case for slashing taxes for the rich? Are we doomed to continue down the path of our tax system becoming ever more contrived, impenetrable and even failing to sensibly maximise government revenue?

The IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes invited the IEA's Director General Mark Littlewood and Associate Director Kate Andrews to debate how we make the moral case for a slimmer tax rulebook, and a significantly less complex one at that.

School vs Parents: Who should have the final say?

School vs Parents: Who should have the final say?

June 20, 2019

The No Outsiders programme was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, the assistant headteacher at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham. The programme aims to teach children about the characteristics protected by the Equality Act - such as sexual orientation and religion. Books used in the programme include stories about a dog that doesn't feel like it fits in, two male penguins that raise a chick together and a boy who likes to dress up like a mermaid.

But some parents at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham say lessons featuring books depicting same-sex relationships are not age-appropriate.  The lessons have created a furious debate, involving court injunctions and many pages of opinion columns. 

The debate ultimately raises the big question about to what extent societies need to share the same values, and how those values are communicated to the next generation. Does a cohesive society have to uphold a shared and single version of the Good? 

Or is okay for views on this topic to diverge? Should there be many different schools teaching different perspectives? Is it right for a state education system to impose a particular set of moral values on everyone, even if we are sympathetic to them? To what extent should the state shape and determine attitudes and feelings, and thought?

Joining the IEA's digital manager Darren Grimes to discuss is Joanna Williams, associate editor at spiked and Benjamin Butterworth, Weekend Editor and reporter for the i newspaper

Is fracking compatible with a fossil-free future?

Is fracking compatible with a fossil-free future?

June 13, 2019

Opponents of Fracking argue that it was always a bad idea, because of climate change. Cutting carbon emissions means reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. So, to develop a new gas industry is to do the opposite. Polls have consistently shown that fracking is unpopular. When three anti-fracking activists were freed from jail they were greeted with cheers. The public, says the Guardian newspaper, were ahead of the Government in realising that giving up on this industry makes sense.

But joining the IEA’s Digital Manager Darren Grimes in this week’s podcast, Natascha Engel, who recently resigned as the Government’s fracking tsar, Natascha argues that an urge to ‘do something’ about climate change will hustle politicians into bad decisions — and almost certainly make things worse. in the past, hasty policy has had us driving now-discredited diesel cars. We are felling tropical forests to make space for palm oil to provide biofuel. We are burning “renewable” wood pellets that are significantly more carbon-emitting than the coal they displaced. Now the government, in response to environmental pressure, has instituted a de facto ban on fracking.