IEA Conversations
Zeroing In: Free market approaches to the 2050 target

Zeroing In: Free market approaches to the 2050 target

April 2, 2020

Long gone are the days when the science of climate change was contested. But the economics of what many view as the existential crisis of our time are still up for often-heated debate.

Over the last three decades, governments have repeatedly set targets – often for their successors, or their successors' successors – which are later missed and replaced by more ambitious targets. Is this because solving the climate problem requires a restructuring of the energy sector and agriculture, which will take many decades, not years? And, if so, will 2050 be another target that passes us by? Are politicians, many of whom have shared platforms with climate activist Greta Thunberg, saying one thing and failing to do another? What are the free-market solutions to climate change? Will a carbon tax disproportionately hurt the poor?

Richard Tol, who joins the IEA's Professor Syed Kamall, remotely, of course. Richard is a former member of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. He has been a convening author with the IPCC and is a Professor of Economics at Sussex University. The pair discuss Coronavirus, challenging environmental orthodoxy, and whether we underestimate human ingenuity in tackling climate change.

Coronavirus: A crisis of globalisation?

Coronavirus: A crisis of globalisation?

April 1, 2020

Globalisation enables people and products to travel across the globe with relative ease. But in a time of coronavirus, some have argued our increasingly inter-connected world – with international travel and global supply chains – made a pandemic inevitable.

How much did globalisation cause our current troubles? Or it is actually the solution? After all, many of us are coping with self-isolation and social distancing by binge-watching Netflix and Skyping relatives – the internet is a key to globalisation and it’s making everything just a little bit more bearable.

On this week’s IEA podcast, Emma Revell, Head of Communications, is joined by our Head of Political Economy Dr Kristian Niemietz to discuss the connection between globalisation and global pandemics.

Coronomics, with Dr Steve Davies

Coronomics, with Dr Steve Davies

March 26, 2020

Covid-19 is threatening lives and economies across the globe. 

As the UK government enforces social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, a sharp slowdown in economic activity is not only inevitable but necessary from a public health perspective.

Ministers have been charged with the unenviable task of ensuring that hitting pause now does not lead to long-lasting damage. 

The chancellor has committed to doing “whatever it takes” to see the UK through the crisis. The Treasury's package includes £330 billion of zero-interest loans and loan guarantees for businesses, business rates relief and cash grants for retail, hospitality, and leisure companies, £10,000 cash grants to all small businesses, and a three month mortgage holiday for those in distress. More government action, we are told, will come with employment support.

But will this be enough to ensure the economy can recover? What, if anything, could the government be doing differently to reduce the damage? 

Joining the IEA’s Digital Manager Darren Grimes for the second of a two-part podcast series is Dr Steve Davies, Head of Education here at the Institute of Economic Affairs, to give his take on the government’s economic response to the Coronavirus crisis.

You can subscribe to the podcast on Podbean, Apple Music or Spotify.

What the history of pandemics can tell us about COVID-19

What the history of pandemics can tell us about COVID-19

March 24, 2020

As humans have spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. Even in this modern era, outbreaks are nearly constant, though not every outbreak reaches pandemic level as the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has.

Epidemiologists, the scientists who track the incidents and spread of diseases are always on the lookout for the next big outbreak, but predicting the future is tricky, so they often look back to the past.

Fortunately, the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes could rely upon the IEA’s in-house historian and Head of Education, Dr Steve Davies to take us through the history of pandemics and what they can tell us about what we’re living through today.

Taking control: Dominic Cummings and reform of Whitehall

Taking control: Dominic Cummings and reform of Whitehall

March 20, 2020

Taking Control: The Dominic Cummings Story, a BBC two documentary revealed that Dominic Cummings can be described as many things to many people.

He is reportedly fearless in his views (but what are his views?), antagonistic to bureaucracy, a myth-maker, a shaker-upper (is this an occupation?), a Renaissance man, a Svengali-type that emulates Rasputin and apparently a campaign mastermind. But what exactly did we learn about the man and about the ideology that drives him?

And thinking about his current role that makes him the most powerful unelected man in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is he going about his attempts at reforming Whitehall in the right way? Over the years, there have been many attempts to reshape and reform the civil service and the machinery of government. Will Dominic Cummings’ attempts bear any fruit?

Joining the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes to discuss the BBC documentary on Mr Cummings and his attempts to reform Whitehall is Mark Littlewood, Director General at the Institute of Economic Affairs and Professor Len Shackleton, Editorial and Research Fellow here at the Institute.

Zeroing In: Free market approaches to the 2050 target

Zeroing In: Free market approaches to the 2050 target

March 19, 2020

In a new series by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the IEA will explore free-market approaches to achieving the Government's target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In recent years climate change has been seen as the existential crisis of our time. But with the growing threat of coronavirus and a global health crisis on a scale many of us cannot comprehend, will the battle against climate change retain its urgency?

To achieve Net Zero by 2050, we will need urgent action and the government will have to implement changes that will impact peoples' everyday lives. Some argue that we will need to overturn our whole economic system, but with huge green innovation in the private sector, are free-market solutions the way forward? Or Should we be looking towards a global Carbon tax and other policy-based interventions?

Here to discuss in this episode is Kingsmill Bond, the New Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a financial think tank that carries out in-depth analysis on the impact of the energy transition. Kingsmill believes that this revolution is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean.

The Road Ahead? What impact will driverless cars have on public policy?

The Road Ahead? What impact will driverless cars have on public policy?

March 12, 2020

The 2020s will see the introduction of one of the most profoundly transformative technologies for decades: the driverless car. In the world we have inhabited for the past 60 years, most adults own cars that they drive daily, which they then park in their garages, front yards or on the street, or in car parks when they go to the shops or the train station or the airport.

They arrange repairs, they put in fuel and water and oil, they pay car taxes and they buy insurance. Over the next decade, all of this might end, with profound implications for the way we live, but also for public policy across a wide range of areas. Fortunately to discuss but a few of these issues, the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes was joined by Andrew Lilico, Executive Director and Principal of Europe Economics, who, in 2014, was part of a study on the topic.

How we can understand major events in world history through the prism of taxation

How we can understand major events in world history through the prism of taxation

March 4, 2020

In Dominic Frisby’s latest book, Daylight Robbery, we are invited to understand tax in a more fundamental and wide-reaching way. Frisby argues that we can understand many of the major events in world history through the prism of taxation. Wars, revolutions and even architectural design have typically, Frisby argues, been shaped – or even caused – by one form of tax or another.

In this week's podcast, Frisby reveals to the IEA's Director General Mark Littlewood that death and taxes might well be the only certainties in life, but that the latter has a much wider and deeper impact on the world we live in than we might initially realise.

You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean.

What the cluck?!

What the cluck?!

February 27, 2020

Chlorinated chicken has become totemic once again in all things Brexit, since most British consumers associate chlorine with the bleach they pour down their lavatories. Are the arguments put forward by certain groups to keep US meat out of the UK market thinly veiled protectionism, or are they simply addressing justifiable concerns on food standards and safety?

Going chilly on Chile?

Going chilly on Chile?

February 19, 2020

Chile used to be considered the economic poster child of Latin America – economic liberalisation led to huge gains in terms of GDP, life expectancy and lifting people out of poverty. But in recent months, the country has been mired in violent protests, to which there is still no end in sight.

Who is to blame? For large parts of the Western media, the answer is simple: the culprit is neoliberalism! The Guardian titles: “Blame the Chicago Boys”, a reference to the foreign-trained economists who liberalised the Chilean economy during the Pinochet dictatorship. Open Democracy claims that “This economic system […] has benefitted the economic elites whilst creating inequality and suffering for the majority”. Inevitably, there have been some nostalgic references to Chile’s brief experiment with socialism in the early 1970s, the implication being that if only that experiment had continued, Chile would be a vastly better place today.

This presents us with a good opportunity for some stocktaking of the situation of a country that continues to fascinate a lot of observers on both the Left and the Right. So how should we evaluate the situation of Chile today: neoliberal hellhole or rags-to-riches success story? What explains the Left’s ongoing fondness for a brief socialist experiment that ended nearly half a century ago? What might Chile look like today if the socialists had succeeded? Can free-market liberals defend the legacy of the Chicago boys with a good conscience, given that those reforms were carried out under a brutal military dictatorship?”

The IEA's Dr Kristian Niemietz discusses the topic with the IEA's Darren Grimes.