75 years since ‘The Road to Serfdom’

March 21, 2019

75 years ago this month, Fredrick Hayek, the Austrian Economist recruited by the LSE, published his manifesto for a free and liberal society: “The Road to Serfdom.”

The book – or some might say the siren alert to the perils of socialism – was written in the evenings between 1940 and 1943, while he was acting as a war-time Cambridge fire warden.

Hayek and his publishers anticipated modest sales. Indeed, war-time paper rationing allowed it to be printed only in small runs. But the publication soon turned into a popular phenomenon

On today’s podcast, the IEA’s Associate Director Kate Andrews discusses why the Road to Serfdom became a huge success, and remains relevant to this day, with the IEA’s Research Fellow Professor Philip Booth and the Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Dr Eamonn Butler.

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Deal or No Deal: Is it time to tackle tariffs?

March 13, 2019

On the morning of 13th of March the Government confirmed that it intends to eliminate 87% of tariffs on goods imported into Britain, but only if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and only for an initial 12 month period. And, as we record this podcast, it looks very likely to be taken off the table on the evening of the 13th of March anyway, as MPs seem set intent on ruling out a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Critics of any form of unilateral tariff reduction usually focus on one or more of three concerns: the risk to jobs, the threat to ‘standards’, and the potential loss of leverage in future trade negotiations. Many have claimed that UK manufacturing and agriculture would be ‘devastated’ by a flood of cheap foreign imports and that any reduction in trade barriers, unilaterally or multilaterally, are likely to cause job losses and that it will be incredibly painful for the minority who are adversely affected.

But does free trade necessarily mean you cannot compensate losers and reduce tariffs without lowering standards? And should our post-Brexit ambition be to eliminate the bulk of our remaining tariffs as soon as possible, deal or no deal?

Joining Darren Grimes to discuss is the IEA’s Economics Fellow Julian Jessop and Senior Counsel to the IEA’s International Trade Unit Victoria Hewson. You can subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts.

The economics of football

March 8, 2019

27 years after the founding of the Premier League, it would be difficult for anyone to argue that it is anything other than a great success story. It’s the poster boy for a global, open, free-trading Britain. The beautiful game and the English league is an incredibly successful export business. But players’ enormous salaries, and transfer fees of hundreds of millions of pounds are variously described as obscene, ludicrous and even unsustainable. Each year the eyewatering amount of money spent in the business is not merely sustained, it zooms upwards year after year. 

In 1981 fewer than ten first division English footballers earned more than £175,000 a year. Now, the average player commands 15 times that. But there are many that long for the post-war era of English football - the so-called halcyon days of the game - when footballers were skint and players might have only received £10 as a signing-on fee from a transfer worth £35,000 to the club. Are they justified in missing the romanticism of the game? Or is this a bygone era best forgotten about in the age of hyperglobalisation?

Joining the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes to discuss is Mark Littlewood, Director General of the IEA.

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Is Hayek more relevant than ever before?

March 1, 2019

In this week’s episode of the IEA’s podcast ‘IEA conversations’, the IEA’s Associate Director Kate Andrews sat down with Francis Boulle, who recently took part in the BBC Two’s ‘Mastermind’, braving the black chair to win the coveted Mastermind trophy.

What made this particular episode of Mastermind special was Francis’s choice of specialist subject for the interrogation-style question and answer session. Francis chose Friedrich Hayek as his specialist subject, one of the most important liberal thinkers of all time. He wrote not just about economics (for which he won a Nobel Prize), but also politics, psychology, and the history of ideas.

In the podcast Kate asked Francis to take him through his journey of becoming interested in Hayek’s work, why he decided to pick him as his specialist subject, if Francis believes Hayek is relevant in 2019 and how his body of work can help us navigate through our current political and economic woes – especially given that amongst young people socialism is now in vogue.

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How compatible is democracy with free market progress?

February 14, 2019

Brexit has revitalized debates about democracy. Restoring democracy and sovereignty can come risk for those strongly committed to free markets — that our fellow citizens might choose another path, perhaps even one that could lead to socialist and freedom-hindering policies.

But is that a risk we must take? In a free society, what individual rights should never be infringed on? What should be voted on? And is there a place for technocratic decision-making?

In a new paper, the Director of the IEA’s FREER initiative, Rebecca Lowe, argues that one clear answer to ‘improving’ democracy here in the UK would be to institute a proper focus on local decision-making — something that, she says, has been overlooked in past years.

Rebecca joins the IEA's Darren Grimes to discuss, alongside Adam Bartha, the Director of EPICENTER, the European Policy Information Center.

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Countering Crony Capitalism

February 9, 2019

Davos, the super-exclusive annual gathering of the world’s political and business elite displays all the features of a petri dish for the spread of “crony capitalism”.

A tiny number of extraordinarily powerful individuals meet to discuss how the affairs of all seven billion human beings should be planned and co-ordinated. It represents an environment for the growth of regulation, intervention and enhanced barriers to entry for small businesses.

All too often what we see in criticisms of capitalism are actually examples of rent-seeking and corporations trying to game the system, which amounts to crony capitalism.

But has crony capitalism like that displayed in Davos become a catch-all term?

It no longer focuses purely on cases where cronies have prospered by taking advantage of political connections. Attacks on crony capitalism too frequently devolve into attacks on capitalism itself. In reality, the real ‘cronies’ are typically not CEOs. Rather they cut a sympathetic figure.

In many cases, crony capitalist outcomes are the result of lobbying from consumer groups. Take OfGem’s Non-Discrimination Condition which banned energy companies from charging consumers less in one region and more in another. It resulted in less competition and higher margins, hitting the poorest in society, hardest.

The challenge for free markets, and for capitalism, is manifold: the message is tarnished, the frames are poor, and, fundamentally, the moral case for what they achieve is missing.

On this week's podcast, the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes is joined by the IEA’s Director General Mark Littlewood and the Director of the IEA’s FREER initiative Rebecca Lowe to discuss these challenges. 

But Venezuela wasn’t REAL socialism… was it?

January 31, 2019

Latin America’s once-richest country, sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is an economic basket case, a humanitarian disaster, with a dictatorship whose demise many believe cannot come soon enough. But, is it socialism that’s to blame for the widespread starvationcritical medical shortages, an explosion in crime, and a refugee crisis to rival Syria’s? You’re much more likely to read that this crisis is the product of corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, resource-dependency, U.S. sanctions and trickery OR even the residues of capitalism itself

Darren Grimes, Digital Manager at the IEA, was joined by the IEA’s Head of Political Economy Krisitian Niemietz and the Daily Telegraph’s Assistant Comment Editor, Madeline Grant to discuss was Venezuela REAL socialism? 

Immigration: Picking the low-hanging fruits

January 24, 2019

Opinion surveys consistently suggest that the British public is overwhelmingly hostile to immigration - a hostility which shapes our immigration policies in many ways - often negatively.

However, if we dig a little deeper into the polling data, it becomes clear that most people in Britain are not pro or anti immigration per se. Despite overall hostility to immigration, there are types of immigration that are widely accepted, or even popular with the general public.

Today we're joined by the IEA's Head of Political Economy Dr Kristian Niemietz, the author of our latest report into migration.

Kristian proposes a new post-Brexit immigration policy that would capitalise on the nuances in public opinion to push for the most liberal migration policy possible.

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Brexit: What Happens Next?

January 16, 2019
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister suffered a historic defeat, after the Withdrawal Agreement was voted down in Parliament by a margin of 230 votes.
Today we're joined by Victoria Hewson and Dr Radomir Tylecote, of the IEA’s International Trade and Competition Unit.
Interviewed by Madeline Grant, the pair examine what these developments mean and what renegotiation with the EU could hold, especially when it comes to securing the UK's ability to have an independent trade policy. 
They also discuss preparation for a 'no deal' Brexit or WTO departure, and the importance of timing and sequencing in trade negotiations.
Finally, they assess the continued impasse around the Irish Border question.
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Further Reading: 

The A List

January 10, 2019

In any society there are ‘elite’ positions that command a high income and, more importantly, high status. Unsurprisingly, there is intense competition for these positions. But what happens when a society turns out more people qualified for these roles than the number of roles actually on offer? 

On this week’s podcast, the IEA’s Head of Education Dr Steve Davies discusses what he calls the ‘over-production of elites’ in society. The problem, he explains, is that elitism, unlike many things, is a zero-sum game – to be in the elite means you are not like 90 per cent or more of the population as a whole.

As a result, the ever-increasing number of UK university graduates or American PHDs students leads to bitter resentment towards those with similar qualifications, who have managed to secure elite jobs.

Steve talks about how elitism affects our views of a fair society, what it means for the concept of meritocracy, and how societies go about addressing perceived issues of unfairness.

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