The UK’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 allows Department of Work and Pensions ‘work coaches’ to compel unemployed Universal Credit claimants, under threat of a financial ‘sanction’, to apply for jobs chosen by the coaches. Heralding the Act, its architect Iain Duncan Smith, then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, suggested that some unemployed benefit ... Continue reading
In a normal year Britain runs a huge “deficit” on its tourism account. In 2017, for example, Brits drained the economy of £53.9bn seeking sunshine or, shall we say, cultural experiences abroad. Inbound visitors spent only £28.2bn, so the account deficit was a whopping £25.7bn. With international travel severely supressed by Covid restrictions, current sums ... Continue reading
Economic Theory
Strategies based on Behavioural Economics — ‘nudges’— now inform policy thinking in areas as diverse as obesity, tax compliance, smoking, energy use, consumer protection, drug abuse, retirement savings, and organ donations, to name just a few. When it comes to voting, nudge proposals have mostly been restricted to increasing voter turnout. But I think we ... Continue reading
It can be a pain when your boss rings you when you are having a TV dinner, or an important email pings on your phone on Sunday morning and has to be answered more or less immediately. But should it be against the law for employers to contact you out of working hours? Many think ... Continue reading
Society and Culture
Since the dawn of anti-capitalism, the free-market system’s opponents have been waiting for the great crisis that will bring about its final collapse. Karl Marx thought he had discovered various economic “laws,” such as the “tendential fall in the rate of profit” and the “relative impoverishment of the proletariat.” For anti-capitalists, the prospect of crisis ... Continue reading
Society and Culture
The decision by 150 Oxford dons to educationally-cancel students from Oriel college because of the college’s decision to keep the statue of Cecil Rhodes is deeply disturbing. Academics are threatening to refuse to give tutorials to Oriel undergraduates and will boycott events held under the auspices of the college. It is extraordinary, whatever views these ... Continue reading
Tax and Fiscal Policy
The G7 agreement on new principles for taxing multinationals is not the ‘breakthrough’ that many are claiming. It probably will not make a lot of difference to the tax most companies pay either. Mind you, given the damage that could be done, I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing! To recap, G7 finance ... Continue reading
Advertising has never been the most popular of activities with those who dislike capitalism and its cultural manifestations. But its importance should not be overlooked. ‘Commercial speech’ brings benefits to consumers in terms of wider choice; it helps firms expand markets and gain economies of scale. It supports other businesses such as newspapers, magazines, television, ... Continue reading
Energy and Environment
Debates over climate policy often get bogged down in different judgments about future technological progress and costs. What will our energy mix look like in the distant future? What will be the eventual price of going Net Zero? Some predictions may prove correct; many will not. Arguing hypotheticals rarely bears fruit. However sceptical you may ... Continue reading
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this week looked a ban on e-cigarette flavours implemented in San Francisco on 1 January 2019. The ban was supposed to make e-cigarettes less appealing to young people. And so it did, but with the unintended consequence that high school students smoked more instead. After the ban came into ... Continue reading