Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Beginner’s Guide to Liberty

From the Adam Smith Institute, some easy but important Christmas reading, available free online in PDF form:
This short book is an accessible introduction to liberty – one of the key concepts of political and economic thought. It explains why liberty is so important and sets out in clear language the benefits of freeing individuals from big government. The guide consists of ten concise chapters, each focusing on a particular aspect of liberty and written by an expert in the field. The authors show why liberty is essential if people are to lead prosperous and fulfilling lives, and also point to the terrible consequences when politicians and officials get too much power. At a time when our freedom is threatened by a rising tide of government controls, A Beginner’s Guide to Liberty is essential reading

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

BBC News in a nutshell

In an article on the BBC News website yesterday, Richard Black asked "Why are virtually all climate 'sceptics' men?"

Here's a taste:

There are two distinct views of why climate scepticism exists in the way it does today.

One - promulgated by many sceptics themselves - speaks to a rigorous, analytical deconstruction of a deeply-flawed scientific edifice that is maintained by a self-interested cabal of tax-hungry politicians and careerist scientists.

The other is that climate scepticism has psychological roots; that it stems from a deep-seated inability or unwillingness to accept the overwhelming evidence that humanity has built with coal and lubricated with oil its own handcart whose destination board reads "climate hell".

As one ex-scientist and now climate action advocate put it to me rather caustically a while back: "I've been debating the science with them for years, but recently I realised we shouldn't be talking about the science but about something unpleasant that happened in their childhood".

The rest of the article is made up of similar indignant, condescending, alarmist drivel. Instead of providing proper coverage of the Climategate scandal, and investigating the shocking lack of transparency in climate change research, Black prefers to speculate about the psychological problems of "high income, well-educated, white men" who dare to question the official line.

Yet there is cause for hope: almost all of the comments on the article note Black's bias. You see the same pattern on most BBC articles: hysterical journalism, followed by a reminder from the British public that their common sense and capacity for critical thought have not yet been completely extinguished.

Perhaps a demographic study is indeed warranted, not just of "climate sceptics", but of "BBC sceptics" and "Government sceptics" more generally. Personally, I'm less interested in any male-female split that may exist, and more concerned about a generation gap. I suspect that common sense is not so much diminishing, as dying out.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Losing the Rosetta Stone?

According to the BBC, Egypt's head of antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass, "will drop a demand for the permanent return of the Rosetta Stone if the British Museum agrees to loan it out".

The British Museum has said it would "consider the loan request".

One thing is certain: if the Stone ever goes to Egypt, there's no chance that it will be returned.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Violation of Mr Smith

Another excellent article from the Cobden Centre.
Mr Smith works hard, plans carefully, and saves what he can, putting his money into a building society. He pays his credit card bills off each month, and tries to overpay his mortgage when he can.
As technology produces things more cheaply, Mr Smith should have been able to reap the rewards – except that things don’t get cheaper for him. Society cheats him when the government opens the spigot of new money, washing this value away as the torrent of new money chases prices higher beyond his reach.

The winners are always those close to the gusher – the banks, financiers and politicians. These are the ones who get to spend the new money first, thus chase prices up before Mr Smith gets any sniff of what is happening.