IEA Podcast

Nov 19 2020 28 mins 130

A podcast series from the Institute of Economic Affairs, examining some of the pressing issues of our time - from Brexit and the gig economy to migration and the future of automation. Featuring some of the top minds in Westminster, the IEA podcast brings you weekly commentary and analysis.

Who was John Milton?
May 23 2020 33 mins  
Poet. Polemicist. Statesman. Who was John Milton? ‘School of Thought’ is the IEA discussion series based on ‘101 Great Liberal Thinkers’ by Dr Eamonn Butler. Each week, Syed Kamall - IEA Research Director - discusses classical liberalism’s role in bringing the modern world into existence, profiling the lives and ideas of some of the leading thinkers on individual liberty and examining their relevance today. In this week’s episode, Syed sits down with Dan Hannan, author, columnist, and President of the Initiative for Free Trade, to discuss John Milton. Best known for his religious epic Paradise Lost (1667), Milton also argued for the legality and morality of divorce, religious toleration and setting the church free from the political authorities. He stressed the political equality of individuals and saw government as an implied contract between rulers and the people. Milton advocated free speech and freedom of conscience (at least among Protestants), believing that people can distinguish right from wrong if they can hear the competing arguments in open debate. ‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely’, he wrote, ‘according to conscience above all liberties’. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, Milton became a polemicist for the incoming republican government of Oliver Cromwell. But he soon became an open critic of the autocratic Cromwell, urging him to respect his regime’s implied contract with the people. Though no democrat, he dreamt of creating a more liberal republic (a ‘free commonwealth’); but in fact the monarchy was restored.

Going chilly on Chile?
Feb 19 2020 35 mins  
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.

The last decade was the best in human history
Jan 15 2020 42 mins  
Everything is getting better. Let nobody tell you what the second decade of the 21st century has been bad! The astonishing feature of the United Kingdom’s overbearing sense of gloom is that it is totally detached from measurable economic factors in the real world. Shouldn’t we instead be in a celebratory mood, bursting with optimism and hope. Instead, we are the equivalent of fans of a football team on a wonderful run of form who seem permanently convinced that the next match will result in crushing defeat. Of course, the doomsayers say that past results are no guarantee of future performance. They are technically correct in that assertion, of course, but the past does surely act as a reasonable guide and it is worth us being aware of just how fantastic the recent performance of humanity has been. Today’s guest on the IEA podcast, interviewed by the IEA's Digital Manager Darren Grimes, has recently argued that we are living through the greatest improvement in human living standards in history. Extreme poverty has fallen below 10 per cent of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60 per cent when I was born. Global inequality has been plunging as Africa and Asia experience faster economic growth than Europe and North America; child mortality has fallen to record low levels; famine virtually went extinct; malaria, polio and heart disease are all in decline. The size of the world economy grew by over a third in the past decade and now stands at more than $86 trillion. If anything, this upward trend is showing signs of accelerating. World GDP can reasonably be expected to surpass $100 trillion before the next decade is out. Matt Ridley's books have sold over a million copies, been translated into 31 languages and won several awards. His books include The Red Queen, The Origins of Virtue, Genome, Nature via Nurture, Francis Crick, The Rational Optimist and The Evolution of Everything. His TED talk "When Ideas Have Sex" has been viewed more than two million times. He writes a weekly column in The Times (London) and writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal.

Davos 2020: Should Javid leave it to the skiers?
Jan 09 2020 16 mins  
$52,000 to spare? In the mood for some bubbly? Well then Davos is the place for you! Despite the apparent ‘Boris Ban’, Chancellor Sajid Javid is expected to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos later this month. The glamorous Swiss resort is famous for attracting big names - but should the Treasury be leaving Davos to the skiers? The conference has always been a controversial one; at $52,000 per ticket, one does wonder whether it really fulfils the Forum’s mission of “improving the state of the world”, or if it is just another gathering of the ‘champagne’ elite. The image of government cosying up to billionaires and big business is not new- isn’t it time to break away from this forum of apparent rent-seekers? Dr Richard Wellings, the IEA’s Deputy Research Director discusses his take on the event, as well as the growth of the ‘crony capitalism’ it is associated with. The IEA’s Darren Grimes asks him how he thinks we can deal with this issue, and the powerful ways in which a free-market economic approach can help. The wider role of government, including the apparent misconception of their responsibilities leading up to the 2008 Crash, is explored also. As the author and editor of several papers, books, and reports, including A Beginner’s Guide to Liberty (Adam Smith Institute, 2009), Dr Wellings is certainly well placed to explore these matters at length during this podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean.

Why do democracies choose 'bad' policies?
Dec 04 2019 30 mins  
Darren Grimes, Digital Manager at the IEA, is joined by Professor Bryan Caplan, an American economist and author, who is currently sitting on the New York Times Best Sellers list with his latest book 'Open Borders'. The United Kingdom is currently in a general election period that has seen a slew of spending commitments, politicians of all hues talk of the ‘good’ government can do and expressing the opinion that it is the job of government to identify and correct market failure. At the expense of groups like consumers and taxpayers. Professor Caplan's sobering assessment in his 2007 book ‘The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies’, argued that the greatest obstacle to sound economic policy is not entrenched special interests or rampant lobbying, but the popular misconceptions, irrational beliefs, and personal biases held by ordinary voters. Professor Caplan lays out several ways to make democratic government work 'better' - for example, urging economic educators to focus on correcting popular misconceptions and recommending that democracies do less and let markets take up the slack. "The Myth of the Rational Voter" took an unflinching look at how people who vote under the influence of false beliefs ultimately end up with government that delivers lousy results. Are the irrational preferences described by Professor Caplan in his book inevitable and hard wired? If so can they be countered? Is the only way to educate people in the sphere of economics, and if so does that imply that only people with an economics degree should be allowed to vote? What does Professor Caplan think about Jay Brennan's notion of epistocracy? As well as Brennan’s argument that if you are not well informed and know you are not you have a moral duty not to vote? They're all topics covered within the podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean.

Is poverty relative, or is it absolute?
Nov 28 2019 26 mins  
When the early poverty researchers Charles booth and Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree visited the East End of London in the late 19th century, they found large numbers of people living in the most desperate poverty. Inadequate food and shelter and unsanitary conditions were commonplace for Booth, Rowntree, and their contemporaries. Measuring poverty was a relatively simple matter of counting the number of people engaged in a daily struggle to exist in the face of absolute hardship. Today, measuring poverty in developed nations has become a far more complex and contested matter. The struggle to acquire the basic essentials of food, shelter and hygienic conditions no longer exists on such a widespread basis.Indeed, it could be argued that it no longer exists at all in this country. But many people, including the UK government, and charities such as Oxfam, the Child Poverty Action Group, and the Resolution Foundation, believe that poverty remains rife in the United Kingdom.The UK defines poverty as disposable income that falls below 60% of the national medium. But imagine a country in which the national median income is a million pounds, someone making £590,000 a year might well fall below the 60% of the median average income, but that person would hardly be impoverished.Similarly, those making more $168, the actual median per capita income in Burkina Faso in West Africa, are no better off for their neighbor's poverty.So are we getting poverty measurements wrong? Is poverty relative, or is it absolute?Joining IEA Digital Manager Darren Grimes to discuss is Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the IEA and author of the 2011 release 'A New Understanding of Poverty'.

Why has no other European country copied the NHS model?
Nov 07 2019 23 mins  
No other European country has copied the NHS model in half a century. Almost all comparable countries use a mix of funding mechanisms, rather than relying on taxation alone, and most outperform the NHS in health outcomes. UK cancer survival rates lag behind those of comparable countries, A&E delays are increasing, the number of operations being cancelled is dire, staffing rates are in freefall and the tick-box target culture is sending doctors and dentists screaming into the private sector. The UK has one doctor for 356 people, against a developed world average of one for 277. The NHS’s archaic divisions of labour between GPs, hospital doctors, pharmacies and clinics is now indefensible. So too is the division between the NHS itself and social and domiciliary care. As any victim of these restrictive practices knows, treatment delayed is treatment denied. Sooner or later, the pressure of demand (now from all age groups) will force the NHS to choose between rationing by some form of means-tested pricing or by further bureaucratic delay. Last year’s Guardian survey of foreign systems showed there were plenty of other ways to organise public health. Before the coming of the NHS, London’s (local) health service was regarded as the best in Europe. It is not that now. So what are the alternatives? In countries without the NHS what does healthcare and insurance look like for sick, older or poorer people? Are the rich able to purchase a luxury tier of healthcare and what happens if your insurer goes bankrupt in countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium or Israel?To discuss, the IEA’s Darren Grimes asked Dr Kristian Niemietz to join him, author of ‘Universal Healthcare without the NHS’.

30 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall
Oct 31 2019 29 mins  
November marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Built to separate East and West Germany and to stop the flow of people from East to West, the wall came to symbolise the ideological divide between the communist Soviet bloc and the western democratic capitalism. Years on, East Germany still lags the West. But after four decades of socialism, just how big was the economic gap between East and West? Whilst West Germany experienced aWirtschaftswunder and became one of the world’s economic powerhouses, in 1989, the East German economy lay in shambles. But is this perception correct, or is it sometimes overblown? How different really was the standards of living between East and West and what did it take to overcome the “legacy cost” of socialism after 1989? Today, according to some surveys, many people in Central and Eastern Europe say they miss the “good old days” of socialism, or at least important aspects of it. Some seem to have “buyers’ remorse”, disappointed with the results of economic liberalisation. Does this show that capitalism is not that great, after all? If people still look back fondly on the days of state socialism, can we truly say we’ve won? It’s true to say that socialist ideas has had somewhat of a resurgence in this country. Proponents – often young people – argue that this time around socialism will be different. When challenged, they say Marx never advocated any of the terror, coercion and loss of life incurred under Soviet rule, nor did Marx demand a wall be built through the German capital. Is it therefore inevitable that socialism leads to coercion and the stamping out of freedoms? Or is it as John McDonnell put it, like blaming all Catholics for the Inquisition?Joining the IEA’s Digital Manager, Darren Grimes to discuss the legacy of the Berlin Wall's fall is the IEA’s Head of Political Economy, Dr Kristian Niemitz and author of ‘Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies’.

The free market take on Conservative conference
Oct 04 2019 20 mins  
The Conservative party conference is over and it is a good day when praise for free markets dominates the Prime Minister’s party conference speech. The freedoms and liberties we enjoy in the UK go hand-in-hand with a commitment to economic liberalism, which creates prosperity and raises living standards for everyone in society. But Boris Johnson must pay more than just lip service to free enterprise and fiscal responsibility. The IEA’s Mark Littlewood argued that, contrary to what the Prime Minister claimed in his speech, results for patients on the NHS are not, “amazing”, but rather woefully mediocre in international comparisons of health system performance. Expanding house-building on brownfield sites will not remove the need to dramatically liberalise planning law, to deliver the million new homes Britain needs to tackle the housing crisis. And his endorsement of hiking the National Living Wage only serves to further politicise wage-setting, risking the productivity growth he hopes to generate in order to increase tax revenue and boost funding for public services. Mark ended by saying that the Prime Minister’s instincts on the merits of capitalism seem to hit the mark. What was missing from his speech were concrete policy plans to reduce the tax burden and roll back red tape, which would allow market mechanisms to flourish. Joining Darren Grimes to discuss the policy takeaways from conference is the IEA’s Associate Director Kate Andrews and Syed Kamall, the IEA’s Academic and Research Director. You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

School vs Parents: Who should have the final say?
Jun 20 2019 26 mins  
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.

The debate on high pay
May 08 2019 24 mins  
The Labour Party’s Peter Mandelson once remarked that Labour was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”. But in 2019 a politician is more likely to be heard saying we must all be deeply concerned about the apparent excesses of pay at the top of organisations – both public and private sector. But do they have a point? Many argue that the current requirement for large businesses to spell out the basis of their pay structure may be acceptable, and find maintaining a watchful eye on pay in the public sector to be eminently sensible. But are those calling for the state to have the power to fix pay ratios or even introduce pay caps at risk of ignoring the numerous downsides which come from government intervention? Well! Fortunately, a new IEA publication debates these very issues, with Top Dogs & Fat Cats: The Debate on High Pay launched this week. It looks at all aspects of the high pay debate and features chapters debating the rights and wrongs of CEO pay, the links between corporate governance and executive pay, and the gender pay gap in executive roles. It features contributions from leading academics and economists and was brought together by IEA Editorial Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton. Joining Darren Grimes to discuss the topic is Len himself and Luke Hildyard, Executive Director of the High Pay Centre, a UK think tank carrying out research and analysis on issues relating to top incomes, corporate governance, and business performance.

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