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Médecins sans frontières

By Tom Papworth
April 17th, 2012 at 9:00 am | No Comments | Posted in health, Nannying, Tax, Uncategorized

Doctors just can’t help trying to save people, it seems.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which brings together the presidents of the Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties and so purports to represent nearly every doctor in the UK, is to lead a campaign to tackle rising levels of obesity.

One’s initial reaction might be to welcome a medical intervention aimed at combating something that kills as many as 30,000 people each year. But unfortunately, it is not a medical intervention that these doctors have planned.

My latest article on the IEA blog explains that the medical elite, having identified what it considers to be the end that society should pursue, is turning to the coercive power of the state to achieve that end.

Comments on the IEA blog, please.

And they say WE need saving!

 

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Smokers – State Approved Hate and Intolerance is UK Policy

By Guest
April 16th, 2012 at 12:23 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in freedom, Personal Freedom, Uncategorized

 

I have previously commented on nations more liberal and more tolerant than ours with respect to their treatment of those who choose to smoke. In addition to Germany and The Netherlands I have observed pragmatic approaches that guarantee smoke free air for the many without victimising the significant few in France, Austria and Switzerland.

It is mildly surprising that Switzerland offers some of the best facilities for travelling smokers despite being home to the WHO an organization that seeks to impose its politicised extra budgetary funded will on all without actually having to do anything as inconvenient as obtaining a popular mandate.  My experiences are based on Basel and things may become decreasingly liberal as one approaches Geneva.

Basel provides airside facilities for smokers in both arrivals and departures. They have chairs, tables and other comfort features that tend to be absent from smoking facilities in the UK where our laws are intended to punish and coerce.  UK facilities lack even the basics like an appropriate number of walls.

The Swiss authorities seem unconcerned that the mere sight of a cigarette brand will cause a mass surge in smoking uptake suggesting that they are reasonable, sane individuals unlike their increasingly ridiculous UK counterparts. Imagine not only allowing a cigarette manufacturer to advertise on a smoking lounge but having the intelligence to work out that it might be a good way to help cover the costs of providing such facilities.

Basel airport links directly to an international high speed rail network and it is a short walk from the terminal to the train station.  On arrival there smokers are greeted by the amazing sight of a cafe with a ventilated separate smoking lounge. Yes, smokers can sit down and have a drink in some comfort and apparently without bothering non-smokers.

In the UK smoking facilities are exclusively outdoors and not segregated which seems to create an issue for some non-smokers. I have never really observed unwanted smoke in my workplace but I have noticed that these days I seem to experience greater exposure to environmental smoke outside UK buildings.

It seems I am not alone. Here is a selection of reader’s comments from media forums:

 “I object to having to walk on the road because you’re all standing outside the pub/restaurant on the pavement. When I have to stand close to you and you smell so bad I want to be sick”

 “I for one am tired of the thick wall of foul smelling smoke outside of every shop on every high street in every town as the inconsiderate people who smoke stand in the doorway indulging in their foul habit”

 “Smokers are by nature dirty. They stand outside smoking without a care for anybody else walking past them and blowing their smoke in faces…”

It would appear that a more reasoned approach that did not force smokers onto the streets might benefit everyone but instead, our government encourages social division through laws that inevitably create conflict. Should anyone be in any doubt about the degree of hate and prejudice that has been encouraged towards those who smoke, here are a few more readers’ comments:

“Smokers disgust me. Me and my friends do see them as second class citizens. We all look down our noses at them and their disgusting and filthy habit. We make sure they know it too.”

 “Smoking is disgusting and dirty. And so are smokers.”

 “It’s a no brainer. If you smoke, you are stupid. If you are stupid, you are probably low-income or no income beyond benfits”

“smokers are weak minded addicts and should be removed from society if they can’t be helped or refuse help.”

“We could always just change the law to allow people to legally shoot dead anyone caught with a cig between their lips outside the four walls of their home…”

 And from 2 people commenting on a BBC forum:

 ”Smoking is darwinian”

 “An excellent point. My only objection is that procreation often takes place prior to demise.”

 It is difficult to imagine that comments like these would be considered acceptable if directed against any other minority but thanks to a myopic adherence to the one dimensional “quit or die” mantra of the activists and an ongoing “denormalization” campaign, UK politicians have given legitimacy to this hate, which is an inevitable consequence of trying to force social change through coercion and state sponsored intolerance combined with deliberate distortion of the facts.

Politicians who continue to support such strategies despite their manifest failure are entitled to their opinion in an allegedly free society but those who promote intimidation, exclusion and hatred as a means of engineering change should not call themselves liberal. Hiding behind the pretence that it is possible to “denormalize” an established activity without “denormalizing” the millions who indulge in it is not a valid excuse.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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Abundance of land, shortage of housing

By Tom Papworth
April 16th, 2012 at 12:19 pm | No Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Hot on the heels of my paper on Planning in a Free Society, the IEA has published a paper by my colleague, Kristian Niemietz, entitled Abundance of land, shortage of housing.

No prizes for guessing what Kristian’s conclusions are.

I strongly recommend reading the report, but if  you are in a hurry, here is the summary from the IEA website:

Not enough is being done to reduce the extraordinarily high cost of housing in Britain. This is the finding of a new report released today by the Institute of Economic Affairs Abundance of land, shortage of housing.

In the research Kristian Niemietz looks at how housing costs in the UK have exploded in recent decades. Real-terms house prices in 2011 were more than two-and-a-half-times higher than in 1975, with rent levels following suit. Nothing about this was inevitable. Many other countries have experienced rising housing costs as well, but in most other cases, the increase has been much lower and/or largely transitory. In the USA, Germany and Switzerland, real-terms house prices are still close to their 1975 levels.

Other main findings include:

·         Housing affordability measures show housing to be unaffordable in every single one of the 33 regions in the UK.

·         There is still plenty of room for development in the UK:

·       Only 1/10th of England’s surface land is developed and even in developed areas, the single biggest item is gardens.

·        Literally ‘concreted-over’ land makes up only 1/20th of England’s surface area.

·         Housing benefit is a flawed approach to dealing with the problem of low-cost housing – it favours those living in expensive areas rather than those on low incomes.

·         The main difference between the UK and its north-western European neighbours is not in demographics, but in completion rates of new dwellings.

·         Empirical evidence from around the world shows that planning restrictions are the key determinant of housing costs.

Recommendations

·         Only a thorough liberalisation of the planning system can address the affordability crisis.

·         The government must resist vested interests lobbying against planning reform to help those struggling to afford to buy a home.

·         The government’s National Planning Policy Framework does not address the fundamental flaw in the current planning framework – that the current incentives encourage NIMBYism.

·         The combination of a restrictive planning system and an over-centralised tax system should be addressed so that local residents obtain the advantages of development.

·         It must enable rational trade-offs between preserving valuable pieces of countryside and other considerations:

·      One way to achieve this is to extend the coalition’s ‘localism’ agenda to local finances and planning. If local authorities had to cover most of their expenditure through local taxes, they would have an interest in enlarging their tax base, and granting planning permission would be one way of doing so. People would be free to vote for NIMBY policies, but they would be aware of the cost. Blocking development would mean foregoing tax cuts or better local public services.

All very sensible. All very sound.

Comments on the IEA website, please.

Modern Architecture

Modern Architecture

The role of prices in education

By Tom Papworth
April 2nd, 2012 at 11:40 am | 3 Comments | Posted in education

The government’s Free Schools policy is widely regarded as a significant innovation; a radical shake-up of state education. The next logical step – permitting for-profit providers to deliver state-funded education – is still hotly contested and is unlikely to emerge in this parliament.

Yet even if profit-making providers were able to deliver state-funded schooling, this would hardly represent a free market in education. For one thing, almost all discussion of voucher schemes and for-profit provision assumes that prices will be capped.

This misses one of the most crucial benefits of allowing markets to operate.

Read the rest of the article, and leave any comments, at the IEA blog.

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