Eamonn Butler

The message Tory leadership candidates need to hear

I’ve been the victim of a robbery. In broad daylight. As an average Brit, more than 40 per cent of everything I produce is taken by the government for whatever they want to spend it on. In theory they ask my opinion on what that should be. But they ask me only every five years, and even then,

The government must cut or even scrap capital gains tax

When economists get things wrong– something rather easy, given the nature of their subject – they should admit that they got them wrong. Well, the Adam Smith Institute got it wrong. Two years ago we predicted that, if Vince Cable got his way and capital gains tax rates were increased to match income tax rates

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with energy prices

David Cameron’s announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday – that he would force energy companies to give people the lowest tariff – caused a stir. The Downing Street comms machine has been trying to clarify the new policy ever since and we’re only just starting to see a clear idea taking shape. So

Time to end the age of malinvestment

Chancellor George Osborne’s latest idea to stimulate the economy is to offer the banks money (£140bn) to lend to firms and households. The idea is that families will borrow more and spend the extra cash on goods and services, while firms will borrow more to invest in providing these goods and services. With one bound,

Has Osborne learnt the right lessons from Adam Smith?

According to Rachel Sylvester in The Times (£) today, George Osborne’s love of soaking the rich — from the non-dom levy to the tycoon tax – stems from the importance he puts on the ‘empathy’ described in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. If so, he’d better start re-reading his Adam Smith. Certainly, the Chancellor

Curing youth unemployment

Youth unemployment in the UK has hit another record. More 16 to 24-year olds are out of work than ever. The unemployment rate in this group is now a shocking 20.5 percent, which amounts to nearly a million young people out of work. Of those, 600,000 have never had a job since leaving school or

Lost in the woods

The government’s plans for state forestry are so weak and feeble that it is hard to understand why there is so much fuss about them. Maybe people do not realise that three-quarters of the English woodland that they love so much is already privately owned. And those private owners face strict standards on public access

Going for broke

It won’t be for a while yet, but the UK seems headed for another financial crisis. And this time, the government won’t be able to blame the banks. The blame will lie squarely on our own determination to vote ourselves generous healthcare, welfare and pension benefits in the hope that our children will calmly pick

The Royal Mail – a tough sell

Some day soon – unless the coalition has already lost its bottle – a bill will be introduced to ‘part-privatise’ Royal Mail. It has to be done. But it will be a tough sell, for four reasons. First, the market for the Royal Mail’s product is shrinking. It’s a big fish, but its pool is

The legacy of a century of vain politicians

Monday is the August Bank Holiday – at least in England and Wales, where it is the last weekend before the schools go back. In Scotland, the schools break up earlier (traditionally, so the kids could join in the work of lifting potatoes in the fields) but have already gone back. The August Bank Holiday

The family is the best agent of welfare

Conservatives have long been strong on family. They believe that families are the glue that sticks us together, and that traditional nuclear families therefore plays an important role in sticking the whole nation together. As a libertarian, I believe that people should live as they choose. Too many young people of my parents’ and grandparents’

This is no time for salami slicing

You can often achieve a lot more by doing things a bit at a time rather than attempting one bold and sweeping reform. In the 1970s, for example, the trade unions had extraordinary legal privileges; strike votes were done on a show of hands at works meetings (usually late at night when everyone except the

The British constitution is in dire need of reform

The UK Conservative leader David Cameron says that any Prime Minister not ‘directly elected’ by the public should be forced to hold a general election within six months. He has in mind his Labour opponent Gordon Brown, who in June 2007 was catapulted into the position by a secret ballot in his own party, rather

What to expect in the Budget

After a decade of reckless spending, the government’s kitty is bare and its debts are mounting. In November, Alastair Darling said the economy would shrink just 2%, but predicted, Micawber-style, that it would turn up in mid-2009. Well, the economists’ consensus is that it actually shrank 3.7%, and that it’s hardly going to turn up