Articles

A liberal education is now more useful than job-specific skills

Technology has made it less important to know, and more important to know what is known. That is why the widespread belief that education should be focused more on the acquisition of job-specific knowledge is especially misconceived in the 21st century.

Rail privatisation has delivered improvements through accountability and autonomy

Both the leading candidates for the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour party have now committed themselves to renationalising the country’s railways. But the state-owned British Rail was one if the most reviled institutions in the UK, and privatisation has delivered many relative benefits.

Look at home to find the efficiency gains from recent technological innovation

The technological changes that have occurred in the past decade have, from an economic perspective, increased at virtually no cost the efficiency of household production. Trying to account for this kind of development is the considerable challenge being undertaken by Sir Charles Bean’s review of the UK’s national statistics.

Effective leaders recognise the limits of their knowledge

We all have a tendency to interpret evidence, whatever its nature, as demonstrating the validity of the views we already hold. It requires intellectual magnanimity to acknowledge that additional information might lead us to a different conclusion.

Solutions to the Greek debt crisis should be found through pragmatism not blame

The Greek crisis is not simply the result of Athens’ inept public administration but also of an extensive carry trade on eurozone convergence by northern European banks, notably in France and Germany, which obtained short-term profits by matching northern eurozone liabilities with southern eurozone assets. For every foolish borrower there is usually a foolish lender.

It sometimes makes sense to fix the market rather than its results

The 2015 election was an almost unmitigated disaster for the UK Labour party. Yet there was one significant success — an intellectual one. It’s called “predistribution”. And it has already been put to use by the new Conservative administration with a 40% increase in the minimum wage.

Has the EU pushed integration too far and too fast?

The empires of history have generally collapsed from overstretch, which led to restive populations on the peripheries, and then to doubts about the wisdom of the project in the home country itself. These symptoms are recognisable in Europe today.

The best answer to the West Lothian question is to ignore it

The logic of English votes for English laws is irresistible. But the core issue is that it is genuinely difficult to identify purely English matters in a United Kingdom of which England constitutes 85 per cent of the population.

HS2 is yet another politically-driven project in search of a rationale

Projects acquire political momentum of their own. The original rationale is forgotten, if indeed it ever existed. And so it has been with HS2, the project to build a high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and then to the north of England.

Top nations like Denmark do well without pushing others around

We once suffered from Norman Angell’s “Great Illusion” that prosperity was the product of aggressive control of territory and resources — and now we know better. The wealth of Denmark is instead built on exporting bacon and drugs to control diabetes — an appropriate combination — around the world.