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Adam Smith Institute
The Adam Smith Institute is one of the world’s leading think tanks. Independent, non-profit and non-partisan, it works to promote libertarian and free market ideas through research, publishing, media commentary, and educational programmes. The Institute is today at the forefront of making the case for free markets and a free society in the United Kingdom.

Adam Smith Institute

Theorising around The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Today we think of Adam Smith as an economist. But it was not his 1776 book The Wealth of Nations that made him famous. It was a work of moral philosophy, published seventeen years earlier.The Theory of Moral Sentiments came out on 26 April 1759. It was a sensation, and made Smith a hot intellectual property. Moralists had been struggling for centuries to work out what makes some actions morally good and others morally bad. To clerics, who held great sway over the public and in intellectual...

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This is a problem with using planning over climate change instead of the market

A letter in the Sunday Times:Your article on the battle over the technology used to remove carbon emissions from heating rightly mentions the heavy lobbying by the gas industry to promote hydrogen over heat pumps (News Review, last week). As my own research shows, lobbying power is stacked in favour of these companies because of their market dominance. In reality, heat pumps are the only deployable option in the short term; and studies have shown there are fundamental problems with hydrogen....

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We might have said this before but if only Owen Jones understood anything

Owen Jones tells us that the defeat of the European Superleague is a victory for people power against markets. No, it’s a proof of the fact that markets enable, support and ensure the victory of people power: The great ESL revolt of 2021 has shown that corporate boardrooms are not invincible, and that business decisions that prioritise profit over wider social needs can be exposed as hubristic rather than lucrative. Rather than a one-off, the debacle has provided much-needed political...

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Imagine if this is actually true about renewables energy generation

We don’t say that this is true, nor that it isn’t. Rather, just consider what also is true if this is:Huge and ongoing falls in the cost of renewable energy mean that it could replace fossil fuels for global electricity generation by 2035 and allow all energy production to emit zero carbon by 2050, according to a report. The fossil fuel industry will be unable to compete with cheap wind and solar power, while millions of people in developing countries will have access for the first time to...

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To test the Feynman Contention with Nobel Laureates and climate change

Andrew Simms, he formerly of the Not Economics Frankly groupuscule, has rounded up a group of Nobel Laureates to insist that stern governmental action is necessary concerning climate change and fossil fuels. Given that Simms is involved it is obviously going to miss the economic point under discussion.Which provides us with a lovely example against which to test the Feynman Contention:I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.We tend to...

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Logic and rhetoric at the heart of Smith’s ideas

Today (22 April) is the date when, in 1751, Adam Smith was appointed Professor of Logic and Rhetoric at the University of Glasgow. Though only 28, he was already well known as a gifted scholar. He had given a very successful series of public lectures on philosophy, in Edinburgh. The intelligentsia of Scotland’s capital were impressed.Before the year was out, the young Smith was promoted to the prestigious Chair of Moral Philosophy — a post he held until 1764. In the meantime, he served as...

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To our surprise, another thing that Polly Toynbee doesn’t understand

That we’re not great fans of the logical or observational qualities of Polly Toynbee merely makes us rational and capable of logic and observation ourselves. But it does still come as a surprise to find another thing that Polly manages to entirely misunderstand:Britain’s birthrate is plummeting. The already fast-falling rate has sunk into yet steeper decline during the pandemic, as people stop having babies when times are hard – and there may not be a bounceback.No, people stop having babies...

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The sad misunderstanding of what is an economic resource that we should be sparing with our use of

That we wish to be efficient, even miserly, with our uses of economic resources is obvious enough. By definition economic resources are scarce so using fewer of them to do any one thing allows us to have more things within our resource limits.So far so good - but it is then necessary to define what is an economic resource whose use we desire to be efficient with our use of, even miserly in how we apply it. This being exactly the thing which is not currently done:The extraction and processing...

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Can we take it that public choice economics is now proven?

Public choice economics is one of those observations that is truly hated by those who believe in the purity of government. For it is the observation that those who rule us are motivated, at least in part, by their own economic self-interest. Just like everyone else that is, simply because those who govern are indeed humans just like everyone else.In modeling the behavior of individuals as driven by the goal of utility maximization—economics jargon for a personal sense of well-being—economists...

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In which we accuse Liam Halligan of a lack of ambition

Liam Halligan tells us that there are economic rents being made in the housing market: The problem, says Morton, is that planning permissions are “a one-way gift which boosts the value of the land from say £20,000 a hectare to £2-£3 million, in return for no obligation to do anything beyond breaking ground”. As a result, “housebuilding is largely in the hands of a few large builders and a cottage industry of land promoters, pushing up the value of land with permissions and meaning permissions...

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