This piece was originally published by The Daily Telegraph on Friday 3rd July.

Britain’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has not had a good 2020.

The government ignored its recommendations made last year for a new regulator for the audit industry, and has not acted on the agency’s calls for stronger consumer protection powers. Its warnings to businesses against raising prices during Covid were criticised by economists for potentially leading to shortages of things like food and PPE.

And the CMA’s chairman, ex-MP Andrew Tyrie, was ousted last month in a coup by board members unhappy with…

Four ways to make radical policy realistic in Britain

By Luke Gardiner and Sam Bowman

Oxford University physicist (and Brexiteer) David Deutsch recently tweeted that “You can’t just make a wish-list of features you’d like a society to have. It’s all done by institutions. The nature of the institution is much more important than what it does on a particular day.” As well as coming up with good policy ideas, you need the right institutions to deliver them.

Although the Conservatives campaigned on a manifesto that was cautious to the point of being coy, they now have the opportunity to act ambitiously, or risk wasting a once-in-a-generation chance to…

At Freedom Week, the summer school for students the ASI and IEA run in Cambridge every year, we do a ‘steel man’ (opposite of a straw man) debate where I try to give what I think is the best case for leftism. These are my notes – NB I do not actually agree with most of what I’m saying here.

We need government because we need the three R’s:

  • Regulation
  • Redistribution
  • Solid-R-ity

On each measure we have too little government and need more of it.


Climate change

Everyone agrees it’s an enormous issue, perhaps even existential.

Carbon taxes seem elegant…

Would you trust a monopolist with your porn viewing history? Thanks to the UK government’s new “porn block”, you might have to. These new rules, which require porn sites to verify their users’ ages, have led most to adopt a single service called AgeID. Today the Open Rights Group has highlighted that AgeID may become an age verification monopolist, with worrying consequences for users.

But a simple change to the Open Banking APIs could avoid this tendency towards monopoly and improve privacy, reducing some of the risks associated with the porn block — though it cannot eliminate them.

Online porn…

About eighteen months ago I wrote a post called “Stuff that I recommend you buy” that gave recommendations of consumer goods that I got a lot of value from compared to the price. I think of myself as a savvy shopper and do a lot of research before I buy almost anything that I’ll have to use more than once or twice, and I’m fortunate enough to have friends who are similar. Some of the products in the last entry are no longer the best in class, and I left out some important areas that I want to include now…

I was a discussant at one of this year’s Beesley Lectures, responding to remarks by Ofgem’s Chairman Martin Cave under the title “How long will retail price caps last? Can they be replaced by Open APIs?”. Here is a lightly edited version of my remarks.

Whether energy price controls work or not, it may be politically very difficult to remove them. …

I have spent the last two years rolling my eyes at people’s calls for a second referendum on Brexit. I thought it was impossible, and diverted Remainers’ energies away from shaping the Brexit settlement, making a hard or no deal Brexit more likely.

I now think that I was wrong, and a second referendum is both possible and desirable.

During the referendum campaign, while I was Executive Director of the Adam Smith Institute, it was clear to me that leaving the single market suddenly would be a disaster. …

Don’t call yourself a centrist if you’re a liberal. I know why you do it. You hate the people running the left and right at the moment, and your main priority is to communicate that you’re not with them. Same here.

But “centrism” implies that you’re trying to find a balance between the two of them. Meet them halfway, bring some moderation to their view of things. Real centrists do exist, and until recently they were the ones in charge in most places. …

Every new Health Secretary has to walk a tightrope. They want to leave the NHS in better shape than they found it, but know that grand reforms can backfire badly. Matt Hancock’s time at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport might give him the angle he needs to succeed — giving NHS patients the power to share their medical records with third parties to make the most of private sector innovation.

Open Banking is doing something similar in consumer financial services, but it’s a model that can work wherever individuals’ data says something unique about them, and third…

Like many other people I have a stocks and shares ISA that puts my money into a set of index funds, which are baskets of investments in every publicly traded company in various stock markets, weighted by the market cap of each company. Effectively, it allows me to invest in ‘the market’ as a whole, with investments proportional to the size and value of the firms as judged by active investors. …

Sam Bowman

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