Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog

IEA

And then there was … oh, what was it?

Bruce Linkermann, 20 July 2016

A village fair,  new friends, the V&A Museum, a new cabinet, a thwarted military coup: my word it’s been a busy week!

The world keeps on spinning

Firstly,  to the French people—and to all the families and loved ones affected by the tragic event in Nice—I extend my deepest and sincerest condolence for your loss, for your heartache, for your suffering.

Together

Flowers and cake at the fair ... only a fraction!

This week  I got a taste of the values Ron instilled in his daughter, Sarah Basden. She and her husband, James, kindly invited me to join them for lunch at their home in Ibthorpe, Hampshire. After filling my belly with salmon they took me to the village fair. There was a falcon and falconer, an eagle, jams, cakes, flowers, dogs, cars, tug-of-war, tea, sunshine, friendly company and so much more. A day I will never forget.

During the afternoon I was asked whether I would like to work in England. I answered rather mechanically, “I’ll go wherever there is work, and if I can add value”, or something to that effect. Not a bad sentiment, but not a well thought out answer either. That is a difficult question to answer, especially on the spot. Of course, living and working in London would be amazing, I imagine that not many people would disagree with that. That is a really tough question to answer. I might be over thinking it, but I suggest that future Mannkal scholars give it some thought before departing to their host city.

Lovely cottage and even lovelier hosts!

It's David

On to the fun stuff. The V&A Museum is beautiful and very big. It has a cast replica of the Statue of David. I thought it was the original for about 5 minutes, standing in front of it transfixed in awe, but then I read the information plaque and my awe dramatically diminished. It’s amazing how the world can change in an instant when you realise that things aren’t the way you thought they were. That I think is the power of information and the virtue of being open-minded. Don’t worry, the magic soon returned to the air. The museum is really worth the time. But I would set aside 3 to 4 hours—there are 6 floors to explore.

It has been a whirlwind week, off to bed for me.

The Fruit of Labour

Bruce Linkermann, 11 July 2016

“The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests … [I]n the only cases in which the masses have escaped from … grinding poverty … the only cases in recorded history are where they have had capitalism and free trade”. So according to Milton Friedman the only way to better your lot in life is to trade your goods or services in a free market, in a market that does not impose a restriction or burden on your proposed transaction.

My posts will reflect this principle. My good, my service, is my experience uncensored and available to anyone who may wish to read it. The trade will be the fruitful career that future students will craft for themselves if not dissuaded from the prospect of hard work. And the overall benefit to society will be the influx of smart ideas translated into effective policy. But this is only possible in a system that promotes an unrestricted, uncensored market.

So worth it!

Looking at the short term, I’m writing this blog while sitting on a bus heading towards Bath, Lacock and finally Stonehenge. I’ve just finished a tour of Windsor Castle where I sat down at the table in the Waterloo Chamber (to the distress of the attendee, I must say). But, nonetheless, I had a seat at the table!

Looking at the long term, based on an idea that I had from some of the readings I managed to find while here at the IEA, I will hopefully get a paper published on the inefficient allocation of individual rights in jurisdictions with constitutionally entrenched bills of rights. And I’ve got more ideas to explore and elaborate once I get back to Perth.

The inside of this castle is spectacular

To close, I’ve decided to quote Milton Friedman again. In a discussion with a young man over whether to impose a 100% inheritance tax, Mr Friedman, arguing against such a rash tax, replied to the young man: “As you grow up you will discover that this is really a family society and not an individual society … and the greatest incentives of all, the incentives that have really driven people on, have largely been the incentives of family creation, of pursuing [and] establishing their families on a decent system”. So if you are debating whether to apply for a Mannkal scholarship, remember that you are not debating whether to obtain an individual experience but whether to join a family, the Mannkal family. And part of being in a family is the responsibility to help grow its prosperity through your individual contribution, which is amassed through the pursuit of your individual interests. It’s really not a difficult decision when you think about it. Time to go walk around Bath!

The water is warm. I wish I could have gone for a swim

Ilma Amin- Week 2 in CapX London

Ilma Amin, 10 July 2016

Outside Kensington Palace!

Second week into London and I am still in awe of how busy and fast paced the city is. Every street I turn to I see hundreds of people rushing oabout their daily lives. The trains are always packed to the fullest capacity no matter what the time of the day. Oh, and the sun sets a touch after 9pm, which may explain why the jetlag has been horrendous.

Moving on to my second week at CapX, I am learning more technical skills behind the structure of the website. CapX covers a lot of content from all over the world in relevance to investment, politics and the environment just to name a few topics. And with that comes the responsibility of finding external articles to help maintain that coverage. As such I was taught how to use a software that has articles from various different sources that CapX likes to incorporate on the website. Not only did I learn the importance finding great content, it is also important to ensure the content is accessible to all readers. CapX has a daily email circular for their readers of the top five stories of the day and I learnt how to compose elements of that email.

I am learning new things regarding British politics and the aftermath of Brexit has made it that much more interesting! The past two weeks in Britain have been described as the country’s most chaotic post-World War II- in the last ten days alone we have seen the resignation of the Prime Minister, Shadow Cabinet, England manager and the United Kingdom Independent Party leader! All these events consume our conversations in the office on the daily basis and I love it!

On the weekend I continued to tick off my list of sightseeing in London. I explored the lush Kensington Park and made my way to the palace. The architecture and the attention to detail never fail to disappoint!
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind experience in terms of learning new things and I cannot wait for more!

Bruce Linkermann – Week 2

Bruce Linkermann, 4 July 2016

Abraham Cowley, a 17th century poet born in London, wrote that “curiosity does, no less than devotion, pilgrims make”. Well, this week has been all about indulging my curiosity. From exploring London, visiting some historic sites, to exploring ideas at the IEA’s annual THINK Conference, I embarked on my own pilgrimage of sorts.

At the IEA office there was the usual chaos that accompanies the sixth forum internships (those are high school students participating in a week of learning and debating). Not much excitement for the research and ops interns. We just help arrange the “furniture”. I’m hoping this week will be more research intensive.

Exquisite

On Friday I was fortunate enough to get the day off from the IEA. I had to sort out my new accommodation—finger’s crossed this is the last time I have to move. Before I got stuck into the moving task I decided to go cross something off on my bucket list: Westminster Abby! And WOW. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this magnificent building? Seeing the tombs of Kings and Queens, Isaac Newton, Mary Queen of Scots, William Wilberforce, the coronation chair and the plaque to commemorate Captain James Cook is truly awe-inspiring. The building itself is incredible, and the interior is something to behold: The Cosmati Pavement in the Sacrarium is one of the finest works of art in medieval England. Absolutely splendid.

He found us; now I found him.

On Saturday I assisted the IEA team with the running of the THINK Conference. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed about 2 thirds of the Conference. But I did get to see the afternoon sessions and the speaker I wanted to hear from the most, Professor David Friedman. He spoke about how life is like, and not like, the River Thames. On one hand life and the river are constantly moving, rushing, surging towards their destinies; and on the other hand, while the river always looks the same, life will never look the same. What today looks like will not be what tomorrow looks like. Technology is going to change our currencies, our markets, our life expectancy (with some living to 300) and crime rates to name a few. And he was even bold enough to predict that end-to-end encryption will result in a higher rate of private citizens seeking the services of assassins to eliminate their “rivals”. Heady stuff.

Professor David Friedman enlightening us young minds

On Sunday I decided, on Paul’s advice, to seek out the Mayflower Pub. It’s the oldest pub on the Thames, established in 1550. The pub’s name, which has changed over the centuries, is named after the ship that took the first Pilgrims on their “pilgrimage by the sea” to the New World, now known as America.

As I sat there eating my traditional roast lunch and drinking a pint, staring out over the Thames, I thought about how difficult the past 2 weeks had been. But this is life. It is important to temper your expectations and acclimate to your new role and new surroundings as quickly as possible. Remember what those first Pilgrims achieved despite their humble beginnings and initial difficulties: they dreamed of a new world and their dream is now a reality, Stars and Stripes.

A positive attitude is a priceless attribute. I get the feeling that this is the beginning of a new journey, a pilgrimage to better things. Curiosity brought me this far. Now I’m curious to see how far devotion to a cause can take me.

What great journey didn’t begin with lunch and a pint?

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never, never, never shall be slaves

Bruce Linkermann, 4 July 2016

23 June 2016. The vote, the decision, the history. Textbooks will spare a page or two for this date. And though some weeping Eurocrats will say the British are like selfish rats jumping ship at the first sight of stormy weather, I think they are like the smart investor selling before the stock’s value plummets.

The European Project is wonderfully idealistic and woefully impractical. To think that World War III can be averted and all of Europe’s problems can be solved by sitting around singing Kumbaya in Brussels is ridiculous and childish. To be frank, the EU is a complicated jumble of competing interests that simply cannot be reconciled: one nation wants this and another wants that, yet they have to collectively agree on trade deals as a unified block.

Freedom never looked so good

But let’s put the impracticality of the idealism aside and have a look at the structure of the EU. For starters, governments are notoriously inefficient. Now think just how inefficient the EU is: there is a European Parliament, a European Council, a Council of the EU (why on earth the EU needs two councils is as mysterious to me as what happens behind an event horizon), a European Commission, a Committee of the Regions, an Economic and Social Committee, numerous Agencies, the European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, a Court of Auditors and a Court of Justice. Wow! I’m sure this all runs with the precision of a Swiss-made watch … oh, wait, the Swiss told the EU to bugger off. So much for Swiss precision. And, by the way, how are the Swiss faring outside the EU?

But there’s more! There is a President and I’ve currently counted 6 Vice Presidents. My word, how many Vice Presidents do you really need? Right, 6 VP’s aren’t enough. There is also a First Vice President. I guess you do need a VP to coordinate all the other VP’s. There is also a High Representative and a host of Commissioners.

But this is still not enough. There is also a wonderfully contradictory Bill of Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This is an astounding document. I don’t know whether I love it or whether it is a cancer! The budding lawyer in me would love it for it utter superfluity, but the common sense, logical aspect of my nature abhors its glaring contradictions.

Let’s have a closer look shall we. Article 5 prohibits slavery and forced labour. Nice. Can’t really argue with that I guess. Article 17, on its face, protects property rights. But, then again, it goes on to state that “[n]o one may be deprived of his or her possessions, except in the public interest and in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law, subject to fair compensation being paid in good time for their loss. The use of property may be regulated by law in so far as is necessary for the general interest”? Pray tell, what on earth is the “public interest” and the “general interest”? These seem to be very, very vague phrases that can be applicable to scenarios as wide as times of war to simply the proletariat revolting again. But I guess the bourgeoisie were also “fair[ly] compensated … in good time for their loss[es]”. So much for a prohibition on slavery and forced labour. Remember, the American slaves were also paid with food and shelter. Just curious, I wonder if the compensated party has a say in whether the proposed compensation is fair and in good time? I doubt it and I certainly doubt their ability to wield any real bargaining power against—not just a state—a collective of 28 states! Now I know that both the American and Australian constitutions have just acquisition clauses, but these types of clauses are, in my opinion, pernicious and should not be viewed as model clauses that ought to be replicated in other written constitutions.

The hour is at hand, rejoice!

Moving on to my favourite contradiction. Article 20 upholds the equality of everyone before the law. Nice. Article 21 prohibits discrimination based on sex and a whole whack of other grounds. Again, nice. Article 23, on its face, prohibits discrimination between the sexes in the area of employment and remuneration. But I thought that was protected in Article 21? (Oh, superfluity is thy name Charter of Fundamental Rights.) But hold on a tick, what’s this: “The principle of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex”. So discriminatory policies on the grounds of sex are permissible. Well then what was the point of Articles 20 and 21? I guess the principle of equality is still upheld even if policies are enforced that separate the sexes through the conferral of specific advantages. In other words, they’ve resurrected and stolen the “separate but equal” doctrine from the Americans. I suppose the under-represented and over-represented sexes will now have their own water-coolers and lunch rooms, and the over-represented sex will have theirs at the back of the building. I’m reminded of a train in New Orleans in 1892. But who cares about those Americans, right? It’s not like they had a civil rights movement and ruled that the “separate but equal” doctrine is unconstitutional in light of the overriding principle of equality. Wait a second … yup … they actually did!

Alright, let’s just pause for a minute here to absorb what the UK actually did on this momentous day. THEY VOTED TO FREE THEMSELVES FROM THE CHILDISH NONSENSE THAT IS THE EU. If Rousseau is indeed correct—that “[m]an is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”—at least Britons are now chained with British steel or whatever steel they choose to import. And as for the EU, they may think themselves the master of other non-EU states, but they remain more of a slave than the others.

The door is shut on the EU

Ilma Amin- Week 1 at CapX London

Ilma Amin, 3 July 2016

Journalism has been a big dream of mine and a big thank you to Mannkal for helping me kick-start my dream career in LONDON of all places!! London is the global centre of finance and all things culture- it is on Europe’s doorstep, and is a gateway for Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It is also now my home for the next 5 weeks!

After a 21 hour journey to London, I went to my accommodation in the lovely suburb of Hammersmith, located south-west of the city. My first day was marked by the historic referendum result in which Britain has split forces from the European Union. All forms of social media were consumed of Brexit and I could not have been more excited to be in the UK as they unfold their next chapter!

The city is a vibrant mix of modern and eclectic people with the backdrop of historic buildings. On my commute to the CapX office I get the privilege to walk through Big Ben and the Parliament house- the experience was so breathtaking I wasn’t able to hold my camera without shaking whilst snapchatting on the Mannkal account!

I was warmly welcomed by the team at CapX, an online journalism firm owned and produced by the Centre for Policy Studies in London. They provide a source of articles based on all things politics and economics from all over the world. The team really appreciates that I’m Australian and have encouraged me to use my knowledge of Australia as a foundation for my articles. On my first day I was lucky enough to write an article about the Australian points-based system that the UK is considering to implement to control immigration and have it published on the CapX website. I was then assigned the task to write an article explaining the Australian Federal Election for the eyes of the British readers. I was lucky enough to have that published on Friday!

On Saturday I attended the Think Conference hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs- the biggest economic think tank in the UK. The presentations were deeply enriching covering topics from humanitarian aid to the principles of behavioural economics. My favourite presentation was by Jared Meyer from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research on the economics of sharing. He made an interesting point of businesses like Uber and Airbnb, the businesses at the forefront of the sharing economy phenomenon, as innovations drive the economy forward they shouldn’t need the roadblocks of regulators. At the cocktail event at the end of the conference I was approached by the camera crew for a mini interview of who I am and what brought me to the conference. I proudly said I was here because of Mannkal Economic Education Foundation from Perth.

My first week has been intense and very rewarding; I’m looking forward to the new challenges and adventures for the next five weeks!

Snapchatting from the office!

Snapchatting from the office!

Think Conference

Camera Ready!

Big Ben

Walking past the Big Ben on the way to the CapX office!

Bruce Linkermann Week 1

Bruce Linkermann, 23 June 2016

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

While drinking a refreshing pint of beer with my dinner at a local bar I read a poem in the sports section of a local newspaper which caused me to reflect on the past 28 hours of madness.

After a 20-hour flight from Perth to London, I arrived in London and went straight to my reserved, confirmed and paid for accommodation near King’s Cross. While day dreaming about catching up on some sleep and the marvels that tomorrow would reveal during my first day at the Institute of Economic Affairs, I had what can only be described as one of the most frighting experiences of my relatively young life: My accommodation had been taken by someone else; as in, my confirmed and paid for reservation was not recognised because Airbnb and the host had somehow bungled the entire operation.

After speaking to the host and Airbnb, I managed to get my money back and find new accommodation. My new accommodation has everything that I need: Wi-Fi, a bed, a toilet, a kitchen, a washer and a private bedroom with a desk and a chair. So watch your back, world, because I’ve got the tools now and I’m gunning for you!

The whole point of this entry is not to extol the virtue of perseverance or even to stress the importance of double checking your reservations. No, the point of this entry is quite simple: Live up to your potential by being true to yourself. Find the things that you truly need in order to attain the things that you truly desire. You don’t need anyone’s admiration, no proud pat on your back, to be the person you believe you can one day become. And you certainly don’t need lavish surroundings or the same perks and benefits as everyone else to get to where you want to go. You can tell I think very little of the progressive left’s argument that we need equality of origin in order to create equality of opportunity.

The way I see it, you can fool anyone with the bluff of the century—hell, you can fool all of heaven with a sinister smile—but you can never fool yourself. The Man in the Glass knows who you really are, knows what you have done and knows what you are capable of doing.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Sharni Cutajar – Week 12

Sharni Cutajar, 23 February 2016

After three months of studying and travelling across the UK, it is now time for me to return home to Perth to begin another year of university studies. However, as I begin a new semester I find myself enthused and very motivated to get back into my studies after an eye-opening and insightful time at the IEA.

It has been an absolute joy and privilege to intern at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the most prestigious think tank in the world and to have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the greatest ideological thinkers of the 21st century. I am truly thankful to the IEA for hosting me and to all the staff and interns who made my experience so enjoyable.

I have been truly humbled by the experience of working in such an extraordinary free-market environment that was responsible for creating the atmosphere of neoliberalism that allowed the Thatcher government to be so influential. Founded by Sir Anthony Fischer, alongside Sir Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, the IEA was established in 1955 and is committed to realising free-market economics in areas of public policy. I have been inspired by the work done at the IEA and am very interested to look for further opportunities to intern at a think-tank in Australia, where I can continue to learn and contribute to the free-market environment.

Finally, I must thank the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for this wonderful opportunity. This experience has allowed me to immerse myself into the daily activities of a world-renowned think tank in the heart of Westminster, allowing me to discover an unrealised literature of economic theory often left out from university curricula. Thank you kindly to the continued generosity of Ron Manners and Mannkal donors that make it possible for young Western Australian students like me to learn the importance of the free market economy in society and the benefits the free market can have for Western Australia.

Sharni Cutajar – Week 11

Sharni Cutajar, 14 February 2016

There has been a lot of talk amongst Westminster circles this week of a sugar tax. The IEA’s Director of Lifestyle Economics, Christopher Snowdon, has recently published “Sugar Taxes: a briefing” to put all the speculation of the consequences of such a tax to rest. Snowdon states that sugar taxes have been introduced previously and studies of their impacts have consistently shown the same outcomes:

  1. Demand for sugary foods and drinks is inelastic. People are reluctant to alter shopping habits regardless of price hikes.
  2. Consumers respond by shopping at cheaper shops or changing brands to a similar product. Some consumers will switch to other high calorie drinks such as fruit juice, milk or alcohol.
  3. A tax on sugar takes a greater share of income from the poor than the rich.
  4. No impact on obesity or health outcomes has ever been found due to a sugar tax.

Proponents for a sugar tax argue the illnesses caused by obesity lead increased costs for the rest of society. However, a sugar tax does not guarantee this will happen. Rather than pass the tax on to consumers, businesses may absorb the tax. Industry profits may decline, but a sugar tax does not guarantee that sales will fall. Furthermore, customers may well value the product enough to absorb the tax themselves and will cut other areas of their budget to accommodate for the tax. The Danish tax on saturated fats introduced in October 2011 saw Danes respond by switching to cheaper brands of the same fatty products and shopping in stores with cheaper prices (Jensen and Smed 2013). Others even went as far to start shopping in Germany and Sweden where saturated fat products were priced lower. The saturated fat tax was repealed in January 2013. The Danish Government also repealed their tax on soft drinks the following year that had been in place for 80 years. According to Snowdon, 80 per cent of Danish customers said the saturated fat tax had not changed their purchasing habits. Furthermore, according to Han and Powell (2011), a study in the USA found that changes in food prices have no effect on rates of obesity.

In Britain, proponents of the 20 per cent tax estimate it will cost taxpayers an additional one billion pounds per annum, whilst the estimated savings to the health service would amount to fifteen million pounds per annum, a small saving in comparison (Boseley 2015).

So with all the facts of a sugar tax stating there is little evidence of its success in combating obesity, many people are asking the question, is this tax being introduced to help obese people, or in fact is it just an excuse for the Government to introduce another tax to combat its debt?

Sharni Cutajar – Week 10

Sharni Cutajar, 7 February 2016

It is currently a question that divides Westminster and with a referendum expected later this year, everyone is asking the question, does Britain have a future in the European Union?

This week Patrick Minford launches the second edition of his book ‘Should Britain Leave the EU?’ at the IEA, that analyses the cost benefits of key aspects of remaining in the EU, including trade and joining the Euro. Since Britain joined the EEC (European Economic Community) in 1975, Britain has bowed to EU pressure and developed economic policies that are increasingly protectionist and interventionist. Of course, one commonly perceived advantage to remaining in the EU allows Britain ‘access’ to EU markets and to markets with which the EU negotiates trade agreements. However, Minford addresses this fallacy and states the UK will be better off with free trade unbound by the EU’s customs union policies and regulation of the labour market. Minford uses the example Jaguar car sales and argues tariffs that would be incurred if the UK left the EU would have little effect because the decrease in sales within the EU would be absorbed by sales made in other markets. Tariffs would simply divert supply to another market.

Furthermore, if the UK remains in the EU, there will be continued pressure to join the Eurozone, which has historically excluded the UK from the vulnerability and panic that was engulfed southern European countries. Currently, the UK’s net contribution of it’s GDP to the EU is 0.5% per annum, however there is currently a new institutional framework being developed that will assert a high degree of monitoring and intervention by creditor countries to help reassure Northern Europe that their financial transfers to the south will be repaid.

Additionally, if the last twelve months is anything to go by, it is evident the European Union has a number of structural issues that are in desperate need of an overhaul. Minford argues learning and change is a result of the democratic process but argues the European Union is not democratic, as it does not allow for change. Minford states:

“If you have democracy, you can throw out people when they don’t please you.”

If Britain were to remain in the European Union, I do believe the British government must demand a restructuring of the bail out process, so that if what has happened to Greece or Spain were to happen again, action taken is streamlined and less damaging. I also believe the British government as well as other European nations need to reconsider the representatives of the European Union and the process that selects such representatives to ensure accountability.

One nation that is historically known for overthrowing it’s leaders who failed to represent the people is France during the French Revolution. Through learning and change the French established the Republic of France and a democratic government. Last week I was fortunate enough to travel to Paris and follow closely the current situation regarding the regulations around ride-hailing apps. Recently, French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, vowed to tighten restrictions on chauffer services and ordered UBER and other app-sharing non-taxi services to stop hiring a certain class of salaried drivers that represent 20-30% of the UBER driver fleet, after taxi drivers went on a nationwide strike last month. UBER has faced increased resistance from taxi groups as it has expanded across France with more than 12 000 drivers and 1.4 million users.

Last week hundreds of non-taxi drivers took part in a “funeral march” in Paris to protest against such proposed regulation, followed by UBER suspending its services in Paris on Tuesday, February 9th, between 11am and 3pm. This was the first time UBER stopped its services in support of a protest. Thomas Meister, spokesperson for UBER France said:

“We stand by drivers, it’s as simple as that.”

UBER has offered to let taxi services embed its services in its platform free for a year, to allow taxi services to book rides with customers through the UBER app without paying commission, in an attempt to co-exist with traditional taxi drivers. Protests were staged by black cab taxi drivers in Whitehall, Central London the following day, rejecting the offer. The protest comes amid claims UBER is not subjected to the same regulation requirements as black cab drivers. It is estimated 8 000 black cabs participated in the demonstrations. Meister further stated UBER “will stand up and fight until the end to continue working.”