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Common Law and Common Sense

Common Law and Common Sense
Legal Dynamics, Prosperity and Britain's Future
 

As the country joins her family in mourning the tragic killing of one of our most likeable and promising Parliamentarians, the proper suspension of the debate upon European Union membership has given all an opportunity to reflect upon the quality and conduct of the argument on one of the great issues of our time. 

When polling eventually takes place on Brexit on June 23rd, most people will be relieved that important issues for the country have been exhaustively considered, though concerned that on some occasions the rules of civilised democratic behaviour and debate forgotten. Like me, some will feel saddened that John Major, in whose administration I served, recently marred his reputation, by resorting to personalised, even vindictive attacks on the Vote Leave Team, in a way out of keeping with his stewardship of Britain's highest office.

As we return our focus to the final week of the Brexit debate, I pose three questions.

First, is the European Union now or in the future, compatible with how we do things in Britain?  In two crucial ways, it plainly isn’t.

Equal Treatment before the Law, Mr Hancock!

Equal Treatment before the Law, Mr Hancock!
Social Engineering has no place in the Labour Market.
 

Treasury Forecasts – Politics or Truth?

Treasury Forecasts – Politics or Truth? 

Giving with One Hand and Taking with Two …

Giving with One Hand and Taking with Two …
 
Friday 20thMay: The proposals in the Queen’s speech are cold comfort for great British universities which owe their excellence to freedom not bureaucratic control, writes John Marenbon.
 
These days legislation about the universities usually comes in a glossy free-market wrapping, but its contents are drably dirigiste. Just five years ago the Coalition transferred much of the financial cost for teaching from the state to students. They are now obliged to pay the full costs of cheaper, mainly humanities, courses and given loans to repay them. But instead of allowing a proper market, one where better universities could charge more for their courses, which may in fact cost more to provide in terms of teaching and other support, the government capped the fees. As a result almost every institution, from the most illustrious to the humblest, charges exactly the same.
 
Although these fees are supposedly private payments from customers (i.e. the students) to the universities, as providers of a service, the government has refused to stand aside. Rather it has used the threefold fee increase to exert greater control, by threatening to reduce the fees a university can charge unless it meets targets in admitting candidates from unprivileged backgrounds.
 
The new White Paper, with its predictably philistine title, Success as a Knowledge Economy, follows the same pattern. It will become easier for private institutions to gain university status and these new universities will be allowed to compete with existing ones, perhaps putting some of them out of business. But what appears to be a move to free up the market is accompanied by another extension of bureaucratic power. Universities will be assessed, not just on their research, but on their teaching, and those found wanting will be punished financially. 
 
Despite the wrapping, the government does not merely seem to lack faith in the free market which it claims to be enabling (no one thinks that we need government checks to ensure Tesco gives value for money: when it doesn’t, the customers desert it for Sainsbury’s or Walmart). It is also half-hearted in promoting that market. A few more private institutions at the edges, probably geared to providing profitable vocational courses, will do no harm.  What the real aim should be for a government which values freedom - both in the market, and in teaching and research - is to release the great universities from their bondage: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, LSE, and others in the Russell Group.
 

Trumping the Polls

Thursday 12th May: This week a Reuters poll showed Donald Trump surging ahead to rival Hillary Clinton in the polls for the US Presidency. 41 per cent of those polled backed Clinton and 40 per cent supported Trump, a dramatic rise on his recent ratings.
 
Here, Professor Harold James from Princeton University, reflects on the possibility of a Trump victory in November and the impact it might have.
 
When Donald Trump on 15 June, 2015, announced that he intended to run for the Republican nomination, almost no one took him seriously.  The major political commentators all suggested that he was an entertainer, a superficial media celebrity, whose efforts would be a flash in the pan, and that he could never capture the nomination and certainly never, never become President.
 
He has certainly already both won the Republican nomination and destroyed the Republican Party.  He also stands a better chance of entering the White House than most commentators think.  It is obvious that extreme statements about women and Hispanics and Moslems have put off many potential voters; and equally that efforts to make good the damage have added to the alienation.  It did not help his popularity among female voters to say that ‘I like women’.  Social conservatives and feminists alike are unlikely to thrill to the follow-up: ‘All of my women, past and present, know I like women. In fact, I love women’.  And Hispanics will not see Trump’s gesture of eating a taco on Cinco de Mayo as an embrace.
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