From Institute of Economic Affairs <[email protected]>
Subject Mind the (generation) gap
Date September 5, 2021 7:59 AM
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My children were back at school this week. It was great to see things back to some sort of normality, even if the elder one has to test for Covid on a regular basis and there is the prospect of vaccination for 12-15 year-olds.

It is disappointing that the plan to boost our schools post-Covid is not making much progress. We lost our education ‘tsar’ Sir Kevan Collins back in June, and our education unions are again being their usual obstructive selves. The only sign of 'new' thinking this week was the proposal to have an A** grade at A level to offset the inevitable grade inflation when you have teachers assessing their pupils.

Not the best idea I have ever heard, an attempt to shore up a failing system. As someone who was involved with schools examinations for over thirty years, I used to believe very strongly in A levels as an unassailable gold standard. But that time has gone. We need a much more fundamental rethink of how we assess – and how much we assess – young people in the 21^st century.

If concern for youngsters is one thing, we’ve also been mulling over the support we give to people in later life. Most of us are living longer – I’ve now outlived all my grandparents, though have some way to go to beat my mum and dad, who both lived well into their nineties. This increased lifespan is terrific, but inevitably many older people need support. Over 40 per cent of those in their mid-80s, for example, need help with carrying out the everyday activities – dressing, washing, shopping, visiting the doctor, dealing with the ever-growing demands of our over-mighty authorities – which most of us don't even need to think about.

Families themselves do a lot, of course. 600 people a day – mainly women – give up work to look after an aged relative. But for all sorts of reasons, modern families are never going to be able to take on all of this burden. How to fund support, especially long-term residential care, is a conundrum. For many years successive governments have ducked making a decision.

This week we saw a semi-firm proposal to raise national insurance to cover part of the cost, and to allow families to keep rather more of their savings rather than having to finance long-term care by selling houses. It’s not a great proposal – national insurance is a dreadful, outdated impost which obscures what people really pay in tax, and will only apply a sticking plaster to this growing problem.

I think part of the answer must be the encouragement of genuine private sector insurance against long-term incapacity rather than relying on the taxpayer. But this is a difficult case to make. So many politicians and commentators who really should know better are fixated on the Magic Money Tree of state spending as the answer to all our worries – just as my six-year-old thinks Father Christmas will always provide the toys mummy and daddy say are too expensive.

Professor Len Shackleton
Editorial and Research Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs

As mentioned above, it has been widely reported that the Prime Minister will break a manifesto pledge not to increase national insurance in order to pay for social care in England, under plans currently being negotiated between Downing Street and the Treasury.

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Responding to the proposals, Professor Len Shackleton said:

"It is absurd that those over state pension age with substantial incomes and assets should not pay part of this burden because they are not currently liable for NICs. As for Employer NI, this is a crude payroll tax which discourages employment at the margin, and over time is passed onto workers in the form of lower pay.

"Government should think again, and steer away from taking on some open-ended commitment by the taxpayer. Families with a lot of capital at risk from prolonged need for social care should have the responsibility to insure rather than look to – often much poorer – workers to support them."

Len wrote on the proposed hike, which he described as a "short-term fix," for The Telegraph ([link removed]) .

IEA Head of Public Affairs Emma Revell told GB News that this move will hit younger workers hardest – and government should think again. And Len discussed possible solutions with Stephen Nolan on BBC Radio 5 Live. Listen here ([link removed]) (from 1:05:00).

It's been a busy week for IEA digital.

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On Monday, we posted a video with our Director General Mark Littlewood and Julian Jessop, independent economist and IEA Economics Fellow, on the supply chain difficulties being experienced across the globe. The auto sector has been hit by a shortage of computer chips. McDonald's ran out of milkshakes. What is the scale of the problem, is Brexit to blame, and could it choke the economic recovery? Catch up here ([link removed]) .

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On Tuesday, we uploaded a recent IEA Book Club discussion, hosted by IEA Head of Education Dr Stephen Davies, with commentator and author Alex Deane. The pair discussed Alex's new book, 'Lessons From History – Hidden heroes and villains of the past, and what we can learn from them,' which takes readers on an uproarious romp through the tales you didn’t hear at school. Catch up here ([link removed]) – and find out more about the IEA Book Club here ([link removed]) .

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And in the latest episode ([link removed]) of The Swift Half, which premieres fortnightly at 5pm on Thursdays, IEA Head of Lifestyle Economics Christopher Snowdon interviewed writer, lecturer and politician Baroness Fox of Buckley. They discussed Covid-19, House of Lords reform, and Claire's chapter in the recent IEA book, Having Your Say – which you can download for free here ([link removed]) .

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On the IEA podcast this week, IEA Communications and Marketing Assistant Kieran Neild-Ali was joined by Christopher Snowdon to discuss the legalisation of cannabis. Polling suggests the British public are warming to this idea, implying UK drug policy could see change in the coming years. The two spoke about the effect of addiction on free will – asking whether drug addicts can make rational choices for themselves and whether this damages the liberal case for legalisation. Listen here ([link removed]) .

And lastly, a date for your diaries. On Wednesday, 22nd September, Live with Littlewood will be returning to your screens. Our flagship show will have a very different look and feel but the same stellar guests and free market analysis on the big stories of the week. Stay tuned.

Thank you to all of you who have already signed up to become an IEA Online Patron. Becoming a Patron grants you VIP access to our latest videos, priority invites to our virtual events, and the opportunity to engage directly with IEA Director General Mark Littlewood and the IEA team. For just a small donation you can get all these benefits and more.

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To visit the page and find out more about the IEA’s Patreon, follow the link here ([link removed]) or watch our trailer here ([link removed]) .

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Lorry worry... IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton spoke to James Cannon on BBC Radio Surrey about the HGV driver shortage. Len expects that drivers will need to be paid more in future, which could eventually "percolate through to higher food prices or shrinkflation". Listen here ([link removed]) (from 1:37:00).

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No child's play... In her column for The Spectator, IEA Director of Communications Annabel Denham explored the case for vaccinating the over-12s. She wrote: "The point isn’t that we must jab 12-15 year olds, but rather that the outrage against extending it to younger age groups is both superficial and misguided. The decision should lie with parents, and it is baffling that some vocal proponents of personal autonomy are trying to strip them of it by insisting the benevolent state make the choice on their behalf." Read here ([link removed]) .

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Diaper debacle... And writing in City AM, Annabel responded to speculation, later denied by Number 10, that the government was considering introducing a "nappy tax". She warned that such a measure would be regressive, hit women hardest, and do little to reduce disposable diaper use.

Annabel added: "In truth, we are bad judges of what is and isn’t environmentally friendly. Google 'how to wash disposable nappies' and you’ll be instructed to load the machine to no more than three-quarters full, run a rinse or quick wash cycle without detergent, then put on a 'long 40/60C wash… at least two hours long' with 'lots of water”' Purchase an organic cotton tote bag, but bear in mind you’ll need to use it 20,000 times to make it greener than plastic." Read here ([link removed]) .

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State of the unions... In her bi-weekly column for Conservative Home, IEA Head of Media Emily Carver expressed concern that a coordinated pushback from teaching unions or headteachers could be enough to scupper the Education Secretary’s plans to get schools back to normal. She urged government to adopt a no-nonsense, common-sense approach when it comes to dealing with teaching unions, and to "stop pandering to their excessive demands, and finally allow school children the education they deserve". Read here ([link removed]) .

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Wage rage... In a letter to the Editor of The Times, IEA Head of Political Economy Dr Kristian Niemietz argued that GP pay must be depoliticised, and a competitive labour market in healthcare used to determine pay.

Kristian pointed out that "OECD figures show that, relative to average incomes, British GPs are among the best paid in Europe. This would be fine if it meant fast access to comprehensive primary care services, but it does not". Read in full here ([link removed]) .

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Papers, please... During Wednesday's BBC press preview, Annabel Denham discussed vaccine passports, booster jabs, Scottish independence, NHS funding and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's grilling by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee meeting. Watch here ([link removed]) . And earlier that day, IEA Head of Public Affairs Emma Revell appeared on Julia Hartley-Brewer's TalkRADIO ([link removed]) show to explore schools returning, winter pressures on the NHS (in summer), and the evacuation of troops from Afghanistan.

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Blog log... Dr Kristian Niemietz, IEA Head of Cultural Affairs Marc Glendening and IEA Communications and Marketing Assistant Kieran Neild-Ali separately wrote for 1828 this week.

Kristian unpicked claims by new environmentalists that problems such as climate change are really a product of capitalism. Marc questioned whether the Ofcom ruling over Piers Morgan's comments about the Duchess of Sussex was really a victory for free speech. And Kieran explored how you solve a problem like social care.

Check out their articles here ([link removed]) .



On Friday evening, the IEA hosted an event to celebrate the Life of Brian Micklethwait, who co-founded the Libertarian Alliance and for many years hosted 'Brian’s Fridays' salon discussions in his Pimlico flat.

After Brian was sadly diagnosed with lung cancer, he asked friends, contacts and fans to boost his morale by telling him if and how he had made a difference.

Since several of us at the IEA had spoken at or attended Brian’s Fridays and been inspired by him, we hosted this event to celebrate Brian’s contribution to the classical liberal and libertarian movements.

It was an evening of celebration, but tinged with sadness and attended by other Brian's Fridays alumni including MPs, peers, journalists, think tankers and even a comedian, as well as many others.

Brian was hugely touched and grateful to everyone who attended or sent messages.

And we were all grateful for the chance to thank Brian for his contribution to the cause of liberty.


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