Institute of Economic Affairs
Institute of Economic Affairs
News Article | April 13, 2017
For the best part of two decades, Rachel Whetstone has served as public relations guru to some of Britain’s most powerful Conservative politicians and the world’s best-known corporations. Born in East Sussex to a wealthy family, the 49-year-old has a Conservative pedigree. Her grandfather, Antony Fisher, made his fortune importing intensive chicken farming from the US to the UK; he used his millions to help set up right-leaning thinktanks and lobby groups, such as the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Adam Smith Institute. The family’s success allowed them to send Whetstone to Benenden, an exclusive boarding school for girls with royal alumni including Princess Anne. After reading history at Bristol University, Whetstone joined Conservative central office, where she worked alongside David Cameron and George Osborne. Whetstone was well-regarded and was eventually chosen by Michael Howard, the home secretary at the time, to serve as one of his most trusted advisers. It was then that she first met her future husband, Steve Hilton, the political strategist who would become Cameron’s right-hand man. Whetstone went on to join the media company Carlton Communications, where she worked side by side with Cameron in the mid-1990s. A firm friendship blossomed and she and Hilton were later invited to be godparents to the Camerons’ late son Ivan. Whetstone was at the heart of the so-called Notting Hill set, a group of young, up-and-coming Conservatives based in the affluent area of west London. She left Carlton in 2001 for a brief stint with Portland Communications, the PR firm set up by Tony Blair’s former adviser Tim Allan, who recalls a skill with communications that enabled her to “see round corners”, as well as a “phenomenal work ethic”. “She would call me at night from the office and she would be telling me to work harder and get things done,” he said. “She’s disarmingly frank with her bosses and they value her candour and honesty.” Whetstone left Portland to become chief of staff to Howard when he became leader of the Conservative party, in 2003. As Howard’s political secretary, she was at the forefront of Conservative politics when the party was in opposition to Blair’s Labour government. But her relationship with Cameron was damaged in 2004, when it was revealed she had been having an affair with Viscount Astor, Samantha Cameron’s stepfather. “It was something of a shock and there was a period when they became less close,” said one friend of the Camerons and Whetstone. “The fact it involved someone related to Sam meant there was froideur for a bit but it was patched up after a while.” Whetstone left politics not long afterwards, when Howard’s 2005 general election campaign ended in resounding defeat. She moved back into the corporate world, joining Google in 2005 and rising to become senior vice-president of communications and public policy. DJ Collins, founder of the PR firm Milltown Partners and Google’s vice-president of communications and policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, worked with Whetstone for seven years. “She is a very rare person who genuinely puts everyone else’s interests before her own,” he said. “She combines extraordinary intelligence with a massive heart. Of course she’s well connected but what’s important is not who she knows but what she does.” Another senior colleague at Google said: “If anyone had a baby, she would personally buy them a present and write them a note, rather than getting someone else to do it. “She worked ferociously hard. If there’s one weakness it’s that she’s psychologically incapable of not having an opinion.” Whetstone left Google to join Uber in 2015, shortly after writing an acerbic blogpost addressed to the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, taking issue with criticism of Google in the Wall Street Journal, part of his news empire. Her departure from Uber followed several scandals involving the company, including an explosive blogpost by an employee alleging incidents of sexual harassment. Travis Kalanick, the company’s chief executive, indicated that she would remain an adviser and a friend in an email to staff that included a picture of the pair on a hiking trip. Whetstone and Hilton, who have two sons together, have a home in the small town of Atherton, California. Her Who’s Who entry lists her hobbies as gardening, riding and travel.
Robinson C.,University of Surrey |
Robinson C.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2013
After a brief period of liberalisation, the UK energy market is reverting towards its pre-1980s state in which central government intervenes extensively, particularly in the fuel choices of electricity generators. Many powerful interest groups benefit from centralised energy planning, which may be why the market reverts to that situation as a norm. Of the two principal reasons given for government intervention, there is little substance in the argument that it improves security of supply. There may be a better case for action to offset prospective climate change, but the present centralised approach risks massive errors. Decentralised, market-based action is more appropriate. © 2013 Institute of Economic Affairs.
Miller R.C.B.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2014
One of the great scientific achievements of the second half of the twentieth century was the advance in linguistics. Noam Chomsky was one of its foremost exponents. Chomsky and his followers claim that human beings have an inbuilt 'language acquisition device' which allows children to acquire language with extraordinary ease. Language is as much part of human nature as flying is that of birds. This paper argues that, like language, the propensity to trade is an inbuilt characteristic of human beings. Language permeates all human faculties including the ability to plan for the future. As a result human economic activity shares many important features with language, in particular its recursive and unbounded character. There is also evidence that the concept of property is innate. It follows that attempts to frustrate or limit the exercise of property rights and their use in trade works against the grain of human nature. Limits on the natural expression of entrepreneurship may be as damaging as other constraints on human flourishing. © 2014 Institute of Economic Affairs.
Niemietz K.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2012
Housing costs in the UK have exploded in recent decades. Contrary to what is often claimed, this has nothing to do with population density, demographics or a lack of public housing. A review of the empirical literature shows that the key determinant of housing costs is the severity of planning restrictions. Faced with a well-organised NIMBY opposition, the coalition failed in its attempt to make the planning system more development-friendly. This is not surprising, because the current system provides incentives which make NIMBYism a rational option. The coalition ought to address these incentives rather than trying to sidestep them. © 2012 The Author. Economic Affairs. © 2012 Institute of Economic Affairs.
Schoolland K.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2012
The economic crisis is an opportunity for governments to face the fact that Keynesian interventionist policies are not the path to success. However, support for such policies is being sustained by misperceptions of China's remarkable economic progress in recent years. Its success is commonly attributed to government-led initiatives, labelled as 'The China Model', which divert credit away from the true source of growth: its experience of the free market. This article examines the development of the free market in China and explains why the government's recent behaviour threatens to undermine the gains of recent decades. © 2012 The Author. Economic Affairs © 2012 Institute of Economic Affairs.
Swarup A.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2012
In January 2014, the European Union will introduce a new piece of insurance regulation, Solvency II. Its implementation will represent the latest pinnacle in the prescriptive approach adopted by EU regulators towards the insurance industry in their efforts to reduce risk and increase policyholder protection. It is also likely to become, in due course, the latest case study in the law of unintended consequences. © 2012 The Author. Economic Affairs. © 2012 Institute of Economic Affairs.
Snowdon C.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Drugs and Alcohol Today | Year: 2013
Purpose: The paper aims to describe the public health potential and legal status of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and Swedish snus. The author evaluates claims made for and against tobacco harm reduction. Design/methodology/approach: The author presents the scientific evidence for tobacco harm reduction and evaluates competing claims. Findings: The legal status of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and snus in many jurisdictions is not commensurate with their respective risk profiles. The prohibition of the least hazardous forms of nicotine delivery is not based on any coherent regulatory pyramid and can only be explained by the hostility of some anti-smoking campaigners towards tobacco harm reduction. Originality/value: The paper uses the most recent data available at the time of publication in its analysis of a rapidly growing market and a volatile regulatory environment. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Salman A.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2013
This article reviews the shari'a approach to markets and examines its treatment by certain twentieth-century Islamic economists such as Nejatullah Siddiqui, Nawab Haider Naqvi, Umer Chapra and M.A. Mannan. It characterises the arguments of these economists as largely statist, redistributive and socialist, possibly reflecting post-colonial intellectual experiences. Yet shari'a endorses negative freedom by proscribing price controls and guaranteeing consumer protection from coercion. Islamic law, this article argues, as evinced in both revealed knowledge and human exegesis, has endorsed a market-friendly, libertarian and limited-government philosophy. © 2013 The Author. Economic Affairs © 2013 Institute of Economic Affairs. Published by Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
Niemietz K.,Institute of Economic Affairs
Economic Affairs | Year: 2015
There have been two major attempts to introduce market mechanisms into England's National Health Service: the 'internal market' reform project of the 1990s, and the 'quasi-market' of the 2000s. Despite their similarities, the former attempt was on balance unsuccessful while the latter succeeded. This article examines and compares the outcomes of the two periods, analysing the reasons for their relative successes and failures. It goes on to highlight options for future reforms that would build on those achievements. © 2015 Institute of Economic Affairs.
News Article | November 30, 2016
Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them. Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government. I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies. Among those I clashed with was Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI calls itself a thinktank, but looks to me like a corporate lobbying group. It is not transparent about its funding, but we now know it has received $2m from ExxonMobil, more than $4m from a group called the Donors Trust (which represents various corporations and billionaires), $800,000 from groups set up by the tycoons Charles and David Koch, and substantial sums from coal, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies. For years, Ebell and the CEI have attacked efforts to limit climate change, through lobbying, lawsuits and campaigns. An advertisement released by the institute had the punchline “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution. We call it life.” It has sought to eliminate funding for environmental education, lobbied against the Endangered Species Act, harried climate scientists and campaigned in favour of mountaintop removal by coal companies. In 2004, Ebell sent a memo to one of George W Bush’s staffers calling for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to be sacked. Where is Ebell now? Oh – leading Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency. Charles and David Koch – who for years have funded extreme pro-corporate politics – might not have been enthusiasts for Trump’s candidacy, but their people were all over his campaign. Until June, Trump’s campaign manager was Corey Lewandowski, who like other members of Trump’s team came from a group called Americans for Prosperity (AFP). This purports to be a grassroots campaign, but it was founded and funded by the Koch brothers. It set up the first Tea Party Facebook page and organised the first Tea Party events. With a budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, AFP has campaigned ferociously on issues that coincide with the Koch brothers’ commercial interests in oil, gas, minerals, timber and chemicals. In Michigan, it helped force through the “right to work bill”, in pursuit of what AFP’s local director called “taking the unions out at the knees”. It has campaigned nationwide against action on climate change. It has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into unseating the politicians who won’t do its bidding and replacing them with those who will. I could fill this newspaper with the names of Trump staffers who have emerged from such groups: people such as Doug Domenech, from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, funded among others by the Koch brothers, Exxon and the Donors Trust; Barry Bennett, whose Alliance for America’s Future (now called One Nation) refused to disclose its donors when challenged; and Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, funded by Exxon and others. This is to say nothing of Trump’s own crashing conflicts of interest. Trump promised to “drain the swamp” of the lobbyists and corporate stooges working in Washington. But it looks as if the only swamps he’ll drain will be real ones, as his team launches its war on the natural world. Understandably, there has been plenty of coverage of the racists and white supremacists empowered by Trump’s victory. But, gruesome as they are, they’re peripheral to the policies his team will develop. It’s almost comforting, though, to focus on them, for at least we know who they are and what they stand for. By contrast, to penetrate the corporate misinformation machine is to enter a world of mirrors. Spend too long trying to understand it, and the hyporeality vortex will inflict serious damage on your state of mind. Don’t imagine that other parts of the world are immune. Corporate-funded thinktanks and fake grassroots groups are now everywhere. The fake news we should be worried about is not stories invented by Macedonian teenagers about Hillary Clinton selling arms to Islamic State, but the constant feed of confected scares about unions, tax and regulation drummed up by groups that won’t reveal their interests. The less transparent they are, the more airtime they receive. The organisation Transparify runs an annual survey of thinktanks. This year’s survey reveals that in the UK only four thinktanks – the Adam Smith Institute, Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs and Policy Exchange – “still consider it acceptable to take money from hidden hands behind closed doors”. And these are the ones that are all over the media. When the Institute of Economic Affairs, as it so often does, appears on the BBC to argue against regulating tobacco, shouldn’t we be told that it has been funded by tobacco companies since 1963? There’s a similar pattern in the US: the most vocal groups tend to be the most opaque. As usual, the left and centre (myself included) are beating ourselves up about where we went wrong. There are plenty of answers, but one of them is that we have simply been outspent. Not by a little, but by orders of magnitude. A few billion dollars spent on persuasion buys you all the politics you want. Genuine campaigners, working in their free time, simply cannot match a professional network staffed by thousands of well-paid, unscrupulous people. You cannot confront a power until you know what it is. Our first task in this struggle is to understand what we face. Only then can we work out what to do. • Twitter: @GeorgeMonbiot. A fully linked version of this column will be published at monbiot.com