Some pretty striking cross-local-authority correlations have been reported in the media since the referendum result was announced. For example, the percentage voting Leave appears to have a strong negative relationship with both average education and average income across local authorities.
The long-term goal of many senior European politicians and bureaucrats is to create a European federal state, a federation of European territories with a governmental structure similar to the USA’s: that is, a United States of Europe. Indeed, there are several lines of evidence indicating this to be the case.
Income inequality has risen to prominence as one of the central political issues of our time. Since the Great Recession, protests linked to the Occupy movement have occurred in many different countries around the world, often under slogans such as “We are the 99%”. A recent survey by the World Economic Forum of 700 elite decision-makers identified “Severe income disparity” as the 4th most concerning global risk in 2014. And 68% of investors responding to a recent Bloomberg Global Poll said that governments should confront the problem of income inequality. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, reiterated these concerns when she spoke to the Financial Times early last year.
Generalized trust refers to trust in other members of society. In large social surveys, it is assessed with the question, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” Notwithstanding the question’s simplicity, generalized trust is correlated with a large number of important variables. At the macro-level, countries with higher generalized trust experience faster economic growth (Algan and Cahuc, 2010; Bjornskov, 2012) and have more efficient public institutions (Putnam, 1993; Tabellini, 2008). At the micro-level, individuals with higher generalized trust report better health (Giordano et al., 2012) and claim to be happier with their lives over all (Helliwell and Wang, 2011).
A recent article in the Independent reported evidence that the sex ratio at birth is significantly male-biased within some ethnic groups in the U.K. The natural sex ratio at birth is approximately 105 boys to 100 girls. However, according to the article, there are groups in which the sex ratio at birth is as high as 1.2 for second born children. As the article points out, such large deviations from the natural sex ratio implicate the use of sex-selective abortions. In particular, parents who already have a daughter may be selectively aborting female fetuses in an attempt to ensure that their next child is a boy.
The BBC News website recently featured a quiz based on Hans Rosling’s TV show, The Truth about Population. Judging by the results, people in Britain have a relatively poor understanding of how much life expectancy has increased over the last few decades. At present, average life expectancy in the world is approximately 70 years. However, 56% of respondents thought that it was 60 years or lower. And 76% of university graduates thought it was 60 years or lower. Only 30% of respondents, and only 20% of university graduates, gave the correct answer of 70 years.
In this post, I will examine the question of whether smoking is a positive fiscal externality in the UK. A person’s fiscal contribution is equal to the total taxes she pays minus the total public money that is spent on her during her lifetime. If taking-up smoking leads to an increase in the average person’s fiscal contribution, then smoking is a positive fiscal externality; if taking-up smoking leads to a decrease in her fiscal contribution, then it is a negative externality. Smoking affects a person’s fiscal contribution in a number of ways: it affects her income taxes (via its impact on her productivity in the labour market), it affects her consumption taxes, it affects her healthcare expenses, and it affects her pension contributions and benefits. In addition, it may affect other people’s fiscal contributions via passive smoking.