Welcome to the Brian Micklethwait Archive. We have started to add writings to this site. For progress on this see the news section.
The Magic of a Price Rise
I once heard a group of ladies on the London Underground discussing the quality of the service they were enduring. They agreed about two things: that the train was far too crowded, and that the tickets ought to be cheaper. We can all see what they were getting at, but as a serious policy proposal this would be self-contradictory.
The Failure of Politics and the Pull of Freedom: Reflections on the Work of the Reading Reform Foundation
As with so many enthusiasts for a particular technique, the starting question was simply: “What should people be compelled/persuaded/allowed to do?”, with no huge distinction being made between compelling, persuading and allowing.
Why the Government Should Stop Harassing the Tobacco Trade
We who value freedom first, and tobacco second or less or not at all, must be ready to argue for freedom for smokers and for tobacco traders as for everyone else.
Monty and the Myth of The Unshakeable Plan
What the British learned from Monty was to prefer professionalism to amateurism, meritocracy to aristocracy, fitness to flab. They learned to admire modernity, science and technology.
Reflections and Recollections of an Occasional Career Counsellor
People who go for what they truly want are far more likely to impress their parents than those who follow their mere instructions obediently, but without enthusiasm and with concealed rebelliousness.
We continue to add pamphlets. Economics Notes No. 36 points out that increasing prices can often improve matters.
it is truly wonderful how much good it does to an arrangement to price it properly instead of improperly. And, a product is just as likely to be underpriced as overpriced. If people are, in effect, giving something away, they are all too likely just to slap it down in front of you on a take-it-or-leave-it, whatdid-you-expect-at-this-price basis, rather than serve it up properly. Maybe there are free lunches to be had, but there is an automatic tendency for you to get only what you have paid for.
On the other hand, if the price of a service goes up to the point where it starts properly to reward those who supply it, a truly remarkable process of improvement automatically goes into action. Everything gets better, for all concerned.
By way of example, Brian describes the effect of increasing the price of tickets to Libertarian Alliance conferences.
The difference between £1 and £5 is not, for the punters, a huge one. For us it is the difference between famine and feast. The £1 per head price meant that we had no selling incentive beyond the altruistic urge to give those who did come a good time, and we all know what the libertarian line is on altruism. £5, and we suddenly become rationally egotistical conference pluggers.
In this video, Steve Baker MP recounts how Brian introduced him to books about freedom.
Here is a collection of other places on the internet where you may find writings by Brian.
- Brian Micklethwait’s New Blog
- Contributions to Samizdata
- Podcasts with Patrick Crozier
- Old blog
- Culture blog
- Education blog
- Libertarian Alliance pamphlets
- Normblog profile