Tuesday 7 May 2002

A visit to Adam Smith's home county

I spent a most enjoyable evening in St Andrews yesterday. The occasion was the launch of Katallaxia, the journal of The Liberty Club. Of the contributors to the new publication, I was able to meet Alex Singleton, Marian Tupy, Conyers Davis and Arrash Zafari. Katallaxia is a Hayekian term meaning “a spontaneous market order free from most governmental intervention”, although my spell checker thinks it should read “Catalonia”! This is an excellent new publication – congratulations to all involved.

The highlight of the evening for me was the chance to meet Sir John Cowperthwaite, formerly Financial Secretary in Hong Kong and now living in St Andrews. Sir John’s economic policies were largely responsible for Hong Kong’s stunning growth and prosperity.

Last week, Wendy Alexander, (INSEAD MBA) resigned as Scotland’s minister for enterprise (and transport and lifelong learning!) She has been succeeded by Iain Gray, (Oxfam), whose lack of business experience has been causing much concern up here. Would it not be wonderful if Sir John could somehow be appointed enterprise minister?

I took a taxi from St Andrews back to the nearest station at Leuchars. There was a large notice in the cab stating: Sick Fee £25. Apparently, new students from the US take about a year to get acclimatised to Scottish licensing laws and often have to pay up after throwing up. Arrash Zafari’s article in Katallaxia calls for further liberalisation of the licensing laws as a way of providing additional part time employment for St Andrews students. Perhaps there is a business opportunity here for impoverished local students to operate a taxi cleaning service thus providing a free market redistribution of wealth from the possibly more prosperous newcomers from abroad.