Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

IREF Europe - Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal issues

Fiscal competition
and economic freedom


Online Articles

White paper on the future of the EU.
“EU first”?

The EU is facing difficult challenges within its borders (weaker economic performance and Brexit) and outside (a more inward-looking America). The Commission has recently released a White Paper describing possible scenarios for the future of the Union. Here is our take on the Commission’s (...)

The War on Cash: Haldane Edition
by Kevin Dowd

Kevin Dowd is professor of finance and economics at Durham University. Kevin has written extensively on the history and theory of free banking, central banking, financial regulation, and monetary systems.
The Adam Smith Institute have recently published my report “Killing the Cash Cow: Why (...)

The Relevance of Regulation for the Greek Debt Crisis
Iref Working Paper

Greece’s government debt keeps Europe busy for almost 7 years now. The government debt ratio adds up to almost 180% of the GDP. According to Transparency International, Greece is ranked 69th globally for corruption – a serious obstacle. Also, Greece is the most regulated country in Europe. (...)

The UK Spring Budget 2017

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has recently delivered in Westminster a rather uncontroversial Spring Budget. What has been greatly controversial, and rather embarrassing, was that the Chancellor has been accused of breaching a conservative manifesto promise and asked to (...)

Public transportation in Italy, Uber and the need for liberalisation and competition

In February 2017, the Italian government defused a heated confrontation with the representatives of licensed taxi drivers. They were asking for protection against forms of allegedly unfair competition, such as the platform Uber. The solution has been found when the government promised to put (...)

The Fight Against Crime Does Not Need A Cash Ban

Governments around the globe are trying to limit the use of cash by their citizens. Most European countries already implemented upper limits for the amount of cash that can be used for payments. The German government is currently considering prohibiting citizens from paying bills of more than (...)

Zero-sum Thinking: Disadvantageous, but gaining Ground

Economists do not regard the world as a zero-sum game, but as a positive sum game in which all voluntary participants in an interaction are winners and no one loses. Hence, people are cooperating voluntarily as buyers and sellers in markets as they are benefiting from both roles. It is not (...)

The European energy market and the agreement with Gazprom

Has the European Court of Justice interrupted a honeymoon between Gazprom and the EU?
The energy giant Gazprom has been investigated by the EU Commission over an alleged abuse of dominant position and anticompetitive practices. At the end of 2016, Gazprom submitted a proposal with changes to (...)

The complex puzzle of the EU trade policy in an emerging new global scenario

Europe recently faces, on one side, the potential isolationism of the USA (and the UK) and, on the other, aggressive competition from China. This provides an opportunity to the EU to confirm its support to free trade and to influence the conduct of trading partners.
A protectionist wind from (...)

Tensions between EU and US multinationals: just a matter of antitrust regulation?

A radical change is gradually emerging in the attitude of the European Union towards multinational hi-tech giants. On the one hand, the new approach may be explained by the fact that European politicians have recently become more aware of the public policy implications of new technologies. On (...)

Seen and not seen: ECB Monetary Policy and Zombie Firms

When interest rates on government bonds of struggling countries in the Eurozone rose heavily, up to the summer of 2012, ECB president Mario Draghi announced on 26. July 2012 that “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.” It was the birth of the not yet used OMT program (...)

The chances of a successful recovery in Spain

At the beginning of 2008, Spain experienced an unprecedented bust in the housing market. The bust triggered a banking crisis and a recession. Moreover, Spain has dealt recently with political instability. The results of December 2015 and June 2016 election were inconclusive and only in October (...)

Education policy and Competitiveness: Secondary School Reform in UK

In the last few weeks the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has revealed plans to reform the UK secondary education. Her proposition sees the reintroduction of the Grammar Schools model - ruled out in 1965 – among the poll of choices for secondary schooling in UK. Beyond this decision lays (...)

Roam like at home! Or Not?

The creation of a European Digital Single Market is moving forward, but the risk of regulatory capture is significant and it is undermining the success of the project.
The reduction of roaming costs Consistent with the EU strategy of creating a Digital Single Market, the abolition of (...)

Speculation: Beneficial to the Market Economy

Speculation: Beneficial to the Market Economy
Speculators are currently not very popular. For the globalisation sceptics from Attac speculation is to be blamed for high food prices and famines in third world countries. The German Minister for Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel accuses the (...)

Italy and the need for a new industrial revolution

The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has recently announced the intention of the government to invest 13 billion euros to help modernizing Italian manufacturing. Leaving aside reasonable doubts regarding how the government will manage to raise these funds, it appears evident that Mr Renzi (...)

Economic Growth without a Government?

Economic Growth without a Government?
Germany 2005, Belgium 2010-2011, USA 2013, Spain 2016: Even in well established democracies it can happen that governments lose a substantial part of their competencies or have to confine themselves to their representative tasks. There can be various (...)

A “poisoned” Apple for the EU?

The EU Commission’s investigation
After a three-year investigation, on the 30th of August 2016 the European Commission has concluded that Ireland should recover up to €13bn (£11bn) from Apple. The Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said that Ireland allowed Apple to pay substantially less than (...)

Capitalism and Democracy

Capitalism and Democracy: A recipe for Wealth and Freedom
Almost 90% of all Germans believe that democracy is the best political system, despite the slight decrease in approval ratings during the past few years. However, only a quarter of the population thinks the same way about capitalism, (...)

Brexit’s turmoil and UK commercial property funds

Commercial property sector in UK after the Brexit referendum The UK’s choice to leave the EU triggered great instability on the financial markets resulting in currency value shocks and asset volatility while both businesses and consumers’ confidence fell sharply. Commercial property has been amid (...)

Reform in the market for Higher Education in England

In May 2016, the Ministry for Universities and Science of the UK Government published the white paper “Success as a knowledge-economy”. The explicit intention of the document is to indicate a path of reform for higher education in the country. The proposal argues in favour of a series of (...)

The wind of Brexit on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

The agreement
On the 5th of July, just a few days after the UK expressed its intention to regain trade negotiation autonomy with the Brexit referendum, the EU has found itself in a pivotal position. It had to take an important decision regarding the nature of the Comprehensive Economic and (...)

Italian Banks: Bail-In or Bail-Out

Something is rotten in Italy, namely Italian bank loans amounting to € 360 billion. For around one out of five loans payback is doubtful. Such an imbalance in the Italian banking sector is a reminder of the financial crisis in 2008. In response to the crisis the European Single Resolution (...)

Economic Freedom: Remedy against Corruption

During the next months the Olympic Games will take place in Brazil. As was already the case during the Football World Championships 2014, we will see many reports about the widespread corruption in this country. Unfortunately, far less attention will be paid to how underdeveloped economic (...)

The Serbian r(EU)volution passes through privatization and political stability

A difficult economic scenario
The Serbian economy needs a shock to take a path of recovery based on growth and modernization. The IMF recently argued that even if the country “continued to make important progress in fiscal consolidation… important challenges remain to ensure a durable fiscal (...)

New Policy Paper Available: Taxing corporations: why it is not only bad, but unjust
by Pierre Bessard and Fabio Cappelletti

Our latest Policy Paper is now available.
Taxing corporations: why it is not only bad, but unjust by Pierre Bessard and Fabio Cappelletti (Liberal Institute, Geneva, Switzerland).

The potential of sharing (the) economy

Some figures on the sharing economy
The sharing economy is a market system that requires peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services. The sharing is possible thanks to the use of digital platforms that allow peer-to peer transactions. The phenomenon (gross revenues were (...)

A report on the IREF Workshop in London (6th June 2016)

On Monday the 6th of June 2016 an IREF workshop in cooperation with St. Mary’s University took place in London. International academic presenters gave talks on their recent research articles, providing stimulating and interesting insights on issues that are at the centre of the IREF proposals. (...)

The reform of the BBC

The BBC Charter
The British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, is the oldest and largest broadcasting corporation in the world. It is funded (partially) by annual licence fees charged to all households possessing any type of equipment to receive TV broadcasts. BBC shows, documentaries and TV (...)

Universal Credit and Cross Generation Inequality after the Welfare System Reform in the UK

In recent years, the Welfare System in the UK has undergone radical changes beginning with the design and implementation by the Government of the Universal Credit, a single payment streamlining six in-work benefits (including Jobseeker’s Allowance; Housing Benefit; Working Tax Credit; Child Tax (...)

(Br)Exit Strategy

In less than a month, UK voters will be asked to express their intention to leave the EU in a referendum. The UK Prime Minister David Cameroon has strongly argued in favour of staying. However there is disagreement among Conservative MPs, and a few Ministers of his Government have spoken in (...)

The sector of delivery services and the privatization of Royal Mail

2016 is going to be a crucial year for Royal Mail, RM, the 500 year old British postal operator whose privatization process (started in October 2013) was finally completed in October 2015. In a broad sense, it is a decisive time for the entire sector of delivery services in Great Britain. The (...)

The market for sex, human trafficking and the EU

Back in 2014, several European countries started including the revenues from drugs and prostitution into their national accounting systems. These two sectors have several characteristics in common. First, the consumption of drugs and paid sex is usually considered an immoral activity from a (...)

The Northern Powerhouse

An historic decentralization deal in England
There is historically in England a North/South division. In the South, trade and financial services have made London the target of international investments and the principal source of economic growth in the country. In the North, there is no city (...)

The Intellectual Property Rights Battle in the era of the Mass Customisation Revolution

Addictive Manufacturing (AM) is the name adopted in industries whose production is defined by the use of large scale 3D printing techniques. 3D printing is a technology which builds three-dimensional objects from a digital prototype. Today AM represents the foremost level of digitalisation in (...)

The Italian (Bad) Bank

A deteriorated banking sector in a worn-out economy At the beginning of 2016, in the context of the new EU legislation on “bail in”, Italy found itself unprepared to face the emerging crisis of its credit system, mainly caused by two correlated elements: 1. a banking sector weakened by a large (...)

A critical time for the NHS

How is NHS coping with winter?
Winter is historically, and not surprisingly, a very challenging time for the UK National Health System, NHS, due to lower temperatures and the spread of viral infections. Winter 2015/2016 seems to be particularly bad and the system is showing clear signs of a (...)

The debate over Net Neutrality

Net neutrality: what is the debate about?
The Internet has probably been the fastest developing industry of the last two decades, leading it to become a necessary instrument in our daily life and a possible engine of economic growth. In this context, the net neutrality principle broadly says (...)

The 2016 reform of the UK labour market

The UK labour market at the beginning of 2016 is in a rather good shape. The rate of unemployment has decreased steadily in the last two years and is now approaching pre-crisis figures. Employment at 73.9% is reaching also record levels.
Presenting the summer budget, George Osborne, the (...)

How fiscal policy of the 1400s created Industrial Revolution in the 1800s

The Nobel-Laureate Douglass North passed away at the end of November. Though he didn’t specialise in fiscal questions, his analysis of institutions in early modern Europe reveals that actual fiscal choices about how to finance an army help to determine the fortunes and falls of European powers. (...)

No Schwexit, at least for now.
New developments in the land of the fiscally federal.

Switzerland may be known for low taxes, but that does not prevent it from redistributing them; richer regions subsidise the poorer ones. Now at least one paying canton is starting to protest against the arrangement. There really is a big difference between how much taxpayers in different (...)

Sugar taxation won’t work and anway, there’s a better way.

The UK government has been watching Jamie Oliver’s TV shows and now wants to implement his plans for a new tax on sugar. The Commons‘ Health Committee has reported its overwhelming support for the idea at the end of November. Other than arguments that such taxes are “good per se“ because they will (...)

UK government is wrong. 5p for plastic bags *is* a tax. And it’s badly designed.

At the beginning of October, England became the last constituent part of the United Kingdom to introduce a compulsory charge for plastic shopping bags (to be paid by the shopper), after similar taxes had been introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in previous years. The relevant (...)

Policy Paper: Asylum migration and barriers to labour market entry
Policy recommendations for easier access

A successful integration of asylum migrants arriving in Europe will largely depend on their success on the European labour arket. In a new Policy Paper we investigate the labour market barriers faced by asylum migrants in Germany, France and the UK. We recommend a full elimination of barriers (...)

How taxes have created the cheating Volkswagen

Strange behaviours are often caused by strange taxes or subsidies. The strange behaviour of Volkswagen believing it could cheat and not get found out was motivated partly by the strange tax/subsidy policies in Europe which subsidised diesel at the cost of petrol (...)

Populism and government greed jeopardise rule of law

In an alarming trend, individuals, companies and institutions that have committed no crime are increasingly finding themselves subject to public witch-hunts on ill-defined ‘ethics’ charges. The practice is gaining traction in several countries, though it remains unclear who has the authority to (...)

Improving the environment in the EU: taxation does not work, property rights do.

Two routes exist in theory towards making people behave more environmentally: through taxation, and through better defining and upholding of property rights. Empirical evidence suggests that at least in the EU, environmental taxation does not seem to work. Greater reliance on property rights (...)

Press Independence, State Broadcasters, and Safeguard Against Power Abuse

An essential component of a free society is independent press. It plays a central role in preventing both state actors and private interest groups from pursuing their own interests through state power too aggressively. Journalists independent from political and economic power work effectively (...)

Grab on African resources deepens. Not by China, but by the EU.

The best way how rich countries can help the poorer ones has always been to teach them how to fish. Not giving them fish. And certainly not taking fish away from them.
Yet this is what the EU has been doing since the 1970s, and in September it has renewed three multi-year greatly underpriced (...)

Germany: the highest income equality among large rich economies

Germany Income per capita is not only high in Germany, it is also relatively equally distributed in the population. OECD data indicate that only a few small countries have income both higher and more equally distributed than Germany. In other large European countries like France, UK, Italy or (...)

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