Articles

What did the US Supreme Court have to say about Sir Malcolm Rifkind in 1874?

The Supreme Court of the 1870s took the view that free speech and honest speech were two sides of the same coin. In 2010 the same court held that the expression of views you are paid to hold is an activity deserving of the protection awarded to free speech under the First Amendment.

It’s too risky to rely on financial risk models

Extremes among observed outcomes are much more often the product of “off-model” events than the result of vanishingly small probabilities. The implication is that most risk models are unsuitable for the principal purpose for which they are devised: protecting financial institutions against severe embarrassment or catastrophic failure.

Barnett formula erodes the concept of “English votes for English laws”

Any action by the UK government that has tax or expenditure implications anywhere in the UK, whether related to reserved or devolved functions, will have consequences for tax and expenditure decisions in Scotland through the Barnett formula.

The pitfalls of a north Atlantic free trade area

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is currently being negotiated between America and the EU. My instinct is to approve, but the international handling of investor-state disputes may have some nasty side effects.

Why worry about deflation?

Our perception that inflation is the normal condition is no more than a reflection of the experience of people alive today. And there is no qualitative difference between an economy in which prices are rising slightly and one in which prices are falling slightly.

Public debt and the more subtle ways we risk cheating future generations

Two decades ago, the American economist Laurence Kotlikoff proposed a structure of “intergenerational ac­counting” to enable us to better understand the ways in which our actions today impinge on the welfare of generations to come. Only if we develop and broaden that framework can we start to address the question Roche put to his fellow parliamentarians 350 years ago.

In finance and politics it pays more to be right than to be active

In the face of an event like the attack on Charlie Hebdo, the urge to respond decisively is natural and strong. But the bias to immediacy and action is as pervasive in finance as it is in politics.

Rise in US and UK inequality principally due to financialisation and executive pay

The people who ran big companies were always relatively well paid, but the meaning of “relatively well paid” is now altogether different. Finance employs more people, recruits more able people and pays them a lot more. These effects have not been seen in countries, such as France and Germany, that have proved more resistant to financialisation.

Scottish independence vote will continue to shape British politics

Anyone who thinks that the Smith Commission proposals on further devolution for Scotland will defuse the remaining issues lives in a political bubble distant from the interests of ordinary voters.

Rationality will be at work this Christmas

At Christmas people will spend time with relatives they do not much like, give presents that the recipients value at less than they cost, and eat and drink more than they know is good for them. This is not completely irrational.