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Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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Ugly descriptions of the the market economy undermine its real successes

The Labour and Conservative party election manifestos mark a retreat from the economic liberalism of the years from 1980 to 2015. There is a risk that the real achievements in removing obstacles to productivity and innovation will be steadily eroded.

Business is not politics

Why do business leaders often fail in applying their skills to politics?

Trump victory has its roots in the post cold-war settlement

There is wide agreement that Brexit and Trump's election were caused by economics. But this and the prescriptions - tweaks to the income distribution, more aid to failing industries and districts - understate the scale and nature of the problem.

The economics and politics of manufacturing fetishism

As politicians vie with each other to express their love of manufacturing industry, John pulls together thoughts developed over three decades on what he has come to call the 'manufacturing fetish'.

The dangers of confusing democracy with populism

Last week I received a communication from the Electoral Commission about the coming EU referendum. The pamphlet states the case for each side and gives instructions on how to vote. At first sight that process epitomises democracy in action. But on closer examination the leaflet illustrates why momentous decisions should not be made this way.

Political instability stems from the diminished importance of the left-right spectrum

The problem of western democracies such as Britain and the US is that the institutions of a two-party system in which alternating governments compete to attract votes in the centre do not work well when politics is no longer arranged on a one-dimensional spectrum from left to right. Recent political upheavals are only the start of the resulting instability.

Incremental improvements to infrastructure offer better value for money

Does it lift your heart to hear that “Britain is uniquely placed to lead the world in a smart power revolution”? Do you share the ambition of George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, to discover “what the government needs to do to become a world leader in 5G infrastructure”? Here's why my heart sank when reading these words in the plans of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission.

The dangers of ever-closer tax scrutiny

Explaining your possibly complex financial affairs to unsympathetic journalists adds to the already too long list of reasons why able people might not want to go into politics. And such scrutiny draws attention away from genuinely serious and widespread tax evasion, corruption and money laundering, practices.

Central problem with banks is “too complex to fail” not “too...

Recent stumbles by Bernie Sanders illustrate a misdirection in his attack on the banking establishment. The central problem is not so much “too big to fail” but “too complex to fail”.

Democracy thrives on a diversity of thoughtful and sincerely argued views

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” The principle encapsulated in these words from Thomas Jefferson sounds fair. But we should be more anxious to fund the work of non-partisan institutions with direct policy relevance, like the Bank of England, IFS and Royal Society.

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