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Box-tickers should not be the ones making decisions

Typically reasons given for judgment are rationalisations after the event, the consultation is a formality rather than a sincere search for opinions, and the accountability is a matter of extensive paperwork rather than a genuine appraisal of performance.

Smoking, cynicism and sheer muddled thinking

The measure of the productivity of an activity is the public and private benefit from a good or service that results from that activity.

Why data, soft or hard, cannot replace eyes and ears

In all areas of human endeavour, there are hard data and soft data. The happiness of a society or the progress of a civilisation, are multi-dimensional: components are determined by subjective consensus, not objective measurement.

Airlines and the canine features of unprofitable industries

The efficient industry hypothesis suggests that if an industry looks particularly attractive, or unattractive, then companies will enter, or leave, until the attractiveness or unattractiveness disappears. But then there are businesses which governments are keen on. The airline industry is one of them and governments fight to allow their taxpayers to pour ever more money into black holes.

The question of how countries compete

The question, to which “The US, Finland and Singapore” is the answer, is “Which countries have policies of which the IMD and WEF most approve?” This week, John discusses national competitiveness surveys.

The greying generation is an old problem

We should appreciate the extent to which the world economy has absorbed demographic changes in the last two decades without anyone really noticing. In the second part of a commentary on the debate about the employment of older people, John takes a look at 20th century population changes and their repercussions.

Britannia Farm is right to be kind to its old horses

The notion that there is some abstract entity called the economy, which is distinct from the welfare of the people who live in it, is a crude materialistic fallacy. In the first of a two part commentary on the debate surrounding retirement, John draws parallels between Britannia Farm and the employment of older people.

America’s borrowing bonanza

There are sometimes pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it is rarely wise to count on them to pay your debts. Writing from overseas, John points out that the solution to America’s economic problems will not be a problem for America alone.

For all its faults, France is the place to be

On average, it seems that life is sweeter in France than on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – at least judging by their shorter working hours, longer lunch breaks and extended holidays. In this week’s article, John explains why Jacques Chirac, the French president, is almost the only Frenchman over 70 in regular employment, and why it’s likely to stay that way.

A rich crop of cynicism, greed and mistrust

Genetics is the most exciting of today’s new technologies and has the potential to revolutionise nutrition and medicine. Yet, when it comes to GM food, we are patronised by a discredited government department, misled by campaign groups yearning for publicity, and let down by companies whose self-interest is ridiculously obvious.