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Retailers have recently complained about the level of business rates. However, were this property tax is reduced their joy will be short lived. Business rates are both a tax on land and a tax on structures, and in the longer term all we would see is higher property values and rents, especially in prime locations.
Adam Smith had not imagined a world in which the Wealth of Nations would cross the world digitally at the click of a mouse. Nor had he envisaged one in which legislation would be drafted by paid lobbyists.
Lobbyists press back the release dates of creative output to the commons with the argument that intellectual output needs to be incentivised. The extension of copyrights, while producing windfall gains for the holders of copyrights on material produced long ago, does little for the artists of that material.
What is important in billiards is the result, not the play: and what matters in business and finance is the outcome, not the process. In business and finance, as in billiards, the imperfections are critical and you can anticipate the result, or understand the outcome, only by appreciating these imperfections.
At the medieval courts Shakespeare described, the exercise of power was not a means to an end, it was itself the end. The political and economic environment has been transformed. But human nature has not, and the factors that drive powerful men today are little different from those that drove them five centuries ago.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was the defining economic event of our lifetime. It marked the end of the most extensive controlled experiment in the history of social sciences – the division of Germany into two economic zones, one centralised and planned, the other a market economy. After forty years, the gap in living standards between the two was so extreme that the experiment was terminated.