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By the time Stephen Byers could slip from one cabinet post to another without taking responsibility for any of the blunders that seemed to happen wherever he was in charge, ministerial accountability had been replaced by T.S. Eliot’s cat: “When a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there.”
Crime often depends on a state of mind. An individual can be dishonest, or intend to kill. But to attribute these characteristics to a business, as distinct from the individuals in a business, is a metaphor too far.
Market economies are always vulnerable to chancers and spivs who sell overpriced goods to ill-informed customers and seem to promise things they do not intend to deliver.
Incentives and rewards are not the same thing, and people who complain that the spirit of Christmas is eroded by commercialisation are not simply priggish. The direct juxtaposition of the purely commercial exchange with the exchange based solely on mutual affection is offensive and unstable.
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.