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The welfare state’s a worthy Ponzi scheme

The only bread fit to eat is bread baked today: but why should today’s bakers feed the retired bakers of yesteryear?

Our poor excuse for an understanding of poverty

The World Bank’s poverty line is an income of less than $1.25 a day. Financial Times readers, who spend more than that amount on their morning newspaper, are in no position to dispute that judgment.

My generation should repay its good luck

Young people might reasonably ask their parents or grandparents why a much richer society cannot now provide the benefits it provided for an earlier generation. I am not sure I have a good answer.

Basketball shows high banker pay not a slam dunk

The highwayman who offers “your money or your life” leaves you free to choose – in a sense. There is a spectrum, not a sharp distinction, between free exchange and coercion.

Lessons in history for Rebekah Brooks

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responsibility for any of the blunders that seemed to happen wherever he was in charge, ministerial accountability had been replaced by T.S. Eliot’s cat: “When a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there.”

Punish the directors and let the train driver go free

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.

Cautionary lessons on ethics from yet another bank fiasco

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.

Untainted giving – and the true meaning of Santa

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.

How the British prefer to register displeasure

The interpretation of fairness is culturally specific but rarely does it correspond to measures of income inequality. Fairness is a perception, not a Gini coefficient.

Wall Street play for which we pay

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.

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