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In the regulation of business affairs, from dress codes to rules on takeovers, it is always tempting to try to translate general principles into specific rules. But the world is rarely sufficiently clear and certain for this to be possible, and if it seems so today it will have ceased to be so tomorrow.
Activities that are good in themselves are good for the economy, and activities that are bad in themselves are bad for the economy. The only intelligible meaning of “benefit to the economy” is the contribution – direct or indirect – the activity makes to the welfare of ordinary citizens.
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.