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London’s mayor is half right on envy, greed and inequality

Envy is both inseparable from economic progress and destructive of social cohesion. Some inequality is inevitable, and there seem to be three principal factors that make it more tolerable.

Quantitative easing and the curious case of the leaky bucket

In the modern financial economy, the main effect of QE is to boost asset prices, as market gyrations of recent weeks have clearly illustrated. But is the pursuit of higher asset prices an effective or desirable means of promoting economic growth?

Darwin’s humbling lesson for business

The match between capabilities and environment is the key to the success of the tortoise. It is also the key to successful business strategy, the effectiveness of institutions, and to personal development.

Sinister or silly, protest politicians are united in grievance

The inability of democratic politics to handle the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis has threatened to undermine the apparent consensus on liberal democracy and lightly regulated capitalism that emerged following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Prosperity requires more than rule of law

When the Chinese ask how to establish the institutions to support a stable, prosperous economy, it is not enough to mumble: “Property rights and rule of law – go to Denmark and see.”

On the brink of a shadow drink industry

Restriction of business on moral grounds is not always unsuccessful but measures have to be applied with great care.

For a stimulus, boring is best

The objective of monetisation has not been to put money in the hands of consumers and businesses but to put money in the vaults of banks.

The limits of what money can buy

Should there be markets for sperm, surrogate motherhood or transplant organs?

The allies who moulded the welfare state

Social policy would, in the long run, owe far more to Eleanor Roosevelt’s claim that “everyone has the right to a standard of living” than to Beveridge’s assertion that “management of one’s income is an essential element of a citizen’s freedom”.

The monumental folly of rent-seeking

The activities of Shah Jahan epitomise rent-seeking – the accumulation of a fortune not by creating wealth through serving customers better but by the appropriation of such wealth after it has already been created by other people.

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