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Recent stumbles by Bernie Sanders illustrate a misdirection in his attack on the banking establishment. The central problem is not so much “too big to fail” but “too complex to fail”.
“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” The principle encapsulated in these words from Thomas Jefferson sounds fair. But we should be more anxious to fund the work of non-partisan institutions with direct policy relevance, like the Bank of England, IFS and Royal Society.
It's no surprise that social science professors are to the left of the general population. But I was taken aback by the magnitude of the difference, as indicated by a recent study showing 95% of academics supported Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Is this not of concern? Universities should be encouraging freedom of thought and diversity of opinion.
There is plenty of tax waste and avoidance — but if eliminating them was painless, it would have happened. However, one need not believe in pots of gold behind the tree to be concerned. Tax is a moral issue, and paying it demonstrates a sense of shared values of importance to economic and social life in the modern state.
The Greek crisis is not simply the result of Athens’ inept public administration but also of an extensive carry trade on eurozone convergence by northern European banks, notably in France and Germany, which obtained short-term profits by matching northern eurozone liabilities with southern eurozone assets. For every foolish borrower there is usually a foolish lender.
The 2015 election was an almost unmitigated disaster for the UK Labour party. Yet there was one significant success — an intellectual one. It's called "predistribution". And it has already been put to use by the new Conservative administration with a 40% increase in the minimum wage.
The empires of history have generally collapsed from overstretch, which led to restive populations on the peripheries, and then to doubts about the wisdom of the project in the home country itself. These symptoms are recognisable in Europe today.
The logic of English votes for English laws is irresistible. But the core issue is that it is genuinely difficult to identify purely English matters in a United Kingdom of which England constitutes 85 per cent of the population.
Projects acquire political momentum of their own. The original rationale is forgotten, if indeed it ever existed. And so it has been with HS2, the project to build a high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and then to the north of England.
We once suffered from Norman Angell’s “Great Illusion” that prosperity was the product of aggressive control of territory and resources — and now we know better. The wealth of Denmark is instead built on exporting bacon and drugs to control diabetes — an appropriate combination — around the world.