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Time for the Big Society to get down to the nitty-gritty

A small fraction of the ingenuity devoted to the construction of complex financial instruments that no one should want could advantageously be applied to the construction of less complex instruments that meet the needs of the Big Society.

Public projects obscured by private finance

From the start, PFI conflated the desirable aim of exploiting private sector management skills in project supervision with the undesirable aim of obscuring public finances with complex funding structures. It created an industry of advisers with a vested interest in its own expansion.

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.

How to spot a good from a bad quango

Good quangos have specific technical expertise and their purpose is to take issues out of politics. Bad quangos have no distinctive skills and are designed to put issues into politics.

A chance to restore confidence in Britain’s official data

Government spin is especially debilitating because government is a monopoly supplier of much of the information that an informed democracy requires.

Sir John Vickers will hear a lot of tosh on separation...

The Independent Commission on Banking headed by Sir John Vickers which the coalition Government has established will be told that such a separation between utility and casino can't be done – although it was done in Britain for most of the 20th century.

The issue of capital gains need not be so taxing

There is no simple answer to the question: “How should capital gains be taxed?” So there are as many different regimes as there are national tax systems and they are often, as in Britain, in a state of seemingly endless flux.

Brace yourself, Britain, for higher taxation

Britain cannot aspire to continental European levels of public services with lower tax rates. Any British government has to confront that simple fact.

A reality check for fiscal Pollyannas

British governments will need to make tough choices about taxes and public spending in the decade ahead. These choices are inevitably political. But they can only be well made if the information on which these choices are based is not.

The failure of market failure

New Labour economics, in both private and public sectors, is based on the idea of market failure. But the doctrine smuggles in too many neoliberal assumptions, and does not acknowledge collective choices. The centre-left needs something better.

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