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Tax cuts, public spending and morality

Kier Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has vowed to ‘ramp up’ prosecutions against individuals for tax evasion five-fold in two years. He has made clear his plan to target middle-class earners, citing as examples ‘lawyers, tax consultants and plumbers’, an intriguing perspective on the British class

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Telling the Truth about the Retirement Age

In a democracy, it is always a risky business for politicians to tell the electorate things they do not want to hear. So Steve Webb, the pensions minister, must be congratulated.  He told the truth about the retirement age. In a speech last week he stated bluntly: ‘If someone

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Meat and potato pies and the Nobel Prize in economics

Tragedy struck at a mid-week game played during the holiday season in Football League Division Two. The pies ran out in the home supporters’ bar. The incident may seem trivial to those not involved. Yet it illustrates some important themes in economics, which have even gained their inventors

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A quiz for the end of 2012

There are many puzzles about the economy, and in the holiday spirit a quiz is provided at the end. A bottle of champagne from me to the winner, the drawn will be from correct entries on the 31st. It might be difficult predicting the outcome of the

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Bankers, Greens and the Barking Mad: When Prophesy Fails

Forecasts of the end of the world have an even worse track record than predictions in economics.  Some followers of the Mayan calendar believe the world will end next week. But we have been here before.  In 1956, an American group, led by a suburban housewife, believed

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Prisons, incentives and how to save the planet

Criminals are refusing to leave Portugal’s prisons.  According to the International Herald Tribune, prisoners are starting to want to serve the full amount of their sentences rather than be released on parole.  This is despite the fact that there is record over-crowding and conditions inside are reported

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A stitch in time. We need smarter government, but less of it

What is the connection between the content of Boris Johnson’s speech this week to the CBI, tax avoidance and evasion, executive pay, petty crime and plagiarism by students?  This is yet another one where economics can help us with the solution. Economists have long used the example

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International Airlines Group: a ‘fantastic object’? The psychology of mergers and acquisitions

International Airlines Group (IAG), formed in January 2011 by a merger of British Airways and Iberia, is in the news. Operating losses at Iberia in the first nine months of the financial year are believed to be in excess of £200 million. Since the start of last

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Our Friends in the North are trapped in a monetary union

Michael Heseltine’s report on economic growth came out last week.  It contains 89 recommendations.  A mere 57 varieties, to recall the famous Heinz slogan, might have connected it more with popular culture. The report has already attracted a lot of comment, mainly that Lord Heseltine seems nostalgic

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Corporation tax: fostering the illusions of the electorate that someone else will pay

Corporation tax is very much in the news.  Starbucks is merely the latest to be in the spotlight, having paid no corporation tax on more than £1billion of sales in the past three years.  This became noteworthy when the Prime Minister himself declared he was unhappy with the

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