Instant Opinion: ‘Are we due another recession?’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 29 July


The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Peter Franklin in UnHerd

on boom and bust

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Are we due another recession?

“There are all sorts of things that could still go badly wrong: war with Iran; a chaotic Brexit; a renewed Eurozone crisis; an unforeseen build-up of instability in the global financial system; or a delayed reaction to all those doses of quantitative easing. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the economy isn’t behaving the way it used to. But then why should it? Western economies have gone through big and permanent shifts in the past. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t do so again. We speak of economic ‘growth’ without thinking through the implications of the organic metaphor. In growing, living things don’t just get bigger over time they undergo qualitative changes too. A tree, for instance, isn’t just a larger version of sapling, let alone the seed the sapling grew from. Or take human development: an adult behaves differently from a teenager (or ought to), who in turn behaves differently from a primary school age child, who behaves differently from a toddler. Perhaps economies are like people in this respect. They grow, and also grow-up. It would be nice to think that we’re moving on from the exhausting tantrums and meltdowns of the toddler economy into something a little more self-controlled.”

2. James Kirkup in The Times

on the dangers of values-based politics

Boris Johnson has learnt the lessons of Brexit vote

“There are a thousand problems with a politics split between left and right. But politics institutionally divided between Leave and Remain would be far worse, because we wouldn’t be fighting about economic and social policies. We’d be fighting about the sort of people we are and believe our opponents to be. It’s one thing to think that the other side have plans that won’t work: you try to win power by persuading voters that your plans will work better for them. But if politics is a battle of values, there is no such victory to be won, no centre ground in which to compromise: just an endless angry stalemate between leaders using grievance to energise their base. So well done, prime minister, for accepting the need for politics to help the people it forgot. But remember, the only way to win a culture war is not to fight one.”

3. Louis Staples in The Independent

on a good week for the Scottish first minister

Nicola Sturgeon will be rubbing her hands as Boris tilts the scales towards Scottish independence

“The ascent of Johnson, an Etonian Brexiteer who embodies a brand of Englishness that practically drips with colonial nostalgia, personifies this growing divide. Johnson’s premiership makes him the face of the rift. His rise allows the SNP to paint these differences as not only political, but cultural too.”

4. Nick Dearden in The Guardian

on the new government’s free-market zeal

A Trump trade deal with Britain will unleash a bonfire of regulations

“Many Brexiteers have looked longingly across the Atlantic for decades, to an economy where business is free from the shackles of tax and regulation, which they see as a product of the European Union – an entity that competes with the Soviet Union for their disdain. Brexit gives them the opportunity to emulate that US model. And because modern trade deals are concerned less with tariffs, and more with how a country is allowed to regulate food standards, run public services and treat overseas investors, a trade deal with the US would be a powerful mechanism for transforming our economy.”

5. Pilita Clark in The Financial Times

on the pros and cons of ‘agile working’

The hidden hell of hot-desking is much worse than you think

“In a place with stratospheric real estate costs, such as London or Hong Kong, research has shown a single workstation can cost as much as $20,000 a year. Since workstations are often empty, because workers take leave and get sick, the temptation to bring in shared desks is obvious — even though data suggests this can sap productivity. People doomed to hot-desking waste an average of two weeks a year just looking for a place to sit, one British study claimed last month. That did not count the time it takes to set up a computer, adjust a chair and figure out where the people you need to talk to might be perched that day. Nor the efforts made by one hot-desker I know who gets up two hours early so she can get to work in time to nab a desk.”

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