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Ancient and Modern: A tax on luxury

30 June 2012

The Chancellor is desperate to get more cash into his wallet. Why not try the old trick — a tax on luxuries, or rather, an even greater tax on luxuries?… Read more

Ancient and modern: Romans and republicans

23 June 2012

During the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations, every Polly in the world chanted dispraise of Her Majesty, who is personally responsible (one claimed) for Trident, public schools, income difference, lack of job opportunities… Read more

Thucydides on Greece’s choice

16 June 2012

In 416 bc, the island of Melos, neutral in the war between Athens and Sparta, was confronted with a choice by the Athenians: yield to us or else. The contemporary… Read more

Ancient and modern: Cicero on Leveson

2 June 2012

Culture minister Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser Adam Smith landed the minister in the soup by his too-cosy texts to News Corp about the proposed BSkyB takeover. He resigned, and Labour… Read more

Ancient and modern: An ostracism is called for

26 May 2012

So: Angela Merkel proposes a Greek referendum on the euro, David Cameron says the forthcoming election there is the equivalent of a referendum. But as ancient Greeks knew, what is… Read more

Ancient and modern: The wrong ancient gods

19 May 2012

The Royal Mint has just released some gold coins to celebrate the London Olympics. John Bergdahl, who designed them, explained the source of his ‘inspiration’ as ‘the first Olympic Games… Read more

Ancient and modern: Aesop on Alex Salmond

12 May 2012

In Aesop’s fable, mother frog threatened to explode by puffing herself up to a size big enough to take on the ox that had accidentally trodden on one of her… Read more

Ancient and modern: Plato on Breivik

28 April 2012

The trial of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik might have met with Plato’s approval — for the time being. In his last work Laws, Plato provided a detailed description… Read more

Ancient and modern: Power junkies

21 April 2012

As local councils seize more power from central government, with more to come if Osborne’s plan to link salaries to location comes good, Labour MPs are already giving up on… Read more

Ancient and modern: Going postal

14 April 2012

The principle of the Royal Mail is far older than our youthful version, which was founded in 1516 by Henry VIII’s ‘Master of the Posts’ and made publicly available in… Read more

Ancient and modern: Plutarch on pasties

7 April 2012

Any appeal to the electorate that the coalition may once have had seems to be fading fast. If the decision to put VAT on a hot pasty turns out to… Read more

Ancient and modern: Morality without gods

31 March 2012

As vicars, traditional or trendy, assert that God is or is not in favour of something, one is reminded that there were cultures for whom divinely inspired scriptures did not… Read more

Ancient and modern: Imperial tax brackets

17 March 2012

Nick Clegg’s idea of taxing tycoons sounds very ‘modernising’, but tycoons need a pro quo for their quids, sorry, quae, as the Roman historian Livy knew. For Romans, there was… Read more

Ancient and modern: When the people decide

10 March 2012

Though our ‘democracies’ are designed to prevent any popular involvement, there are times when the situation becomes so critical that only the people have the authority to make the final… Read more

Ancient and modern: The point of ritual

3 March 2012

Humanists are breast-beating about the wicked influence of Christian practice on civil life. Julius Caesar would have put them straight. There were no pagan scriptures underpinning creeds, belief in one… Read more

Ancient and modern: The meaning of expertise

18 February 2012

While it is obviously the case that every university wants to teach bright students, it is statistically probable that Oxbridge fails to pick up a number of students who are… Read more

Ancient and modern: Scapegoat of the year

11 February 2012

The world informs us that the ex-Sir-cised knight Fred has been tipped off his horse onto a scapegoat. Wrong again. The Judaic [e]scapegoat ritual provided annual blanket cover for the… Read more

Ancient and modern: Call that a spectacle?

4 February 2012

The Grand Olympic Opening Ceremony will apparently inform us ‘who we are, who we were and who we wish to be’ — just in case we had forgotten — and… Read more

Ancient and modern: The business of glory

28 January 2012

So: So: capitalism bad, ‘responsible’ capitalism good. But is ‘responsibility’ the real issue? What is irresponsible about taking bonuses written into your contract? For people in that world, there should… Read more

Ancient and Modern: Aristotle on Balls

21 January 2012

The reason why shadow chancellor Balls is such a liability is that he is incapable of understanding how other people feel. That may not matter in relation to the opposition… Read more

Ancient and modern: Philanthropic pride

14 January 2012

Sir Paul Ruddock has revealed that he received his knighthood for none but philanthropic reasons. Every ancient would have cheered him to the roof and wondered why bankers like Sir… Read more

Ancient and Modern: Korea’s imperial succession

7 January 2012

With the death of Kim Jong-il and accession of his son Kim Jong-un, these are dodgy days in North Korea. It all goes back to Jong-il’s father Kim Il-sung, who… Read more

Ancient and modern: Gods everywhere

31 December 2011

And so the ‘God’ particle may have been discovered. Or not. Ancient Greeks would have thought it a waste of time, since the rational intellect could deal only with what… Read more

Ancient and Modern: The rules of tyranny

17 December 2011

Since tyrants have had such a high profile this year, child-slayer King Herod, an important player in Matthew’s version of the Christmas story, though absent from Luke’s, is sure to… Read more

Ancient and modern: In praise of barter

10 December 2011

Since austerity is now the order of the day, Greeks are doing the sensible thing and beginning to barter. Aristotle thought it was the only system that kept the world… Read more