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“Europe, the source of the Enlightenment, the birthplace of modern science, is in crisis.” So says Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist and sometime chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors.

“Large parts of Europe” have endured “a lost decade”; incomes per head are “lower than before the [2008] global financial crisis”. While Germany is doing “relatively well”, there’s “soaring youth unemployment” in France, Italy and Spain. “In a well-functioning economy, there’s rapid growth, the benefits of which are shared widely,” Stiglitz writes, but “in Europe we see the opposite”.
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So much for the end-of-the-world brigade, who warned the UK economy would collapse if we chose to leave the European Union. Almost two months on from our historic Leave vote, we’re showered in encouraging economic news.

Ahead of the referendum, despite endlessly reported corporate “Brexit fears”, we now know British companies kept hiring. The UK’s employment rate reached a record 74.5pc during the three months to June, according to official data released last week. Some 31.8m people were in work – 172,000 more than the previous quarter. Unemployment fell to 4.9pc of the workforce, an 11-year low.

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‘I don’t have time to write a short letter, so I’ve written a long one instead’. So said American statesman and polymath Benjamin Franklin. Or was it George Bernard Shaw? The source of this quotation is actually rather contested. It’s also been attributed to Churchill and Mark Twain.

Wherever it came from, this pithy aphorism captures what every decent author knows instinctively. Producing a concise, penetrating piece of writing does indeed take a lot more talent and effort than cobbling together an extended marathon of loose, ill-defined prose. This quotation sprung to mind as I recently read Economics of Inequality, a new book by the French academic de nos jours, Thomas Piketty.

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