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James Ferguson Web

According to Freedom House, an American non-profit organisation, "democracy is in crisis". Assaults on the rule of law and the freedom of the press, and the erosion of liberal norms more generally, are not confined to the "illiberal democracies" of central and eastern Europe either. The so-called democratic recession is being felt in developed countries too, including the US.

In his column this week, Martin Wolf asks why this has happened. Economic liberalism, he argues, has seen large areas of policymaking removed from democratic accountability, while the proceeds of prosperity have not been shared as widely as they might. Political instability and a nationalist backlash in high income countries have been the results.

What is to be done? The first thing elites must do, Martin writes, is to promote liberalism a little less and civic attachment a little more.

Ramachandra Guha, author of a new book on Mohandas K Gandhi, argues that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's attempt to lay claim to Gandhi's legacy is entirely opportunistic.

Courtney Weaver notes that politics and partisan allegiance are shaping the debate over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.

Tom Braithwaite laments the inability of Silicon Valley chief executives to keep their eyes on the job.

What you've been saying

EU cannot amend laws for departing members— letter from Corrado Pirzio Biroli, Brussels, Belgium
To assert after four decades of UK membership, as Giles Conway-Gordon does, that “the sustained intolerance and inflexibility of the EU in the Brexit negotiations, as it seeks to punish the UK for leaving the EU and pull up the drawbridge” has served to underline an unbridgeable conflict, shows ignorance of what the EU is all about. It is a unique example of peaceful integration agreed by sovereign countries in their common interest. He still doesn’t get it that one can never set conditions, either before joining a club, or even more so when leaving it. The only way to change a club’s rules is by joining its board and obtaining the support of its members.

Comment from John B 52 on “ Brexit Britain sets itself up to learn the hard way
British bombast seems to have been grounded in three misconceptions: money, the trade deficit and sentiment. The cash card was played early on when a figure was settled on. EU27 exporters may be worried about losing lucrative UK markets in a hard Brexit but only the Netherlands and Germany will be significantly affected, and the pain is bearable. And sentiment cuts both ways - many in Brussels and further afield are fed up with Britain and just want us to go away. Given that there is a strange symmetry between hard Brexiteers and hard Brussels Europhiles (get on with it), it was entirely predictable that a moderate, win-win Brexit would be almost impossible to deliver. How sad that the PM seems to have been among the last to know.

Entrepreneur figures are skewed against women— letter from Sarah Marks, London, UK
The UK government says women account for just 32 per cent of entrepreneurs, a figure Treasury exchequer secretary Robert Jenrick decries as “shocking”. It is launching a new review into the gap between men’s and women’s business start-up rates. However, numerical measures of male and female entrepreneurship are crude and misleading as they obscure longstanding gendered differences in broader employment patterns. For example, the government commonly uses self-employment figures as a proxy for entrepreneurship. Men dominate the building and specialised-tool operating industries, where career paths often lead to self-employment. Almost a third of self-employed men, counted as “entrepreneurs”, are found in these trades. Taxi-drivers make up another 5 per cent. On the other hand women tend to work in the public sector, hospitality and retail trades, where the route to self-employment is less obvious.

Today's opinion

Tribal feelings colour the Brett Kavanaugh debate
Politics rather than facts predominate in discussion of Supreme Court nominee

Narendra Modi’s paradoxical claim on the legacy of Gandhi
The Indian prime minister is linking his name to a man his own mentor despised

Instant Insight: Founders’ exit puts Zuckerberg in the foreground at Instagram
Facebook chief had enough time to plan for inevitable transition at the imaging app

Saving liberal democracy from the extremes
Elites must recognise that mismanaged economies have helped to destabilise politics

FT Alphaville: Since the crisis, a preference for debt markets over bank loans

FT Alphaville: Further reading

Why Thatcher’s Bruges speech was not a first step towards Brexit
Today’s Tory Leavers misread their heroine’s intentions

How to deal with your team members’ personal crises
Managers cannot escape from this part of the job, but help is at hand

Silicon Valley’s founding geniuses have no interest in management
Brilliant billionaires with attention deficit disorder are bad for business

FT Alphaville: The ICO behind the tragic Everest stunt is now “airdropping” tokens from rockets

FT View

The FT View: Comcast’s expensive bet on the future of media
Sky deal is the latest megamerger aimed at countering the technology titans

The FT View: Cryptocurrency Wild West is crying out for a principled sheriff
A co-ordinated international regulatory framework is long overdue

The Big Read

The Big Read: Private equity plays risky game of musical chairs
Cash-rich firms increasingly buy from each other but debt could threaten some deals

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