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Emmanuel Macron recently declared that it was time for France to return plundered treasures to its former African colonies. The imperial era, the French president said, belongs to a “past that needs to pass”. 

Is Mr Macron right? Should other ex-colonial powers follow suit? In his latest column, Philip Stephens argues that they should. As the judgment of history on the age of empire takes on a darker hue, the case for the repatriation of cultural artefacts looks harder to resist.

In any event, as Philip notes, Mr Macron did not say that every object in the west’s great museums should be returned to its place of origin. On the contrary, he is merely suggesting that the claims of those institutions be balanced against the rights of peoples whose heritage was plundered. And that is hard to argue with.

Deregulation dilemmas
How worried should partisans of financial regulation be about proposals by the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to reduce banks’ leverage ratios? Some reformers worry that this move presages a more significant loosening of the regulatory regime. But, Gillian Tett argues, their anxiety might be misplaced. For one thing, neither Jay Powell nor Randall Quarles, Donald Trump’s appointments as chair and vice-chair of the Fed, is a dyed-in-the-wool deregulator. Watch this space.

The costs of intervention
As the war in Syria has dragged bloodily on, the costs of western intervention have risen, argues Roula Khalaf. The conflict has mutated over time into a series of inter-connected confrontations involving several regional powers. Another US-led air strike on regime targets is unlikely to resolve any of them.

Why weak wage growth matters
The persistent weakness of wages is one of the most important features of the British economy, writes Chris Giles. Not only is it one of the factors driving public dissatisfaction with capitalism, it is also crucial for monetary policy. Despite unemployment being below its pre-crisis level, wage growth remains sluggish. The Bank of England still has some room for manoeuvre.

FT Big Picture
On April 16, the FT launches Big Picture, a new podcast in which our columnists and commentators explore the ideas and trends that are re-shaping the world in fundamental ways. Listen to a trailer here.

Best of the rest

Facebook and the future of online privacy — Jeffrey Sachs for Project Syndicate

Trump’s tweets and the authorization of war — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker 

Appointing yet another white, male director Is a missed opportunity for the Met — Liza Oliver in the New York Times

House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics — Matthew Yglesias in Vox

Labour can’t assume that Theresa May will fail. That’s far too risky — Martin Kettle in the Guardian

What you’ve been saying

Auditors should answer to stakeholder panels— letter from Charlie Geffen

During the government consultation on corporate governance last year a significant number of responses supported the establishment of stakeholder advisory panels to operate alongside boards. These panels would be appointed by boards but be made up of a wider set of stakeholder interests — shareholders, yes, but also employees, customers, suppliers and community interests. Having auditors appointed by, and accountable to, stakeholder panels would be another valuable role for them and help create a more objective relationship between management and auditor.

Comment from T B Hall on The wealthy ‘Next Gen’ with their eyes on your assets

Most inherited wealth is landed wealth, which is not something a young upstart can go and out-compete. I am very fearful that the destruction of meritocracy we have witnessed over the last 20 or 30 years will end in disaster.

Abandoning veto would destroy UN’s relevance— letter from Edward Mortimer

Leaving aside the fact that this is constitutionally impossible (since the powers wielding the veto can use it on amendments to the charter), it would in fact be the surest way to drain the UN of its remaining relevance. The US, and probably also Russia, would immediately withdraw from the UN if they no longer had the power to veto Security Council decisions. The UN’s founding fathers were concerned above all to prevent another world war. The veto was put there to ensure that enforcement action against a transgressor state could only be taken by the five then great powers acting together.

Brexit: stand by for the museum of Nigel’s garage Roll up, roll up to view the oil spot of freedom and the broken lawnmower of liberty

Today’s opinion

Fix the UK housing problem to help the ailing retail sector
Consumers will spend on furnishings and gardening if they feel invested in their homes

Why weak wage growth matters for monetary policy
Workers have lost bargaining power and there is no sign of them agitating for pay rises

Syria response: bombing is no substitute for policy
Western governments have hoped for Assad’s demise but without the will to act

The west’s great museums should return their looted treasures
Demands for repatriation of artefacts seized by marauders are becoming hard to resist

FT Alphaville: Tariffs increase savings in a world already drowsy with too much savings

Lombard: Asos investors shy away from last year’s lines
Uncertainty about profitability unsettles a group valued at 70 times forecast earnings

FT View

FT View: Tax reform could boost London’s housing market
Economic uncertainty has resulted in fewer UK property transactions

FT View: Mark Zuckerberg under the hot lights in Washington
Regulating Facebook is not as tricky as Congress makes it seem

The Big Read

The Big Read: AI in banking: the reality behind the hype
The industry is taking a cautious approach in spite of excitement about new technology

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