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Coping with an increasingly elderly population is a challenge facing all western countries, including the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service is struggling to manage social care demands on a tight budget. Theresa May attempted to tackle the subject in June’s snap election. But her bold proposals were rejected by a sceptical public and a U-turn duly followed three days after they were first aired.

Bronwen Maddox argues in an opinion piece that we may be reaching the “end of inheritance”. The middle-class dream of bequeathing property and assets to the next generation is fading in the face of social care costs. Mrs May’s plans would have brought the value of an individual’s home into an assessment of their assets. This would have forced more people to use the equity in their properties to pay for care, but the higher threshold of £100,000 would have been more “equitable”.

A proper conversation about elderly care is overdue. Back in the summer, Labour lambasted the Conservatives’ proposals, soon referred to as a “dementia tax”. The attempt to have a grown-up conversation about social care descended into petty political point scoring. With so much of the UK’s domestic agenda blocked by Brexit, the old age challenge is unlikely to be solved in the next couple of years. And by then, the concept of inheritance may well and truly have been lost.

Person in the news: Alec Russell profiles Cyril Ramaphosa, the new leader of South Africa who hopes to turn around the country’s decade of drift. The 65-year-old lawyer-turned-union-leader has an impressive CV, but does he possess the ruthlessness to see through radical reforms?

Inbox salvation: Tim Harford argues that we all need to join the “slow email” movement and look at our inboxes less. Sheer willpower might do it for some. But for others, there are handy technological solutions to break the addiction.

May-be it’s cold outside: Henry Mance pens a British political Christmas ditty. For a summary of 2017, you can do far worse than humming this while facing the final round of cooking/shopping/family interactions.

FT Opinion is taking a break over the festive season. We will be back next Friday for a one-off update on our best articles over the week. Until the new year, we wish you a very happy Christmas from Frederick, Jonathan, Sebastian, Miranda and everyone else on the FT’s comment team.

Best of the rest

Tax-Cut Santa Is Coming to Town — Paul Krugman in the New York Times

The blue passport is taking back control? No, it was first imposed on us from abroad — James Baldwin in The Guardian

Now, Tax Reform Gets Real — Kimberley Strassel in the Wall Street Journal

Catalonia shows the EU’s real weakness: the stormy divisions of its own member states — Sophie Gaston in The Telegraph

Can Trump and Mattis last? — David Ignatius in The Washington Post

What you’ve been saying

Modern economics’ place in moral philosophy — from Dr William Dixon and Dr David Wilson

“Sir, Gideon Rachman is right to point out that economics is part of moral philosophy (‘The Germans are right about economics’, December 19). However, he does not pin down the issue. Economics is not bereft of but rather upholds a moral position; the problem is, what is that moral position? We can turn to early philosophy. After the emergence of money in ancient Greece a group of itinerant thinkers, the sophists, argued that what mattered in argument was success. They regarded selling their skills not just as a purpose but as confirmation of their quality. The sophist Callicles, arguing in Plato’s Gorgias that laws of nature and of convention were opposed, was in no doubt that ‘the man who’ll live correctly ought to allow his own appetites to get as large as possible and not restrain them’, and that ‘wantonness, lack of discipline, and freedom, if available in good supply, are excellence and happiness’.”

Comment by John on Robert Shrimsley’s column about quitting twitter, Become a Qwitter to salvage Twitter

“I was a twitter addict until a few weeks ago. Checked it every thirty minutes. Suddenly realised it was all pointless angry shouting, so deleted the app from my phone, resolving only to use the service when I was desperate to follow a breaking news story in real time. I haven’t looked back since, and am much happier and more positive as a result.”

Care home helped my father smile again — from Alison Jamieson

“Sir, I was deeply moved by Guy Dinmore’s account of his final year living with his father’s Alzheimer’s ( ‘My father Pete and our final long goodbye’). My father also suffered from this disease, so I can guess at the sacrifices Mr Dinmore must have made. Faking reassuring letters from the War Office and from the bank were great ideas . . . As Mr Dinmore says, each sufferer is unique, and requires dignified and personal care. Thank you for the timely reminder of this devastating disease.”

Today’s opinion

The Big Read: Republicans gamble that they can sell their tax cuts
The White House hopes the bill passed this week will boost growth and salaries, but will voters view it as a package for plutocrats?

FT Alphaville: Mihir Desai explains the wisdom of finance — Now with transcript!

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: A time for giving
Trump’s Christmas tax gift

Our secular society draws from the well of Christian tradition
God, far from dying, enjoys a comeback as those without religion make up a minority

Person in the News: Cyril Ramaphosa, a leader’s long wait to save South Africa
This trade union chief turned tycoon has the wiles to reverse a decade of drift

Tensions in Europe
How far is the EU’s unity wounded by populism, separatism and nationalism?

Best of the Big Read 2017
From the Weinstein exposé to Brexit’s real price and questions over green technology

Long Island Iced Tea’s blockchain pivot is the height of mania
The cryptocurrency bubble stirs memories of the dotcom boom

Theresa, May-be it’s cold outside
Christmas ditty for a British prime minister under siege

A Year in a Word: En Marche
Macron swept to power in France with his new movement, but voters now ask where he is leading them

Undercover Economist: The route to salvation lies in your inbox
‘Slow email’ software works where your willpower does not

An ageing population and the end of inheritance
Taboos about where the burden of elderly care falls will have to be tackled soon

FT View

FT View: A restorative reshuffle for the UK government
May should freshen her domestic agenda in the new year

FT View: The Catalonia question calls for a creative answer
An inconclusive election result puts pressure on Spain’s Rajoy government

The Big Read

The Big Read: Republicans gamble that they can sell their tax cuts
The White House hopes the bill passed this week will boost growth and salaries, but will voters view it as a package for plutocrats?

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