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Sensible, moderate, honourable — if, perhaps, a little dull. These are the characteristics of 20th-century Britain that won it the admiration of overseas friends, writes Martin Sandbu, who counts himself as one. These days, amid the chaos of Brexit and increasingly vituperative and self-sabotaging politics, they are wondering what on earth has happened.

The question they should be asking, according to Martin, is whether they were mistaken all along about their island neighbour’s identity. Perhaps Britain’s stalwart defence of moderate liberalism since the 1930s has been an aberration from a national character defined by red-faced rage and calculated cruelty. England’s early enthusiasm for regicide and colonialist power-grabbing suggests that could be so. Today, the country’s extremes of economic and class inequality are undeniable. It’s always sad when an old friend changes beyond recognition, notes Martin. But it's worse when it turns out we were misled all along.

Smash that avocado
Sarah O’Connor exhorts her fellow millennials not to get mad at the baby boomers who crashed the global financial system making it nigh-impossible for them to get on the housing ladder. Instead, she says, they should get even: a generation with increasing influence should learn to flex its political muscle.

Fearless funds
Cyrus Taraporevala, the chief executive officer of State Street Global Advisors, defends the duty of index funds to act as activists in order to best serve their investors, in the face of criticism from some business leaders.

Donald’s double
Where most western observers see the US president as reckless, unpredictable and self-defeating, in China Mr Trump’s chaotic policymaking is viewed as a kind of creative destruction, explains Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Things look different from Beijing than from Brussels.

A question of identity
After Mesut Ozil’s international retirement on grounds of racism and disrespect, Guy Chazan observes how Germany has changed since 2014, when the German player of Turkish origin helped his country win the World Cup.

What you’ve been saying

Brexiters constantly tell us all will be fine. This is fanciful— Letter from John Nelson:

Never in over 50 years of working life have I seen the UK facing such an abject future, caused by the complete failure of our political establishment to govern, to communicate clearly with the public and, most importantly, to be honest with the electorate. We have many senior politicians who are seemingly consumed with their own ambition and vanity, with little regard for the best interests of the country. As a businessman, recently retired as chairman of Lloyd’s of London, I can see all too clearly the consequences for the economy, for employment and for the provision of basic services.

Comment by ahyes on Millennials must fight for their economic rights:

I have some sympathy for the young, regarding house prices, but I was born at the start of the depression in the Thirties, and I was a child in World War II. Young people today are a foot taller than I am, due to better nutrition, and they will live to be a hundred or more with fewer ailments, due to medical advances. I hope they will follow the advice of the author and flex their political muscles — by voting in their own interest to remain in the EU in a second referendum, which many failed to do in the first.

Innocent should not be subject to media onslaught— Letter from Joe Zammit-Lucia:

Your editorial about privacy and press freedom (July 19) joins the chorus of press hysteria following the judgment in Cliff Richard’s case against the BBC. Sadly, your arguments are just as misguided and illogical as those in other newspapers. You give a perfunctory nod to the crucial issue that widespread reporting of investigations into alleged misconduct can ruin reputations and careers even if those investigations prove unfounded. But you do not take into account the not uncommon public assumption of some degree of guilt under the principle of there being no smoke without fire when the police drop investigations using the weasel words “insufficient evidence to file charges”.

Today’s opinion

Football exposes Germany’s image of a rainbow nation as a mirage
Mesut Ozil of Turkish origin shows integration is not an unalloyed success after all

The Chinese are wary of Donald Trump’s creative destruction
The president is the first US leader in decades to challenge China on multiple fronts

Brexit lays bare the extremes that define British society
The greater a society’s contradictions, the more disruptive the snap is when it comes

Index funds must be activists to serve investors
Since we cannot sell, we have to press management for improvements

FT Alphaville: Crypto & government: from anarchy to amity in the USA

Millennials must fight for their right to housing
Don’t let changing tastes obscure the unfair economic blows our generation has taken

FT View

The FT View: Britain bares its teeth on foreign takeovers
But the UK must ensure its economy remains open to investment

The FT View: Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Trump and an elusive EU-US trade pact
Europe should be sceptical that the US president is serious about a deal

The Big Read

The Big Read: Can Imran Khan be the new face of Pakistan?
Rivals’ problems and reported army backing give former cricketer his best chance of power in Wednesday’s election

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