James Ferguson for web on Monday August 20th

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Viewed from some parts of the world, Europe’s paranoia about incoming refugees and the European media’s melodramatic talk of a migrant crisis can seem like an overreaction. After all, while the world contains 68.5m people who have been forcibly displaced (of whom 25.4m are refugees), the burden for hosting those multitudes does not fall equally. Iran, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. for instance, host far greater numbers of refugees than EU countries.

Nevertheless, writes Tony Barber in his column, there is a genuine crisis related to refugees in Europe: a political one. It expresses itself in poisonous, polarising debates about national identity and the place of Islam in Europe. And it generates support for rightwing, populist governments.

How should national leaders respond? Tony recommends that they resist the temptation to whip-up anti-immigrant sentiment and instead muster the courage to present the case for well-run, legal migration routes, reformed asylum procedures and proper treatment of refugees. 

John Thornhill follows efforts by computer scientists to build robots and AI that understand jokes and can make humans laugh. The appreciation of humour may be vital for smooth co-operation between humans and machines as we employ more digital employees.

Esra Turk offers some banking lessons from the ancient world. The Artemision in Ephesus was in business for more than 1,000 years thanks to its strong ethical code, high levels of accountability among its leadership and clear view of risk. Modern bankers take note.

Robert Shrimsley observes that August has been a season of paranoid politics. In the UK, conspiracy theories about Brexit and Corbynism are everywhere and new alleged plots are discovered every day — a sign politicians have learned the value of a row in defining one’s enemies. 

What you’ve been saying

Ask who benefits when the democratic planning is weakened: letter from Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance, in response to "Planning rules are driving the housing crisis"
For the past 40 years, governments of all parties have built very little social housing, while stimulating housing demand and allowing land prices to rocket. Thus the housing crisis. The systematic weakening of the planning system over the past 15 years has done nothing to relieve it, and there is no good reason to think that yet another round of planning liberalisation will make things better.

In response to "Investors have the power to tame Erdogan and Trump", Sound of the Suburbs says:
“There are good reasons why countries such as the US and, in recent years, Turkey delegate monetary policy decisions to technocrats appointed for their expertise.” There were good reasons. They were charged with bringing financial stability but presided over an era of unprecedented financial crises. They proved to be ideological and unable to learn from experience as we can see from the trail of real estate booms and busts that have plagued the world since the 1980s.

Taking the minutes puts power into your hands: letter from S Steyn, London, UK
There are several good reasons for a budding female executive to volunteer to take the minutes at meetings. If you’re not yet confident enough to speak in the meeting (for example due to being new in the post), it’s a great way to come across as proactive. It broadens your network by providing you with an opportunity to introduce yourself, while also forcing you to remember the names and titles of the other attendees. 

Today's opinion

Brexit and Corbynism usher in paranoid politics
The lesson of Trump for the UK is the value of a row in defining one’s enemies

Computer scientists struggle to build robots who get the joke
Appreciating humour may be vital for future co-operation between humans and machines

A rightwing maverick lights up Brazil’s presidential campaign
Political vacuum means the ‘folkloric’ candidate, once a firefighter, may play a bigger role

Lessons in banking with a purpose from the ancient world
Leadership and a clear view of risk powered the longevity of one early institution

Europe risks failure on migration
While the EU tries to agree a policy, nativist politicians are whipping up prejudice

Control Alt Delete, by Tom Baldwin
A personal memoir of the fake news crisis in British and American journalism

The business book bug that deserves to spread further
A US pest control company shows the benefit of learning and self-improvement

FT View

The FT View: A shocking indictment of a privately run UK jail
Overcrowding and underfunding are bigger issues than outsourcing

The FT View: Muted cheers as Greece exits its eight-year rescue
Athens remains under creditors’ sway and still has much work to do

The Big Read

The Big Read: Electric cars: the race to replace cobalt
Manufacturers want batteries that are not dependent on metals from unstable parts of the world

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