Opinionomics: must-read analysis and comment

A merry Charles Murray, the mansion tax and David Blanchflower on the Budget.

1. Osborne should invest in jobs to beat depression – not cut the 50p tax rate (Independent)

David Blanchflower calls for the Chancellor to give firms renewed incentive to hire and invest in the UK, rather than spending billions cutting tax for the wealthiest in the nation.

2. How a mansion tax helps the rich (Stumbling and Mumbling)

Supporters of a mansion tax seem to have overlooked something - that such a tax would not be a tax upon the rich so much as upon the older rich, writes Tyler Cowen.

3. Out of sight, out of mind, still on the books (Economist)

The result of less visible public spending is that voters are less able to make informed judgments about their governments' expenditures, argues Free Exchange

4. Free-Trade Blinders (Project Syndicate)

Fetishizing globalization simply because it expands the economic pie is the surest way to delegitimize it in the long run, writes Dani Rodrik, who presents a remarkable example as to why we should assess whether we actually believe our own arguments.

5. Lunch with the FT: Charles Murray (Financial Times)

The social scientist talks to Ed Luce about black-truffle pasta, blue-collar America, and why the Republican party’s candidates for the White House fill him with despair.

Mansion, taxed: Wrest Park, in Sisloe, England. Credit: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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As the strangers approach the bed, I wonder if this could be a moment of great gentleness

I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do.

It’s 1.13am on an autumn morning some time towards the end of the 20th century and I’m awake in a vast hotel bed in a small town in the east of England. The mysterious east, with its horizons that seem to stretch further than they should be allowed to stretch by law. I can’t sleep. My asthma is bad and I’m wheezing. The clock I bought for £3 many years earlier ticks my life away with its long, slow music. The street light outside makes the room glow and shimmer.

I can hear footsteps coming down the corridor – some returning drunks, I guess, wrecked on the reef of a night on the town. I gaze at the ceiling, waiting for the footsteps to pass.

They don’t pass. They stop outside my door. I can hear whispering and suppressed laughter. My clock ticks. I hear a key card being presented, then withdrawn. The door opens slowly, creaking like a door on a Radio 4 play might. The whispering susurrates like leaves on a tree.

It’s an odd intrusion, this, as though somebody is clambering into your shirt, taking their time. A hotel room is your space, your personal kingdom. I’ve thrown my socks on the floor and my toothbrush is almost bald in the bathroom even though there’s a new one in my bag because I thought I would be alone in my intimacy.

Two figures enter. A man and a woman make their way towards the bed. In the half-dark, I can recognise the man as the one who checked me in earlier. He says, “It’s all right, there’s nobody in here,” and the woman laughs like he has just told her a joke.

This is a moment. I feel like I’m in a film. It’s not like being burgled because this isn’t my house and I’m sure they don’t mean me any harm. In fact, they mean each other the opposite.

Surely they can hear my clock dripping seconds? Surely they can hear me wheezing?

They approach, closer and closer, towards the bed. The room isn’t huge but it seems to be taking them ages to cross it. I don’t know what to do. In my old T-shirt and M&S pants, I don’t know what to do. I should speak. I should say with authority, “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?” But I don’t.

I could just lie here, as still as a book, and let them get in. It could be a moment of great gentleness, a moment between strangers. I would be like a chubby, wheezing Yorkshire pillow between them. I could be a metaphor for something timeless and unspoken.

They get closer. The woman reaches her hand across the bed and she touches the man’s hand in a gesture of tenderness so fragile that it almost makes me sob.

I sit up and shout, “Bugger off!” and they turn and run, almost knocking my clock from the bedside table. The door crashes shut shakily and the room seems to reverberate.

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge