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The stalemate in the current round of social pacting appears to derive, at least in part, from an inappropriate metaphor. The participants apparently believe they are in a complex trade deal, replete with harsh quid pro quos, technical targets and schmoozing between negotiators. In fact, we’re stuck in do-it-yourself marriage counselling.        

In a committed relationship you cannot flit between hardnosed transactional deals and sentimental verbiage. Instead, you have to find practical ways to build on strengths while fixing long-standing systems and contradictions. Success is not a hard-and-fast deal with sanctions for noncompliance; it is a recommitment to working together to achieve common aims despite major differences...

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