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It’s usually right to dismiss claims of politicians or investors that “It’s different this time.” But the ageing of Britain and the “rich” world presents governments with unprecedented problems.

That is the central point made by our cover story, and by Nick Carn’s panoramic survey of economic threats. It might be tempting to regard the 2008 financial crisis as a contained difficulty from which we are now escaping, and budget deficits as something that a term or two of government could sort out. Indeed, that is just what many leaders, even those in the embattled eurozone, encourage voters to think.

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