My true love sent to me: three french hens, which in the song apparently represent the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. I'm not sure there is much of any of them around today, though.

On the faith side, well, you're not allowed to show it any more - wearing a cross or having a school nativity play - in case it upsets other religions. Hope: well, I don't hold out much hope for the UK or US economies having a boom next year, so that's not exactly cheering. And charity: it's remarkable how many things that should be done through charity are in fact done through coercion as government takes money out of our pockets to do them. And then take the credit, of course.

The trouble is, that when governments intervene, private funding dries up. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution found that in the 1800s, when it started to accept government money. It found that for every £1 it took from the government, it lost £1.40 in private donations. People couldn't see why they should fund something that the government was paying for. Now the RNLI proudly refuses all government money. Bravo!