breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 1
April 2020
Idea
15:12

We’re going to need a new name for the Great Recession

Thirteen years ago, the global financial crisis plunged most of the world into recession. In America they call it the Great Recession. In the US (and UK) it ended in 2009, but it was so deep that it was years before western economies fully recovered.

In fact, some things — like interest rates or Greek national sovereignty — have never recovered.

Yet, what we face now is so much worse. In the UK, and many other countries, the economy will shrink like it’s never shrunk before. And that’s just the immediate impact of the lock-down. In the medium term, there’ll be the scarring effect of mass unemployment, business collapse and un-repayable debts. And, over the long-term, the colossal challenge of undoing the excesses of globalisation. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Wednesday, 1
April 2020
Chart
11:35

Is there a racism epidemic in America?

Here’s a remarkable chart from Zach Goldberg, which shows the frequency with which the words racist, racists and racism are used in five American newspapers and also NPR (National Public Radio).

There’s a bit of variation over time (the data starts in 1970), but as you can see, there’s been an unprecedented surge over the last decade — and especially the last five years.

Why would this be? Have Americans suddenly become massively more racist, thus giving the media more stories of racism to report on? Or, more likely, is just that Americans are more likely to talk about it?

Obviously, there’s the Trump factor. He’s a divisive president who uses divisive rhetoric — for instance about illegal immigrants. There’s also the liberal narrative that can’t seem to ascribe any other motive except racism to those who voted for the man. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Wednesday, 1
April 2020
Debate
07:00

The culture wars are far from over

Ed West wrote last week about how much he misses the Before Coronavirus (BC) culture wars, in which elites got themselves worked up about minor things. Is Friends racist? Is reality transphobic? The BC version of social justice, he argues, represented a situation in which ‘the white blood cells of society’, political activists, ran so totally out of real problems that they turned on society itself.

All this, he suggests, took place against the backdrop of rising material comfort built on trading relationships with a Chinese regime that practices levels of surveillance autocracy straight out of a sci-fi dystopia. But this is all old hat now: “Now society faces an actual threat, and meanwhile our devil’s alliance with China has been irreparably damaged, it all seems so dated”. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Tuesday, 31
March 2020
Video
17:48

WATCH: the view from Sweden on their coronavirus response


In today’s episode of Lockdown TV, Freddie Sayers speaks to two Swedish journalists, Johan Anderberg from Sydsvenskan and Paulina Neuding from Quillette, about the country’s laissez-faire response to the coronavirus pandemic. Have a listen (apologies for the crackly line, we had some connection issues)…

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 31
March 2020
Spotted
14:49

A grim milestone for the UK epidemic

A significant, although grim, milestone in the story of this pandemic was passed this morning.

Data newly released by the ONS shows that the week ending March 20th was the first week since the crisis began that the overall level of deaths in England and Wales was higher than normal — albeit very slightly so at 10,645 compared to an average week 12 figure of 10,573.

Source: Office for National Statistics

In every previous week in 2020 since the middle of January when the first news broke about coronavirus, deaths have been below average. This is likely to be due to a combination of normal variables such as weather and the effect of increased hand washing (which was first advised at the start of February) and social distancing, which have lowered transmission of seasonal flu, motor traffic accidents and other regular causes of death. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 31
March 2020
Reaction
07:00

Will coronavirus kill the shale revolution?

Yesterday, the price of crude oil dipped to below $20 a barrel. Good news for motorists — if, that is, they’ve got anywhere to go.

The Great Immobilisation of the global economy is one reason why oil prices have crashed. The other is the Saudi-Russian price war.

The consequences could be long-lasting — not least for America’s shale industry. US production of conventional oil peaked fifty years ago. But decades later came the shale revolution: novel techniques like directional drilling and hydraulic fractioning (fracking) which unlocked previously inaccessible deposits of oil and gas. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Monday, 30
March 2020
Audio
16:16

LISTEN: Lord Sumption on the national ‘hysteria’ over coronavirus

In a BBC World at One interview, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption warned that coronavirus rules marked the UK’s “hysterical slide into a police state”, paving the way for a society to turn despotic. Have a listen above, full transcript below:

Lord Sumption:

The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 30
March 2020
Idea
14:00

What Emmanuel Levinas would have to say about Zoom

The philosopher that has began to corner my attention of late is the French thinker, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), and in particular his idea that ethics should be understood as primarily rooted in the face-to-face encounter. Whereas philosophers in the tradition of Descartes worried that there is no reliable basis for establishing the full reality of other people — there being some unbreachable epistemological distance between us and others — Levinas argued that it is through the face of the other that their full reality, separate from us, but nonetheless unquestionably real, is established. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Monday, 30
March 2020
Reaction
10:43

Let Brits pick their own fruit!

What a brilliant idea. Right in the middle of a lethal pandemic killing thousands a day, let’s fly over 90,000 fruit pickers from eastern Europe to pick fruit, while keeping millions of young people here imprisoned in their homes.

British people, of course, are genetically incapable of picking fruit so we must bring them in from Bulgaria.

Here’s a fun exercise. Google “crops rotting in the field” or something to that effect and go through the news story covering this terrible danger down the years – there are dozens of them.

Then type into the search bar “wages” and see what you find. The usual result is, of course, nothing; no counter-response that British workers are capable of doing this labour but would demand higher wages than foreign workers. We simply have to hire immigrants, sorry! ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Saturday, 28
March 2020
Weekend read
10:57

What the West can learn from China

As the world turns against China, with its unsanitary ‘wet markets’, slippery public health statistics and relentless geopoliticking, this week’s long read pick nonetheless looks at what we might learn from East Asian thought about the social value of hierarchy. In The Case for Hierarchy, China-based political science academics Daniel A. Bell and Wang Pei draw on their book Hierarchy: Why Social Hierarchies Matter in China and the Rest of the World to argue the case at Palladium magazine for a critical reappraisal of our valorisation of equality at all costs.

While equality sounds good and attractive, the authors argue, it is not without pitfalls: witness the ‘mass violence and tyranny’ that resulted from Maoist efforts during the Cultural Revolution to stamp out all forms of social hierarchy. ...  Continue reading

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