breaking news from the world of ideas

by Theo Davies-Lewis
Thursday, 6
May 2021
Off grid

Another not-so-super Thursday in Cardiff Bay

It is testament to how Wales is viewed through the prism of British politics that a by-election in the North of England can get more media attention than a once-in-five-year event. As voters go to the polls in Scotland and England today the Welsh will select their next government too.

Or will they? Some will, of course, but turnout in Senedd elections is depressingly poor.

Fewer than 50% of eligible voters have come out in the previous five polls. The original 1997 devolution plebiscite was when that watermark was broken; fourteen years later, when the public voted for direct law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly, a little over a third of people turned up. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 6
May 2021

Don’t believe the hype: there is no ‘cod war’ in Jersey

Don’t believe the British press. This is not a new cod war. It is a whelk war. Lobsters, whelks and scallops are the species mostly fished by French boats in the waters around the Isle of Jersey. 

To begin to understand the storm which has suddenly blown up in the Gulf of Saint Malo, you need to ask a basic question: why are the French threatening to cut off electricity to Jersey but not to Guernsey or the other Channel Islands? 

“The answer is quite simple,” said one senior French regional official. “We have very correct and friendly relations with Guernsey. They play by the friendly rules which have governed relations between Channel Islands and France for centuries. Not on Jersey. There is a new group of leaders there who are fiercely nationalistic and hostile to France.” ...  Continue reading

by Tom Chivers
Thursday, 6
May 2021

Waiving the vaccine IP is a huge blunder

The USA has said that pharma companies should be required to waive intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines. That is: any firm that wanted to produce, say, the Pfizer vaccine would now be able to do so. The idea is that it would free up more manufacturers and so increase vaccine supply.

Obviously everyone wants that; there really is a terrible disparity between the rich world and the developing one. But I think that 1) it probably won’t do much good, if any, 2) it reduces the incentives for pharma companies to behave well in the next pandemic, and 3) it’s both miserly and attention-seeking on the part of national governments. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 6
May 2021

Why Trump should not be banned from social media

Earlier this year, I participated in an Intelligence2+, debate arguing against the motion ‘Big Tech was right to de-platform Trump’. This was my opening argument.

Following yesterday’s decision from the Facebook Oversight Board to permanently ban the former president from the platform, it seems relevant once again. Excerpt below:

By going down this path [liberals] are granting the greatest corporate power in history, Big Tech, even more supra-governmental power than it had. But worse than this, they are unwittingly completing the destruction they think Donald Trump started: undermining the framework of liberal democracy and pushing us back towards a world where the powerful rule without regard for due process.

This was naked censorship: it involved no law courts and no democratic vote. It’s dangerous and no true liberal should support it. It might feel good now if your team has the upper hand but the principle of censoring your opponents is going to come back to haunt you. Next time it won’t be your friends who control the media platforms, it will be your enemies.

- Freddie Sayers, Intelligence Squared

  ...  Continue reading

by Chris Curtis
Thursday, 6
May 2021

Can Labour win the expectations game?

The expectations game in the run up to local elections is bizarre at the best of times, but possibly never more so than this year. Under normal conditions the central question would be “is the opposition party doing well enough to point towards a victory at the next election?” 

Given the circumstances of these elections, however, nobody thinks Labour is even going to come close to clearing that bar. Firstly, the success of the vaccine rollout has pulled the Tories back into the lead in recent months. The political weather is still being driven by how successfully the government is getting jabs into arms, and 72% of voters think they are doing a good job at it. ...  Continue reading

by Yaojun Li
Wednesday, 5
May 2021

By the data: UK ethnic minorities are progressing well

In the last 50 years Britain has become both more ethnically diverse and more middle class. Since 1972 the ethnic minority population has risen from around 3% to 16% and the proportion of this group in professional-managerial positions has risen from 19% to 50%. But how does social mobility compare between ethnic minorities and the ethnic majority?

According to an analysis I produced for the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, there is an optimistic picture which has, until now, not come into sharp enough focus. The evidence shows that ethnic minorities from professional-managerial families are just as likely to have been socially mobile as their white peers and those from the most disadvantaged unskilled manual origins were less likely to stay put than were their white peers. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 5
May 2021

Long live the Tartarian Empire!

I have a new favourite conspiracy theory —  and it’s a corker.

It claims that many of our most beautiful buildings are the work of a lost civilisation called the Tartarian Empire. What makes it so special is that they’re not talking about really old stuff like the pyramids, but much more recent examples like the early skyscrapers of New York and the pavilions constructed for international expositions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Writing for Bloomberg, Zack Mortice delves into the underlying motivations of the Tartarian theory. It boils down to the contrast between the brutal, faceless modernism of the 20th century and exuberantly ornamental monuments of the preceding era. How could these two kinds of architecture possibly be the work of the same civilisation? ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Wednesday, 5
May 2021

Hillary Clinton: we must take back the means of production

When the world’s two great powers, the United States and China, normalised relations in 2000, it was heralded as liberalism’s crowning triumph. That China, an authoritarian country with no democratic history to speak of, could accede to the WTO and acquiesce to a rules-based system underscored the belief that the arc of history bended towards democracy.

“When China joins the W.T.O., by 2005 it will eliminate tariffs on information technology products, making the tools of communication even cheaper, better and more widely available,” announced president Bill Clinton. “We know how much the Internet has changed America, and we are already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China. Now there’s no question China has been trying to crack down on the Internet. Good luck! That’s sort of like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.” ...  Continue reading

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