breaking news from the world of ideas

by Ralph Schoellhammer
Friday, 31
March 2023

The dollar isn’t going anywhere

Talk of de-dollarisation is divorced from reality

The end of the dollar is all the rage. In a piece yesterday for UnHerd, macroeconomic analyst Philip Pilkington argued for the acceleration of the de-dollarisation of international trade based on the recent news that Brazil and China will trade in their own currencies. 

There’s one problem: the two countries have announced this arrangement multiple times — in 2009, in 2013 and now again in 2023. If history is any indicator, this is a routine talking point by the Brazilian and Chinese leadership that has so far lacked any substantial financial follow-through. Another example was an LNG trade in yuan between the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the French company TotalEnergies. But, as energy expert Anas Alhaji points out, the actual source of the LNG is the United Arab Emirates, which was paid neither in euros nor yuan but in USD, making the French-Chinese transaction symbolic at best.  ...  Continue reading

by Joel Kotkin
Friday, 31
March 2023

We are on the cusp of a Democrat class war

After 2024, divisions within the party may tear it apart

The recent sparring between Starbucks’s longtime CEO Howard Schultz and Senator Bernie Sanders reflects a conflict within the Democratic Party that is likely to get far more intense in the years ahead. Sanders accused Schultz, a self-described progressive who once considered a presidential run, of conducting “illegal union busting” at the coffee chain’s shops — something that the Starbucks CEO vehemently denied.

Schultz is finding out the hard way that liberal intentions are not enough to prevent his employees from seeking better wages and conditions. This dilemma mirrors that of his gentry progressive allies, who represent the Democrats’ increasingly affluent, well-educated base. They are now primary funders of the party and it is their agenda that has come to achieve dominance. ...  Continue reading

by Lucas Webber
Friday, 31
March 2023

Ukraine’s survival hinges on Avdiivka

Zelenskyy has highlighted the strategic importance of the city

As Russia has intensified efforts to envelop the fortified town of Avdiivka, Ukraine’s military has this week insisted that its opponents are failing to make progress. Avdiivka’s strategic importance was highlighted earlier this month when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy name-checked it alongside other eastern battlegrounds like Bakhmut and Vuhledar as a place where “the future of all Ukrainians is being fought for”.

Russia has cracked through hardened defences, but the Ukrainians are putting up fierce resistance and holding fortified cities along the front, hindering efforts to advance to the next major defensive line centred on Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. One journalist from the Kyiv Independent reported last week on the worsening situation in Avdiivka, describing how “Russian forces have made significant gains,” with the city “nearly surrounded”. He added that “the Ukrainians are holding but are taking […] huge losses.” Yet a few days ago the UK Defence Ministry assessed that the Russian side is also suffering high casualties. Even pro-Kremlin reporter Vladlen Tatarsky noted that Russian equipment is being destroyed by mines. ...  Continue reading

by Oliver Bateman
Friday, 31
March 2023

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign just got started

The recent indictment could be a boon for the former president

Donald Trump is nothing if not a trailblazer. The recent Manhattan indictment obtained by New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg, relating to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels, marks the first time a former US president has faced criminal charges. However, much like the interminable Russiagate investigation and Trump’s record-setting two impeachment trials, this latest turn of events is significant.

DA Bragg is now completing the work that began a half-decade ago under his predecessor Cy Vance when he charged Trump with more than 30 counts related to business fraud. Although most acknowledge that there was a violation that occurred in relation to attorney Michael Cohen’s payment to Daniels and the Trump Organization’s reimbursement of him, the indictment itself is a mess. The statute of limitations for offences related to the payment to Daniels expired in 2021, the legal theory of jurisdictional authority is untested, and the charges themselves may be difficult to elevate from misdemeanours to felonies. Given Bragg’s stated disdain for “overcharging” defendants, it’s fascinating that the meat of his case against Trump rests on precisely that. ...  Continue reading

by Katherine Dee
Friday, 31
March 2023

Was Audrey Hale a domestic terrorist?

Ideological extremism doesn't explain this shooting

There has been a great deal of speculation as to the motives of Audrey Hale, who shot dead six people — including three nine-year-old children — at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee. Reporting on the shooting mentions a manifesto that might have revealed Hale, a biological woman who identified as a transgender man, had a motive tied to her gender identity. This has provoked questions as to why we don’t put violent online rhetoric from trans activists under the same scrutiny reserved for online speech from other groups. 

One answer to this question, of course, is the cultural and political climate. But there’s a deeper problem here, too. If Hale’s online footprint or manifesto shows a connection to violent online speech, does that necessarily mean she was radicalised into committing an act of violence? It’s not as clear-cut as one might think.  ...  Continue reading

by Philip Pilkington
Thursday, 30
March 2023

Could Europe benefit from de-dollarisation?

America's financial hegemony is under threat

This week Brazil and China reached a deal to trade using their own currencies rather than the US dollar. The Chinese are fulfilling their vow from February to open up a clearing house to settle yuan-denominated trades in Brazil, having previously announced similar clearing houses in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Laos.

In many ways, this development is inevitable. As of 2021, China accounts for 31.3% of Brazilian exports and 22.8% of their imports, the most of any country. The United States comes a distant second, accounting for only 11.2% of Brazilian exports and 17.7% of imports. China has been Brazil’s largest trade partner for fourteen years. At a certain point, both parties were going to raise the question of why their trade should use a third party currency. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 30
March 2023

Why is Jeremy Hunt attacking Joe Biden?

The Chancellor has taken aim at the Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is probably the biggest thing that President Joe Biden has done in office. But don’t be fooled by the name — it’s not about reducing inflation but, rather, about directing a massive package of subsidies to American industry.

The EU isn’t happy about this at all. Its own industries are already suffering the consequences of Putin’s war, so the last thing that Europe needs now is a wave of unfair competition from the United States. 

In all of this the UK has been strangely quiet — until today, that is. Writing for the Times, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, appears to side with the Europeans. Referencing Biden’s IRA he insists that Britain’s approach will be different — “We are not going toe-to-toe with our friends and allies in some distortive global subsidy race.” ...  Continue reading

by Rob Lownie
Thursday, 30
March 2023

Trust in UK institutions slumps since pre-pandemic

Instability and bad decisions have eroded public confidence

Public confidence in national institutions like the Government and Parliament has markedly declined since 2018, a new report has found. In the period, which includes the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns — as well the political instability which has seen four prime ministers in No.10 Downing Street — trust in the police, media and main political parties has also decreased. 

The study, published today by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, polled 24 countries on their attitudes to various national institutions. Just 22% of Britons now say they have confidence in Parliament, down from 32% in 2018 and a historic low since the survey began in 1981. The current figure for the belief in the Government is 24%, down from 29% five years ago.  ...  Continue reading

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