Theme park architecture is beautiful — city planners should take note
One of my favourite places to holiday in is the Efteling amusement park in Holland. Not because I especially like going on rollercoasters — life as a middle-aged man is exciting enough — but because I love staying in the attached residential quarter, the Bosrijk.
Inside this entirely fake modern village the houses are all built in Dutch vernacular, making it feel like you’re in a Vermeer painting. The density is just right, the houses close enough to be neighbourly but distant enough to allow privacy, and there is an abundance of trees. Guests appreciate the scenery as everyone walks because, most importantly, cars are limited to 5mph and forced to park outside the village gates when not in use. The village has a natural border, too, enclosed by trees and, on one side, an entrance resembling old city gates. ...
Tyler Cowen thinks it will be America's next great export — I disagree
Will wokeism rule the world? That’s an interesting (i.e. terrifying) question asked by “the decidedly un-woke” Tyler Cowen.
Writing in Bloomberg, Cowen asks “whether the U.S. will be able to deploy this new intellectual tool for exporting American cultural influence. Put another way: if there is going to be an international progressive class, why not Americanize it?” He continues:
Historically persecuted religious sects are winning the demographic war
So writes David Larson in Crisis magazine, examining the rapid growth of a community which has doubled in size in just 20 years. There are now 350,000 Amish in the United States, and their demographic growth shows no real sign of letting up.
The Amish are notorious for their restrictive lifestyles, with their communities essentially functioning ‘off the grid’. Having two tweenage daughters and becoming increasingly aware of the sheer evil that is TikTok, this all sounds pretty sensible to me. If only they’d change their rules about booze I might sign up.
Groups like the Amish are notable for their continued growth as a sect, even as wider America has seen a sharp drop in church attendance, particularly amongst the younger cohort. This change has almost certainly played a part in radicalisation both on Left and Right: socially isolated Republicans as well as self-identified liberals are far more likely to find meaning in politics than religion. ...
Hilary Mantel may want to become European again, but I don't
As children my mother insisted that we have Irish passports. This was not so much to gain a small victory over my English father but out of a neurotic belief that, if the plane we were on was hijacked, we’d be released early as neutrals.
This was the 1970s, and obviously by the 21st century the dynamics of terrorism had changed. Now, if your plane was hijacked an Irish passport probably isn’t going to be of much use either way.
But having a green passport (as they were once were) can still be extremely useful, because around the world the Irish are loved as warm, charming and banterous folk while the English are viewed as cold-blooded Charles Dance types who at some point probably invaded your country. ...
State stability can depend on how many young men are in a population
One of the most poignant things about visiting the war memorials that dot rural France is the frequent bracketed (II) or even (III) after a surname, indicating that more than one son died defending their homeland against German aggression. France lost a staggering 1.3-1.4 million men in the conflict but perhaps its trauma was worsened by the country’s low fertility: half that of Britain’s in the late 19th century and 50% lower than Prussia’s. Many lost two or three sons but many more French mothers and fathers would have lost their only boy.
In his work on demography, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, Eric Kaufmann suggested that Soviet defeat in Afghanistan may have tangentially been related to the country’s very low fertility; Russian mothers became a vocal voice against the conflict, unwilling to sacrifice their only son for this dubious adventure. The average Afghan family in contrast had seven or eight children, and Kaufmann argued that lower fertility makes societies far more war-weary. ...
The proliferation of prejudice words in the media began years earlier
The 2010s were the decade of social media-led revolution. In the Arab world, Facebook helped to spread uprisings which overturned the old order, leading to success in Tunisia, failure in Egypt and tragedy in Syria.
In the US, social media has had almost as big an impact, with American progressive opinion undergoing a rapid shift from about 2013 – whereas the average conservative has changed very little.
It means that Americans on the Left now have self-declared views on race that are more pro-black and pro-immigrant than actual black Americans or immigrants, despite having generally quite ill-informed ideas about race. ...
Today's culture wars pit factions of post-1968 progressives against each other
Back in the olden days of football, Celtic manager Jock Stein said that, if he was offered the choice of two players, one Protestant and one Catholic, he would sign the Protestant “because I know Rangers would never sign the Catholic.” The city’s Protestant club held faster to the tradition of refusing to sign Catholic players, not broken until 1989 with Mo Johnstone.
We call such thinking bigotry today, from the Norman French bigot, an excessively religious person, but during the great religious divide that split Europe for centuries people would have viewed rival interpretations of the faith as genuinely dangerous. If we allowed their faith to proliferate, if we allowed it to be normalised, it would cause genuine harm; we must stop the hate it causes. But in some cases, as with Scotland and Ireland, one side was clearly more fired up by the evils of the other. ...
The former Ukip leader hasn't disgraced himself, unlike many former PMs
My least populist political opinion is that we should pay MPs £1m a year. Saying that, it would be impossible to raise their salaries because numerous hugely-popular online MPs would wail about nurses and teachers being the real heroes, and get 36,000 retweets.
Money doesn’t solve all problems — but it solves a lot of them, and if you want to raise the prestige or status of a career, paying more is a simple way to do it. Singapore has by the far the best-paid lawmakers in the world, and so Singaporean politics attracts the very brightest people, and the city-state is extremely well run. Intelligence doesn’t bestow honesty or humanity, but on average a group of very intelligent people will make better decisions than a team of men on the street. ...