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breaking news from the world of ideas

by Ed West
Friday, 16
October 2020
Spotted
11:27

The Dutch auction for WFH elites has begun

Like the Black Death and the crisis of the late middle ages, Covid-19 hasn’t changed the world, it’s just aggravated already existing trends.

Take working from home, a trend linked to the increased mobility of the very richest and most highly-skilled. Perhaps the most important social and cultural fact of our age is that for the first time in history there really is a global elite with a single cultural worldview, a single language, educated in a relatively small number of educational institutions and concentrated in a few small sectors of the economy. The fact of their mobility defines them, and our age, because historically elites have been location-specific (which is why posh people have de or Von at the front of their names). ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 13
October 2020
Reaction
16:27

America’s history is swallowing our own

I used to find it strange that during my years of schooling I learned more about German history than I did about my own country. When I say “German history” I mean, of course, 12 particular years of German history; I learned little else about the country, which is why so many of my countrymen continue to have such a weirdly outdated view of Europe.

People love to make points about “why aren’t we taught more about the Tang Dynasty or the Benin Empire or whatever” at school as if the subject were limitless; there’s not enough time for passionate history enthusiasts to learn about the whole world, let alone bored schoolchildren, so the subject is limited, and benefits from having a clear narrative. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Friday, 2
October 2020
Reaction
07:00

Prince Harry should try looking the East End in the face

Just over 80 years ago Buckingham Palace was bombed by the Luftwaffe, leading the Queen Mother to famously say they could now “look the East End in the face”.

By this she meant that she and King George had shared some of the hardship faced by the poorest Britons, and it was indeed a moment of social solidarity.

Today, her great-grandson Prince Harry is back in the news cycle, yet again, telling “white people” about their privilege and the structural advantages they enjoy.

It’s part of Harry and Meghan’s campaign to end structural racism and inequality of outcomes, and it comes with an Evening Standard editorial that includes the six most terrifying, and at the same time most anodyne, words in the English language: “there is still more to do.” ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 29
September 2020
Debate
16:00

Old punks never die — they just become conservatives

I interviewed John Lydon once, years ago. The interview lasted about a minute and a half, after which he called me a “f***-arse liar” and hung up the phone. Funnily enough, we didn’t run it in the magazine.

The London-born Sex Pistols and PiL singer-songwriter was never going to be fast-tracked into the diplomatic corps, so it’s not hugely surprising that he’s now at it again, offending people by wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt.

The Sex Pistols first gained notoriety to many people by swearing on British television, something shocking and obscene in 1976, and the whole MO of the band was to cause as much outrage as possible. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Wednesday, 23
September 2020
Idea
17:40

It’s time for Britain to return to a heptarchy

The Heptarchy, according to Bartholomew’s A literary & historical atlas of Europe (1914)

Geography is destiny, and there are some good geographical reasons why England became the dominant world power and not France.

England is 50,000 square miles, roughly the size of New York state, while France is four times that, as big as Texas. When England was united by King Athelstan in 927, he created a state ideally suited towards governing by a medieval monarch.

Aside from the need to have powerful barons on the northern and western frontier, itself a source of conflict throughout the later middle ages, it was about the right size to create the infrastructure to collect tax and administer justice, and all the other necessities for governing a successful nation-state. It was also about the right size for a fairly coherent national culture; English regional differences are minute compared to, say, Italy. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Friday, 18
September 2020
Reaction
15:00

Anti-racism is a virtue gone mad

In one of the few feel-good stories in a grim year, news that the US Department of Education is investigating Princeton University after its president declared that racism was “embedded” at the institution.

The Washington Examiner reports that President Christopher Eisgruber published an open letter earlier this month claiming that “racism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton” and that “racist assumptions” are “embedded in structures of the University itself”:

According to a letter the Department of Education sent to Princeton, such an admission from Eisgruber raises concerns that Princeton has been receiving tens of millions of dollars of federal funds in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner
 ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 8
September 2020
Reaction
11:01

Why I’m no longer talking to white liberals about race

The psychologist Jonathan Haidt once wrote that the “fundamental rule of political analysis from the point of psychology is, follow the sacredness, and around it is a ring of motivated ignorance.”

I’ve long thought that this explains most political debate, and via a Twitter mutual, another psychology paper confirms it: that when an empirical conclusion is likely to be true, but also points to something morally objectionable, people think that others should believe it less, even if it’s true.

Of course that’s all true, and our values dictate the way we see the world — but over the course of 2020 it appears that diverging moral visions have almost evolved into completely different realities. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 4
August 2020
Debate
15:00

Why won’t Right-wingers wear masks?

Has the Covid-19 crisis blown apart the psychological theory that conservatism is an evolutionary response to pathogen avoidance?

That’s a question asked by a Twitter mutual, and it’s certainly an interesting one.

For all the exceptions to this rule (including me), people on the Left tend to be more in favour of lockdowns, social distancing and mask-wearing, while those on the Right are more likely to think that shutting down the economy will do more harm – and perhaps even cost more lives in the longer term. ...  Continue reading

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