breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 19
October 2020
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17:00

China’s war against the family

The nuclear family is often portrayed as oppressive. And yet when people are free to choose their living arrangements, what most of us still go for is… the nuclear family. We don’t always succeed, but there’s no doubt as to the ideal. In liberal societies there is a greater acceptance of variations, like one-parent families and same-sex couples; but whatever its form the model of a private home in which parents are the primary caregivers to their children remains the freely-chosen norm.

Moreover, there are many examples in which the nuclear family is not the source of oppression, but its target. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 15
October 2020
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07:00

When did ‘sexual preference’ become politically incorrect?

The Democrats are out to get Amy Coney Barrett. That’s because a) she’s been nominated to the Supreme Court by a Republican President and b) they don’t like her religious beliefs.

Fortunately, neither of these things are disqualifying factors (yet). Instead, her opponents have pinned their hopes on something she might say during the Senate confirmation hearings. And so when she made a reference to “sexual preference” during Tuesday’s proceedings, they pounced. Her use of the term was “offensive and outdated” they protested.

Why, though?

Kyle Griffin of MSNBC was one of those who leapt in to explain: ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 14
October 2020
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07:00

The empty symbolism of the Nobel Prize for Economics

A knock on the door in the middle of the night is usually bad news. But not for the American economist Paul Milgrom. His midnight caller was his colleague, Bob Wilson, bringing the happy news that the pair had just won the 2020 Nobel Prize for economics. Milgrom, not unreasonably given the hour, took some rousing. You can see the video here.

A lovely moment, but also a symbolic one. The whole world is knocking at the door of the economics profession, but without getting the answers we need. In this respect, the Nobel Prize is part of the problem — because, too often, it honours the wrong sort of economics. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 13
October 2020
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07:00

Will $30 billion fix racial inequality?

Jamie Dimon is the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in America. Back in June, at the height of the BLM protests, he was photographed ‘taking a knee’ in one of his branches.

Just the sort of virtue signalling we’ve come to expect from our woke corporations? A lot of people thought so at the time, including me.

However, JPMorgan Chase has now unveiled a “$30 billion commitment over the next five years to address some of the largest drivers of the racial wealth divide.”

Even for a major bank, that’s a colossal sum. As my colleague Ed West points out, it’s roughly a quarter of what the Marshall Plan cost (in today’s money). Certainly, it makes other corporate pledges this year look puny by comparison...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 9
October 2020
Spotted
07:00

Populist or progressive? Post-Covid politics will be neither

Has Covid killed-off populism? That would seem to be a reasonable assumption. In a pandemic we don’t want change, we just want things to get back to normal. Thus we can expect voter appetites to swing away from disruption and back to competence.

Well, that’s the theory, but is there any hard evidence to back it up? The picture we see so far from opinion polls (and actual elections) is mixed — and besides they don’t directly measure the impact of Covid on political attitudes.

Which is why a recent study by a team lead by Gianmarco Daniele of the University of Milan is so valuable. The findings are summarised in an article for VoxEU — and while they provide some comfort for the establishment, they come with clear warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 7
October 2020
Spotted
07:00

Boris Johnson’s U-turn

Bracing stuff from Boris in his conference speech today. He promised a “green industrial revolution” with a special emphasis on offshore wind power — including a commitment to floating wind farms:

Far out in the deepest waters we will harvest the gusts, and by upgrading infrastructure in such places as Teesside and Humber and Scotland and Wales we will increase an offshore wind capacity that is already the biggest in the world.

As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind — a place of almost limitless resource, but in the case of wind without the carbon emissions, without the damage to the environment.

- Boris Johnson

Great. But while I was listening, I couldn’t help noticing that the PM’s words had a familiar ring to them. Take a look at the following extract:

Literally and figuratively our North Sea is still a sea of energy. Where else in the world do renewable resources coincide, in such abundance, with unusually shallow waters and enormous energy markets — not just on one coast, but two? We possess the world’s best offshore wind, wave and tidal resources. Britain could and should be the Saudi Arabia of marine energy.
- Greg Clark

No, that’s not from an earlier draft of today’s speech, but from a speech given eleven years ago by Greg Clark (who, in 2009, was the Conservative shadow minister on these issues). ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 1
October 2020
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07:00

Five reasons why populism is here to stay

In Germany, the hard Right AfD has been slipping in the polls — and now looks set to sink even further. This week, they sacked a prominent official after he reportedly made remarks about immigrants that that even his own party couldn’t tolerate.

More generally, the AfD is tearing itself apart. Always riven by factional conflict, the splits are now out in the open as the party’s radicals battle with their more moderate colleagues (these terms are relative). While they came third at the last general election, they’re looking at big losses next time.

Commenting on the AfD meltdown, Jeremy Cliffe of the New Statesman said that the party’s disintegration is “as internationally under-covered as its rise was over-covered.” If, as expected, Donald Trump loses the US Presidency next month, then we can expect a lot more takes of this kind — populism as a flash in the pan. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 30
September 2020
Reaction
07:00

Ann Coulter for President?

Ann Coulter is no one’s idea of a leftie. She’s spent her decades-long career offending progressive opinion at every opportunity. So it says something when even she’s had enough of Republican (and Democrat) tax policies.

Her breaking point was the news that Donald Trump had paid a grand total of $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. No, I haven’t missed out any zeros — according to the New York Times, it really was a three figure sum (though Trump said it was “millions” in yesterday’s debate).

Coulter had no time for the usual Rightwing anti-tax talking points. In fact, she to took to Twitter to repudiate them: ...  Continue reading

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