breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 21
October 2019
Explainer
12:37

Will the EU shut down its tax havens?

How does one identify a tax haven — specifically, a corporate tax haven?

One thing to look out for is when subsidiaries in a low tax country appear to be generating revenues out of proportion to the wages they pay in that county. Unless those local employees are freakishly productive, it would suggest that revenues earned elsewhere are being reclassified through the various tricks known to cunning tax lawyers.

Take a look at the charts tweeted the other day by Jonathan TepperThis one, for instance, focuses on the “affiliates” of US multinationals — showing their pre-tax profit as a percentage of employee compensation: ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Monday, 21
October 2019
Idea
06:30

Why I baptised my son without asking him first

On Friday, I baptised my six month old baby boy in the River Jordan. What greater joy than for a priest to christen his own child in the place where Jesus himself was baptised? 

Amongst many warm and witty responses on Twittter, there were also quite a few from those who obviously find infant baptism terribly offensive. For atheists of the Richard Dawkins variety, infant baptism is a form of child abuse, a way of imposing beliefs upon a defenceless child far too young to make up their own mind. Interestingly, there is also a Christian version that is the flip side of this very same objection: that it is only proper believers, those who have made the decision for themselves, who should be baptised. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Saturday, 19
October 2019
07:30

Weekend Long Read: Inside China’s Gulags

In this sobering long read, A Million People Are Jailed at China’s Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here’s What Really Goes on Inside, David Stavrou at Israeli newspaper Haaretz interviews Sayragul Sauytbay, a Kazakh-speaking teacher who escaped China and was granted asylum in Sweden.

Sauytbay claims to have spent nine months in a Chinese ‘re-education camp’ where ethnic and religious minorities, notably the Uyghur population of the Xinjiang region, are routinely imprisoned.

Though their existence was initially denied, since images of the camps were released, Chinese officials have now acknowledged the construction of ‘vocational re-education centres’ they claim are needed in order to address radicalism and poverty. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
18:22

Daylight robbery: how lack of sunlight is keeping us awake

According to Anoosh Chakelian of the New Statesman, lack of sleep is hitting Britain’s economic productivity:

A Rand study into the economic effects of sleep deprivation last February found that the insufficient and poor quality sleep of UK workers was losing the country 1.86 per cent of its GDP, or 200,000 working days each year.
- Anoosh Chakelian

But what’s keeping us awake?

Our screen addiction often get the blame: by flooding our eyes with bluish light at night, we’re messing with our circadian rhythms.

But there’s another part of the picture that gets ignored – which is that we’re getting too little light during the day. The science is explained by Linda Geddes in an extract on Literary Hub from her book Chasing the Sun:

…there is growing evidence to suggest that exposing oneself to bright light during the daytime can help to negate some of the detrimental effects of light at night —as well as improving our mood and alertness more directly.
- Linda Geddes

Researchers found significant impacts:

Exposure to bright, morning light was particularly powerful: those exposed to it between 8 a.m. and noon took an average of 18 minutes to fall asleep at night, compared to 45 minutes in the low light exposure group; they also slept for around 20 minutes longer and experienced fewer sleep disturbances.
- Linda Geddes

Unsurprisingly, the effects were particularly pronounced during winter when it’s much easier to miss out on daylight. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
14:16

Is Nick Cave right about Christianity and Woke Culture?

Before cult singer/songwriter Nick Cave became a Bad Seed he was a cathedral choirboy in his native Australia. Like a number of people who have that background, organised religion does not sit comfortably with him. So it was unsurprising that he had a pop at religion in a recent letter.

Living in a state of enquiry, neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma and grand conviction, is good for the business of songwriting, and for my life in general. This is the reason I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as ‘the truth’ or ‘the way’.
- Nick Cave

This is familiar enough stuff. What has raised a few eyebrows, however, is that Cave extends this criticism not only to religion, but also to atheism, and also – more broadly – to woke culture in general.

Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.
- Nick Cave

I have no quarrel with this. Indeed – and this is just a hunch – I wonder if there is also a surprising degree of connection between woke culture and a certain sort of protestant Christianity that could even be seen as its intellectual forbear. The combination of absolute moral certainty and evangelistic self-righteousness is often a peculiarly religious sort of pathology. And once God is replaced by the self as the centre of one’s moral life, woke culture may well be a consequence. ...  Continue reading

by Paul Embery
Friday, 18
October 2019
Idea
10:38

Why Poland’s Law and Justice Party appeals

The Law and Justice party (known in Poland as PiS), was re-elected in the Polish elections last weekend, securing 43% of the popular vote. The party stands on a platform combining economic interventionism with social conservatism.

Leader of the PiS, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, after his party won with 43% support.

Commonly – though somewhat lazily – characterised as ‘Right-wing’, PiS, after coming to office in 2015, set about redressing economic inequality. It boosted the minimum wage, lowered the retirement age and increased the state pension. It also made heavy investment in a variety of social and welfare programmes, helping to free thousands from poverty. That Poland currently enjoys an economic growth rate superior to many of its European neighbours should command attention. ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Friday, 18
October 2019
Reaction
07:30

How Russell Brand won me round

When I met Russell Brand this week for his podcast Under the Skin I began with mixed feelings. I have a background in radio and television, where Brand’s reputation, especially amongst women, is poor. Most of the hostility is from a while ago, before his public clean up, marriage and treatment for sex addiction, but women have watched too many men burnish their reputations and rise too swiftly after a fall from grace to be immediately forgiving. His comments a few years ago about leaving the childcare to his partner didn’t add to my sense of meeting someone I’d immediately click with.

I’ve changed my mind. ...  Continue reading

by Chris Curtis
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Explainer
16:51

Not so fast. Boris Johnson will have an uphill battle with voters

Besides the challenges it faces in Parliament, Boris Johnson will be keeping an eye on how his deal lands amongst the wider general public – particularly if it’s going to be a key part of his General Election campaign.

And whilst it’s still too early to say how the deal will go down, the Conservative Party leader certainly faces a challenge.

The first difficulty is that voters have moved to the extremes over Brexit in recent years, meaning there isn’t a very large pool of voters who sit in the middle ground who may be inclined to support the deal. This was one of the main reasons that Theresa May’s deal struggled to win the public over, and just 15% supported it when it first came back. ...  Continue reading