breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 29
November 2019
Seen Elsewhere
16:47

Look closely, and London is not what it seems

In today’s Evening Standard, I take a look at the London results of the UnHerd Britain data — it turns out that the idea of London as an island of liberal values isn’t so true after all…

by Ed West
Friday, 29
November 2019
Idea
15:20

Why haven’t we banned cars yet?

They're designing a new car-free town in Arizona - we should follow their lead

Our local area Facebook group had a miniature version of the national Brexit divide recently, after the council decided to experimentally close one of the main roads to see how it affected congestion and street life.

I haven’t seen such anger on the internet since the New Atheist Wars of the late 2000s. I admit I’m a partisan on this issue, but it was amazing how unnecessary so many car journeys still are in London; people complaining about the traffic along their route, for journeys that are well-served by public transport and could even be walked in under half an hour. Unless you’re disabled or need a van for tools, there is literally no good reason to drive to work in London. ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Friday, 29
November 2019
Reaction
10:51

Is it immoral to vote for Labour?

Corbyn's party has become an incubator for the hatred of Jews

Kudos to Sir Richard Evans, distinguished historian of the Third Reich and expert witness in the famous Deborah Lipstadt trial in 2000. Lipstadt had called David Irving a “holocaust denier.” Irving sued for defamation and lost. Evans’ testimony was crucial in Lipstadt’s victory.

Given all this, it was disappointing to many when Evans tweeted out that he was going to support Labour notwithstanding the “cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected” it. This ill-judged tweet met with a howl of outrage. Was Evans really saying that a little bit of Jew hatred was a price worth paying for an otherwise anti-austerity and Remain agenda? Anthony Julius nailed it when he wrote in the New Statesman: ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Thursday, 28
November 2019
Seen Elsewhere
18:10

Is Jordan Peterson a gateway to the alt-right?

A new study suggests maybe — but it's still better to engage than to demonise

There’s an interesting analysis over at Heterodox Academy on whether exposure to Jordan Peterson serves as a sort of gateway drug to more extreme (Alt-Right) political material. According to the author Joel Finkelstein, “whether consumption of his content serves as a gateway drug to more alt-right content, lend themselves to empirical investigation.”

I’d love to believe that Peterson doesn’t lead to the harder stuff. Unfortunately, that’s not what Finkelstein concludes:

While not conclusive, our findings conjoin two lines of evidence that suggest exposure to Jordan Peterson’s content may (inadvertently) serve as a vector for the spread of alt-right ideas. Alt-right-associated communities tend to associate Peterson’s material in the context of their most heinous misogynist and white supremacist ideas, and engagement with Peterson’s YouTube material predicts higher (rather than lessened) engagement with alt-right content on YouTube…

Critically, these analyses do not support the notion that Peterson himself is an extremist or Nazi-sympathizer, and none of us believe that such accusations are credible. We also think that it is highly unlikely that Peterson himself knows about these trends. Indeed, we were ourselves surprised by the findings. Thus, these analyses should not be taken as an attack on Peterson’s character or motives.

- Philip Aldrick

Unfortunately, most people in the media and academia don’t have the same sort of high principles as the folks at Heterodox Academy, because the political elephant usually leads the impartial analytical rider – and so cancelling Peterson is what they’ll try to do. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 28
November 2019
Idea
15:23

How old is too old in politics?

Should there be an age limit for political candidates?

The state devotes ten of billion of pounds every year in pension payments, tax credits and other means of funding retirement. The idea that we should not have to work in old age is uncontroversial. Indeed, our politicians compete among themselves to find new ways of bunging billions at retirees.

And yet some of our leaders are reluctant to retire themselves. In 2021, Angela Merkel is due to bow out at the age of 67, after 16 years of leading her country. Jeremy Corbyn, however, proposes to start out at the age of 70 — and that’s nothing compared to America.

Despite a recent heart attack, Bernie Sanders is still battling for the Democratic nomination at the age of 78. Still leading the field is Joe Biden, aged 77. For a while it looked as though Elizabeth Warren, 70, was the frontrunner. However, inadequate poll ratings against Donald Trump, 73, have counted against her. Support is currently surging for Pete Buttigieg — but at 37, he has the opposite problem to the other main contenders. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Thursday, 28
November 2019
Reaction
11:11

Is America losing the war on misery?

More Americans are dying 'deaths of despair' through drug or alcohol abuse

“Modernity is a deal”, wrote Yuval Noah Harari in Homo Deus. “The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.”

As a new study shows, rising numbers of Americans in the prime of adult life are dying ‘deaths of despair’ through drug or alcohol abuse, obesity, hypertensive disorders or suicide. The rise in such deaths is now significant enough to have reversed a long-term increase in American life expectancy, which has declined for three consecutive years.

The report examined life expectancy data over the period from 1959-2016 and more recent data covering death rates for specific causes, showing that while overall life expectancy rose by nearly 10 years in the period from 1959 to 2016, life expectancy since 2014 declined for three years in a row. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 27
November 2019
Explainer
23:41

The YouGov map that says it all

One powerful image shows how the Tories are heading for a majority

YouGov’s MRP poll has finally dropped, to much fanfare, and will have both cheered and unnerved Conservative high command. It shows the Tories winning 359 seats — a majority of 68.

It’s worth saying that recent polls have hinted at a squeeze on the Tory lead, as some Lib Dem votes seem to be moving back to Labour. Given that eight of the Tory gains in the YouGov model show a margin of less than 1%, and a further 20 have a margin of less than 5%, if that squeeze continues it can wipe a lot of those Tory gains out.

But, if this model is roughly right (and it correlates closely enough with the Focaldata model released earlier in the day to think that it should be), the Conservatives could lose all of these 28 seats and still end up with a majority. At 331 seats, albeit small, even this reduced result would still be a bigger majority than David Cameron won in 2015. ...  Continue reading

by James Billot
Wednesday, 27
November 2019
Idea
15:25

Did the Green Party miss a trick with Brexit?

Could a pro-Brexit Greens party have united liberals and small c conservatives?

With less than three weeks to go until the General Election, polling for the Green Party doesn’t look pretty. The latest YouGov has them down at 2%, which is roughly where they were at the last election. Any hope that it would follow in the footsteps of its sister party in Germany, the second most popular party, is long gone.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but did the Greens miss a trick by not backing Brexit in the 2016 referendum?

Instead of resorting to limp arguments about ‘remain and reform’ in the EU — a slogan that even the most ardent Remainers don’t really believe in — the Greens could have presented a bold, exciting vision of a Green Brexit and drawn on support from across the political spectrum. ...  Continue reading