breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 10
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere
11:25

Tax evading billionaires will put Warren in the White House

Well, it’s finally happened – America now has a regressive tax system in which the 400 richest families pay a lower effective rate than the poorest 50% of Americans.

That’s according to Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post, who reports on the latest research into what different income groups actually pay in terms of all taxes, not just income tax :

The Triumph of Injustice, by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, presents a first-of-its-kind analysis of Americans’ effective tax rates since the 1960s. It finds that in 2018 the average effective tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was 23 percent, a full percentage point lower than the 24.2 percent rate paid by the bottom half of American households.
- Christopher Ingraham

The following graph shows that the super-rich used to pay a lot more but that the gap has now not only disappeared but gone negative for the first time:

Presidential contender Elizabeth Warren has a plan to put that right. This is her “Ultra Millionaire Tax“, which happens to quote the economists who produced the above research: ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Thursday, 10
October 2019
Idea
08:32

You don’t have to be lefty to love Extinction Rebellion

Boris Johnson with Margaret Thatcher’s biography

It almost seems Boris Johnson was performing a parody set piece of himself this week. He showed up to a Thatcher biography book launch and described Extinction Rebellion as “uncooperative crusties” who should stop blocking the streets of the capital with their “heaving hemp-smelling bivouacs”. Boris’s father Stanley promptly and proudly declared himself an “uncooperative crustie” as he showed up to join protests.

The insult inevitably captured the headlines, but in his remarks the Prime Minister also acknowledged that Thatcher was ahead of her time in acknowledging the impact of “greenhouse gases”. In 1989 she gave a speech to the United Nations warning of the impending crisis around carbon emissions:  ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Wednesday, 9
October 2019
Event
16:27

Not a soul on the streets for Yom Kippur in Tel Aviv

This photograph was taken this morning at 8.30 am, in the centre of Tel Aviv, in what ordinarily would have been the rush hour. And when I say there was no traffic on the road, I don’t mean like in the UK at Christmas where a few cars still drive about. I mean none. I wandered around for two hours and saw not a single car driving the streets.

It is not illegal to drive here on Yom Kippur. You can if you want, but people don’t. Even atheists and those hostile to religion respect this. Children take over the streets with their scoters. People lie down in middle of the road, but not in an Extinction Rebellion kind of way. Families wearing white head off to synagogue. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Wednesday, 9
October 2019
Reaction
12:27

Why #WeHeartGermany

Leave.EU’s Aaron Banks has conceded that yesterday’s viral advertising campaign “went too far”. The ad showed a picture of Chancellor Angela Merkel with the catchy jingle “We didn’t win two World Wars to be pushed around by a Kraut”.

It represented the very worst, most moronic side of current British public debate. It was obviously aimed to be offensive, what Scott Alexander referred to as “the toxoplasma of rage”, a deliberately obnoxious style of political advertising mastered by animal rights group PETA.

Maybe where Leave.EU went wrong was to offend their sympathisers, even their hardline supporters. Merkel, as the emblem not just of the EU but of free migration, may be disliked by Eurosceptics, but Germans certainly aren’t. Survey after survey shows that British people feel very warmly towards “the Saxons overseas”, as our ancestors called them. ...  Continue reading

by Nicholas Boys Smith
Wednesday, 9
October 2019
Reaction
08:25

RIBA makes the right decision, for a change

The judges made the right decision in last night’s RIBA Stirling Prize, awarding it to the Goldsmith Street council estate in Norwich. It was the first ever council housing scheme to win the prize.

The residents said, “We want streets back in Norwich” and that’s precisely what they’ve got – the type of traditional low-rise, high-density streets with clear fronts and clear backs in which it is easy to walk about, to play and to know your neighbours. It’s beautiful and it’s built to exemplary energy standards. And on a budget.

It’s particularly heartening because more often than not Stirling Prize judges have been victim to a bad case of ‘design disconnect.’ This is the predictable phenomenon whereby many professional designers actively like what the general public actively dislike. Many recent winners, such as Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI in Rome, appear to have been consciously designed to be as unsettling and unpleasant as possible to people with a normal psychological response to their environments. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 8
October 2019
Idea
18:30

Are socialists liberal? A response to Maajid Nawaz

A thought provoking tweet from Maajid Nawaz:

While this used to be true, I’m not sure it is anymore – in fact I’d argue that most of the contemporary Left, including the self-declared socialist component, is liberal though-and-through.

Classical socialism – whether of the democratic Old Labour variety or the totalitarian Soviet kind – really was about collectivism and group identity, especially class identity. It did not prioritise the maximisation of individual liberty – and, in many cases, sought to minimise it. It was therefore non-liberal or downright anti-liberal. ...  Continue reading

by Ed West
Tuesday, 8
October 2019
Reaction
11:30

When will the Left get over WW2?

No sooner had news filtered through that Pizza Express was in trouble when, inevitably, some people suggested nationalising it. Jon Stone of the Independent pointed out that “From 1940 to 1947 the Ministry of Food ran about 2,000 “British Restaurants” selling inexpensive hot meals for the equivalent of about £1 in today’s money.”

Owen Jones ran with the idea, proposing “Publicly owned restaurants offering subsidised quality food – maybe with allocated spaces for, say, nurses and care workers, or people on lower incomes. Everyone deserves a decent meal out with their loved ones or families.” ...  Continue reading

by Giles Fraser
Tuesday, 8
October 2019
Idea
09:00

When war becomes like mowing the lawn

As Donald Trump announced that he is to withdraw American troops from northern Syria, the military academy at West Point is planning to hold an academic conference later this week on the question of how wars properly come to an end. The conference blurb describes it thus:

2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles which officially ended World War One.  The treaty is infamous for failing to resolve the conflict and setting the stage for World War Two.  As the United States struggles to find resolutions to its two longest wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will gather to examine the theme, ‘How to End a War: Peace, Justice, and Repair.’
- Ethics of War and Peace Conference
 ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Monday, 7
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere
18:28

Why does everyone hate inheritance tax?

In the New Statesman, George Eaton examines an enduring paradox:

…though inheritance tax is paid by just 5 per cent of UK estates, it remains the most reviled tax of all (a 2015 YouGov poll found that 59 per cent of people regard it as ‘unfair’).
- George Eaton

It doesn’t affect most people, so why the widespread hostility?

It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t just drive the Left round the bend, but a lot of liberals and quite a few free-marketeers too. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to tax unearned wealth rather than earned income? Why should people inherit things they’ve never had to work for? Isn’t taxing people post-mortem the least painful way?

The case for inheritance tax is a supremely rational one – but that’s precisely the problem. By-and-large people don’t see themselves as autonomous work units to be optimised for maximum productivity. Rather, most of us see ourselves as part of a family – whose possessions aren’t mere ‘assets’, but homes and the objects that help make a home. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 7
October 2019
Idea
11:32

Is Joker meant to be Donald Trump?

I worry that amid the political furore around Joker, the violent backstory of the iconic Batman character, people might be missing the obvious.

The controversy, understandably, has been about whether the incel-like character irresponsibly glamorises gun violence (for what it’s worth, I think it does).

But what struck me more is how revealing Joker is of Hollywood’s attitude to the American political situation. This adaptation of the character who has been around 80 years is distinctly ‘timely’ – you can imagine the studio discussions about ‘relevance’ in the year following Donald Trump’s election, when Todd Phillips was writing the script. ...  Continue reading