breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Chart
17:07

Is Boris spending like a drunken sailor?

Beyond Covid, there have been big shifts in Government spending

It’s all spend, spend, spend with this government. The days of austerity under David Cameron and George Osborne are long gone. 

Or are they?

Obviously we’ve seen extraordinary levels of expenditure in response to the Covid pandemic. Paying millions of workers to stay at home doing nothing doesn’t come cheap. However, the furlough scheme and the other emergency measures are temporary. Rishi Sunak, who became a hero by opening the coffers back in 2020 is now reinventing himself as Mr Tightwad. 

To get an idea of what’s really happening with public expenditure we need to exclude Covid spending and look at the long-term trend in department budgets.  ...  Continue reading

by Raquel Rosario Sánchez
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Reaction
14:05

Stop exploiting women’s fears

There's a whole industry around keeping us 'safe'

Earlier this week, Downing Street signalled support for a mobile app that would track women’s journeys and summon the police if they feel under threat. The initiative came from BT, following public outrage over the murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard at the hands of a police officer, in March.

The emergency app, potentially under the number 888, has already won the support of home secretary Priti Patel and the Prime Minister’s office, which “welcomed this sort of innovation”. It’s understandable the Home Office would be eager to do something — anything — to reassure a distrustful public that it takes male violence against women seriously. But at a time when so many specialised domestic abuse shelters and rape crisis centre are facing cuts, threats to funding and closure, it is jarring to see politicians eager to throw £50 million at an app that has been condemned as a “sticking plaster solution”. ...  Continue reading

by Curt Mills
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Reaction
10:45

Andrew Yang: already the most interesting 2024 candidate

The odds are stacked against him, but his new party deserves attention

Disillusionment with establishment politics in America is not a new phenomenon. Ever since the founding of the Republic, the tide of populism has ebbed and flowed, but rarely has an outsider candidate been able to capitalise on popular discontent and make it all the way to the White House. 

That hasn’t stopped prominent figures in American life from trying. The most recent example is Andrew Yang — a New York millionaire and now former Democrat who has defected to found his own shop, the Forward Party, this month. 

“We can sense in our country that polarisation is getting worse than ever,” Yang, the former presidential and New York mayoral candidate, told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo this month. “And, unfortunately, the incentives are going to make such that we’re going to wind up with violence, strife and even a new civil war. I mean, it is that serious.” ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 13
October 2021
Debate
07:00

Women don’t need ‘fertility seminars’

Dystopian warnings about declining egg quality help no one

Earlier this week it was announced that Murray Edwards, an all-female college at Cambridge University, is now offering fertility seminars that warn women that they risk childlessness if they don’t start a family by their mid-thirties. 

President Dorothy Byrne claims that the classes are about ‘empowering’ women, but the reality is that this is nothing more than scare-mongering. Yes, the birth rate is falling; from 1.92 children per woman in 2011 to 1.53 in 2021, to be precise. But we are not quite at the Children of Men stage yet. We do not need vaguely dystopian, ominous warnings about declining egg quality; instead, we need to consider why parenthood is not financially, professionally or socially viable for so many people. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Tuesday, 12
October 2021
Spotted
16:15

Macron is swapping arrogance for football

The President thinks sport is the way to reach voters alienated by his aloof style

President Emmanuel Macron, defender of the political centre, will play in the centre of defence this week in a football team including the former Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger.

Macron, 43, hopes to play the full 90 minutes to raise money for a hospital charity — Les Pièces Jaunes (the small change) — headed by his wife, Brigitte.

Surely he will be the first French head of state ever to be seen in shorts and football boots?

The Emperor Napoleon?  Non. Football hadn’t been invented yet. Charles de Gaulle? Unthinkable. Jacques Chirac? He preferred other physical activities.

In fact, Emmanuel Macron is not the first French president to play football while in office. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing turned out in full gear several times when he was in the Elysée Palace between 1974 and 1981. ...  Continue reading

by Joan Smith
Tuesday, 12
October 2021
Campus Wars
13:24

The disgraceful treatment of Kathleen Stock

It is staggeringly reckless to target a woman in this manner

Trades unions are meant to stand up for people who are being bullied at work. But that clearly doesn’t apply to the University and College Union, an organisation so steeped in extreme gender ideology that its Sussex branch has decided to join in the attacks on a philosophy lecturer. 

Last week, posters appeared around the campus at Sussex University, calling for Professor Kathleen Stock to be fired. Amid a vile collection of slurs, they described her as ‘one of this wretched island’s most prominent transphobes, espousing a bastardised version of radical feminism’. 

At a time when violence against women dominates the headlines, it is staggeringly reckless to target a woman in this manner. Not that long ago, union officials and colleagues would have rushed to Stock’s defence, condemning the campaign by a group as a deliberate attempt to frighten her off campus — and an attack on free speech. ...  Continue reading

by Greg Barker
Tuesday, 12
October 2021
Explainer
10:43

A $1 trillion platinum coin won’t fix America’s problems

It is peak late-stage capitalism

Every time it seems like late-stage capitalism might face its impending doom, our beloved elites pull out another surprise.

This time there is (yet another) debt-ceiling feud in America, which, if left unresolved, would lead to the first sovereign default in America’s history. Notable economic figures, such as Joe Weisenthal and Paul Krugman, have therefore proposed a radical solution: to ignore the pesky debt limit and finance emergency government spending by minting a whopping $1 trillion platinum coin.

With every new presidency we go through this pathetic ‘will they, won’t they?’ charade. It’s nothing more than a political squabble, where the party out of power attacks their rivals for wanting to push the U.S. Government further into debt bondage, even though both Democrats and Republicans have helped amass national liabilities of over $28.8 trillion. ...  Continue reading

by Mary Harrington
Tuesday, 12
October 2021
Debate
07:00

Making misogyny a hate crime is pure window-dressing

What would actually help would be to make our streets safe

In the wake of the Sarah Everard murder, the former victims’ commissioner and Conservative peer Lady Newlove has tabled an amendment to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill that would make misogyny a hate crime, sparking debate within the Tories and elsewhere.

Does this make sense? The difficulty with this debate is that like any media-driven demand for legislation, it is highly emotive, and tends to skip without much rigour between the dimensions of moral pronouncement and real-world law and order policy.

On the moral pronouncement side, it’s relatively clear what we achieve by making misogyny a hate crime. Making misogyny a hate crime says, in effect, that women have a right to never experience hostility on the grounds of being women, and that this right has (in theory at least) the backing of state power. ...  Continue reading