by Peter Franklin
Friday, 6
March 2020

Objectifying women: what’s the problem?

The case for regulation is at least as strong for porn as it is for advertising

I don’t ask this question to imply there isn’t a problem. I think there is. So would most people. But what exactly is it?

On Wednesday, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against an advert from the clothing retailer Missguided (which had appeared on London Underground posters):

The model in [the advertisement] was wearing a blazer with nothing underneath, which exposed the side of her breast, and which was coupled with sheer tights, sheer gloves and underwear…

Because the ad objectified women, we concluded that [it] was likely to cause serious offence.

- Advertising Standards Authority

If an advert features an attractive model, he or she is not there to be ignored — but to be viewed alongside, and associated with, the product. Using one object of desire to sell another cannot be anything but objectifying. However, no one’s seriously suggesting that we ban the use of models altogether. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 5
March 2020

The toilet paper crisis is just bog-standard capitalism

Profiteering and stockpiling during a crisis reveals the weakness of the system

Unedifying scenes from the Antipodes. The toilet paper crisis is now a global phenomenon, but Australia has seen some of the worst panic buying, including a “melee” in which a knife was reportedly pulled.

Empty shelves are bad enough, but what really riles people is when scarce goods are sold at a hefty mark-up. Even worse, is when it’s the mainstream retailers putting up the prices. Vultures!

We’ve already seen shortages and price surges for items like masks and hand sanitiser, but if everyday groceries go the same way, then public anger could boil over.

All this puts the defenders of capitalism in a tight spot. Charging as much as the market will bear is pretty much how the system works. As for accusations of ‘profiteering’ — well, people go into business to make a profit. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 3
March 2020

Panicking about coronavirus will save lives

Whatever you do, *don't* keep calm and carry on

Cass Sunstein, Harvard Professor and ‘nudge theorist’, has a piece on Bloomberg urging us not to panic:

At this stage, no one can specify the magnitude of the threat from the coronavirus. But one thing is clear: A lot of people are more scared than they have any reason to be. They have an exaggerated sense of their own personal risk
- Cass Sunstein, Bloomberg

But hang on, Prof, if “no one can specify the magnitude of the threat” then how can you say that people have an “exaggerated sense of their own personal risk”? Given the highly uncertain, but potentially extreme and multiplicative risks of new infectious diseases, over-reacting to pandemics is entirely rational.

In a series of tweets, the demographer Lyman Stone pushes back against the anti-panickers:

- Lyman Stone
“I think we’ve gone WAY overboard telling people ‘don’t panic.’

“That worm of a feeling in your head saying, ‘omg we’re gonna die we’re gonna die we’re gonna die’ is a good thing. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 27
February 2020

The end of the world for climate change hypocrites

The Heathrow judgement marks the end of denial about the hard choices ahead

Boris Johnson has been leading a double life. And so did Theresa May did when she was Prime Minister — and David Cameron and Gordon Brown.

All of them pledged themselves to tough targets on climate change — but at the same time they pursued economic policies as if those carbon constraints didn’t exist.

Well, today those two worlds collided. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Government was wrong to draw up its Airport National Policy Statement — which provides the basis for Heathrow expansion — without taking into account the UK’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

In the short term, this suits Boris Johnson very well. He no longer has to reconcile his personal opposition to a third runway with the policy he inherited from his predecessor. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 26
February 2020

Memo to Boris: Buses will only get you so far

Boris Johnson's new seats in the North didn't vote to become commuter zones for a few urban centres

A useful new report from the Resolution Foundation has busted some lazy stereotypes about the so-called “blue wall’ of new Tory seats in the Midlands and the North. It turns out Blue Wall communities aren’t especially poor or elderly or subject to population decline. What makes them different are issues like lack of population churn — with relatively few people moving in or out —  and shorter travel to work times compared to other parts of the country. Very few commuters use public transport.

Some commentators — like Frances Coppola writing for CapX — have jumped on these findings to make the case that Blue Wall workers need to “get on their bikes,” i.e. travel further for work to maximise their earning opportunities. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 25
February 2020

No Mr Mount, Boris Johnson is not Mussolini

An extraordinary LRB essay makes the comparison

There’s an extraordinary essay by Ferdinand Mount in the latest London Review of Books. It’s a long read, but here’s a taster:

What is clear above all is that this prime minister does not even pretend, as previous prime ministers have usually pretended, to be merely primus inter pares. He is the Capo, the Duce
- Ferdinand Mount, LRB

The Duce? Mount surely can’t be comparing Boris to Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, can he?

Well, it might help if he could mention the PM without bringing up the F-word:

“How did a politician who was generally regarded as a busted flush only a couple of years ago come to exercise such unquestioned dominance? I think the best base camp for this excursion is Edward Luttwak’s article ‘Why Fascism Is the Wave of the Future’, in the LRB of 7 April 1994.”
- Ferdinand Mount, LRB

Mount doesn’t like the fact that “the Conservative manifesto included no fewer than seven huge colour pictures of Johnson”. But who else were they going to put in there — the rest of Cabinet? Have you seen them?

Boris, undoubtedly, is that rare thing in modern politics — a personality. So, yes, he’s going to be used on the campaign trail. Just like Harold Wilson was or Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair. So how does Mount get from personality to “personality cult”, as he puts it? Is the Prime Minister on the bank notes, now? Do we see statues erected in his honour? Has mocking him been made a criminal offence? ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Friday, 21
February 2020
Seen Elsewhere

Why do ‘open’ liberals live in closed communities?

It's ironic that 'open' cities restrict people from living in them

For some people ‘open versus closed‘ is the new Left versus Right. But how ‘open’ are the communities they choose to live in?

In the case of Britain’s big cities and prosperous university towns, there’s an obvious gap between thought and action.

It’s a point well-made in a piece by Sam Watling for City Journal:

It’s ironic… that self-identified ‘open’ cities restrict people from living in them, whereas ‘closed’ areas build housing for newcomers. Paul Cheshire, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics, notes that in the five years before 2013, Leave-voting Doncaster and Barnsley built twice as many houses as Remain-voting Oxford and Cambridge—despite a far greater need for new housing in the larger cities
- Sam Watling, City Journal

It’s the same story in American liberal enclaves like San Francisco. They may deplore Trump’s wall, but their restrictions on development serve as a financial barrier to incomers.

In Britain, house prices act as a one-way valve, encouraging people to move northwards in search of a higher quality of life, but impeding those who prioritise higher wages from moving in the opposite direction. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 19
February 2020

Should we give the cabinet an IQ test?

Ministers ought to be capable of creative, original thought — but that's rarely tested in public

On Monday, Jessica Simor QC posed the following question:

“Are all members of Cabinet willing to submit to IQ tests and have the results made public?”

I’m pretty sure this was a reference to the Andrew Sabisky controversy and not a serious proposal, but why not IQ test the Cabinet?

Why shouldn’t we have an objective measure of their ability to do their jobs?

The main reason is that no such measure exists, at least none in a simple numerical format like an IQ score. If ability could be scored like a credit rating, then employers would use it to make recruitment and promotion decisions instead of the costly fuss and bother they currently go to. ...  Continue reading