Archive for the 'Context' Category


So, this blog went into hiatus again two months after I got it back in gear, due to a combination of offline stress with absence of reliable internet. If I get back to a position where I’m able to write again, I will get at least a month’s lead on the work before I actually start publishing.

See you anon.


Reddit here first

Hi guys :)Apparently /r/timetolegalize/ has noticed the Prohibition series. Welcome aboard, guys :)

Give Peace a Chance

This is mostly a meta-post about what is about to happen on the blog from tomorrow, but here’s a quick trawl around the net first:

News in Brief

Meanwhile, up in the tokey mountains...


Michael Gove is being an idiot. My degree was in history and I work in TIE at a Tudor museum, so I’m not even going to start on how much of an idiot he’s being; that would get ranty. Mike Konczal at WonkBlog wants us to know that economists agree on raising the minimum wage being effective at diminishing poverty. This is newsworthy not so much for that conclusion as for the phrase, ‘economists agree’. Wren-Lewis continues to illustrate self-interested errors among city economists. And Business Insider has a delightful and satirical response to the Brooks-Marcus-Brown axis of reefer madness (while we’re on that note, this ball just keeps on rolling).

Orwell’s War
Around this time last year, as I was trying to launch this blogging effort, I began a research series on the War on Drugs. The series came in three sections: the two I had mostly completed that time round were Us & Them, which covered the origins of the modern Drug War, and Perverse Incentives, which dealt with how the Drug War is maintained in the present era. That series was still incomplete when I dropped off the internet last year and was unable to continue writing here.

A sufficient number of the existing articles have needed reworking to reflect new developments that I decided I should run the whole series again, with the updates and continuing on through the last two Perverse Incentives essays to Orwell’s War, which will talk about the final days of the War and look forward to a possible peace. I should be able to publish an article every second day or so until the series is complete. Watch this space. If you have time, watch this video.

Happy New Year

Hangovers notwithstanding.

Status Quo Vade

holly_kingSo I missed six months of last year due to being disconnected from the internet. I did a lot of useful stuff away from the keyboard, but it did blow this blogging effort out of the water. It looks at though for perhaps the next year I shall be reconnected: this is good! However, my computer blew a gasket on Christmas Day, so I’m operating in a borrowed environment: this is less good. For someone in the middle of a research and commentary series about the developing cracks in the Drug War, those particular six months were a very irritating season to miss: a great deal happened in that sphere and I shall return to that theme soon. The original Prohibition series is going to be rebooted; a sufficient number of the existing articles have needed reworking to reflect new developments that I’m going to run the whole series again, to a schedule this time. Watch this space.

I may be limited to that series and some Friday Giant posts for the forseeable, as how much reading time I’m going to get is not always predictable. For today, here are some things I thought were interesting.

Daily Trawl

1. Civil Liberties.
I’ve been knocking around the internet for a good while now. The geek end of the industry has always had a touch of the techno-utopianism about personal liberty and the power of the internet. As the censorship and control efforts of the last few years have got out of hand, more and more serious people have started talking about privacy and personal autonomy as being the early 21st Century’s answer to the Civil Rights era. Just as it was in the 60s and 70s, the two greatest challenges we face in society over the next fifty years are to do with finding a sustainable economic model and redefining the relationship between citizen, state and corporation. Timothy Lee at WaPo has some details. Then they also had this piece from Andrea Peterson exploring the ways in which Hollywood’s dystopian visions from the late 1990s have come true in the surveillance state over the last year.

Continue reading ‘Happy New Year’

Daily Trawl

Mostly macro today.

1. Robust debates.
There’s been a bit of a tussle of late, which started with Olli Rehn at the EU taking offence at people disagreeing with him. As one might expect, Prof. Krugman is in the middle of all this, and the action has moved to Jeffrey Sachs. DeLong and EconoSpeak have the latest installments. Krugman himself, meanwhile, has responded to a fairly epic straw-man attack by providing a clear statement of what he actually thinks, based on what the evidence actually is.

2. Austerians still at it.
The IMF have been disagreeing with Osborne again. Jonathan Portes catches David Cameron misrepresenting the IFS and and NIESR, as well as the OBR, making the recent speech quite the plum for active mendacity from the Prime Minister. Portes goes on to take apart Cameron’s view in detail. And Chris Dillow has a first-class look at the reasons we need, not a small stimulus, but actually a really large one, if unemployment is to come down enough to make a real difference to aggregate demand and social insurance spending.

3. Meta-points from Ezra Klein.
The world of freelance writing has had its own recent controversy, centred around The Atlantic and the economics of writing for exposure. WonkBlog has a first-class discussion of the impact of online content on journalism and issues writing, and goes straight to the source (as it were).

Daily Trawl

Yesterday was mostly music practices, but as a result wasn’t a day blogging. My reader feed throws up about 400 articles a day, so there will now be an epic link dump of things I thought looked interesting, before I try and write anything substantive.

1. Economic updates.
Wonkblog has numbers on austerity damage: in the process, Suzy Khimm coins the delightful phrase ‘deficit owls’ for those who oppose the austerian ‘deficit hawks’. Noted defecit owl Paul Krugman is squashing cockroaches in the NYT, and has a great op-ed on collective bargaining and healthcare costs. Richard Green has observations on inequality. Robert Reich says lefty things which will, as always, be ignored by VSPs. And Prof. Wren-Lewis has an excellent meditation on why politicians won’t listen to economists.

2. Why oh Why, continued…
Political science blogger Jonathan Berstein has two good piece, one at WaPo on the notorious Tom P. BaxterNewt Gingrich, and another at PlainBlog, where he calls out A. Scott Berg for talking rubbish about Woodrow Wilson.

3. Ta-Nehisi Coates: just read it.
TNC is one of the best writers around, and he says important things well. I discovered him during Confederate History Month a while back, and his series on why the South must not be permitted to rise again was quite remarkable. Today he’s on the significance of President Obama’s tenure 150 years after secession.

The history of black citizenship had, until now, been dominated by violence, terrorism, and legal maneuvering designed to strip African Americans of as many privileges—jury service, gun ownership, land ownership, voting—as possible. Obama’s reelection repudiates that history, and shows the power of a fully vested black citizenry. Martin Luther King Jr. did not create the civil-rights movement any more than Malcolm X created black pride. And the wave that brought Obama to power precedes him: the black-white voting gap narrowed substantially back in 1996, before he was even a state legislator. The narrowing gap is not the work of black messiahs, but of many black individuals.

4. The care of children.
Alan White is in the New Statesman, talking about the troubling and regularly lethal use of force in juvenile detention centres in the UK.

5. Thoughts on Thinking.
This TLS review of a new Latin-English scholarly edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan is very good, if you are interested in such things. Hobbes is many things to us, but what he mostly was to his contemporaries was very disturbing.

6. Reality has a strong…
… liberal bias but Anglo politics, apparently, has a measurable conservative one. Wonkblog has the breakdown on a Berkley working paper which, as far as I can tell, confirms clearly something I have suspected for a long time.

Politicians of all parties consistently and significantly over-estimate the ‘conservativeness’ of their constituencies. Liberal politicians underestimate the strength of support for liberal politicians, and conservatives, by a much larger margin, over-estimate the dominance of conservative support in their districts and in the polity at large. Key quote on that one from the original article:

[…] nearly half of conservative politicians appear to believe that they represent a district that is more conservative on these issues than is the most conservative district in the entire country.

“These issues” being healthcare and gay marriage.

Reality is more biased toward liberals than even the liberals imagine.

Dylan Matthews conclusion:

The research here is young and, as a general rule, reading too much into a single working paper is foolhardy. It’d be good, for one thing, to perform district-level surveys to confirm these findings. But the data holds against a battery of robustness checks the authors threw at it. The finding on conservative legislators in particular is so large that it’s hard to imagine any subsequent research would completely overturn it. But if the findings hold, they suggest both that epistemic closure on the right is real and affects state-level policymaking, and that there is a systematic bias against liberal policies at the state level.

That’s why it’s so damn hard to get liberal policies through our legislatures. Elected officials are permanently afraid of electoral punishment from a reactionary ‘majority’ of Edwardian moral vigilantes which simply does not exist.

11 Giants for the price of 1

Warning: this could get long. It also, at least technically, contains spoilers.

I love Doctor Who. I love Star Trek and BSG and Bab5 and Firefly, too. No question. But they’re not Doctor Who. Neither was Blakes 7, or any of the other sci-fi classics where the future had a British accent. The show’s commercial success is quite extraordinary, particularly now that the international mass market has bought into New Who.

Continue reading ’11 Giants for the price of 1′

August 2019
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith