Showing posts from July, 2016

2016 and anti-establishment anger

First Corbyn, then Brexit. First Trump, then Sanders. The last twelve months or so have seen an incredible rise of anti-establishment politics, as voters fed up with the old class of political leadership rallied around a series of unlikely figures promising radical change.

This has been enough of a trope in political coverage this year that I haven't bothered to find specific examples - I'm sure you've encountered plenty. The idea that these new movements on the left and right are basically of the same kind, channeling many of the same emotions in starkly different directions and responding to many of the same longstanding political and economic problems, has become a kind of conventional wisdom. It's also completely wrong, and very unhelpful to properly understanding the political dynamics of the US and the UK this year.

Labour's mess

Imagine you're in your office, and someone walks in and throws soup all over your desk. Then they shout at you: "someone with such a filthy desk isn't fit to work in this organisation! You have to resign!"

This is not a perfect analogy for the current mess in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. (If you feel like it, add some details so it satisfies you - I'd be amused to hear them.) But it's not really that far from the truth. And it seems to reflect extremely well the view that Corbyn, his team and most of his supporters have of the way things have unfolded.

The smugness of effective altruism

This post is much more of a rant than my usual ones. But stuff related to effective altruism has been increasingly annoying me, recently. So here goes.

Before I start, let's get some things clear. As I see it, the interesting core of effective altruism is three claims:
(1) When you give to charity, you should give to charities that use the money most effectively. (2) You should give more to charity. (That is, to highly effective charities.) (3) You should arrange your life so that you can give as much as possible to charity. I think the first two of these are pretty plainly true; I'm somewhat less convinced about the third. There is an interesting philosophical question about how inclusive 'you' has to be before the claims here become false, or more dubious. But that's not really the main point: you, reading this, should just find a list of effective charities, and when you earn money, you should give quite a bit of that money to the charities on the list.

That is:…

Brexit for the non-British

A few days ago I listened to the latest episode of The Weeds, a really interesting podcast from Vox, on which they discuss Brexit. Their discussion was interesting but ultimately not particularly accurate, which made me realise that if you don't regularly read a British media source you probably don't have a solid handle on what exactly has happened, let alone how or why. So here is my first venture into 'explainer journalism'!

Brexit and 'the economy'

This post is significantly shorter than I'd originally planned, because the news cycle has... moved on a little. But I still want to say something about the post-referendum stockmarket crash which grabbed everyone's attention for a few days.

You may have heard that the vote to leave the EU caused Britain to cease being the world's fifth-largest economy, falling behind France. Maybe you read that the country lost more money in the day after the referendum than it could hope to save by not joining the EU. Maybe you think the last week has proved that 'Project Fear' about the economic consequences of Brexit was right all along.

No, no and no. I don't want to paint a rosy picture of the post-Brexit economy. Losing (easy) access to the single market will be bad for the UK; the financial sector will probably lose a fair amount of relative significance and the whole country will be poorer over the long-run thanks to less open trade - but in that sphere we're talki…