People are always angry about something. These days they are either angry about vaccination, or angry about people who are angry about vaccination. But until recently, they were angry about things like worsening financial inequality, immigration, and lack of action on climate change. These things are affected by economic policies and events, and this book puts forth analyses and ideas to address some of the anger.Continue reading
Articles about society
Angrynomics – Lonergan and Blyth
X + Y — Eugenia Cheng
It seems to me that the world is set up in such a way as to give men an unfair advantage. (Lucky me.) And not just because they are men — more because the world is set up so that certain kinds of behaviour are favoured, and those behaviours are more common in men than in women. There are behaviours that are thought of as typically masculine or feminine, but talking about them in those terms just reinforces the stereotypes that we should try to abolish. As soon as we say “men are like this”, someone else will reasonably say “not all men!” and we end up with an argument instead of progress.Continue reading
Free Speech — Timothy Garton Ash
This is a considered and level-headed approach to free speech. Ash avoids the platitudes and black-and-white dogmatism of the more extreme woke and anti-woke thinking. Instead, he tries to go back to first principles: about what is good and bad about free speech and what happens when it gets pushed too far in various directions. He discusses what the rules concerning free speech should be, and also the laws (they aren’t necessarily the same). In the end he distills it down to ten principles:Continue reading
Bike helmets should be optional
I think everyone agrees that riding is always safer with a helmet. But here’s a (the?) argument for making helmets optional:
1. If helmets are optional, then more people will cycle.
2. And there will initially be more cycling casualties
Hello World — Hannah Fry
“Algorithms” will save the world, or possibly destroy it. This book is a good survey of how computerised algorithms are used and misused, and how they can be harnessed so their power can be used for good rather than evil.Continue reading
The Lies that Bind — Kwame Anthony Appiah
This is an enlightening discussion of what identity is and how it works, both in history and in the present day. Appiah weaves explanations together with history, anecdotes and analysis. He also adds some personal stories and perspectives from his own quite interesting background.Continue reading
There was an interesting exchange in the NZ Herald recently. The NZ Initiative, a conservative “think tank”, published a report basically saying that it is bad for governments to fund deficits by printing money. (I told you they were conservative.) The NZ Social Credit Association responded with a full-page ad in the NZ Herald setting out their view of Modern Monetary Theory and how it could work in practice.
Bryce Wilkinson, one of the senior NZ Initiative fellows, then published an opinion piece in the newspaper trying to discredit the Social Credit article. Shortly after that, Chris Leitch of the Social Credit Association published another response.Continue reading
Confessions of a Heretic — Roger Scruton
“The Scrutonizer”*, real name Roger Scruton (or more correctly and impressively, Sir Roger Scruton) is an English conservative (but not Conservative) philosopher. He is no right-wing loony though — his views tend to be very carefully considered and sensible. This book collects a number of his thoughtful yet somewhat fierce essays.Continue reading
Get it Together — Zoe Williams
Human Values and Energy — Ian Morris
Historian Ian Morris argues that in the evolution of human culture, changes in ethical values have been driven by energy. He thinks that in any given epoch, the dominant energy source sets limits on the kinds of societies that can succeed, and each society in turn rewards specific values.
As far as it goes, there may be some correlation, but he gets it backwards when he tries to base a grand theory on it. That’s my impression after listening to his talk at the RSA.
In the evolution of human culture from pre-history to the present, changes in ethical values have been driven by the most basic force of all: energy.