Continue reading “Bread and Circuses”
And what does the mob of Remus say? It follows fortune, as it always does, and rails against the condemned. That same rabble, if Nortia had smiled upon the Etruscan, if the aged Emperor had been struck down unawares, would in that very hour have conferred upon Sejanus the title of Augustus. Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things—Bread and Circuses!
I’ve just finished The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray. It opens…
We are going through a great crowd derangement. In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant.”
If you struggle to find a logic to follow in identity politics, if you’re somewhat mystified by the raging debates about gender versus sex, or the rights of actors or writers to present a perspective other than that of their own race-gender-sexuality, then this is the book for you.
As a result, I too found myself googling “European art” and “straight white couple”. I’ve so far resisted the temptation to google Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video … but, the days are longer in self-isolation.
A valuable, insightful book.
There’s a taster in this interview from Uncommon Knowledge:
On September 22nd, 1735, Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister (although the title was not used until much later), moved into Number Ten Downing Street (although it did not have that number then). Its famous door (through which it was not then entered) has become an iconic symbol of Britain’s democratic government.
The Adam Smith Institute’s Madsen Pirie on a famous house and its early resident.
The residence at 10 Downing Street that he occupied is not what it seems. Walpole had the architect William Kent connect two houses, making the Downing Street front one effectively a passage through to the main building behind it. A corridor connects it to the Cabinet Office much further up Whitehall, and there is a tunnel under Whitehall that we’re not supposed to know about that connects it to the Defence Ministry…
In many ways Ten Downing Street resembles the British constitution it safeguards. There is much more to it than the outward appearance might suggest, and it adapts and changes over time to meet the new challenges it is called upon to face. Yet it preserves the outward form, providing reassurance of continuity. It is modest, rather than grandiose, reminding us that the Prime Minister is a person like us, who lives in a house, as we do, rather than some god-like remote dignitary.
Madsen Pirie, at the Adam Smith Institute, has a piece on George Orwell, his writing and his impact.
He is still highly relevant, rewarding us not only with his fluent prose, but with his honesty. He self-identified as a socialist and a man of the Left, yet he saw and wrote about what people actually did in the name of socialism. His refusal to excuse the cynical brutality of those who claimed to carry its banner but betrayed all of its ideals, made him many enemies on the Left.
Facebook appears to be on the back foot, with bad press depressing growth rates in key markets, but the appointment of Nick Clegg as Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications may be a smart move.Continue reading “Facebook’s future battles”
Should everyone, or at least every sovereign professional, read Machiavelli’s notorious book, The Prince?
From the BBC’s Imagine series, this programme explores the history and contemporary impact of Nicolo Machiavelli’s most famous book.Continue reading “Who’s afraid of Machiavelli? – BBC”
Levies for allegedly unpaid taxes, no supporting calculations and no right of appeal. The House of Lords finds that HMRC has been acting aggressively and disproportionately to freelancers it suspects of having avoided tax.
From David Byers in The Times:
The economic affairs committee in the House of Lords this week said that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was overusing “disproportionate” powers that allow it to demand swift payments of unpaid tax from those it suspects of tax avoidance. Those suspected have no right to appeal to a tribunal.
Members said that accelerated payment notices (APNs) and follower notices were being aimed unfairly at lower and middle-income freelancers such as IT workers and NHS nurses, rather than the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chairman of the committee, said the balance of power had “tipped too far in favour of HMRC and against the fundamental protections every taxpayer should expect”.
It summarises seven findings:
- Increasingly fluid – “What we mean is that things are more open, less set, because people do have more ways to connect, see and experience more things.”
- No turning point on trust – “Our new analysis shows no real differences in levels of trust among the young with regards to all sorts of traditional institutions.”
- Just as caring – “But this does not mean that Gen Z are a cohort of activists.
Neither are they selfish snowflakes, too busy watching YouTube videos of people eating Tide Pods. The evidence suggests they are just as active in social causes as previous generations, sometimes in different ways (using technology), but just as often in traditional ways, such as volunteering.”
- Inflection point on health – On obesity: “it’s not getting better either. A lot of this is arguably to do with the environment around young people which is shaped to make it harder to keep a healthy weight – the people they see, the shops they shop at, the food they have available, all create a social norm, and are often geared to make them fat.”
- Importance of digital skills – “In some ways, Generation Z already have an
innate advantage over other generations, just through growing up fully integrated with technology – they are much more discerning of online sources than Millennial children ever were.”
- Danger is different – “Generation Z are not the teenage rebels of ages past. Generational declines in youth crime, smoking, drinking and sexual activity reflect a significant behavioural shift.”
- And digital is double-edged – “There is a growing body of evidence of the downsides from unfettered use of technology, prompting more strident statements from politicians and officials, including the head of the NHS in the UK. Social media use has correlations with anxiety, bullying, peer pressure, lower self-esteem, alongside much more positive outcomes.
We’re only in the infancy of understanding the full impact.”
Also, some fascinating data points (in no particular order):
- In 25 EU countries, the number of young people detained by the police dropped by 42% between 2008 and 2014.
- In the US in 2015, 22% of high schoolers had been in a physical fight that year compared with 36% in 1999.
- 66% of Generation Z think of themselves as exclusively heterosexual
compared with 71% of Millennials, 85% of Gen X and 88% of Baby Boomers.
- Just 30% of teenagers feel the things they own say a lot about how well they are doing in life, compared with 42% in 2011.
- Only 39% of teens prefer to buy gender-specific shoes, compared with
57% of Millennials.
- 40% of 12-15 year olds in 2010, felt that things they saw on social media were either entirely or mostly true; just 24% of Gen Z 12-15 year olds think that now.
The full report is here.
From last week’s Economist, a thoughtful piece on the state of the Conservative party:
If it can keep its head, though, and bring off a Brexit that does not plunge the country into chaos or paupery, then its long habit of exercising power, its ruthlessness with its leaders and its ability to mix firmness with flexibility—qualities which have made the Conservative Party the democratic world’s most successful political machine—may yet see it through. And the intellectual skills of a rising generation—not something it has always been able to count on—may, if exercised to the full, allow not mere survival, but success.
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