On the bright side…

Positively the only good thing about recent political developments in the UK is that they’re going to give Marina Hyde tons of new material:

[…] Arguably this morning’s most amusing development was Helen Grant resigning as Tory vice-chair to openly support Dominic Raab. Is this the same Dominic Raab who resigned in protest at a Brexit deal he himself negotiated as Brexit secretary, and who is bizarrely being talked up as a strong candidate? Righto. It was Swift (Jonathan) who warned: “It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom.” And it was Swift (Taylor) who said: “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” I don’t want to come over all Mystic Meg, but I am seeing a nightmarish news story in Dominic Raab’s future that will curtail any bid in fairly short order. […]

Any non-UK readers wondering who Dominic Raab is should comfort themselves with the thought that three years ago none of us on this side of the Atlantic knew either, and three years from now he’ll be lucky to be the punchline in a “Name the Brexit Secretary who succeeded David Davis in the role?” quiz question. 1

Frenemies Forever

Novelist John Lanchester ponders whether economists and humanists can ever be friends?

[Hanson and Simler’s…] emphasis on signalling and unconscious motives suggests that the most important part of our actions is the motives themselves, rather than the things we achieve, such as writing symphonies, curing diseases, building cathedrals, searching into the deepest mysteries of time and space, and so on. The last sentence of the book makes the point that “we may be competitive social animals, self-interested and self-deceived, but we cooperated our way to the god-damned moon.” With that one observation, acknowledging that the consequences of our actions are more important than our motives, the argument of the book implodes.

The issue here is one of overreach: taking an argument that has worthwhile applications and extending it further than it usefully goes. Our motives are often not what they seem: true. This explains everything: not true. After all, it’s not as if the idea that we send signals about ourselves were news; you could argue that there is an entire social science, sociology, dedicated to the subject.

Apparently not.1