Tag: Politics


Joking. Not joking.

Horrifying to contemplate how big a round of applause this would get at the next Conservative Party conference if it was delivered by the right member of the Cabinet:

Close, but not quite…

Further to my reference to that famous Lenin quote…

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

… turns out that @Pinboard has evidence that this is indeed a misattribution. Wrong author, right sentiments.

, 7 May 2020. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

Looking forward/backward

Some thoughts from Matt Webb about the shape of the post-lockdown future once it comes to pass:

Even if we don’t get another lockdown for 10 years, the fact it’s a maybe means that our behaviour will change to account for the possibility.

So I wonder about the long-term effects not of lockdown itself, but the continuous risk of lockdown. Like, will you book a holiday for 6 months time, or will you book simply the option to go somewhere? Would you ever start a business that had a reliance on in-person meetings, or a supply chain that wasn’t tolerant to an unexpected 3 month stop? Of course not. How do you invest in friendships? Do you ever move far away from ageing parents if there’s a risk that planes won’t fly – or does distance no longer matter when you wouldn’t be able to meet in person anyway?

But then, others have a different take on what’s coming our way:

Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life , to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones , to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.

Nowadays I keep on running into articles in which the author deploys some variant of Lenin’s remark1 that "There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen."

I can but deploy another oft-cited (and very possibly equally misattributed) curse: "We live in interesting times."

I hope Matt Webb is right, but the hunger from all sides to declare that post-lockdown2 "Business As Usual" is the order of the day is going to be hard to resist.


  1. Sadly I haven’t found a source for it confirming authorship. Given that it’s very likely an English translation of something expressed slightly differently in Russian I suspect that at best it’s a slightly mangled version of the notion as originally expressed. Sit on it for a few decades and who knows, perhaps everyone will be citing it as one of the sayings of Keir Starmer. Or was it Rishi Sunak? Margaret Thatcher? Barbara Castle?3 
  2. The first time, at any rate. Perhaps it’s going to take a bunch of lockdowns over a period of a few years to hammer home the message that Business Is Not As Usual. 
  3. I dunno. Definitely sounds like someone from the pre-Former United Kingdom era, anyway. 

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

, 25 May 2019. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , , .

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