Reasons to Be Cheerful

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

At the end of every Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, exhausted negotiators invariably face criticism that their efforts have been insufficient to address the existential challenge that the world faces. Any victories that they have wrestled from the jaws of failure are frequently deemed by a […]

Tomorrow is Another Election

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘In the long run we are all dead,’ wrote John Maynard Keynes in his 1923 work A Tract on Monetary Reform. Very sharp, Mr Keynes, perhaps so sharp you’ll cut yourself. The remark is open to the riposte that although Keynes and his reader will be dead, future generations have a good chance of still […]

Why Some Are More Equal Than Others

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The Remigia cave, about eighty miles north of Valencia, features paintings dating from around 6500 BC. Some depict bands of archers hunting ibex; others appear to show executions. These are the ones tourists come for. But the most significant image is the least dramatic. Fourteen individuals gather closely together, watching a lone figure departing from the group

Minority Reports

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

An increasing number of British minority ethnic writers are questioning progressive orthodoxy on race. In their different ways, Rakib Ehsan, Sunder Katwala, Remi Adekoya and Tomiwa Owolade dissent from the academically fashionable notion that ethnic minorities should define themselves against the white oppressor and that British national identity is inherently racist. The view that minorities […]

A Clean Bill of Health?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

These three books, all published to coincide with the seventy-fifth birthday of the National Health Service, come at Britain’s best-loved and most expensive institution from different angles. Isabel Hardman, a sparky journalist and assistant editor of The Spectator, views the NHS through the lens of the political battles that have raged around the institution throughout […]

Don’t Panic, It’s Only a Recession

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Harold James, a professor at Princeton University, is a very distinguished economist and economic historian. He has in the past written a thoughtful book about the Bank of England, which demonstrated an insider’s understanding of economic and financial policymaking on both sides of the Atlantic. That is quite a rare achievement. In Seven Crashes he […]

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Down with the Crown?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Is the Metropolitan Police a republican fifth column? Since it hauled the author of this book off to the cells hours before Charles III’s coronation, in full sight of the world’s media, the campaign group he heads, Republic, has almost doubled its membership. When the police clapped him in handcuffs, Graham Smith was preparing to […]

Putin’s Delusions

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Moscow celebrated Victory Day as usual on 9 May 2023. The Red Square parade was colourful. President Putin gave a punchy speech denouncing Ukraine and its Western ‘bosses’. There had been a recent drone attack on the Kremlin, which Putin’s spokespeople blamed on Ukrainian terrorists. The possibility of another attack was one of the reasons […]

No Room at the Top

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On 27 March 2009, President Barack Obama met a group of bank CEOs. Known for his cool head, on this occasion he lost his patience, though not because he was an enemy of the sector – the previous year, when he was still a senator, he had voted for a $700 billion bank bailout. After listening to the attempts by the CEOs to justify their sky-high salaries, the president interrupted them. ‘My administration’, he told them, ‘is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.’

These Dark Satanic Freeports

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A capitalist dictatorship is no different from a socialist dictatorship, except that its people are generally richer. If General Pinochet had been a Marxist, he would have been just another South American dictator. His regime in Chile stands out because capitalist dictatorships are unusual. Political freedom usually goes hand in hand with economic freedom. But not […]

Realignment Lost

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The last decade was the most volatile in British politics since the introduction of universal suffrage. But to what extent was there a political realignment? Matthew Goodwin’s argument is that the vote for Brexit in 2016 and the general election result of 2019 were just part of a broader rebellion against the ‘new ruling class […]

Conflicts of Interest

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

From the global financial crisis of 2008–9 until not so long ago, central banks ruled the world. Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, regularly appeared together in the Forbes list of the top ten most powerful people in the world, alongside Vladimir Putin and the Pope. That is not the case today. The successors to those masters of

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Beyond the Veil of Ignorance

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The writing of utopias has fallen out of fashion, whether because we are jaded, pessimistic about the chances of realising even a fraction of proposals that might be considered utopian, or for some other reason. Free and Equal is a breath of fresh air, therefore. It is unabashedly utopian in its proposals for social, economic, […]

Between Battlefield & Fortress Europe

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Sometime in the middle of the last decade, Essey left Sudan for Libya in the hope of making it to the promised land north of the Mediterranean. After a 1,400-kilometre journey with little food or water, instead of reaching the coast and heading for nirvana, Essey found himself in the hands of armed men who […]

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Great Game, Reluctant Players

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in 2021 represented more than an end to the long war in the country. It also marked a decisive pivot on the part of the USA away from continental Asia and towards the Indo-Pacific. States in the surrounding region that had grown used to the presence of US […]

Warlord of Red Square

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Aleksei Khomiakov, the gentlest and bravest of Russian philosophers, addressed Russia in the spring of 1854, during the Crimean War, an aggression against the Ottomans as cynical and senseless as the present invasion of Ukraine: Your courts are black with black injustice You’re branded with the yoke of slavery You’re full of godless flattery, rotten […]

Dr Doom Strikes Again

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

I have lost count of the number of economists and financiers who claim to have forecast the global financial crisis of 2008. Given how many saw it coming, it is surprising that we weren’t better prepared. In most cases evidence of their foresight is hard to find. Nouriel Roubini is one of the few who […]

Damned Statistics

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Laugh or cry? This was the dilemma I faced as I read this excellent book. Having spent much of my working life crawling over statistical series and data sets to find out if they accurately reflect the real world, I was familiar with many of the vignettes here. But I enjoyed the fresh take on […]

Was Lockdown Lawful?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On the evening of 23 March 2020, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, gave the British people what he described as ‘a very simple instruction’: ‘you must stay at home.’ No legal authority existed for any such instruction. Cover arrived three days later, in the shape of regulations made under the Public Health Act 1984. These […]

Are You Outraged Yet?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘By the time I landed in Myanmar, the soldiers were already throwing babies in fires,’ Max Fisher writes of his visit to the country in 2017. Houses burned. Rockets slammed into the walls of longhouses. A few years before, media restrictions had been lifted and Myanmar had hurtled into the digital age. While soldiers

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