Defunct Economist

by Henry on April 14, 2006

The _Economist_ gives us “yet another rendition”:http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=6800698 of “Western Europeans have it too good to realize how badly they need reform.”

bq. Another great week for Europe: Things must get more hellish in Italy and France before they stand any chance of getting better

bq. THEY are two seemingly unconnected events, but they yield a common, depressing conclusion. The events were the decision by France’s government to tear up its controversial law creating a more flexible job contract for the young, and the razor-edge outcome of Italy’s rancorous election. The conclusion: the core countries of Europe are not ready to make the economic reforms they so desperately need—and that change, alas, will come only after a diabolic economic crisis. … their voters are not yet ready to swallow the nasty medicine of change … too many cosseted insiders … The real problem, not just for Italy and France but also for Germany, is that, so far, life has continued to be too good for too many people: there is not yet a general consensus that their economies are in serious trouble … There is one depressingly certain way to remedy the failings in the core European countries: to bring on a more serious economic crisis. This week will surely have brought that a lot closer.

This combines a few arguments that are true and important (there _are_ problems of equity with sclerotic labour markets that discriminate against the young) with much that is quite bizarre – the claim that Europe’s fundamental difficulty is that “life has continued to be too good for too many people.” Would that we all had such problems. Most interesting, perhaps, is the mode of analysis that the Economist‘s editorial writer employs – the suggestion that what we need is a _really nasty crisis_ to alert people to their real interests. Which is a dolled up version of the old Marxist trope that we need (as David Lodge’s Fulvia Morgana puts it) to ‘eighten ze contradictions’ if we are to bring through the revolution. Keynes famously quipped that those “who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” The _Economist_, which appears to believe that there’s no intellectual debate “to the left of the New Republic”:http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/03/brad_setser_is_.html owes rather more to defunct Marxist theorists than it imagines.

The Return of the Friday Fun Thread

by Ted on April 14, 2006

Like many a youngish man with a NetFlix subscription, I’ve taken advantage of the enormous NetFlix back catalog to catch up on film classics that I’ve heard about but never seen. Also, like many a youngish man, I’ve had a creeping feeling that I was born too late to get much pleasure out of some of them. Some films have been so influential that they’ve entered the bloodstream of cinema, and their innovations feel like cliches now. Some were made for an audience with different expectations than mine about pace and acting style. (I don’t think we’ll ever see another movie star like Rock Hudson, for example.) Some are just not for me. (Sorry, Gone With The Wind.)

Of course, this is not always true. I’d be interested to hear about movies that were released ten or more years before your birth that you genuinely enjoyed, rather than appreciated. Here are a few of mine:
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Family-friendly restrooms

by Eszter Hargittai on April 14, 2006

Diaper-changing sign Family restroom sign I’ve been traveling a lot recently (four locations in the last week), which has given me new opportunities to find interesting gender signs. A twist on the topic I hadn’t explored much before is whether taking care of children is assumed to be a female responsibility. I found a couple of examples recently that suggested inclusivity. At the San Francisco airport, both men’s and women’s restrooms show a diaper-changing image. At JFK, there was a separate area for families.

FYI, the gender signs pool on Flickr has over 100 photos now. Don’t be shy, join in on the fun. Or for a different type of fun, try to figure out what this restroom sign means. (I’ve explained it in the comments to the image so only read that if you’re ready for the solution.)

Quibbling while the world burns

by Chris Bertram on April 14, 2006

I linked to a piece by Steven Poole last week, and here he is again with “a terrific review of recent books”:http://unspeak.net/C226827506/E20060412142020/index.html by sages left and right. That whole “Enlightenment” theme is given some attention:

bq. Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen, for a clash of incompatible fantasies. According to the conservative essayists in Decadence, a misty golden age of “genuine virtue” has passed, to be replaced by bogus slogans and psychobabble. This is all the fault of the Enlightenment. But here comes Frank Furedi in Politics of Fear, arguing that conservatives no longer appeal to tradition, and that the problem is that we have turned our back on the Enlightenment. Evidently, both these views cannot be right.

Read the whole thing, as someone-or-other often says.