The AHRC and the “Big Society”

by Chris Bertram on March 30, 2011

I wish I had time to write more about this, but a few links will have to do. On Sunday the Observer ran a story that the AHRC, the main state-funding body for arts and humanities research in the UK, had caved into pressure from the British government to include “the Big Society” (the Cameron Tories name for their attempt to hijack mutualism while cutting public services) as one of the things they’d support research into. Subsequently, the AHRC issued a vigorous denial, “refuting” [sic] the allegations. Well it looks like the Observer story was wrong, that a journalist misunderstood his informant (the actual government pressure was on the British Academy – see here) and that the AHRC had not bowed to ministers. So why, then, does the AHRC promote “the Big Society” on its website? It turns out that, rather the like the British journalist of the poem, they don’t need to be bribed or twisted but are happy to guess what their political paymasters want and publicize a party-political agenda on their own initiative. British academics are upset. See Iain Pears here and here, and my colleague James Ladyman at the New Statesman. And there’s a petition: do sign it.

“With Notably Rare Exceptions”

by Henry on March 30, 2011

Alan Greenspan is back as “free market evangelist”:, and it’s rather wonderful.

bq. Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.

It’s best not to interpret this as an empirical claim, but a carefully-thought-out bid for Internet immortality. It has the sublime combination of supreme self-confidence and utter cluelessness of previously successful memes such as “I am aware of all Internet traditions” and the “argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care,” but with added Greenspanny goodness. I tried to think of useful variations on the way in to work this morning – “With notably rare exceptions, Russian Roulette is a fun, safe game for all the family to play,” and “With notably rare exceptions, (the Third Punic War for example), the Carthaginian war machine was extremely successful,” but none do proper justice to the magnificence of the original. But then, that’s why we have commenters. Have at it.