From the monthly archives:

March 2021

Sunday photoblogging: Paris café

by Chris Bertram on March 28, 2021

What wouldn’t I give to be in Paris right now!
Paris café at night

There really was a Golden Age*

by John Q on March 27, 2021

The claim that the mid-20th century represented an economic Golden Age of near-full employment and economic equality, compared to both earlier and later periods, commonly meets two kinds of critical responses. Over the fold, I respond.
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Twigs and branches

by John Q on March 25, 2021

(Long overdue!) Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

The Golden Age

by John Q on March 25, 2021

In most societies, there is a myth of a ‘golden age’, a time when men and women lived simply and happily, free from the cares and troubles that afflcit them today. This myth usually includes an account of how, through foolishness or malice, the golden age was lost. In Western versions, the blame has been placed upon women – Pandora opening the box and Eve taking the apple.

In the economic history of the developed world, there is one historical episode which might reasonably be regarded as a golden age. Between 1945 and 1973, developed countries in Western Europe, North America and Oceania experienced strong economic growth, combined with minimal levels of employment and a sharp decline in inequality. In policy terms. the dominant features of this period were the use of Keynesian macroeconomics to stabilize the economy and the development of a fairly comprehensive welfare state, protecting citizens from falling into poverty due to old age, incapacity or unemployment.

Those are the opening paragraphs for Chapter 2 of The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic. Comments and criticism much appreciated.

The Economic Consequences of Mr Biden

by John Q on March 23, 2021

When I agreed to write The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic for Yale UP, with a target date of May 2021 the idea was that it would be a polemic against austerity along the lines of Keynes’ The Economic Consequences of Mr Churchill, and the The Economic Consequences of the Peace [1] . In view of the rapid resurgence of austerity politics after the Global Financial Crisis, about which Henry and I wrote here, it seemed like a safe bet that this would be a hot topic in 2021. Even when Joe Biden won the election, and then the voters of Georgia gave the Dems a wafer-thin Senate majority, it still seemed likely, that we would see, at best, a half-baked “compromise” along the lines of the Republican counter-proposal to the American Recovery Program.

But here we are, a couple of months later. Not only has the ARP passed with the only significant cutback being the exclusion of the $15 minimum wage rise, but the Administration is already talking about an additional $3 trillion in infrastructure expenditure. If that happens, it will be after I’m due to finish my manuscript, but well before the book comes out.

All of this is great news, but it means I need to produce a different book to the one I had planned and have already written a fair bit of.

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Bye Golly, Noddy!

by John Q on March 22, 2021

One of the striking features of the Dr Seuss fuss is that most commentators seem to be treating this as something new. No one I’ve read in US commentary on the topic seems to be aware that “Dr Seuss, cancelled” is a shot-for-shot remake of a British drama.

It reminded me immediately of the arguments about golliwogs in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books, which started just about the time (a long, long time ago) I grew out of those books, and moved on to reading such gems as the Famous Five . After a long series of adjustments, turning golliwogs into goblins and so on, the issue was resolved by the reissue, in 2009, of a new canonical series, with no golliwogs. (There’s still controversy about golliwogs in general, but not wrt Noddy).

As is always the case, once you know what to look for, you can always find someone who’s made the same point before. In my case, very close to home. Here’s Kate Cantrell and Sharon Bickle from the University of Southern Queensland making exactly this point, with many more examples.

Sunday photoblogging: Hebron Road panorama

by Chris Bertram on March 21, 2021

I was reading the excellent The Online Photographer the other day and Mike Johnston was writing about how he’s been using his iPhone to make more panoramas recently. I’ve never really done this, so I thought I’d have a go.

Hebron Road, Bedminster, Bristol BS3

Hollow Nuts

by John Holbo on March 18, 2021

Now that I’m back, I should stick around. My discovery that Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra started as ‘a Seuss book’ is pretty neat, I admit. But, it turns out, the surprises run in the other direction as well. A lot of famous comics started out as attempts to adapt Nietzsche’s great work into English – to popularize German metaphysics. These original Charles Schulz ‘woodcut comics’, for example. (Very rare. I’m working on ‘discovering’ a few more.) You can see a lot of Schulz’ later work already here, in seed form. (There was no money in it, and he said he got sick of carving the pearwood blocks to make the prints.)

Free Access Work by Waheed Hussain

by Miriam Ronzoni on March 16, 2021

Several publishers have decided to make Waheed’s work temporarily open access to honour his memory.

These two have been brought to my attention, please post in the comments if you know of more: [click to continue…]


On Beyond Zarathustra! (Seuss in the Nous)

by John Holbo on March 15, 2021

Hi, everyone, I’m back!

Shame on me, being away from CT so long. But I’ve been working on stuff. So here’s the deal! Some of you may remember how, back in the day, I did that “On Beyond Zarathustra” thing? And it just sort of … didn’t get done? Well, this time I’m going to do it right! Enjoy!

I’m gonna make a big splash for sure! (Webcomics are gonna be big, baby. Party like it’s 2008.) [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: magpies

by Chris Bertram on March 14, 2021


I have a new piece up at The New Yorker. I take stock of the debate over whether Trumpism is an authoritarian/fascist/tyrannical formation.

Throughout the Trump years, I consistently argued that that what I call the strongman thesis (just as a catch-all way of describing the various terms that were used for Trumpism) was not the most helpful way of thinking about what was going on with Trump or on the right. While acknowledging in this piece the data points in favor of that thesis (and also the problems with it), what I am really trying to do here is to step back from that debate and examine what was really driving it.

Long story short: Where liberals and leftists saw power on the right, I saw, and continue to see, paralysis. Not just on the right, in fact, but across the political spectrum. And in an odd way, it was the centuries-long dream of democratic power that helped frame liberals’ and the left’s misunderstanding and misrecognition of that ongoing political paralysis.

As I argue in the piece’s conclusion:

This is the situation we now find ourselves in. One party, representing the popular majority, remains on the outskirts of power, thanks to the Constitution. The other party, representing the minority, cannot wield power when it has it but finds its position protected nonetheless by the very same Constitution.

We are not witnesses to Prometheus unbound. We are seeing the sufferings of Sisyphus, forever rolling his rock—immigration reform, new infrastructure, green jobs—up a hill. It’s no wonder everyone saw an authoritarian at the top of that hill. When no one can act, any performance of power, no matter how empty, can seem real.

Anyway, have a read of the piece at The New Yorker, and after you’re finished, feel free to weigh in here with your criticisms, compliments, queries, and complaints.


Corporal Punishment

by Harry on March 11, 2021

Corporal punishment in state schools in the UK was made illegal in 1986. This is the story about how it was eliminated in one Local Education Authority, Oxfordshire, before that.

My dad became CEO of Oxfordshire in 1978. He was young, and opposed corporal punishment, but knew, as he puts it, that “in a time of cuts, if I went to the politicians and asked them for money for canes they’d ask me how many I wanted, and did I want the luxury versions”. So he didn’t talk to them about corporal punishment. Instead, he surveyed the schools on how often they caned pupils (caning was the only formal form of physical punishment, though I do remember witnessing some less formal physical punishment from particularly brutal teachers when I attended school in a different LEA). When the results were in, he gave each school a list, showing a league table, with the numbers of canings at each school, but the names of all other schools redacted. The head at the top of the list was shocked to see that his school accounted for 25% of all the canings in the LEA, but dad said something to the effect of “its ok, that’s the way you like to do things at your school; I hear the swish as I drive by” [honestly he might be making that bit up, though its quite believable if you know him]. The following year canings were down substantially, even at that school, but it was still at the top of the list, now accounting for 33% of all the canings. Again, he was reassuring. Within 2 years, the league table was empty — there were no canings.

When the government (a Tory government, remember!) proposed prohibiting corporal punishment in all schools, the politicians in Oxfordshire were distraught. “How are our schools going to keep order?”. Dad assured them there’d be no problem, because he’d been monitoring corporal punishment, and had discovered that none of the schools had been using it for some time.

It occurs to me that someone should interview my dad for some more of these stories before he goes doolally or kicks the bucket really.

ADHD not being a disorder

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 9, 2021

My colleagues Branko van Hulst (Child psychiatry), Sander Werkhoven (Ethics) and Sarah Durston (Developmental Disorders) have written a piece in the Scientific American in which they argue that ADHD should no longer be called a disorder. Fascinating stuff.

You can read it here and since comments and discussion are not possible there, let’s open our space here in case anyone wants to discuss this.

The Economic Consequences of the Great War

by John Q on March 9, 2021

A draft of the first chapter of my book, The Economic Consequences of the Pandemic. Comments, criticism and congratulations all welcome.