From the monthly archives:

July 2021

Repubs retreat from antivaxerism

by John Q on July 28, 2021

A funny thing happened in the culture wars the other day. After taking steadily more extreme anti-vaccination positions over many months, leading rightwing commentators and Republican politicanss suddenly jumped ship, announcing that everyone should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

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Sunday photoblogging: Edward Weston tribute capsicum

by Chris Bertram on July 25, 2021

Bought at the market in Pézenas, France. I could hardly not take a photo of it, could I?

Edward Weston tribute capsicum

Book Chat: Mariana Mazzucato – Mission Economy

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 24, 2021

As announced a few weeks ago, here is the first of a series of book chats – starting with Mariana Mazzucato’s Mission Economy. The idea is that this post opens up a space for anyone to talk about any aspect of the book they want to discuss (under the general rules that apply to discussion on this blog), as well as raise questions of clarification that we could put to eachother.

Mission Economy is about rethinking capitalism and rethinking government. Perhaps it is even more about rethinking government than about rethinking capitalism. Both need to be rethought in order to redirect the economy into what Mazzucato calls ‘a mission economy’, which will allow us to tackle problems facing humans and the planet that are currently not properly addressed: climate change, insufficient high-risk long-term investments in the real economy, real wage growth that is much lower than productivity growth, and so forth.

Mazzucato argues that right now we (that is, our governments) ask “how much money is there and what can we do with it?” but instead we should be asking “what needs doing and how can we restructure budgets and design innovation and collaborations between the government, industry, academia and other groups so as to meet those goals?” [click to continue…]

Billionaires in space

by John Q on July 22, 2021

With its unsubtle allusion to an Australian cult classic of the 1980s that’s the headline for my latest piece in Independent Australia. Key points

Nothing has changed in the basic physics that makes space travel, beyond the minimal scale achieved in the 1960s, essentially impossible. On the contrary, advances in physics have shut off every theoretical loophole that might have permitted us to exceed the limit imposed by the speed of light. Nor has there been any reduction in the massive amount of energy needed to propel even a single person into space.

The world is facing challenges that threaten our very existence, from pandemics to climate catastrophe to nuclear war. We can’t rely on fantasies of escaping into outer space. Nor we can afford a system that delivers a huge proportion of our collective income to a handful of irresponsible adventurers.

Sunday photoblogging: Valmagne

by Chris Bertram on July 18, 2021


Twigs and branches

by John Q on July 16, 2021

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!

Tuesday photoblogging: Cirque de Mourèze

by Chris Bertram on July 13, 2021

I didn’t post on Sunday. Although I’ve been taking lots of pictures, I’m separated from my preferred photo-editing software at the moment so a lot will have to wait. But yesterday I took this shot of the wonderful landscape of the Cirque de Mourèze in the Languedoc: wonderful columns of rock risking from a sandy floor. A cloudy day was not ideal for pictures, but it was better for walking there than fierce sunshine would have been.

Cirque de Mourèze

There is such a thing as being too rich

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 12, 2021

I spoke to some US-based scholars today about a study they are planning to do on the question whether American citizens think one can say that at some point, one is having too much money. Long-time readers of our blog might recall that in January 2018 I asked you for input on a study I was setting up in the Netherlands to find out whether the Dutch think there is the symmetrical thing of a poverty line – a riches line. And yes, they do. The study has in the meantime been conducted and published in the journal Social Indicators Reserach, and is open access – available to all. I am very grateful to my collaborators and (economic) sociologists Tanja van der Lippe, Vincent Buskens, Arnout van de Rijt and Nina Vergeldt, since I would never have been able to do this on my own: the last time I did empirical work was in 2002 (and in the good tradition of economics graduate training, I never collected my own data when I was trained as an economist, hence it was a great adventure to set up this survey).

Based on our data, we find that 96,5% of the respondents made a distinction between a family that is rich and one that is extremely rich, whereby the standard of living of the latter is described as: “This family has much more than they need to lead an affluent life. They never have to consider whether they can afford certain luxury spending, and even then, they still have plenty of money left to do extraordinary things that almost no one can afford. No one needs that much luxury.” [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: Swift

by Chris Bertram on July 4, 2021

I have spent much of the week trying to photograph the swifts that screech around and above Pézenas (France) often reminding me of the attack sequence in 633 Squadron/Star Wars as they fly in groups through the canyons formed by the streets. It is very tricky, as the sort of shutter speed you need to freeze movement also reduces the depth of field and everything happens too fast for autofocus to lock on. So I’ve filled memory cards with large numbers of pictures of blue skies and blurry birds, with a very few acceptable shots. They really are extraordinary creatures and it lifts the heart to see them.


Chatting about books

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 3, 2021

Yesterday, I handed over the directorship of my institute to a colleague. In the speech two colleagues gave to thank me for my service, they described my role as being that of the ‘middle-manager’, who in the present-day neoliberal universities is crushed between the powers and constraints set by those above them, and the demands and needs of the many below them. I fear that kind of sums it up (although one could also mention the added difficult which is the negligence of the Government that continues to underfund higher education, despite report after report showing that with current levels of funding the only way for Universities to continue their mission is by effectively forcing its workers to produce massive amounts of unpaid overwork). No surprise, it was a role that consumed way too much of my time.

In any case, I turned this page and am now looking ahead to a year in which to concentrate fully on writing a book on limitarianism, the view that no-one should be extremely rich, which recently was discussed in The Washington Post. And I’m also very much looking forward to reading widely and freely, rather than not having time to do that to the degree that I would have wanted to.

My hope to read up on many books that have been staring at me, some for years, waiting to be read, made me think that it might be nice to organise “Book chats” here at Crooked Timber. So what’s the plan? [click to continue…]


by John Q on July 3, 2021

In comments on a previous post, Thomas Beale takes exception to a statement by Ibram X Kendl (about whom I know nothing) that “The opposite of racist isn’t “not racist”. It is “anti-racist”.”

It occurred to me that, the opposite of “anti-racist” isn’t “racist” but “anti-anti-racist”

That raised some interesting thoughts for me. The construction “anti” doesn’t function like a negative sign in standard mathematics. It was first (AFAIK) used in “anti-anti-communist” to refer (mostly pejoratively) to those who thought that anti-communists like McCarthy and Nixon posed a greater threat to the US than did (domestic) communists.

Is there a tenable position that is non-racist without being anti-anti-racist. It’s not a logical impossibility – for example, I am neither pro-Nickelback, nor anti-Nickelback, nor anti-anti-Nickelback – but it’s hard to see how it could be sustained in the current state of US or Australian politics. Certainly, the critics of CRT come across much more as anti-anti-racist than as non-racist.

Twigs and branches

by John Q on July 3, 2021

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!