From the category archives:

Blogging

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on October 20, 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!

{ 28 comments }

How big a bubble ?

by John Quiggin on October 4, 2021

We[1] are often urged to “get out of our bubbles” and engage with a wider range of viewpoints. As Chris said here, this mostly turns out to be a waste of time. As I experienced from my side, engagement with the political right consists mainly of responding to a string of talking points and whataboutery, with little if any content. On the rare occasions these discussions have been useful, it’s typically because the other party in the discussion is on the verge of breaking with the right[2]

To restate the case in favour of getting out of the bubble, it’s easy to see examples of people on the left putting forward arguments that don’t stand up under criticism, but haven’t faced such criticism within the limited circles in which they’ve been discussed. But the most effective criticisms of such arguments is likely to come from people with broadly similar political aims and understandings.

As Daniel once observed, opinion at CT runs the gamut from social democrat to democratic socialist, and I have traversed that range in both directions. I get plenty of benefit from arguing with other people in that range and with some a little outside it, such as liberaltarians and (not too dogmatic) Marxists.

Opening up the discussion bubble now.

fn1. At least we on the left, I rarely run across this suggestion in the rightwing media I read.
fn2. TBC, I don’t think the powerful force of my arguments has converted them; rather it’s that people making this kind of shift often have interesting things to say,

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on August 26, 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on August 14, 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on May 24, 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on April 11, 2021

(Overdue again!) 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!

Note: Unfortunately there appears to be no way to turn moderation off selectively, so the discussion here will be a bit slow. Still looking into options.

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on February 10, 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on January 31, 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!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on January 18, 2021

Here’s the second of the regular open threads, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on January 10, 2021

As prommised, here’s the first of the regular open threads, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

Room for debate

by John Quiggin on December 31, 2020

A new regular feature on CT! Once a week, we’ll be posting an open thread, where you can post on any topic you like, subject to the usual moderation rules.

The other purpose of this regular post will be to deal with thread derailment. An example is a recent thread on Brexit which deviated into a lengthy analysis of labelling rules for marmalade and chocolate. Disputes of this kind will be directed to the open thread, where the participants can argue to their hearts’ content.

The first suggested topic for discussion: what should we call this feature? The current title is not very imaginative, so feel free to suggest something better. Is Marmalade and Chocolate too obscure?

Controversy

by John Quiggin on November 21, 2020

Many decades ago, I remember watching a British comedy sketch framed around a show called Controversy, the idea of which was that two experts with opposed views on some issue would slug it out for the entertainment of viewers. It turned out, however, that one of the experts had completely reversed himself and now agreed with the other. The host desperately tried to provoke some disagreement, with no success before giving up and saying “Well that’s it, for tonight’s Controversy“. At this point, each of the experts interjected that he had pronounced the word wrongly, each offering their own preferred stress pattern. (I found someone else who remembered it here, but also couldn’t recall the show).

I’m often surprised by which of my opinions on various issues turn out to be controversial or otherwise, and I thought I’d check a couple on Twitter, with some mildly interesting results

[click to continue…]

The first day of the rest of my life

by Chris Bertram on October 1, 2020

Today, for the first time for over thirty years, I don’t have an employer. This is because I decided to retire rather than to face the unwelcome choice between online teaching and exposing myself to COVID in the classroom. I think, in fact, that I didn’t have enough “points” to get an exemption from face-to-face, despite being nearly 62 and having high blood pressure. Oh well, the issue is now moot. I shall miss being around students, chatting to them, helping them and getting the buzz that you get from a good classroom discussion. I won’t miss reading and marking student essays and exams though. Not one bit. I hope I’ve done a good job over the years, even though I feel I only learnt to teach well in the past decade (thanks to the direct and indirect influence of Harry).

There’s another reason to stop now though, which gives me a slight sense of vertigo, to be honest, and it involves “owning your own bullshit”. I’ll have a lot less income but I’ll have a lot more time. I’ve long believed that we, as a society (swap in your own society if you too live in a wealthy one) consume too much, engage in too much burdensome toil, and have too little leisure time to enjoy and indeed work on freely chosen goals. Capitalism has a built-in tendency to promote burdensome toil in the pursuit of consumption, but now I have a choice. Can I live with it? And will I make the most of it without the external discipline provided by the expectations of employers, colleagues and students? That’s a big test. But I hope to continue writing and publishing on many of the same topics I worked on up to now, and chiefly on migration and justice. I’m also happy to stand up on my hind-legs and talk to people about political philosophy and related matters, most of the time for nothing (invitations welcome!).

One thing I haven’t made my mind up on though: mode of publishing. People read books and people read blogs, so if you want to communicate your ideas then both are good formats (among others). But is there any point in continuing to send papers to academic journals? On the plus side, the peer review process induces a kind of discipline and quality control. On the other hand, many of the things that reviewers insist upon are pointless and detract from what you’re trying to say. And then there’s the small matter of the fact that nobody reads such papers. It is a source of lasting frustration that political philosophy as practised in academic journals is an activity that is almost entirely disconnected from the social and political life of the societies that surround it. I don’t mean that we ought to be getting down and dirty with Donald Trump or Brexit, but that we need to find ways of making the things we write about (should foreigners, or expatriates, have voting rights?, for example) cut through to public discourse. Making that argument in the pages of Philosophy and Public Affairs may not make enough of a difference, however good it is for an academic’s promotion prospects. But then, cutting through was one of the hopes I always had for Crooked Timber.

Hits and Misses

by John Quiggin on May 29, 2019

Looking back at past posts, it’s enjoyable to find those where I went out on a limb and have been proved right by events, or at least supported by subsequent evidence. A couple of examples

It’s less fun when things don’t go as expected. Take Bitcoin as an example. Its uselessness is now even clearer than it was when I started writing about it 2013. Use in legitimate market transactions is almost non-existent, while the darknet illegal markets in which it is the preferred currency are being busted so frequently as to suggest that anyone using them is taking a big risk of losing their money, or worse. Meanwhile, the dream that Bitcoin would justify itself through the magic of blockchain has evaporated. As far as I can tell, cryptocurrencies on the Bitcoin model are the only genuine examples of blockchain technology in actual use (the label has been attached to some other projects for marketing purposes.

I’ve always said that, given the irrationality of markets, no one can predict when Bitcoin will reach its true value of zero, and I was careful to maintain this position when I posted on Bitcoin’s decline below $4000 late last year. Still, I have to admit that I expected this mania finally to come to an end. That hasn’t happened; in fact the price has doubled.

I won’t worry too much about the occasional (or not so occasional) error. My track record is still far better than that of the many pundits who predicted success for the Iraq war and continued claiming imminent victory years after the disaster had become evident. And most of them are still in business, apparently just as credible as ever to their audiences.