On the science of economics

David Roth memorably described the job of neoliberal economists as finding “new ways to say ‘actually, your boss is right.’” Cory Doctorow If science has value, it lies in its independence from considerations of political power. Objective truth, insofar as we can determine it, requires no further validation. The biological theories of Trofim Lysenko areContinue reading “On the science of economics”

On the real and the virtual

It’s coming from the feelthat this ain’t exactly real,or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there. Leonard Cohen, “Democracy” A few weeks ago, we came home to a sad discovery: the corpse of a male goldcrest on our kitchen windowsill. They are tiny, beautifully-feathered birds, and we hadn’t even realised we had them living nearby.Continue reading “On the real and the virtual”

On the coronation of Charles III

Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show. Sir Terry Pratchett (R.I.P.) It is arguably a brave decision on the part of the Heir Apparent to take his given name, Charles, as his regnal name. Well, one of his given names:Continue reading “On the coronation of Charles III”

On patriotism

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Doctor Samuel Johnson Let me begin by distinguishing firmly between love of one’s country, on the one hand, and love of one’s government on the other. Governments of all stripes routinely wish to conflate the two, for the obvious reason that a government’s life would be muchContinue reading “On patriotism”

On the self-limiting nature of stupidity

Texas farm blaze kills 18,000 cows in deadliest barn fire on record in the US Headline in THe Guardian, 14/04/2023 It is not, of course, news that people do stupid things. People have been doing stupid things for as long as there have been people. I don’t have statistics for this, because no such statisticsContinue reading “On the self-limiting nature of stupidity”

On creeds

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason It’s Easter week as I write this, and an apt time, perhaps, to talk about creeds. A creed isContinue reading “On creeds”

Garbage in, garbage out

On two occasions I have been asked, “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?” ‚Ķ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question. Charles Babbage,¬†Passages from the Life of a Philosopher[ Once upon aContinue reading “Garbage in, garbage out”

On the return of the peasant

The most dramatic and far-reaching social change of the second half of [the twentieth] century, and one that cuts us off forever from the world of the past, is the death of the peasantry. Eric Hobsbawm I fear I must disagree with the late Professor Hobsbawm. The death of the peasantry has been much exaggerated,Continue reading “On the return of the peasant”

On the vision for a New England

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. President John F. Kennedy (attr.) I am, as I believe I have mentioned before, a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or at least that’s what it says on my passport. That countryContinue reading “On the vision for a New England”

On renewable energy

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress I originally wrote this essay a few weeks ago, but it’s now something of a companion piece to last week’s post on false hope, particularly as that relates to nuclear fusion. Because a lot of the falseContinue reading “On renewable energy”