My regular Sunday piece of interesting, longer, deeper stories I found during the week. It’s also a chance for you to share what you found this week too. Those stimulating links you wanted to share, but just didn’t fit in anywhere (no linkwhoring). This week: Vienna 1913, politics in our genes, burying Thatcher and failed economic theories.
A quirky one to start: a look at Vienna 1913 – when Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito and Freud all lived within about a couple of miles from soon-to-be-assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
The BBC also looks at a study showing that some of our politics may be genetically determined.
The Guardian, meanwhile has people wanting Thatcherites to admit the suffering caused by their idol, and Thatcherism to be buried, not just Thatcher. With the irony of so much public money being spent on the funeral of the cheerleader of small government goes the trouble caused by it being in the month benefits are slashed and tax cuts handed to the rich.
Far from saving Britain, Thatcher’s government delivered rampant inequality, social breakdown, disastrous financial deregulation, pulverising deindustrialisation and mass unemployment. A North Sea oil bonanza was frittered away on tax cuts for the wealthy and a swollen benefits bill as public services were run down, child poverty escalated and social mobility ground to a halt.
But for all that, her apologists insist, Thatcher did what was necessary to turn Britain’s economy round. But she didn’t. Growth during the 1980s, at 2.4%, was exactly the same as during the turbulent 1970s and lower again in the post-Thatcher 1990s, at 2.2% — while in the corporatist 1960s it averaged over 3%.
And despite claims of a Thatcher “productivity miracle”, productivity growth was also higher in the 60s (and it’s gone into reverse under Cameron). What her government did do was redistribute growth from the poor to the rich, driving up profits and slashing employees’ share of national income through her assault on trade unions.
Conservative Finance Minister George Osborne, fresh from crying for Thatcher but not the 2.65 million unemployed on his watch, is now having the IMF and all intellectual support for his austerity cut. The Guardian continues coverage of the failure of Treasury’s favourite paper demanding cuts for growth. They also show up the failure of “tax competition” – how it penalises the poor and costs states without any perceivable reward (except for the owners of multi-nationals). Growth seems to have no correlation to tax-take either.
And the Guardian looks at the deafness of another Tory idealogue, Education Minister Michael Gove, as he disdains the advice of experts and calls for longer school hours and a much-criticised curriculum.
Over in the US there’s a look at how the NRA is more powerful than money, the president and 90% of US public opinion. And also a fact check of the dodgy stats the NRA uses to justify its case.
Mother Jones also looks at our addiction to Nitrogen fertilisers – as in the explosion at West, Texas – and it’s implications.
excess nitrogen that seeps into streams and eventually into the Mississippi River, feeding a massive annual algae bloom that blots out sea life;emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon; and the destruction of organic matter in soil. [...] the US fertilizer industry increasingly relies on cheap natural gas extracted by fracking
Meaning the fossil fuel industry has gained a powerful ally.
To finish on a brighter note: An excellent video of Steve Jones, geneticist, who fears the phrase “the gene for X”, and wants to see the effort of the Human Genome Project repeated (& expanded) into a Human Social Project to find out what makes us and society tick, and expand on our knowledge of how a more equal society works better for all of us etc.
Life expectancy has been going up 6 hours a day every day since 1900, and all that is due to changes in the environment, none of that is due to changes in genes. [..] Many people think that if we can read DNA it could tell us when we are going to die. But we already know that from just a few questions: How old are you? Are you male or female? Do you smoke? Do you have a history of inherited diseases? Are you obese? But the biggest question is: What’s your zipcode. The difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest zipcodes in a city like Glasgow is an astonishing 28 years. And zipcodes have nothing to do with genes. [..]
The answer is that we don’t change the way we are, we change the way we live.