“For fear they might only get one term they are dashing to secure that indelible legacy. The plan is to outsource so much that reconstructing public services will be impossible in future.” Polly Toynbee reports on an epidemic of evidence-free, faith-based policymaking that is creating moral hazard on a grand scale.
“A moral hazard is a situation where there is a tendency to take undue risks because the costs are not borne by the party taking the risk.”
“We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.” Stephen Marche asks if social media are encouraging us to replace human bonds with mere connections.
“Fiction is dangerous because it has the power to modify the principles of individuals and whole societies.” Jonathan Gottschall tells the story of an emerging science suggesting that fiction might be good for more than just kicks.
“Nothing will corrode public trust more than a creeping awareness that scientists are unable to live up to the standards that they have set for themselves.” Daniel Sarewitz worries that over-selection and over-reporting of false positive results will increasingly put the value of science into question.
“Spending billions to force the terrorists to alter their plans in one particular way does not make us safer. It is far more cost-effective to concentrate our defences in ways that work regardless of tactic and target: intelligence, investigation and emergency response.” Bruce Schneier debates the former head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, on airport security. This is from the first of Schneier’s three statements on the topic.
www.economist.com 20 March, 23 March, 28 March
“Doctors die, too. And they don’t die like the rest of us. What’s unusual about them is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little.” Meanwhile, Ken Murray is determined to go gently into that good night.
“Think Tanks surround politics today and are the very things that are supposed to generate new ideas. But if you go back and look at how they rose up—at who invented them and why—you discover they are not quite what they seem.” Adam Curtis looks at the history of the Think Tank in the UK and asks why modern politics, for all its Think Tanks, seems so paradoxically short of new ideas.
“Despite fearful rhetoric to the contrary, terrorism is not a transcendent threat. A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage.” In the wake of last week’s failed bombing of an airplane over Detroit, Bruce Schneier asks us to leverage the inherent strengths of our democracies.
“The Atheist Bus Campaign began when Ariane Sherine wrote an article in June 2008 about Christian adverts running on London buses. These ads featured the URL of a website which said non–Christians would burn in hell for all eternity. Ariane suggested that atheists reading her article could each donate £5 to fund a reassuring counter–advert.”
Update: Christian religious groups are about to respond with ads stating that “there definitely is a god”.
“Open formats are an important part of computing freedom because they give people control of their own data.” Gervase Markham on why there really is no alternative to open data formats.
Robin Cook, one of few political figures to command my lasting respect, has suddenly died on August 6, 2005. If you are only ever going to read one political statement made to the House of Commons, read Robin Cooks’s resignation speech from 18 March, 2003.
“I’m struck by the work of some of the anti-globalization protesters, which has been admirably out-of-the-tunnel in terms of motivation, but naively ill-informed about how the world economy works.” Economist Paul Seabright on how human beings developed a complex system of cooperation and specialization between unrelated individuals.