Anthony Giddens and Martin Rees – Wake the world
Since my column this week focussed on Anthony Giddens, it seems appropriate to highlight this post on the excellent NZ-based Sciblogs site, which he has co-authored. As well as his earlier work on Third Way, Giddens has gone on to write The Politics of Climate Change (2009), while Rees is president of the Royal Society. From the post:
It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the core scientific findings about human-induced climate change and the dangers it poses for our collective future remain intact. The most important relevant fact is based on uncontroversial measurements: the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is higher than it has been for at least the last half-million years. It has risen by 30 per cent since the start of the industrial era, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels. If the world continues to depend on fossil fuels to the extent it does today, carbon dioxide will reach double pre-industrial levels within the next half-century. This build-up is triggering long-term warming, the physical reasons for which are well-known and demonstrable in the laboratory.
Will Hutton – Extract: Them and Us: Politics, Greed and Inequality – Why We Need a Fair Society
Andrew Marr – Start the Week with Andrew Marr (27/09/10) featuring Will Hutton, Lars Kroijer, Billy Ivory and Ronit Avni
Claire Armitstead – Guardian Books podcast (24/09/10): Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton
Meanwhile, Giddens’ interlocutor in my column, Will Hutton, has a new book out in the UK, and it looks like it could be an important one. I’ve previously linked to a trial run of the its arguments in a lecture Hutton gave at the London School of Economics late last year. The book is called Them and Us and in it Hutton aims to place ‘fairness’ at the heart of political discourse. The Observer has published an extract, and here are a few snippets from that:
We need a shared understanding of what constitutes fairness in order to restore our society. At present, there is none. The rich argue that it is fair for them to be so wealthy, in much the same way as Athenian noblemen believed that their riches were signifiers of their worth. They believe they owe little or nothing to society, government or public institutions. They accept no limit or proportionality to their wealth, benchmarking themselves only against their fellow rich. Philanthropic giving is declining; tax avoidance is rising; and executive pay is rising exponentially. All three are justified by the doctrine that the rich simply deserve to be rich.
The principle of “just deserts” is a key part of our culture. We are not flat-earth egalitarians. But nor do we share the view held by the private-equity or hedge-fund partner in Mayfair that wealth is a signifier of personal worth in its own right. We believe it has to be earned, and we believe the rewards should be commensurate with the discretionary effort. Proportionality is a key value. Its trashing by those at the top of the financial and business community risks an angry populist backlash fuelled not by envy, as they airily claim, but by a visceral human instinct.
This last point is an important one, I think. Over recent years the Right, here and elsewhere, has been very effective at reframing any concerns about the disproportionate growth in income at the top as being about envy. When, as Hutton points out, it is actually about fairness.
Hutton elaborates on these points in an interview on Andrew Marr’s Start the Week radio show, which you can listen to on an audio file. (You can also subscribe to the Start the Week podcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/stw.) He is also featured on last week’s Guardian Books audio alongside the highly-regarded Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, whose new book The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain? also looks very interesting. And he is giving a new Royal Society for the Arts lecture next week, which will also be available by podcast.
Matthew Yglesias – Zero Tolerance Done Right
The commonplace scenario in the United States when people decide to “get tough” and implement a policy of “zero tolerance” for infractions of the rules is to in practice tolerate the majority of infractions by not catching perpetrators and then hit a minority of violators with extremely harsh sanctions. For years now, Mark Kleiman has been pushing the reverse approach — make sanctions relatively mild, but make them swift and nearly certain. He teams up with Kirk Humphreys to describe a version of this that’s led to a sharp reduction in South Dakota’s drunk driving fatalities . . . [read more]
I hope someone from the IMF or OECD – the two institutions responsible for convincing the Spaniards that such a reform is an urgent priority – will explain to me how reducing the cost of firing workers can lower unemployment in the midst of a decline in labour demand. [read more]
And I also have a couple of recommendations from others to pass on:
Charles Taylor – Solidarity in a Pluralist Age
The Canadian philosopher and social theorist on the challenge to progressivism from increasing population diversity.
Mark Harris (New York Magazine) – Inventing Facebook
I hadn’t realised that The Social Network, the upcoming movie about Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, was written by Aaron Sorkin. I love The West Wing and am a keen Facebook user, so I’m now really looking forward to this film!