Archive for August, 2006

Social scarcity

In: Uncategorized

19 Aug 2006

James Harkin, in his always interesting Saturday Guardian column, writes about Fred Hirsch’s theory of “positional goods” from the 1970s. In the Social Limits to Growth (1976) Hirsch argued the main problem of scarcity was social rather than physical. The world may not, for example, run out of coal. However, only a limited number of […]

Planet of Slums

In: Uncategorized

19 Aug 2006

The Guardian also has a review of Planet of Slums by Mike Davis. Ian Sansom makes the now common point that sometime soon the number of urban dwellers will outnumber the number the world’s rural inhabitants for the first time in human history. Sansom goes on to argue that: “this is bad news, because the […]

It seems that even the Wall Street Journal – one of the closest things there is to a true neocon organ – is going ethical. Or at least the Weekend Journal supplement to the Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) has a guide to consuming with a conscience. For those who have the cash ethical brands […]

An interesting article from Newsweek (August 14) on how environmentalism has gone mainstream: “Something weird is happening in the once marginal world of environmentalism. The green cause is no longer the preserve of woolly-minded liberals and fringe activists. Its tenets are being actively pursued by business leaders, stockholders and investment managers.” In fact in my […]

Nowadays it is easy for those in the developed world to forget how positively the acquisition of consumer goods was once viewed. It sounds like Consuming Passions: Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain (Harper Press), a new book by Judith Flanders, helps to explain why. According to a review in the Observer: “In the 17th […]

Do jihadis attack planes precisely because they are symbols of modernity? That is the argument of Michael Clarke, professor of defence studies at King’s College, London, in an article in Saturday’s Times (London): “Commercial aircraft represent globalism and high technology — they shrink the world and threaten cultural conservatism. The Boeing 747 was the last […]

Dr Sam Thompson, one of the authors of the recent New Economics Foundation (NEF) report on global happiness, has written a letter to Spiked in response to my article on happiness league tables (see August 7 dispatch). In my view his arguments are disingenuous. First, I already point out in my article that his league […]

I read in today’s Financial Times (see below) that many Indian states are banning drinks from Coca-Cola and Pepsico. Allegedly there are unsafe levels of pesticide residue in their soft drinks. I am not in a position to make a definitive judgement but I am suspicious about this campaign. I suspect the fears are probably […]


In: Uncategorized

10 Aug 2006

I seem to have started a collection of examples of anti-growth thinking from around the world. In France evidently a term for it is “décroissance”. There is even a website for the school of thought. Unfortunately I cannot read French so I cannot talk about it directly. However, I notice that Serge Latouche, an emeritus […]

I am amused by the symbolism of environmentalists calling for darkness. Evidently environmental campaigners in Hong Kong tried to get individuals and businesses to dim their lights yesterday in a protest against air pollution in the city. However, according to a BBC report the campaign failed to get mass support. No doubt economic growth can […]