Archive for March, 2007

Just read F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1926). I am no literary critic but the novel clearly shows a profound disenchantment with the American dream. Jay Gatsby, who it turns out comes from a poor family, tries desperately to become accepted as part of wealthy society. He lives in a giant house and throws […]

Yesterday I spoke at the worldwide premiere of Think Big, a new documentary by Worldwrite, at an event organised by the Great Debate in Newcastle (see 4 January post). The film shows how Ghanaians have the same ambitions and needs as Westerners. Like those in the developed world they want comfortable homes, access to modern […]

Advance leaks of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts for global economic growth in 2007 and 2007 look positive. A report from Reuters says growth looks set to be 4.9% in both years after a 5.3% rise last year. A slight dip but it still leaves the world economy enjoying its strongest run since the […]

A different take on American leisure time to that discussed on 9 March. An article in Slate quotes a study (PDF) by two professors which shows that leisure time has exploded since 1965. Only this study argues that less educated adults have enjoyed larger gains in leisure time than the better off. In other words […]

The new edition of the Economist (17 March) points out that America’s anti-climate change policy has led to riots over the rising price of tortillas in Mexico. As it explains: “Green energy is fat with subsidies. America’s ethanol subsidy, (which) has led to a huge rise in production, rocketing maize prices and consequent rioting in […]

A seminar held by the Organization of American States (OAS) yesterday showed how global inequality has been redefined. Rather than seeing economic development as positive in itself the emphasis is on poverty reduction as a way of maintaining social cohesion. It becomes recast as more to do with crime than economics. Quoting José Miguel Insulza, […]

Stephen Roach, the chief economist of Morgan Stanley, has written on the difficulties of China making the transition to being an environmentally cleaner economy. Given that the Chinese economy is heavily skewed towards manufacturing it is pollution and energy intensive. But Roach is optimistic it can find the right balance.

Chris Dillow, author of the stumblingandmumbling blog, has written an entry questioning the intellectual history in last night’s Adam Curtis documentary (see yesterday’s dispatch). Dillow points out that the theory of people as selfish and paranoid dates back to Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes rather than the Cold War. The notion of self-interest generating social […]

The first episode of The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?, a BBC2 documentary by Adam Curtis, was characteristically wide-ranging and thought provoking. It showed how a particular notion of freedom evolved during the Cold War which emphasised the importance of the rational individual against ideas of the public interest or altruism. Curtis […]

This week’s Economist has an interesting piece on geo-engineering in its technology quarterly (subscription required). Rather than curb emissions such techniques rely on large-scale planetary engineering to counteract climate change. Although the Economist says it was discussed in a report to the American president as far back as 1965 it is generally disliked by environmentalists. […]