Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Tatyana on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Katherine James on A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
Katherine James on 3D printed baby in the womb
Simon Gibbs on "In order to comply with Google's regulations ..."
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Friday Night Smoke on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Darren on A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
Michael Jennings on Ashes Lag recovery continues
Most recent entries
- The good done by the Apple Newton
- 3D printed baby in the womb
- A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
- Ashes Lag recovery continues
- A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
- I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
- The Met swoops on the Adams Family
- South Bank Architects?
- Colour photography
- Games lovely games
- A quota post (with a quota link to a post about a post about a quota photo) and another quota photo
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: Globalisation
Is this book … :
… the same book as this book?:
It turns out that they are the same book. Hannan:
But, are they precisely the same? I mean: same intro? Same preface? Any other small tinkerings? If the Yanks (maybe the Brits?) changed the damn title, what the hell else did they change?
I find this kind of thing intensely annoying. The whole point of reading something like a book, or watching something like a movie, is that you read (or watch) precisely the same object as everybody else. (This being one reason why I so particularly resent censorship. It prevents me, again and again, from seeing what others elsewhere are seeing.)
The best you can say about this muddle is that at least this/these book/books seem to be coming out at approximately the same time.
How we invented Freedom is nevertheless in the post.
This morning, in connection with a Samizdata posting about Europe, I found myself googling for info about London’s new container port, which I had heard about, but which I heard about some more last night.
It looks rather impressive:
I found that picture here, that being how things were looking in May of this year.
The Unions are not happy.
I have a vague recollection of posting something here about some big new cranes arriving in London, for, presumably, this. Yes, here. These cranes are “taller than the London Eye”, according to the quote I found then. So, these cranes ought to be visible and photo-able from quite a distance. Stanford-Le-Hope here I come.
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
As already mentioned here, my next Last Friday of the Month (i.e. Feb 22 – please arrive at my home between 7pm and 8pm) speaker is to be my good friend Michael Jennings. The long version of his talk’s title is:
How the globalisation of commerce has made the world less rather than more homogenised, and what I have learned out this by travelling the world.
Which I will hereby shorten down to:
How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised.
As all his friends will unite in telling you, Michael has done a lot of travelling.
Emails will soon be going out confirming all this, and in particular drawing the emailee’s attention to the following, which is Michael writing at a little more length about the kinds of thing he intends to be talking about:
Around a decade ago, a friend of mine decried the fact that the American clothing chain “The Gap” was expanding around the world, and destroying the local character of the cities she was visiting. I then asked her in which cities, precisely, she had seen their stores. She paused for a moment, and said “New York, Toronto, London, and Paris”.
At the time she said this, The Gap had stores in precisely five countries in the world: The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, France, and Japan. (They have since spread a little wider, but not much wider. And certainly, not much deeper. In many of the countries they operate in, they might have one or two stores in the capital city, but they are not a brand that ordinary people will interact with on a day to day basis.) This said far more about her than it did about The Gap: she travelled to the very small number of places that were its target market - places containing people similar to her - and assumed that this was “the world”.
An observation I made then was one that has been confirmed to me since: when you find someone who decries the corporate homogenisation of the world caused by globalisation, one immediately realises that they haven’t travelled very widely. With more thought, one also realises they haven’t travelled very deeply. The number of interesting restaurants in a city is strongly correlated with the number of McDonald’s outlets and the number of fast food chains present, and it is a positive correlation. The number of interesting coffee shops (and Bubble Tea cafes, and Polynesian Cava outlets) is strongly correlated to the number of Starbucks outlets, and once again it is a positive correlation.
The question really, is whether correlation is causation. Does the spread of McDonald’s and Starbucks cause local ecosystems of food, drink, and other retail outlets to become more complex and more sophisticated? If so, how do they spread, and why do they spread?
I have spent much of the last five years travelling the world, chasing the answers to these questions in various countries and quasi-countries. (Quasi-countries such as Northern Cyprus, Palestine, or Kosovo are particularly interesting, in that the forces that spread businesses and cultures are impeded and obstructed in certain ways, while simultaneously being not obstructed in other ways that they are obstructed in real countries, and one can learn a lot about what these forces are from this.) In doing so, I have learned much about the spread of international corporations, but also much about real estate booms and cheap money. The spread of international business confirms, in many ways, the starkness of international borders and the power of international institutions and how these things trump commerce. A quick glance at shopping malls and high streets in a foreign country can tell huge amounts of information about the governance and legal systems of a country - merely through the presence and absence of brands, and through what alternatives fill the gaps left by the absence of international brands.
On February 22 I shall attempt to draw and share some conclusions from what I have learned.
As to Michael’s question about correlation, causation, and so on, between on the one hand Starbucks et al, and on the other hand greater eating diversity, my untravelled guess would be that both are caused by globalisation, and in particular by lots of foreigners descending on the place, because of easier and cheaper travel, more globalised business activity, and so on. Some of these foreigners want their familiar stuff, i.e. Starbucks. And other foreigners welcome the change to get away from all that, and want sample local delicacies and diversions, perhaps guided by local work colleagues. Opposite sides of the same global coin, you might say.
But what do I know? Less than Michael Jennings, that’s for sure. He has not merely travelled. He has travelled, to use his own excellent phrase, deeply.
If you want to attend this event, email me, or leave a comment here, and I’ll get back to you to confirm that you will be very welcome, as you surely will be.
Just listened to an interview on Radio 3 with the author of The Last Lingua Franca. Publisher spiel:
In this provocative and persuasive new book, Nicholas Ostler challenges our assumption that English will continue to dominate as the global lingua franca. Drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of world languages and their history, Ostler reveals that just as past great languages like Latin and Sanskrit have died out, so English will follow.
Sounds interesting. Not because he is necessarily completely right, but because he sounds like he knows a lot about the rise and fall of languages generally.
This posting is just me reminding myself about this book, so that I buy it in paperback. Which it definitely will be because it’s a Penguin.
I of course liked this:
I get a real sense of globalisation when I check out the lists of skyscrapers around the world that are under construction.
It seems that not everybody has been told about the Credit Crunch.
Here’s a link showing proposed buildings and those under construction. A quick run through struck me with how few are in Europe (apart from Russia). I’m sure Brian Micklethwait has linked to this site before.
Yes, I must have, because I regularly go there. But never to this particular bit of it, I don’t think. I tried to turn the big picture into a graphic that I could shrink and put here, but failed.
If not, he will now!
Another striking thought is how many are in cities that most sophisticated multiculturally-correct do-gooders of the sort that support green campaigns but drop trash in parks couldn’t place on a map, such as Hyderabad, Incheon, Pusan, Tianjin, and Wuhan, to only name some of the first 25 listed. It reminds me of this list, of Chinese and European cities with over 2.5 million inhabitants.
The East is on the up and up.
If you want further proof of that, in Mumbai, there’s this guy who lives in his own billion dollar tower. And yes the b at the start of “billion” is not a bisprint, like that was. Bigger and closer-up picture here. Picture showing surroundings, and article, here.
Yes, I’m having another attack of link constipation, and another posting along these lines is called for.
Soros Whores. A blog flagged up by its author on the LA email list. Not saying I agree. Just saying: interesting. I don’t care for libertarian class analysis, because it seems to say that, come the libertarian revolution, it will be my duty to murder my sister, who spent her working life being an NHS doctor, and her husband, who spent his working life being first a social worker and then a social work bureaucrat. I like these two people a hell of a lot more than quite a few libertarians I can think of. Or to put it another way, if such a revolution ever does erupt, don’t count on me. I might decide to be on the other side.
Infallible Systems Limited. The website of a charmingly named enterprise which I encountered and photoed the sign of, on a recent photo-ing expedition. It turns out they do roofing. Infallible because, presumably, it never leaks or caves in. I thought it was some kind of electronic security firm until I found the website.
Étang de Montady. Good picture here. The point being, I photoed this mysterious thing from an airplane, in 2005, but without having any clue as to what it was. And then, on September 30th 2010, a commenter called Steve told me. How he found this posting, I have no idea. I asked. He didn’t say.
A speech by somebody called S. Paul Forest about ObamaCare, which I first heard about here, and which I strongly suspect might be quite a lot of the answer to my Samizdata question here, about just what it is that everybody I don’t hate in America hates. I have no idea who S. Paul Forest is.
There are some strong and sincere libertarians who are in the Tea Party who generally don’t believe in government intervention in the market or socially.
I can remember thinking: it’s only a matter of time before lefty politicians start talking up libertarianism in order to split their Conservative-stroke-libertarian opposition. But that was more than a decade ago. And after I’d given up hoping, now it’s happening. Obama is trying to screw with the Tea Party, by talking up some of it and trashing the rest. Plus, there may even be some genuine Marxist-type respect, deep calling to deep, etc. I haven’t seen much comment from other libertarians about this little plug for our movement from The Most Powerful Man in the World. Has anyone else seen any responses to that?
Come to think of it, I can remember when the Daily Telegraph had a policy of never mentioning the L word either, presumably in case it made difficulties for Conservatives.
That’s enough for one enema posting.
My problem (one of my problems) is that I accumulate open windows, to things I don’t want to forget about, and which I am hence reluctant to shut. But these open windows, and all the advertising shite they come with, clog up my computer, or so it feels to me.
Now I am sure there is a better answer to this problem than the one that follows, but for now, my answer, today, is to stick a few such links here, where they won’t vanish in half a day and where anyway I know my way around.
The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet. Note, incidentally, the disastrous headline punctuation. Punctuation in headlines says you can’t have a full stop at the end of a headline, but that you can have whatever punctuation you like in the middle of the headline, fullstops included. Bizarre. (Not that that’s why the piece interests me.)
That Codevilla piece about the American ruling class. Actually I think a major part of this story is that it isn’t only the American ruling class. It’s a global, or at least beyond national, class. The entire West that was is starting to be ruled by a united gang of interconnected people. Rulers of The World Unite. You have nothing to lose but the love of your dreary little voters. (To “love”, should I add “consent”?)
On the Validity and Necessity of Atheist Criticism of Islam. I like Edmund Standing a lot. Mostly I agree with this. But, I think he makes too little of the differences between Christianity and Islam. Christianity is bonkers but Islam is downright evil. (Although, I do admit that Christian anti-semitism is deeply embedded in it.) The problem I have with Islam is not only that it is so false. It is that it so nasty. Allah does not exist, but if Allah does exist he should be opposed. This is somewhat less true of the various Christian versions of God, especially nowadays.
The Vanity Fair Sarah Palin piece. I want to read this to see if it actually says anything more than: she’s a politician! Is she going to run for President? If she gets to be President will she be a quite good one, as Reagan (won the Cold War - only talked about stopping the US state spending rise) was. Will President Palin, that is to say, actually stop the US state spending rise?
The Chinese state media global offensive. Were a time traveller from a hundred years hence to invite me to guess what sparked the Big War of 2037, I’d guess China versus someone, rather than Islam versus anyone. Islam has the will to Big War, but looks unlikely at all soon to command the means to wage it. (I include Iran in that judgement. There is more to having a Bomb than just having a Bomb. You must also have the means to attack the other guy’s Bomb, and to defend your remaining Bombs, which you must also have.) And I have long believed that being able to fight wars is more important in their causation than merely wanting to. I mean, few great powers unambiguously want to fight major wars, because they have too much to lose. But, from time to time, they still did, and might one day again. Hopefully The Bomb will continue to work its terrifying magic, and Great Wars Between Great Powers will continue to not happen, but how long will that last?
I want to do a Big Piece on Samizdata about all that, Real Soon Now. Globalisation as we now know it, i.e. the version where we don’t fight global wars against one another, is more caused by The Bomb (which first happened in 1945) than by Modern Electronic Communications (which first happened in 1842). See Global Ruling Class, uniting of, above.
That should clear out my computer’s tubes a little.
Matthew Peter Dunn was born on May 5th 1992, in Egham. Ah, the thrill of a local boy making good. Egham is just down the hill from Englefield Green, infancy place of me, and was our local railway station. Still is, whenever I visit the parental home, currently still the property of us siblings. Dunn took 3-48 for Surrey - well, the Surrey reserves - against the Bangladesh touring side. Too bad the other Surrey bowlers only managed another three wickets between them. I remember when Surrey playing the big touring side was a huge deal. I remember Surrey defeating Australia in 1956, thanks to a guy called Laker, with help from a guy called Lock. England also beat Australia in 1956, thanks to a guy called Laker, with help from a guy called Lock, but Surrey beating them was like another test match being won. Arguably, Surrey then were a better team than England.
English county cricket now is in what the newspapers call turmoil, and for once I think they may not be exaggerating. Currently there are two ways to do well as a county. You can win all your games, in front of a scattering of old age pensioners and weirdos. Or, you can build a ground capable of coining money for you, if only you could find some version of cricket capable of putting enough bums on all your seats. And the biggest fact concerning English cricket now seems to be that there are now more county grounds capable of accommodating a big crowd than there are big test matches to go around. All the test friendly grounds want something else as well, to ensure their annual income.
Surrey are currently losing all their matches and are at the bottom of every English county league for every sort of cricket. They are quite possibly the absolute worst, at playing cricket, that they’ve ever been. But, they have a huge ground, with huge stands, including a huge new stand that they had built only a few years ago. So Surrey are now extremely responsive to the opinion of the people running the Indian Premier League that the English counties are sitting on a gold mine, in the form of a cricket tournament that, they say, could and should happen in the English summer that the television viewers of India would enjoy watching. The time zone thing being, in England, spot on. At the moment, the International TwentyTwenty slogfest happening in the West Indies involves some games starting at about 9 am, and none of them happening in the evening, because India wants that. Ergo, no local excitement, exacerbated by there being no West Indians in most of the teams, what with only one of the teams being “the West Indies”. In the IPL, all the teams have Indians, and the games happen at India-friendly times, so the local (i.e. Indian) excitement is very strong, and looks great on the telly, in such places as England. In the West Indies right now, the cricket is claimed to be of a higher quality than that played in the IPL, but the seats are mostly empty.
This evening I am giving the first 6/20 talk of the year at Christian Michel’s home, about ... cricket! I have spent great chunks of the last few days, and all of today so far, fretting about this talk, in particular about how to impose a coherent structure on it all, but I think I’ve now cracked it. I will start my talk not fifty or sixty years ago but right now, with two fascinating test matches, one still in progress involving England, and another just concluded which did not involve England, that non-involvement being at least half of my point. Despite being neither an Australian or in Australia, nor a Pakistani or in Pakistan, I was, thanks to the internet, able to follow that game ball by ball, and could have followed all of it if I hadn’t wanted any sleep at night-time for the duration.
From the various emails I sent him about this talk, Christian cobbled together this spiel to send out to his potential congregation, which says what I have in mind to talk about:
Brian’s talk will be about cricket. But, hey, don’t stop reading if you are like me continentally utterly indifferent to that drawn-out ritual of white-robed males adopting in turn indecent postures. I have reassuring news. Brian won’t talk only about cricket. He has been a fan of the game since he was shorter than a wicket. His devotion is at a distance nowadays, through television and the internet, and through these tiny windows he will explore with us the changes in the world over the noughties. Yes, the rise of “Twenty20” cricket; the emergence of India, with more fans of the game than there are people in Europe; the power shift from the old white Commonwealth to the Asian subcontinent – but not only. Cricket will take us through the changing texture of everyday life caused by the IT revolution, the faces of nationalism, the decline of big media, and many other issues besides. ‘Just change “cricket” to whatever you are a fan of’, Brian tells me, ‘and see if what I say about my passion applies to your enthusiasm’
Wow. That sounds like a lot. Wish me luck.
Mixed metaphor alert!
You hear people joking about this combination of images, but it seems that the Prime Minister of Australia just said it for real:
Mr Rudd made it clear that the deal had been an exercise in saving the international climate change process.
“As of 24 hours ago, these negotiations stood on the point of total collapse … at midnight last night, we were staring into the abyss,” he said.
He said the “big step forward” in the talks came with rich and poor countries agreeing to the goal of containing global warming to 2ºC.
UPDATE: Perry de Havilland liked it too.
I spent a while wondering whether what follows was worth posting at all, but although it looks at familiar stuff, maybe it does this in a not completely familiar way. If you spend the next however long reading it all, but then find that you feel otherwise, then, as my friend Paul Marks would say: My apologies! And anyway, as I always say when I feel unsure of the point of any particular posting, my most important reader is me. So, back to what I prepared earlier. ...
Life is full of those First Big Formative Experiences. First Solo Journey. First Fight. First Time You Are Robbed. First Time Your Realise Your Parents Are Merely Human Rather Than Archetypes. First Sex. First Child. First Time You Kill Someone. First Big Grown-up Type Battle (like a child custody battle or a radical politics battle or a battle for the control of a business). Almost all of us have some of these Big Experiences. Few have all of them.
To this list I now find myself wanting to add another one, which is about when you first participate in a news story, before it breaks, and you then read about it in the newspapers or see it on the telly. And what you learn is that, just like your parents, journalists are only human, and that they get all kinds of things subtly to totally wrong, just as you would if you were trying to make immediate sense of some drama that you’d only just heard about.
Often what you see, from right next to the touchline or even from on the pitch, is that the journalists themselves had a far bigger hand in creating the story, or in blowing it up out of all proportion, than they ever let on. They do things like stick shouty exclamation marks after what were actually just bits of normal-voiced conversation. They increase the point size, as it were, of what was said. The mere words may be reasonably accurate. But the tone of how they were spoken is a flat-out lie, often deliberate. They often then take the made-up screaming of one side to the other side, and by the time they have done their work the screaming has become genuine. (This is one of the things you often learn about those Grown-up Battles. There are often people people who make a living out of such battles, and who hence have a vested interest in creating them out of next to nothing. See also: divorce lawyers.) The business of the media, after all, is selling news, and if there is no news, they are constantly tempted to create it, because they can.
All of which doesn’t just poison their first blundering reportage of the thing you saw before they did, but carries on poisoning everything they subsequently say. For if the media have previous in reporting a previous version of the story in some deliberately false way of this sort, they will be reluctant to change this version, in the light of new facts, however obvious.
The internet now universalises and greatly amplifies the above experiences. The internet connects you to the gossip of the participants in any story you happen to be interested in, before the mainstream media get involved in it because of something dramatic suddenly happening to the story.
Consider that ruckus that Dell Computers suffered a few years back. It went roughly like this. Various people bought some particular variety of Dell computer, and lots of these computers went wrong in the same way. Dell at first tried to bluster it out. No big problem, nothing fundamentally wrong, a few malfunctions but not a widespread problem, blah blah. But the victims of this mistake were now internet connected, and they all told each other about their identical problems. What would have been lots of separate and futile failed conversations about the damn computer merged into one very successful conversation. Within a few days, Dell was obliged to retreat. Yes, there is a big problem, grovel grovel. Send them all back and we’ll mend them, send you another, etc.
The key thing is the internet connectedness of the complainers, to each other.
Had it been left to the regular newspapers, the Dell story would never have been put together quickly enough to count. First, newspapers don’t connect readers with each other, only with newspapers, and that only very clunkily. Second, newspapers don’t want to piss off a big advertiser, so they give prominence to the nothing-to-see-here excuses of the big company and only slowly, if ever, do they put together the real story. And what if they just did an admiring profile of Dell, and what if that involved a, you know, deal of some kind, spoken or unspoken, maybe involving more and implausibly over-priced advertising?
Climategate illustrates a lot of the above. Many a climate scientist, you suspect, had one of his Big Life Experiences, when he said, in what he thought was mere conversation but to a journalist, that maybe temperatures and sea levels might rise, and yes, I suppose they could rise quite a bit, provided this and provided that, and if we were all really unlucky, can’t completely rule that out, blah blah, and he then read his words back the following morning, with him personally quoted and everything, like he’s Someone Important, as: We Are All Doomed!!!! At which point he obviously says: Fucking liars. But perhaps he also says: But, maybe, come to think of it, useful fucking liars.
For a long time, the dubiousness, the fake certainty, the sheer made-up-ness, of the AGW argument was known to a few sceptics, and to their more numerous but frankly rather resigned readers (such as me), who learned the alternative story, very approximately, but who could think of no way to do anything with it except place tiny blog-bets on it eventually proving to be true. But the sceptics and us readers were all connected, just like the dubious scientists that we were complaining about, and when that treasure trove of CRU internal information finally emerged, we were ready at once to make entire sense of it. And because the regular newspapers were all part of the story, in the form of the nonsense they had been printing about it over the years, and especially in the form of the particular deluge of nonsense they had saved up for this Copenhagen meeting (which was the very same circumstance, presumably, which precipitated the CRU leak), they couldn’t and still cannot allow themselves to report adequately even those bits of the story that they have approximately now understood.
The other crucial thing about Climategate is that Important People Now Read The Internet, that is, people who make actual real-world decisions. When big cheese politicians start making decisions differently, because of Climategate, and despite the silence of the old-school media, then Climategate becomes impossible for the old-school media to ignore. Carry on ignoring Climategate completely, and the old-school media risk becoming a complete and very public irrelevance, like a Dell computer that is never going to work because Dell refuse to admit that there’s a problem, at which point people in large numbers (the key decision makers in the case of the Dell story) just refuse to buy any more Dell computers because they don’t trust them any more. (Which didn’t happen with Dell, I hasten to add, although I do seem to recall being told that Dell are doing a bit less well than in the past.)
The answer is for the old-school media to become part of the new-school media, as the clever people in the old-school media pretty much all now are. Instead of moaning about the internet, they (the clever old-school-but-now-also-new-school journalists) have become avid internet readers. When the internet gets excited about something, well, there’s another story. No need for them to apologise for having been led by specialist bloggers to a big story. That is now their job.
I get the very strong feeling that in the USA, the old-school media people are determined to be irrelevant, but that in Britain, the old-school media people, some of them anyway, are fighting quite hard to mutate into new-school people. In the USA, new media start-ups seem to be making most of the gains. In Britain, old-school media organs going new-school are making a much bigger impact.
James Delingpole is now a perfect illustration of this trend, of old-school mutating into new-school.
One of the features of the new-school media is that they are global, certainly global in the sense of reaching everyone on earth who can read and type in the language concerned. You can become an Anglosphere media force-to-be-reckoned-with, without ever leaving London, or for that matter without ever leaving Dubai or Naples or Timbuktu. Ditto the Hispanosphere, the Sinosphere, the Hindisphere. You can smash media rivals in other countries in your language sphere without even going there, any more than those Japanese motorbike companies had to open factories in Britain or America in order to smash the British or American motorbike industries (the language of motorbiking being universal). One of the features of Climategate is how it has bounced around the world, with a bunch of politicos in one spot inflaming the story everywhere,
I’m sure I could bring this posting elegantly in to land, with some further reference to some Big Life Experience, but I can’t think of anything along those lines. Simply stopping will have to suffice.
There will be more and hopefully rather more coherent Climategate blah blah from me Real Soon Now, because this evening I will be doing a recorded conversation with Bishop Hill (whom Delingpole has been linking to quite a lot lately). Should be interesting.
The day before yesterday I posted a big piece about ClimateGate at Samizdata, or whatever we’re calling it all today, my second Samizdata effort on this topic, hence my relative inactivity here during the last week or so. All about why I think this story is huge (so far so obvious), and how I think it will stick around for quite a while because of the peculiar nature of the climate argument (that being the vaguely original bit), and because of the sheer number of individual, guilty persons who are now ready for and in need of skewering, because they fell for this fraud and decided to bugger up the world in accordance with it.
The first draft of this even made the claim that we are now be living through is the second great History Date of the twenty first century, the first being Sept 11th 2001. Sadly, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, however much I might wish it to be. To be an authentic History Date an event has to be agreed by everybody in all parts of the political solar system to be a Big Thing, even as everyone simultaneously slags each other off about what it all means and what to do about it. The trouble with ClimateGate - and, as I’ve already hinted above, one of the problems is that we aren’t even agreeing what to call it - is that a huge slab of dupes and frauds would like nothing better than for the whole ghastly business to be totally forgotten. For ClimateGate, or whatever, to win out and find its place next to Hastings, Magna Carta, the Great Fire of London, the Glorious Revolution, Trafalgar, Waterloo and the rest of them, then my team in this ruckus would have to win the battle of the history books. Which we yet might, but this is not certain, to put it mildly.
This piece (one of the many on this topic linked to by the ever-invaluable Instapundit – never forget what a difference he has made and still makes to the world) confirms everything I said in my Samizdata pieces, about how the internet has totally changed the rules for arguments like this. Love the 2001 A Space Odyssey pastiche. Apparently, in the USA, whenever and wherever a big, pompous, biased, dead-tree organ now ventures onto the www with a piece about Global Warming, Copenhagen, etc., but without mentioning the shenanigans at UEA, CRUgate, ClimateGate, GlobalWarmingGate, ... commenters are piling in in their derisive dozens and even hundreds to remind them.
Fox News is all over it, in the person of Glenn Beck. (I loved his mispronunciation of “East Anglia” - something like “Angleela"- the other day, on an earlier video, I think, than that one.) My friend Adriana Lukas recently told me that she told a good mate of hers at Fox News about this story when it first broke, and it was the first he’d heard of it. Kudos Adriana. Although they would have heard about it from someone soon enough. It’s a different world, like my piece says.
And what do you know, only seconds, literally, after I had put up my big bit, Johnathan Pearce posted another bit on the same topic, just as foreseen/feared here. I hope JP and others commenting on that earlier piece are right that this kind of duplication doesn’t matter, helps even. Certainly this story is big enough to merit constant multiple Samizdata postings, every day.
A commenter on that Johnathan Pearce Samizdata piece said this:
At least now we can all agree, on both sides of the Climate Change debate, that Global Warming was caused by Mann.
Hah! Wonder why I never thought of stroke came across that gag before.
And this may just be my favourite SQotD ever.
I recently emailed Bishop Hill (one of ClimateGate’s global blogstars) asking if he’d be willing to do an interview with me, along the lines of this one, in connection with his wit and wisdom generally, but in particular in connection with his forthcoming book. And guess what, he has just emailed back saying yes. But he is mind-bogglingly busy just now, so don’t hold your breath. That won’t be happening any day soon, but in a few weeks, probably. I’m looking forward to that a lot.
Michael Jennings has now just put up another excellent ClimateGate piece, also at Samizdata.
Regular readers of this blog will know that many a day of torpor here has been rescued by an incoming Michael J email, often (as there) with follow up comment from him of far greater sophistication, interest and intelligence than all but my very best postings here.
Michael Jennings is one of those people who likes - needs even - to know that people are interested in what he has to say before he says it, as is not quite the case with everyone, is it? Hence some of his best bits of writing often take the form of comments, in answer to direct questions to which he happens to have a very good answer which someone has just asked and clearly would really like to know about. But with this ClimateGate thing, I imagine he feels confident that people all over the place will be extremely interested in anything even semi-coherent that he has to say about that, and of course what he does say is far better than that.
Next, a couple of quotes from others about how this is all rather Bolshevik.
An incoming email to Instapundit recently went thus:
I now have a sense of what it was like living under Communism in Eastern Europe. The state-owned (in our case, establishment) press won’t report on reality so people had to turn to Samizdat to learn what’s actually happening in their world. It’s rather amazing. Also, having an Army of Davids go through these emails will pay dividends for years.
Indeed, and another Army of Davids asking those who swallowed this nonsense whole what they were thinking of, and what they are still doing, and why, and meanwhile what their expenses claims are looking like, should also now be assembling. Count me, in. (And see below.)
And see also this, from one of the comments on Michael J’s piece:
I had a sudden thought last night with regards to the “mainstream” response, particularly the self-serving response from UEA itself. It is rather like claiming that Lysenko was just a rogue element within Soviet biology, and in any case his findings are supported by the overwhelming majority of Soviet biologists working in many places around the Soviet union and its satellite states, so the Lamarckian consensus within Soviet science remains intact.
I am now working on a piece provisionally called something like: Now is the time to subject the government of the world to Guidoisation - i.e., basically, to start blogging about it in a big (i.e.much bigger and more mainstream A-list blogger way), and to make it personal. Who are the people doing it, where (Copenhagen will be a good place to accelerate the rolling of this ball), when, how, at what cost both in terms of public policy and in terms of the hotel and salary bills for their fatcat selves, what did these people do in the past (i.e.what mere countries have they already screwed with), and what have they said in the past (before they’d even got to the screwing their own country stage), what crackpot bolshevik groups were they in when even younger, who are they now arrived to, and why won’t the regular damn media report on all this (because they are part of the damn problem is why – let me tell you about what the owner of the Daily Deadtree was doing with whom last weekend), blah blah, blah blah. I believe I may have some rather original and fruitful insights to offer about this.
Who the hell, exactly, and just for starters, is this Michael Mann creature? (I’ve not read that Wikipedia entry and would not trust it as far as I could spit it. When the left fascists have an axe to grind about anyone or anything, then Wikipedia is just leftist agitprop, with all critical but true additions edited out pronto. And did I recently hear something about Wikipedia collapsing, or did I merely imagine it?) Last night at a book signing I attended, somebody told me that Michael Mann is a total bastard, far worse than any kind of regular scientist gone wrong, more like a cross between Lysenko and Beria. So, as Arthur Seldon of the IEA used to ask of anyone interesting in a bad way: who he? What he making from all this? Who he married to? Where he based? Who he conned? How many years he deserve in jail?
But, I promise nothing.
I wonder, might “Cruleak” be a good name for all this? Just a thought, and probably not a very good one. But I do agree with another of the commenters on Michael J’s piece that all these thingy-gates are becoming very tedious.
A week ago today, I journeyed to White Van Land (aka South East London), to record an interview with Toby Baxendale - businessman, Austrian economics devotee, social activist, boss of Direct Seafoods, and founder of the Cobden Centre, among other things. We - mostly he - spoke for just on fifty minutes, which is a longish time for a thing like this, but worth anyone’s time (I hope those who give it a go will agree), because he is an impressive individual. You don’t get from seventy grand in debt at the age of twenty one to running a company that turns over a hundred million quid a year before you are even properly middle aged without having something about you.
Listen to it by clicking here.
The thing I find particularly intriguing about Toby is how his thinking in the academic sense and his business and social thinking are so deeply intertwined, which is sadly not true of far too many businessmen. His early acquaintance with the economic facts of life, due to his parents divorcing early and him being raised by his single mother, meant that he came to the study of economics with a well developed sense of how the economy worked and how wealth gets created, and regular economics didn’t add up. Too abstract. Simply: not right. He paid for much of this education by himself working, first by part-owning and running a night club, then by buying food for a restaurant that he part-owned, the latter activity being the basis of his later business success. An early burst of anti-left politics in his teens got him in touch with the legal and social thinking of Friedrich Hayek, and he made a note to chase up Austrian School economics later, once he had got his business life motoring. Which it did, not least because of his willingness to use the dispersed-knowledge dispersed-profit model of business organisation and business cooperation, rather than just putting all his underlings on a fixed salary and telling them what to do. He didn’t want the do-as-you’re-told life for himself, and figured they wouldn’t either. Plus, profit-sharing is more profitable.
His ideological advocacy and social activism now takes several forms. He is a magistrate. He is active in a microfinance organisation, for the kind of people for whom any kind of finance is liable to be something of a battle. He talked eloquently about the example set by such persons as the Quakers - before going to the London School of Economics, he attended a Quaker school for a few years - and by the Manchester liberals, such as Cobden. And, with his Cobden Centre hat on, he compares the privilege-breaking Repeal of the Corn Laws that the Manchester liberals accomplished with a similar job that needs to be done with the world’s current politically privileged banking system. What these persons now do, he is at pains to admit, is all perfectly legal. But, like the Corn Laws, it ought not to be.
So, recommended. And even if nearly an hour listening to one and half people just talking does not appeal, at least remember the name: Toby Baxendale. He will surely be making waves in the next few years.
The older I get, the more convinced I become that a lot of getting on and getting ahead in the world is a matter of sheer physical energy, of getting things done, first time, fast, lots of them every day. I, on the other hand, was not at my physical best when recording this conversation and got quite a lot more ill soon after it, hence the delay in sticking it up here. Luckily nothing of importance is lost because of this delay, but still, my apologies to Toby for any irritation this delay may have caused. Toby Baxendale, I sense, doesn’t do ill. Did I mention that he is an Ironman Triathlete? No I did not and nor did he. I only found out about this afterwards.
My thanks to Antoine Clarke for suggesting this recorded conversation, and to Tim Evans for putting Toby Baxendale and me in touch.
I have just begun reading a book called 1759, by Frank McLynn, subtitled The Year Britain Became The Master of the World. In its preface, there is a ringing endorsement of the value of counterfactual history, of the sort I wrote about so enthusiastically a few years back on Samizdata, here and here. Says McLynn:
Above all, I wish to concentrate the reader’s mind on what might have been. Counterfactual history is never popular with straitlaced students of socio-economic structures or devotees of la longue durée, but to my mind it is the essence of history. 1940, which likewise could so easily have turned out differently, may have been Britain’s finest hour when backs were to the wall, but 1759 was the finest hour of the infant imperial nation.
But I think I am becoming more tolerant of the way regular historians look askance at counterfactual history. What it comes down to is the division of historical labour. Counterfactual history comes into its own when, like Frank McLynn, you are telling your story to a general, amateur readership, pulling all the work of the specialist historians together into one larger story. If you want to explain what it felt like to be alive in 1759, and to be making and carrying out the decisions that exercised the people of those times, then the various contrasting futures that those decisions might make, depending on how they are made, must be presented, simply to understand what was decided and what was done, and to explain what was at stake.
But for the professional specialist, what matters is what actually happened. He has enough on his plate worrying about that and arguing about that with his colleagues. He absolutely does not want to be sidetracked into speculations about what merely might have been, especially if such speculations did not even enter the minds of the particular people he is studying.
Both points of view have their place. No need for there to be a quarrel. No need for me to tell the professional detail-grubbers to think differently. But no need for them to talk rubbish about how general history for punters like me should best be written. There is more to explaining what happened than merely saying what happened.