Power and Control: Tech Billionaires in Politics

In literary fiction, the notion of a ‘conceit’ refers to a solution which is imaginary, or rarely occurs, to ensure the plot can progress unimpeded by the realities of the real world. An example of this is warp speed in Star Trek. But conceit also has another meaning which carries both positive and negative connotations. The former occurs when a writer helps the reader to discover a more nuanced understanding of a situation or object....

November 7, 2021 · 6 min read · 1271 words

Jotting — Protect Duty

Lightbulb Moment The Government is committed to improving the safety and security of public venues, as outlined in its 2019 manifesto. This consultation considers how we can work together to develop proportionate security measures to improve public security. It also considers how those responsible for publicly accessible locations are ready and prepared to take appropriate action, were a terrorist attack to happen. Analysis As a historian I am deeply conscious of the inertia that government has exerted over the past half millennia....

May 18, 2021 · 2 min read · 240 words

Hail, Lobster!

Buried as I am in books and journal articles, and abjuring the more mass appeal social networks as I do, much in popular culture passes me by. I don’t confess this with any sorrow, nor even much pride, it is just the case, to adopt that hideous phrase: ‘it is what it is’. As a rule, I find that which is meaningful tends to endure, and generally adopt a wait and see attitude to modern culture....

April 16, 2021 · 5 min read · 957 words

Bitcoin's Dirty Little Secrets: Political

Continuing from my recent essay, Bitcoin’s Dirty Little Secrets – Environmental, I thought I should give some space to the political dimenion of Bitcoins dirty little secrets. Since the white paper was first published under the name Satoshi Nakamoto, the central premise (pun intended) of Bitcoin has been that: A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution....

April 13, 2021 · 5 min read · 862 words

Doomsday Clock

#onthisday in 1955, Russell–Einstein Manifesto was issued in London. The document sought to highlight the dangers of nuclear proliferation and entreated world leaders to search for peaceful resolutions to conflict. Ten years earlier, on the same day an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the philosopher Bertrand Russell began composing his first comments on ‘the bomb’. It is impossible to imagine a more dramatic and horrifying combination of scientific triumph with political and moral failure than has been shown to the world in the destruction of Hiroshima....

July 9, 2020 · 3 min read · 439 words

Modern Pocket Boroughs

Writing in 1821, Sydney Smith railed that: The country belongs to the Duke of Rutland, Lord Lonsdale, the Duke of Newcastle, and about twenty other holders of boroughs. They are our masters! He was writing in protest of a practise, too often forgotten in our age, of the ‘pocket borough’. These were areas of England and Wales which returned MPs to parliament who were not freely voted for by the people, but put in office by the pressure of a powerful landowner or rich merchant....

June 7, 2020 · 3 min read · 443 words

Letters of Note

In the email age, it is easy to bemoan the declining standards in our written communication. Perhaps it is a case of volume. With billions of people deemed ‘literate’ by UNESCO, does it not stand to reason there will be a greater level of dross obscuring the gold that abounds? Or perhaps it is the case that familiarity breeds contempt, and the easy way in which we can hammer out a missive on a keyboard means less care is taken to the composition?...

June 2, 2020 · 4 min read · 848 words

Proportionality in Pursuit of Justice

In 1764, Cesare Beccaria wrote a treatise titled On Crimes and Punishments (Italian: Dei delitti e delle pene). In it he drew on Montsquieu, who had argued that ‘every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical’. From this concept, Beccaria concluded: Crimes of every kind should be less frequent, in proportion to the evil they produce to society — If an equal punishment be ordained for two crimes that injure society in different degrees, there is nothing to deter men from committing the greater as often as it is attended with greater advantage....

May 31, 2020 · 3 min read · 527 words

Parliamentary Privilege

Scrolling down the home page of one of my newspapers of choice the other day, I could only find one article not about Coronavirus. While one of the greatest challenges facing our world at the present, it is a public disservice to permit a single topic to dominate all media channels unless there is a topical angle. In this climate, it came as something of a welcome change to see the news channels lighting up on a different topic; social media vs The President....

May 30, 2020 · 4 min read · 771 words

Distributism

Sir Humphrey: East Yemen, isn’t that a democracy?Foreign Office Official: Its full name is the People’s Democratic Republic of East Yemen. Sir Humphrey: Ah I see, so it’s a communist dictatorship. — Yes, Minister When casting around the names of the nations of the world, one is tempted to think Oscar Wilde was onto something when he observed ‘Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life,’ because countries with ‘Democratic’ in their name would challenge even Isocrates to make a convincing argument for their democratic composition....

May 29, 2020 · 2 min read · 365 words