Thomas Piketty on the cynicism implicit in neoliberal dismissal of the capabilities of the state:
“We are told constantly that states can’t do anything, that it’s impossible to regulate the Cayman islands and the other tax havens because they are too powerful, and all of a sudden we send a million soldiers 10,000km from home to allow the emir of Kuwait to keep his oil.”
Financial Times, 27/28 June, 2015.
This morning’s Observer column:
It would be patronising to assume that every internet user – except for the occasional geek – is a mug. Some people do read the terms and conditions to which they have to agree when signing up to use “free” internet services. They fully realise that “if the service is free then you are the product”. And yet they persist in using it. Why?
One possible reason is that they place a value on those “free” services. Various studies have tried to estimate what that value might be. A study by the consultancy company McKinsey, for example, asked 3,360 consumers in six countries what they would pay for 16 internet services that are now largely financed by ads. The conclusion was that households would pay €38 (£27) a month on average for those services. From this, McKinsey estimated that “free” internet services generate €32bn of consumer surplus in America and €69bn in Europe.
These calculations are music to the ears of Facebook and Google executives, who interpret them as proof that consumer tolerance of corporate surveillance is really evidence of “rational” economic behaviour. People put up with companies spying on them because they get a good deal out of it.
Into this comforting ointment, three academics have just implanted a number of flies…
You can get anything on the Web, apparently, including hackers for hire. Good analysis of the ‘service’ by Jonathan Mayer here.
Today’s Observer column:
I never thought I’d find myself writing this, but the Daily Mail has finally done something useful for society. Mind you, it’s done it unintentionally: it didn’t know it was doing good. But still… It would be churlish not to acknowledge its achievement…
Sounds improbable? I know. But read on
Sick of the appropriation of Magna Carta by clueless and authoritarian British governments? So am I. And so is Tom Ginsburg:
Magna Carta has everything going for it to be venerated in the United States: It is old, it is English and, because no one has actually read the text, it is easy to invoke to fit current needs. A century ago, Samuel Gompers referred to the Clayton Act as a Magna Carta for labor; more recently the National Environmental Protection Act has been called an “environmental Magna Carta.” Judges, too, cite Magna Carta with increasing frequency, in cases ranging from Paula Jones’s suit against Bill Clinton to the pleas of Guantánamo detainees. Tea Party websites regularly invoke it in the battle against Obamacare.
Americans aren’t alone in revering Magna Carta. Mohandas K. Gandhi cited it in arguing for racial equality in South Africa. Nelson Mandela invoked it at the trial that sent him to prison for 27 years. We are not the only ones, it seems, willing to stretch old legal texts beyond their original meaning. Like the Holy Grail, the myth of Magna Carta seems to matter more than the reality.
PS You can buy the Magna Quacka rubber duck from — I kid you not — the British Library.
PPS The Economist takes it seriously, though.