Corbyn parts company with his own party

Splendid Observer column by Andrew Rawnsley:

What would Mr Corbyn do when he and his members desired something contradictory? How would he act when they had fundamentally different worldviews? Would he put aside his own preferences in deference to the sovereignty of the Labour people? Or would he behave just like the “establishment” politicians he has spent a lifetime condemning and seek to subordinate the will of the members to his own opinions?

We now know. The Brexit blowtorch has burnt away many fantasises. One of the items on the bonfire of illusions is the notion that the Labour leader is in some way a special one, so different to all other politicians as to be almost not a politician at all. It turns out that he is just another manoeuvring, equivocating hack when he wants one thing and his members want the opposite.

This split is not a slight difference of opinion on a low-order issue. We are talking about something a bit more important than how to regulate the provision of manhole covers. This is about the most significant question to face Britain for decades. Some 73% of people currently identifying as Labour supporters think that the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU. That rises to a whopping 89% among Labour members. As you might expect to follow, most Labour members and most Labour voters want the party to come out in full support of another referendum on Brexit, a move that would transform the chances of the country being given a fresh choice.

The bottom line, as Rawnsley observes, is that sometimes, the simplest explanations for human behaviour are the best ones. The Labour leader is not making any effort to prevent Brexit because he doesn’t want to prevent Brexit. So if Labour supporters want another referendum (and we now know, courtesy of Tim Bales’s research that they do), they will have to learn from their leader’s time-honoured practice and rebel against him.

Why Facebook isn’t viable in its current form

This morning’s Observer column:

Way back in the 1950s, a pioneering British cybernetician, W Ross Ashby, proposed a fundamental law of dynamic systems. In his book An Introduction to Cybernetics, he formulated his law of requisite variety, which defines “the minimum number of states necessary for a controller to control a system of a given number of states”. In plain English, it boils down to this: for a system to be viable, it has to be able to absorb or cope with the complexity of its environment. And there are basically only two ways of achieving viability in those terms: either the system manages to control (or reduce) the variety of its environment, or it has to increase its internal capacity (its “variety”) to match what is being thrown at it from the environment.

Sounds abstruse, I know, but it has a contemporary resonance. Specifically, it provides a way of understanding some of the current internal turmoil in Facebook as it grapples with the problem of keeping unacceptable, hateful or psychotic content off its platform…

Read on

See also Tyler Cowen’s ‘trilemma’ piece