Toby graduated in September and stepped into the real world- a plainly terrible decision he now regrets. He spends his days making coffee to fund his travels and generally pondering what a History graduate should do next in life. His hobbies include cycling, martial arts, writing and guitar. His desire for social change fuels interests in both international development and more local social policy. Toby is to editing what Sandi Toksvig is to QI. Relatively new to it, but at least he will do it for free.
‘The most dangerous time for a bad government is when it begins to reform itself.’ – Alexis de Toqueville.
Give people an inch, and they will take a mile. This is what de Toqueville hinted at in his Ancien Regime et la Revolution, his celebrated account of the French Revolution. It was just as Louis XVI’s regime began to reform that the masses could take no more. Just as the promise of real change was made, the guillotine fell.
(20.10.17) – Trade Secrets #3 – Can Free Trade Bring World Peace?
‘World peace’ is a staple for utopian theorists, science fiction writers, and beauty pageant winners. Sadly, an end to all international conflict still seems like a very distant dream. However, when it comes to war, for the last 60 years there has most definitely been an elephant in the room. Why are we all getting on so well?
Of course this is to say nothing of civil wars, hybrid wars, and grassroots violence, all of which remain (sadly) rife. But when it comes to wars between states, especially between great powers, we are living in the most peaceful era in recorded history. This is even more impressive considering that many were worried a third world war would immediately follow the second. So what’s going on?
Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here: How to Hunt the Stag: Power, Blackmail and Exploitation)
Let’s suppose I am the editor of a brilliant and highly successful politics and arts magazine (ahem). My magazine is so utterly brilliant that I believe it’s time to break into an international market. I’m aiming big – I want to sell my magazine in China. However, all manner of obstacles lie in my way. Firstly, there is the physical distance – my magazines have to reach the other side of the world. Next, I would need to alter the magazine to comply with Chinese laws and regulations (which could be completely unrecognisable, even if they weren’t written in a different language). Then I require the local infrastructure to advertise my product, a shop to sell it from, and local workers to operate this shop. Each of these steps will also require a translator, as will the translation of my magazine itself. I also need the Chinese State not to have any subsidies for local magazines that price me out of the market, nor quotas which restrict my sales. Finally, even once all this has been achieved, cultural differences may render my once gripping magazine totally uninteresting to locals.
In short, my magazine isn’t going to sell many Chinese copies any time soon.
(11.09.17) – Trade Secrets #1 – How to Hunt the Stag
Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives.
John, Tyrion and Ned lie patiently in wait. They have cornered their target, a colossal, fully-grown stag, grazing nearby. The three of them are in position, bows drawn, waiting to strike. Suddenly the stag bolts, leaping into the undergrowth. Tyrion jumps into pursuit. He knows he has little hope of catching the beast, but he does not despair – it is headed directly towards John’s position. The creature approaches the bush where John is hiding, its end clearly drawing near. But there is no shot. The stag runs past unscathed, and escapes into the night. Tyrion runs over to the bush, exasperated, ready to strike John with the back of his hand. But John is not there. He is around the corner – attempting to catch a rabbit with his pocket knife.
Content warning – sexism, domestic abuse, racism, two very rich men being awful.
Last night, combat sports enthusiasts of the world gathered around their television sets. At the end of a long day’s work, they sunk into their sofas – remote in one hand, perhaps a Bud in the other. Of course, as they have been saying to their less knowledgeable friends for months, this whole fight is simply a farce. Of course, just like everyone else, they are obviously going to watch it. This week has been the world tour: a series of hugely anticipated pre-fight press conferences. Fans now watch eagerly – just to see if there could be some substance to this fight after all.
What they have been greeted with is a steaming, grotesque, shameless turd-like insult to everything they hold dear.
(06.07.17) – M.A.D. Can’t Save Us Now.
Madness. Or, more precisely, M.A.D.ness. This is the doctrine which has governed foreign policy among major powers for the last half a century: ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ – the idea that the possession of nuclear arms is, in of itself, the ultimate deterrent against aggression from other nuclear armed powers.
It is the reason why the UK is willing to continually bankrupt itself keeping its Trident system running. It is the reason why, in the Cold War, the US and Soviets tolerated one another pouring funding into nuclear missiles, but mutually agreed to ban investment in systems to defend against nuclear missiles, as they were too dangerous. It is the reason why many International Relations experts believe that additional nuclear weapons could actually make the world a safer place. M.A.D. is the key to understanding the ecosystem of superpowers, in the Cold War and beyond.
There is, of course, only one problem – we have no idea whether it really works.
(05.06.17) – Review: State and Society, by Martin Pugh
When Theresa May announced her snap election, I was travelling across Japan. At the time I was spending a lot of time a variety of very slow trains (the famous bullet trains were somewhat beyond our budget). This gave me a lot of down-time to ponder my electoral choices, and consider which way I should vote. It also gave me a lot of time to read the latest tome of modern history I had picked up: Martin Pugh’s State and Society; a social and political history of Britain since 1870. It is not a politicised book; it markets itself as a rigorous work of academic history, designed to introduce new undergraduates to the period – a task it performs superbly.
However, this is a politicised book review.
Content warning: article mentions xenophobia and racism
There’s no way of hiding it, Labour took a beating on May 4th. Losing control of 7 councils while the Conservatives gained 11, the Tories now hold 28 councils to Labour’s 9. Overall, the Conservatives gained 563 seats, while Labour lost 382.
The left-of-centre media has been united in their response to these results; the internet is strewn with articles heavy with despair and foreboding. Such was the synchrony and unanimity of this outcry, that our nation’s journalists have almost come to resemble a marching band in procession behind the coffin of progressive politics itself.