Krugman’s Conversion

Adam Tooze

‘If it were announced that we faced a threat from space aliens and needed to build up to defend ourselves,’ Paul Krugman said in 2012, ‘we’d have full employment in a year and a half.’ If 21st-century America needed an enemy, China was one candidate. On foreign policy, Krugman is perhaps best described as a left patriot. Where he had once downplayed the impact of Chinese imports on the US economy, he now declared that China’s currency policy was America’s enemy: by manipulating its exchange rate Beijing was dumping exports on America. But to Krugman’s frustration Obama never turned the pivot towards Asia into a concerted economic strategy. You might argue that in Covid we have found an enemy of precisely the kind Krugman was imagining. As far as Europe is concerned, an alien space invasion isn’t an implausible model for Covid. This novel threat broke down inhibitions in Berlin, and the Eurozone’s response was far more ambitious than it was after 2008. But America isn’t the Eurozone. For all Krugman’s gloom, it didn’t take a new world war to flip the economic policy switch. All it took was an election.

 

What is a brain?

Rivka Galchen

We are nearing the point of really understanding the nervous system of the stomach of a crustacean – but we aren’t there yet. At the same time, technologies exist that allow paralysed patients to move robotic arms with their thoughts. It feels at once like the year 1900 and the year 3000.

 

Prove your Frenchness

Julian Barnes

In​ 2016, Theresa May told the Conservative Party Conference: ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word “citizenship” means.’ This characterisation was not – rightly not – considered antisemitic, merely an appeal to the autochthonic Brexiter mentality. But it taps...

 

Gargantuanisation

John Lanchester

When​ the Ever Given wedged itself into the side of the Suez Canal on 23 March, many, many people were annoyed and upset. The ship’s as yet unnamed captain and all-Indian crew, for a start: it’s going to be interesting to see what the inquiry concludes not just about the grounding, but also about the giant penis the Ever Given drew on satellite tracking before sailing into the...

 

Eels on Cocaine

Emily Witt

This morning​ I watched a video of some ducks eating lettuce from an enamel bowl. The text of the newspaper lining their cage indicated the birds were in Japan. They devoured the lettuce ferociously, producing an eerie, rattling sound. The lettuce evaporated in a matter of seconds. Nothing about my description explains why the video is interesting, or why it was shared around the world and...

Short Cuts

Blame Brussels

Jan-Werner Müller

The EU took on a task that should have brought it popularity, but for which it was ill-prepared; in the end, it performed, to quote the German finance minister, in a ‘shitty way’. As with the common currency and the refugee crisis, the union acquired features of a state – but in an incomplete and ultimately incoherent way. The Euro couldn’t function without a common fiscal policy; the shared border has lacked a unified asylum policy. And, as so often, the commission overpromised: ‘l’Europe qui protège’ ended up protecting free trade at least as much as the lives of citizens.

 

Many Anons

Irina Dumitrescu

In​ the mid-seventh century, a busy and well-connected abbess in Northumbria took a promising new poet under her wing. This unassuming elderly man, who worked as a cowherd, had never managed to learn a single song. He went to feasts with the other agricultural workers at the monastery, but always left before the harp could be passed to him. One night he departed early and went to sleep in...

 

Lucille Clifton

Andrea Brady

Lucille Clifton developed an intensely economic­al style: short lines, sparse punctuation, ordinary language whose modesty is stress­ed by its lack of capitals. Her poems seem simple, but build unpredictably towards flashpoints of revelation. She twists the material of daily life into what Toni Morrison called ‘re-memory’, the clamour of history in the present.

Talking Politics: History of Ideas PLUS

Turn the second series of David Runciman’s acclaimed talks on the most important thinkers and ideas behind modern politics into your own personal masterclass, while bolstering your bookshelves with some of the foundational works of political theory and philosophy!

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LRB Books: Collections and Selections

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two new series of collectible books.

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