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Quote of the Day

The good fellows over at @ClimateRealists, linking to this article in the Guardian which basically advises us all to head for the hills before the weather gods smite our sorry behinds, asked if the Guardian is a secret religious cult. This is perhaps a shrewder question than they realised, as the great historian of religious thought Sir James George Frazer nailed down the superstitious origins of political coercion more than a century ago. In The Golden Bough, he wrote:

“We have found that at an early stage of society men, ignorant of the secret processes of nature and of the narrow limits within which it is in our power to control and direct them, have commonly arrogated to themselves functions which in the present state of knowledge we should deem superhuman or divine. The illusion has been fostered and maintained by the same causes which begot it, namely, the marvellous order and uniformity with which nature conducts her operations, the wheels of her great machine revolving with a smoothness and precision which enable the patient observer to anticipate in general the season, if not the very hour, when they will bring round the fulfilment of his hopes or the accomplishment of his fears. Read more

The real China Problem

If, for some obscure and unhealthy motivation, European or Anglophone readers should find themselves looking for a way to waste an hour utterly and irretrievably while ensuring that nothing whatever is achieved either actually or apparently, they could do no better than get together with some friends of various political complexions and have a conversation on the People’s Republic of China.

Nothing could be more fatuous or futile than the ensuing spectacle, as each participant contrives to see something which reinforces his or her perspective on any and every conceivable political issue. Modern China is an omnipurpose political Rorschach ink-blot test for opinionated westerners, and today’s OECD report on school-children’s relative performances is an entertaining example. Read more