James Scott's 1998 classic Seeing Like a State describes how governments shoehorn the governed into countable, manageable ways of living and working so that they can be counted and steered by state bureaucracies. Political scientist Henry Farrell (previously) discusses how networked authoritarianism is touted by its advocates as a way of resolving the problems of state-like seeing, because if a state spies on people enough and allows machine-learning systems to incorporate their behavior and respond to it, it is possible to create "a more efficient competitor that can beat democracy at its home game" — providing for everyone's needs better than a democracy could.
Writing in Wired, political scientist Henry Farrell points out what should be obvious: we're going to pay for climate change (that is, either we're going to rebuild the cities smashed by weather and take care of the people whose lives are ruined, or we're going to pay to cope with the ensuing refugee crisis), so the question isn't "how can we possibly pay for climate change?" — Read the rest
Kirstjen Nielsen was Trump's DHS Secretary, where she oversaw the performatively cruel practice of separating thousands of children from their parents, in a calculatedly shambolic and chaotic way, ensuring that many of them will never be reunited with their families.
The scholarship on inequality has been producing a wealth of empirical findings about how inequality is created, expanded and perpetuated, building on the work of Thomas Piketty in tracing capital flows.
The same disinformation campaigns that epitomize the divisions in US society — beliefs in voter fraud, vaccine conspiracies, and racist conspiracies about migrants, George Soros and Black Lives Matter, to name a few — are a source of strength for autocracies like Russia, where the lack of a consensus on which groups and views are real and which are manufactured by the state strengthens the hand of Putin and his clutch of oligarchs.
More than 40% of US federal judges have attended Manne seminars, a notionally "bipartisan" educational conference presented by a Florida "Law and Economics" institute whose invited ideological allies explained to judges why pollution is good for minorities (polluted neighborhoods are cheaper and therefore affordable by poor people), unions are bad, monopolies are economically efficient, discrimination in punishment is economically efficient, insider trading is economically efficient, and so on.
Political scientist and sf fan Henry Farrell (previously) argues persuasively that the dystopian elements of our everyday life are best viewed through the lens of Philip K Dick (whose books repeatedly depicted a world of constructed realities, whose true nature was obscured by totalitarians, conspiracies, and broken computers) and not Orwell or Huxley, whose computers and systems worked altogether too well to be good parallels for today's janky dystopia.
My latest novel, Walkaway, was published today, and the Crooked Timber block has honored me with a seminar on the book, where luminaries from Henry Farrell to Julia Powles to John Holbo to Astra Taylor to Bruce Schneier weigh in with a series of critical essays that will run in the weeks to come, closing with an essay of my own, in response.
In a new paper in International Studies Quarterly, John Quiggin and Henry Farrell argue that politicians get in trouble when they buck a consensus among economists, but when economists are divided, they can simply ignore the ones they disagree with — so politicians spend a lot of time looking for economists who agree with their policies, then elevate them to the same status as their peers in order to create a safe, blame-free environment to operate in.
Polymath historian-novelist Ada Palmer has just published Seven Surrenders, the long-awaited sequel to her astounding debut novel Too Like the Lightning, in which she continues to spin tales in an intricately devised, wonderfully original 25th century.
Jo Walton (previously) is one of science fiction's great talents, a writer who blends beautiful insight about human beings and their frailties and failings without ever losing sight of their nobility and aspirations.
Democratic party partisans like Sean Wilentz, George Packer and Michael Kinsley spent the Bush years condemning the tactics they now defend under Obama — apart from sheer intellectual dishonesty, how can this be explained?
A study [PDF] published in a journal of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence found that sites that have a "downvote" button to punish bad comments lock the downvoted users into spirals of ever-more-prolific, ever-lower-quality posting due to a perception of having been martyred by the downvoters. — Read the rest
Gabriel Michael, a PhD candidate at George Washington University, subjected the IP Chapter of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaked by Wikileaks last week to statistical analysis. The leaked draft has extensive footnotes indicating each country's negotiating positions. By analyzing the frequency with which the US appears as the sole objector to other nations' positions, and when the US is the sole proponent of clauses to which other nations object, Michael was able to show that TPP really is an American-run show pushing an American agenda, not a multilateral trade deal being negotiated to everyone's mutual benefit. — Read the rest
Henry Farrell (George Washington University) and Cosma Rohilla Shalizi (Carnegie-Mellon/The Santa Fe Institute) have just posted a paper, "Cognitive Democracy," to Crooked Timber. Farrell and Shalizi argue that neither the "libertarian paternalist" idea of "nudging" people to good choices, nor the market-based approach of letting price signals steer our decisions produce the best possible outcome for all. — Read the rest
In a New Scientist op-ed, Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi take aim at the trendy idea of "nudging" people towards healthy, socially beneficial choices. The authors find the evidence for the effectiveness of nudging isn't supported by the literature, and policy-by-nudging misses the key to good governance: an informed citizenry who are part of the solution, not the problem to be solved. — Read the rest
Henry Farrell sez:
— Read the rest
The US Department of State wants hackers to help build civil society in the Middle East and Africa. They're offering up to $2.5 million in grants for pilot projects that use wikis, blogs and social networking platforms to connect and educate young people and improve civic participation.
Siva sez, "Crooked Timber is hosting a great seminar on Yochai Benkler's new book, The Wealth of Networks. CT solicited commentary essays from Henry Farrell, Dan Hunter, John Quiggin, Jack Balkin, Eszter Hargittai, and Siva Vaidhyanathan. Benkler has responded to all of them. — Read the rest
Reader Henry Farrell says:
— Read the rest
Forbes magazine suggests that Family Movie Act's Clearplay clause not only allows fundamentalists to snip out SpongeBob wearing fishnet stockings from family viewing, but also gives free rein to Star Wars fans to get rid of Jar Jar Binks and the like.
My pal Henry Farrell, a poli-sci prof, is conducting an "open seminar" on sf/fantasy writer China Mieville's brilliant novel Iron Council. Mieville is a second-generation Marxist, and his works are extremely politicized; Farrell's seminar is bound to be very interesting. — Read the rest