Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is Chris Dillow Chinese?

From David Brooks' column in the New York Times:

"This is a divide that goes deeper than economics into the way people perceive the world. If you show an American an image of a fish tank, the American will usually describe the biggest fish in the tank and what it is doing. If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank,the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim.

These sorts of experiments have been done over and over again, and the results reveal the same underlying pattern. Americans usually see individuals; Chinese and other Asians see contexts."

Brooks goes on to describe how there is a continuum and we Brits are right at the individualist end with the Americans.

It sounds like we are culturally hard wired to what Chris would, I think, describe as an egoist way of understanding the world; the belief that our individual choices, actions and qualities are a crucial determinant of group success. Previously he has described how he would like his epitaph to read "he made no difference." This might make sense to someone from a more collectivist culture. Brooks describes how "[people in collectivist societies] tend to underestimate their own skills and are more self-effacing when describing their contributions to group efforts."

By contrast, Anglos are apparently disposed to want to make all the difference, and believe that they can do so effectively.

All this creates a conundrum for someone like Chris who combines a taste for liberal policy with a dislike of the kind of egoism that we are predisposed towards. Individualistic (egoistic) countries aren't just generally more prosperous, they also "tend to put rights and privacy first". If it is our sense of self-importance that makes us more protective of individual rights then are our inflated egos worth the various social ills Chris blames them for?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I've currently got a horrible cold and my head hurts. Blogging is unlikely until that condition improves.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Coming Energy Crisis

I've written before about the coming capacity crunch, the strong chance that between now and 2015 we will struggle and possibly fail to keep the lights on. Christopher Booker addresses the subject with force today in the Telegraph:

"After years of dereliction, when only a crash programme of measures could keep our lights on and our economy functioning, our policy has become so skewed by blinkered environmentalism and diktats from the EU that we are fast heading for the worst of all worlds - a near-total dependence on foreign sources of energy which will not only be astronomically expensive but which can in no way be guaranteed to supply all the electricity we need."

Read the rest of the article. If you want to learn more this article from John Constable is a good place to start, along with the REF's 2006 briefing in response to the energy review. EU Referendum and City Unslicker are also writing a lot on the issue.