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What would Plato make of Boris Johnson?
June 22nd 2019 | the Economist | by Bagehot.

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of the literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy......

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Mr Johnson’s failure to get a first continues to annoy him intensely—and to delight many of his rivals. But in truth it doesn’t matter a jot: the world is full of failures who got firsts, and successes who missed out. The really interesting question is not whether Mr Johnson’s results reveal some great intellectual weakness. It is what light the subject of his studies can throw on his qualifications to be prime minister. The classics corpus is full of meditations on the qualities that make for a good leader. And no classical author thought more profoundly about the subject than Plato, the philosopher who was put at the heart of Oxford’s classics syllabus by Balliol’s greatest master, Benjamin Jowett. What would Plato have made of the classicist who appears destined to be Balliol’s fourth prime minister since 1900?.....In “The Republic”, Plato argued that the most important qualities in a statesman were truthfulness and expertise. A good statesman will “never willingly tolerate an untruth”. (“Is it possible to combine in the same character a love of wisdom and a love of falsehood?” one of Plato’s characters asks. “Quite impossible,” comes the reply.) He will spend his life studying everything that he needs to make him a good captain of the ship of state—“the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects”. .......By contrast, Plato argued, the surest signs of a bad leader are narcissism and self-indulgence. The poor statesman is an eloquent flatterer, who relies on his ability to entertain the masses with speeches and comic turns, but doesn’t bother to develop a coherent view of the world. Plato was particularly vitriolic about the scions of the upper classes who are offered the opportunity to study philosophy while young but don’t apply themselves, because they think they are so talented that they needn’t earn their place at the top table.......“The Republic” is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies. Democracy is the most alluring form of government: “the diversity of its characters, like the different colours in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive.” But it is inherently unstable. Citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of experts; and so committed to liberty that they lose any common purpose......As democracies collapse under the pressure of their contradictions, panicked citizens look for salvation in a demagogue. These are men who love power, but cannot control their own desires for “holidays and dinners and parties and girlfriends and so on”. Plato calls them the “most wretched of men because of the disorder raging within them”. Citizens are so consumed by fear that they think these wretches have magical abilities to solve the country’s problems and restore proper order. Demagogues get their start by “taking over a particularly obedient mob”, before seizing control of the country. But the more power they acquire the worse things become, “for the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

The shadow on the wall
Democracies have proved more durable than Plato imagined. And his cure for the problems of democracy—the rule of philosopher-kings, who are expected to hold their wives and children in common—is eccentric to put it mildly. But he is right that character matters. Politicians can change their advisers or their policies, but character is sticky. He is also right that democracies can suddenly give way to populist authoritarianism...... The best way to prepare for a Johnson premiership is to re-read “The Republic”, hoping Plato is wrong but preparing for the fact that he may be right
Boris_Johnson  character_traits  contradictions  demagoguery  democracies  Greek  humanities  leaders  leadership  liberal_arts  opposing_actions  Oxford  pairs  philosophers  Plato  politicians  Romans  statesmen  truth-telling  United_Kingdom 
3 days ago by jerryking
Robert Foster on Twitter: "Before our decision to run, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the “Billy Graham Rule”, which is to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage. I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share t
Before our decision to run, my wife and I made a commitment to follow the “Billy Graham Rule”, which is to avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of our marriage. I am sorry Ms. Campbell doesn’t share these views, but my decision was out of respect of my wife.
robert-foster  politicians  why-i-blocked-him  twitter 
6 days ago by yolandaenoch
Opinion: George Brown, the futurist
July 1, 2019 | The Globe and Mail | by MOIRA DANN, SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL.

Memories of the people present for Canada’s beginnings can teach us a great deal. Sometimes looking back helps you reconsider and reframe the present, so you can see different possibilities for the future.....George Brown often gets short shrift as a Father of Confederation.....know he was the founder of The Globe, let alone a founder of the country.....Brown wasn’t the charismatic lightning rod his confrère and rival John A. Macdonald was, nor was he as ready to dance and sing and flirt and play his own compositions on the piano, as was his Quebec frenemy, George-Étienne Cartier..... he was the most forward-looking of the lot......Brown came to Toronto from Scotland in 1843 via a short, five-year sojourn in New York working in dry goods and publishing.......It wasn’t long before Brown, defending the principle of the government’s responsibility to Parliament, was haranguing Governor-General Charles Metcalfe about public-service appointments made without the approval of the elected representatives. Brown soon enough made the leap from journalism to politics. ...... he was back wearing his journalist’s hat in 1867, writing a 9,000-word front-page editorial for The Globe’s July 1 edition when Canada’s Confederation became a political reality......While still publishing and writing for political-reform-minded Presbyterian church publication The Banner, Brown had foreseen a market trend: He anticipated the desire for (and the money-making potential of) a good newspaper directed less toward partisan believers and more at a general reader, a paper with a strong point of view and attempting a national perspective. He started The Globe on March 5, 1844.......After Brown started The Globe – it merged, in 1936, with the Mail and Empire, to become the newspaper that you are reading today – he was able to print and distribute it widely to extol Confederation because of some forethought: He had started investing in new technology. Just two months after starting The Globe using a hand press that printed 200 copies an hour, he went to New York and purchased a Hoe rotary press that could produce 1,250 copies an hour. His was the first one used in Upper Canada. He also made a deal with a rival publication, the British Colonist, to share the cost of using the telegraph to bring news from New York and Montreal......One thing Brown never allowed to lapse was his dedication to religious liberty, civil rights and the abolition of slavery. .....Brown was also a vocal advocate of prison reform...... the work he most loved: being husband to Anne and father to Margaret (Maggie), Catherine Edith (Oda) and George.
abolitionists  ahead_of_the_curve  Confederation  forethought  futurists  George_Brown  George-Étienne_Cartier  Globe_&_Mail  history  journalists  nation_builders  newspapers  politicians  prison_reform  Sir_John_A._MacDonald  technology 
15 days ago by jerryking
2019 06 23 backgrounders | Axios Visuals
The vetting documents from the Trump transition team
vetting  politicians 
23 days ago by BruceWriter
Past mistakes carry warnings for the future of work
May 21, 2019 | Financial Times | by SARAH O'CONNOR.

* Data can mislead unless combined with grittier insights on the power structures that underpin it.
* William Kempster, a master mason who worked on St Paul's Cathedral in the 18th century, left wage records that helped expose a flaw in our understanding of the past.

It is often said that we should learn from the mistakes of the past. But we can also learn from the mistakes we make about the past. Seemingly smooth data can mislead unless it is combined with a grittier insight into the structures, contracts and power relationships that underpin the numbers. On that score, economists and politicians who want to make sense of today’s labour market have an advantage over historians: it is happening right now, just outside their offices, in all its complexity and messiness. All they have to do is open the door
17th_century  18th_century  builders  contextual  data  datasets  developing_countries  economic_history  economists  freelancing  gig_economy  handwritten  historians  human_cloud_platforms  insights  labour_markets  London  messiness  mistakes  politicians  power_relations  power_structures  record-keeping  United_Kingdom  unstructured_data  wages  white-collar 
7 weeks ago by jerryking
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<a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.snapeplus.com">سناب بلس</a>
<p>للمرة الأولى كلام إيجابي سوري لافت عن العلاقة مع السعودية للمرة الأولى كلام إيجابي سوري لافت عن العلاقة مع السعودية bil moubashar,rawad daher,politics,debate,talk show,guests,politicians,latest updates,discussions,otv,Lebanon,بالمباشر,رواد ضاهر,ضيوف,سياسيين,سياسة,أخبار جديدة,حوار,برنامج حواري,تطورات,نقاش,أوتيفي,لبنان  4.21  7:33   السعودية  source</p>
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10 weeks ago by snapeplus
Focus | Three things I wish I knew the day I became a Cabinet minister
March 27, 2019 | The Nassau Guardian | • Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.
Bahamas  Caribbean  humility  lessons_learned  politicians  think_threes 
march 2019 by jerryking
Why further financial crises are inevitable
March 19, 2019 | Financial Times | Martin Wolf.

We learnt this month that the US Fed had decided not to raise the countercyclical capital buffer required of banks above its current level of zero, even though the US economy is at a cyclical peak. It also removed “qualitative” grades from its stress tests for American banks, though not for foreign ones. Finally, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, led by Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, removed the last insurer from its list of “too big to fail” institutions.

These decisions may not endanger the stability of the financial system. But they show that financial regulation is procyclical: it is loosened when it should be tightened and tightened when it should be loosened. We do, in fact, learn from history — and then we forget.....Regulation of banks has tightened since the financial crises of 2007-12. Capital and liquidity requirements are stricter, the “stress test” regime is quite demanding, and efforts have been made to end “too big to fail” by developing the idea of orderly “resolution” of large and complex financial institutions.....Yet complacency is unjustified. Banks remain highly leveraged institutions.....history demonstrates the procyclicality of regulation. Again and again, regulation is relaxed during a boom: indeed, the deregulation often fuels that boom. Then, when the damage has been done and disillusionment sets in, it is tightened again........We can see four reasons why this tends to happen: economic, ideological, political and merely human.

* Economic
Over time the financial system evolves. There is a tendency for risk to migrate out of the best regulated parts of the system to less well regulated parts. Even if regulators have the power and will to keep up, the financial innovation that so often accompanies this makes it hard to do so. The global financial system is complex and adaptable. It is also run by highly motivated people. It is hard for regulators to catch up with the evolution of what we now call “shadow banking”.

* Ideological
the tendency to view this complex system through a simplistic lens. The more powerful the ideology of free markets, the more the authority and power of regulators will tend to erode. Naturally, public confidence in this ideology tends to be strong in booms and weak in busts.

* Political

the financial system controls vast resources and can exert huge influence. In the 2018 US electoral cycle, finance, insurance and real estate (three intertwined sectors) were the largest contributors, covering one-seventh of the total cost. This is a superb example of Mancur Olson’s Logic of Collective Action: concentrated interests override the general one. This is much less true in times of crisis, when the public is enraged and wants to punish bankers. But it is true, again, in normal times.

Borderline or even blatant corruption also emerges: politicians may even demand a share in the wealth created in booms. Since politicians ultimately control regulators, the consequences for the latter, even if they are honest and diligent, are evident.

A significant aspect of the politics is closely linked to regulatory arbitrage: international competition. One jurisdiction tries to attract financial business via “light-touch” regulation; others then follow. This is frequently because their own financiers and financial centres complain bitterly. It is hard to resist the argument that foreigners are cheating.

* Human
There is a human tendency to dismiss long-ago events as irrelevant, to believe This Time is Different and ignore what is not under one’s nose. Much of this can be summarised as “disaster myopia”. The public gives irresponsible policymakers the benefit of the doubt and enjoys the boom. Over time, regulation degrades, as the forces against it strengthen and those in its favour corrode.

The cumulative effect of these efforts is quite clear: regulations erode and that erosion will be exported. This has happened before and will do so again. This time, too, is not different.
boom-to-bust  bubbles  complacency  corruption  disaster_myopia  entrenched_interests  economic_downturn  financiers  financial_regulation  financial_system  historical_amnesia  Mancur_Olson  Martin_Wolf  policymakers  politicians  politics  procyclicality  regulatory_arbitrage  regulation  regulators  This_Time_is_Different  U.S._Federal_Reserve  stress-tests  financial_crises 
march 2019 by jerryking
After the SNC-Lavalin affair, we must strip the influence of political staffers - The Globe and Mail
Omer Aziz was a policy adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

From the outside, our government is a democracy with duly elected parliamentarians. From the inside, it can feel like an autocracy, with power concentrated in very few hands. There is a single node of power and all the channels run through it. That’s why the Prime Minister’s Office is colloquially referred to as “the Centre.”....At Global Affairs Canada, political staffers meet regularly with stakeholders, including human-rights groups, corporate representatives and anyone else who might be affected by our policies, and signals regularly came from above on how to manoeuvre on a certain file. If a message comes from “the Centre” to your office, you can bet that everyone will drop everything and make sure they are meeting expectations. Refuse, and well – these people hold your future in their hands.

It would be no stretch to say that most of the important decisions made by the Canadian government are made by only a handful of people. This has led to preventable errors and bad policy outcomes such as Justin Trudeau’s India trip or the SNC-Lavalin affair. As with too much accumulated wealth, too much accumulated power is ultimately bad for democracy.

There are more than 600 political staffers in Ottawa. These jobs are not publicly advertised and are notoriously difficult to come by if you’re not already well-connected. It’s no wonder that diversity is such a problem in government – and this includes viewpoint diversity as much as ethnic and racial diversity.

Pull back the curtain and it turns out the people in the backrooms mostly resemble one another. Within the political staff itself, there exists a hierarchy, with senior staffers in the Prime Minister’s Office at the top. This is where the real decisions are made.

We need to seriously scale back the influence of political staffers and legislate what the parameters of their jobs really are......The biggest problem with concentrating political power is that it leads to hubris and arrogance, and eventually to critical errors. It leads people to believe that they can overstep boundaries in the name of the Boss.

Absolute power not only corrupts, it is fundamentally corrupting to the entire operation. This is not how a parliamentary system of government is supposed to work. These people are not the mafia. The government does not belong to them.

We could cut the number of staffers in half and Ottawa would run better than it does now. There should also be a formal, publicly acknowledged policy process so Canadians can trust that the system of democracy is working from within and decisions that might shape the future of the country for decades are not being made by a cloistered elite.
centralization  Ottawa  PMO  political_power  SNC-Lavalin  politicians  political_staffers  Canada  Canadian  government  institutions  partisanship  GoC 
february 2019 by jerryking

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