TEN YEARS AND 400,000 THINKPIECES
The “decade since the GFC” pieces that have proliferated of late have been, overall, fairly mediocre. There’s plenty on the high drama of 2008 as Wall Street giants trembled and, in some cases, fell, but precious little quality analysis of the outcomes.
Matt Taibbi’s essay in Rolling Stone was an exception. As was this piece, from CNN’s Lydia DePillis, on how the US has failed to learn from the crisis and how the country is still badly economically scarred. Locally, Wayne Swan — who with Kevin Rudd and the Treasury and Reserve Bank leadership prevented Australia from succumbing to recession — made some excellent points for us at Crikey. And from the UK, a new book on how routine financial crises actually are.
WHO YA GONNA CALL?
Noted doxxer and Cities Minister Alan Tudge has lately styled himself “congestion buster” in his new portfolio. It’s an odd image given congestion is more like a clogged artery that is only amenable to lifestyle change and difficult choices, rather than being dynamited. The most efficacious lifestyle change, as we’ve long known, is road pricing.
The government promised a major inquiry into the idea in 2016 but, alas just hasn’t got around to starting yet. Luckily a new book on the issue in Australia has come out, with contributions from experts like veteran Transport/Infrastructure secretary Mike Mrdak.
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Road pricing is the sort of idea that reflexively appeals to the left but in fact began life on the right, with Milton Friedman an early advocate (he suggested making roads radioactive and attaching Geiger counters to cars, and no I did not make that up). The idea continues to receive support from libertarians today, but ride-sharing apps have harmed the viability of the idea and indeed of other solutions to congestion as well.
GRAND UNIMPRESSED HOTEL
Stefan Zweig has enjoyed a 21st century return to fame in recent years. The Viennese author was one of the best known writers in the world between the wars, but vanished from consciousness after his suicide in 1942, before once again being read and translated. His work went on to inspire Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.
Does he deserve such posthumous success, though? Back in 2010, Michael Hofmann decided to dig Zweig up and put him on trial for crimes against literature in an extended attack on his “abundant, facile and unhindered lifelong logorrhoea”. Probably the only hatchet job where someone’s suicide note is criticised for tedium, Hofmann’s diatribe will ensure you’ll never walk up the Kapuzinerberg the same way again.
LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD
You’ll be comforted to know it’s actually very easy for a US president to launch a nuclear strike without consulting anyone, and for that we can partly thank Barack Obama. But cheer up! How about a US Republican presidential candidate who sacrificed his own campaign for the national — and global — interest at a time of profound crisis? Meet the now-forgotten Wendell Willkie, a different kind of outsider who took over the GOP.
Elsewhere, American Conservative — home of some of the best conservative US journalism at the moment — takes on the “cult” of US global leadership.
DEAD AND BURIED
Theoretically speaking, Los Angeles should be submerged beneath a sea of mud. For Nautilus, Justin Nobel explores why it isn’t. Elsewhere, an important piece of undercover journalism exposed the Israel lobby’s lies and spying on Americans — so why did Al Jazeera kill it? Also, a new collection of essays probes Islam’s relations with Western human rights discourses.
R U OK?
I see a certain kind of resistance to R U OK? Day now that it’s become entrenched as the sort of thing politicians now promote, but that hasn’t stopped ongoing commentary. This year, Elizabeth Saunders asked: what happens when the answer is “I’m not OK”? Asher Wolf continued her harrowing but must-read account of her journey through our health system. And from Perth, Stephanie Lai explored the city’s terrible design history and the effects this has on climate and lifestyle.