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Writing Worth Reading

Is This The End Of Britishness? Pick of the day

My apologies if you feel I’m overdoing the Scottish stuff, but the independence vote is spurring much outstanding writing. In this magnificent essay Ian Jack admires the ability of the Scots, and especially the separatists, to take pride and find hope in their Scottishness; and he regrets that any strong notion of Britishness, by contrast, is absent from the debate — as it has been absent from British life, by and large, since the 1960s (5,360 words)

Fall Of The House Of Boggs

Greed, power and money: an instructive tale. Washington lobbying firm Patton Boggs was desperate for business after the 2008 crash. It joined a class-action lawsuit against Chevron in Ecuador financed by a hedge fund as a for-profit investment. The plaintiffs were awarded $18bn in Ecuador; but a US court found their lawyer guilty of rigging the evidence and pressuring local judges; Patton Boggs was ruined (2,480 words)

Screen Time

Lessons learned from loading a search engine with onscreen language from 87,000 movies and TV shows. Think Google ngram, but for screenplays. Some striking results. References to “global warming” and “climate change” have plummeted since 2008. Swearing on television has declined recently, due in part perhaps to the ending of Wild West series Deadwood, where the word “f-king” was spoken more often than “of” (1,320 words)

The Case For Open Borders

Interview with libertarian economist Bryan Caplan. “Open borders allow people to move from the parts of the world where their labor pretty much goes to waste, to places where their skills can shine. The difference between the productivity of labor in poor countries and rich countries is so vast, it’s hard to wrap your mind around it. This isn’t just trickle-down economics. It’s Niagara Falls economics” (6,690 words)

Runs In The Family

Assessing the relative weight of nature versus nurture in sporting ability, especially in cricket, where family dynasties abound. “While there are a few notable football clans — the Charltons and the Ferdinands spring to mind — there is nothing like the rampant familiality found in cricket. Why is that? At first sight it might seem to argue that cricket is more genetic. But I think that’s exactly the wrong conclusion” (3,000 words)

The Plus Side

The puzzle of plus-sized clothing. Demand is huge: the average American woman wears size 14, up from size 8 twenty years ago. But the fashion industry keeps its distance. Popular brands including Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren make plus-size lines that are sold in stores but don’t get advertised. Why no “Zara for plus size”, selling expensive-looking clothes at affordable prices with styles that turn over quickly? (6,890 words)

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