Against Nudging, Rock Stars, Loch Lomond, Libertarian Europe, German Philosophy, UK Independence, Pi

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

It’s For Your Own Good

Jeremy Waldron | New York Review Of Books | 19th September 2014

It's attractive to think that nudging — making the virtuous choice into the easy choice, the default choice — offers a painless way of steering people towards better lives. What's the problem? The problem is that we can't trust any authority — public or private — to offer a disinterested nudge. The offerers have their own agenda. Their agenda will never be the same as ours. And by manipulating us, they demean us (3,860 words)

Justin Bieber Has A Cold

n+1 / Longform | 20th September 2014

How the music industry is adjusting to the disappearance of the manufactured rock star and the manufactured hit. There's still money to be made, but much less predictability about who is going to make it. "The brute fact of the music business is that, in this day and age, not even a genius like Clive Davis has any idea how many records Justin Timberlake will sell. The number could be 100,000 or 5 million" (10,000 words)

Loch Lomond

Mark Steyn | Steyn Online | 21st September 2014

It's a lovely song; but it has a dark history. Avoid that low road. "There's a low road leading through the valley and a higher one cut up across Ben Lomond? Hey, what's the big deal? According to legend, there's more to it than that. The 'low road' is the road of death, the road that begins six feet under, and the words were supposedly composed by a Scottish soldier captured in the the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745" (2,180 words)

The Libertarian Case For European Union

Dalibor Rohac | Reason | 9th September 2014

A Eurosceptic recants. The European Union is a "deeply flawed" organisation which contributes to the over-regulation of European life and business — but it also keeps markets and frontiers open, at least within Europe. If the EU were to collapse, the consequence would probably be a rise in nationalism and protectionism across Europe, driven by populist politicians of left and right and by local business lobbies (1,630 words)

Germany Wins The Philosophy World Cup

Andrew Bowie | The Critique | 16th August 2014

Germans are the world champions of philosophy, beating the Ancient Greeks into second place. But the squad is notorious for its "fractious lack of cohesion", which makes choosing the first eleven a perilous affair. Kant is captain, of course; Marx, Hegel and Leibniz always make the cut; Frege and Husserl are more arguable choices, especially when Adorno and Habermas are relegated to the substitutes' bench (4,400 words)

Scotland’s Trauma

Chris Deerin | Medium | 22nd September 2014

The Scottish independence vote offers a playbook for British campaigners against the European Union, who also want a referendum. Lesson one: Plenty of people want change for its own sake; anything will do. Lesson two: Class warfare works. "The Out campaign’s playbook will be a close replica of the one developed by the Yes team in Scotland. It will be deliberately divisive, creating rancour and resentment" (1,180 words)

The Human Factor

William Langewiesche | Vanity Fair | 19th September 2014

Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic five years ago because a transient technical glitch sent the two junior pilots into a panic. They were trained to fly automated planes. They couldn't cope when the automation faltered. "The mental makeup of airline pilots has changed. A different crowd is flying now, and though excellent pilots still work the job, on average the knowledge base has become very thin" (12,300 words)

What If Counterfactuals Never Existed?

Cass Sunstein | Atlantic | 20th September 2014

Hypotheticals can help us to understand history. They correct hindsight bias — the judgment that whatever happened was bound to happen. They challenge deterministic theories by emphasising chance and individual action. But historians should use them in moderation. The special value of history as a discipline lies in its capacity to discern what did happen, not what could have or should have happened (4,080 words)

Scientist And Mob Idol

Alva Johnston | New Yorker | 2nd December 1933

Profile of Albert Einstein, "a mental Hercules, according to those who know his work". Once reclusive, "he has developed into a mixer, a wit, an authority on things in general" since moving to America in 1930. Nobody can truly understand his theories, but they fascinate the public, as shown by "the famous Einstein riot at the American Museum of Natural History, where movies purporting to explain relativity were being shown" (2,808 words)

Grandmaster Clash

Seth Stevenson | Slate | 18th September 2014

"One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed." Brooklyn-born Fabiano Caruana, 22, scored "the highest tournament performance rating of all time", 8.5 points out of a possible 10, at the Sinquefield Cup at St Louis. His seven wins and three draws included one win and one draw against world champion Magnus Carlsen, two years his senior; Caruana rises to world number two (6,400 words)

Video of the day: Revolution In A Capsule

What to expect: Documentary about the cultural impact of Prozac (8')

Thought for the day

One must have tradition in oneself, to hate it properly
Theodor Adorno (

A Talk in London

Come and see Browser favourites Felix Salmon (ex-Reuters) and Izabella Kaminska (FT) discuss art, 3D printing and Bitcoin on September 24th. Admission is £5, and includes a glass of wine (or two). Tickets are available here ( .

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