Francis Bacon, Theft, Infantry, Nice Trump, Rousseau, Hitler

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

How Bacon Boldly Thieved

Craig Raine | New Statesman | 21st May 2016

PG-rated discussion of Francis Bacon’s paintings. “There are two paintings from the Man in Blue 1954 suite in which the faces are poised between the conventionally realistic and the faintly unfocused. In V the posture is listening. He isn’t screaming. His face is recognisable but hard to describe, like a model in wax, just this side of melting. There is no cage of lines. That function is performed by the lines of the table and the sequence of pleated drapes behind the sitter’s head” (2,016 words)

Unproductive Labour

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 31st May 2016

Speculation, “as every economist knows”, is productive labour. It allocates goods more efficiently. Theft is more complicated. “It is not easy to put theft in its right place in economics. Theft for private use can be justified by arguing that the bread stolen by a poor person from a rich one is almost certain to increase the amount of social happiness.” But watch out for externalities. “Robin Hood could be defended on the maximization of utility principle but criticized as inimical to long-term growth” (1,100 words)

Infantry In The Twenty-First Century

Jules Hurst | War On The Rocks | 31st May 2016

Two soldiers with a machine gun have the firepower of an entire regiment of nineteenth-century riflemen. A twenty-first-century infantry platoon will soon have the capacities of a twentieth-century army division: quadcopters for close air support, ground drones for tanks. We cannot be far from drone-on-drone combat: “The world’s militaries will soon experience the 21st-century equivalent of the first tank-on-tank battle at Villers-Brettoneux in World War I” (1,260 words)

The Donald Trump Conversation

Michael Wolff | Hollywood Reporter | 2nd June 2016

Not Donald Trump the crazy guy on television, but Donald Trump the “easy and relaxed guy” who marvels at all the excitement going on around him. With a tiny bit of editing this could be an interview with Ronald Reagan. “The long day is ending for Donald Trump with a pint of vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream”. “He genuinely seems to love everybody — at least everybody who’s rich and successful”. “If there’s any pattern to his conversation, it’s that he’s vague on all subjects outside himself” (3,500 words)

Chris Bertram On Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 2nd June 2016

Interview. Rousseau was “a servant, an itinerant musician and a music teacher” before gaining fame as a writer and thinker in middle age. His central idea was that “man is good by nature and is made wicked by society”. He argued that “natural inequality” was very small; most inequalities were imposed by society; and these were acceptable only if consented to by all, and beneficial to all. Rousseau was a difficult character, prone to paranoia as he grew older. But then, many people were out to get him (4,400 words)

Hitler In His Matchbox

Neal Ascherson | London Review Of Books | 2nd June 2016

Volker Ullrich’s two-volume biography of Hitler joins roughly 120,000 published studies of the dictator. The life is well accounted for. And yet we struggle still to understand how Hitler was able to do what he did. What was going on in the minds of those who aided and obeyed him? The problem here is that accounting fully for Hitler’s power is bound to involve recognising his strengths. He was “a moderniser as well as a genocidal tyrant”. Ullrich edges this way. Who dare go further? (3,500 words)

Video of the day: Why Is It Harder To Drive Backwards?

What to expect:

A chirpy explainer that will make you feel less embarrassed about your parallel parking (3’20”)

Thought for the day

Only someone to whom the present is important writes history
JW von Goethe

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