Karl Polanyi, Esperanto, Chuck Berry, Lichen


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Karl Polanyi For President

Mike Konczal & Patrick Iber | Dissent | 23rd May 2016

Timely refresher on the ideas of Karl Polanyi, who developed almost a century ago the arguments against neoliberalism now gaining ground on the American left. Polanyi saw that market forces were good at producing profits and choices, but also at producing “coercion and instability” for those in weak bargaining positions, notably low-skilled workers. He warned that “subjecting all of life to the market” would not maximise freedom, but rather would undermine social goods and social values (3,400 words)

Esperanto: The Language That Never Was

Edward Docx | Prospect | 19th May 2016

Report from the British Esperanto Conference 2016, where crocodiling is forbidden and supremacists dream of La Fina Venko, the Final Victory, “the moment when Esperanto will be used as the main second language throughout the world”. As a first step, and quite a logical one, actually, the European Union would adopt Esperanto as its common language. And krokodilo, since you ask, is when “two people who have learnt Esperanto speak to one another in another language” (2,100 words)

Which Rock Star Will Future Historians Remember?

Chuck Klosterman | New York Times | 23rd May 2016

Behind the metered paywall, but the quota is still generous. If history remembers any rock star(s) three centuries hence, you’d expect The Beatles to have a strong claim on that honour. But history tends to favour individuals. Elvis Presley? Bob Dylan? Both are strong candidates, but both are genre artists, neither captures everything that rock music was about. The fons et origo, the teachable figure, the artist most likely to represent rock in the history books of the future: It has to be Chuck Berry (3,700 words)

The Life Of A Lichenologist

Daniel Gumbiner | Atlantic | 19th May 2016

The world’s top lichenologist is a former anarchist and construction worker called Kerry Knudsen who started teaching himself botany at the age of 52 and in just fifteen years has mastered his field. Lichens are parasitic fungi that suck energy from algae — a tiny economy of oppression: “The algae is trapped. It has a lot of tubes going into it. It’s controlled by chemical signals. The first time I saw it under the microscope, I wanted to join the Algae Liberation Front. I mean, it looked bad” (2,700 words)

A Billion Prices Can’t Be Wrong

Tim Harford | Undercover Economist | 17th May 2016

The Billion Prices Project at MIT measures inflation by scraping the prices of everything offered online by hundreds of vendors in 60 countries and tracking the changes over time. It caught Argentina claiming an 8% inflation rate when prices were rising at 20%. BPP’s real-time data also shows that even the best government statistics tend to understate price stickiness, strengthening the argument that recessions happen in part because prices do not adjust quickly enough to changes in demand (880 words)

Video of the day: Vancouver Never Plays Itself

What to expect:

Tony Zhou takes the movies to task for disrespecting his home town. You see a lot of Vancouver on film – but very rarely as Vancouver (9’02”)

Thought for the day

In the midst of great tragedy, there is always the horrible possibility that something terribly funny will happen
Philip K. Dick

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