Private Jets, Blitzed, Mobile Homes, Robots, Panama, Wealth


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

My First Gulfstream

Anonymous | Vanity Fair | 1st May 2001

An anonymous billionaire — reputed to be Nathan Myhrvold — spends $10 million to buy a second-hand Gulfstream, another $2 million to refurbish it, and concludes that a private jet is well worth the money. The world shrinks to manageable proportions. “When I’m alone in the back on a long flight, I will sometimes look around and burst out laughing. It’s no longer a big deal to pop down the coast to have dinner with somebody. My view of geography has been fundamentally transformed” (6,400 words)

The Third Reich On Drugs

Alex Harrowell | Yorkshire Ranter | 10th October 2016

Review of Blitzed, Norman Ohler’s book about the Nazis’ reliance on drugs during World War Two. The German armies marched on amphetamine, going days without sleep. Hitler’s “daily pharmacopeia” in the winter of 1944 included “pervitin, barbiturates, intravenous oxycodone, cocaine, and testosterone”. Hitler’s personal doctor, Theodor Morell, varied the shots from day to day so that his patient did not become dependent on any particular molecule, “but rather became addicted to his doctor” (1,600 words)

In Defense Of Mobile Homes

Alex Mayyasi | Priceonomics | 5th October 2016

Trailer parks can offer a good financial deal for both landlords and tenants because they “take land out of the equation”. Most of the price of a house in America is accounted for by the land on which it stands. Trailer parks are zoned as parking lots, not as residential land. The average mobile-home tenant pays $250 to $300 in monthly rent, half what conventional housing would cost. But poorer tenants are easily exploited by profit-maximising landlords, because they cannot afford to move elsewhere (2,300 words)

Relaxed About Robots

John Lewis | Bank Underground | 10th October 2016

The impact of robotics on employment will be limited and gradual. “It’s worth remembering that innovations which lead to stratospheric efficiency gains in a particular task may have much more mundane effects on economy-wide productivity. Consider the effect of the microchip. Since the mid-1950s computing power has increased approximately a trillion fold in line with Moore’s Law, yet US total factor productivity hasn’t even doubled over that same period” (1,500 words)

Panama: The Hidden Trillions

Alan Rusbridger | New York Review of Books | 9th October 2016

Clients of Mossack Fonseca included “the richest man in Syria, a Uruguayan presidential candidate, three current prime ministers, a well-known film director, a former Iraqi vice-president, a top soccer player, a clutch of Arab heads of state, the brother-in-law of the Chinese president.” And this was just one law firm. “Previously, we thought that the offshore world was a shadowy, but minor, part of our economic system. What we learned from the Panama Papers is that it is the economic system” (3,300 words)

Two Insurgencies

Branko Milanovic | Global Inequality | 18th August 2016

The worldwide triumph of neoliberalism in the late 20C undermined society and social morality by valuing people according to their money, with no regard to how their money had been made. Of course, some great fortunes had always been founded on great crimes — for example, slaveholding in 18C and 19C America. What was new in the 1990s was a “broad societal acceptance” that the origins of wealth did not matter. This allowed the plutocratic, political and criminal worlds to fuse into one (1,100 words)

Video of the day: Wild Hog In The Woods

What to expect:

Traditional folk song by the Furrow Collective, with a Dr Seuss-style animation by Chris Cornwell (3’13”)

Thought for the day

It is almost impossible to express oneself well without throwing a favourable light on that which is expressed
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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