Davos Newbies Home

Today’s Financial Times has the depressing news that asylum seekers are really a hot political topic in the UK, and not merely a desperate ploy by the Conservatives.

People who come to Britain, or any other wealthy nation, seeking asylum are among the most vulnerable groups in our society. The numbers remain modest, whatever popular opinion may think. What kind of warped political mind wants to make political capital out of this non-issue. Wouldn’t it be encouraging if a politician went on the campaign trail and said, “I want to ensure that we have country that provides a welcome and opportunity for those most in need.” Emma Lazarus said it best (sorry about one of the worst designed pages I’ve seen in a long time).

***Not sorry for the farmers
Britain is in the midst of an appalling crisis in agriculture, as hoof and mouth disease continues to spread. But I’m almost alone in not feeling very sorry for the farmers. In many cases they have brought on this and other problems themselves, by their relentless efforts to cut every conceivable corner in the food production process.

And farmers are virtually alone in modern economies in being insulated from the market. Why was it acceptable to consign coal mining, shipbuilding and textile manufacturer to the dustbin, while agriculture receives massive subsidies? The agricultural subsidies in the 30 OECD economies — the world’s rich nations — are about equivalent to the total GDP of Africa.

For most advanced economies, agriculture is a small part of the economy. For developing countries, it is often one of the few sectors of the economy that stands a chance of being internationally competitive. The rich North should give the poor South the chance to export its food to us.

***Ave Dave
Dave Winer has posted a brilliant analysis of Microsoft’s HailStorm. Read and develop a sense of history.

***Percy is but my factor
When Americans come to London, they go to the theatre. Residents (at least this one) aren’t as determined: familiarity may not breed contempt, but the imperative to organise tickets isn’t as strong.

But last night I went to the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s production of Henry IV, part 1. It was a magnificent production, and I’m eagerly looking forward to part 2 and then Henry V (the RSC is doing all the history plays in chronological order). What’s this got to do with Davos Newbies? There isn’t a better examination of the nature of political ambition, of the dangers of overarching ambition, of the conflict, in Michael Billington’s phrase, between duty and desire.

And there’s the language. I remember from my days studying the English language that the typical author uses a total vocabulary of 3 or 4 thousand words. Shakespeare used 10,000, which is unprecedented among major authors. It’s invidious to select one passage, but I was particularly struck by Prince Hal’s comments on Percy.

“Percy is but my factor, good my lord, to engross up glorious deeds on my behalf, and I will call him to so strict account, that he shall render every glory up, yea even the slightest worship of his time, or I will tear the reckoning from his heart.”

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