what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Looking at the evidence

Evidence-based policy-making” was a phrase which, for me, epitomised UK New Labour’s ahistorical arrogance after their 1997 victory and the make-believe world they inhabited. It carried with it the dual assumption that, until their arrival in power, policy-making had not been based on evidence and that truth would now replace political prejudice. Granted, major issues such as the municipal poll tax and rail privatisation had been introduced in the previoius decade by Conservative Governments on the basis of ideology and scant regard for evidence – but it was asking us a lot to believe that political calculation and inclinations were suddenly going to vanish and politicians start behaving like technical experts. And Bliar’s constant mantra about “what works” was probably more a way for him to justify his constant rejection of old labour policies in favour of those which better fitted corporate interests. William Solesbury was part of an academic unit 10 years ago which looked critically at the fashion. However, it is still nice to see evidence incisively brought to bear on a policy issue - and this short article on the latest policy measure the Greek government is having to impose to keep financiers happy certainly does that! Has any financier even bothered to give a coherent explanation of the logic behind these actions? The Social Europe website, from which the article is taken, also has an excellent post on global measures which should be adopted.

I’ve just finished one of the most powerful descriptions of man’s inhumanity to man I've read since Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation – the conquest of the middle east.The author is Oliver Bullough; the book, Let our Fame be Great – journeys amongst the defiant people of the Caucasus and it opened my eyes to the fate which overcame the various tribes of the north east part of the Black Sea during the Tsarist period – let alone the Stalin and Putin ones. We all know about the Chechens and Ossetians – but who has heard of the Circassians, let alone of the Avars and Balkars and the repression, forced exoduses and genocide they suffered? Neal Ascherson’s great The Black Sea had introduced me to the history of the northern part of the Black Sea but not the Caucasian part. Bullough tells here how he came to write the book.

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