1. Policy Analysis
Paul Cairney is one of these rare academics who writes well. He has had a policy analysis blog for 12 years which is simply the most comprehensive on the subject there is He makes the topic as interesting as it actually ought to be.
His latest post refers to an article he’s just written about Covid 19 and health policy-making. I was impressed that, after the obligatory “abstract”, the article was preceded by a “Plain Language Summary” which I understand is a feature of at least this Open Research Europe site. And I also liked that he had teamed up with health and political science academics in at least one foreign university apart from his own, Stirling University.
I should at this stage confess that I was a graduate from one of the first (part-time) Policy Analysis courses run in Britain in the mid 1980s by Lewis Gunn of Strathclyde University – with the emphasis on the rationalistic side of things being challenged by the likes of Charles Lindblom. And I still vividly remember the first time “frame analysis” was presented to us.
But this did not prevent me from presenting an overly rationalistic “stage-approach” when, in 2002, I drafted a Manual for senior Slovak Civil Servants…. If only I had known that, by then, Deborah Stone’s Policy Paradox – the art of political decision-making was into at least its second edition! It remains for me the best read on the subject…
2. Eric Hobsbawm – a Life
Eric Hobsbawm was a brilliant British historian who lived to a grand old age and left us definitive and superbly-written histories of our age which you can access on this post of mine. There’s a nice 1995 profile of him here.
LRB commissioned an hour-long documentary on him which you can view here
3. Leading Questions
Dave Pollard is one of the few bloggers whose posts I generally read in full – always thoughtful, generally provocative. His latest post is typical - professing lack of interest in what people had to say about themselves in CVs or expressions of future hopes – but preferring rather to suggest……
six “leading questions” that might evoke some kind of useful sense of who someone is and what they care about - and possibly assess whether the person you’re talking with might be the potential brilliant colleague, life partner, inspiring mentor or new best friend you’ve been looking for. These are the questions:
1. What adjectives or nouns would you use to describe yourself that differentiate you from most other people? When and how did these words come to apply to you?
2. Describe the most fulfilling day you can imagine, some day that might realistically occur in the next year. Why would it be fulfilling? What are you doing now that might increase its likelihood of happening?
3. What do you care about, big picture, right now? What would you mourn if it disappeared? What do you ache to have in your life? What would you work really long and hard to conserve or achieve? How did you come to care about this?
4. What is your purpose, right now? Not your role or occupation, but the thing you’re uniquely gifted and inspired to be doing, something the world needs. What would elate you if you achieved it, today, this month, in the next year? What would devastate you if you failed, or didn’t get to try? How did this become your purpose?
5. What’s your basic belief about why you, and other humans, exist? Not what you believe is right or important (or what you, or humans ‘should’ do or be), but why you think we are the way we are now, and why you think we evolved to be where we are. It’s an existential question, not a moral one. How did you come to this belief?
6. What’s your basic sense of what the next century holds for our planet and our civilization? How do you imagine yourself coping with it? How did you come to this belief?
These are not easy questions, and asking them might prove intimidating or even threatening to some people, which is why in the last post I suggested volunteering your own answer to each question yourself first, in a form such as “Someone asked me the other day… and I told them…”. It’s also why there are supplementary questions to each, to get the person you’re asking started. And the last supplementary question in each group lends itself to telling a story, since that’s what we’re most comfortable with. Even then, some of these questions will stop many people cold, which might tell you something about them right there.
4. Britain - and its Union
Peter Oborne may be a right-wing British journalist but he is certainly not typical in his readiness to attack the myths of so many of his ilk – particularly the country’s highly elitist system of power. I have been a great fan of his Triumph of the Political Class since it came out almost a decade ago.
When therefore he sticks it not only to Boris Johnson and Donald Trump but to the enture media class, you can rest assured you’re in for a great read. And so it is with his Assault on Truth – Johnson, trump and the emergence of a new moral barbarism (2021) which is in epub format.
It’s on Johnson’s watch that the collapse of the so-called UK is becoming final - as this paper from the neutral Constitution Society demonstrates - Britain at the Crossroads - can the British State handle the challenges of devolution?