There's a world beyond Brexit and Trump
by Robert Colvile
The news we tend to consume is, understandably, the news that’s closest to home.
That’s why there was wall-to-wall coverage in the UK this week of Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, and why the progress of Brexit is followed so avidly.
Likewise, we follow events in America because the US is still the country that matters most. Brexit will reshape Britain’s place in the world - but the election of Donald Trump will reshape the world full stop.
Yet the result of this is that our media diet gets distorted. Stories like Brexit and Trump become soap operas that dominate the schedules night after night.
And there’s another bias, too: towards pessimism. Humans are programmed to have their attention caught by drama and disaster – and to place greater weight on pessimistic than optimistic analyses.
So even if you made an effort this week to escape the latest news from Washington, or the arguments over whether Brexit has torpedoed Britain’s economy (played out on CapX as elsewhere), you would have found a rich diet of doom and gloom: corruption in South Africa, economic collapse in Venezuela,violence in Mexico, election fraud in Somalia, terrorism in Iraq.
But there are two points to bear in mind – both something of a mantra here at CapX.
The first is that good things are still happening – not just in the particular but in the aggregate.
As commentators like Fraser Nelson and our friends at HumanProgress.org keep pointing out, the world is not just getting better, but doing so at a startling clip. Between 2002 and 2013, to give just one example, the proportion of humanity living in extreme poverty more than halved.
The second point to make is that there is no mystery about this process. The world is getting better because the market works. And the places where things are going wrong are very often – in fact, almost invariably – those where the market is not working.
This, arguably, is the central human tragedy of our times. We know what improves people’s lives: personal freedom, economic freedom, property rights, the rule of law. The countries that are failed or failing are overwhelmingly those where these principles were never established, or have been eroded from above or from below.
There is, in other words, grounds not just for optimism - but for putting our free-market shoulders to the wheel. After all, in a world where a self-professed Thatcherite can become favourite for French president, anything is possible.
Here are our favourite stories from the week. Have a great weekend.
François Fillon: The man bringing Thatcher to France
By Gaspard Koenig
For years, France's Thatcherites have been a tiny, barely tolerated sect - viewed with the same condescending scorn as enthusiasts for cannibalism or sado-masochism. Imagine the surprise of the establishment, then, when Nicolas Sarkozy's former PM won a crushing primary victory on a platform of firing civil servants, slashing spending and rolling back the frontiers of the state. Could France finally be waking from its lethargy?
Why won't we recognise the benefits of migration?
By Philippe Legrain
The British government has promised to crack down on immigration. Yet public concern is not just misplaced, but wildly so. Far from harming Britain, migration brings significant cultural and financial benefits, injecting dynamism and diversity into our economy and society. Yes, we need to adjust the rules - but if we seek to be a champion of free trade, we should have no truck with labour-market protectionism.
The Paris agreement was never the solution to climate change
By Bjorn Lomborg
Whether or not Donald Trump sticks to it, the Paris agreement will have very little effect on global temperature change. Even if every country were to make every single carbon cut suggested under this costliest of treaties, emissions would only fall by 1 per cent of the required amount - and with billions in dire need of better food, water, education and health, it is frankly immoral to spend money on solar panels instead.
Western capitalism is broken – here’s how to fix it
By Fredrik Erixon & Bjorn Weigel
For all that we fetishise innovation, Western capitalism has turned - in many areas - into a club with lifetime membership rights. And where nothing is destroyed, nothing is created. In an exclusive extract from their provocative new book The Innovation Illusion, Erixon & Weigel argue that capitalism has got too grey and too bureaucratic - but also that this stagnation is far from inevitable.
Why collective guilt is never a good idea
By Daniel Hannan
The entire nation mourned when the much-loved MP Jo Cox was killed earlier this year. Yesterday, Thomas Mair was sentenced to life for her murder. Naturally, people are seeking a reason for the mindless killing - but to suggest, as one journalist did this week, that the entire Leave campaign is indirectly to blame for one sick man's act was dangerous and wrong.