Whirl

2018-12-09

in Photo of the day

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Experimental folk

2018-12-07

in Music

The Heard Surrounds
from ponies under darkness by REBECCA FLOOD

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It’s a fantasy to imagine that today’s governments would confront the wealthy in this way, but it’s nonetheless of some value to think about some of the barriers to major global redistribution and potential means through which they might be surmounted.

As with other major global challenges like nuclear proliferation there is a coordination problem in establishing more redistributive policies. People say that if one country starts taxing wealth, or land, or otherwise working to rebalance income and wealth across their society, those with the most will simply move elsewhere, either physically or legally for tax purposes.

As a preliminary step, there may be some value is simply compelling ‘high net worth’ individuals to disclose their worldwide financial dealings to any country where they want major government benefits, from the protection of their intellectual property to government contracts and support for their businesses. Remember that private property is a fiction that governments choose to uphold, not a fact of the universe or something that individuals can meaningfully assert for themselves. Every major country could agree on a financial disclosure standard that is (a) intended to capture a person’s economic activity all over the world and (b) designed to overcome deliberate obfuscation through corporations, trusts, and other legal mechanisms which can conceal who owns and benefits from what.

Governments have many potential levers to compel compliance, from visa rules to the tax system, and it’s especially plausible that the rich would comply if most appealing jurisdictions to live in acted simultaneously: say, the EU (including poor muddled Britain), the US and Canada, Japan and China, Australia and New Zealand, and a few others to start with. Doubtless such a reporting obligation would drive a flurry of new consulting activity to help rich people avoid it or minimize what they disclose, but it would nonetheless be a step toward transparency and an important reminder that even those with the freedom to travel and live wherever they like ultimately derive much of their wealth from countries with capable bureaucracies and that they aren’t immune from the sovereignty of those states.

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Falconry

2018-12-04

in Photo of the day

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Lots on the go — I’ve had a sudden flurry of late year photo bookings, including a three day Canada-UK artificial intelligence conference at the Munk School.

I’m still working on the dissertation of course, continuing with interviews and the literature review while working with my committee to structure the final document.

I’ll be doing less TA work next term to free up time to finish the dissertation.

There’s certainly a lot that’s interesting happening in climate politics. The little-reported but somewhat tactically novel Extinction Rebellion in the UK; UN climate talks in Poland’s coal region; and Alberta getting bitumen sands producers to voluntarily cut back on production to try to raise prices. We’re still nowhere near a politics that integrates the risks arising from unmitigated climate change, or capable of driving emissions reductions fast enough to make something like a 1.5 ˚C or 2 ˚C ceiling remotely possible.

I’m starting to think ahead to work beyond the PhD. During my MPhil I came to understand that climate change is the defining political and civilizational fact of our era. I went to work for the government in hope that I could do some good, but realized that under the leadership of parties like Canada’s Conservatives and Liberals it’s not possible to do the right thing as a civil servant since, for all their platitudes, their policy choices show that they aren’t serious about preventing the worst effects of climate change. I chose to do the PhD because I thought the degree would be useful and that it would provide a freer platform for climate change activism, as it did with the founding of Toronto350.org and the organization of the fossil fuel divestment campaign at U of T.

I really don’t know what’s the best place to go next. It’s hard to judge who is really being effective in changing political conditions to make rapid and effective climate change action possible. It’s possible 350.org’s focus on 100% renewables and alliances with other progressive movements will be fruitful, but it also seems possible that they are making choices that will limit the political constituency they can appeal to. Many activist organizations seem at risk of over-reaching, choosing approaches which appeal to their staffers who are already personally committed to decarbonization, sometimes choosing tactics based on what’s emotionally satisfying rather than what’s part of a strategic plan leading to success. That said, I am ever mindful of the limits of my understanding and ability to foresee what will work. There’s no sense in dismissing emotions as a factor in political change, since our real problem is lack of sufficient motivation and motivation is ultimately emotionally driven.

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She arose

2018-12-03

in Photo of the day

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