Each Age Gets the Bloodshed It Needs: 20,000 Years of Violence

20,000 years ago, the average person stood a 10-20% chance of dying violently. Today, the chance is under 1%. We have cut rates of violent death by 90% by creating large organisations that impose peace; but the main method for creating these organisations has been war. In effect, violence has slowly been putting itself out of business. The broad trends suggest that this process will probably continue. A talk by Prof. Ian Morris, Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at LSE IDEAS for 2015-16.

LSE Ideas

Illustration: The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series The $5 Silver Certificate from the 1896 Series

Lessons for the Euro from America’s Past

In discussions about the EU monetary union the United States have been oftentimes set as an example, though the US didn’t really have a common currency until 1863, nearly eighty years after independence, and didn’t have the central bank until 1913. For all intents and purposes the US didn’t really have a common fiscal policy with automatic fiscal stabilizers until 1950s. It emerged only after a massive political conflict. Before the Civil War there was the kind of political strife that Europe is currently undergoing. To what extent could the timescale for the EU be different?

A talk by Professor Jeffry Frieden, Professor of Government at Harvard University. He specializes in the politics of international monetary and financial relations. Frieden is the author of Currency Politics: The Political Economy of Exchange Rate Policy (2015); and (with Menzie Chinn) of Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (2011).

The United States Centre at LSE

The Machiavelli of Maryland

Edward Luttwak; drawing by David Levine

“People contact Edward Luttwak with unusual requests. The prime minister of Kazakhstan wants to find a way to remove ethnic Russians from a city on his northern border; a major Asian government wants a plan to train its new intelligence services; an Italian chemical company wants help settling an asbestos lawsuit with a local commune; a citizens’ group in Tonga wants to scare away Japanese dolphin poachers from its shores; the London Review of Books wants a piece on the Armenian genocide; a woman is having a custody battle over her children in Washington DC – can Luttwak “reason” with her husband? And that is just in the last 12 months.”

Military strategist, classical scholar, cattle rancher – and an adviser to presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama. Just who is Edward Luttwak? And why do very powerful people pay vast sums for his advice?

Economics of Migration

Are the British people worse off because of the immigrants? When in 2013 the Royal Statistical Society did a survey and asked people to name a percentage of the United Kingdom population that are not born in the UK, the average response was 31%, more than double the actual number – 12.5%. The talk starts with a description of change in migration levels and attitudes to it in the UK and other countries then focuses on the labor market impact of immigration. Do not wish for clear-cut answers!

The Department of Economics at LSE

The American Bombs Falling on Yemen

On the afternoon of 8 October 2016 the US and UK backed Saudis bombed a funeral gathering in Sana’a, Yemen.  The mayor of Sana’a, Abdulqader Hilal al-Dabab, was killed, and the country lost a bright hope for peace. Hilal was a politician with a long record of mediating disputes in a notoriously fractious and dangerous country. Nicolas Niarchos talks with Hilal’s son about his father’s fate and what it says about the country’s future.

Saudis are spending somewhere around 5 billion dollars a month on war in Yemen, and much of that ends up in the United States of America – in the hands of American defense contractors or British defense contractors in London.

Bear in mind that Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world. Over 8 million Yemenis are on the brink of starving. It has over 1 million suspected cholera cases. That is the largest cholera outbreak on record in modern history. During the three years of war the richest countries in the world are bombing the poorest country.

The New Yorker

Channel Island of Jersey

The Fall of Jersey: How a Tax Haven Goes Bust

Jersey bet its future on finance but since 2007 it has fallen on hard times and is heading for bankruptcy. The government is left with a “black hole” in the annual budget. “Filling it will take the equivalent of shutting down every school in the island, laying off every teacher, letting the parks turn into overgrown jungles and having our roads literally fall apart.” Who are the winners?

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

1000 Francs COMOROS

The Bizarre Scheme to Transform a Remote Island into the New Dubai

How Comoros attempted and failed to develop the market for passports and citizenship. “It was a sign of the times – before the collapse of the global financial system, or the Arab revolutions – that it did not seem entirely unlikely that a well-connected global citizen could transform a destitute archipelago into a Hawaii for Arabs.”

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Al-Shabab, which is allied to Al-Qaeda Al-Shabab which is allied to Al-Qaeda

How Isis Crippled Al-Qaida

After 9/11, al-Qaida attracted money, initiates and prestige like no other jihadi group in history. Bin Laden achieved this feat by remaining ideologically flexible. He refused to be proscriptive on small matters of faith, avoiding the kind of disputes that had ripped apart other jihadi coalitions in the past. As it stands now, Isis has not simply eclipsed al-Qaida on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and in the competition for funding and new recruits. Isis has successfully launched “a coup” against al-Qaida to destroy it from within. Authors trace fragile alliances and betrayed loyalties within jihadi movement. Illuminating and detail-dense.

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads

Deformed fetuses preserved in formaldehyde at the Tu Du Hospital, Vietnam. Deformed fetuses preserved in formaldehyde at the Tu Du Hospital, Vietnam. Reproductive abnormalities were caused by Agent Orange – one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its chemical warfare programme, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War. Photo by Philip Jones Griffiths.

Pentagon’s Top Secret Research Project: Saigon, 1965

In the early 1960s, the Pentagon set up a top-secret research project in an old villa in downtown Saigon. The task? To interview captured North Vietnamese soldiers and guerrillas in order to measure their morale: Was the relentless U.S. bombing pushing them to the brink of capitulation?

Saigon, 1965 is the story of three people who got caught up in that effort: a young Vietnamese woman, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a brilliant Russian émigré. All saw the same things. All reached different conclusions. The Pentagon effort, run by the Rand Corporation, was one of the most ambitious studies of enemy combatants ever conducted—and no one could agree on what it meant.

Revisionist History

A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland built atop coral reefs to support airstrips, barracks, lighthouses, and other infrastructure A man-made island in South China Sea about 1,000 miles off the Chinese mainland

What’s behind Beijing’s Drive to Control the South China Sea?

Podcast on China’s idea of its rightful place in the world – which, most Chinese would say, they were robbed of first by European and then by an American imperialism. “In 10 years, our GDP will be bigger than the US, in 20 years our military spending will be equal to the US,” claims Shen Dingli, one of China’s most prominent international relations scholars, “Thirty to 40 years from now, our armed forces will be better than the US. Why would the US defend those rocks? When you have power, the world has to accept. The US is a superpower today, and it can do whatever it wants. When China is a superpower, the world will also have to accept.” The rest follows from this. As it happens, the perceived future determines the lived present. Supposedly simple logic wrapped in a carefully crafted story.
Written by Howard W French, Read by Andrew McGregor and Produced by Stuart Silver

The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads