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Adrian Walsh

Can people have too much wealth? Does extreme wealth have negative consequences? Over the past thirty years, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of billionaires whose annual earnings are so large that they are often difficult to comprehend. To take but one example, it was estimated in 2022 by Forbes magazine that Elon Musk’s personal assets were worth $219 billion and that, if he worked for forty-five years, his lifetime hourly rate from these assets was in the order of US$1,871,794.

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In the aftermath of horrendous acts of lethal violence, such as the murder by Brenton Tarrant of fifty-one people in two Christchurch mosques in 2019, and other vicious acts of torture and sadistic cruelty, it is not at all uncommon for public commentators to invoke the language of evil – that there is evil in our midst. Perhaps the most well-known contemporary example of this was George W. Bush’s description of the 9/11 attacks as despicable evil acts that demonstrated the worst of human nature. 

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Fear has always been a dominant element of human existence, across all human societies, but has our attitude to it changed? It might be argued that our concern with threats has become more pronounced. Is the twenty-first century an especially fearful period in human history ...

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To what extent does the social practice of inheritance undermine social justice? Indeed, if inheritance does further inequality, should we, in order to ensure a fairer society, restrict the right to bequeath? A mainstay of political philosophy since the late seventeenth century, questions such as ...

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What is money, how do we create it, and how politically significant is its production? In The Production of Money, political economist Ann Pettifor makes the striking claim that the way we currently produce money gives rise to one of the most substantial challenges facing Western democracy. But how could this be so? Money is produced by printing presses and ...

The casual visitor to Oslo, with little or no knowledge of Norway’s recent history, could be forgiven for being unaware that per capita this is one of the wealthiest ...

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Jason Stanley argues in his new book that propaganda is more prevalent within liberal democracies – and is of far greater concern – than is typically assumed. Indeed, Stanley suggests that the very idea that propaganda only proliferates within authoritarian regimes, which have ministries set aside for its production, is a central tenet of the propaganda of the W ...

Consider the following dilemma. If it is possible to identify the cause of a person's action and beliefs – causes that are outside the agent's own conscious reasoning – in what sense can we say that the person chooses what she does or she thinks? If the person did not consciously choose, then it is reasonable to ask whether she should be held morally responsible ...

It is now more than six years since the Global Financial Crisis threatened to topple the banking systems of the Western world. Although a complete breakdown in the financial system was ultimately avoided, one consequence of the events of 2008 has been the biggest slump in economic activity since the Great Depression. Australia was, in the main, spared the economic damage that ravaged large parts of Europe, and there has been little discussion in these parts of the causes and social effects of what the authors refer to as the ‘Great Recession’. Somewhat surprisingly, on the evidence presented in this book (and despite both the United States and the United Kingdom being severely affected) it would seem that the Anglosphere at large is guilty of what the authors call the ‘veil of complacency’. The book asserts that in those countries there is little concern for either the financial consequences or the victims of the crisis. Why should this be the case? Perhaps the Great Recession was not as bad as the headlines have suggested.

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Worldly Philosopher by Jeremy Adelman & The Essential Hirschman edited by Jeremy Adelman

September 2014, no. 364

Albert O. Hirschman (1915–2012) was a development economist and political theorist whose work is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how economic life figures in the political worlds we inhabit and the ways in which we give meaning to our lives in market-based societies. Perhaps best known for the distinction between ‘exit’ and ‘voice’, Hirschman was a prolific theorist who wrote about the role individual moral virtue and individual self-interest should play in economic activity, how economic growth in the developing world might best be achieved, and the reactionary rhetoric of neo-conservative politicians in the late 1980s, to list but some of the areas he covered. Hirschman’s writing was elegant; further, he understood the importance of the well-chosen word. He was, as this new biography by Jeremy Adelman shows, an economist for whom the essays of Montaigne were as important as the writings of Ricardo and Smith.

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