If Britons vote Conservative, says Bagehot, they “will be signing up for an eye-watering shrinkage of the state.” A vote for the Labour Party, on the other hand, will bring forth “much less reduction in a deficit currently running … at close to £100 billion ($152 billion) a year.”
Let’s leave aside the fact that the notion of British politics as a two-party game is so 20th-century. The best current analyses are that not even a two-party coalition will be possible on May’s result. (And of course, the Establishment Pincer will ensure that nobody invites the nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party into a coalition.)
Let’s leave aside also the fact that not one Brit voter in a thousand gives a flying fish finger about the deficit, or even knows what it is. This is, after all, The Economist, still in part a trade magazine.
Those matters aside, on National Question issues—primarily immigration and the EU—you couldn't wedge a Shrove Tuesday pancake between the positions of the two big parties.
Are those issues important to British voters? They certainly are.
Immigration is now consistently the most important political issue of concern to voters, pollsters have revealed.Not possible, Milord? To the contrary it is, as Figaro would have said, possibilissima. See, for example, the opening sentence of the seventh paragraph in that Bagehot column:
Over the past year it has moved ahead of the economy as the British public’s top priority, according to [polling firm] YouGov.
Since May, voters have put it above or tied with the economy in every survey conducted by the organisation.
At one point, in September, it was selected by 58 per cent of voters as one of the three most important issues for the country while only 48 per cent had the economy in their top three.
YouGov chose ‘Immigration becoming the public’s most important issue’ as one of its top five public opinion trends of 2014 …
Crossbench peer Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank, said: ‘These are remarkable findings. It’s simply not possible for the political class to remain in denial any longer. [Immigration beats economy as number one worry for UK voters by Jack Doyle; Daily Mail, December 28th.]
Despite wasting too much time on more peripheral issues, such as immigration, the Tories have at least explained why less spending—their aim is to shrink the state’s claim on national income to around 35%—is imperative for deficit reduction. [Mightily Different by “Bagehot”; The Economist, January 17 , 2015[My italics.]
As reader “Cutters” observes in the comment thread:
On the big ticket items, such as the EU which covers areas such as immigration, regulation and government spending, the two parties have very little to divide them.The second eye-stopper occurs further back in the magazine, in the Science and Technology section.
The lead story in that section is about representation by sex and race in high-level academic research.
Though the phenomenon is most discussed in scientific and technological disciplines (new PhDs in maths and physics are earned mostly by men, while—in America at least—half of those in molecular biology and neuroscience are awarded to women), it is equally true in the social sciences and humanities, where art history and psychology are dominated by women, and economics and philosophy by men. [University Challenge; The Economist, January 17, 2015](The article concentrates on the women problem—the underlying assumption being, of course, that there is a problem, a thing not obvious to me and not apparent from the paragraph just quoted—but blacks are hauled in later for support: “The results on race … are also intriguing. Black PhD students show the same types of correlation as women. Americans of Asian descent do not.” You don’t say.)
The actual subject of the article is a paper published in Science last week by some American researchers. Here is the paper’s abstract:
The gender imbalance in STEM subjects dominates current debates about women’s underrepresentation in academia. However, women are well represented at the Ph.D. level in some sciences and poorly represented in some humanities (e.g., in 2011, 54% of U.S. Ph.D.’s in molecular biology were women versus only 31% in philosophy). We hypothesize that, across the academic spectrum, women are underrepresented in fields whose practitioners believe that raw, innate talent is the main requirement for success, because women are stereotyped as not possessing such talent. This hypothesis extends to African Americans’ underrepresentation as well, as this group is subject to similar stereotypes. Results from a nationwide survey of academics support our hypothesis (termed the field-specific ability beliefs hypothesis) over three competing hypotheses. [“Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines,” by Sarah-Jane Leslie, Andrei Cimpian, Meredith Meyer, and Edward Freeland; Science, January 16th.]I confess I haven’t read the whole paper, but from the abstract and the write-up in The Economist, this looks like a retread of the dear old “stereotype threat” pseudo-theory.
Be that as it may, the paper found favor with The Economist. After all, as they write:
All this raises interesting and awkward questions. It may be unpalatable to some, but the idea that males and females have evolved cognitive differences over the course of many millions of years, because of the different interests of the sexes, is plausible. That people of different races have evolved such differences is far less likely, given the youth of Homo sapiens as a species. Prejudice thus seems a more plausible explanation for what Dr Leslie and Dr Cimpian have observed. But prejudice can work in subtle ways.[My italics again.]
The sheer ignorance there is breathtaking, as numerous commenters are pointing out. Race differences in cognitive ability are as well-established as the orbit of the Moon, and concord perfectly well with current understandings of evolutionary change.
Is there really such a shortage of scientifically well-informed journalists? Perhaps The Economist could tempt Nicholas Wade out of his semi-retirement.