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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Paine

“There is always something new out of Africa”*…

Afrofuturism is a fun and interesting subgenre of science fiction and philosophy:, but I kind of chuckle every time I see the word, because all futurism is actually Afrofuturism. Africa is literally the future of the entire world. Here is one of the two or three most important charts you will ever see:

Notice that this is the projection for total population. It has Africa just about equal to Asia by the end of the century, but if we were to look at only young population, Africa would have a clear majority here. 

“Wait,” you may be about to ask. “Are these 80-year-ahead projections really reliable? What if African fertility falls?”

And the answer is: It’s going to fall! It’s already falling fast. As countries get richer their fertility rates drop; as Lyman Stone shows, Africa’s fertility rates are dropping faster, relative to their income level, than any other region except India…

recent paper in The Lancet attempts to model how African population will change as women’s education and access to contraception (the two biggest things other than GDP that we know affect fertility) increase. They predict a population for Sub-Saharan Africa of about 3.4 billion by century’s end — only 0.8 billion lower than the UN median projection. That’s still an absolutely enormous fraction of humanity, and an even larger chunk of the young population.

Thus, the future of Africa is the future of humanity, despite the fact that Africa will experience a normal fertility transition and its population will eventually stabilize rather than explode. I don’t think people in the U.S. (or, probably, other regions) have come to grips with the full import of this.

But what happens to Africa is even more important, relative to the rest of the world, than these population numbers suggest! This is because Africa is still a mostly poor region. Economics teaches us that marginal utility — i.e. the amount life gets better when you get a little richer — is much higher for poor people. And with China and (to some degree) India industrializing successfully and seeing population growth slow, soon most of the extremely poor people in the world will probably reside in Africa.

So the future welfare of humanity depends crucially on whether Africa can make big strides against poverty — in other words, whether African countries can achieve substantial economic growth… 

The fate of humanity in the 21st century and beyond hinges on whether African countries can figure out the riddle of industrialization.

Can Africa industrialize? Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) believes that it can: “All futurism is Afrofuturism.” The full argument (and more supporting charts and data) in the complete post.

* Pliny the Elder

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As we look to the future, we might recall that it was on this date in 1775 that an anonymous writer, now widely thought to be Thomas Paine, published “African Slavery in America,” the first article in the American colonies calling for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery.

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“One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived”*…

Even if 2020 [and indeed, the events of January 6, 2021] felt apocalyptic, it is reasonable to think we have not yet hit rock bottom. The threat of climate disaster and resource wars, the building of walls and refugee camps, the exorbitant wealth of powerful oligarchs alongside poverty and precarity—these will not go away with vaccines or new presidents. Amidst all this, no wonder Niccolò Machiavelli has returned to our reading lists. In his new biography of the Florentine Secretary, Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching the People What to Fear, originally published in French in 2017, historian Patrick Boucheron reminds us that there is always interest in Machiavelli in turbulent times “because he’s the man to philosophize in heavy weather. If we’re reading him today, it means we should be worried. He’s back: wake up.”

Born in 1469 in Florence, Machiavelli is a central figure in the Western canon of political philosophy. Though he is best known in the popular imagination as the conniving mastermind behind The Prince (written in 1513), which so many think of as a kind of House of Cards how-to guide for seizing and maintaining political power, we miss what is crucial when we reduce his political thought to the simplistic thesis that the ends justify the means. It is not this misunderstood consequentialism that is noteworthy in Machiavelli’s philosophy; what really makes his writing so radically distinctive is his class-based, materialist outlook. He came from an impoverished household, and his philosophy disrupted naturalized hierarchies and the hegemonic ideas that reproduce them. John Adams would rightly describe him as the founder of a “plebeian philosophy” that marshaled strong arguments for embracing popular control over government…

The introduction to the English edition of The Art of Teaching the People What to Fear, written in June 2019 for readers in the United States, begins with the theme of fear in politics and an issue of Time magazine with Trump on the cover. Boucheron argues that the United States had entered a “Machiavellian moment”—“the dawning realization of the inadequacy of the republican ideal”—in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that today, under “Trumpian America,” a fusion of politics and fiction has allowed for techniques of domination to be perfected, setting “a general disregard for the ‘actual truth of the matter.’” Referencing George Orwell’s 1984, Boucheron sees the United States as captured by a propaganda machine that has undermined reality and common sense—“that sixth sense Machiavelli spoke of, the accessory knowledge that the people have of what is dominating them.” Given the pervasive lack of realism in U.S. politics today, it is clear that the republic would appear to Machiavelli as a corrupt order, not because the powerful few break the rules or because a faction attempts to undermine the integrity of elections, but because the people have been “either deceived or forced into decreeing their own ruin.” Perhaps the most important part of Machiavelli’s wisdom for our own time is that republics tend to become oligarchic, giving the powerful few indirect control over government…

Much maligned as a mere tactician of power, Machiavelli was in fact a philosopher of the people. His critique of oligarchic domination remains essential today: “Our Machiavellian Moment.”

* Niccolò Machiavelli

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As we ponder populism, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine first published (albeit anonymously) his pamphlet “Common Sense.”  A scathing attack on “tyrant” King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence, “Common Sense” advocated immediate action.  America, Paine argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy and declare independence.  An instant bestseller in both the colonies and Britain (over 120,000 copies in just a few months), it greatly affected public sentiment at a time when the question of independence was still undecided, and helped shape the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

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“Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins”*…

 

From 1936 to 1966, Victor Green, a postal worker who worked in New Jersey but lived in Harlem, published the directories known today as the Green Book. (The actual titles were variously: The Negro Motorist Green Book; The Negro Travelers’ Green Book; The Travelers’ Green Book.) These listed hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, nightclubs, bars, gas stations, etc. where Black travelers would be welcome. In an age of sundown towns, segregation, and lynching, the Green Book became an indispensable tool for safe navigation…

The NYPL Labs’ Brian Foo (another of whose projects featured in an earlier post) has made the Green Books available– and interactive:  you can map a trip or plot the books’ data.

* from Mary Torrans Lathrap’s poem “Judge Softly”- the probable origin of the now-proverbial “before you judge someone, walk a mile in his shoes”

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As we live like a refugee, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine first published (albeit anonymously) his pamphlet “Common Sense.”  A scathing attack on “tyrant” King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence, “Common Sense” advocated immediate action.  America, Paine argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy and declare independence.  An instant bestseller in both the colonies and Britain (over 120,000 copies in just a few months), it greatly affected public sentiment at a time when the question of independence was still undecided, and helped shape the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

There Will Always Be a Britain, Part 27…

The first installment in illustrator and craftswoman Gemma Correll‘s reflection on British Cuisine:

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[TotH to Curiosity Counts]

 

As we ponder our pantries, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine first published (albeit anonymously) his pamphlet “Common Sense.”   A scathing attack on “tyrant” King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence, “Common Sense” advocated immediate action..  America, Paine argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy and declare independence.  An instant bestseller in both the colonies and Britain (over 120,000 copies in just a few months), it greatly affecting public sentiment at a time when the question of independence was still undecided, and helped shape the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

By the numbers…

Mark Twain quotes Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics”;  H.G. Wells avers that “Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting scripture”; but the remarkable Hans Rosling begs to differ…

Rosling, a physician and medical researcher who co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden and the Gapminder Foundation (with his son and daughter-in-law), and developed the Trendalyzer software that represents national and global statistics as animated interactive graphics (e.g., here), ha become a superstar on the lecture circuit.  He brings his unique insight and approach to the BBC with The Joy of Stats

It’s above at full length, so takes a while to watch in toto— but odds are that one will enjoy it!  [UPDATE:  since this post was published, the full version has been rendered “private”; unless and until it’s reposted in full, the taste above will have to do. Readers in the UK (or readers with VPNs that terminate in the UK) can see the full show soon after it airs on BBC Four on Thursday the 13th on the BBC iPlayer.  As a further consolation, here is statistician Andrew Gelman’s “Five Books” interview– his choice of the five best books on statistics– for The Browser. ]

As we realize that sometimes we can, after all, count on it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine (originally anonymously) published his case for the independence of the American Colonies, “Common Sense”… and after all, as Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace pointed out (in 1820), “the theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus.”

source: University of Indiana

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