Nassim Taleb is banging a glass against a table to demonstrate his notion of ‘anti-fragility’. ‘This glass is fragile,’ he says. ‘Vulnerable to nasty surprises.’ The glass survives his test. ‘Now, what’s the opposite of fragile? Not “robust”, because robust things don’t respond to any surprise, nasty or pleasant. To survive shocks and be adaptable means being “anti-fragile”.’ He believes that David Cameron should remake the British economy with this idea in mind.
No one who knows Sir Mervyn King would describe him as a radical. The Bank of England governor looks every inch the owlish academic, yet he is midway through what is possibly the greatest gamble in Britain’s economic history. Under the frosted-glass term of ‘quantitative easing’, he may soon have the Bank artificially create £600 billion of credit to its own account, the bulk of which would be used to buy government debt.
The Americans have 1776, the French have 1789 and we have 1940. The date is not official for us the way it is for them; it marks no formal founding of a nation or republic. But the events of that year — specifically, Britain’s lonely stand against the Nazi menace — have acquired the status of a creation myth, the heroic and finest hour in which modern Britain was born.Our children study the second world war in school and when we vote for our Greatest Briton we choose the hero of 1940, Winston Churchill.
Is the Syrian regime hellbent on political suicide? There can be no doubt that he is determined to crush any resistance, but if President Bashar al-Assad had really started a massacre in the city of Homs (as was reported by most of the western media) it would have been an act of complete madness. And though he may be ruthless, Assad is no madman. So what’s really going on? Well, the truth about the situation in Syria is that, as in Libya, there is much more to it than the simple narrative we’re all fed: pro-democracy activists fighting a hated tyrant.
When I take the dogs into the garden last thing at night, a dark shape looms up just beyond the garden wall. It is a 12th-century stone building, with a square tower, leaded and stone-tiled roofs, and large plain windows. It looms even larger in my imagination, since I am one of the two churchwardens (Bishop’s or People’s Warden, I never can remember which), so this building is in my charge. I feel as if I have a second home — with all the anxieties of owning an Umbrian farmhouse or Alpine chalet but none of the amenities — since I involve myself with the minutiae of its upkeep quite as much as I do with my own house.