The astonishing truth about 007

The novel as a form is a fundamentally capitalist enterprise. It was invented at the same time as capitalism – Robinson Crusoe tots up his situation in the form of double-entry bookkeeping. Its interests dwell on the disparate and unequal natures of human beings and feed off rivalry, social transformation, moneymaking, profit and loss. No rigid feudal society has managed to create an effective school of novelists; and having once struggled through Cement, Fyodor Gladkov’s classic of socialist Soviet literature, I would say that systems dedicated to forcible equality also struggle.   Evident, astonishingly, is just how much in the novels is based on events Fleming had witnessed or engineered

Modern capitalism has failed my son

A light was on in the caravan site office so I went over to try and buy a gas canister. Come Easter the little Cornish seaside resort will be heaving. Now a stiff north wind blew in off the sea and it felt like the dregs of winter still. The site office was shut but a woman came out and said she was expecting a delivery tomorrow but she didn’t know yet how much a canister would cost. Nor did she know of anywhere open where we could get something to eat. She thought there might be a place down by the beach. Nobody had managed to get any seasonal

Small but perfectly formed: the Royal College of Music Museum reopening reviewed

Haydn is looking well — in fact, he’s positively glowing. The dignified pose; the modest, intelligent smile: it’s only when you squint closely at the portrait that Thomas Hardy painted in London in 1791 that you clock the full peachy-pink smoothness of his complexion. It’s curious, because Haydn suffered disfiguring smallpox as a child, and a contemporary waxwork bust in Vienna is cratered like a moon in a periwig. Hardy’s portrait is a promotional image, commissioned by the music publisher John Bland. This is the Georgian equivalent of a celebrity headshot: a photoshopped, endlessly-reproduceable selling tool, so potent that it’s still being used to shift recordings 230 years later. Well,

The economic illiteracy of anti-capitalists

Back in October, World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart recommended that countries borrow heavily during the pandemic. ‘First, you worry about fighting the war,’ she said, ‘then you figure out how to pay for it’. As thousands of mask-free demonstrators took to the streets of London this weekend to campaign on issues ranging from Palestine to climate change, you have to wonder: are we still at war? And does anyone care about the economy anymore? It has been apparent for some time — though it may continue to confound psephologists — that issues such as identity, patriotism and culture are more important to the electorate than economic concerns. That the

Philip Green gave capitalism a bad name

The giant drug companies that are on brink of delivering a Covid vaccine in record time? Well, that’s easy. The technology companies that have relentlessly innovated to transform the way we communicate with one another? That’s not too hard. The power generators, food manufacturers and automobile conglomerates that supply most of our daily needs? That’s a breeze. Heck, even the banks can justify their existence, at least in theory. Most entrepreneurs and businesses are fairly easy to defend. But Sir Philip Green? Errrrr… The free market needs defending, perhaps more now than at any time in the last 50 years Of course it was just about possible to explain his

There’s nothing wrong with profiting from a vaccine

A couple of shots to the arm and this will all be over. With today’s news from Moderna, last week’s from Pfizer, and with a potential update from AstraZeneca in the next few days, we may soon have three vaccines against Covid-19 (and if you add in candidates from Russia and China perhaps more). And yet, it turns out, that some people are already fretting about potential side effects from that. And they don’t just mean a mild fever or muscle ache. They mean something far, far nastier. Profits. While most of us have been feeling a lot better about the epidemic over the last week, Jeremy Corbyn seems most

What angry young French men want

Chatting on the café terrace with my new friends Didier and Emile made me aware that certain political ideas, which before the Covid-19 pandemic I had comfortably assumed belonged on the wilder shores of political discourse, are now mainstream among the under thirties. I felt a little envy, perhaps, for Didier’s undoubting conviction that questions of equality, gender, race and white supremacy were the ultimate verities for humankind. But a single word often betrays a great design, and his supplementary advocation of voluntary euthanasia for the chronically sick and elderly indicated all too clearly in which direction his ideal post-Covid society would be headed. Also, it seemed to me that

Have we reached the end of ‘The Great Acceleration’?

Ah well. It was a nice try. A few years ago I wrote a book called The Great Acceleration, arguing that the world around us is speeding up and that this is on balance a good thing. Enter Danny Dorling with a new book called Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration and Why it’s Good for the Planet, the Economy and Our Lives. Cue a mischievous commission from The Spectator’s literary editor, doubtless hoping for a good old-fashioned nerdfight. The problem with this cunning plan is that Dorling, an Oxford geography professor and demographer, has written a very strange book indeed — and one that shows the extent to

Left-wing feminism is no ally of women

It’s increasingly popular to say feminism can never be capitalist; no exceptions. Capitalism, by its nature, supposedly exploits women. But if feminism cannot be capitalist, how does one explain Katharine McCormick, the woman who single-handedly financed the development of the pill? McCormick was a committed feminist, a campaigner for women’s voting rights, and a signed-up member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In the 1950s, when the U.S. government would not invest in contraception research, McCormick used her own capital to advance the studies eventually leading to the pill. Is this the kind of story that today’s feminists would sweep under the rug, in order to advocate for socialism

In this instance, greed isn’t good: Greed reviewed

Greed is Michael Winterbottom’s satire on the obscenely rich and, in particular, a billionaire, asset-stripping retail tycoon whose resemblance to any living person is purely intentional. (Hello, Sir Philip Green.) Plenty to work with, you would think. Low-hanging fruit and all that. But as the characters are so feebly sketched and the ‘jokes’ — ‘jokes’ in quotation marks; always a bad sign — are so heavy-handed it drags (and drags) rather than flies. Greed is good, greed works, Gordon Gekko famously said in Wall Street. But in this instance it isn’t. And doesn’t. Greed is good, Gordon Gekko famously said in Wall Street. But in this instance it isn’t It