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Counter-terrorism powers are too vulnerable to abuse

I recall vividly the day when a police officer – not one serving in Wycombe – told me of his disgust at a superior’s easy resort to counter-terrorism powers against people not suspected of terrorism. Now the police have taken that resort against a Guardian journalist’s partner, we have a story. In a video, the Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger explains that the disturbing element of the David Miranda arrest was the use of counter-terrorism powers to suspend the normal rules. […]

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Book review: Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations

Karl Popper’s 582-page Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge seemed a daunting read. It need not have done: the essays within are written in plain English and a lively style. The central theme of the book is that our knowledge, our aims and our standards develop through trial and error: that is, by making conjectures and seeking their refutation. I was glad I read the book knowing Popper had turned from the so-called “scientific socialism” of Marxism. In […]

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Book review: Popper, All Life is Problem Solving

Karl Popper’s All Life is Problem Solving is a wonderful collection of his speeches and shorter writings in two parts: Questions of natural science and Thoughts on history and politics. I first discovered Popper through The Open Society and its Enemies, a vehement defence of democracy against totalitarianism. Many of the themes he explored there are naturally to be found in this much slimmer book. Two particular ideas are relevant today: the logic and evolution of scientific theory and his […]

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Life in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Extremistan

I met Nassim Nicholas Taleb last year, briefly, at a lecture he gave on the impact of highly improbable events: Black Swans. I’m just reading his book now. And then along came my own Black Swan. Against all expectations, improbably yet explicably, but hopefully inconsequentially, I have been adopted as DK’s Blog Mascot. As Taleb might point out, I shouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t expect to be in Parliament now either. Whatever next? I just finished two other books which […]

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Thought for the day – Karl Popper on reason and critical discussion

From All Life is Problem Solving: When I speak of reason or rationalism, all I mean is the conviction that we can learn through criticism of our mistakes and errors, especially through criticism by others, and eventually also through self-criticism. A rationalist is simply someone for whom it is more important to learn than to be proved right; someone who is willing to learn from others — not by simply taking over another’s opinions, but by gladly allowing others to […]

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The altruistic individual in society

In preparation for an article to be published in the Autumn, I just reread The Open Society and Its Enemies – Volume 1: The Spell of Plato. The book traces mankind’s opposition to change and the consequent rise of the myth of destiny, technically, historicism: the belief that history unfolds according to laws which can be discovered. Popper argues that the strain of civilisation causes us to seek to return to a supposed harmonious state of nature, a heroic age […]

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Speech in the budget debate

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): When I came to the House today, I expected to hear a great deal of Keynesian argument and I have not been disappointed. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Austin Mitchell) is no longer in the Chamber, as I wanted to congratulate him on his comprehensive grasp of Keynesian arguments. Unfortunately, it was also excruciating. I am told that Keynes thought that the safe upper limit for the size of the state […]

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Blair commits a revolt against reason

So here I am,  back online in our new High Wycombe home, just in time for this revolt against reason: Following the ‘climategate scandal’, Mr Blair said the science may not be “as certain as its proponents allege”. But he said the world should act as a precaution against floods, droughts and mass extinction caused by climate change, in fact it would be “grossly irresponsible” not to. If I understand Blair correctly, he is following up his recent assertion of […]

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Sustainability: An Assault on Economics – Tyler A. Watts

One of my key areas of interest is how to deliver sustainable, stable and inclusive prosperity. This is why I dedicate so much time to economics. However, the word “sustainable” may not convey the same thing to everyone: via Sustainability: An Assault on Economics – Tyler A. Watts – Mises Institute: The sustainability movement is an assault on economics. It claims at its core that prices don’t operate through time to direct consumption and production decisions in a sustainable way. […]

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Some favourite quotes from Karl Popper

Karl Popper is without doubt my favourite character in political philosophy. He was rational, believing knowledge and truth to be objective, but aware of the boundaries of reason. A scientist but concerned with the mechanisms of society. By humanitarian inclination a social democrat — when that meant “Marxist” — but by reason a liberal: a believer in freedom. In the course of things, I rediscovered these quotations by Popper, which seem apt today, as we hastily seek solutions to our […]

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