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Robert Skidelsky

Peacekeeping, Past and Present

November 20, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY Between 1815 and 1914, the Concert of Europe served as a crucial peacekeeping mechanism, enabling the continent to avoid a major war. Drawing the right lessons from its successes and eventual failure can help us strive to recreate the conditions that led to an imperfect but durable peace. LONDON – The world was a relatively peaceful place during the nineteenth century. Aside from the American Civil War and China’s Taiping Rebellion, there were few...

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Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Rich

October 24, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY As the world grapples with multiple, compounding economic and political crises, Western intellectuals provide little cause for optimism. Two new books paint a bleak picture of a disintegrating liberal international order and a future shaped by warring powers and digital serfdom. LONDON – Reading this fall’s selection of new nonfiction books, one cannot help but recall W.B. Yeats’ prescient lines from The Second Coming: “The falcon cannot hear the...

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The New Anatomy of Britain

September 22, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY In his new book, former Conservative MP Rory Stewart sharply critiques the British political class. Analyzing the degradation of the United Kingdom’s public services, he highlights two potential culprits: a ruling class preoccupied with political maneuvering and a civil service excessively focused on bureaucracy. LONDON – Anthony Sampson’s Anatomy of Britain, published in 1962, was a profound and scholarly work that appeared at a time when the...

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Imagining a Keynesian Revival

August 21, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY The economic shocks of the past two decades were not freak occurrences but rather the product of a profoundly flawed and corrupt system. But narrowing the policy discussion to a binary choice between market fundamentalism and protectionism overlooks the potential for constructive leadership. SALZBURG – In 2009, while the world economy was still reeling from the global financial crisis, Nobel laureate economist Robert Lucas observed that “everyone is...

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The Great Unbanking

July 20, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY Brexiteer Nigel Farage’s recent claim that he had been designated a “politically exposed person” and blacklisted by financial institutions, if true, represents a dangerous violation of people’s rights. This unchecked overreach, driven by regulatory zeal, is neither rational nor prudent. LONDON – Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the driving force behind the campaign for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European...

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The Costly Return of Geopolitics

June 19, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY Geopolitics, which originated during the run-up to World War I, represents an inherently pessimistic view of international relations as a perpetual power struggle. But as the world’s military and policy establishments prepare for prolonged conflict, we must resist the allure of the zero-sum mindset. LONDON – One of the regrettable consequences of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was the advent of the pseudoscience known as geopolitics. Drawing...

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Comment in the House of Lords on a post-Putin Russia

Lord Skidelsky  My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, made an important point about the importance of thinking about a post-Putin future. I have never thought that Putin either can or deserves to survive this adventure on which he has embarked, but I am interested in what is meant by such phrases as “withdraw his troops and end this bloodshed now”, and a remark from the Labour Front Bench about the importance of “winning the war”. What exactly do these things mean? It seems...

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Creeping Toward Dystopia

May 25, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY Amid the growing excitement about generative AI, there are also mounting concerns about its potential contribution to the erosion of civil liberties. The convergence of state intelligence agencies and surveillance capitalism underscores the threat that artificial intelligence poses to the future of democracy. LONDON – With investors pouring billions of dollars into artificial intelligence-related startups, the generative AI frenzy is beginning to look...

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FrankenTech

April 19, 2023, Central European University LONDON – In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, scientist Victor Frankenstein famously uses dead body parts to create a hyperintelligent “superhuman” monster that – driven mad by human cruelty and isolation – ultimately turns on its creator. Since its publication in 1818, Shelley’s story of scientific research gone wrong has come to be seen as a metaphor for the danger (and folly) of trying to endow machines with...

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Can Governments Still Steer the Economy?

Mar 28, 2023 ROBERT SKIDELSKY Inflation and growth rates are increasingly determined by global events over which national policymakers have no control. Instead of clinging to the illusion that they can control the uncontrollable, governments should use fiscal policy to protect their most vulnerable citizens from disruptive external shocks. LONDON – In 1969, the British financial journalist Samuel Brittan published a book called Steering the Economy: The Role of the Treasury. At the...

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