Britain

In Time is so crammed with provocative ideas it begins to feel over-crowded. At some time in a future that looks like the recent past of Los Angeles, human aging has been stopped at twenty-five. At that point of perfection, everyone has one year left to live, and their remaining span registers as a luminous green set of numbers (their “watch”), printed on the forearm. But this situation has turned time into the new money, and so—in the way of the world—some people are richer than others. People still look like twenty-five when they are eighty.

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Ray of Light

Nearly a year ago, Burma, one of the world’s most oppressive military dictatorships, held elections that were widely regarded as a sham. Few observers figured that the new president, a former military man named Thein Sein, would be allowed or inclined to carry out substantial changes of any kind. The military, it was assumed, would continue to pull the strings.

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The Mirage

I. The American dream of politics without conflict, and of politics without political parties, has a history as old as American politics. Anyone carried along on the political currents since 2008, however, might be forgiven for thinking that the dream is something new—and that a transformative era was finally at hand, in which the old politics of intense partisan conflict, based on misunderstanding, miscommunication, and misanthropy, could be curbed if not ended. After the presidency of George W.

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Doom!

Mitt Romney has shed the dark blue suit, white shirt, and pale blue tie of his 2008 campaign for an open-neck tattersall shirt with its sleeves rolled up. His sideburns are graying, and his eyes are lined, but he still sports a boyish grin and radiates the can-do enthusiasm of a man who is promising to turn the country around the way he once turned around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

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A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War By Amanda Foreman (Random House, 958 pp., $35) The world’s biggest superpower has a problem. The citizens of a nation overseas have risen up against their tyrannical rulers, determined to claim liberty even if it takes a civil war. As the most powerful global advocate of freedom, the superpower has to admire the rebels’ cause. Should it help them? Humanitarians argue that intervention can prevent hundreds of thousands of civilians from suffering hideous state-sponsored subjugation.

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If you haven’t caught up with it yet, “The Hour” is halfway over. The fourth of six hour-long episodes will play on BBC America on Wednesday, September 7th. But don’t be disheartened. You don’t want to watch it in its original transmission because it is stretched out to 90 minutes with some especially egregious commercials. If you wait a day, you can pick it up on Exfiniti “on demand” without the commercials. Start now and you can catch up on the first three episodes, and get in training for the most complex and absorbing story playing on film (and in English) at the moment.

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This article is a contribution to 'Is There Anything That Can Be Done? A TNR Symposium On The Economy'. Click here to read other contributions to the series. Various flashy stimulus packages—whether through the spending measures typically advocated by Democrats or the tax cuts regularly pushed by Republicans—remain a constant and tired refrain in our political debate. But if programs like George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts and Barack Obama’s Recovery Act tend to dominate the news, in the long run our living standards are determined by the compounded effect of productivity growth over decades.

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[Guest post by Simon van Zuylen-Wood] Yesterday David Cameron said that Britain was in the midst of a “slow-motion moral collapse,” while denying that his country’s austerity program was at fault for last week’s riots. Cameron is right that the early media hypothesis that the riots were in part anti-austerity protests, as in Greece, was largely incorrect. The London riots were not political in nature. No chanting youth, linked arms, or raised banners.

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Amid the still-smoldering ashes of the past week’s riots, the British public is not only assessing the damage—it’s trying to figure out what sparked the conflagration in the first place. Where Prime Minister David Cameron has blamed a culture of entitlement and irresponsibility among British youth, the opposition Labour Party has targeted the government’s austerity measures, which have cut provisions for the poor. What everyone seems to agree upon is that police forces simply weren’t up to the job.

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These days, with any mass movement, from terrorist organizations to student protests, you almost immediately have a sense of who is involved. Given the ubiquity of social media and the generally elevated level of surveillance, no modern day gathering, whether for legitimate protest, mass violence, or the shades in between, should be difficult to minutely dissect and analyze. Indeed, we have come to expect knowing everything there is to be known about an event’s main actors, their shared characteristics, and how they came to behave in the way they did.

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