Top Links for Chartbook subscribers #3

Samurai unchained, RIP China's "Mr Millions" and the Queen was quite curious about Saddam!

This is Top Links #3, the “news service” for Chartbook Subscribers.

The links in this issue will take you deep into Brexit Britain, into the maze of US energy consumption and inside the mind of Europe’s most radical environmental thinkers.

I love sharing my reading. I think it is a habit I picked up at my grand-parent’s breakfast table, which was always strewn with newspapers, generally from several countries. People were constantly passing stories back and forth across the table. “Have you seen this …?”. “Wow this IS a catty review …!”. “Why is so and so always so excited about China …?” etc. It was serious in intent. But it was also a bit of a game. Everyone could take part. Children, guests, but if you broke the silence, if you proffered a story, it did have to be good. The sessions could go on for several hours, after which they would retreat to their offices to do more reading and writing. It is clearly, on reflection, where I acquired my habits.

Anyway, as of August, the Top Links feed will be reserved for paying subscribers. So if you enjoy any of the stuff below, I strongly urge you to sign up for a subscription.

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Top Links #3

Carbon Pricing

Following last week’s Chartbook #27 on the Gilet Jaunes, I got into some interesting debates online about carbon pricing. This skeptical paper by Lance Taylor at INET has some beautiful and staggering graphs about energy flow through the US economy:


Its been a bit of a China month: My long Read for @NewStatesman on China’s struggle for Econ development is here.

It pairs with Chartbook #26 on China’s hyperinflation and Chartbook #28 on China as seen by the @WorldBank in 1983.

As Kathrin Hille of the FT points out, rising tension with China is opening the door to a more hawkish security policy on the part of Japan. And Japan’s latest defense White Paper certainly comes on strong.

Inside, frankly, its largely pablum.

Meanwhile, the obituaries have been coming out for "Yang Baiwan, Millions Yang” - one of China’s original stock market speculators. Apparently he "liked the old saying that the first man to suppose a crab might be edible was either very forward-looking or very hungry. -> Learn from those who have the courage to eat crab". I like it!


“As a teenager, born in “new China” under the red flag, he had been a Red Guard, struggling gamely to enforce a traffic edict in Shanghai that revolutionary red meant “Go”, not “Stop”.” As is often the case, the Economist obituary is fantastic.

One of the recurring China scare stories concerns the hugely over-leveraged Evergrande property developer. If you follow this story, this punchy thread by Alex Turnbull gives you a contrarian take.

Brexit Britain

It has been a bumper period for speculation about what makes Brexit Britain tick.

My selection of good reads would include Will Davies on the New Left Review blog on the Spectator set. Geoff Mulgan also on the Spectator set. The Spectator is pivotal because Boris Johnson was its editor rom 1999 to 2005 and it is thought to have set the tone for the subsequent degeneration of the Tory party.

For the background in Britain’s political economy, I still love this piece from David Edgerton back in 2019.

On the Northern Irish deal Fintan O’Toole in the Guardian is simply devastating.

And for excellent hard hitting blogging on the on-going Brexit saga see Chris Grey.

How to blow up a pipeline

I dont share the politics of left-thinker and environmental activist Andreas Malm, but I really admire his historical creativity, his intellectual energy and his eloquence. All of that is on display in this great podcast with Alex Doherty at Politics Theory Other.

One of my projects for August is to write an omnibus review of Malm’s work for LRB. Look out for that in September.

Wandering through Wages

One of the things I love about newsletter writing, is the license to meander. I tried to pull together my impressions about this in the updated introduction to Chartbook.

Achieving some kind of integration between the various strands of thinking about history, economics, theory, politics I have been engaged in over the decades is the prize. I am coming to think that the indirect approach may work best for me.

In that vein, this conversation I had with Alex Doherty a while back about Wages of Destruction may be of interest.

“You are expendable” QEII to ex PM Heath:

The seventeenth G7 summit was held in London in July, 1991. Her Majesty hosted a function at Buckingham Palace. The gathering included the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince and Princess of Wales, John Major, George H. W. Bush, François Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl. As Duncan Weldon observed, I dont think I have ever seen the small talk at this kind of event capture in close up like this. Its remarkable …. and the Queen is hilarious!