July has been an arid month for this blog, as you may have noticed and for which I apologise. I joined The Times this week, but am continuing to update this site, about which we'll be making an announcement at some point. Here are some things I've noticed in the last few days.
One of the interesting but less surprising things about the economic malaise of the UK and the euro area is the emerging criticism of the notion of inflation targeting. This has been compounded by the surge in inflation in the UK in June. There must be a temptation for the government to do one of two things: either change the inflation target, or change the inflation measure that is being targeted (for example, to core inflation, which excludes the volatile components of food and energy prices). Either of those courses would undermine not just the government's economic achievements but also the entire concept of New Labour.
The point of the monetary framework that was literally the first decision of Tony Blair's government was to replace discretionary intervention with a framework of rules. I'll have more to say about the value of inflation targeting in public policy. (I recommend a highly informative volume about the theory and practice, published in 1999, which retains its relevance, called Inflation Targeting: Lessons from the International Experience, by Ben Bernanke, Thomas Laubach, Frederic Mishkin and Adam Posen.) But there were particular historical reasons for Labour to adopt this policy, namely that some economic interventions by previous Labour governments had had serious inflationary consequences. The Wilson government of 1974-76 indeed has some claim to being the worst period of economic management since 1945, though my choice would be the entire Heath government of 1970-74 and its disastrous "dash for growth".
Nick Cohen has an excellent post at Harry's Place on the issues at stake in liberals' tolerance of Islamist reaction. I've previously argued that Nick has identified a disturbing phenomenon that is far more extensive than his critics allow for.
I try not to be needlessly sectarian, but this sort of flannel about science and religion never fails to irk: "They may be separate disciplines. And yet, as Lord Robert Winston recently put it: 'In reality, both religion and science are expressions of man's uncertainty.' To put it another way, through greater knowledge, we can deepen the mystery of life."
Science and religion are not separate "disciplines", because religion is not a discipline. It is a set of dogmatic beliefs. That is not to dismiss religion: it is merely to insist that it's an exactly different approach from that of science, which has no dogmata. Religious doctrines change when scientific findings, such as the age of the Earth, or our moral understanding, such as acknowledging the rights of homosexuals, make them untenable as they stand. I don't regard religion as an inherent enemy of social and intellectual advance; I do consider that it contributes literally nothing to that cause.
A reader has posted a comment below this post cordially asking me to leave alone "the tired old business of Neil and Christine [Hamilton]". Fair point.