John Gray

John Gray’s The Immortalisation Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death will appear in January.

Though few anticipated the agreement, it is not difficult to understand why David Cameron and Nick Clegg should have made a bargain to share power. By forming a coalition Cameron secured protection from his mutinous right wing, while Clegg became the pivotal player in British politics. What is more surprising is the degree of unity the government has so far exhibited. In Britain we think of coalition government as non-ideological, formed from necessity and living by compromise. When the coalition came to power there were many who welcomed it as a refreshing departure from tribal politics. Others feared that a government made up of parties with such different histories and cultures would lack clear direction – decisions would be fudged, policies too cautious.

Some Conservatives may conclude that this election is one the party would be better off losing. That would be a serious mistake. If the Conservatives fail to emerge as the largest single party Cameron’s position as leader will surely be challenged, and it is not hard to see a return of the mayhem that kept them out of power for so many years.

We simply do not know! Keynes

John Gray, 19 November 2009

To suggest that the source of market volatility is unreason is to imply that if people were fully rational markets could be stable. But even if people were affectless calculating machines they would still be ignorant of the future, and markets would still be volatile. The root cause of market instability is the insuperable limitation of human knowledge.


John Gray, 20 April 1995

The new conventional wisdom has it that environmentalist movements emerge in post-materialist cultures, along with a sense of economic satiety. They are creatures of economic growth, conceived in urban environments in the wake of consumer affluence; in peasant economies, or in the newly industrialising countries, we don’t find anything resembling Western concern with the integrity of the environment. On this view, environmental concern is akin to a ‘positional good’, dependent for its existence on the prosperity generated by long periods of economic growth, and so cannot be expected to flourish in times of economic uncertainty or hardship. It is the ultimate luxury of rich societies. Western governments which attempt to impose it on developing countries only reveal its positional character. The effect of policies which inhibit economic growth in poor countries in the name of environmental concern will in no sense be to improve the protection of the environment, since that depends on a level of wealth which such policies will prevent ever being reached. If they achieve anything, it will only be to shelter the environments of the rich countries that are the beneiciaries of generations of industrialism and economic growth.

Our Way

John Gray, 22 September 1994

Recent discussion of the Soviet collapse, even when not echoing the shallow triumphalism of Western conservatives and neo-liberals, has interpreted that collapse as an episode in the global spread of civil society – defined by Ernest Gellner as ‘that set of diverse non-governmental institutions which is strong enough to counterbalance the state and, while not preventing the state from fulfilling its role of keeper of the peace and arbitrator among major interests, can nevertheless prevent it from dominating and atomising the rest of society’. The debacle of Gorbachev’s reformist project has been understood, if not as proof of an incluctable global convergence on Western institutions, then at any rate as compelling evidence of their functional indispensability to a modern industrial economy. Western opinion, shaken by the political upheavals of the past five years, which confounded all the expectations of diplomats, strategists and (not least) Sovietologists, is now gripped by the conviction that, in the long run, there simply is no alternative to the institutions of civil society: any state which wishes to enjoy prosperity and the stability that prosperity confers will have to adopt them.’

‘It is not too fanciful to suppose that “posterity”, in the year 2032, will be celebrating the events of November 1917 as a happy turning point in the history of human freedom,...

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Corinthians, it was once said, worshipped at the tomb of the unknown god. Liberals worship at the tomb of the unknown principle; they’d be prepared to die for their beliefs, if only they knew...

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How to Make a Market

John Lloyd, 10 November 1994

A growing school of thought, especially on but not confined to the Left, holds that the reform of Russia and other post-Communist states is being carried out in such a way as to destroy rather...

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Privatising the atmosphere

Jeremy Waldron, 4 November 1993

By instinct and by reputation, environmentalists tend to be socialists. They are hostile to private industry, they scorn the profit motive, and they are profoundly suspicious of any claim that...

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In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

The collapse of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the dire condition of the Soviet Union have left Socialism almost irredeemably discredited. Understandably, the recent Labour policy...

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