Daily Archives: October 14, 2009

Gideon Rachman

An interesting little item here, on the banning of the works of Noam Chomsky from the prison library at Guantanamo Bay. One has to wonder about the mentality of the Pentagon lawyer, who was trying to obtain a copy of Chomsky for one of the detainees he is representing. Maybe his job at Guantanamo has led him to entertain all sorts of subversive thoughts?

Chomsky predictably interpets the ban on his work as further evidence that the US is slipping towards totalitarianism. But I see it another way. Obama has said that he is banning the use of torture on prisoners at Guantanamo. Subjecting them to the works of Noam Chomsky is clearly incompatible with the torture ban.

Gideon Rachman

President Sarkozy has taken the political lead in promoting “happiness” economics. He even appointed a Stiglitz-led commission to report on alternatives to GDP-per-capita as measures of national well-being. It reported last month and made some interesting points.

But there is a snag. France – the champion of “quality of life”, “the art of living”, the long lunch and sexual liberation (see Carla Bruni, Roman Polanski, Frederic Mitterand etc) – also seems to be a startlingly miserable place. I was shocked by this article in last week’s Economist about the rate of suicide in France. Only the Japanese seem to be killing themselves at a significantly faster rate. Champions of Anglo-Saxon capitalism might note, with grim satisfaction, that suicide rates in Britain and the US are significantly lower than in France. But then Italy has the lowest rate of all the countries on the Economist table.