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Michael Hobbes
Michael Hobbes lives in Berlin. He blogs at

Entries by Michael Hobbes

What Would Happen if Britain Left the EU?

(1) Comments | Posted October 5, 2015 | 6:35 PM

The British government has committed to holding a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union. But leaving the EU doesn't mean what a lot of its supporters think it does.

I made a video describing the three most likely scenarios if the UK went independent, and why none...

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The Millennium Development Goals Were Bullsh*t. And That's Okay

(4) Comments | Posted September 10, 2015 | 9:44 AM

All year I've been trying to decide what I think about the Millennium Development Goals. You remember those, right? In 2000, 189 countries and 23 international organizations committed to eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality and improving global health by 2015.

As the deadline approaches, the Internet has filled up...

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So You Say You're an Ethical Shopper

(26) Comments | Posted July 23, 2015 | 8:04 PM

So on Wednesday, I wrote this article for Highline arguing that consumer movements are never going to end sweatshops. The worst conditions are in sub-contractors, small workshops and factories producing for emerging markets. We can lean on multinational corporations all we want, they don't have the information or...

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Nate Silver, Malcolm Gladwell and the Future of Journalism

(1) Comments | Posted January 8, 2014 | 5:59 PM

I didn't realize that Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise was one of the best books I read last year until about three weeks after I finished it. Why am I still thinking about this book? I would think, riding the bus, going over one of his examples in...

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University Rankings are Terrible. Now Can We Stop Doing the Same Thing With Countries?

(0) Comments | Posted September 12, 2013 | 1:24 PM

The release of the US News & World Report college rankings is as good an excuse as any to talk about the sheer ridiculousness of organizing complex institutions into rank order and pert decimal scores.

The criticisms of the index itself are nicely summarized in this...

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Why Is Processed Food So Bad for You?

(3) Comments | Posted August 13, 2013 | 6:50 PM

I make a mean marinara sauce. I sauté onions, garlic and bacon (yes, bacon) for 10 minutes until they sweeten and become crisp, then add a big glass of red wine, a can of chopped tomatoes and generous pinches of salt, basil, oregano and rosemary. Then I leave the room....

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The Fascinating Debate Over Food Banks in Britain

(31) Comments | Posted July 26, 2013 | 3:21 PM

Meet Joanna. She's a 31-year-old British single mom who earns just above the minimum wage managing a thrift store. She can't afford to buy enough food for herself and her teenage daughter, so most mornings she watches her daughter eat from the kitchen doorway, drinking a cup of tea with...

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Letting Stress Win: A Commencement Speech

(2) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 5:38 PM

The best advice and the worst advice I've ever gotten were three words long.

The best advice was 'avoid the treadmill.' It was 2003. I was coming to the end of a master's degree in a subject (political philosophy) and a city (London) I was ready to leave. I was...

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What Is an Acceptable Defense Against a Charge of Bigotry?

(8) Comments | Posted May 14, 2013 | 7:31 PM

As a gay person, it's probably illegal for me to say this this week, but poor Niall Ferguson.

A few weeks ago, in a Q-and-A after a talk at the University of California, Ferguson pivoted off John Maynard Keynes' famous line "in the long run we are all dead" to...

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Why Does Michael Pollan Think Cooking Is an Escape From Corporations?

(20) Comments | Posted May 13, 2013 | 12:41 PM

In the intro to his new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan describes cooking as an act of rebellion:

Yet even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to making a few meals...
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Leaving the Internet Will Not Make You a Better Person. Neither Will Anything Else.

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2013 | 2:59 AM

It's a been a year now since I "surfed the web" or "checked my email" or "liked" anything with a figurative rather than literal thumbs up. I've managed to stay disconnected, just like I planned. I'm internet free.

And now I'm supposed to tell you how it solved...

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Malcolm Gladwell, Proof and Soda

(2) Comments | Posted April 29, 2013 | 4:43 PM

Malcolm Gladwell argues that "what's the proof?" is often used as an excuse for those who profit from a harmful activity not to fix it. It was obvious for 50 years that breathing coal dust gave you black lung disease, but mining companies resisted change, claiming, "There's no proof!" Nowadays,...

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Is the Anthony Weiner Article in the New York Times a Feature, or an Advertisement?

(2) Comments | Posted April 23, 2013 | 3:51 PM

I find it a bit difficult to judge this Anthony Weiner story in the New York Times on its merits. It's clearly a professionally produced feature, well-written, easy to read, captivating subjects, check check check. But it's also clearly a marketing vehicle for Weiner. The story even says

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Is It Possible to Have Empathy Without Being Patronizing?

(1) Comments | Posted February 8, 2013 | 7:01 AM

The heartbreaking, inspiring, impossible story of the former world's fattest man:

He was born in Ipswich and had a childhood marked by two things, he says: the verbal and physical abuse of his father, a military policeman turned security guard; and three years of sexual abuse, starting when...
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Why Don't Newspapers Take Unsolicited Submissions Seriously?

(0) Comments | Posted February 5, 2013 | 12:46 PM

A telling paragraph in Michael Lewis's review of 'Why I Left Goldman Sachs':

The author recounts how he spent most of the six months leading up to last March working at Goldman by day while writing up his deeply felt grievances against Goldman by night. When he finished...
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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chain Restaurants

(73) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 2:22 PM

Last weekend in London I had a cute little lunch at a cute little patisserie in Soho, and was feeling all satisfied with myself until I was on the Strand later in the day and saw the same patisserie -- same food, same interior, same smell coming out the door.

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