About Christopher Harvie
Christopher Harvie is a historian who was professor of British and Irish studies at Tübingen University, Germany. His homepage is here. He was a member of the Scottish parliament from 2007-11. His website is here
Among Christopher Harvie's many books are Scotland: A Short History (Oxford University Press, 2002), Deep Fried Hillman Imp (Argyll, 2004); Mending Scotland (Argyll, 2005); A Floating Commonwealth: Politics, Culture, and Technology on Britain's Atlantic Coast, 1860-1930 (Oxford University Press, 2008); and Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown (Verso, 2010)
Articles by Christopher Harvie
This week's guest editors
Crisis in Ukraine
The transformational change I believe to be essential is to recognise the end of the private car. In 1903 the poet John Davidson saw the rise of individual powered transport as a break with the essentially collective - though not compulsive - spirit of the 19th century and the railway, in a remarkably perceptive poem called 'The Testament of Sir Simon Simplex concerning automobilism'. In this he set out the 'two legs good, four wheels better' philosophy which governed the twentieth century. Among its enthusiasts were of course Henry Ford and his admirer Adolf Hitler, who saw mobility per se as an absorbing alternative to thought. With one car per four people in the 1920s the USA led the way into hyperindividualised mania. Despite the fact that only 15% of world population owned 85% of the world's cars - a proportion which remained constant because of population growth - there was no increase in human knowledge or efficiency (Anthony Trollope's 'railway compartment as mobile office') given the need to power and steer the car. This lay behind the accelerating decline of the USA after the 1980s, its urban identity and the physique problems of its people. The issue was solved by the impact of Peak Oil after 2010, with a rapid rise of oil to $300 a barrel, making a 'car-friendly society' impossible and imposing a rational transport/life balance.
Or so we must hope.
I "Strings of molten cheese"
The first meeting of Scotland's council of economic advisers (CEA) convenes on 20 September 2007. Among its eleven members are a couple of Nobel prizewinners (Finn E Kydland and James A Mirrlees), and the economics journalists Frances Cairncross and John Kay; its chair is George Mathewson, until recently governor of the huge Royal Bank of Scotland. The composition of the CEA was announced by first minister Alex Salmond on 28 June, less than two months after the elections to the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh which brought his (and my) Scottish National Party to power after it won the narrowest of victories over the Labour Party.