We apologize for the delay in today’s newsletter.
Good morning, Quartz readers!
Imagine a world leader in disarray. Caught off-guard by the demands of governing, making up policy on the fly, trying to contain disputes within the governing party, and facing an onslaught of outside criticism.
It sounds like US president Donald Trump, but it’s just as true of the English-speaking administration across the Atlantic. The British prime minister, Theresa May, campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU. Now she’s in charge of taking it out, while strenuously insisting that a “global Britain” is better off severed from its largest trading partner.
Just beginning Brexit has wreaked havoc. May has shuttled back and forth through courts and parliament to try to wrest control of the Brexit process and subsequent negotiations. She’s been forced to share some power with MPs but won’t stand for party dissent; last week she fired Michael Heseltine, a government adviser and former deputy prime minister, for rebelling.
Meanwhile there’s trouble in the regions. May has just denied Scotland a second independence referendum. How she’ll convince the Scots that splitting from their largest trading partner (England) is a disastrous mistake while cheering the benefits of the UK splitting from the EU is unclear.
Then there is the matter of governing everything else about the UK. Last week’s budget contained just one notable item, a tax increase on the self-employed. That seemed like a smart effort to prepare the UK for the future. But resistance within May’s Conservative party killed the plan within a week. “A screeching, embarrassing U-turn,” as one politician called it.
All of these fumblings would be of parochial interest were Brexit not such an era-defining challenge. The UK needs skill and steel to succeed. Don’t be fooled by their Oxford educations and posh accents—Britain’s leaders are flailing just as alarmingly as their US counterparts.—Eshe Nelson
SPONSOR CONTENT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN
Multinational corporations are investing in the world’s third largest economy. With a lower corporate tax rate and revamped visa requirements, Japan is increasingly a destination for those with a growth mindset looking to tap into global business opportunities.
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Indians are no longer obsessed with big fat weddings. Only about a quarter of Indian women, and even fewer Indian men, want to spend big bucks on a grand, expensive wedding. And as women get older, they become increasingly frugal. Devjyot Ghoshal charts the way that men and women of different ages feel about their D-day, and their honeymoons.
Steve Bannon the filmmaker. His movies say a lot about what’s on his mind, and how he plans to use the power of the US presidency. In a video looking at extracts of three of the films, Adam Freelander looks past the familiar conservative themes—such as the evils of big government—and finds that what emerges is a unique vision of America’s future.
Park Geun-hye’s legacy is a more authoritarian state. Under Park Korea’s democracy has grown weaker, political rights have deteriorated, freedom of expression has taken a hit, and police powers have expanded. Isabella Steger examines the impact of Park’s presidency and what it means for Korea’s future.
Brexit has reawakened Britain’s dormant imperialism. To understand the rhetoric of British exceptionalism that has surfaced in the past year, Henry Wismayer looks to “the emotional residue of lost empire and the peculiarly English neurosis about national pride.” With uncertainty about Britain’s economic future, the jingoism that once fed Britain’s colonial assertiveness has become “a mad refuge from Brexit’s cold truths.”
The simple design solutions that can make bathrooms better.As transgender people in America grapple with “bathroom bill” debates, Lisa Selin Davis explores the easy ways to make restrooms more functional for people of all genders. One way to create a practical, trans-friendly restroom, for instance, is to divide each stall into a separate gender-neutral chamber.
A fan of our Daily Brief? Then try out our weekly lifestyle newsletter, Quartzy. Jenni Avins brings a fresh, heartfelt, and intelligent voice to lifestyle coverage, and sorts through all of the cultural noise and filler each week to deliver you a five-minute insider’s guide.
FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
On the place of gambling in capitalism. Insurance is a form of gambling—a bet on the probability of an outcome. Yet while the former is vital to the world economy, the latter is often frowned on and sometimes banned. John Kay in Prospect explains this paradox with a history of both gambling and insurance, culminating in the financial crash of 2008—a point when bankers forgot, or ignored, the basic distinction between the two.
Why facts have no traction. The tobacco industry pioneered the systematic sowing of doubt in the face of overwhelming evidence that tobacco was deadly. Contemporary politicians have adopted its methods to terrifying effect. “Undercover Economist” Tim Harford offers a brilliantly—and depressingly—clear summary of the research into why simple truth isn’t enough to sway minds, but ends with a grain of hope.
“It will be all about her, and it will really be about us.” Sam Knight in the Guardian offers a walkthrough of “London Bridge,” the secretive and painstakingly elaborate plans for the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s an engrossing read that follows the physical journey the Queen’s body will travel with the psychological trip that the whole of Britain will endure, as the last living link with its imperial past is laid to rest.
Foucault’s urgent teachings on modern power. In the 20th century, Michel Foucault described to the world the subtle machinations of modern power: in the form of surveillance, “disciplinary power”, and bio-politics. Yet his lessons are more relevant than ever in our age of artificial intelligence, globe-spanning social networks, and algorithmic assessments, argues Colin Koopman for Aeon.
The man who made Trump president? Two weeks ago we featured the Guardian’s profile of Robert Mercer, the reclusive Long Island hedge fund manager and pioneer of algorithmic trading. Jane Mayer’s profile in the New Yorker is a more in-depth a look at one of the pivotal people of the Trump era, who funneled millions towards anti-Hillary Clinton publications and bankrolled Breitbart and Stephen Bannon personally.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, royal funeral plans, and bathroom designs to email@example.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android.