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Vastly superior to Tom Holland—and vastly, vastly superior to the likes of Niall Ferguson—on the decline and fall of the Roman Republic: Edward J. Watts: Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny "If the early and middle centuries of Rome’s republic show how effective this system could be, the last century of the Roman Republic reveals the tremendous dangers that result when political leaders cynically misuse these consensus-building mechanisms to obstruct a republic’s functions. Like politicians in modern republics, Romans could use vetoes to block votes on laws, they could claim the presence of unfavorable religious conditions to annul votes they disliked, and they could deploy other parliamentary tools to slow down or shut down the political process if it seemed to be moving too quickly toward an outcome they disliked...

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Reading: Homer, Odysseus, Emily Wilson, David Drake: Hoisted from the Archives


Hoisted from the Archives: Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While...": Let me riff off of something that crossed my desk.... Emily Wilson's reflections on her translation of the Odyssey, and on the Odyssey itself. There is one passage that always has been, to me at least, horrifyingly freaky in a very bad way. As David Drake—one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy authors—puts it:

Odysseus caps his victory by slowly strangling–the process is described in some detail–the female servants who have been sleeping with Penelope’s suitors. This is only one example (although a pretty striking one) of normal behavior in an Iron Age culture which is unacceptable in a society that I (or anybody I want as a reader) would choose to live in... a hero with the worldview of a death camp guard...


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Blame the Economists?: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

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A short version of my review of Adam Tooze's excellent Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate: Blame the Economists?: Ever since the 2008 financial crash and subsequent Great Recession, economists have been pilloried for failing to foresee the crisis, and for not convincing policymakers of what needed to be done to address it. But the upheavals of the past decade were more a product of historical contingency than technocratic failure: BERKELEY—Now that we are witnessing what looks like the historic decline of the West, it is worth asking what role economists might have played in the disasters of the past decade. From the end of World War II until 2007, Western political leaders at least acted as if they were interested in achieving full employment, price stability, an acceptably fair distribution of income and wealth, and an open international order in which all countries would benefit from trade and finance. True, these goals were always in tension, such that we sometimes put growth incentives before income equality, and openness before the interests of specific workers or industries. Nevertheless, the general thrust of policymaking was toward all four objectives. Then came 2008, when everything changed. The goal of full employment dropped off Western leaders’ radar... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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Dan Davies on financial fraud is certainly the most entertaining book on Economics I have read this year. Highly recommend itcold Chris Dillow: Review of Dan Davies: Lying for Money: "Squalid crude affairs committed mostly by inadequates. This is a message of Dan Davies’ history of fraud, Lying For Money.... Most frauds fall into a few simple types.... Setting up a fake company... pyramid schemes... control frauds, whereby someone abuses a position of trust... plain counterfeiters. My favourite was Alves dos Reis, who persuaded the printers of legitimate Portuguese banknotes to print even more of them.... All this is done with the wit and clarity of exposition for which we have long admired Dan. His footnotes are an especial delight, reminding me of William Donaldson. Dan has also a theory of fraud. 'The optimal level of fraud is unlikely to be zero' he says. If we were to take so many precautions to stop it, we would also strangle legitimate economic activity...

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Review of "Capitalism in America: A History" by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge

Pittsburgh in 1900 Google Search

Review of Capitalism in America: A History by Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge: The world as a whole is much richer than it was three centuries ago. And the United States of America is the richest land of all. For nearly two centuries its unique dynamic of economic growth has made America, as Leon Trotsky put it after his brief residence in New York, “the furnace where the future is being forged.” Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge’s “Capitalism in America: A History” argues that it is the American love and embrace of capitalism, the resulting entrepreneurial business culture, and the creative destruction inherent in the capitalist-market system that have given America its special, unique edge in economic wealth. In America, successful entrepreneurs, innovators, organizers and promoters have become not just well-off but heroes.... While it is no surprise that Greenspan and Wooldridge have produced this book, they are, I think, broadly correct in their argument... Read MOAR at the Washington Post

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"In the Long Run We Are All Dead" in Context...

John Maynard Keynes (1923): A Tract on Monetary Reform", pp. 80-82: "[T]he [Quantity] Theory [of Money] has often been expounded on the further assumption that a mere change in the quantity of the currency cannot affect k, r, and k',—that is to say, in mathematical parlance, that n is an independent variable in relation to these quantities. It would follow from this that an arbitrary doubling of n, since this in itself is assumed not to affect k, r, and k', must have the effect of raising p to double what it would have been otherwise. The Quantity Theory is often stated in this, or a similar, form...

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But, says Mohammed bin Sultan, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times told me I had carte blanche that I was the real Arab Spring. And Jared Kushner assured me that America was eager for me to do hat was necessary. So why, suddenly, are they claiming that Khashoggi was not one of the torturable class?: Graham Greene: Our Man in Havana ".‘How are you so certain that Cifuentes is not my agent?’ ‘By the way you play checkers, Mr Wormold, and because I interrogated Cifuentes.’ ‘Did you torture him?’ Captain Segura laughed. ‘No. He doesn’t belong to the torturable class.’ ‘I didn’t know there were class-distinctions in torture.’ ‘Dear Mr Wormold, surely you realize there are people who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea. One never tortures except by a kind of mutual agreement’..."

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THE MUST-READ OF MUST-READS on the links between behavioral finance and macro: John Maynard Keynes (1936): The State of Long-Term Expectation: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: Chapter 12: "If I may be allowed to appropriate the term _speculation for the activity of forecasting the psychology of the market, and the term enterprise for the activity of forecasting the prospective yield of assets over their whole life, it is by no means always the case that speculation predominates over enterprise. As the organisation of investment markets improves, the risk of the predominance of speculation does, however, increase...

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Neal Ascherson: Anna of All The Russians by Elaine Feinstein: Weekend Reading

Neal Ascherson: Observer Review: Anna of All The Russians by Elaine Feinstein: "Our lady of sorrows: Elaine Feinstein tells how poet Anna Akhmatova, whose son was in the Gulag, spoke for millions of Russians of their hell under Stalin...

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I endorse Steve Teles here—except that I have a hard time calling any book that I learned as much as I learned from MacLean's Democracy in Chains "very poor". MacLean should engage Teles and Farrell on the merits. And she can: When Farrell and Teles rule out-of-order James Buchanan's memos on the grounds that "correspondence with... donors... is inherently problematic... as a guide to underlying intent..." they are guilty of strongly motivated reasoning. Perhaps your claims to donors that you are in the business of trying to create an ideological, extremist, and partisan movement to roll back the New Deal and destroy the "Labor Monopoly Movement" are "problematic". Perhaps your claims to liberal scholars that you are in the business of honest intellectual inquiry are "problematic". MacLean ignores the second. Teles and Farrell ignore the first. IMHO, MacLean is closer to right on this point. But MacLean's unwillingness to engage the substance here and elsewhere is, I think, characterized as simply stupid at best: Steve Teles: A Response to Nancy MacLean: "Wearing my scholar’s hat, I came to the same impression as Professors Berman, Farrell and Burns—that Prof. MacLean had written a very poor piece of scholarship...

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On My Bedside Table: A Baker's Dozen (2018-10-14)...

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