#books Feed

Adam Smith: From Human Nature to Human Society

2.2) From Human Nature to Human Society: Hence the key importance of the human cultural invention of money in forming our large-scale human society: money means that any one of us can make a short-term one-shot exchange relationship with any other one of us, someone who we may well never see again. Money, you see, is manufactured trust, and it allows us to extend our societal division of labor to encompass, indirectly, nearly everybody else in the world.

For example, consider the 30-foot bronze statue of Athene Promakhos—Athena Fighting-in-Front—that the council and people of Athens had cast and installed on the Acropolis around -450. The Greek geographer Pausanias wrote that anyone approaching Athens by sea by day could see her gleaming helmet and the tip of her spear as soon as they had rounded Sounion Head at the southern tip of Attika. 70 tons of bronze supposedly went into the statue, which survived until 1204—63 tons of copper, 7 tons of tin. Copper was abundant. But where in the -5th century were the artisans of Athens to find 7 tons of tin? The historian Herodotos states that he could find nobody in Athens who knew where the tin was coming from: all anyone could say was that the ships had picked up the tin, already mined, in Sicily, and that they thought it came from “tin islands” in the ocean on the other side of Europe. But he could find nobody who would claim to have actually seen these tin islands, or this ocean on the other side of Europe. So he doubted the stories.

The answer, of course, was that the tin was in Cornwall, at the southwestern tip of the island of Britain. The societal division of labor, as governed by the market, was a mechanism that “knew” that 7 tons of tin needed to be mined in Cornwall and then shipped, probably via the English Channel-Seine-portage-Rhone-Mediterranean route, to Athens via Sicily. And so it happened. But, apparently, nobody anywhere in the value chain knew its entire extent. The market knew things that no human individual knew. And this was almost 2.5 millennia ago: the market knows much, much, much more now.

Language, weak dominance, gift exchange, and money have enabled us to progress from perhaps 10,000 of us 70,000 years ago living at a global average living standard of perhaps three 3.5 dollars a day to today’s world-girdling societal division of labor now 7.5 billion strong, with a global average standard of living no about $35 a day. We are now, collectively, on average, at least 10 times as well-off and 750,000 times as numerous as we were 70,000 years ago back in the environment of evolutionary adaptation when we last passed through a Darwinian bottleneck.

Continue reading "Adam Smith: From Human Nature to Human Society" »


Adam Smith's View of Human Nature

2) Economic Sides of Adam Smith’s Philosophy: 2.1. Starting Points in Human Nature: Adam Smith starts with the observation that humans are largely but not exclusively self-interested creatures: we are, largely but not exclusively greedy. Yet we have a complex and sophisticated societal division of labor. And that division of labor is essential to our prosperity. Indeed, it is essential to our survival: drop one or two of us into the Sierra Nevada, even in summer, and we will quite likely die. Drop 100 of us, and we will quite likely survive, and even flourish.

How can animals that are by nature greedy nevertheless cooperate on a large scale? That is the deep moral-philosophical question that we can see both of Smith’s big books—his The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations—as aimed at. As Robert Heilbroner puts it in his The Worldly Philosophers, Smith:

is interested in laying bare the mechanism by which society hangs together. How is it possible for a community in which everyone is busily following his self-interest not to fly apart from sheer centrifugal force? What is it which guides each individual’s private business so that it conforms to the needs of the group? With no central planning authority and no steadying influence of age old tradition, how does society manage to get those tasks done which are necessary for survival?...

Adam Smith says that our ability to create and maintain a complicated societal division of labor that is so productive rests on three facets of human nature:

  1. language, that makes us an anthology intelligence—what one of us knows or learns, pretty quickly all of us within and many of us without earshot will quickly learn;

  2. hierarchy, in that we tend to form and respect weak dominance hierarchies in which we can command and obey;

  3. gift exchange: we bind ourselves by forming gift-exchange relationships, what Adam Smith called our “natural propensity to truck and barter“. We firmly expect to be and are very happy when I we trade favors with each other, and we are uneasy when we feel as though we are always giving or always receiving, for we want the exchange of gifts and favors to be reciprocal, and roughly balanced.

Back in our environment of evolutionary adaptation, we could form gift-exchange relationships only with a few: our close neighbors, our good friends, and our near kin. Trust, you see, is necessary for a long-term gift-exchange relationship, and short-term such relationships are rare because each has to have and be willing to give up something the other wants or needs right now. And since we are largely self interested, trust is hard to generate and maintain without other binding social ties.

Continue reading "Adam Smith's View of Human Nature" »


Three Great Books to Have Read—But Not Nefessarily to Read

I have been remiss in posting here because I have had the unexpected load of getting together lectures for the last 40% of: Economics 105: The History of Economic Thought: Smith, Marx, Keynes.

So let me apologize for the dearth of material by stepping through my lecture notes:

1) Smith, Marx, Keynes: The aim of this course it to examine the history of economic thought through the lens of three major economic thinkers: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, each of whom wrote one long, difficult, but undeniably great book. Adam Smith in 1776 published his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Karl Marx in 1867 published his Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (volume 1). John Maynard Keynes in 1936 published his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (note the absence of the Oxford comma from Keynes’s title: Keynes was a British academic but not one from Oxford but rather from the University of Cambridge). In addition, read Robert Heilbroner’s excellent (if old) The Worldly Philosophers, a short survey of the history of economic thought, for context and background.

Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, and Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money are great books to have read, if not easy books to read. They are, in fact, downright painful. (Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers is, by contrast, painless, easy, and still great.) Learning how to read great but difficult books and make sense of them on your own is a very valuable skill to learn, but a difficult one to teach in any way but by doing it. Moreover, a great book is a great book only if the reader is ready and prepared to read it—and so learning to figure out how to become the kind of reader to appreciate a particular great book is another important skill to learn as well.

Continue reading "Three Great Books to Have Read—But Not Nefessarily to Read" »


Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: A View of the History of Economic Thought (UNFINISHED)

Well, I have wound up, by surprise, giving the last third of the lectures in Economics 105: The History of Economic Thought: Smith, Marx, Keynes. I admit I was not as averse to being imposed on by the Department as I might have been because I thought it might push me to get my head and my thoughts together.

Here they are—unfinished. But I should give the students an opportunity to see how I think about these thinkers and their works: https://www.icloud.com/pages/0howtV7CndvjkSCCLmtjmq_SA

Continue reading "Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: A View of the History of Economic Thought (UNFINISHED)" »


Looking forward to this. Still, Heather, $26.55 for an ebook?: Hooks Book Events: "Please join us Oct. 30th, for Programs w/ a Purpose with @HBoushey, Pres./CEO of @equitablegrowth. She will discuss her book, Unbound: Heather Boushey Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do about It: 'Many fear that efforts to address inequality will undermine the economy as a whole. But the opposite is true: rising inequality has become a drag on growth and an impediment to market competition. Heather Boushey breaks down the problem and argues that we can preserve our nation’s economic traditions while promoting shared economic growth...

Continue reading "" »


Note to Self: Industrial Policy in Korea: Readings:

Alice Amsden (1989): Asia's Next Giant https://www.google.com/books/edition/Asia_s_Next_Giant/j0E9qKIqD-cC chs. 1-6...

Nathan Lane (2019): Manufacturing Revolutions: Industrial Policy and Networks in South Korea https://delong.typepad.com/lane-korea.pdf...

L.E. Westphal: (1990): Industrial Policy in an Export Propelled Economy: Lessons from South Korea’s Experience https://delong.typepad.com/files/westphal.pdf

Ha-Joon Chang (1993): The political economy of industrial policy in Korea." Cambridge Journal of Economics 17.2 (1993): 131-157 https://delong.typepad.com/files/chang.pdf

Rodrik, Dani. "Getting interventions right: how South Korea and Taiwan grew rich." Economic Policy 10.20 (1995): 53-107 https://delong.typepad.com/files/rodrik-korea-taiwan.pdf

Continue reading "" »


Unstructured Procrastination: Hoisted from the Archives

stacks and stacks of books

Hoisted from the Archives (2005): Unstructured Procrastination https://www.bradford-delong.com/2005/08/unstructured_pr.html: I usually am quite good at structured procrastination—working not on the thing that is most immediate and imminent on my calendar, but on the priority #3 or #4 that is actually more important in the long run and that excites me at the moment. But today this system has broken down. I have done something nobody should ever do: I have spent an hour thinking about Louis Althusser.

It's all Michael Berube's fault, but its worth it, for (highlighted below) he has the best paragraph on Louis Althusser ever written. The rest is (or ought to be) silence:

Michael Berube: "The otherwise incomprehensible question of why anyone would think it necessary to devise a 'structuralist Marxism'. Structuralism is so antipathetic to all questions of hermeneutics and historicity that one might imagine the desire for a structuralist Marxism to be something like a hankering for really spicy ice cream. And yet, in the work of Louis Althusser, spicy ice cream is exactly what we have. I don’t like it myself. But because it’s an important byway in the history of ice cream...

Continue reading "Unstructured Procrastination: Hoisted from the Archives" »


Mary Robinette Kowal (2014): Me, as a Useful Representative Example: "Some people said some not nice things about me in a public space, and the story has been picked up as an example of sexism in part because one of the people saying those things works for my publisher. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has done a good analysis of the sexism in what’s going on, so I’m not going to rehash that. Instead I’m going to talk about how this affects me.... My impulse is to tell you all that I’m fine and that this has no material affect on my life. And that is true. But I also know that I am a useful representative sample of the abuse that happens to other women. I know that there are a ton of women who have received similar messages.... Sexism happens all the time. It’s visible in SFWA because people are actively fighting against it. Too many places, too many women, get this sort of unwelcome attention and commentary about what they were wearing but no one does anything. It’s always, 'Laugh about it' or 'Just shrug it off', or 'Ignore it and he’ll go away'. You see how well that last is working? So, I really, truly am fine. But watch what happens to me now that I’m posting. Read the comments when they happen. Note the people who say that because I’m talking about the abuse, I must be begging for attention. Take me as a useful representative example. And know that I am not an isolated case...

Continue reading "" »


Alexis Lothian: Alice Sheldon and the Name of the Tiptree Award: "In recent days, we’ve seen questions raised on social media about whether the name of the Tiptree Award should be reconsidered.... The questions relate to Alice Sheldon’s actions at the end of her life. On May 19, 1987, she shot first her husband, Huntington Sheldon, and then herself.... The Motherboard does not believe that a change to the name of the Tiptree Award is warranted now. But we believe that this is a very important discussion, and we do not think it is over. The community that has grown up around this award since its founding in 1991 deserves to have its voice heard in any conversation as significant as renaming.... Alice Sheldon... the story of how she and her husband, Huntington Sheldon (known as Ting), died. Friends and family—and the science fiction community at the time—viewed this tragedy as resulting from a suicide pact: the desperate and tragic result of a combination of physical and mental illness and the Sheldons’ desire to die on their own terms. He was 84 years old; she was 71. However... the story can also be seen as an act of caregiver murder.... Ting’s friends and family understood his death and Alice’s as the fulfilment of an agreement between the two of them.... Phillips writes: 'Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing'...

Continue reading "" »


Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

I. Grand Narrative

J. Bradford DeLong :: U.C. Berkeley, NBER, WCEG https://www.icloud.com/pages/0TzensY9YyNvqcY8elYagLUnQ https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_nA1dc3XLgFa_2rEVsk3nuWQ

1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History

The Long 20th Century began around 1870 and ended in 2016.

Before 1870 humanity was poor, and life was typically nasty, brutish, and short. Before 1870, over and over again, technology lost its race with human fecundity, and greater numbers coupled with resource scarcity to produce a humanity where most people most of the time could not be confident that they and their families would have their 2000 calories, plus essential nutrients, plus a roof over their head in a year. Before 1870 those on the make overwhelmingly focused on how to take from others or keep what they had while maintaining order, rather on how to make more for everyone. It is true that between 1800 and 1870 technology and organization gained a step or two in their race with fecundity. But only a step. Any post-1870 slackening of the pace of technological or organizational progress, or any major redivision of society’s dividends devoting less to the sinews or peace and more to the sinews of war, and “nasty, brutish, and short” would reassert itself.

But starting in 1870 all that changed. Science reached critical mass and gave birth to engineering. A liberal political order gave birth to a market economy. Engineering and the market produced an explosion of economic growth: these days one single year sees as much proportional technological and organizational advance and change in the human economy as a typical fifty years did back before 1800.

Continue reading "Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016" »


Important to today, I think, is that the aliens in Ossian's Ride are refugees: Henry Farrell: Ossian’s Ride: "In 1959 the famous British astronomer Fred Hoyle published his novel, Ossian’s Ride... a future Ireland miraculously transformed into a technological superpower.... Hoyle wasn’t really interested in talking about Ireland.... Instead, he wanted to score points in an internal fight over British identity... responding to the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, who regularly denounced Hoyle as a secular atheist on radio and had written his own science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, a decade before. The villain of Lewis’s book was a sinister institute called NICE, which Satanic aliens wanted to impose contraception, lesbianism, secularism and surrealist art on an unsuspecting Britain.... Hoyle riposted with a novel where rational and benevolently ruthless aliens used an organization called ICE to pull the priest-ridden republic next door into the technological age. His satirical portrait of Ireland told British readers that the world was being transformed around them, and that even their most backwards seeming neighbor would outstrip them if they didn’t embrace modernity. The irony of history is that Hoyle’s parody is now the truth...

Continue reading "" »


J.R.R. Tolkien (1925): Light as Leaf on Linden Tree: For the Weekend

J.R.R. Tolkien: Light as Leaf on Linden Tree:

The grass was very long and thin,
The leaves of many years lay thick,
The old tree-roots wound out and in,
And the early moon was glimmering.
There went her white feet lilting quick,
And Dairon’s flute did bubble thin,
As neath the hemlock umbels thick
Tinûviel danced a-shimmering.

Continue reading "J.R.R. Tolkien (1925): Light as Leaf on Linden Tree: For the Weekend" »


Weekend Reading: Neofascism as a Publishing Niche

Weekend Reading: Science-fiction publisher Been Books goes all-in with the neofascism: Vladimir Bukovsky https://www.vladimirbukovsky.com/judgment-epilogue: Practically every country of the industrialized world has either bankrupted itself... or will be bankrupt.... And yet, poverty, crime, illiteracy, lack of medical care have not diminished; in some countries they have actually grew in a direct proportion to the growth of welfare. Worse still, there is a welfare-dependent underclass growing almost in every large city, with many families drawing some kind of state benefits for three generations.... This dangerous development is deliberately encouraged by those who need such a constituency in order to stay in power...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Neofascism as a Publishing Niche" »


I want more about this. I want to know what I should read in order to understand what cognitive narratologists think. Clearly, Comeuppancer, but what else? Arkady Martine: The Mysterious Discipline of Narratologists: Why We Need Stories to Make Sense: "That is the power of the mysterious discipline of narratologists: it tells us why stories make sense, and why we want them to so very desperately...

Continue reading "" »


Note to Self: Is there somebody I should read who has thought deeply and powerfully about these issues?: Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While...": I love [David] Drake. I love the Odyssey. But I am distressed to find myself somewhat more sympathetic than I want to be with Plato's recommendation that only "hymns to the gods and praise of famous men" be allowed in the Just City because allowing more would lead to sensation and melodrama and would excite the baser instincts of men. And I have now opened up the following can of worms: How do we educate people to read—listen—watch—properly, so that they become their better rather than their worse selves? Mind you, I do not wish that the Odyssey were otherwise (or that David Drake wrote otherwise). But I do wish we teachers taught better how to read—and listen—and watch...

Continue reading "" »


Roger Zelazny: For a Breath I Tarry...: Weekend Reading

Cover jpg 807×1 210 pixels

They called him Frost. Of all things created of Solcom, Frost was the finest, the mightiest, the most difficult to understand.

This is why he bore a name, and why he was given dominion over half the Earth.

On the day of Frost's creation, Solcom had suffered a discontinuity of complementary functions, best described as madness. This was brought on by an unprecedented solar flareup which lasted for a little over thirty-six hours. It occurred during a vital phase of circuit-structuring, and when it was finished so was Frost.

Solcom was then in the unique position of having created a unique being during a period of temporary amnesia.

Continue reading "Roger Zelazny: For a Breath I Tarry...: Weekend Reading" »


Jo Walton: The Spearpoint Theory: The Dyer of Lorbanery: Weekend Reading

JoBannerNarrower 1

Jo Walton: The Dyer of Lorbanery (Spearpoint Theory): "There comes a point in writing, and it’s a spear-point, it’s very small and sharp but because it’s backed by the length and weight of a whole spear and a whole strong person pushing it, it’s a point that goes in a long way. Spearpoints need all that behind them, or they don’t pack their punch in the same way. Examples are difficult to give because spear-points by their nature require their context, and spoilers. They tend to be moments of poignancy and realization. When Duncan picks the branches when passing through trees, he’s just getting a disguise, but we the audience suddenly understand how Birnam Wood shall come to Dunsinane...

Continue reading "Jo Walton: The Spearpoint Theory: The Dyer of Lorbanery: Weekend Reading" »


Patricia Crone Meccan Trade: "The conventional account of Meccan trade begs one simple question: what commodity or commodities enabled the inhabitants of so unpromising a site to engage in commerce on so large a scale? That the trading empire grew up in an unexpected place is clear, if not always clearly brought out. There have, of course, been commercial centres in Arabia that developed in areas of comparable barrenness, notably Aden. But Aden and other coastal cities of south Arabia all owed their existence to the sea, as Muqaddasi noted, whereas Mecca was an inland town...

Screenshot 6 20 19 5 16 PM

Continue reading "" »


Weekend Reading: History and Myth

In the minds of the monks who wrote the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the baptism of Ethelbert King is a historical event on a par with Cynric King having Woden, father-god of the Aesir and high drighten of Valhalla, as his great8-grandfather: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A: 552: "This year Cynric fought against the Britons at the place which is called Searo-byrig [Old Sarum], and he put the Britons to flight. Cerdic was Cynric's father, Cerdic was the son of Elesa, Elesa of Esla, Esla of Gewis, Gewis of Wig, Wig of Freawin, Freawin of Frithogar, Frithogar of Brond, Brond of Beldeg, Beldeg of Woden. And Ethelbert, the son of Ermenric was born; and in the thirtieth year of his reign he received baptism, the first of the kings in Britain...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: History and Myth" »


Modern Assembly Line

Note to Self: Comment on Richard Baldwin: The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work: Start from the observation the the human brain is a massively-parallel supercomputer that fits inside a breadbox and draws 50 watts of power.

For 6,000 years, since the domestication of the horse, human backs, human thighs, and human fingers have becoming less powerful as sources of economic value, as animals and machines have increasingly competed with and substituted for them. Up until recently, however, every domesticated animal every machine had required a microprocessor. And the highly-productive decentralized societal division of labor of enormous extent created huge and increasing amounts of need for white-collar information processing: the accounting, control, transmission of information, and purveyance of misinformation jobs that are most of what people like us here do. Thus while human backs and thighs and fingers became less powerful as sources of economic value as time passed, human brains become more valuable. But now we have robots which contain their own microprocessors, and software 'bots that handle huge amounts of the white-collar information processing. So the job-creating aspects of technological creative destruction are now open to question

From this standpoint, we can worry along either of two dimensions:

Continue reading "" »


Half of the opening paragraphs of War and Peace are in French: Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace: "Еh bien, mon prince. Genes et Lucques ne sont plus que des apanages, des поместья, de la famille Buonaparte. Non, je vous previens, que si vous ne me dites pas, que nous avons la guerre, si vous vous permettez encore de pallier toutes les infamies, toutes les atrocites de cet Antichrist (ma parole, j'y crois)—je ne vous connais plus, vous n'etes plus mon ami, vous n'etes plus мой верный раб, comme vous dites. Ну, здравствуйте, здравствуйте. Je vois que je vous fais peur, садитесь и рассказывайте...

Continue reading "" »


Greenspan and Wooldridge Argue the American Love and Embrace of Capitalism Is the Key...

Il Quarto Stato

The world as a whole is much richer than it was three centuries ago. Back then, at the end of the long era since the invention of agriculture, the typical human lived on two dollars a day, had a life expectancy at birth of 25, and was protein deprived in utero. Mothers worldwide no longer run a one-in-six chance of dying in childbed. Literacy in no longer a rare accomplishment. Less than one in six humans worldwide live like all of our pre-industrial ancestors—and even those less-than-one-in-six likely have some access to the village smartphone.

Continue reading "Greenspan and Wooldridge Argue the American Love and Embrace of Capitalism Is the Key..." »


Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake

Hammers slammers Google Search

David Drake, a good chunk of whose work is best classified as horror and is really about his experiences as an interrogator in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Blackhorse", when it went through the Cambodian market town of Snuol:

I [now] had much more vivid horrors than Lovecraft's nameless ickinesses to write about.... I wrote about troopers doing their jobs the best they could with tanks that broke down, guns that jammed—and no clue about the Big Picture.... I kept the tone unemotional: I didn't tell the reader that something was horrible, because nobody told me.... Those stories... were different. They didn't fit either of the available molds: "Soldiers are spotless heroes," or... "Soldiers are evil monsters"... [...] The... stories were written with a flat affect, describing cruelty and horror with the detachment of a soldier who's shut down his emotional responses completely in a war zone... as soldiers always do, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to survive. Showing soldiers behaving and thinking as they really do in war was... extremely disquieting to the civilians who were editing magazines...

Continue reading "Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake" »


Hoisted from the Archives: Why We Have Good Reason to Hate Chickenhawks

I need an adult How are you supposed to even play Muscovy in ironman eu4

Hard Power, Soft Power, Muscovy, Strategy, and My Once-Again Failure to Understand Where Niall Ferguson Is Coming From: Live from Le Pain Quotidien: In which I once again fail to understand where Niall Ferguson is coming from:

Niall Ferguson: The ‘Divergent’ World of 2015: "Hard power is resilient...

Continue reading "Hoisted from the Archives: Why We Have Good Reason to Hate Chickenhawks" »


A Baker's Dozen of Books Worth Reading... (2019-03-21)

The Vela

  1. The Vela https://www.serialbox.com/serials/the-vela
  2. Barbara Chase-Ribaud: Sally Hemings; A Novel https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1569766797
  3. Annette Gordon-Reed: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0813933560
  4. Kevin O'Rourke: A Short History of Brexit https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0241398339
  5. E.M. Halliday: Understanding Thomas Jefferson https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0060957611
  6. Guy Gavriel Kay: A Song for Arbonne https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1101667435
  7. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1557094934
  8. Keri Leigh Merritt: Masterless Men https://books.google.com/books?isbn=110718424X
  9. Gareth Dale: Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0231541481
  10. Philip Auerswald: The Code Economy: A Forty-thousand-year History https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0190226765
  11. John Judis: The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization https://books.google.com/books?isbn=099974540
  12. Richard Baldwin: The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0190901772
  13. Patricia Crone: Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1780748043

Continue reading "A Baker's Dozen of Books Worth Reading... (2019-03-21)" »


Mark Koyama: A Nationalism Untethered to History: "The novelty of The Virtue of Nationalism is twofold. First, Hazony’s positive vision of a national state is based on the biblical account for the early Israelite kingdom.... Second... the nationalism Hazony defends is essentially an ethnic nationalism.... In the current political environment, these views should not be ignored.... A frank conversation about national loyalty, and especially the history of the nation state and its role in the advances of the modern world, are needed now more than ever. Unfortunately, The Virtue of Nationalism has very little to offer to such a conversation...

Continue reading " " »


Jack Mclaughlin (1988): Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1429936797: "The young tutor Philip Fithian reported that during a holiday dinner, the dining room at Nomini Hall 'looked luminous and splendid; four very large candles burning on the table where we supp’d, three others in different parts of the room'. A total of seven candles could not have produced a great amount of light by our standards, but eighteenth-century eyes existed in quite another world of nighttime illumination. A single candle was enough to read by, and four candles could be 'luminous and splendid'...

Continue reading " " »


The Kentucky Strain of American Nationalism: From J. William Ward: "Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age"

Cursor and battle of new orleans Google Search

J. William Ward (1962): Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age 0195006992 http://amzn.to/2jAbLvi: "IN the spring of 1822, Noah M. Ludlow, prominent in the beginnings of the theater in the western United States...

...was in New Orleans. One day early in May he received, as was the custom in the early theater, a ‘benefit’ night. Remembering the occasion some years later, Ludlow could not recollect what pieces had been acted on that evening but he did recall doing something that was as a rule ‘entirely out of [his] line of business.’ As an added attraction he had sung a song he thought might please the people. The song was ‘The Hunters of Kentucky.’

Continue reading "The Kentucky Strain of American Nationalism: From J. William Ward: "Andrew Jackson: Symbol for an Age"" »


Weekend Reading: Why Is William L. Shirer's (1960) "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" Still the Best Book to Read About Nazi Germany?

Nuremberg rally Google Search

Why is this still the best book to read about Nazi Germany?: William L. Shirer (1960): The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0671728687: "A few moments later they witnessed the miracle. The man with the Charlie Chaplin mustache, who had been a down-and-out tramp in Vienna in his youth, an unknown soldier of World War I, a derelict in Munich in the first grim postwar days, the somewhat comical leader of the Beer Hall Putsch, this spellbinder who was not even German but Austrian, and who was only forty-three years old, had just been administered the oath as Chancellor of the German Reich...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Why Is William L. Shirer's (1960) "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" Still the Best Book to Read About Nazi Germany?" »


Note to Self: Monday, February 11, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM (PST). IRLE. 2521 Channing Way. Berkeley, CA 94720: Kim Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0674919335: "With the winds of trade war blowing as they have not done in decades and Left and Right flirting with protectionism, Kimberly Clausing shows how a free, open economy is still the best way to advance the interests of working Americans. She offers strategies to train workers, improve tax policy, and establish a partnership between labor and business...

Continue reading "" »


Note to Self: The Two Best Books I Read in 2018:

John Carreyrou: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1524731668: John Carreyou broke the Theranos fraud story and here tells it magnificently. It is a grift of others—and a self-grift by the Theranos principals—of almost unbelievable magnitude. The only way to understand the investors and principals is, in the words of one Silicon Valley observer: “they had seen too many of their once-peers and now-superiors get rich by doing stupid things that they thought being stupid was a viable business model”...

Adam Tooze: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0525558802: The field of the finance and economics of the past decade’s disasters has been well plowed by authors Like Barry Eichengreen, Martin Wolf, and Gary Gorton. The brilliant Adam Tooze, however, is the first I am aware of to successfully and magisterially broaden the scope, and do a satisfactory job on the political economy and the politics as well...

Continue reading " " »


Note to Self: Books for Econ 210a: Introduction to Economic History (Spring 2019)

Continue reading "" »


Diane Coyle: The Long Arc of UK Productivity: "Nick Crafts has a compact book... about the trajectory of the British economy... Forging Aahead, Falling Behind and Fighting Back.... Nick’s somewhat idiosyncratic–but highly plausible–view that the seeds of the country’s post-world war 2 relative decline were sown in the institutions that enabled it to perform so well during the 19th century...

Continue reading "" »


Cosma Shalizi (2009): Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour and Richard Scheines, Causation, Prediction and Search: "Re-read as part of preparing for my lecture on casual discovery. I spent much of the winter of 2000 working my way through the first edition, and wound up completely imprinted on its way of thinking about what causal relationships are, how we should reason about them, and how we can find them from empirical evidence... http://www.stat.cmu.edu/~cshalizi/350/lectures/31/lecture-31.pdf...

.... On causation and prediction it now has an equal in Pearl's book (and I admit the latter looks prettier), but on search, that is, on discovering causal structure, there is still no rival. Their key observation is that even though correlation does not imply causation, correlations must have causal explanations. (This idea goes back to Herbert Simon, and Hans Reichenbach [see above] at least.)

So patterns of correlations, among more than just two variables, constrain what causal structures are possible. Sometimes they constrain the causal structure uniquely, in other cases it's only partially identified by the dependencies. And of course there is always the possibility of making a mistake with limited data. But none of this is any different for causal discovery than it is for any other form of statistical inference. The great contribution of this book is showing that causal discovery can be just another learning problem. They have transformed metaphysical misery into ordinary statistical unhappiness...


#shouldread

Larry Summers: The Five Best Books on Globalization: "The Economic Consequences of the Peace https://books.google.com/books?id=AX1EAAAAIAAJ, by John Maynard Keynes; Manias, Panics, and Crashes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0230365353, by Charles Kindleberger; Globalization and Its Discontents https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0393071073, by Joseph E Stiglitz; Why Globalization Works https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0300102526, by Martin Wolf; and _The Great Convergence https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0674972686, by Richard Baldwin...

Continue reading "" »


If those of us on the left and center are ever going to restart a technocratic debate with those on the right, it will be because thinking on the right becomes dominated by people link Brink Lindsey and his posse, rather then the current crew who are haplessly triangulating between their funders and their political masters: Brink Lindsey: [Welcome to capturedeconomy.com(https://capturedeconomy.com/welcome-to-capturedeconomy-com/): "WA new website dedicated to the problems of 'regulatory capture' and 'rent-seeking'—economist-speak for the pursuit of profits through politics...

Continue reading "" »


Weekend Reading: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving

Highly Recommended: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving: "Too much mathematical rigor teaches rigor mortis:the fear of making an unjustified leap even when it lands on a correct result...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Sanjoy Mahajan: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Problem Solving" »


Note to Self: "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Historical Patriarchy...

Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi's Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:

Tang Poems English Translation

The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all cross the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children...

This struck me as having obvious bearing on my ["Historical Patriarchy"][] lecture...

Continue reading "Note to Self: "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Historical Patriarchy..." »


Bai Juyi: Song Of Unending Sorrow: For the Weekend

Bai Juyi: Song Of Unending Sorrow: "China's Emperor, craving beauty that might shake an empire,...

...Was on the throne for many years, searching, never finding,
Till a little child of the Yang clan, hardly even grown,
Bred in an inner chamber, with no one knowing her,
But with graces granted by heaven and not to be concealed,
At last one day was chosen for the imperial household.
If she but turned her head and smiled, there were cast a hundred spells,
And the powder and paint of the Six Palaces faded into nothing.

Continue reading "Bai Juyi: Song Of Unending Sorrow: For the Weekend" »


As we try to figure out how to create a functional rather than a dysfunctional Habermasian public sphere to support at least semi-sane policies, I find it useful to look back at how previous functional and dysfunctional public spheres emerged and maintained themselves. The general view—which may be false—is that the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment did pretty well. And it had one of its wellsprings in the development of new genres, all of which she argues were in some way created as echoes and transformations of the personal letter. Well worth reading: Rachael Scarborough King: Writing to the World: Letters and the Origins of Modern Print Genres: "Rachael Scarborough King examines the shift from manuscript to print media culture in the long eighteenth century...

Continue reading "" »