#books Feed

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'...

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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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...

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

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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.

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

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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...

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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

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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...

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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:

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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...

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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.

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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...

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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...

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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

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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...

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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'...

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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.’

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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...

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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...

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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...

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

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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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.

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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...

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In Which I Admit That I Fell Down on the Job with Respect to Dietz Vollrath's Book Proposal...

School of Athens

@dietzvollrath Dietz Vollrath https://twitter.com/DietzVollrath/status/1030098253050781696: "Just signed a contract for a book on the growth slowdown called "Optimal Stagnation", out in 2019. Feelin' good about that. And therefore ending my social media 'diet'..."

My Review of Dietz Vollrath's Proposal Yes, Professor Vollrath’s work is original. Yes, his scholarship is sound. His overall argument is, however, I think, substantially if not largely wrong: There is insufficient good reason to believe that the last decade’s slowdown in productivity growth, as reported by standard measures, is a reflection of our success in managing the process of economic growth.

I think the slowdown is more likely better judged as a failure. However, where and why we have failed to manage economic growth is a damn doubly difficult question. Professor Vollrath’s interpretation is a very intelligent and relatively plausible one. The growth economics community and literature would strongly benefit from its publication. Yes, this is an important work.

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Question for the Universe: I dimly remember some time ago thinking that Peter F. Drucker sought the reconciliation between the advantages of capitalism—bold entrepreneurship and growth—and socialism—redistribution, common concern, and all pulling in the same direction—in the figure of the manager, whose social role was precisely to arrange things so that society could be an "association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". But now I cannot find it. Did I just dream that I had written this down someplace?


Weekend Reading: Stephen Fritz on Robert Citino's "Death Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942"

stacks and stacks of books

Stephen Fritz (2008): On Citino, 'Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942': "Continuing his examination of the German way of war, Robert Citino has produced a cogently argued, clearly written book in which he asserts that the German defeat in World War II was as much conceptual as it was material...

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Weekend Reading: Geopolitics, World Trade and Globalization: Learning from the Wise Kevin O'Rourke and Ron Findlay

Hoisted from the Archives: Ron Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium (Princeton: Princeton University Press): "A feature of the book that may strike some economists as odd or surprising, but will seem entirely commonplace to historians, is its sustained emphasis on conflict, violence, and geopolitics...

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Jane Austen and Walter Scott: Not Quite Love and Friendship: Weekend Reading

Catherine Hokin: The History Girls: Jane Austen and Walter Scott: Not Quite Love and Friendship by : “'Walter Scott has no business writing novels, especially good ones – it is not fair. He has fame and profit enough as a poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths'”...

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Hoisted from the Archives: James Scott and Friedrich Hayek

Il Quarto Stato

James Scott and Friedrich Hayek: My review of James Scott (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press: 0300070160):

 

I. Introduction

There is a lot that is excellent in James Scott's Seeing Like a State.

On one level, it is an extraordinary well-written and well-argued tour through the various forms of damage that have been done in the twentieth century by centrally-planned social-engineering projects—by what James Scott calls 'high modernism' and the attempt to use high modernist principles and practices to build utopia. As such, every economist who reads it will see it as marking the final stage in the intellectual struggle that the Austrian tradition has long waged against apostles of central planning. Heaven knows that I am no Austrian—I am a liberal Keynesian and a social democrat—but within economics even liberal Keynesian social democrats acknowledge that the Austrians won victory in their intellectual debate with the central planners long ago.

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