What I’ve been reading

by on July 21, 2017 at 12:20 am in Books | Permalink

1. Robert Knapp, The Dawn of Christianity: People and Gods in a Time of Magic and Miracles.  Jews, Christians, and polytheists, mostly in the first century after the birth of Christ.  Strongly conceptual, rather than a string of hard-to-remember facts and citations.  Here is a useful summary review.

2. Samanta Schweblin, Fever Dream.  A well-known Argentinean novel, finally available in English.  A kind of ghost story, imagining wondering if the soul of your dying child really has been transferred to another person.  Short and very powerful.  Here is one very good review.

2. Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers.  Plenty of libertarian thought in here, and many historical tidbits of interest, for instance Julia Caldwell-Frazier, “The Decisions of Time” (1889) p. 486:

What obstacles and failures Prof. Morse encountered when he completed his rough model of the recording electro-magnetic telegraph; but see of what inestimable value his invention has been to mankind! Was not public opinion opposed to the telephone?—styled it “a useless thing.” But within a decade the telephone has become the most patronized means of urban intercommunication. Through all the innumerable obstacles and oppositions, we see, by the decisions of time, science tracing the wild comet in its vast eccentric course through the heavens; we see science bringing down the very lightning from the clouds, making it a remedial agent and a messenger, quick as light, to carry our thoughts.

Here is useful NYT coverage.  There is also:

Michael Vatikiotis, Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia, a useful introduction to why that part of the world has not turned into paradise.

Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman, A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age, is a quality treatment of its topic material.

Jesse Eisinger, The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, is a useful look at why so many cases are leveled against the company rather than the CEO. I found the book worthwhile, but don’t think he offered much of an argument as to why that should be bad.

Bradley M. Gardner, China’s Great Migration: How the Poor Built a Prosperous Nation, is a good introduction to what the title promises.

1 Lukas P July 21, 2017 at 3:52 am

There’s another good book of almost the same name: “Fevre Dream”, by George R. R. Martin.

2 The Cuckmeister-General July 21, 2017 at 3:53 am

Punishment is meant for cucks like you!

3 Ricardo July 21, 2017 at 4:36 am

“Jesse Eisinger, The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, is a useful look at why so many cases are leveled against the company rather than the CEO. I found the book worthwhile, but don’t think he offered much of an argument as to why that should be bad.”

There are many reasons why it is bad, including the substantial deterrence value of individual prosecution, the questionable ethics of punishing shareholders (and creditors, if the company goes bankrupt as a result of fines and legal fees it pays) for the criminal conduct of executives, and the possibility of corruption in the so-called deferred prosecution agreements that typically result from criminal charges filed against corporations. On the latter point, the private law firms that are engaged to monitor corporate compliance with the terms of a plea deal are often staffed with friends and former colleagues of the prosecutor who negotiated the plea deal.

4 The Cuckmeister-General July 21, 2017 at 5:51 am

Mood Affiliation.

5 Tyler Cowen July 21, 2017 at 7:51 am

+1

6 The Cuckmeister-General July 21, 2017 at 8:11 am

LOL you are such a shill Tyler. Good work.

7 The Cuckmeister-General July 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

You get mad about why people won’t come together in this country but you demonstrate how there really isn’t too much common ground. When one side Looks back at Ancien Regime France with its multiple law codes for different classes of people and thinks this isn’t such a bad idea… well it isn’t too easy to find some kind of middle ground there.

8 carlospln July 21, 2017 at 10:00 am

Forget it.

Cowen is a corporate whore.

9 chuck martel July 21, 2017 at 6:14 am

“Jesse Eisinger, The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, is a useful look at why so many cases are leveled against the company rather than the CEO. I found the book worthwhile, but don’t think he offered much of an argument as to why that should be bad.”

It’s bad because fines to corporations are an income to government agencies. http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2014/09/faa-gets-half-million-dollars-for.html

10 rayward July 21, 2017 at 6:25 am

1. From the useful summary review: “Judaism and Christianity believed in the future end of the world, whether imminent or eventual. Polytheism did not. The standard description of this difference is that of a linear versus a cyclical view of history.” Sure, both religions are apocalyptic, but Judaism (the Hebrew Bible) is a testament to the cyclical view, as Israel (Jews) rises and falls so many times it’s difficult to keep count (and it’s not until the Book of Daniel that the apocalyptic view takes center stage). Christianity, on the other hand, is all about the coming apocalypse; indeed, Jesus taught His disciples to give up their day jobs because the End was near. What’s the same is that God would save the faithful from oppression. Although cast in the 6th century BCE, Daniel was actually written in the middle of the 2nd century BCE, not many years before the apocalyptic story of Jesus and Christianity. Oppression is the cause, God is both the executioner (of enemies of the oppressed) and savior of the faithful. [Islam is apocalyptic too, but that’s another story.]

11 Asher July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am

I’m not an expert in Christianity, but I’ve read the New Testament and what you write doesn’t sound right. The apocalypse, whether imminent or distant, just doesn’t seem to be a major player. It’s at most a bit part.

Likewise for Judaism. Sometimes the redemption is described in apocalyptic but just as often otherwise. The main point is mostly that redemption is near, not apocalypse.

12 Ricardo July 21, 2017 at 10:30 am

If we are talking about Christians living in the first century A.D. and what they actually believed, Bart Ehrman (and, I believe, many other scholars) has shown the huge influence of apocalyptic Judaism on them. Naturally, as the centuries passed with no end of the world in sight, this aspect of Christianity became de-emphasized by some church authorities and some apocalyptic writings by early Christians were not included in the New Testament canon.

13 dearieme July 21, 2017 at 7:00 am

#1: “The more people who believe something, the more persuasive that belief is.” There still seem to be plenty of people who cling to this folly.

Tell me, does the author mention mutual influences of these different superstitions? I’m thinking in particular of the nativity, an obvious intrusion of Greek/gentile/polytheist paganism into a story about a Jewish milieu.

14 Shaun Marsh July 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

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15 rayward July 21, 2017 at 9:35 am

China’s Great Migration: my understanding is that Deng Xiaoping looked at communists countries around the world and observed that they were poor and looked at capitalist countries around the world and observed that they were wealthy and decided that wealthy would be better than poor. While it may seem that this is way too simplistic an explanation for China’s path to prosperity, at the micro level (e.g., the individual entrepreneur, the individual politician) fabulous wealth or power has often followed an observation of what in retrospect seems obvious and simple. The most famous economists in the past became famous for observing what in retrospect seems obvious and simple. Alas, that’s not true today as observation has given way to ideology.

16 Brad July 21, 2017 at 11:20 am

You should read the book! There were a lot of complicated incentives involved.

17 Joshua Kier July 22, 2017 at 11:10 am

2(sic): “Plenty of libertarian thought in here, and many historical tidbits of interest, for instance Julia Caldwell-Frazier, ‘The Decisions of Time'”

I’ve long been impressed by the libertarian tendencies and optimism of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing. Her contentious relationship with Langston Hughes on many matters strikes me as both inspiring and naive. That she died in poverty seems to confirm this naivety, but she did live consistent with her beliefs.

This brings about an idea: do good ideas have an expiration date? Is liberalism nearing its best-used by date because humans are changing? That the Enlightenment wanted to return to Greek/Roman ideas while Romanticism (at least architecturally) saw value in the Middle Ages, perhaps Liberalism will storm back in a century or so.

At this point, I’m just observing trends I believe are present in history. I know there’s ton of criticism available.

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