Books

Let’s stick with the living, here are a few who come to mind:

Adam Minter

Charles C. Mann

Laura Miller (formerly of Salon.com, now of Slate)

Ted and Dana Gioia

Christopher Balding

Fuchsia Dunlop

Stephen King

Arnold Kling

Kendrick Lamar

Viktor Zhadanov

Chow Yun Fat

To be clear, I am not suggesting these people are deficient or lacking in status, rather that it should be higher yet.  Or maybe it is the list of people who should decline in status which interests you more

It’s a TED-style talk, and Alex Tabarrok is just getting going, dressed in D.C.-friendly attire (dark gray suit) in front of the usual casual-hip crowd at the Voice & Exit conference in Austin, Texas. Pacing behind the podium, he flashes images of workers, of wastrel, skeleton-thin immigrants seeking labor. Your heart bleeds as he sings his songs of morality and justice and the need for immigrants in any good society and etc., etc., etc.

His pitch to solve this messy hot topic of the day? Two words: open borders.

That’s from an amusing profile of me in OZY, Can Philosopher Alex Tabarrok Bridge the Wonks and Burning Man?

Addendum 1: Tyler’s office is even messier than mine.

Addendum 2: Tyler, of course, blogged this 3 minutes earlier from somewhere in Serbia. How does he bend the laws of space and time?

serbia

1. Painter: Marko Čelebonović.  Plus lots of the art in the monasteries.

2. Performance art: Marina Abramović.  I still love this video of the staring game.

3. Author: Danilo Kiš, the Serbian Borges.  Or how about Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars, which somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks since the time of its publication.  Ivan “Ivo” Andrić is the Serbian Nobel Laureate, sort of, he espoused a Serbian identity but actually was Bosnian.

4. Actor and director: Emir Kusturica.  Recently he has disappointed, and taken flak, for having supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  He is still an impressive creator, however, and is also an accomplished musician and author.  Did I mention that he espouses a Serbian national identity, and has converted to Orthodox Christianity, but originally was a Bosnian Muslim?

5. Actress: Milla Jovovich, most of all in Fifth Element and also Resident Evil, she is part Serbian.

6. Economist and blogger: Branko Milanović.

7. Sports: Lots of tennis players, plus Pete Maravich was of Serbian descent.

Other: Tesla was ethnic Serbian though born in Croatia.  American poet Charles Simic was born in Serbia, though he moved to the United States at a young age.

Arrived in my pile

by on August 2, 2015 at 4:28 pm in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

Josiah Ober, The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece.  This new history of ancient Greece has an intriguing estimate of living standards during that time, I hope to spend more time with it soon.  Ober argues there was plenty of economic growth at the time and that the Greeks lived at well above subsistence; I agree with both of those claims.

Here is the book’s home page.  Here is one useful review, though its carps at the books’ economism.  Other reviews are here.  As a first-order approximation, you can think of this book as how an economist might think about ancient Greece.

*The Meursault Investigation*

by on August 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm in Books, History, Uncategorized | Permalink

This new book, by Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, starts with Camus’s The Stranger, and then retells the story from the point of view of the brother of the Arab murder victim.  It’s both commentary on the original and a compelling narrative in its own right.  The Guardian called it “an instant classic and Michiko Kakutani described it as “stunning.”  Here is Roger Cohen on the novel.  You can buy it on Amazon here.  Unless your memory is very good, I recommend a refresher on The Stranger first.  Daoud has produced one of this year’s must-reads.

That is the new and excellent book by Sebastian Strangio, which you can think of as a post-Sihanouk look at the country from a political economy point of view.  Here are just a few bits:

The cruelty and callousness that allowed jilted wives to order and commit such brutal attacks on young women also had its echo in history.  As the historian Michael Vickery has written, patterns of sudden and extreme violence had deep roots in Cambodia, especially against those groups and individuals defined in some way as enemies.  Through cruel violence found its fullest expressions under Pol Pot, it long predated Democratic Kampuchea, stemming from cultural notions of face, honor, and revenge, in which personal grudges (kum) could elicit a disproportionate and overwhelming response.

And:

Hun Sen’s rise over the past two decades has been accompanied by the rise of what might be called HunSenomics — a blend of old-style patronage, elite charity, and predatory market economics.  Since the transition to the free market in 1989, Hunsenomics has succeeded in forging a stable pact among Cambodia’s ruling elites, but has otherwise done little to systematically tackle the challenges of poverty and development.

And:

Because Hunsenomics provides few incentives for sustainable agricultural development, Cambodia’s land and water resources remain drastically underutilized.  Just a third of Cambodia’s total land area is currently under cultivation — a much lower proportion than in neighboring countries.  Only 18 percent of this  land was irrigated as of 2005, compared to 33 percent in Thailand and 44 percent in Vietnam, and due to lack of maintenance only a fifth of irrigation systems were fully functional.  As a result, rice yields per hectare lag far behind the likes of Vietnam and Thailand.

Definitely recommended, and as Dan Klein and I used to say to each other “You so much learn the whole book.”

The subtitle is Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers, and the editor is Elizabeth D. Samet.  Here’s the shocking truth: these really are writings by our greatest thinkers!  Usually I am allergic to the topic of leadership and all the more allergic to edited volumes.  But this book has well chosen excerpts from Thucydides, Cervantes, Borges, Marcus Aurelius, Tolstoy, Milton, Plutarch, and Shakespeare, among many others, and a variety of moderns, including Mandela, Gandhi, Frederick Douglass, and Osip Mandelstam’s poem on Stalin.

This is actually a remarkable book.

Arthur C. Brooks, The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.

Greg Mankiw has reviewed the book.

Mirko

1. Novelist: Help!  I do own a copy of Sarah Nović’s Girl at War, but haven’t yet read it.

2. Basketball player: Toni Kukoc, the “Croatian sensation.”

3. Painting: There was an active school of Naive painting in Croatia, from Hlebine near the Hungarian border.  Perhaps my favorite from the group was Ivan Generalic, but Mirko Virius was very good too.

4. Inventor: Nikola Tesla.  Before you go crazy in the comments section, however, here is a long Wikipedia page on to what extent we can justly claim that Tesla was Croatian.  Here are further debates, Croat or Serb?  Or both?

5. Pianist: How about Ivo Pogorelić?  Here is his Petrushka.

6. Economist: Branko Horvat, the market-oriented market socialist, is the only one I can think of, here is an overview of his contributions (pdf).  Am I forgetting someone?

7. City: Split, not Dubrovnik.  I am here for two days right now, then on to Belgrade for a conference/salon.

I cannot name a Croatian movie or composer or pop star.  I have the feeling they have many more famous athletes.  Don’t they have a lot of beautiful models?  Aren’t they the world’s most beautiful people?  Has anyone set a movie here?

The bottom line: It would be worse without Tesla.

*Money and Soccer*

by on July 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm in Books, Economics, Games | Permalink

The subtitle for this one suffices for a review:

A Soccernomics Guide: Why Chievo Verona, Unterhaching, and Scunthorpe United Will Never Win the Champions League, Why Manchester City, Roma, and Paris Saint-Germain can, and why Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Manchester United Cannot Be Stopped

I haven’t even read the full subtitle yet (I used Control C), much less the book.  But the author is the highly regarded Stefan Szymanski, and John Foot gave it a very positive review in the 24 July 2015 TLS.

*Private Governance*

by on July 28, 2015 at 2:47 pm in Books, Economics, Political Science | Permalink

The author is Edward Peter Stringham and the subtitle is Creating Order in Economic and Social Life.  I haven’t looked through this book yet, but I am very much an admirer of the underlying research by Ed.  Here is Peter Thiel’s blurb:

“Stringham dispels state-worshipping fiction with historical fact to show how good governance has preceded Leviathan, ignores it when necessary, and can surpass it when it fails.”

Peter Thiel, Entrepreneur

Recommended.

An excellent collection, edited by Jonathan Anomaly, Geoffrey Brennan, Michael C. Munger, and Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, self-recommending.  If I wanted a one-stop collection on PPE for teaching purposes, this exactly what I would use.

Arrived in my pile

by on July 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm in Books, Current Affairs | Permalink

John Kay, Other People’s Money: The Real Business of Finance.  This seems to be a book on what is wrong with finance and how to fix it.

Yes, there is a great Singaporean novel

by on July 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm in Books | Permalink

Or is it a novella?  The Widower, by Mohamed Latiff Mohamed, was not recommended to me by anyone, but I found it during my recent browse in Singapore Kinokuniya.  It starts with the meditations of a man whose wife has passed away and who then delves into his obsessions.

Although the book was published in the 1990s, it was translated into English only this year; I hope Michael Orthofer at Literary Saloon is paying attention.  But alas it is not for sale on U.S. Amazon.

Here is a recent article about the hand-wringing of Singaporeans over their failure to win major literary prizes.  Not long ago, Mohamed moved to Australia, proclaiming “Singapore is still my home.”

Here is my earlier post on what are the Singaporean literary classics, there were a few good answers in the comments.

The authors are Nobel Laureates George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller and the subtitle is The Economics of Manipulation and Deception.  It’s a popular take on how markets trap you and your preferences in places you don’t want to be.  Self-recommending of course.

There are chapters on advertising, tobacco, alcohol, junk bonds, credit cards, pharmaceuticals (some), and yes government.  My main complaint about the book is that its chooses easy targets and doesn’t puncture enough sacred cows.  For instance the chapter on government criticizes spending money on lobbying, whereas I would have preferred an attempt to show that an apparently beneficial and popular institution is in fact bad and appealing to the weaker elements in our preferences.  I wonder to what extent what the authors call “The Resistance and its Heroes” is in fact another example of…phishing for phools.  In other words, I wish this book were more Hansonian.

By the way, I have never eaten too much ice cream.