What I’ve been reading

1. Ice, by Vladimir Sorokin.  A totally lurid, highly sexed, contemporary Russian, pre-apocalyptic mix of science fiction and horror.  I finished it.

2. The Once and Future King, T.H. White.  Oddly absent from Law and Literature syllabi, I’m teaching this in my next class.  This is many people’s favorite book.  It’s written in a simple manner, but it cumulates in an oddly beautiful way.

3. What economists should learn from sociology, not to mention Arnold Kling on me, and Brad DeLong on Milton Friedman.

4. How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny.  The claim: talking about relationship problems is an inherently shameful activity for the man and thus it will fail; the couple should just read this book and do what is best.

5. Econoblog with Ed Glaeser and Daron Acemoglu, on democracy and economic growth.  If Greg Mankiw can debate Jacqueline Passey, Ed can cite Borat as evidence in a dialog with a world-class economist.

6. Invading Mexico: America’s Continental Dream and the Mexican War, 1846-1848 by Joseph Wheelan.  If you wish to embarrass your friends (and yourself), ask them whether they would in retrospect support the U.S. conquest of territory from Mexico.


"If you wish to embarrass your friends (and yourself), ask them whether they would in retrospect support the U.S. conquest of territory from Mexico."

The answer is, absolutely, yes. Indeed, the fact that Polk is one of the great underrated presidents is evidence of a modern sensibility of which you seem to partake, that fighting wars that result in territorial expansion is somehow wrong.

Polk came into office on the explicit premise that he would settle the two outstanding border disputes the US had with its major neighbors (the other was over the Pacific Northwest--the famous "54-40 or fight" dispute), by diplomacy if possible, by force if necessary. He settled the Northwest border with Canada (actually the UK at the time) peacefully, and the border with Mexico by force.

The Texans wanted to be protected from Mexico: Mexico wanted them to be under their thumb. Lopez de Santa Anna (the guy who got Mexico into this mess to begin with, back in 1836) was a thug, who thought he could brush the US aside. He was wrong, as were the other Mexican politicians and generals who thought the same. Their miscalculations led to war, which Mexico lost fair and square, establishing thereby that the US would dominate North America.

I am completely mystified as to why I should be embarrassed by any of this. And if you still think so, ask anyone from Texas what *they* think.

Jackie = Borat?

Are you implying that Ed Glaeser is not a world class economist?

Glaeser is one of the best economists in the world...


Do you agree with DeLong and Posner's view of Friedman?

I'm also curious what is embarrassing about the US-Mexico war? I think it worked out great.

My main complaint is we should have taken more territory. At least Baja California. I mean, come on, it's named California!

We need more coastlines in this country. Another reason why Cuba should be the 51st state.

Manifest Destiny was a good thing. Ideally we'd have the whole North American continent. We could have pushed any restless natives into Colombia.

Sure we'd have less interesting forms of poverty to tour to our South. I think the massive increase in human welfare would be worth it though.

With the Once and Future King (which is excellent), also read The Book of Merlyn. It's the fifth book (books 1 through 4 are in the Once and Future King). But the publisher originally refused to publish the Book of Merlyn, citing wartime paper shortages. The Book of Merlyn is anti-war, anti-government, and the publisher's decision smells of censorship. It's a good book, and the perfect read after Once and Future King.

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