What I’ve been reading

1. Jason Brennan, Against Democracy.  He is a epistocrat. P.S. voters are ignorant and irrational.  Furthermore “Politics is not a Poem.”  I agree with most of the debunking arguments in this book, but I am not convinced epistocracy ends up being better; Brennan’s examples of epistocracy include restricted franchise, plural voting, voting by lottery, epistocratic veto (the Senate, but more so), and weighted voting.  I see big advantages to a strict normative ideal of legal egalitarianism of civic rights, and I suspect that ends up meaning some form of democracy, albeit constrained by the overlay of a constitutional republic.

2. Ji Xianlin, The Cowshed: Memoirs of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  The classic account of its kind, in this edition brilliantly translated and presented.

And I am happy to praise Frank Dikötter’s The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History 1962-1976, but I did not find it as revelatory as his earlier books on China.  Here is a Judith Shapiro NYT review.

3. Aileen M. Kelly, The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Thought of Alexander Herzen.  Beautifully written, and full of interesting history, but it never quite convinces the reader that Herzen is an interesting and worthwhile intellect for 2016.  Maybe he isn’t — does that make this book better or worse?

David L. Ulin’s Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles is a meditation on to what extent Los Angeles succeeds as a walkable city, or someday might get there.

There is Don Watkins and Yaron Brook, Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, by no means do I go all the way with them, but still this a useful corrective to some current obsessions.

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business, and the World lists more possible uses for blockchains than you would have thought possible.

James T. Bennett, Subsidizing Culture: Taxpayer Enrichment of the Creative Class, the subtitle says it all.


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