1. Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. Short descriptions of places you ought to visit, such as ossuaries, micronations, museums of invisible microbes, the floating school of Lagos, the Mistake House of Elsah, Illinois, Bangkok’s Museum of Counterfeit Goods, and the world’s largest Tesla coil in Makarau, controlled by Alan Gibbs of New Zealand. The selection is conceptual, so I like it. I will keep this book.
2. James T. Hamilton, Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism. A highly original look at exactly what the subtitle promises, I thank Jay for keeping Cowen’s Second Law valid. Has this topic ever been more important than this year?
3. Andre Schlueter, Institutions and Small Settler Economies: A Comparative Study of New Zealand and Uruguay, 1870-2008. There should be more such books! New Zealand and Uruguay had roughly comparable per capita incomes in 1920, yet New Zealand pulled away and never gave back much of that lead. One factor, according to the author, was that the Kiwis had about 40% public ownership of farm land in 1930, resulting in a greater distribution of gains from agriculture and eventually a more egalitarian polity. Uruguay, in contrast, had engaged in some badly-run land privatizations and ended up with excess concentration. New Zealand also took the lead on frozen meat shipments, and New Zealand had a much more rapid recovery from the Great Depression, among other factors, and in Uruguay the enforceability of contract rights slipped away considerably in the 1940s and 1950s. In sum, Uruguay ended up with more rent-seeking policies that redistributed resources toward elites. I can’t believe this one wasn’t a bestseller.
4. John Richard Boren, For Intellectual Property: The Property Ideas of Andrew J. Galambos. As far as I can tell from this intriguing but maddeningly vague book, and based on what I have heard, Galambos was a 1960s-70s libertarian astrophysicist who believed in intellectual property rights for all ideas, indeed in ideas and not just for the expression of ideas as under current law. The rumor, possibly apocryphal, was that those who knew his true doctrines were forbidden to explain them to others without first making the requisite payments. I saw this in the bibliography in the back of the book:
Sic Itur Ad Astra, Volume One by Andrew J. Galambos. This is the transcript of his 1968 delivery of Courses V-50 and V-50X. The book discloses the basics of the Science of Volition but has been removed from sale by Galambos’ trustees. Used copies are sometimes available. Some of Galambos’ recorded lectures…can be heard online at the FEI website, www.fei-ajg.com, where the trustees have imposed significant restrictions on access. Only one Galambos course, V-76…is available for purchase on CD without restrictions.
In fact I know more than I am letting on.
5. James Joyce, Ulysses, always worth a reread, in bits and pieces. Don’t start on p.1. That way, you won’t be discouraged by not knowing what is going on. That is serious advice.
I have browsed the useful-seeming Johan A. Lybeck, The Future of Financial Regulation: Who Should Pay for the Failure of American and European Banks? Most books with titles like that are bad and boring, this seems to be a very useful collection of facts about previous bailouts.