What I’ve been reading

1. Erica Benner, Be Like the Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom.  A useful and readable introduction to the practical issues of Florentine politics and how they influenced the life and writings of Machiavelli.

2. Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America.  Volume one of the Penguin History of the United States, this book is especially good at tying in “settlement issues” to later “governance issues.”  It is compulsively readable and has an excellent annotated bibliography.  Circa 1770, exports were about 10% of American gdp (p.311); today exports are a bit over 12% of gdp.

3. Holger Hoock, Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth.  This is a look at the significance of violence in American history, focusing on the Revolution itself, and it is a good way to remind foreigners how screwed up (and dynamic) we are.

4. Arguments for Liberty, edited by Aaron Ross Powell and Grant Babcock.  I do not think the arguments in this book succeed as arguments for liberty, with the exception of some of the utilitarian arguments, noting that I am only a “2/3s utilitarian.”  Still, you get Eric Mack, Jason Kuznicki, Kevin Vallier, Neera Badhwar, Michael Huemer, and Jason Brennan, and so this is the rare edited volume that lives up to what you ideally might want it to be.

5. Jok Madut Jok, Breaking Sudan: The Search for Peace.  I’ve read a few books on South Sudan lately, to try to figure out, if only in broad terms, what is going on there.  This is the one that actually does a good job explaining things!  Above all else, I now have some sense of just how historically deeply rooted the current conflict is.  Recommended.

Jonathan Schwabish, Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, is specific in all the right ways, most of all when it comes to Powerpoint slides.

My colleague Philip E. Auerswald has just published the very useful The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand Year History.


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