What I’ve been reading and not reading

Linda Yueh, What Would the Great Economists Do?: How Twelve Brilliant Minds Would Solve Today’s Biggest Problems.  Think of this as the updated Heilbroner.

John Blair’s Building Anglo-Saxon England is a remarkable look at the archaeological and historical evidence on what went on before 9th century A.D.  This is not a book of irresponsible generalizations.

Sebastian Edwards has a new, forthcoming book American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle Over Gold.

Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, is a useful and readable treatment of the history of how businesses acquired various kinds of “personhood.”

Michael J. Piore and Andrew Schrank, Root-Cause Regulation: Protecting Work and Workers in the Twenty-First Century is an interesting book, written under the premise that the Continental model of labor safety and labor market regulation is a good thing, including for Latin America.

David C. Engerman, The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India.

I have only browsed Fawaz A. Gerges, Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East, but it looks quite good.

Ge Zhaoguang, What is China?: Territory Ethnicity Culture & History is the result of a China scholar considering all the questions suggested in the subtitle.  I was not ever astonished, but it is about time we all read more books by the Chinese about China.

Self-recommending is Richard Sylla and David J. Cowen, Alexander Hamilton on Finance, Credit, and Debt.

I spotted several intellectual and emotional fallacies in Zadie Smith’s Feel Free: Essays.


If that’s the Zadie Smith who writes for the left wing Guardian (UK), I’m not a fan nor am I surprised by the intellectual fallacies.

Like the expression, “emotional fallacies “!

Seems like the template was swapped out - eh. And apparently completely functional without JS, flash, images, cookies, which was a pleasant surprise.

Sebastian Edwards - not Mallaby

Well, it is easy to see why that mistake was made - 'Sebastian Christopher Peter Mallaby (born May 1964) is an English journalist and author, Paul A. Volcker senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and contributing columnist at the Washington Post.[1] Formerly, he was a contributing editor for the Financial Times and a columnist and editorial board member at the Washington Post.

His recent writing has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlantic Monthly. In 2012, he published a Foreign Affairs essay on the future of China's currency. His books include The Man Who Knew (2016), More Money Than God (2010), and The World’s Banker (2004).' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Mallaby

When you go through as many books as Prof. Cowen does, it all probably blurs into an infovore haze after a while.

It will be interesting to see how quickly the correction occurs.

Can't get too much Hamilton. Today, Hamilton would be aligned with the "elitists", the foil for Trump and the alt-right, ironic given that Hamilton was a bastard and his mother, well, she might know several of Trump's mistresses if she were alive today. My comment yesterday on the Kevin Williamson fracas also suggests that Williamson and our libertarian friends at Mercatus align with the elitists: “And libertarianism has benefited from the fact that American elites are notably more libertarian in their views than is the median American voter. That dynamic was explored by the economist Bryan Caplan under a typically bold title (“Why Is Democracy Tolerable?”) with a typically needling conclusion: “Democracies listen to the relatively libertarian rich far more than they listen to the absolutely statist non-rich … Democracy as we know it is bad enough. Democracy that really listened to all the people would be an authoritarian nightmare." During the campaign Trump famously stated that "I love the poorly educated". As well he should. I doubt Trump spends much time reading about Hamilton.

The quote is from Williamson's one and only essay at The Atlantic.

Rayward, you old dame you old so and such a pillar of salt, you salty cloud, you gorgeously talented ferox hawk.

The Williamson fiasco is one tip of many icebergs. I mean: you guys could teach Tomas de Torquemada a lesson or two in Inquisitional Jurisprudence.

I had to look up "ferox."

Anyhow, Democracy sucks. The unwashed majority may disagree with Fed econ PhD's or FBI Deputy Directors with "insurance policies." Your omniscient (How's that working out for you?) mandarins employ (like monkeys flinging their feces) terms such as "populist authoritarianism;" "dictatorship of the majority;" and, most ingenious, "Deplorables." The US Constitution uses the phrase "the consent of the governed." To the American mandarin , such as the Fed governor/MIT econ PhD's; IRS Commissioner; or FBI deputy directors, elections do not matter.

Ergo sed ego sum homo indomitus. [Probably lousy Latin]

I clicked on "Building Anglo-Saxon England". 35 bucks for the Kindle version! Guess I won't be reading that anytime soon.

No kidding! The inflated price suggests that it might be a required book for college.

Zadie Smith is brilliant writer and sensitive reader of books, and to a lesser extent society. She writes with a certain integrity, despite the fact of her happening to have been born into the 21st century literary world's racial, political and gender catbird seat. If she is occasionally emotionally ridiculous and intellectually fatuous, it is only remarkable that she isn't far more so.

As a novelist, as opposed to essayist, her downfall is her near complete inability to create suspense or forward momentum in her prose. She is a masterful setter of scene, and creator of characters and dialogue. But in my experience reading two of her novels, she lacks that magic gift that keeps you turning pages.

It is this failure that keeps her -- and, to a certain extent, Martin Amis -- from being the great British literary novelist of our day.

That prize goes to Edward St. Aubyn, who, despite falling short in the some of the areas where Smith and Amis excel, somehow manages to keep you reading through his painful, intelligent and modernly Waugh-vian world.

I appreciate your comment: I like Zadie Smith's writing, but I'm always disappointed to some extent by her novels. This is true as well for Amis. Although his books are on my bookshelf, I've never actually read Edward St. Aubyn, so perhaps it's time.

Almost all writers are bad writers.

Compare the first two pages of Poe's short stories - almost all of which are better than Shakespeare could have written - with the continuations of those stories, which indicate a lack of talent.

Read an Agatha Christie novel, aside from the chess problems extrapolated to country weekend parties, and their ilk, there are at best ten or eleven lines of good prose or good dialogue, Which is of course impressive, but which is different from saying that the dear girl was, to be honest, a good writer.

Nobody is all that talented. Don't believe me? Next time you are at the DMW with nothing to do, try and imagine, from your point of view as a reader, how good Shakespeare would have been if her were a better writer, with fewer problematic enthusiasms for boring (take my word for it) views about the shortcomings of people who were not even and never would have been his friend (seriously Shakespeare would not have hung out with Hamlet and Lear, much less the bibulous Falstaff and the excitable Romeo - come on, am I not right?)

Zadie Smith seems like a nice lady.

Edward St. Aubyn was widely assumed to have written the graceful eulogy for Princess Di delivered by her brother at her funeral, but Earl Spencer strongly denies that:


Re Yueh and the hubris of the economists who would solve our problems. No thank you. Invariably economists reduce complex issues into some formulaic dogma. For example, every single economist who has opined on US-China relations can do no more than prattle about protectionism despite that being the smallest part of the situation and China’s aggressive military the real issue. We are repeatedly lectured by university types that China is the good guy and that higher US tarriffs spell economic doom for the US despite China’s tarriffs being more than twice as high as US average tariffs. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/TM.TAX.MRCH.WM.AR.ZS

Before we give too much attention to US academic economists, we need to know whether they are merely acting as PLA flunkies. The amount of Chinese money flowing to US universities and academics is disturbing and not in the least transparent.

I have not read any of these books, but I have read some of Tyler's past recommendations, and I will say they have been excellent.

I trust his judgment here (except for books written by GMU colleagues, where I fear it is not wholly unbiased.)

Before I trust some 'great economists' to run a society, I'd first like them to be able to make simple predictions about the future that actually have a better-than-random record of accuracy.

The economy is a complex adaptive system. Such systems cannot be predicted. And the corollary to unpredictability is unplannability. If you can't predict the outcome of your grand plan, your plan is just noise.

Until economists start thinking about the macroeconomy like evolutionary biologists instead of physicists or mathematicians, they will continue to make category errors and offer controls and top-down changes that will lead to unintended consequences and failure.

After all, no one surveys evolutionary biologists for their plans to make an ecosystem 'better', except perhaps to say that it would be better if we stopped interfering with it since we have no idea what our interference will do. Evolutionary biologists are the libertarians of the natural sciences - for good reason.

On China, you might try Waiting by Ha Jin, Daughter of the River by Hong Ying, or Colors of the Mountain by Da Chen. Or Maybe some Inspector Chen detective stories by Qiu Ziaolong. Also, China: A History by Keay.

The Gold Clause Ban of 1933 is a highly overlooked item.

On October 4, 1932, Hoover spoke in Des Moines and said:

"Going off the gold standard is no academic matter. By going off that
standard, gold goes to a premium, and the currency dollar becomes
depreciated. In our country, largely as a result of fears generated by
the experience after the Civil War and by the Democratic free-silver
campaign in 1896, our people have long insisted upon writing a large
part of their long-term debtor documents as payable in gold.

A considerable part of farm mortgages, most of our industrial and all
of our Government, most of our State and municipal bonds, and most
other long-term obligations are written as payable in gold."

Hoover didn't think he had the power to change "payable in gold" clauses in contracts. FDR did, and his devaluation of the dollar would have been useless without the Gold Clause Ban.

This is exactly what this book is about: the abrogation of the gold clauses in 1933, and the Supreme Court rulings in 1935. There is a detailed discussion of how the idea developed, and how different players -- including Keynes and Irving Fisher -- positioned themselves on the issue. The hearings at the Supreme Court were fascinating. The Roosevelt administration relied on a "necessity" argument, similar to the one used by Argentina when it restructured its debt in 2002.

Just started the Linda Yueh book and I'm really enjoying it so far.

Can you please comment on the fallacies of Zadie Smith?

What are emotional fallacies?

Comments for this post are closed