Due to the asymmetry of fame I feel that I know you quite well so I am just going to bombard you with random questions and hope that you see fit to answer some of them.
You seem to value journalism very highly. Is it just out of necessity as a generalist, or does popular writing on a topic have important information that can’t be learned from the academic/scholarly side?
Journalists have to try to explain things that actually happened to other human beings, often educated ones but not specialists either. It is hard to overrate the importance of that process to developing one’s thoughts and self, no matter what you may think of particular journalists in today’s MSM.
Related: Which elite profession or slice of society is most opaque to journalists and “book-learning” in general? (Oddly some of the categories that come to mind are those which are some of the most written-about – food, sex, friends, law, politics. But it’s probably maths.)
Making things. Archaeology. These days, tech. Maths. Journalism.
How much less interesting would it be to read Shakespeare if no-one else ever had? Does the answer differ much across top-tier “great” artists?
It would not be less interesting at all, maybe more interesting, because the shock of discovery would be all the greater. Admittedly, many artists require lots of discussion with other people, maybe rock and roll most of all? But not Shakespeare.
Overrated vs underrated: The New Yorker. How about Samin Nosrat?
The New Yorker has had a consistent voice and remarkable brand for more decades than I can remember (I recall Patrick Collison making a similar point, perhaps in a podcast?). Since I am now above the median age for the United States, that makes them underrated. The literariness of the historical New York and Northeast and the integration of American and European culture also have become underrated topic areas, and The New Yorker still does them, so that too makes the magazine underrated.
And who is Samin Nosrat? She must therefore be underrated.
Does the world have too many writers, or not enough? What about comparative literature professors? How should we think about the future of literary culture when the written word is becoming so much more culturally dominant at the same time as books and journalism are falling apart?
What variable are we changing at the margin? If people watch less TV and write more, that is probably a plus. I also would favor fewer photographs and more writing. But I wouldn’t cut back on charity to increase the quantity of writing. If only comparative literature professors were people who simply loved books — at the margin a bit more like used book store owners and somewhat less like professors — and would compare them to each other…then I would want more of them. Until then, I don’t know how to keep the extra ones busy.
Why does the USA not have open borders with Canada?
I believe America should have open borders with any nation that has a more generous welfare state than we do. That covers Canada, even though Canadian insurance coverage for mental health and dentistry isn’t nearly as good as you might think. As to why we don’t have open borders with Canada, I don’t think American voters would see that as solving any concrete problem (can’t we get many of the best Canadians anyway?), and it would feel a bit like giving up control, so why do it?
To what extent are Trump, Brexit, Orban, Erdogan, rising murder rates and stalling trade growth worldwide part of the same phenomenon? If they aren’t completely separate, which way does the contagion run?
Yes, no, and maybe so, get back to me in a few years’ time.
Have a great day…