What I’ve been reading

1. Christopher Tyerman, The World of the Crusades: An Illustrated History.  The best and most engrossing history of the crusades I have read.  By the way, the “children’s crusade” probably didn’t have that much to do with children.  The periodic topic-specific two-page interludes are especially good.

2. Tobias Straumann, 1931: Debt, Crisis, and the Rise of Hitler covers a critical episode in European history, and one which has not entirely faded into irrelevance.  The author is a financial historian rather than an economist, so think of this book as scratching your history itch, in any case recommended.

3. Jim Auchmutey, Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America is the most current of the best histories of barbecue and it is more bullish on the barbecue future than most treatments.

4. Chris Miller, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Economy.  One of the best books on the beginnings of the reform era, with a special focus on whether the Soviets could have chosen a Chinese path (no, too many embedded interest groups, so does that mean Mao is underrated?).

5. Katherine Eban, Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom.  A “worth reading” look at what the title promises, but all the best parts are about how the FDA tries to regulate generic drug production in India.

6. Roger L. Geiger, American Higher Education Since World War II.  Not as sprightly as I might have wished for, nor does it cover the controversial issues in the conceptual fashion I was hoping to find, but nonetheless an extremely useful resources for teaching you the basic facts of how the sector has evolved.

New out from Princeton University Press is Robert J. Shiller, Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral & Drive Major Economic Events.

There is Heather Boushey’s new How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It.

Yale has published a new translation of Book of Job, translated by Edward L. Greenstein, very likely worth a read.


A better account of Germany's descent into financial madness during that perios is "When Money Dies" by Adam Fergusson

I think that "When Money Dies" is about the hyperinflation (1923) not about the financial crisis of 1931.

'When Money Dies' is a poor book with sources largely drawn from ambassadorial cables back to London rather than native German-language documents. And yes, its about hyperinflation.

1. ... and then they got sold into slavery.
2. Today's right thinks "good people" are found among Adolf's followers, upgrading them from evil to merely misunderstood.
3. BBQ is the greatest discovery/invention from the Caribbean.
4. No Soviets, no modern China. Soviets also had an international empire to run, the Chinese only worked in and on their homeland. Big difference.
5. Why is "worth reading" in quotes? That tells me it is not worth reading.
6. “Universities today are as corrupt as the Catholic Church of 500 years ago" Peter Thiel. So what's the fix? Tell people to dropout and then what? Lot of complaints. No solutions.

In one sense there are no "good" people at all, but I imagine there were what we might colloquially call good people among the nazis and among the Soviets too. Obviously, the bad people left more of an impression to say the least.

My college physics professor was the science attache to Gen Rommel. That was 25 years after WW II ended but I can tell you he was a good person when I knew him.

Funeral Potatoes is simply parroting the six-thousandth liberal lie about President Donald J. Trump.

Ninety-nine percent of what liberals have is a lie. Being called a "fascist" by a liar does not make you a fascist.

The attacks by the left on Trump reflect Trump's effectiveness against the anti-American, anti-constitutional left wing. Why were there no similar attacks against Romney or McCain??? Because they were actually useful idiots for the anti-American, anti-constitutional left wing communist/Democrats.

The same attacks were made against Romney and McCain. Even the Nazi/Hitler one - I remember the signs with McCain as Hitler, the little moustache, the salute, etc, at my campus.

Less frequent and with less intensity than Trump gets - I agree the main factor is that Trump is more threatening to the left.

Don't miss the point. McCain was the left's darling all the time he was in congress. It was not until he became a possibility in the presidential election that the left "mildly" criticized him. And after he bowed out of the campaign and then became a never-Trumper the left loved him again.

The left wants to take power over Americans. They want to eliminate our constitutional rights (except the right to kill babies which the constitution is silent on). They want our income and assets and they want it all. They are coming after us and Trump is standing in their way and that is why they hate him.

I don't think Mao is "underrated" for having eliminated the embedded interest groups more effectively. And in any event it wouldn't be Mao, it would be Deng. (Who probably is underrated.)

The moment Mao shook Nixon's hand was the day he became underrated.

Underrated? Hell, Mao is still a best-selling author in the USA and he killed more than Hitler, Lenin, and Stalin combined. He's falling into second place behind US 70+ million baby murders.

#4 - I suggested this book by Miller to TC and am surprised he read it so fast. I found the book somewhat informative but badly written and one-dimensional. Miller did not flesh out the characters in the story much, just sticking to a handful, maybe so as not to confuse the lay audience.

In terms of history changing events you can hardly beat the 4th crusade. Effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, which eventually lead to the enlightenment and modern Western Civilization. Given that the enlightenment happened exactly once in human history I'm not so ready to contend it was inevitable regardless.

couldn't have no enlightenment with those Byzantine Byzantines holding us back

I don't think I follow his logic either. Unless he means
The Slow Fall of Byz -> Renaissance -> Enlightenment.

Perhaps the Byzantines sent us their best people?

That actually was part of it. They brought their ancient Greek stuff and revived an interest in it, leading in a greater or lesser part to the Renaissance, which then spread to all of Western Europe and sparked the enlightenment, leading to the modern age.
Would it have happened without the 4th crusade, which lead to the eventual fall of the Byzantine Empire? Considering Constantinople had education and wealth for centuries without anything like the enlightenment, I'm not so sure.

Financial history:
From 1988's Basel Accord, until 20??'s Big ???, the regulators based their risk weighted bank capital requirements on that what bankers perceived as very risky, was much more dangerous to our bank system than what bankers perceived as very safe

Your English would be easier to read, oh blogger, if you stuck to punctuation conventions. Thus: periodic, topic-specific, two-page interludes .....

On the other hand: congratulations on using the hyphens - they are a boon.

Re #1: The current children's climate crusade has very little to do with children either - and very little to do with the climate for that matter.

I guess that I don't have to read the book to conclude that the common theme is it is easy to manipulate children.

4. Mao is underrated in the US. China’s official line is that Mao was 70% good and 30% bad whereas the common view here is Mao was 100% bad. I think the truth is in between, Mao being maybe 70% bad but 30% good. Everyone knows the 70% bad, but here’s the 30% good. It’s a fact that China did much better in terms of improving life expectancy and population growth (which is a good measure of economic progress in pre-demographic transition societies) during the 1950-1980 period compared to either China before Mao or India in the same period. Maybe China should be compared to South Korea or Taiwan, but those countries were richer to begin with in 1950 and got massive amounts of US aid, favorable trade relations, and military protection. Mass land redistribution, which only the communists could carry out, was necessary in China at the time, as shown by the fact that Taiwan pursued similar land redistribution, though the job was easier in Taiwan because most of the landowners there were Japanese. Although concentrating the land in the hands of the state and communes was a mistake, that state control make it far easier to de facto privatize the land to the masses in the 1980s compared to an alternative scenario where all the land was still in the hands of a few large landowners. And communism did do a good job of culturally modernizing China, as Chinese traditional culture was superstitious and backwards, and therefore a major hindrance. Overall, Mao did seem to create a favorable blank-ish slate for reforms, which is one reason why Deng’s reforms succeeded but previous Chinese attempts at reform going back to the 1800s all failed.

I'm confused; is #4 about the Soviet economy? The title is ambiguous on this point.

The actual subtitle is "Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR".

So it was Tyler who introduced the redundant "Soviet Economy" redundancy was introduced by Tyler.

"so does that mean Mao is underrated?"
As a mass murderer, definitely.
Look at the culture. Russia has always been messy. China has had long periods of prosperity. The way they are today is probably more in the line with the historical norm than the way it was 50 years ago.

Anyone bearish on barbecue just doesn't know how to cook.

You sound European, where BBQ involves throwing a piece of meat on the grill. In the Southern US it is so much more, and it one of the most delicious world cuisines ever to grace this planet.

Doh! Thought you said bullish. Apologies.

Barbecue is for savage idiots who don't know how to properly cook like an educated gentleman. Western civilisation should sanction such distasteful habits as a matter of course.

How did Barbecue get between Hitler and Gorbachev?

That point will addressed in vegan reeducation camp.

New translation of the book of Job. From Amazon: "Greenstein presents a new perspective: Job, he shows, was defiant of God until the end. The book is more about speaking truth to power than the problem of unjust suffering."

Girard wrote a beautiful little book (English translation: "Job, the Victim of His People") on the book of Job. Its original and very interesting interpretation, is in very rough terms as follows : Job is a victim and scapegoat of the mob, not of God; the conversations between Job and "his friends", or rather, the chiefs of the mob, are a tentative by those chiefs to have Job agree with the mob that he is guilty (of vague things, like arrogance), in order to have unanimity against Job, a condition for a successful scapegoat process. The friends argue in essence that since Job is suffering, then God want it because he is omniscient, and since God is always just, it means that Job is guilty; Job contests mainly the point that Job is always just.

I have wanted, ever since I have read Girard's book, to improve my knowledge of Hebrew up to be able to read the book of Job in its original form and get my own opinion of Girard's interpretation and the meaning of the book of Job. It is hard. More likely, I'll read that new translation before that.

According to Amazon's description of the interpretation implicit in the new translation, Job is "speaking truth to power". This is consistent with Girard's interpretation if one interprets "power" as "the mob" and its chiefs, the so-called "friends" of Job, but not if we understands "power" as God. (It is to be reminded that everyone agrees that the prologue and epilogue with God talking with Satan are later extensions and not part of the original text). In fact God plays no active role in the whole original text, according to Girard, except in the last few lines where he intervenes to "speak power to the humans", saying in substance "I am infinitely powerful. Why would I be just?" and making Job win the argument.

Job, the Victim of His People, by Rene Girard. The eternal question: why do good people suffer? According to the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), it's sin: the sins of any of God's chosen result in the suffering of all of them. Thus, Job was a victim of his people, the sins of Job's people being the sins of God's chosen people. The Christian Bible (the New Testament) turned this on its head, emphasizing the individual over the group: it's the individual's sin and relationship with God that determines fate. But why do good individuals suffer? Not to worry, this life is transitory, whereas Paradise (or Hell) is eternal: don't worry about this short, transitory life, prepare for Paradise. The complication is that Jesus taught that the end of time was imminent, and good people have been suffering for over 2000 years. For God's chosen people, there will always be sinners among them and, thus, they will always suffer. For Christians, it's both simpler and more complicated: simpler in that the individual is only responsible for her own sins, but being good (doing good works) alone won't avoid suffering in this life, the payoff coming at the end of time and eternal life in paradise.

A useful lesson for our times. Taking Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as our latter-day role models, we overrate the historical effectiveness of speaking truth to power. Power is rarely persuaded. Power speaks power back.

"Speaking truth to power" works best as the "good cop" member of a tag team, with "speaking violence to power" as the "bad cop". And even then it only works when power falters and questions itself and reins itself in.

But history never quite ended and things do revert to norms after all.

Gandhi was a racist when he lived in South Africa, Martin Luther King was a liar, a thief, and a plagiarist, who did a little performance art on behalf of the race whose women he despised in order to make himself feel less bad about his sinful nature, and Nelson Mandela's wife was probably a serial killer.

Grow the fuck up, you ignorant fool.
Trust in God, not in 20th Century Man.

" Job contests mainly the point that Job is always just" should be of course " Job contests mainly the point that *God* is always just."

God is always just.
Job was proud and had little love in his heart until God decided to make him a better man.
Read the first lines of the book fifty times over and you will see what I mean,

Who cares if he "suffered" a little on his route to being a real person, it was better than staying in his sad little world of "I am Job and I love Job"

That is one of the most cheerful books in the Bible, a proud sad little man who had so many good things that he did not treasure lost so much, but what he gained in the end - love in his heart ----- was so much more important than the finite suffering he experienced (remember, he did not really love anybody at the beginning of the book, and he did at the end)

Readers interested in authenticity should get up in the wee hours and read the barbecue book slowly through the night, on only a couple of days each week.

And also find some discussion group to debate until the pigs come home which broken-down shack in which obscure rural backwater has the best Q

#4 is superb - I just finished reading it about two weeks. I had wondered myself why the Soviet Union didn't take the "China" route, and the book answers that with aplomb: they knew about the Chinese alternative, the Chinese happily shared information about its success with Soviet scholars, but ultimately the Soviet Union was riven with some extremely powerful interest group bureaucracies (specifically the military, energy, and agriculture) that made it impossible for Gorbachev to reform either at the speed or level he desired, and forced him to spend unnecessarily large sums of money as pay-offs.

Interesting -- a variation on the resource curse, in some ways.

Mao's wickedness is highly underrated. Imagine if Hitler had managed to stay within his own borders, mostly, and concentrated on destroying the rights of his own countrymen, established his own personal empire, and who then went on to be celebrated forever by a slightly less wicked gang of thugs who rule in the dynasty he began. Li Peng died today, may Hades forever torment him.

The most underrated Chinese leader: Zhao Ziyang. Written out of China's history books, and mostly ignored by foreigners, who lazily attribute most of his achievements to Deng, or are too cowardly to talk about him given that this would put them on the CCP's enemies list.

>Imagine if Hitler had managed to stay within his own borders, mostly, and concentrated on destroying the rights of his own countrymen, established his own personal empire, and who then went on to be celebrated forever by a slightly less wicked gang of thugs who rule in the dynasty he began.

Are you pitching a Bernie Sanders movie or something?

Amusing, but I don’t really fear him. He was fairly ineffectual in Vermont. Liz Warren on the other hand would be terrifying. She’s more energetic and relentless, and has trump cards (gender) to play.

"Mao's wickedness is underrated"

Not by me, I like Chinese people a lot, and I consider Mao to be one of the most intensely evil demons in human form that have ever lived, and I feel so bad for his parents, who would have preferred to live a billion years of loneliness and pain if they could have as an alternative to being parents to that great evil-doer, who was a murderer of so many wonderful and lovable among the Chinese people

Well I'll try to sound a little sprightlier next time, OK? Sheeesh ...
---- Roger G

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