What I’ve been reading

1. Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell, Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World.  A good, short “give it to your high school kid” book on why socialism is not an entirely ideal way to arrange society.

2. Ben Lewis, The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting.  I felt I knew this story already, but nonetheless found interesting information and conceptual analysis on virtually every page.  And while the author is agnostic and balanced, the text upped my opinion of the “likely Leonardo weighted expected value” component from about 0.1 to maybe 0.25?  Yet so much fuss about a painting that resurfaced in 1907 — model that…  And don’t forget: “None of the great art historians and connoisseurs who saw it before 1958 identified it as a Leonardo.”  Recommended.

3. Lene Rachel Andersen and Tomas Björkman, The Nordic Secret: A European story of beauty and freedom.  There should be many more books about why the Nordics are special, and this is one of them.  The central notion here is “secular Bildung” as a means of elevating society and cooperative relations.  Uneven in its structure of exposition, but definitely interesting in parts and the importance of the question makes this better than most of the other books you might be likely to read.  Just don’t expect 100% polish.

4. David Cahan, Helmholtz: A Life in Science.  At 768 pp., I only read about half of this one.  Nonetheless I read the better half, and it is one of the more useful treatments of 19th century German science.  I hadn’t realized the strong connections with Siemens and Roentgen, for instance, and one clear lesson is that German science of that time had some pretty healthy institutions outside of the formal university system.

Comments

"At 768 pp., I only read about half of this one. Nonetheless I read the better half..."
I need to develop that skill myself. How do you determine the better half ahead of reading the entire book? Do you always start at the beginning or sometimes jump into the better half midways into the book closer to the start of the better half?

'Nonetheless I read the better half'

Of course you did, just like you found better gelato in a Warsaw food hall than anywhere in Milan.

" Just don’t expect 100% polish."

When will you leftist homosexuals leave Poland alone?

#1 Norway, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Singapore are all hardcore socialist counties in that the government owns the means of production/commanding heights of the economy.

Would the average citizen of those counties be better off if those resources were privately held?

I'm going to say it again: libertarian-leaners do themselves no favours by attacking Marxist socialism as though it were the same, Marx-predating meta idea of socialism writ large, and progressive-leaners will take them less seriously for it.

The same libertarians that have hate-boners for socialism have real boners for Singapore (aka "Socialism that Works") and China (aka "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics"). Go figure.

Is Bernie Sanders socialist? I guess his policies will be similar to Lee Kuan Yew and Xi Jinping then.

How about "Socialism with National characteristics". Of course it's preposterous to refer to Nazism as socialism, but your nonsense is along the same lines.

But of course Venezuela isn't socialist in your eyes anymore, now that things have gone horribly wrong. Not so long ago you were singing a different tune.

Don't ever criticize capitalism by the way, because if there's unemployment or economic crises then we'll just retroactively decide it was never capitalism after all.

>Is Bernie Sanders socialist?

Gee. I don't know. What party does he openly state he belongs to?

Well put. Sorry to see Tyler post such a foolish book. I've actually read this one; should be renamed "Ben and Bobby Do Cuba And It's Awful!".

Obviously no one is proposing we organise our countries like Venezuela or the Soviet Union. This kind of nonsense is the equivalent of someone writing "Lame Libertarianism: Why the Western Sahara Isn't The Paradise You Think It is!"

Maybe I'll write that one.

Is it obvious that “no one is proposing we organize our countries like Venezuela”? If Hugo Chavez was resurrected and taking part in the 2020 Democrat Presidential campaign, how would his policies differ? Would he be to the left or right of Bernie Sanders? What free things would Chavez offer that the other candidates would think is a bad idea?

Wasn't Chavez an old-school demagogue, a talker? He would run away with it, surely.

Guys, I'm actually Venezuelan born to Venezuelan parents that lives in Canada. Venezuela is a disaster, for many reasons - socialism is a big part of that, but please realise that to those of us that lived there, Venezuela was falling apart long before Chavez showed up. Chavez showed up with his "nationalise everything" hammer and accelerated the decline.

Regardless, my point is that it is disingenuous of these authors - and I think Tyler, in this case - to imply that young people who are calling for more socialism in the US are calling for a Venezuelan style republic where the military extorts private business owners and the Federal Reserve prints wads of cash to solve every problem.

Rather, they are asking for a little common sense in the tax system, and whether as a country you should be prioritizing standards of living, education and healthcare for your population, or deregulation of financial systems and advantages for the wealthiest 1%. That is all.

LOL, I think we all realize that the Young Socialists don't want to end up like Venezuela. But we're also smart enough to realize that the Venezuelans didn't expect it to go that way either.

But socialist do want societies organized on the same principles was the Soviets or Venezuela. Socialists don't care about the poor, they hate the rich.

Support for the disadvantaged preceded communism and the socialist ideals. The Prussians set up systems of welfare motivated by social order. Healthy young men and healthy children are the basis of a strong economy and military, as are care for those who can't care for themselves. The programs had a goal and had to work. The Nordic systems were based on these principles, and were almost destroyed by the socialists in the 70's.

Socialist programs have nothing to do with looking after the poor, but are structured around control of the resources. The Canadian Health care system was built around control. Doctors are the eternal enemy of the system. Universal means a monopoly, with no other options. The problem for these idealists isn't that it takes a year to get a diagnostic procedure but that the diagnostic specialist makes too much money. The hard lessons of post war socialism is that they can't run anything, can't design anything that works, and were forced to tolerate people who can.

A socialist would make the 335 million people in the us depend on one cabinet secretary in Washington for their health care needs. Single payer. A monopoly, with no rivals. That is how socialists think. It doesn't matter if it works, health care isn't the issue. It is about control. It is the intolerance that someone somewhere is smarter and better than me. I just use the power of the state to stop them.

So be honest with yourself about the provenance of your ideals. People who really want to improve the US health care system aren't socialists. People who want to sieze control of it are. Two different things.

Then there are the examples of US large public schools systems - single payer, as close to a monopoly as they can get, bureaucratically unresponsive to citizens, and almost uniformly a disaster for students.

Guys, as I mentioned above, I'm actually a Venezuelan that lives in Canada.

Thanks for calling out my two nationalities. I'll just say that Canada and most of Europe seem to manage to provide low-cost education and healthcare to all of their citizens at a reasonable quality, more cheaply than the United States does, somehow.

I don't think it's very fair to pretend that young people who are calling for socialism necessarily want a totalitarian state where the government extorts its own people. All they want is a system that perhaps doesn't encapsulate its citizens in a lifetime of debt for getting sick once, or wanting to do a graduate (or undergraduate) degree.

The book is foolish.

You’re missing the point. Intention doesn’t equate to probable outcome.

Tax and spend Western Europe is DEMONSTABLY poorer than the US as a function of median income.

True Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg are in line with US levels but two of those three countries are more economically right wing than the US.

I’m sorry but the French, German, UK, Italian, Swedish, Danish way just doesn’t beat the US.

325 million people live here and we smoke most of Western Europe in terms of median income. We also have crapier urbanism, dumber people, and bad eating habits. A lot of these Western European countries have no excuse except for bad policy....

The book does have a part where they go into a Socialist convention. The authors do note that socialism for the young basically means a catch-all phrase of socially liberal ideas. They emphasize that libertarians share some of those, like immigration and justice system reform.
The book is just basically a common sense argument: Socialists countries cannot make nice affordable beer, so what are the odds that can make something more complicated possible.

The point is socialists and libertarians actually have common ground (see Singapore's public housing and low tax rates) but they will continue to lose to populists and nationalists if they keep splitting hairs.

'Socialists countries cannot make nice affordable beer'

The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic had zero problem with that, though it might be due to having socialism with a brewer's face.

And depending on your definition of nice, the DDR, the USSR, the Polish People's Republic, and Yugoslavia also had no problems with nice affordable beer.

4. "I only read about half of this one. Nonetheless I read the better half"

Tyler, which half would this be? To save myself almost 400 pages.

#1 could be accompanied by a viewing of Mad Max to see a similar Straw Man world of laissez-faire capitalism with minimal government intervention.

It was a movie, fiction. It didn' t demonstrate anything about any kind of capitalism.

I lived in France throughout the socialist Mitterrand years . Life was a good , certainly better than anything i experienced later in the USA. Thatcherreaganism , which eventually found its way to the whole western world, turned everything to shit . Destroyed communities . It was all foretold in that Wall Street scene with Martin and Charlie sheen . And now you have that clownish, bafoonish , vulgar , hate mongering , protofascistic Trump , an affront to civilization and humanity , a direct result of neoliberal policies . So yeah I say bring back socialism .

I find it ironic that the same people who bleat about socialism one week, declare we need 80% nuclear power like France the next, somehow ignoring all the French nuclear power was built under true socialist energy sector, with all power equipment manufacture, all construction, all operation done by government employees, and that was especially true for all aspects of the nuclear industry. Analysis of the public acceptance of nuclear power in France concluded the public trusted government employees because scientists and engineers were not compromised by profit seeking CEOs cutting corners.

Since France privatized its energy sector, except for operating nuclear plants, reactors, fuel reprocessing, storage, the French nuclear industry has gone from failure to failure, but with its decline overshadowed by the even worse failures of the US reactor builders even with massive US government subsidies. Somehow, French government workers who were very successful building nuclear reactors became almost as incompetent as US private sector nuclear workers when they were moved from government employment to private sector jobs.

I find it odd all the opponents of socialism blames government for private sector nuclear failing to match French socialist nuclear power industry success. Which turned into failure when privatized, now blamed on government.

From National Review a week ago:
"and battery storage requirements are unrealistic and technologically infeasible.

"Nuclear-plant subsidies, carefully crafted, are the best answer to ensure that the nuclear industry survives and evolves to finally meet expectations, after decades of broken promises.

"JONATHAN LESSER — Mr. Lesser is the president of Continental Economics, an energy and economic consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow with the Manhattan Institute. His report “IS THERE A FUTURE FOR NUCLEAR POWER IN THE UNITED STATES?,” was published last month"

Note, Elon Musk has self funded and then obtained private funding for building grid battery storage manufacturing capacity, while nuclear power depends on government funding to build most nuclear production facilities.

How is this not Nation Review advocating socialism?

Cogent comment, mulp. But the National Review is probably "correct" that protecting the nuclear industry is the best way to protect the nuclear industry - hard to argue with that logic.

Nordics are the best of the white people. They're not trying to start wars with anybody or overthrow rulers of other countries, and they remain neutral in foreign affairs and their temperaments are ideal as United Nations peace-keepers - and on top of all that, they know how to drink without making fools of themselves.

Iceland has my respects for putting their bankers in prison. The English speaking world could learn a thing or two from them, one of which is courage. The inability to put financiers away meant animals like Epstein could do as they please with full impunity.

Just wondering. What does Epstein have to do with the 2008 Global financial catastrophe?

Otherwise, you're correctly highlight Iceland's economic successes since 2008.

Iceland has enjoyed one of the strongest recoveries.

Unlike the U.S and the rest of the Eurozone, Iceland allowed its three largest banks to fail and told the creditors and bondholders to get in line with the depositors and recover whatever is collected on the banks' assets. So, Iceland didn't transfer to its people the failed banks' losses. The Eurozone tried to force Iceland to pay the failed bank creditors. Iceland didn't pay.

Iceland prosecuted and jailed 26 corrupt bankers responsible for their banks' insolvencies.

Iceland refused to go the austerity route keeping social programs intact when Icelanders most needed them.

Iceland’s three major banks collapsed resulting in losses of $114 billion. The GDP was only $19 billion. In October 2008, Iceland seized domestic operations of the major banks and established new banks to handle them. They did not guaranty or assume any of the foreign debts. Those stayed with the original banks in bankruptcy and foreign and domestic creditors would be paid from collections of assets, not by the Icelandic people.

Iceland locking up banksters is not the secret of Iceland's economic successes.

Well my, don't we have a fresh little oversexed mouth, Mr. A.C.!

A "Nordic bildung" book written by an "independent futurist" - sounds like the opposite of self recommending?

3. Are the Nordics special, compared to other small communities of white Protestants (e.g., many 19th century American towns and a small number of remaining clubs and vacation communities)? I don't think so.

#3 Italy does better than the Nordics but it is not all in the stats because they obey the laws less, and how do measure good but not expensive food which is about the recipe. That stuff they eat in Scandinavia is toxic.

#1 sounds like an update of PJ O'Rourke's highly entertaining "Holidays in Hell", published in 1988. As a college student (at the time) who hadn't yet seen much of the world, I enjoyed being introduced to some of the world's hellholes, along with some context about how they got that way. He ridiculed the USSR, Cuba and the Sandanistas at a time though leaders in the US were uncouraging dialogue, understanding and some emulation of their systems.
I wonder how this new book compares?

It’s up to date, and the authors are actual economists, but it’s not nearly as amusing.

Still, it’s a good quick read, and it’s worth noting just how many well known people are in favour of some kind of extensive state control (though obviously that’s not how they frame it).

A suggestion based upon #1...I’m not a big fan of Mises, but Socialism is a great book. If you haven’t read it, you should give it a look.

#1
Along the way, you’ll learn:

• Why the so-called Swedish model might be attractive, but sure isn’t socialism (Sweden is capitalism with a big welfare state)

I lol'd...Hey that thing that everyone wants and calls socialism isnt actually socialism, but if you want any of those things that that non-socialist country has, everyone and their uncle will call you a socialist, which in case you havent read the title, SUCKS!!!

I've read one definition of socialism that stated socialism is

"government ownership of the means of production"

I do not know if this is a good definition or not. But for the sake of argument let's assume that is a good definition.

Here's my question: If socialism is government ownership of the means of production, then how is socialism different from various forms of dictatorships??????

Also if socialism is not "government ownership of the means of production" then what the hell is it??????

1. don't buy the book!
watch the movie its free!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTJqC25S0j8

Comments for this post are closed