What I’ve been reading

C. Bradley Thompson’s America’s Revolutionary Mind: A Moral History of the American Revolution and the Declaration That Defined It, is a beautifully written history of exactly what the title and subtitle claim.

Also noteworthy is Richard Brookhiser, Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Essays, a kind of companion volume.  Can you beat the title, especially given world trends today?

Eric Schwitzgebel, A Theory of Jerks and Other Philosophical Misadventures.  Collected essays, interesting throughout, and among other points Schwitzgebel shows that ethicists do not in fact behave better than other human beings, higher rates of vegetarianism aside.

I do not have time to read David Abulafia’s The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans, but based on a browse it is 918 pp. of substance on everything from the Polynesians to the monsoon to sailing across the Atlantic, and then some.

I am a big fan of Yuval Levin, and now he has a new forthcoming book A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream.


TC does not have time to read David Abulafia's new tome? But he's a speed reader, so perhaps his standards are slipping? I myself have not finished David Abulafia's book on the Mediterranean.

Bonus trivia: the Mediterranean sea is a desert for a body of water. It barely gets enough water from the Atlantic to make up for evaporation, and it lacks nutrients for substantial sea life. Still, it has many species not found elsewhere, except in parts around Japan (Japan's seas and the Mediterranean were connected in prehistoric times).

"It barely gets enough water from the Atlantic to make up for evaporation"

Mate, the Med has to be in equilibrium. Economics isn't the only science to hold inputs equal outputs.

"I myself have not finished David Abulafia's book on the Mediterranean." I have. Ya boo sucks, Lopez is a lazy sod. (I'm feeling schoolboyish today.)

Mr Levin's title is one of the worst I've seen in a while. It starts with one of the great American cliches, "A Time to ...", moves on to an empty ra-ra verb ("Build"), then ra-ra nouns "Family and Community", progresses to the pompous "Recommitting" and climaxes with the absurd "the American Dream". Is he planning to be a candidate for the Republican nomination? His title is certainly vacuous enough to suit a would-be politician.

It put a tune on repeat in my head, where it will remain until something displaces it. "A time to refrain from embracing" - surely one of the stranger lines in a pop song?

Here's the heterodox view of the consequences of the American Revolution: Matthew Lockwood, To Begin the World Over Again: How the American Revolution Devastated the Globe, reviewed in the NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/01/books/review/to-begin-the-world-over-again-matthew-lockwood.html Definitely not my view but it's interesting to know that someone believed the heterodox view is sufficiently compelling to write a book. From the review: "But Lockwood’s grander claim that the Revolution “devastated the globe” relies on the reader’s sense of a “butterfly effect”: that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas."

Who? No matter. Certainly nothing that should bother people of your station. I'm sure something else important is happening elsewhere - look, a celebrity scandal!

Since nobody else seems inclined to compliment Mr Cowen on his sly dig at vegetarians, I hereby do so.

MEat too.

#1 Thanks for the alert on this book, I just pre-ordered the kindle edition for delivery tomorrow. It should provide a great intellectual context for the American fight for individual rights. So different from today's intellectual climate, I think.

Wow, I picked up three from today's list.

This seems kind of a longshot, but if Trump rolled because Erdogan had a tape, that drives a stake through the heart of Trumpism:

Turkish intelligence allegedly has an intercept of a call in which Kushner gave MBS the green light to arrest Jamal Khashoggi, who was later murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and Erdogan used that info to get Trump to pull US troops out of Syria.

Orange Man Bad Indeed.


I think it is actually bad that a certain contingent have inoculated this blog against discussing (ref 1) morality or (ref 5) institutions in the concrete.

Sure, there is a role for the abstract, but without direct action, do you even believe it?

The rights of man started with religion, not politics. So, yes morality.

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