What I’ve been reading

Ben S. Bernanke, Timothy F. Geithner, and Henry M. Paulson, editors, with Nellie Liang.  First Responders: Inside the U.S. Strategy For Fighting the 2007-2009 Global Financial Crisis.  Too many people will judge this volume by its editors, for better or worse.  In reality, almost everything here is by other people, and well-informed ones too.  This is one of the best comprehensive books on the crisis, and it is usefully organized by topic (“Crisis-Era Housing Programs,” or say Jason Furman on fiscal policy).  I haven’t read through the whole thing, but there is a good chance this is the best overall volume on the response to the crisis, though again I suspect opinions on the book will follow whatever opinions the reviewers have of the editors.

Justin Marozzi, Islamic Empires: Fifteen Cities that Define a Civilization.  Did the Islamic Middle East invent the notion of a truly splendid city?  This book makes the case for yes, starting with 7th century Mecca, moving to Damascus, Baghdad, and Cordoba, and finishing in 21st century Doha, “City of Pearls.”

Todd S. Purdum, Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution.  Of course the music is worth learning about, but this volume is also a splendid take on managerial teamwork in a duo.

Greta Thunberg, No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. Some of her speeches, transcribed.  Call me crazy, but I think of her and Donald Trump as the two great orators of our generation, regardless of what you think of their content.

Vicky Pryce, Women vs. Capitalism: Why We Can’t Have It All in a Free Market Economy.  Compared to what, I am inclined to ask?  Still, if you are looking for a readable book on how and why capitalism does not lead to gender equality, this is now the place to go.

Matthew D. Adler’s Measuring Social Welfare: An Introduction is a very good take on its chosen topic.


I love Greta Thunberg's speeches. They contain some of the finest examples of cognitive distortions I have ever seen, often all in one speech. Fantastic for anyone interested in CBT ( cognitive behaviour therapy).

Greta lost me when she said that her dreams and childhood had been stolen. I really think that kind of language should be reserved for victims of ghastly accidents, Larry Nassar, Charles Taylor, etc.

It is unfair to criticize the puppet and ignore the puppet masters.

Congratulations on inventing a new oxymoron, "Trump" and "orator" in the same sentence, yes indeedy! Well done. Now, as Trump as "agitator", that is different.... he could well be the greatest agitator of our generation.

Maybe if you use the full quote and don't just cherry-pick portions of it then it won't make it seem like she is a Larry Nassar victim.

"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.”

Watching Greta give a speech is spooky. 30 seconds after she begins to speak while glaring, I assume that her head is about to rotate 360 degrees.

In related news, Jeremy Clarkson complaining about Greta Thunberg has to be the most OK Boomer thing ever

No, Boomers using the phrase OK Boomer unironically is the most OK Boomer thing ever.

Tyler is trolling us again

OK then. You're crazy.

Why Can't We Have it All in a Free Market Economy.

If you want it all you can't have free people because they won't give it to you willingly. What you need is well regulated slavery. It takes about half of one person's time to run a household, so why not use the liberal tendency to change the meaning of words. Slavery is such an ugly word. Why not call it compassion, where your empathy moves you to find some disadvantaged brown person, welcome them to your home, show full respect for their culture and traditions, and in return they do all the chores.

It is the free part that is the problem. Get rid of that and anything can be done.

Some speeches, written down, written by someone who is *not* Thunberg, make the autistic child who delivers them not very well great at oratory?

DJT isn't either.

I was so surprised by the oratory claim that I actually listened to a Trump speech (I've already listened to Thunberg). I thought one characteristic of good oratory was that it was interesting at least, and at best changed minds. Neither speaker qualifies; you could describe both as not-Periclean.

The only way it works is as a criticism of "our generation."

(I would note that most people don't give oratory, and most people don't listen. A better question for our generation is who you follow on Twitter or Instagram.)

Trump is no orator but is certainly skilled at something closer to stand-up or performance art. He needs a foil -- a contentious press corps or a rowdy live crowd.

Hopefully not many of your generation have an Instagram account, but I digress.

Trump and Greta both speak to the worldview of their fanatics ...fellow travelers perfectly.

They’re both able to tap directly into the antirational, Manichaean, apocalyptic moral framework of their adherents.

So yeah in an awful way, they really are the best. But for a world in which it were Scott Alexander, but a quick glance at this very comments section will disabuse anyone that it’s a possible equilibrium.

Todd Purdum has a broad range. I've read him since he was a reporter for the NYT, now a regular contributor to The Atlantic. He is still a reporter at heart - read his work at The Atlantic and one will understand what I mean. But I suspect most will have an opinion about Purdum's work based on their opinion of his life editor.

Todd Purdum"s book is an exciting read for a Broadway musical fan, is very well written and has a much broader scope than noted in the list. Sol many interesting details about writing songs and musicals, inspiration, methodology, last minute on the road changes, finding singers, plus some fascinating gossip type reporting. .

Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson saved the world, or the financial world anyway. Those with a negative opinion of them likely believe the financial world wasn't worth saving. An aside, the three had radically different backgrounds and radically different points of view but came together with one goal: put out the fire. Paulson has made a difference to the environment in addition to the financial world.

"Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson saved the World, . . ."

The real issue is, "How did it come to that?"

The Congress keeps giving them (the Fed, et al) additional powers and still they can't manage/mitigate or even early-on recognize financial catastrophes.

They didn't "save the world". They used vast amounts of debt to postpone the inevitable and in the process made the inevitable a worse prospect. The chickens WILL come home to roost.

I tend to agree.

For once since, say, 1913, the government, the Fed, et al should take a novel approach. Let's call it "positive nonintervention."

Re: "Saving The Financial World," in April 2016, Tom Blumer wrote: "Our current economic mess — the worst post-recession recovery since World War II, more people out of work than when Obama took office, a steady decline in real family income, massive new debt — is largely a result of his own policies of five consecutive $1 trillion deficits, the Obamacare catastrophe, new burdensome and capricious regulations, near-zero interest rates, and the anti-business psychological climate brought on by constant hectoring of the 'you did not build that” and “at a certain point you’ve made enough money' sort."

And, they wonder at Trump's 2016 election and his huge accomplishments.

Actually Congress has taken away power from the Fed in the last decade. Some of the things the Fed did to "save the world" (which they did, and, no, we are not now facing some worse situation, how utterly idiotic), they are now not allowed to do.

Both of you guys are just ignorant idiots. Sorry to be so blunt, but, really. Deal with facts, please, not hysterical conspiracy theory garbage.

"great orators of our generation"

You forgot about Reagan and Obama. Greta's rhetoric does not fit her standing. She has no credibility to interpret science, and no claim to victimhood. She is just an impudent little scold.

Greta isn't the first apocalyptic to try to save the world.

Another famous Scandinavian Greta was Greta Waitz (she was from Norway not Sweden), the greatest female long distance runner ever (she won nine NYC marathons). I actually met and jogged with her while she was training in the winter in my sunbelt city many years ago - she died in 2011. The slight Greta Thunberg reminds me of the slight Greta Waitz. Rearrange the letters, and she is Great.

Several of Obama's speeches gave me chills, notably the one he gave at the 2016 Democratic Convention. Regardless of your politics, much of that speech is one of the finest fullthroated defenses of liberal democracy, ever.

"Did the Islamic Middle East invent the notion of a truly splendid city? "

What a fatuous question.

"starting with 7th century Mecca": there's been a decent case made that The Holy City wasn't Mecca. Mecca was adopted later for reasons of inter-Arab politics.

Oh gag, more stupid and ignorant remarks here. Mecca was the original Holy City of Islam. Do you know anything, Dearie? One can argue that there were great and Holy Cities before it, including Jerusalem, or even maybe Rome. But it was the first great city of Islam without doubt.

When did you let your brain fall out of your head onto the sidewalk?

Even the US has "holy cities". Most holy is, of course, Washington, DC, the fountain of the faux democracy worshiped by the lukewarm Christians that aren't in traffic jams at 10 am on Sunday mornings. Only slightly less sacred is New York City, the financial capital and hence center of mammon worship in the western world. No problem getting a seat in a pew in any church there on a sabbath morning either.

Off topic. But can we have Tyler's analysis on Thomas Phillippon and his view that Europe is now the land of the free (market) and America the land of corporate kick backs and monopoly?

Please and thank you

Use the MR search function!

Is it an argument where Europe=Europe or an argument where "and obviously by Europe I mean Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, not France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Greece, Malta, etc...."? (As is so often the case.)

They can only be considered great based on how many are positively moved by them. Both repulse just as many, probably more, with their oratory styles. Additionally, Trump's influence is only partially due to his style. The shamelessness with which he repeats lies and non-sequiturs is appealing to so many as a means of projecting their own desires onto what he is saying. Is this latter 'great' oratorical style? Is ruthlessness and shamelessness in managerial style sufficient for managerial greatness? You attempt to completely divorce ethics from greatness and it's not clear you can.

You absolutely can and should divorce ethics from greatness if you are to remain objective. Hitler was one of the greatest orators in history and the content of his messages was appalling.

The environment being unquestionably, definitionally paramount, it is distressing, not *inspiring*, that interest in it is at such a low ebb that a champion had to be found in a child whose own custodians seem eager to highlight in her a freak-show quality, like one of those child evangelists that attracted fame during the death throes of Christianity. Which is not to say that Greta Thunberg is wrong about the crisis, even if, given her age and cultural background, it's not possible that she would have an entirely cool grasp of the problem and more so, its ideological underpinnings. Are elocution lessons still a thing? Her message, particularly if it gets stronger as she matures, deserves to be heard outside of a stupid partisan framework.

As for Trump, I've not heard him give a speech, but I would have supposed his contribution was in the negative sense, of demonstrating that a portion of the electorate was fatigued with what passes now for oratory, or rather had begun to perceive that the media's anointing of this or that politician as a great speaker, was not wholly earned. I thought this with Bill Clinton. Affable, yes - but affable is hardly Cicero.

Clinton seemed to me, from the first time I heard him, as the personification of the used car salesman archetype - a facade of everybody’s buddy, but absolutely untrustworthy, and willing to say whatever was convenient at the moment. Events confirmed this assessment.

All used car salesmen take exception to that statement.

The Amazon blurb for Women Vs. Capitalism reads, in part:

"Pryce urgently calls for feminists to focus attention on ... the pay gap, the glass ceiling, and the obstacles to women working at all. Only with government intervention in the labor market will these long-standing problems finally be conquered.

"From the gendered threat of robot labor to the lack of women in economics itself ... we will not achieve equality for women in our society without radical changes to Western capitalism."

Sounds like robot labor could churn this stuff out pretty easily, so I guess the "gendered threat" does exist

There is no “pay gap”.

Given the number of women in the workforce, “the obstacles to women working at all” seem pretty weak.

I mentioned above that Purdum's book was a favorite read. Another favorite read not broadcast by the Professor was The British in India : a social history of the Raj / David Gilmour. Written in a fluid fiction- like narrative style, vignettes, of a time, place, two cultures, high death rates, mutual benefits and indignities intended unseen. Unintended by the author, the book forced me to think about how a foreign destination open for adventurers, entrepreneurs, soldiers of fortune, political class persons of every category, females open to different, dreamers and losers, likely changed Britain as much as India I kept thinking about the "what if" young Americans had a like opportunity?

You need a real job and life, Tyler.

If anyone wants to see what the welfare state does to people, I heartily suggest a trip to the South side of Chicago.

...or the east side of Cleveland. The South Side of Chicago has areas that are thriving, or if not thriving then surviving. The east side of Cleveland, except for University Circle and a couple other areas, has more or less physically disappeared, with potential farmland taking up most of the space. It is truly apocalyptic.

Why does Vicky Pryce hold capitalism responsible for not delivering on "Gender Equality" ? Why not hold Democracy responsible for it ? When did capitalism promise to deliver any kind of equality ? Did socialism deliver on gender equality ?

Why not hold women themselves responsible for their own failure to catch-up with men ?

Stock market is the epitome of capitalism. And stock markets have been in existence for 3 centuries. What % of active participants (agent, brokers, traders etc) in stock market are women ? Why does every "so called thinker cum intellectual" hold capitalism responsible for either creating or not solving every "so called" problem ?

Compare the attempt to shape history though this volume to "A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions" -- which you have often ignored, sadly.

you think they are two of the best orators you have heard.

I know Yanks do not understand sorry speak English but this is ridiculous, Do you forget to say worst not best

"with 7th century Mecca, moving to Damascus, Baghdad, and Cordoba, and finishing in 21st century Doha, “City of Pearls.”

Alexandria? Babylon? Pataliputra?

I always wondered why people though Hitler was a great orator
until I heard Trump speaking to his base.

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