What I’ve been reading

Roderick Floud, An Economic History of the English Garden.  Every page of this book does indeed have economics.  It just does not have interesting economics.  Which may mean that gardens are not so interesting from an economic point of view.  Which in turn would make this a good book.  But not an interesting book.

Ajantha Subramanian, The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India.  A critique of casteism and growing inequality, this book also doubles as a fascinating history of IIT.  Best read in Straussian fashion as a sympathetic story of origins.

Dana Thomas, Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion & The Future of Clothes.  Some parts of this book have bad economics and extreme mood affiliation, but in general it has more actual information than other books on the same topic and at times the author makes decent external cost arguments against the current system of clothes production.  So a qualified recommendation, at least I am glad I read it, even though some parts are obviously too sloppy.

Razeen Sally, Return to Sri Lanka: Travels in a Paradoxical Island.  People do not think enough about Sri Lanka, including in the social sciences!  It is a richer and nicer country than what most people are expecting, and it is good for studying both conflict and ethnic tensions.  This memoir — information rich rather than just blather — is one good place to get you started.

David Goldblatt, The Age of Football: The Global Game in the Twenty-First Century.  Football meaning soccer of course, this book covers how soccer interacts with politics in many particular countries, including Africa, and just how much the game has grown in global markets.  Mostly informative, good if you wish to read a book about this topic (I don’t).

Conversations with Zizek.  Maybe the best introduction to why Žižek is a richer thinker than his critics allege?  The book serves up insights on a consistent basis, and there is a minimum of jargon.  Marcus Pound had a good blurb: “Audacious and vertiginous, this book is everything one expects from him, a heady mix of psychoanalysis, politics, theology, philosophy, and cultural studies that will leave the reader both exhausted and exhilarated.”


Oh goodness, we know that women's fashions constitute an arms race! :-)

and no more turtlenecks made from baby seals!

Do a conversation with Zizek. He always has something interesting to say.

Some of the most capable engineers I've ever met came from IIT. I hope more emigrate to the US to raise our badly lagging national IQ.

Yes, some extremely talented people.

I love Indian engineers because I can pay them a lot less for the same work as deeply entitled Americans.

I think that is shameful! If they are that smart they should return to their home and make their own country better.

India's problems do not lie in a shortage of smart engineers. They lie in a captured and corrupt bureaucracy that places its own interests above the general welfare.

In Sri Lanka you find the definition of Chinese influence and application of power. The first group to use suicide bombers were obliged when the Sri Lankan military along with Chinese rooted out the rebels and killed most of them, putting an end to a decades long insurgency war.

The center of the insurgency is now in places like Canada where the groups fundraise and keep the flame burning.

It will be interesting to see what happens when the US exits the middle east no longer needing it's oil, and the Chinese then do the hard work of maintaining a stable supply. There will be a yearning for the rather hapless Great Satan.

" when the US exits the middle east no longer needing it's oil"

What planet do you live on because it clearly ain't Earth.

Zizek: I suppose Cowen would admire Zizek because Zizek speaks in code. Either that, or Zizek is the Chauncey Gardiner of contemporary philosophy. It's been said about Trump that he should be taken seriously but not literally. Zizek should be taken neither seriously nor literally but ironically. By the way, Zizek endorsed candidate Trump. Irony is his game. Zizek might observe that Trump's wall is symbolic not an actual wall to block one from moving from one side to the other. Zizek would agree with Caplan that higher education is symbolic (signaling), neither higher nor an education. Politics is symbolic, but that's understood by anyone with an IQ above two digits. Zizek is the philosopher for our time - not that time is, you know, real.

Do these new yoga pants make me look fat?

Irony lives!

For another interesting memoir about Sri Lanka you can read Running in the family, by Michael Ondaatje. Entertaining and sometimes hilariously so.

Economics is simply less interesting than gardening and a good deal less scientific.

"America's once Brobdingnagian moral stature": when was that? I must have blinked and missed it.

Under most American presidents. Under Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman, it saved Europe from totalitarianism. Under Truman and Eisenhower, it rebuilt Europe and Asia. Under Bush I and Clinton, it managed the post-Cold War consequences. America has been the indispensable nation, the city at the top of the hill, the workd's best, last hope.

Oh balls. Clinton, for God's sake: I don't think I can trust your judgement.

"in many particular countries, including Africa": it's been a while since I saw an American referring to Africa as a country.

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