What I’ve been reading

1. Fredrik deBoer, The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice.  A well-written, highly intelligent book, inveighing against various aspects of the current meritocracy, and how they contribute to what the author calls “social injustice.”  People who do educational policy, or who think about inequality should read this book.  But ultimately what is his remedy?  I would sooner attack homework, credentialism, and bureaucratization than testing.  And yes, IQ is overrated, but the correct alternative view emphasizes stamina and relentlessness in a manner that I don’t think will make deBoer any happier.  To lower the status of smarts, in the meantime, I fear is not going to do us any good.

2. Chris Ferrie and Veronica Goodman, ABCs of Economics (Baby University).  Is this for a 5 or 6 year old?  It seems good to me, though perhaps the part where they teach “Nash equilibrium” is a stretch.  I say calculus should be available in the fifth grade, stats in the eighth grade, so full steam ahead.

3. Christopher I. Caterine, Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide.  Did you realize that most of the supposed advantages of academia, such as control over your own time, do not exist to the extent they once did?  The advice in this book, such as about how to prepare your resume, seems correct to me, although that it needs to be given does not convince me of the marketability of these academics in the private sector or indeed anywhere at all.

4. Robert D. Putnam, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.  A fact-rich, well-reasoned and indeed reasonable take on numerous American trends, most of them related to social solidarity.  A good book, provided you are not looking too hard for what the title and subtitle would seem to promise.

5. Greg Woolf, The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History.  A very useful introduction and overview to its chosen topic, a good and readable book for urbanists who are looking for general historical background.

Notable are two new books on liberalism abroad.  The first is Ingemar Stahl: A Market Liberal in the Swedish Welfare State, edited by Christina and Lars Jonung, and The Hand Behind the Invisible Hand: Dogmatic and Pragmatic Views on Free Markets and the State of Economic Theory, by Karl Mittermaier, with other contributions, concerning South Africa, and free on Kindle at least for the time being.


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