From buzzfeed.com—”a variety of fiction and nonfiction books to read while you wait for Season 3 to be filmed. These books feature ruthless rulers, Machiavellian plotters, devious political machinations, intrepid journalists, and other elements that fans of House of Cards will love.”
So here’s a challenge that I (and others) have posed before but believe to be sufficiently penetrating to pose again. This challenge, of course, is posed to supporters of this hike in the minimum wage: Name some other goods or services for which a government-mandated price hike of 39.3 percent will not cause fewer units of those goods and services to be purchased. Indeed, name even just one such good or service.
And this puts it another way:
Several links commenting on the hit Netflix show, House of Cards at Flavorwire, a show I enjoy…in a depressing sort of way…because it probably understates the problems with our power-mad federal government
From The Guardian:
While we are busy tweeting, texting and spending, the world is drifting towards disaster, believes Jonathan Franzen, whose despair at our insatiable technoconsumerism echoes the apocalyptic essays of the satirist Karl Kraus – ‘the Great Hater’
From The National Interest:
Of all the writers in the “realist” canon—from Thucydides and Hobbes to Morgenthau and Mearsheimer—it is Niccolo Machiavelli who retains the greatest capacity to shock. In 1513, banished from his beloved Florence, Machiavelli drafted his masterwork, The Prince. Five centuries later his primer on statecraft remains required if unsettling reading for practitioners and students of politics. Machiavelli’s originality—and the source of his enduring, if notorious, reputation—was his blatant rejection of traditional morality as a guide to political action, and his insistence that statecraft be based on a realistic view of corrupted human nature.
From Foreign Policy, by Aaron David Miller:
Do Americans have a worldview? And is there a central organizing principle that explains it? To frame the question in Tolkienesque terms: Might there be one explanation that rules them all?
…Sigmund Freud argued that in the human enterprise, anatomy is destiny. In the affairs of nations, geography — what it wills, demands, and bestows — is destiny too.
Read the whole thing at the link.
Two chilling articles from The New York Times, by David Stockman (President Ronald Reagan’s budget director):
A Gallery of Economic Villains and Heroes (A bipartisan list.)
From The Wall Street Journal:
Benedictine monks decided to sell the simple wooden caskets they’d always made. Then things got complicated.
Because of “economic regulations simply to protect politically connected special interests from competition.” The case could go to the Supreme Court.
From The Browser—FiveBook Interviews. My goodness, there is a lot here to have some healthy arguments about.
For the worry warts, from Edge, “2013: What *Should* We Be Worried About?”
Some examples from various scientists and others with axes to grind:
China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end.
…that current tools in economics and econometrics don’t work, whenever there is an exposure to a large deviations, or “Black Swans”.
We are at a strategic disadvantage in the fight against viral infection.
What I am particularly worried about is that humans will be less and less able to appreciate what they should really be worrying about and that their worries will do more harm than good. Maybe, just as on a boat in rapids, one should try not to slowdown anything but just to optimize a trajectory one does not really control, not because safety is guaranteed and optimism is justified—the worst could happen—, but because there is no better option than hope.
In a media landscape oversaturated with sensational science stories, “end of the world” Hollywood productions, and Mayan apocalypse warnings, it may be hard to persuade the wide public that there are indeed things to worry about that could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis, and have far greater impact. I’m worried that by 2050 desperate efforts to minimize or cope with a cluster of risks with low probability but catastrophic conseqences may dominate the political agenda.
The universe is relentlessly, catastrophically dangerous, on scales that menace not just communities, but civilizations and our species as well. A freakish chain of improbable accidents produced the bubble of conditions that was necessary for the rise of life, our species, and technological civilization. If we continue to drift obliviously inside this bubble, taking its continuation for granted, then inevitably—sooner or later—physical or human-triggered events will push us outside, and we will be snuffed like a candle in a hurricane.
…the Internet Drivel Factor can’t be good—and is almost certain to grow in importance as the world fills gradually with people who have spent their whole lives glued to their iToys.
In the past, meaning was only in the minds of humans. Now, it is also in the minds of tools that bring us information. From now on, search engines will have an editorial point of view, and search results will reflect that viewpoint. We can no longer ignore the assumptions behind the results.
The underpopulation bomb: Here is the challenge: this is a world where every year there is a smaller audience than the year before, a smaller market for your goods or services, fewer workers to choose from, and a ballooning elder population that must be cared for. We’ve never seen this in modern times; our progress has always paralleled rising populations, bigger audiences, larger markets and bigger pools of workers. It is hard to see how a declining yet aging population functions as an engine for increasing the standard of living every year. To do so would require a completely different economic system, one that we are not prepared for at all right now.
I worry that as the problem-solving power of our technologies increases, our ability to distinguish between important and trivial or even non-existent problems diminishes. Just because we have “smart” solutions to fix every single problem under the sun doesn’t mean that all of them deserve our attention. In fact, some of them may not be problems at all; that certain social and individual situations are awkward, imperfect noisy, opaque or risky might be by design. Or, as the geeks like to say, some bugs are not bugs—some bugs are features.
We should worry that so much of our science and technology still uses just five main models of probability—even though there are more probability models than there are real numbers.
“science by (social) media” raises the curious possibility of a general public that reads more and more science while becoming less and less scientifically literate.
Gibbon, in describing the fall of Rome, spoke of “the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness” and of “the triumph of barbarism and religion”. Those forces—the diversion of intellectual effort from innovation to exploitation, the distraction of incessant warfare, rising fundamentalism—triggered a Dark Age before, and they could do so again.