A Reason for Optimism

About four years ago, I wrote a post called “The Reckoning.” In it, I put forward the idea that unsustainable economic trends in the United States would lead to the emergence of populist politics and demagogues.

In the conclusion, I suggested that this incipient “reckoning” was symptomatic of a cleavage between different generations’ perceptions of the world. Basically, (1) that the generation that grew up in the post-World War II era — which by definition is responsible for the state of the union — would be incapable of adapting to a world without American primacy; and, (2) that the generation coming of age in a period of entropy and uncertainty would be willing to take on the shibboleths that have impeded political progress.

I closed with the following: (more…)

The Discontinuities between the Generations in History

With free time scarce, I find that shorter books make for better books. And lecture series can make for the best books of all. 

Discontinuities
Superb nap-time reading.

At 32 (small) pages, Sir Herbert Butterfield’s The Discontinuities between the Generations in History: Their Effect on the Transmission of Political Experience—delivered in 1971 as part of the Rede Lecture series—is a superb way to spend half an hour. (more…)

Favorite Books of 2015

The holiday season is upon us, so I thought I’d take to the blog once more to share some of the best books I read during the year.  Following fortuitous retweets from Marc Andreessen and Conor Sen last year, these annual posts have become the most frequently visited pages on the blog, with the 2014 and 2013 iterations attracting nearly one in five views.  So thanks!  I hope you find one or more of the books listed below to be an enriching read. (more…)

The Ancien Régime and the Revolution

With all the hubbub about China as of late, I thought it might be worth reading Alexis De Tocqueville’s The Ancien Régime and the Revolution (Penguin: 2008). A number of China Hands say the Party has used this book to inform their approach to domestic stability and harmony.1 I have no idea whether these assertions are true,2 but if one were a leader seeking to understand the drivers of mass movements and revolutions, The Ancien Régime would be a logical item for the reading list. (more…)

Life To Come

Sometime within the next three months I shall become a father.  So begins the last big adventure, a maelstrom of unequal parts agency and cupidity.  On the one hand lies the opportunity to help mold a decent human being, showering him1 with love, and equipping him with the values, traits, tenacity and moral fiber required to live a good, meaningful life.  On the other lies the awareness that I am incapable of sheltering him from all of life’s cruelties, tribulations, hopelessness and pain; a realization that parenthood entails a degree of submission to the crude determinism of biology and the randomness of fate. (more…)

David Bromwich and the Vanishing Art of Independent Thinking

The intelligence is defeated as soon as the expression of one’s thoughts is preceded, explicitly or implicitly, by the little word “we.”1

Recently, in The London Review of Books, David Bromwich penned an excoriating piece on Barack Obama and the political class that had me chuckling in my chair (see “The World’s Most Important Spectator”). The writing is absolutely poetic; Bromwich delivers so many zingers that to quote the essay piecemeal would risk deriving you of one of the great reading pleasures of 2014. So I shall refrain. (more…)

Vox on Millennials, Risk Aversion, Investing and Success in Life

OMG. Millennials are idiots. They put less than half of their savings in stocks. When they’re old, they’ll subsist on a cat food diet because they were terrible investors.

Reading this article on Vox.com raised my blood pressure and left me baffled/speechless.1 Conor Sen (@conorsen) asked me why, so I’ve pulled together some thoughts on why the piece was misleading.

Seven Ways a Vox.com Article Provided No Context

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