January 10, 2004
Books: The Sacred Land

Recommended: Harry Turteltaub (2003), The Sacred Land (New York: Tor: 0765300370). Book Description: In Over the Wine-Dark Sea and The Gryphon's Skull, H. N. Turteltaub brought to life the teeming world of maritime Greece, in the unsettled years following the death of Alexander the Great. Now Menedemos and Sostratos, those dauntless capitalists of the third century B.C., have set sail again--this time to Phoenicia. There Menedemos will spend the summer trading, while his cousin Sostratos travels inland to the little-known country of Ioudaia, with its strange people and their even stranger religious obsessions. In theory, Sostratos is going in search of cheap balsam, a perfume much in demand in the Mediterranean world. In truth, scholarly Sostratos just wants to get a good look at a part of the world unknown to most Hellenes. And the last thing he wants is to have to take along a bunch of sailors from the Aphrodite as his bodyguards. But Menedemos insists. He knows that bandits on land are as dangerous as pirates at sea, and he has no faith in Sostratos's ability to dodge them. Meanwhile, it turns out that the prime hams and smoked eels they picked up en route are unsalable...

Posted by DeLong at 08:11 AM

December 27, 2003
A Blurb

Ever since the invention of agriculture, human beings have had only three social-engineering tools for organizing any large-scale division of labor: markets (and the carrots of material benefits they offer), hierarchies (and the sticks of punishment they impose), and charisma (and the promises of rapture they offer). Now there is the possibility of a fourth mode of effective social organization--one that we perhaps see in embryo in the creation and maintenance of open-source software. My Berkeley colleague Steve Weber's book is a brilliant exploration of this fascinating topic. Steven Weber (2003), The Success of Open Source (Cambridge: Harvard University Press: )....

Posted by DeLong at 06:45 PM

December 14, 2003
Notes: Desmond Seward, The Hundred Years War

P.M. Lawrence writes about chevauchee: There are some confusions here, some material and some not. One is a confusion between "chevachie" and "havoc". The effects outlined are those of havoc; a chevachie, cavalcade or cavalgada is technically the baggage train of succesful loot acquired in such a raid (see the early part of Washington Irving's "Conquest of Granada" for an example). As such, a chevachie need not necessarily wreak havoc; that said, havoc of that sort was just what the English were wreaking, with chevachie the way of making it cover its costs better. Alas! The distinction between "havoc" (the activity) and "chevauchee" (the booty train that was one of the activity's results) has long been lost to the English language. For example, consider Desmond Seward (1978), The Hundred Years War (New York: Atheneum: 0689706286), pp. 84-5: The operation's chief campaign turned out to be a chevauchee by the Black Prince... who had arrived at Bordeaux in September. In October 1355 the Prince rode out of the ducal capital with an army of probably no more than 2600 men-at-arms and archers... everyone on horseback, to spend the next two months killing and burning in Languedoc almost as far as Montpelier...

Posted by DeLong at 08:08 AM

November 25, 2003
Books: A.J.P. Taylor: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

A.J.P. Taylor (1954), The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press: ). Perhaps the first thing necessary to understand A.J.P. Taylor's The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 is that its title is ironic. First of all, at the end of the book, nobody has won the struggle for mastery in Europe. Or, rather, the power that has won--the United States--has won by refusing for sixty-eight years to play the game, and then withdraws again for a further twenty-four years. All the powers that struggled--Hohenzollerns, Habsburgs, Romanovs; the service nobilities of Prussia, Austria, and Russia; French and Italian devotees of universal liberty; British aristocrats seeking to keep Europe divided and unthreatening on the cheap--all of them lost. The struggle for mastery in Europe had no winners. Second, the period of the "struggle for a mastery in Europe" was a remarkably peaceful period. Compared to the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, 1848-1914 stands out as by far the most peaceful of times for Europe. Fifteen months of civil uproar and short military campaigns at the start, very brief wars in Italy in 1859, northern Germany in 1862, Austria in 1866, a somewhat longer war in...

Posted by DeLong at 07:41 PM

Books: A.J.P. Taylor: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe

A.J.P. Taylor (1954), The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 0198812701). A.J.P. Taylor writes too well. Here are two examples, both from page xxxiv: In the last analysis the First World War was brought about by the coincidence of two opposite beliefs. The rules of Austria-Hungary believed that there would be revolution if they did not launch a war; the rulers of Germany were confident that there would not be a revolution if they did. Both beliefs would have astonished Metternich. When Victor adler objected to Berchtold, foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, that war would provoke revolution in Russia, even if not in the Habsburg monarchy, he replied: "And who will lead this revolution? Perhaps Mr. Bronstein* sitting over there at the Cafe Central?" You have to keep reminding yourself, "Just because he says it beautifully doesn't mean that it is true! Just because he says it beautifully doesn't mean that it is true! It's unfair....

Posted by DeLong at 04:12 PM

November 10, 2003
Territories of Profit

My student Gary Fields's book Territories of Profit is about to emerge from Stanford University Press. It's a very nice book indeed--although, as you can tell from the preface, I never convinced him that he ought to think like a neoclassical economist :-): this study began as an effort to uncover historical analogies to Internet commerce. In the course of its development, it established two parallel worlds, one occurring in the late nineteenth century, marked by the railroad and telegraph revolution, the other occurring during the final years of the twentieth century, marked by the ascendancy of the Internet. Two business firms,G. F. Swift and Dell Computer, eventually emerged as the protagonists of these dual universes and became the focus of the research for this study. One of the primary aims in setting up this comparison and examining the impacts of a previous communication revolution was to temper some of the exaggerated claims, rampant when research for this book was undertaken, about the uniqueness of the Internet and the so-called information age. There is no denying this uniqueness, but in the absence of a serious look back in time, such claims are historically static with little insight into what is...

Posted by DeLong at 07:48 PM

November 04, 2003
Kinda Sad...

Julian Sanchez makes an interesting find in a used book store: Julian's Lounge: Notes from the Lounge: Strolling home today from the cafe where I sometimes work so as to get out of the apartment for a while, I popped into a local used bookshop. Browsing through the new arrivals, I spotted a hardbacked copy of Effort, Opportunity and Wealth by the late economist Julian Simon. Flipping it open idly, I was surprised to find it inscribed:For Bea and Irving, In hopes of more [ILLEGIBLE] together, JulianJanuary 10, 1988I had chanced upon a copy signed by Julian Simon! But what of "Bea and Irving"? I immediately thought of Irving Kristol. But wasn't he married to the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb? I asked the clerk to Google Kristol's name along with "Bea" and quickly saw that Himmelfarb is known as "Bea" to her friends. So this was indeed a book Simon had given them some 15 years ago. I don't know how it came recently to this little bookshop, but it's kind of a cool find—15 bucks in mint condition. Kinda sad. The only books of mine that are in "mint condition" are those that are still unread, after all. No copy...

Posted by DeLong at 05:53 PM

October 21, 2003
They Sure Don't Make 'Em Like They Used to

Our family copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire--our hardback family copy ofHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire--is in serious disarray. Three huge chunks of the book have fallen out of the binding: pages 53-144, pages 145-340, and pages 341-528. And the book has not been dropped into the bathtub even once! Curse you, Scholastic Press! Curse You! May the curses of Anu, Enlil, and Ea descend upon the Scholastic Press! May Marduk and Sarpanitmn deal justly with those who put insufficient glue into the binding of a book! May the flocks of Scholastic Press be devoured by the lion and the leopard! May the crops of Scholastic Press by devoured by crows! May Utnapishtim the first of scribes turn his countenance from Scholastic Press! And may all their pages have at least one embarrassing typographical error! UPDATE: The Ten-Year-Old has made a legal proffer. If informed that the statute of limitations is less than nine months, she will confess to having dropped Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire into a snowbank in Vail last Christmas vacation. UPDATE: The Thirteen-Year-Old reports that our replacement copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is in similarly sad...

Posted by DeLong at 05:56 PM

October 17, 2003
Books: John Lawton

Two people in the past week have told me that I must read John Lawton: I can't remember if I've mentioned him on-list or not, but I've become a big fan of John Lawton. He writes thriller/mystery-types stuff, and he's an extraordinarily good writer (very clever, very subtle, very amusing and extremely aesthetically pleasing). After reading A Little White Death, I instantly added him to my list of favourite writers. Black Out was less good, but the one I've just started, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0871138646/braddelong00">Old Flames, is off to a good start. All the books I've read concern the same character, a policeman named Troy, with an interesting past, and they're all set at some point in the past (Black Out during the Blitz, A Little White Death during the '60's). Now I should say upfront that I'm really not a fan of most novels which aren't roughly set in contemporary or future times, but he does such a good job of putting you in the moment (especially in A Little White Death, where you really get a sense of the shifting morality of the times, and the growing gulf between generations), that I thoroughly enjoyed the settings. He's at least as good...

Posted by DeLong at 01:14 PM

September 29, 2003
Eric Helleiner, The Making of National Money

Another must-read book to add to the pile. Eric Helleiner is at times erratic--and his interpretations are not always to be trusted--but he is very hard working. And the topic of the book is a very good one: how is it that the modern state, of all things, gained control over the unit of account--and gained the power to alter the value of the unit of account at will? Eric Helleiner, _The Making of National Money: Territorial Currencies in Historical Perspective_. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003. xii + 277 pp. $32.50 (hardcover), ISBN: 0 8014 4049-1. Reviewed for EH.NET by Lawrence H. Officer, Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago. Eric Helleiner (Trent University) defines territorial currencies as currencies that are (1) homogeneous, (2) national, and (3) exclusive. This is a broader definition than "national currency," the concept that most monetary historians would use. A "national" currency is not "territorial" unless and until there are no other currencies -- whether foreign or privately issued domestic -- in the land, _and_ the currency is homogeneous in quality. It is doubtful that any currency has ever been "territorial" in that pure sense, and in fact Helleiner's usage is looser...

Posted by DeLong at 05:34 PM

August 13, 2003
Singularity Sky

Charles Stross (2003), Singularity Sky (New York: Ace: 0441010725). Before the Singularity, human beings living on Earth had looked at the stars and consoled themselves in their isolation with the comforting belief that the universe didn't care. Unfortunately, they were mistaken....

Posted by DeLong at 01:43 PM

July 26, 2003
Books: Witness

Whittaker Chambers (1952), Witness (New York: Random House: 0895267896)....

Posted by DeLong at 09:39 AM

Books: How Many People Can the Earth Support?

Joel Cohen (1995), How Many People Can the Earth Support? (New York: Norton: 0393038629)....

Posted by DeLong at 09:37 AM

July 15, 2003
Books: Barbarism and Religion

J.G.A. Pocock (2001), Barbarism and Religion: Volume 2, Narratives of Civil Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 0521797608)....

Posted by DeLong at 03:11 PM

Books: Wealth and Virtue

Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff, eds., (1983), Wealth and Virtue : The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 0521312140)....

Posted by DeLong at 03:07 PM

Books: The Star Fraction

Ken MacLeod (1995), The Star Fraction (New York: Tor: 0765301563)....

Posted by DeLong at 02:51 PM

Books: The Sky Road

Ken MacLeod (1999), The Sky Road (New York: Tor 0812577590). Ah! This is a much older kind of book than I thought it would be.... It pretends to be a science fiction novel (and it is), but it is really (also?) the story of the Young Male Ingenue who meets the Queen of Air and Darkness......

Posted by DeLong at 02:46 PM

July 13, 2003
Books: Reynolds: Fiefs and Vassals

Susan Reynolds (1994), Fiefs and Vassals (Oxford: Oxford: 0198206488)....

Posted by DeLong at 07:45 PM

Books: Snow: Variety of Men

C.P. Snow (1966), Variety of Men (New York: Scribner's: 014002896X)....

Posted by DeLong at 07:35 PM

July 09, 2003
Books: Ken MacLeod: The Cassini Division

Ken MacLeod (1998), The Cassini Division (New York: Tor: 0812568583)....

Posted by DeLong at 05:22 PM

July 08, 2003
Franklin: Making Ends Meet

Daniel Franklin (1993), Making Ends Meet: Congressional Budgeting in the Age of Deficits (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Books: 0871876566). A very, very nice book. Highly recommended. I read it just after the inauguration in 1993, quoted it often, and all of a sudden a lot of people in the Treasury Department believed that I must have had at least five years of Hill staff experience somewhere in my cursus honorum. However, it's mostly about an institutional structure--the Budget Enforcement Act--that has passed away and no longer constrains American politics....

Posted by DeLong at 09:23 PM

Notes: Blanchard on Transition

Olivier Blanchard's view on the transition from communism to capitalism as of the mid-1990s. If I read his Economics of Post-Communist Transition right, the key problem was the absence of a Marshall Plan to keep demand high and employment high during transition. In the immediate aftermath of World War II in Western Europe, the Marshall Plan allowed countries to maintain high aggregate demand without worrying about balance-of-payments constraints. There was no similar inflow of hard currency in the early 1990s to allow transition governments to create the demand to rapidly reemploy those laid off from state industries. The Bush I Administration had, because of the Reagan deficits, "more will than wallet." As a result, Blanchard argues, high unemployment led to a fear of reallocation and restructuring, and the slowing of the entire process of reform down to a glacial pace. If only demand and employment could have been kept high during the initial stages of transition... And since the mid-1990s? Since Blanchard wrote his book, what has happened? If I read the data right, economic progress in Central Europe has been slow, in Eastern Europe has been very slow, and in the former Soviet Union (where there never was the...

Posted by DeLong at 03:28 PM

Notes: Hayek and Democracy

I have long been of the opinion that Friedrich Hayek saw more deeply into why the market economy is so productive--the use of knowledge in society, competition as a discovery procedure, et cetera--than neoclassical economics, with its Welfare Theorems that under appropriate conditions the competitive market equilibrium (a) is Pareto-Optimal or (b) maximizes a social welfare function that is the sum of individual utilities in which each individual's weight is the inverse of their marginal utility of income. I have also long been of the opinion that Karl Polanyi saw more deeply than Hayek into what the necessary foundations for a well-functioning and durable market economy--and good society--were. But last night I ran into a passage that makes me wonder whether Hayek in his inner core believed that democracy had any value--even any institutional value--at all. It came on pp. 171-2 of Friedrich Hayek (1979), Law, Legislation and Liberty: The Political Order of a Free People vol. III (Chicago, Il.: University of Chicago Press: 0226320901): Egalitarianism is of course not a majority view but a product of the necessity under unlimited democracy to solicit the support even of the worst. It is by the slogan that 'it is not your...

Posted by DeLong at 11:54 AM

July 07, 2003
Books: Alan Furst: Dark Star

Alan Furst (1991), Dark Star (New York: Houghton Mifflin: 0006511317). When I talk to practically any of my undergraduates these days, I have a nearly impossible task to do when I try to convince them that the twentieth century has, after all, ended much better than it might have been. The half-full undergraduates talk of how wonderful and advanced our industrial civilization is, and how human progress to this point was nearly inevitable. The half-empty undergraduates talk about poverty in the developing world, inequality, and injustice, and seem deaf to the idea that the world we live in is much better than the world that we seemed headed for during the second quarter of this century. The Great Depression. Stalin's purges. World War II. Hitler's genocides--they have read about these, but they are not *real*, and the idea that for decades people thought that the forces headed by Stalin or by Hitler were the wave of the future (or the last chance to stop an even greater evil) does not penetrate below the surface. So the next time I teach a course on the entire politico-economic history of the twentieth century, I think I may assign Alan Furst's novel Dark...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 PM

Better Futures that Might Have Been

There are many sad books on my bookshelf: books that whenever I open them cause tears to gather in the corner of my eyes, and cause my nose to sniffle. This is not because I am allergic to dust from old books (which I am), but because many old books seem to me to be markers of a better future that did not come to be. Of these, I think the saddest is an old, old book from 1911: Norman Angell's The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage. Norman Angell's argument is simple: It is that in modern industrial warfare between great powers, everybody loses. Losers lose. And the winners lose. Many of their fathers, sons, and husbands are dead. Much of their wealth has been blown up. And it is next to impossible to claim that these sacrifices are counterbalanced by any positive economic advantages. Straightforward plunder of the conquered country yields little. Confiscation of property and the imposition of reparations burdens damages the rule of law on which modern industrial prosperity rests. And even if you do manage to get the conquered country to ship you...

Posted by DeLong at 03:58 PM

July 05, 2003
Books: The Darkest Road

Guy Gavriel Kay (1986), The Darkest Road (New York: New American Library: 0451458338)....

Posted by DeLong at 07:30 PM

Books: Transaction Cost Politics

Avinash Dixit (1996), The Making of Economic Policy: A Transaction Cost Politics Approach (Cambridge: MIT Press: 0262540983)....

Posted by DeLong at 07:28 PM

Books : The Armada

Garrett Mattingly (1959), The Armada (New York: Houghton Mifflin: 0395083664)....

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 PM

July 04, 2003
Books: Baumol and Gomory

Ralph E. Gomory and William J. Baumol (2000), Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests (Cambridge: MIT Press: 0262072092)....

Posted by DeLong at 11:37 AM

Books: Last Generation of the Roman Republic

Erich Gruen (1974), The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press: 0520201531). Annoyingly overargued. Make claims that Pompey's absentee government of Spain in the late 50s was not damned weird for the Roman Republic and you undermine your credibility on every single other page....

Posted by DeLong at 08:49 AM

July 02, 2003
Books: Richard Kluger, Simple Justice

Richard Kluger (1977), Simple Justice: The History of Brown V. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality (New York: Random House: 0394722558)....

Posted by DeLong at 04:55 PM

Books: China Mieville

China Mieville (2000),Perdito Street Station (New York: Del Rey: 0345443020). China Mieville (2002), The Scar (New York: Del Rey: 0345444388)....

Posted by DeLong at 04:52 PM

Books: The Machiavellian Moment

Definitely worth reading, although a sprawling and disorganized mess: J.G.A. Pocock (1975), The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton: Princeton University Press: 0691114722)....

Posted by DeLong at 10:37 AM

June 28, 2003
Augustus, by John Williams

Highly, highly recommended: John Williams (1974), Augustus (Little Rock: University of Arkansas: 1557283435). Best if read in combination with: Ronald Syme (1939), The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 0192803204)....

Posted by DeLong at 10:41 AM

May 12, 2003
Notes: Translations from the Trotskyist

My email has some messages accusing me of posting incomprehensible gibberish. Let me provide some help. When Perry Anderson writes: The final effect of this general redisposition of the social power of the nobility was the State machine and juridical order of Absolutism, whose coordination was to increase the efficacy of aristocratic rule in pinning down a non-servile peasantry into new forms of dependence and exploitation. He means: Look: When at the early-seventeenth century start of The Three Musketeers M. d'Artagnan the Younger sets out to seek his fortune, he does so very differently than a noble predecessor of five centuries before would have. A noble predecessor of five centuries before would have spent his time (a) waging private war against his neighbors to enlarge the number of serfs under his control, (b) catching and bringing back runaway serfs, (c) participating in crusades and other episodes of pillage and destruction, and (d) making sure his peasants spent the proper amount of time working on his demesne. M. d'Artagnan the Younger sets out for Paris to join the regiment King's Musketeers, where he seeks fame and fortune by carrying out the commands of M. le Cardinal, M. le Roi, M. le...

Posted by DeLong at 06:39 PM

Notes: Polanyi: Aristotle Discovers the Economy

Karl Polanyi, "Aristotle Discovers the Economy," in Trade and Market in the Early Empires... A whole bunch of this article is simply wrong: the claims that "in the fourth century... Greeks initiated the gainful business practices that in much later days developed into the dynamo of market comnpetition" are false. This means that Polanyi is wrong when he says that Aristotle is examining a new phenomenon when he looks at the economy. Aristotle is examining an old phenomenon from the point of view of an Athenian aristocrat. But there is much of value in Polanyi's exposition of what Aristotle says... p. 79: Trade is "natural" when it serves the survival of the community by maintaining its self-sufficiency... the operation of giving a share... from on's surplus. The rate... follows from the requirement of philia, i.e., that the goodwill among the members persist.... The just price, then, derives from the demands of philia as expressed in the reciprocity which is of the essence of all human community... p. 80: Trade... is "natural" as long as it is a requirement of self-sufficiency. Prices are justly set if they conform to the standing of the participants in the community, thereby strenghening the goodwill...

Posted by DeLong at 04:14 PM

Notes: The Character of the Absolutist State in Western Europe

Perhaps the most interesting argument about why the demographic crisis produced by the Black Death did not lead to the reemergence of serfdom in Western Europe (as lords discovered that, with population down by 1/3, they would rather be labor lords than landlords) is that made by Perry Anderson in his book Lineages of the Absolutist State. Anderson argues, first, that the particular role of Western European towns made a formal reimposition of servile bondage impossible: "...the aristocracy had to adjust to a second antagonist: the mercantile bourgeoisie... towns... the intercalation of this third presence... prevented the Western nobility from settling its accounts with the peasantry in Eastern [European] fashion, by smashing its resistance and fettering it to the manor. The medieval town... hierarchical dispersion of sovereignties... feudal mode of production... freed urban economies from direct domination by a rural ruling class.... [Urban] economic and social vitality acted as a constant, objective interference in the class struggle on the land, and blocked any regressive solution to it by the nobles." Feudal lords could agree among themselves and with the king to reimpose serfdom, but they lacked the power to do so if peasants could still (as they could in Western...

Posted by DeLong at 02:02 PM

February 22, 2003
Notes: World-Famous Psychologist Arianne Emory on Human Genetic Diversity

C.J. Cherryh (1988), Cyteen (New York: Warner Books: 0446671274). Dispersion is absolutely essential, but so are adequately diverse genepools.... We do not create Thetas because we want cheap labor. We create Thetas because they are an essential and important part of human alternatives. The ThR-23 hand-eye coordination, for instance, is exceptional. Their psychset lets them operate very well in environments in which... geniuses would assuredly fail. They are tough, ser, in ways I find thoroughly admirable, and I recommend you, if you ever find yourself in a difficult [wilderness] situation... hope your companion is a ThR... who will survive, ser, to perpetuate his type, even if you do not....

Posted by DeLong at 09:10 AM

August 13, 2002
Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed"

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed and the Working Poor J. Bradford DeLong Barbara Ehrenreich (2000), Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (New York: Metropolitan Books: 0805063889). I have loved all of Barbara Ehrenreich's previous books. Even when I disagreed--and I often did--I admired the argument, enjoyed the process of reading, and learned a lot from every page. But this book was different. When I finished this book, I looked at it with a certain sense of what I can only call... loathing... I did not dislike this book because of its underlying project. Writing up for the rich the results of an upper-class essayist's anthropological mission to see how the other half live is worthwhile. It is part of the task of afflicting the comfortable which needs to be carried out much more strongly if we are ever to have a better society. The point of Ehrenreich's rapiers of intellect, art, and wit are as sharp as ever when she points out that even so-called "unskilled" work--perhaps especially so-called "unskilled" work--is demanding and challenging: the memory skills required of a waitress, the physical labor of a house cleaner with a vacuum on her back, and the...

Posted by DeLong at 02:25 AM

August 12, 2002
Chris Bertram Likes Brink Lindsey's Book

Chris Bertram--like me, starting from a basic view of the cosmic all skeptical of and somewhat hostile to Brink Lindsey's--reads Lindsey's Against the Dead Hand and--like me--finds at an extremely impressive book: Junius ...Well, I've had some critical things to say (and I can imagine some plausible replies). But the fact that I've been moved to go on at such length demonstrates that this is an extremely readable and challenging book and one that I'm happy to recommend to anyone who wants to hear the case for capitalist globalisation put eloquently and persuasively......

Posted by DeLong at 03:51 PM

July 24, 2002
Strange Branding Phenomena: Ghostwriting

James DiBenedetto flags this from the Washington Post's style section: The Eleven Day Empire Interesting article in the Post's Style section today about something that's been going on for a while: ghostwriters hired by popular authors to crank out formulaic novels. The king of this kind of thing is, of course, Tom Clancy, who has, I don't know, 50 or so book lines that are labelled as "Created by Tom Clancy!", none of which he actually writes. Until recently, the actual author's name didn't appear anywhere on the cover or anywhere else in the book; thankfully, that practice, at least, is changing.The whole idea is to turn authors into "brands"; they come up with a general idea or storyline, stick their name on the cover, and turn the actual writing over to others... The Plot Thickeners (washingtonpost.com) Check the covers of certain bestsellers and you'll notice that though Clancy's name may be emblazoned across the tops of the books, someone else did the writing. "Mission of Honor," part of "Tom Clancy's Op-Center" series, was written by Jeff Rovin. "Bio-Strike," a volume in "Tom Clancy's Power Plays" series, is by Jerome Preisler. "Runaways," one of "Tom Clancy's Net Force" young-adult series...

Posted by DeLong at 10:22 AM

July 07, 2002
More Thoughts on Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents

So I reread Globalization and Its Discontents, and I am more puzzled than ever. I cannot figure out what is going on inside Stiglitz's head. Part of it I think I have figured out. The repeated changes of position--"No! You should not have imposed any conditions on Suharto but lent freely respecting Indonesia's national sovereignty!" "No! You should not have loaned anything to Suharto at all!" "No! You should have loaned to Suharto, and encouraged capital to flow into Indonesia! And been very careful of his face! The longer Suharto stayed in power, the more order defeats chaos, and the better for Indonesia!" "No! Corrupt kleptocrats harm their countries! Clinton and Camdessus should have warned industrial-core companies against investing in Indonesia!" These repeated changes of position tell me that Stiglitz's main complaint against Summers, Fischer, and all is that they were sitting in the control seat where he wanted to be. He wanted to be the one making the decisions about when to lend in hope and when lending would be hopeless, when the current leader is the best that can be expected and when the best option is to cut off all economic contact and hope the current leader...

Posted by DeLong at 09:45 PM

June 09, 2002
Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents

Joseph Stiglitz (2002), Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: Norton: 0393051242). I'm reading Joseph Stiglitz's brand-new Globalization and Its Discontents, and having trouble with it. It seems as though Stiglitz switches back and forth between different positions at blinding speed, so I cannot figure out what his critique of IMF policy in the 1990s is--or what policy changes follow from it. Consider, for example, Stiglitz's critique of IMF policy toward Indonesian dictator Suharto. At one point in the book Stiglitz criticizes the "Washington Consensus" for not talking Indonesia down--for encouraging foreigners to invest in Indonesia. At another point he criticizes the IMF and company for not doing enough to prop up Suharto--on the grounds that order under even a corrupt dictator is better than political and social turmoil. At yet a third point he says that the IMF should have given ample aid to Indonesia without requiring conditions that would impinge on Indonesia's sovereign right to choose its own economic policies. And at a fourth point he says the IMF should have shut down all aid to Indonesia because of Suharto's corruption. The net effect is to make my head spin: I don't know how Stiglitz thinks that the IMF...

Posted by DeLong at 08:22 PM

June 04, 2002
Philip Habib and Ariel Sharon

My friend John Boykin has just finished a book about American diplomat Philip Habib, and his attempt to stop the 1982 Beirut Massacre (which in the end did not happen). It is turning out to be a very timely book, for Habib's principal antagonist as he tried to carry out the mission that Reagan had assigned him was then-Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, the prime mover behind Operation "Peace for Galilee," Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon to expel Yasir Arafat's PLO from the country and to try to install a pro-Israeli government in the country...

Posted by DeLong at 01:04 AM

May 29, 2002
Strobe Talbott, _The Russia Hand_

Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration and longtime Friend of Bill, has written his memoirs. They are extremely well-written, fascinating, informative, and a marvelous addition to the historical record. They give us a ringside seat at U.S.-Russian relations in the 1990s. There were two great problems in Russian economic reform. The first was that nobody knew what to do: nobody had ever undertaken a transition from socialism to capitalism before. The second was that the Russian political nation did not know what it wanted to do...

Posted by DeLong at 02:21 PM

March 13, 2002
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

How much of David Brock should we believe?...

Posted by DeLong at 04:14 PM

November 23, 1999
How Computers Really Work

Review of Charles Petzold, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software Have you ever wondered just how your computers really work? I mean, really, really work. Not as in "an electrical signal from memory tells the processor the number to be added," but what the electrical signal is, and how it accomplishes the magic of switching on the circuits that add while switching off the other circuits that would do other things with the number. I have. I have wondered this a lot over the past decades. Yet somehow over the past several decades my hunger for an explanation has never been properly met. I have listened to people explain how two switches wired in series are an "AND"--only if both switches are closed will the lightbulb light. I have listened to people explain how IP is a packet-based communications protocol and TCP is a connection-based protocol yet the connection-based protocal can ride on top of the packet-based protocol. Somehow these explanations did not satisfy. One seemed like answering "how does a car work?" by telling how in the presence of oxygen carbon-hydrogen bonds are broken and carbon dioxide and water are created. The other seemed like anwering...

Posted by DeLong at 04:06 PM

November 06, 1999
Review of Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel

Why did Europeans conquer Peru, Mexico, Ghana, and Australia? Why didn't Incas, Aztecs, Ashanti, or Australians conquer Eurasians. That is the question that Jared Diamond answers--largely successfully--in this book. And his answer can be summed up in one phrase: "seeds, germs, size, and guns." (Note that the answer is not "guns, germs, and steel"--a phrase that is more euphonious but less meaningful.) Eurasian societies acquired a key advantage relative to other societies because of big seeds. Eurasian societies acquired a key advantage (relative to other societies) in their resistance to germs. The relatively advantageous biological endowment of Eurasian societies was then reinforced because of the size of Eurasia. And the relative edge possessed by European societies was then amplified to overwhelming proportions by guns....

Posted by DeLong at 04:17 PM