“ One of the lamentable principles of human productivity is that it is easier to destroy than to create. A house that takes several man-years to build can be burned in an hour by any young delinquent who has the price of a box of matches. Poisoning dogs is cheaper than raising them. And a country can destroy more with twenty billion dollars of nuclear armament than it can create with twenty billion dollars of foreign investment. The harm that people can do, or that nations can do, is impressive. And it is often used to impress.”
Arms and Influence by Thomas C. Schelling.
Many years after I first read Schelling’s enduring book, this opening paragraph remains my most favorite in any other work of International Relations. I’m going back to Schelling because lately I’ve become increasingly concerned about nuclear weapons, their spread and possible use. Perhaps it could be a result of me becoming a father or my interest in the Iranian nuclear program (which I largely regard as needless), or simply because I’m growing old. Whatever the reason, it’s certainly a privilege to be reading Schelling again (his shortcomings as a game theorist notwithstanding).
“ In April, Blyth, who studies international political economy, published Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, his critique of the economic approach that governments in both the United States and Europe have applied in recent years. “It’s crap,” he says of the approach. “It doesn’t work. But it’s dangerous crap.” It dismantles those airbags for the poor, he says, and provides them only for the rich—an economic intervention that only exacerbates the conditions it is meant to address.”
“What made it possible for me to become the man I am today,” Blyth writes in Austerity, “is the very thing now blamed for creating the crisis itself: the state, more specifically, the runaway, bloated, paternalist, out-of-control welfare state.”
Had austerity been the predominant approach in the United Kingdom during his childhood, Blyth argues, he would most likely not be a professor today. “I am,” he writes in Austerity, “as extreme an example of intragenerational social mobility as you can find anywhere.
I enjoyed participating on this panel last evening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Video and summary of the event are embedded.
“ Political life can make you extremely contemptuous of the world of books," he finally says. "That’s all just theory. We’re the people who have the serious existential burdens, the people making decisions. There is a very strong anti-intellectual bias among the men and women of action. It can take you over.”
I’m an academic interested in public and foreign policy issues. I joined Twitter because I was encouraged (pressured?) by some of my colleagues about its professional utility to stay connected with the latest news and research on topics that I care about. The reason why I had resisted joining Twitter up to a few months ago was because, like Jonathan Franzen, I regarded it as a meaningless and even demeaning form of communication. But I’m not anti-social media tout court; and as an active user of Facebook and Tumblr, I’ve long known that any social medium is as good as the people populating it. My experience with Twitter has been a complex one: I’ve been irritated, confused, enlightened, and hypnotized in equal measure. It all comes down to whom one chooses to follow and the art of self-restraint, in many respects. Here are some dos and don’ts which I have adopted as a result of my experimental run so far:
- Don’t follow people who tweet a lot, for a good 95% of what they tweet about is simply neither important nor amusing, and at any rate a pretty good indication of their narcissism;
- Don’t follow anyone under the age of 28;
- Don’t follow any politicians;
- Don’t follow any think tanks;
- Absolutely don’t follow any companies;
- Don’t follow anyone from the big news networks - simply stick to the AP and Reuters;
- Follow research consortiums and journals;
- Follow long-form, reflective magazines and book reviews;
- Don’t tweet more than three times a day;
- Don’t retweet tweets that will be widely circulated anyway;
- Follow artists and writers: they tend to display great wit and charm, and nearly always have something useful to refer you to;
- Do restrain yourself from broadcasting any half-baked observations or ideas; and
- Unfollow anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to tweet while or after watching a TV show, a sports game, a concert, or a political speech.
“ Radical freedom is thin stuff unless it exists within a world that offers it significant resistance.”
E-book revenue has grown by nearly 3 BILLION DOLLARS in the past 4 years.
For more info on the state of the publishing industry, check out our special Books Issue:
Classic correlation/causation mixup! What if that’s actually the ceiling for e-books? What if there’s a ceiling for each format and we’re just not going to deviate much from there. Hardcover sales look robust enough to me - unless publishers start printing significantly less books, then I don’t see how this equation actually tells us something.
New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza joins Fresh Air to discuss “unconventional” oil resources and the Keystone Pipeline project in Northern Alberta Canada and its environmental and political ramifications:
As we sit here in October of 2013, immigration reform seems dead, gun control legislation is dead, and the government is shut down with no grand bargain in sight. So a lot of environmentalists say, “Why not concentrate on the things you can do unilaterally?” And one of those things you can do unilaterally is address climate change…
photo of oil spill via the New York Times
He devised a scheme to disguise the origins of Iranian oil and sell it on the open market, transferring millions of barrels from tanker to tanker — often in a little-known harbor on the tiny Malaysian island of Labuan in 2012, the European Union charges. In total, he said, he sold 24 million barrels of oil to buyers in Singapore, Malaysia and India and then laundered the money through Malaysian First Islamic Bank, which is now on all the sanctions lists.
“This is what I do — antisanctions operations,” Mr. Zanjani said.