Wednesday 12 October, 2022

Autumn leaves

Seen on a walk the other day.

Quote of the Day

”Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people.”

  • David Sarnoff

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

J.S. Bach | Concerto for two violins in D minor BWV 1043 | Sato and Deans | Netherlands Bach Society


Long Read of the Day

A Dose of Rational Optimism

That’s the title of Zachary Carter’s review in Dissent of Brad DeLong’s magisterial  Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, which I’m currently reading — and learning a lot in the process. Carter describes it as “a rise-and-fall epic” but thinks that “it is better at depicting the rise than explaining the fall”. I’m not far enough in to know whether that’s a fair judgement, but since I loved his book on Keynes and Keynesianism, which came out during the lockdown, I’m taking his review seriously.

This is how it opens:

Humanity, the Berkeley economist argues, spent nearly the entirety of its history condemned to poverty by an insufficient supply of calories and a chronically excessive birth rate. But in the “long twentieth century”—the period between 1870 and 2010—an almost miraculous transformation took place: more and more people lived longer, healthier, more prosperous lives than ever before. Arenas of intellect and creative expression that were once accessible only to the most privileged of elites became the common experiences of mass cultures. Humans did not find utopia, DeLong argues, but we stumbled in its general direction.

In the grim morass that has followed the financial crisis of 2008, it is refreshing to receive a dose of rational optimism—however tempered—from a serious intellectual examining our place in the grand scheme of history. DeLong does not avert his readers’ eyes from the brutalities of imperial conquest, genocide, and revolution gone awry, which define the political milieu of the era under his microscope. But his narrative is fundamentally hopeful: people can accomplish amazing things on a colossal scale. Not that long ago, we did so all the time.

This perspective is refreshing precisely because everyone, DeLong included, knows that something has gone terribly wrong…

Worth your time.

My commonplace booklet

The TINY cheap EV you (might) actually want!

Who said the bubble-car was dead? Nice video.

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