Category Archives: Books

The Hugo awards and the decay of Western civilisation

The Hugos, for those unaware, are (speculative fiction/science fiction/fantasy) SF awards voted on by people at Worldcon.  Along with the Nebulas, they have long been the premier awards in SF. A few years ago, some SF writers got together and decided to push back against [what they saw as] the drift of the awards from their […]

The Perfect Soldiers

LA Times journalist Terry McDermont’s study Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers, Who They Were, Why They Did It goes into the otherwise unremarkable lives of the 9/11 hijackers, firmly establishing that family background had nothing to do with their suicidal jihadism. Most did not come from particularly religious families; one, Ziad Jarrah from Lebanon, apparently did […]

Westerners have moral agency, Muslims have excuses

The recent case of a Norwegian left of centre politician who is apparently distressed that his convicted Somali rapist is likely to be deported has caused a minor online stir. I was, however, particularly struck by this statement: But perhaps the most notable lesson Hauken says he learned is that “rapists are from a world […]

Post-Enlightenment is the Counter-Enlightenment rebooted

There is a clear difference between the modernist Left and the postmodern progressivism. The modernist Left was an Enlightenment project, and proud to be so. This is the stream of political analysis and commentary represented in our time by such figures as the late Christopher Hitchens and Norman Geras, by Terry Eagleton’s jeremiads against post-modernism and by the Euston Manifesto. They are the […]

Why gold/currency ratios mattered in the interwar period

This is based on a comment I made here. I have been enjoying Scott Sumner‘s history of the Great Depression, The Midas Paradox: Financial Markets, Government Policy Shocks, and the Great Depression. Sumner provides a key ideas summary for the book here. The book is an examination of dramatic macroeconomic instability under a gold standard. In The Midas Paradox, Sumner gives the […]

The Rotten Heart of Europe

Bernard Connolly‘s The Rotten Heart of Europe: Dirty War for Money is a jeremiad against European monetary union first published in 1995. Its publication led to the author’s sacking from the European Commission, where he had been senior monetary and foreign exchange economist. This is not, as Connolly a matter of saying the “Emperor has no clothes” but […]

The Nazism of our time

A recurring theme of Algerian-American law academic’s Karima Bennoune‘s moving and informative Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism is the disastrous consequences of pandering to Muslim fundamentalism. For example, Karima Bennoune’s Pakistani interlocutors note how important the “Islamisation” program of Zia ul-Haq‘s regime was in encouraging fundamentalism (p.241). The British […]

Ahistorical pomposity and gnostic sneering: why academics write deep crap about “neoliberalism”

Humanities and social science academics write a remarkable amount of nonsense about “neoliberalism”, typically understanding neither the reasons for the general shift in public policy nor the motivations and ideas behind it. A nice example of such nonsense is provided in a post by philosopher Robin James: neoliberals think everything in the universe works like a […]

Unhelpful dichotomies

I recently finished The Creation of Inequality: How Our Prehistoric Ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire by Kent Flannery & Joyce Marcus, a very accessible rendering for the lay audience of a huge amount of anthropological and archaeological data about the development of state societies. At the end of Chapter Twenty-Two (“Graft and Imperialism”), there is […]

The evolution of social bargains — operative not normative

I was reading Yoram Barzel‘s property rights analysis (pdf) of the rise of Parliamentary government in England, when the full force of his critique of normative concepts of the rise of parliamentarianism and representative government hit me. That Iraq is busily messily falling apart, following on from–and partly a consequence of–Syria doing so, with the advance of the Islamic State of […]