Recent reading

Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software (2020): I skimmed this book as parts about the technicalities of open source weren’t of interest to me. Parts about the (dis)incentives faced by open source developers – and other online creators – were worth reading, though. Snow (2020): This book started really well… Continue reading Recent reading

What Rome can teach us about ‘Founding vs Inheriting’

In response to Balaji Srinivasan’s post on founding vs. inheriting, I want to reflect on that most classic of historical analogies: Rome. The Roman Republic had an odd mixture of founding and inheriting in its political system. There was a formal aristocracy, enshrining a privileged group (of men) at the top of society. But they… Continue reading What Rome can teach us about ‘Founding vs Inheriting’

Narconomics summary and review

Narconomics: How To Run a Drug Cartel, by Tom Wainwright (UK/US) Tom Wainwright’s aim is to analyse the cartels as if they’re international businesses, and it’s a good fit. There is an abundance of concepts like supply and demand, monopsony, competition, principal-agent problems, vertical integration, mergers and acquisitions – you can learn a lot of… Continue reading Narconomics summary and review

Six memorable episodes of Conversations with Tyler

I love the podcast Conversations with Tyler. In it, Tyler Cowen hosts a wide range of guests, from music critics to archaeologists to investors – you never quite know what you’re going to get. When you start listening to each episode, there is very little exposition. You are immediately launched into a discussion of whether… Continue reading Six memorable episodes of Conversations with Tyler

Short non-fiction books

Many books are longer than they should be. We’ve all read books that are based on a thesis (often a useful one!) that could have been adequately explained in 30 pages instead of 300. Apparently some authors get told to add words so that the spine of the book ends up bigger and stands out… Continue reading Short non-fiction books

Imperial China, Chs 5-8

These chapters focused on the rise of the Song dynasty, known in this period as the northern Song. Chapter 8 examined the Xi Xia to the northwest of the Song. Chapter 5 contained an interesting commentary on the limits of the Chinese emperor’s (huangdi) power. First, he was constrained by Confucian norms and the values… Continue reading Imperial China, Chs 5-8

Against alcohol

A review of Drink?: The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health by Professor David Nutt, with comments. N.B. all statistics are from the book unless otherwise indicated. The book mainly concerned itself with the United Kingdom, but I think the lessons are broadly applicable to other Western countries too. This useful little book provides… Continue reading Against alcohol

Imperial China, Chs 2-4: Liao hybrid government and ‘concavity vs convexity’

These chapters examine the Liao Empire (916-1125), a dynasty of warrior-nomads who were key players in Asian regional politics. There were lots of interesting details in these chapters, but it’s the Liao’s style of government that I’ll focus on here. The core problem faced by steppe-warriors who conquered parts of China in this era was… Continue reading Imperial China, Chs 2-4: Liao hybrid government and ‘concavity vs convexity’