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Writing Worth Reading

Driving Towards The Chinese Dream

“Statistically, zero percent of the Chinese population plays golf”. Officially the game is frowned upon, unofficially it thrives. The government banned construction of new courses in 2004 but hundreds have been built since, hiding in plain sight as “fitness centres”. Officials play under false names, “afraid of leaving a paper trail connecting them to a game most often associated with capitalism and corruption” (2,220 words)

Why Good People Write Bad Prose

Enjoyable review of Steven Pinker’s Sense of Style, about how to write clearly. “A list is most easily grasped if the bulkiest item comes at the end: ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Light-before-heavy is one of the oldest principles in linguistics. The mind must hold the early items in suspension before incorporating the final one, and it’s easier to retain simple things than more complex elements” (1,830 words)

Alibaba Could Buy Yahoo For Free

Corporate finance for fun and profit. Imagine that Alibaba makes a $43bn takeover bid for Yahoo, offering 384m Alibaba shares plus $7bn in cash — an 8% premium over Yahoo’s current market price. But hold on: Yahoo’s assets already include 384m Alibaba shares and $7bn in cash. So Alibaba gets Yahoos’s businesses for nothing. Everyone wins. But it won’t happen, because no company will admit to being worthless (2,100 words)

The Fight Of Their Lives

America has blocked Kurdish independence in the name of preserving a united Iraq. But the war against ISIS changes the calculation. The weakness of the Iraqi national government becomes a much greater liability. The strength of Kurdistan becomes a much greater asset. For the Kurds, ISIS is both a threat to be defeated, and an opportunity to be exploited. Can they use their new leverage to secure sovereignty? (10,300 words)

It’s For Your Own Good

It’s attractive to think that nudging — making the virtuous choice into the easy choice, the default choice — offers a painless way of steering people towards better lives. What’s the problem? The problem is that we can’t trust any authority — public or private — to offer a disinterested nudge. The offerers have their own agenda. Their agenda will never be the same as ours. And by manipulating us, they demean us (3,860 words)

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