Quote of the day

“A polymath is someone who is interested in everything and nothing else ”
— Susan Sontag

Why Can’t We Stop For Death

Fear of death dominates human psychology, claims a resurgent school of psychiatry drawing on the works of Ernest Becker. The thesis is an elegant one; and it is true that “awareness of death, more than anything else, differentiates human beings from other animals”. It is also true that denial of death is a powerful force in human life. But not everybody is terrified of dying. “Many human beings have welcomed their mortality” (2,100 words)

Chagos: The Long Road Home

Exiled Chagos Islanders are asking Britain’s supreme court to let them return home, 40 years after they were forced out to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, one of 55 islands in the Chagos Archipelago. America’s lease runs out next year; but caught between the Pentagon and 1,500 Chagossians, Britain will probably put the Chagossians on hold and renew the American lease until 2036 (2,033 words)

A Primer For Understanding China’s Downturn

“You can’t invest 45-50 percent of your gdp very well forever. It’s amazing how long China’s run has been, but it is over. The quality of their marginal investments is now low and that means their growth rate will be much lower too. The low hanging fruit is gone, at least for the time being. They might later on resurrect some new low-hanging fruit through institutional reform, but right now they are at a sharp discontinuity” (500 words)

In Praise Of Old Fashioned Bank Managers

Banks used to promote managers who were reliable but not especially clever. That changed in the late 20C as the focus of finance shifted from primary to secondary markets, and the primary activity of financial institutions became that of outsmarting other financial institutions. Brainiacs filled the banks. The result: Chaos. “Perhaps those nice boys with low golf handicaps had something to offer after all” (618 words)

Urge

A last article from the late Oliver Sacks: The case-history of Walter B., an “affable, outgoing man of forty-nine”, who had opted for brain surgery to control his epilepsy. The epilepsy went — but ravenous cravings for food and sex took its place. “The inevitable happened, and federal agents came to Walter’s house to arrest him for possession of child pornography”. Would a court convict him, knowing his condition? The answer turned out to be: Yes

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