Drone Warfare, List, Child Soldiers, George Akerlof, Frankfurt School, China

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Hugh Gusterson On Drone Warfare

Alec Ash | Five Books | 29th July 2016

Anthropologist discusses recent books on methods and ethics of drones. “We saw in the Iraq war that people were largely happy until Americans started coming back in body bags. Then they said George Bush had been an idiot. We wouldn’t have had the turning of American opinion if it hadn’t been for the 4,000 Americans who died. They were hostages of the democratic war-making process. Drones have broken that link in the chain. They make possible perpetual war without costs” (4,900 words)

Franz Liszt, Genius And Charlatan

Philip Hensher | Guardian | 29th July 2016

Once past the opening lines, which dismiss the book nominally under review, the air clears to reveal a sparkling sketch of Liszt: “His recitals required two pianos, as the first was likely to be destroyed in performance. We can only guess at the effects of his playing, but the music he was writing in the 1830s and 1840s gives a sense of his boldness. The sonorities are extraordinary, the demands on the player still terrifying today. Even Liszt had to retreat from some of the challenges he mounted” (1,240 words)

First The Sweets, Then The Beheadings

Katrin Kuntz | Der Spiegel | 29th July 2016

How Islamic State selects and trains children as fighters. Some arrive with parents from abroad, some are kidnapped, many are born locally. More than 31,000 women are currently pregnant in IS-held territory. Islamic State hosts receptions at which “children are given sweets and little boys are allowed to hold an IS flag”. In schools and brutal closed camps they study Islam, mathematics, bomb-making and weaponry. “Later they practice beheading with blond dolls dressed in orange jumpsuits” (2,300 words)

Secrets And Agents

Economics Brief | The Economist | 23rd July 2016

From a series on great economic ideas. George Akerlof’s paper, The Market For Lemons, formalised and popularised insights about asymmetry of information in market transactions, and led to the growth of signalling theory. If you are selling a second-hand car, you will probably want to conceal its faults, leading the buyer to over-pay. But if all buyers expect all sellers to conceal faults, the pricing mechanism breaks down. How can an honest seller credibly signal that a car is fairly priced? (2,000 words)

Patricide Deferred

Robert Minto | Open Letters | 1st August 2016

Intriguing account of the Frankfurt School, where Richard Sorge and Georg Lukács rubbed shoulders with Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin between the world wars. Were ever so many great minds combined to so little outward effect? They debated nuances in Marx and Freud while Europe descended into barbarism. Sorge was the outlier. He wanted to change the world, not merely to understand it. He spied for the Soviet Union, stole Japan’s wartime secrets, and was hanged in Tokyo (3,000 words)

China’s Trilemma

Ben Bernanke | Brookings | 16th March 2016

Admirably straightforward analysis of tensions inside China’s economy. As China develops, output shifts from heavy industry and exports towards services and domestic demand. Almost inevitably, growth slows; which unnerves the government; government cuts interest rates to spur investment; low rates also spur investors to move money overseas, putting pressure on the currency. Possible responses: devaluation; exchange controls; do nothing; cut taxes to encourage spending (1,770 words)

Video of the day: Anthony Burgess Talks To Jeremy Isaacs

What to expect:

BBC interview from 1989, when Burgess had just published his 30th novel, ‘Any Old Iron’ (30’04”)

Thought for the day

To become a philosopher, start by walking very slowly
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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