Keynes, Ancient Rome, Bookselling, Philosophy, Trees, Michael Haneke


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Keynes’s Flaws

Chris Dillow | Stumbling And Mumbling | 28th March 2017

John Maynard Keynes skated over four related issues central to business and society. He failed to see that capitalists have an interest in maintaining some degree of unemployment as a means to intimidate workers and the State. He underrated the power of monopolies. He foresaw cyclical swings in the economy, but not secular downturns. He was “profoundly conservative” in believing that technocratic governments could and would ensure decent wages and full employment (520 words)

The End Of The Past

Mark Koyama | Medium | 3rd April 2017

Roman Italy enjoyed a level of wealth and development not equalled again in the West until the 17th century. But whereas 17C Europe accelerated into the industrial revolution, ancient Rome stagnated. Why? Probably because of the two-fold effect of slavery. The availability of slaves “removed or at least weakened the incentive to develop machines for productive purposes”; and since work was generally done by slaves, it was assumed to be intrinsically demeaning (2,000 words)

On Shelving Books

John Sherman | Literary Hub | 31st March 2017

“A book either is or is not a true-crime thriller, was or was not written by Agatha Christie. But in practice, every organisational schema is a doomed attempt to blanket chaos with order. Even alphabetical order can become a fragile exercise at the very briefest departure from the systemic norm; whether you believe the Divine Comedy belongs in poetry or in a designated “classics” section (another pitfall), Dante should be shelved under “A” for “Alighieri”, but of course he is not and never will be” (1,300 words)

Think Like A Philosopher

Alan Hájek | Aeon | 3rd April 2017

Introduction to some of the techniques that a philosopher might use when first testing the meaning or value of a claim. For example, contrastive stress: “Causation seems to be a two-place relation. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day causes lung cancer. So far, so good. But consider: Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, as opposed to three or four, causes lung cancer? That doesn’t sound so good. If anything, relative to those alternatives, smoking (only) one pack a day seems to help prevent lung cancer” (4,100 words)

In The Land Of Giants

Jon Mooallem | NYT Magazine | 23rd March 2017

Communing with trees in Sequoia National Park; including the General Sherman Tree, the largest on Earth. “The trees are so big that it would be cowardly not to deal with their bigness head on. They are very, very big. The delirium of their size is enhanced by their age. The oldest sequoias predate the English language and most major religions by centuries, even millenniums. The appearance of a tree cannot be deafening, and yet with these trees, it is” (Metered paywall) (4,500 words)

Michael Haneke: The Art of Screenwriting

Luisa Zielinski | Paris Review | 1st November 2014

Interview with the director of Caché and La Pianiste. “We, in our protected little worlds, are lucky not to experience danger on a daily basis. But that’s precisely why the film industry is in such a rut. There is just so much recycling. We don’t have the capability to represent authentic experiences because there is so little we do experience. At the most basic level, all we’re concerned about here are our material possessions and sexual urges. There really isn’t much more to our lives” (8,500 words)

Video of the day: David Graeber On The Value Of Work

What to expect:

RSA talk with animation, about how Western societies came to value work as a virtuous end in itself

Thought for the day

Possibility and limitation mean about the same thing
Flannery O'Connor

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