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20151226 What Intelligence Tests Miss

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The main idea here is that standard IQ testing does not provide effective measurement of human intellectual abilities because it is missing measure of rationality, the feature that is much more important in effective decision making than ability to quickly solve simple problems or have high ability for patterns recognition. The bulk of book is dedicated to review and analysis of Dysrationalia – a condition when high IQ people fail to make rational decisions. At the end a number of ideas of how to improve levels of rationality in decision-making is discussed.


ONE: Inside George W. Bush’s Mind: Hints at What lQ Tests Miss

The chapter starts with question how come that George Bush generally considered intellectually inferior had quite high IQ score and successfully graduated from the top educational establishments. The answer, author comes up with, is that tests measure only highly formalized intellectual abilities, while missing not only emotional and other types of intelligence, but most important intelligence as ability to think rationally. Author suggests name for this problem: Dysrationalia and insist that it is a form of mental deficiency that Bush is suffering from.

Two: Dysrationalia: Separating Rationality and Intelligence

Here author is trying defining and separating Rationality and Intelligence using multiple examples of each feature in action. In process he proposes a curious definition of what exactly IQ tests measure and calling it MAMBIT (Mental Abilities Measured by Intelligence Tests), claiming that it has nothing to do with rationality. After that he looks at Dysrationalia as an Intuition Pump.

THREE: The Reflective Mind, the Algorithmic Mind, and the Autonomous Mind

Here author claims that all major issues related to intelligence were answered at least in the first approximation and discussion moved on to detailed examination of two types of intellectual processing: Type 1 – fast unconscious processing that includes huge majority of all activities conducted in parallel by multiple subsystems of the brain and nervous system and Type 2 – slow moving conscious serial processing at much more abstract level capable override results of Type 1 processing if needed. He provides a model of Dual-Process that he then encapsulates into tripartite framework of various minds:

At the end of chapter he introduces notion of Mindware, which is analogous to software used for processing by each type of mind:

Test 4

FOUR: Cutting Intelligence Down to Size

This is an attempt to devalue typical American attitude to overestimate value of Intelligence as defined by MAMBIT and use it for selection of people for positions of influence. Author believes that it is incorrect attitude and it is very important to separate and treat correspondingly in different ways MAMBIT intelligence and rationality.

FIVE: Why Intelligent People Doing Foolish Things Is No Surprise

At the beginning of chapter author provides a number of examples when seemingly smart and educated people make stupid mistakes and lose money in stock market. As explanation he introduces idea of humans being a cognitive misers, when needs for cognitive processing required to cope with live exceed cognitive abilities of human brain forcing humans to look for short cuts in cognition, sacrificing quality of cognition in process. This loss of quality expresses itself in widely spread Dysrationalia. The intellectual tools of rational cognition: probabilistic thinking, scientific reasoning, and logic consume too many cognitive resources and therefore had to be used sparingly and applied only in limited area of professional and personal activities where the outcome is critical, while all other areas could be left to believes acquired through cultural socialization regardless of validity and rationality of these believes.

SIX: The Cognitive Miser: Ways to Avoid Thinking

This chapter concentrates on methods of simplification of thinking processes such as:

  • Attribute Substitution
  • Vividness, Salience, and Accessibility
  • Heuristic processing
  • Cognitive shortcuts such as anchoring
  • Groupthink
  • Status Quo Bias

At the end author discusses environment, which could be hostile or benign for use of Heuristics.

SEVEN: Framing and the Cognitive Miser

This is a detailed view at one of the most important deficiency of cognitive miser: susceptibility to Framing Effects. A very interesting finding is that it generally the same for highly intelligent and educated individuals and for not that intelligent. However when people told that there is need to pay serious attention, intelligent individuals are quite capable to overcome Framing Effects.

EIGHT: Myside Processing: Heads I Win-Tails I Win Too

This is about a special case of permanent Framing when belonging to a group or holding specific view that frames all analysis. In short whatever side of any controversy individual belongs to, is treated differently than other side. Author calls it Myside Processing and looks at some specific examples.

NINE: A Different Pitfall of the Cognitive Miser: Thinking a Lot, but Losing

This is about complexities of logical rational thinking caused by human’s difficulties with Boolean problems, but also tendency to ignore this logic due to interference from emotional side of the brain.

TEN: Mindware Gaps

This is about Mindware (rules, knowledge, and strategies) bugs and how they can cause problems. Author considers such human traits as inability consistently use probabilistic methods, incomprehension and failure to use Bayes theorem for conditional probabilities, failure to analyze alternative hypotheses, and inability to use effectively falsifiability criteria as bugs that cause multiple failure to evaluate environment rationally, leading in extreme cases to Dysrationalia.

ELEVEN: Contaminated Mindware

This is somewhat extension of previous chapter on Mindware, discussing fallacy that tend to be widely distributed in population via contamination when individuals transfer memes between themselves. As example author discusses collapse of Albania economy due to epidemics of pyramid schemes. This form of malfunction is especially popular among individuals with high IQ who often susceptible to contamination due to their striving to be “in” on whatever new and popular Mindware is expanding.

TWELVE: How Many Ways Can Thinking Go Wrong? Taxonomy of Irrational Thinking Tendencies and Their Relation to Intelligence

Here author discusses various characteristics of thinking failures and provides a couple of nice diagrams for their taxonomy:

Test 2

THIRTEEN: The Social Benefits of Increasing Human Rationality–and Meliorating Irrationality

In the last chapter author comes up not only with notion that Dysrationalia is if not completely curable, but at least could be at least somewhat remediated. Obviously education and training in use of statistical methods would help. Also some environmental modifications could push people to more effective behavior, example – smaller portions of food as substitute of dieting. He also mentions “Nudge” methods calling them “libertarian paternalism” and invoking standard success story with 401K defaults for retirement. Finally author discusses needs to modify society’s selection mechanism to assure higher levels rationality of decision makers.



This is another approach to discoveries of behavioral economics. It concentrates on division between algorithmic and reflective methods of problem solving. I find this approach interesting because it is not only proposes more reasonable model of interactions between unconscious (autonomous) minds using override mechanism. I like this approach, but I think that ideas of Dysrationalia and Humans as Cognitive Misers are counterproductive. Author makes assumption that there is some objective rational way to behave in all circumstances and formal knowledge such as statistical methods could lead to consistently effective decision-making. It is a typical for academicians who tend to forget that their experience most often obtained in oversimplified environment and as such is not really applicable to complex real live situations. Rather than typical and somewhat boring ideas of how help regular people to overcome their irrationality I would like to see a serious attempt to understand how human irrationality or Dysrationalia in author’s parlance provide for evolutionary advantage for individual not only in historical hunter gatherers society, but also in contemporary society that we live in. After all George Bush extensively used in this book as nearly perfect example of Dysrationalia managed to achieve the very top of our society getting himself elected president in environment of high popularity of outgoing Democratic president, good economy, and peaceful time, which was not a trivial achievement.


20151219 Subliminal

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The main idea of this book, which is quite well supported by research and experimentation, is that our relation to reality is quite tenuous. Our actions are defined not only and even not mainly by our conscious selves, but by the combination of unconscious, subliminal activities of our brain with consciousness being a secondary sense making device at best. The supporting discussion demonstrates our lack of understanding of our own actions, reconstructive rather than reproductive nature of our memories, our unconscious use of stereotyping, in-group vs. out-group allocations, and regular prompting of our actions by emotions that result from unconscious processing of environmental signals. The inference from all this understanding is that to achieve good result we should consciously take unto consideration supremacy of our unconscious self and adjust our actions so they would be more based on scientific, rather than lawyerly approach to reality.



1 The New Unconscious: The hidden role of our subliminal selves … what it means when you don’t call gout mother

This is about difficulty for external observer to differentiate between conscious and unconscious actions. Typically humans inclined to assigned conscious motivation to just about any actions even if they done by animals. The latest achievement of science allows for a direct observation of brain activities leading to the new understanding of unconscious based on measurements. It also includes statistical measurements. Author provides example of unconscious behavior when people select spouse with the same surname out of proportion with statistical predictions. Additional examples are perceived quality of wine depending on stated price, stock market price movements depending on ease of company name pronunciation.

2 Senses Plus Mind Equals Reality: The two-tier system of the brain … how you can see something without knowing it

This is about discovered scientific reality that everything we perceive is not actual simple fact, but rather construct of our brain based on unconscious processing of bits and pieces of information collected by our senses in somewhat haphazard way. It provides nice examples of just such processing for vision. It also contains a simple exercise allowing observing one’s own blind spot.

3 Remembering and Forgetting: How the brain builds memories … why we sometimes remember what never happened

This is an application of similar findings to human memories, which turned out to be not a stable imprint of fact, but rather continuously reconstructed presentation of traces of initial activation of neural network easily influenced by follow up input all the way to changing initial memory to something different. The chapter also discusses an unusual case of Solomon Shereshevsky who remembered every detail of everything he ever sow, leading to difficulties with recognition of people and place because nothing stay the same in all details over time. There is also description of substitution experiments when one person is substituted by another during brief interruption in interaction that majority of people fail to notice.

4 The Importance of Being Social: The fundamental role of human social character … why Tylenol can mend a broken heart

This is about vital need to be connected with other people in order to survive all kinds of challenges not only physical, but also psychological. It includes discussion on use of fMRI in analysis of social behavior.


5 Reading People: How we communicate without speaking … how to know who’s the boss by watching her eyes

This chapter about non-verbal communication, interestingly enough starts with the story of intelligent horse that could do math and such. Eventually it was proved that horse just picked up non-verbal signal from people to do its tricks. Author reviews application of similar technics in communications between people often at subliminal level.

6 Judging People by Their Covers: What we read into looks, voice, and touch … how to win voters, attract a date, or beguile a female cowbird

This chapter expands discussion of non-verbal communications beyond information transfer to image creation when people use their exterior, sound signals, and touch to establish connection that allows obtain benefits from other people’s reaction to this image either in form of bigger tip, or election vote, or purchase of goods and services. The great experiment related to it had demonstrated that people are able to identify with about 60% probability the winner of election by look at his/her picture without any knowledge about candidate.

7 Sorting People and Things: Why we categorize things and stereotype people … what Lincoln, Gandhi, and Che Guevara had in common

This is a great look at human ability to extracting meaning from multitude of signals by categorizing people, materials, and events by using stereotypes, classifications, and prejudices. All this is a great help at the initial encounters, but is consistently loosing its value with accumulation of more information about specific object or person under consideration.

8 In-Groups and Out-Groups: The dynamics of us and them … the science behind Lord of the Flies

This chapter is about human natural inclination to form groups and immediately allocate positive characteristics to in-group and negative to out-group members. Whether they are randomly selected boys with practically identical background divided into two teams or sophisticated adult members of some profession, the result is always similar: “us against them” and readiness to do anything bar nothing to promote in-group and suppress out-group.

9 Feelings: The nature of emotions … why the prospect of falling hundreds of feet onto large boulders has the same effect as t flirtatious smile and a black silk nightgown

This chapter starts with discussion of a case of multiple personality when the person had completely different emotional profiles for each of personalities. The discussion goes into the link between physical arousal and emotion demonstrating via experiment that such link is quite strong even if people do not understand the reason. In short, emotions are often driven by unrecognizable conditions of the body with conscious analysis following far behind and mainly used for justification of action, rather than its cause.

10 Self: How our ego defends its honor … why schedules are overly optimistic and failed CEOs feel they deserve golden parachutes

This is about building a positive self-image from whatever material one has at hands. Obviously it is done with great application of self-justification, self-pity, adjusting of facts to narratives and other similar staff. Author refers to idea that we have two approaches to the truth: one is scientific based on fact and experiment and another lawyerly based on assumption of the truth and careful selection of facts to support this assumption. Our brain normally uses lawyerly approach as default. Author also provides dual view pictures when person can see one or another vision and expands it to the whole lot of live situation stating that our perception of the fact is highly dependent on predisposition for or against this fact.


This book is one of many based on technological breakthrough of fMRI and such, that allowed seeing what parts of brain are activated in different experimental situations created specifically to test various abilities of the brain. After all this information it is hard or even impossible to deny that our own conscious self is just a thin layer of self-awareness on the top of huge self-unawareness. As far as I am concern, it is not just something that is nice to know, but it is also a great explanatory tool useful not only for understanding of what happened in my live for previous decades, but also for planning and acting in the future. In short, from the point of view of information system, the self is a way more complicated contraption than it looks and, therefore, the simple command and control system would not work effectively even at the level of one individual.


20151212 The folly of fools

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Evolution equipped humans as well as many other animals with ability to conduct deception and self-deception activities in such way that these distortions of reality actually become highly effective tool in struggle for survival. It allows getting somebody for a dinner and/or avoiding becoming the dinner for somebody in the wild. It also allows smoothing human relations within family, while obtaining success in mating and winning competition for resources against other groups and individuals. It also plays not a small part in achieving group cohesiveness. From author experience with social sciences establishment in US, it is clear that it is not a small help in obtaining grants, tenure, and other basic needs of professorial existence.



Here author establishes the need and main logic of self-deception: the need comes from the fact that we do not perceive reality directly, but rather build it into some coherent picture inside of our brain by using bits and pieces of information collected by our senses greatly supplemented by previous experiences, general views and believes. So in order to use perceived reality effectively we need to believe that it is the same as actual reality, which is impossible without self-deception. Another role of self-deception is to be a tool for effective deception of other, which is difficult to do if one does not believe own lies. This is connected to idea of cognitive overload. If one believes what he says he does not have to remember multiple versions of this and, even more difficult, remember which version activate in various circumstances. Author discusses 9 categories of self-deception and traces its evolutionary roots.


Here author discusses use of deception in nature providing some vivid examples from the world of wild animals and other living things. He also discusses deception as part of co-evolutionary struggles between multiple species.



In this chapter author looks at contemporary technology that allowed analyzing activities of different parts of brain during process of thinking. Result was the mapping of brain to specific activities and processes including various forms of deception. Another interesting point here is the role of deception in interaction between conscious and unconscious parts of the brain. Author analyzes role of self-deception in building of self-esteem, use of flattery, false memories, placebo effect, and other similar phenomenon. One important idea here is that self-deception is used as psyche immune system, hiding harsh reality from conscious mind.


This chapter is about deception between parents and children and its role in assuring evolutionary fitness of the species. Humans need a long-term care provided to them by adults in order to achieve such level of maturity when they could survive, which creates necessity of maintaining complex relationships. The deception and self-deception are tools that are necessary to maintain this relationship. Moreover each individual actually split into multiple selves with sometimes-conflicting interests for example conflict between survival of self and survival of children in circumstances of extreme resource limitations.


This is about role of deception and self-deception in sexual relationships including infidelity and betrayal. One very interesting point is that human routinely rewrite they own history and it could be used as predictor for the future of marriage. Those who use negative rewriting would not stay together in the future.


This is another approach to self-deception as immunity mechanism protecting individuals against psychological stress. Author looks at comparison with regular immune system in terms of energy consumption, at the sleep as the part of immunological process, and the general lifestyle circumstances as easer protecting psyche such as marriage, or undermining it such as drags. He also discusses competition for resources between biological and psychological immune systems, technics of overcoming effects of stress such as writing and music, positivity of the old age, and finally presents immunological theory of happiness.


This chapter is review of specific technics of self-deception, which basically comes down to various forms of information manipulation starting from selectivity of attention and memorization of inputs and all the way through rationalization of inconvenient facts. All this is often done with a specific purpose to decrease or even eliminate cognitive dissonance.


This chapter looks at trivial use of self-deception in regular life starting with specifics of its use by opposite sexes, its use in professions with high levels of unpredictability, and various technics of verbal and visual shortcuts used to deceive oneself into believe of better understanding of the environment than is warranted by reality. Author also touches on secrets of con artists success and lie detector technology.


This is somewhat curious application of author’s ideas to analysis of air disasters.


This is demonstration of author’s great vulnerability to self-deception when he critics various historical evens firmly standing on his anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic political views typical for western academia formed to the high degree by communist propaganda of 1950s and 60s.


This is continuation of the same only applied to wars. Probably the only interesting point here is that author claims impossibility of winning war from the air simultaneously pointing to exception of victory over Japan, which actually was achieved from the air. Somehow despite clearly recognizing this case author manages self-deceive himself into ignoring fact that experience demonstrate that only limited war with use of power severely restricted by “humanitarian” considerations failed and ignoring fact that war with one overriding consideration to achieve victory did not fail to deliver victory via exclusive use of airpower.


This part also has deep imprint of author religious views, which in this case is atheism, but it makes a lot more sense because his thesis of religion as self-deception use to increase group benefits seems to have a good factual foundation in history of all religious of all peoples including notorious cases of atheistic totalitarian states like Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.


This is a charming look at area author’s expertise: social non-sciences such as economics, cultural anthropology, psychology, and even some PC that drive many approaches in biology.


In this final chapter author analyses his own live, various uses of self-deception and his struggle to discover and remove them. He also provides somewhat philosophical deliberation of whether one should fight self-deception and on value of being conscious. His final world is that deception and self-deception turns world into never ending extravaganza, which is fun to watch.


I view self-deception and deception in the same light as author as necessary tools of survival and procreation developed within process of evolution. Even now when we are pretty much overcame evolutionary pressures by obtaining reliable supplies of all necessities, it still plays a huge role in getting amounts of resources beyond necessities. In short one can obtain welfare check with little to none deception and self-deception, but university tenure, rich grants, and other perks could be achieved only by masters of this art. One thing that left me somewhat irritated is author’s blatant anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, but this is something that should be expected from dedicated leftist close to black panthers, so it does not diminish logic and information provided in regard to subject matter in meaningful chapters, and actually provide a nice example of self-deception in political chapters.


20151205 Maestripieri,Dario-Games primate play

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There are huge numbers of similarities between human and animal behavior that developed from evolutionary history that all living creatures went through. There is nothing that would drastically differentiate humans from other animals that would not be explained by analysis of our evolutionary development as primate, despite our achieving higher levels of self-awareness, communication, cooperation, and organization. This does not make humans any less valuable and unique, their lives are still worth living, and their happiness still worth to pursue, even if there is nothing supernatural in humans, their bodies, minds, and behavior.



People interact with other people to specific patterns and rules of game. Author’s extensive experience with primates allowed to look at similar patterns and rules used by our close biological relatives and demonstrate that these pattern and rules are not really that different between chimps and us.

Chapter 1: Dilemmas in the Elevator

This chapter starts with description of typical human behavior in elevator, which is closed space with other humans. Author traces this behavior to our evolutionary history when encounter with stranger of our species in close space is most often a dangerous situation that calls for establishment of dominance hierarchy either through fight or negotiation. Author provides a charming description of monkeys’ behavior in experiments designed to imitate this situation.

Chapter 2: The Obsession with Dominance

This is detailed and quite interesting analysis of dominance discovery process and how different animals, including human, do it. Very interesting is the discussion about change in chemistry of organism depending on the place in dominance hierarchy. In short dominant animals are healthier and happier than subordinates whether the environment is colony of chimps or some governmental bureaucracy.

Chapter 3: We Are All Mafiosi

This chapter describes author’s own experience of human dominance games obtained initially in his country of origin Italy’s military, then in its academia, and eventually in USA academia. All these environments are more or less saturated with nepotism and group survival networks with Italy definitely more and USA less saturated, albeit American academia is catching up. Examples of similar behavior and patterns from lives of non-human animals provided with discussion of their evolutionary meaning.

Chapter 4: Climbing the Ladder

This chapter moves from discussing support that individual get from his group, either nepotism of any other reason for support, to individual’s attempt of making it by own effort and luck. To demonstrate how it is achieved or failed author looks at 3 stories of human career:

  1. A compliant individual slowly moving along career path with very small achievement.
  2. Slash and burn revolutionary who prematurely rebel against superiors resulting in defeat.
  3. Smart Machiavellian strategist capable achieving big career breakthrough via manipulation, deception, and other time tested methods of bureaucratic advancement.

Consequently author reviews quite similar actions in the world of chimps, demonstrating quite convincingly how close are chimp’s world and human bureaucratic hierarchies.

Chapter 5: Cooperate in the Spotlight, Compete in the Dark

This chapter is about transparency or more precise about human and chimp ability to take into account other individuals and adjust own action in such way that would generate positive and beneficial image in their eyes. Some interesting experiments demonstrate that this feature is so deep seated in sub-consciousness that even such simple things as poster with human eyes watching has noticeable impact on behavior. Correspondingly when nobody sees it, behavior changes in different way with individual trying to obtain benefits even at the expense of causing damage to others. Author provides some interesting examples of this.

Chapter 6: The Economics and Evolutionary Biology of Love

This is quite an interesting take on love from point of view of economics, not necessarily simple monetary economics, but rather from point of view resource accumulation and application in order to produce and support next generation. Basically love is a bonding mechanism to create stable economic unit necessary to assure adequate resource flow to a child with live expectancy of the unit linked to the time required for child to achieve a minimal level of self-sufficiency.

Chapter 7: Testing the Bond

This is about bonds between animals and methods of these bods establishment and continuing testing, but even more about handicap principal developed by Amotz Zahavi explaining meaning of peacock ‘s tail and other examples of counter logical use of handicap as the sign of evolutionary fitness.

Chapter 8: Shopping for Partners in the Biology Market

This chapter about multiple and extremely diverse forms of cooperation in creating the next generation of species from human mating market to animal’s mating market, even about book author – publisher – agent market, all working according to similar principles defined by evolution.

Chapter 9: The Evolution of Human Social Behavior

The final chapter is about human behavior and its evolutionary roots. Author believes that evolution not only defined our biology, but also to high extent caused development of a variety of behavioral algorithms that control our behavior with emotions being activators and coordinators of these algorithms execution.


The epilog somewhat unexpectedly raises issue of meaning of live using a tragic accident of highly intellectual man who so much submerged into philosophical search of meaning of live, that he committed suicide after coming to conclusion that sociobiology is pretty much correctly defines human as just another, maybe glorified and self-conscious, but still an animal rendering live pretty much meaningless for somebody in search of deep meaning. Author pretty much rejects this attitude and sees no problem with all these philosophical problems, stating that meaning of live is pretty much the live itself and there is no point of freaking out because we are animals.


This book provides a wealth of observations, experiments, and analysis supporting my believes that we humans are animals developed via evolutionary process to become self-conscious and capable to amazing fits of cooperation and communication that by now allowed us to create an artificial environment for comfortable live, well protected from dangers inherent in our natural habitat as it existed for millions of years. By now we pretty much got evolution under control so we do not depend on survival of fittest any more. However we are in danger of self-destruction unless we’ll find way to handle unhappiness and loss of meaning when original meanings of live: get food, not die from exposure, and have sex is way too easy to achieve, making some people restless. I hope that switch of meaning of live from pursuit of surviving to pursuit of happiness would be eventually completed successfully making our current worries just a curiosity of the past.


20151128 Our Enemy the State

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The State is a tool for violent suppression of one group of people by another with massive transfer of resources from producers to the State’s clients. The State grows within Society pretty much like cancer grows within organism with the similar result achieved over time. There is no way to stop it, but it still worth to try to understand process and write about it for individuals with interest in understanding   of society history and future.


Part One

  1. Author introduces notions of difference, conflict, and distribution of power between the State and Society. The State in this case is government with its hierarchy of bureaucrats and violent machinery of army and police continuously obtains more and more power pushing out Society from different areas by using mechanism of emergencies and protection from various threads.
  2. This chapter is about USA specific indexes of increase in the State power: Concentration of power at the federal level; Dramatic increase in numbers of bureaucrats at all levels; Conversion of poverty and government provided assistance into permanent political asset for the State
  3. This is a brief review of the State growth with emphasis on history, which clearly demonstrates that it is not a new process brought in by the New Deal, but rather continuing development from the very beginning of the republic. Author also stresses the generic nature of this process common for all humanity and easily recognizable in all its variations existing at the time whether it is Italian Fascism, Russian Bolshevism, or German Hitlerism.
  4. This is a look at the specifics of the process of the State taking power from Society as it occurred in Western democracies: USA and Great Britain. The key difference is that in democracies no spectacular revolution similar to Hitler’s or Lenin’s occurred and the State grab on power is conducted in stealthy way, successfully trying to avoid cultural resistance. It also stresses indoctrination of youth as one of the post important tools of the State expansion.
  5. This is an interesting discussion on nature of societal change with stress on cultural socialization that instills specific attitudes to the State, Society, and power in people’s mind so some conditions of live perceived as normal and dramatic change in such conditions leads to revolutions and change. The examples are: conversion of colonial America into republic via revolution against Britain, monarchical Russia into collectivistic via revolution against Russian upper classes, Germany and Italy from constitutional states into totalitarian.

 Part Two

  1. This chapter represents a more detailed discussion about two different method of organization that author calls Society and State with reference to Thomas Paine and Jefferson’s contemplation on organization of Indian tribes that represented Society without the State.
  2. Here author goes even further back into history discussing Aristotle who, author believes, confused state and government. Author then expresses the opinion that the State is based on banditry, war, and confiscation. The important point here is that the State is predicated on existence of wealth to steal or rob. If there is no such wealth as in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, there is no place for the State.
  3. This part is about Herbert Spencer and his analysis of the State with specific examples of British state encroaching on British Society. From these examples the State comes out not as some acting entity, but rather as a tool in form of bureaucratic hierarchy that violently redistributes resources to benefit controllers of this hierarchy. Theoretically aristocratic state uses force in interest of aristocracy, merchant state in interests of merchants, and proletarian state in interests of proletarians.
  4. Here author looks at the reality of the State when it is quite obvious that it is bureaucratic hierarchy and regardless of formal arrangements it always uses its power in interests of bureaucrats. The danger of this is that in its growth and aggrandizement the State is devour Society that could mean its destruction similar to destruction of Rome and contemporary Europe is moving closer and closer to the point of no return.

 Part Three

  1. This part is about the State’s development in America. The interesting point here is that American colonial institutions were to large extent of Dutch origin rather than British. These institutions were geared up to serve merchants rather than aristocracy. Author discusses in details what he calls Merchant-State that opened road for individualism in all areas of live including religious live and eventually leading to ideas of popular sovereignty.
  2. Here author reviews history of American institution and influence of the fact that British state and its American subjects were separated by ocean and it was really impossible for this State to have close control in such circumstances. It was also complicated by civil war in England and by the fact that semi-private entities such as Massachusetts Bay Company were real power in colonies at the beginning.
  3. Here author discusses the idea that natural rights and popular sovereignty not necessarily were philosophy of American Merchant-State at the beginning. Rather it was quite undemocratic based on practices of Bay Company and provided support for state religion. However author also reviews role of the people of Rhode Island and their subversive promotion of democratic ideas, that eventually took root everywhere in America.

 Part Four

  1. This is continuing discussion about history of the State in America where violent nature of the State as tool of robbery was somewhat limited because of huge amount of available land and small numbers of population made land speculation relatively poor method of exploitation.
  2. Here author looks at causes of American Revolution and comes to a tentative conclusion that main cause was English attempt to limit westward expansion and acquisition of the new land for increasing population. Overall however it was clash between existing British State violently protecting interests of British upper classes and fledgling American States violently protecting interests of Colonial upper classes.
  3. This is an interesting look at contradiction of ideas expressed in Declaration of Independence versus actual practices of colonial leadership, and Constitution of 1789, both of which practically ignored these ideas.

Part Five

  1. Here author looks at the idea of the State and its application by mass-men who kind of support this idea and happy to see use of State power to support their interest. However in reality the State slowly takes over society killing it as parasite kills a living organism.
  2. This is look at the mechanics of power play of 13 initial states of America with specific stress on absence of any attempts to support ideal of the Declaration of Independence.
  3. This is the review of multiple interests and ideas that drove 13 states together leading to creation of union that become much more powerful state than was possible in previous arrangement.
  4. This is a look at the American party system that even in its infancy demonstrated an interesting variance of attitude to strict constitution depending on position of the Party. Party in power neglects constitution and Party out of power demands strict adherence.

 Part Six

  1. This is a discussion of seemingly parallel development of people’s attitude to the state to historical development of attitude to the Church: initially unrestricted support with slowly growing enervation. This enervation develops as result of continuing intervention of the state into multiple economic activities sometime leading to improvement, but much more often to deterioration of quality of live.
  2. Here author discusses ethical approach to the state that he characterizes as ignorance and delusion combined with moral debility and myopic self-interest. This follows from general lack of understanding of the nature of the State as anti-social institution. Author believes that the State growth is a natural condition of humanity and it will continue until the State completely destroy Society similarly to what happened many times before with ancient civilizations.
  3. In the final chapter author expresses believe that Western society went too far in the process of destruction by the growing State. But he still believes that it worth to write such essays for some individuals who enjoy understanding of the world, even if there is no practical way to correct its problems.

My Take on it:

I think it is a very nice and neat essay about the State nature and characteristics. It is very much close to my understanding of this thing, but the big difference is that authors believes that process of state growth and killing society is non-stoppable, while I think that it is just an intermediate part of process and society has great chance of recovering mainly due to development of new information processing technology resulting in complete change in relations between humans and environment on one hand and different groups of humans on another. Obviously it remains to be seen, which one of these two believes will eventually pan out.

20151121 – On the Origin of Tepees

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The main idea here is to analyze evolution of memes in noosphere as self-directed actors similar to genes using for illustration variations of teepees design in Indian tribes. This analysis provided using background of travel through great planes and discussions of their history. Author also makes an interesting suggestion that memes are taking over from genes the role of main object of evolution.


Part I: Only Human

Chapter 1: Weirdoes: Misting Up; The Top Five Weirdest Wonders in All Creation; Super-Natural?

At the beginning author establishes his philosophical views on the world stating that everybody looks at the world through some goggles and his are Darwinian goggles. However not everything fits into Darwinian model and he provides top 5 deviations with humans being at the top place because author considers human brains a huge overkill for needs of survival.

Chapter 2: The New World: The Great Indoors; Sandwich Selection; Little Lars on the Prairie; The Road to the Ultimate Problem Solver; Future-proof; A World of Our Own; Into the New World;

Here author presents the new artificial world that humans created for themselves and then provides his classification of live depending on method of evolution:

  1. “Darwinian” Creatures: regular evolution with change occurring at genetic level and selection by survival of next generation
  2. “Skinnerian” Creatures: evolution occurs at the level of randomly changing behavior with beneficial patterns continues and harmful patterns not repeated. In other words behavior trial and error.
  3. “Popperian” Creatures: evolution is still at the behavior level, but trial and error is supplied by preliminary modeling of the future in the brain or in other word by planning. That’s where a big brain becomes really useful: better memory and analytical abilities provide for better modeling of future outcome of actions.
  4. “Donnettian” Creatures: evolution occurs not at the level of one brain, but at the level of multitude of brains interconnected via language, visuals, and now via Internet. For these creatures the survival occurs not at the level of individual, carrying behavior pattern of models of the world, but at the level of memes that represent such patterns and models.

 Part II: What’s the Idea?

Chapter 3: Evolution, Minnesota: Is the Force with Us, Always? Mr. Darwin’s Idea; Finch Mob; Barn in the USA;

Here author discusses and applies Darwin ideas to the meme of barn construction pattern in Minnesota.

Chapter 4: Variation, North Dakota: Plains Sailing; Barn Different; A Port on the Plains; “Home Sweet Home”;

The same analysis continues as author travels through Great Plains where it expands to include not only barns, but also teepees.

Chapter 5: Inheritance, South Dakota: Biological Brothers, Cultural Cousins; The Front of the Barn; Dead Man’s Hand; Tepee or Not Tepee; Big County, Big Picture;

Since author travels with his brother, analysis expanded to similarity and variation of presenting ideas of supremacy of cultural development over biological inheritance. The same extended to barns and teepees analysis.

Chapter 6: Selection, Wyoming: Mindless+; The Evolution of the Cowboy Hat, Served Three Way; The Idea;

Here author looks at evolution of Stetson hat and comes to conclusion that nobody really invented cowboy hat, or rather that hat invented itself by preserving features consistent with cowboy’s patterns of selection, regardless of reasons given for this.

 Part III: History Lessen

Chapter 7- Mind Out: Goggles Off; Watchmaking; Differently Dull Flipbooks;


Here author is claiming to look at the world without Darwinian goggles, which he believes limit our ability to understand evolution of ideas in noosphere. He begins with the story of theologian William Paley who came up with analogy of watchmaker to reaffirm need for a god as intelligent designer of complex biological world, causing Darwin to provide detailed analysis of evolutionary development of human eyes by presenting multiple light perceiving organs of various complexity that could be encountered in nature. Then author comes up with his own analogy of evolution as flipbook each page of which could be representing variation in evolution of a specific individual starting with original cell with huge share of pages at the beginning common to all animals. Then he applies this analogy to barns, which could also have their own flipbook.

Chapter 8: How the West Was Won I: Finding the Edges: Hear the Herd? Trail and Error; The Southern Herd; The Nature of Panic; The Northern Herd;

Chapter 9″ How the West Was Won II: June 25, 1876: Culture’s Last Stand; Getting to the Phone; A Space for Design; A Space for Genius;

Chapter 10: How the West Was Won III: America Making: The Maul of America;

Making America; The Secret of Sitting Bull’s Tepee;

These 3 chapters are retelling histories of American movement westward with accompanying pushover and even destruction of Indian cultures. It is also retelling history of buffalo herd annihilation. This is used to build analogy with ideas that author considers to possess similar qualities to animals and as such are being developed and changed by evolutionary process only with changes being much more frequent and flexible.

 Part IV: Who’s Driving?

Chapter 11: A Beginner’s Guide to Tepee Taxonomy: Among the Crow; Sort it Out; Tongues in a Twist; Drummers in the Dark; A Pattern of lslands; Poles Apart;

Chapter 12: Bound by Imagination: The World Turned Upside Down; The Medicine Wheel; Imagineering; Life’s Ratchet; Building a Super-super-super organism; Flipping Gulls; The Yellowstone Blues; Life Is Simple;

Chapter 13: The Genes of Culture: A Model Idea; Blackfoot Country; The Idea Behind These Goggles; The Indian Tipi; On the Origin of (These) Tepees

These 3 chapters are combination of discussion about nature of life and attempt to apply it to ideas of teepee construction. It is then extended to notions of superorganizm that includes multitude of DNA and Memes combined into one entity. Obviously it could be built in bigger and bigger entities until some multi-super organism includes everything conceivable. The supporting illustration is provided by teepees.

Part V: Mysteries Solved

Chapter 14: The Past: The Dawn of the Smelly Heads; Border Crossings; Food for Thought; The Art of Aping; Head-Smashed-In Humaneering; A Symbol Creature; Reason to Believe; The Ghost of an Idea;

For some reason author initially deviates into discussion of olfaction – ability to recognize smell specific to mammals. He seems to believe that it was one of important factors for development of the brain and that it allowed mammals to take earth over when dinosaurs were removed, opening multiple ecological niches. Then he follows through evolution process that resulted in creation of symbolic world of noosphere. From this point it is meme that is main subject of evolution and human hosts are just a necessary support system for memes for now, which may or may not be necessary for their existence and further evolution in the future.

Chapter 15: The Present: Welcome to the Jungle; Idea Ecology; The (Post) Modern World; The Truth

This is final summarization of author ideas based on current environment with projection into the future when “meme life would triumph over gene live”. The final truth author believes in is that memes already took world over to such extent that we all have goggles that distort reality to adjust it to command of memes occupying our brains and the only way put is to communicate intensively with other people who have different goggles in order to break free from memes’ control.


I find ideas of this book somewhat interesting, albeit not really consistent with reality. The reality is that memes are just a notion existing in human brains in form of neuron connections and levels of their conductivity, making them extremely flexible easily changeable via signals received from senses and changes in internal material conditions of the brain. Genes, however, are not easily changeable and correspondingly to high extent define structure and functionality of animals making their evolutionary process slow and maintaining high levels of stability. We humans and other animals with all our complexity and huge amount of unconscious processing are still one and only entities that consciously build representation of the environment in our brains and act to move from our current situation to whatever situation we consider an improvement over the current. Neither genes nor memes have such ability and I am not sure that attempts to analyze development and evolution as if they were self-directing entities are that useful.


20151114 The Rule of Nobody

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The main idea is that American government system arrived to the point of paralysis when bureaucracy greatly impedes nearly all activities, dramatically decreasing quality of live. This is result of huge overuse of laws and regulations, which prevents people from applying initiative and practically removes individual responsibility of bureaucrats. There is no easy remedy, so it could be done only via addition of 5 new amendments to constitution that author proposes.



This starts with example of a tree that fall into the creek. It had to be removed, but some official recalled that it is C-1 type creek so it took many days for bureaucracy to approve tree removal. This is as fine example as any of bureaucracy’s paralyzing impact on American everyday live.

Part I The Rule of Nobody


Here author provides more examples of bureaucratic activities or more precisely lack thereof and makes 2 propositions:

  1. America has lost the ability to make public choices
  2. Doing anything well requires human energy and judgment, but if left to bureaucracy all energy goes to career building and nothing is left for getting something actually done.

Author supports the first proposition by describing huge negative impact of regulation on ability to do what needs to be done. The second proposition is stating the obvious fact government regulation redirects human energy to jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to get permission to do something instead of actually doing something. Consequently it becomes a lot easier to avoid doing this something


This is discussion of lawyerization of American live and tendency of democratic government to create insurmountable mountains of legal rule to limit ability to act for public officials. Here author makes another two propositions:

  1. Regulating with precise dictates undermines the goals of law in most social activities
  2. Compulsive distrust of human choice is anti-democratic


As effective alternative the author proposes is to give much more space for decision making to government officials setting up clear objectives and leaving them to decide and act as they wish in order to achieve objectives. As example he provides Australian reregulation of nursing houses, which materially improved lives of their customers by giving more discretion to bureaucrats. Two propositions are:

  1. Regulating by principles revives human responsibility
  2. Regulators should focus on results, not punishment


Here author discusses boundaries of law that in his opinion defined in America way too narrow limiting human ability to act according to specific requirements. The proposition is:

  1. Official authority requires an open area of choice defined by legal boundaries

This would mean practical expansion of legal boundaries allowing bureaucrats more space for actions.


The traditional American attitude is that ideology of bureaucracy is that it has no ideology. The same applies to morality: bureaucracy should be amoral. Neither of these two ideas is conceivable in reality. This leads author to the next two propositions:

  1. Public choices that avoid values soon embody bad values
  2. No act of government is morally valid unless it can be justified as being in the common interest


This is a brief, but interesting review of relations between human action of judges and law either codified or common. It starts with original constitutional discussion when Madison stressed that piece of paper could not possibly govern, but it rather men who do it, but constitution should provide framework for such action and keep them within commonly accepted rules. Author then goes into history discussion creation of administrative law and regulations as methods of governing without responsibility.


After reviewing process of governing, which is always done by real people, author comes up with 3 more propositions:

  1. Law must empower officials to apply social norm
  2. Authority properly understood dramatically expands freedom
  3. American Government must be rebuilt on the principle of human responsibility

Part II Restoring Human Control of Democracy.


This chapter starts with an example of infinite continuity of governmental programs due to impossibility of decision makers to stop them, even if there is 0 chance of such program to be approved now. Then it goes to abdication by Congress of its constitutional responsibility to legislate and transfer of this responsibility to bureaucracy. This situation practically led to triumph of lawlessness because infinite number of laws and regulations and their huge complexity practically allow bureaucrats to do whatever they want.


Here author is trying to show that this situation could not possibly keep going for a long time and dramatic changes are coming. He makes a few more propositions:

  1. Clean house: Congress should appoint independent commissions to propose simplified codes in each area
  2. All laws with budgetary impact should sunset periodically
  3. The President must have effective powers restored
  4. Judges must act as gatekeepers, dismissing invalid claims


Author believes that traditional democratic election and free press do not provide citizens with sufficient control over government and proposes additional measures:

  1. America needs a Council of citizens to oversee government
  2. Fixing democracy is a moral imperative for citizens, not just for public officials

Appendix: Bill of Responsibilities–Proposed Amendments to the Constitution

Amendment XXVIII: Sunset of laws

Amendment XXIX: Increase in presidential authority including line item veto

Amendment XXX: Complete presidential power over personnel in executive branch

Amendment XXXI: Limitations on lawsuits

Amendment XXXII: Establishment of Council of Citizens to oversee government


It is very good analysis supported by numerous examples of government going wild. I agree that situation will lead to drastic measures and I believe it would be more drastic than anybody can imagine now. I would guess that it would be on the scale of New Deal if not bigger because it would have to clear huge pile of laws, regulations, and, most important, change established habits of mind. Hopefully it would lead to completely new legal arrangement for society with a lot more freedom to act than Americans have now. The alternative of continuing on the same path for a long time seems to be unfeasible, because it would lead to continuing deterioration of quality of live and Americans are not known for accepting such outcomes without fight.

20151107 Strangers to Ourselves

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The main idea is that human personality includes two pieces: conscious self and adaptive unconscious, which are somewhat loosely linked. Of these two the unconscious includes a multitude of processes managing not only low level controlling functions, but also emotions, attitudes, and is responsible for a significant share of decision making. The conscious self is mainly limited to formal long term planning and justification of whatever person did as result of complex unconscious processes. The clear understanding of this could help individuals not only understand how their brain works and what kind of personality they really have, but also modify this personality into direction they want using roundabout processes like “ to do in order to be”.



This book is about self-knowledge or, more precisely about our current understanding of interplay between conscious and unconscious in human decision-making, actions, and behavior. It goes way beyond Freud’s ideas, retaining practically only his notion of unconscious being much more significant part of personality than it was perceived before.

1 Freud’s Genius, Freud’s Myopia

Here author discusses unconscious in contrast to Freud as adaptive unconscious that is a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous systems in the brain and nervous system that manage a multitude of parallel processes in such way as to assure an adequate response of the human individuals to inputs representing continually changing environment. Here is a brief catalog of such processes:

  • Lower order mental processes that occur outside awareness
  • Divided attention processes
  • Automaticity of thought
  • Unconscious prejudice
  • Lack of awareness of one’s own feelings
  • Nonconscious self

The implication of all this is that it is not possible to achieve self-insight without taking into account all these unconscious processes going on in our minds. Author believes that it could not be achieved by introspection, but could be obtained by carefully analyzing our own behavior and how others react to us.

2 The Adaptive Unconscious

This is a more detailed look at adaptive unconscious that author defines as evolutionary adaptation. Adaptive unconscious here is viewed as background processor of 11Mbit/sec perceived by our senses and supporting the following functions:

  • Pattern Detection
  • Relevance Filter
  • Interpretation of inputs based on previously acquired knowledge
  • Evaluation of inputs and production of feelings and emotions
  • Unconscious goal settings

3 Who’s in Charge?

Here author briefly discusses philosophical implications and provides a neat list of properties for comparing adaptive unconscious vs. consciousness:

4 Knowing Who We Are

This is unconventional look at psychological traits research, stating that personality contains two relatively independent parts: conscious construal of self and adaptive unconscious that are not necessarily in synch. This is demonstrated by low correlation between personality traits indirectly defined via questionnaires and observed behavior of individuals and opinion by others. These two parts control different types of actions: adaptive unconscious controls spontaneous responses, while conscious self normally controls complex planned responses. Author provides some guidance for external assessment of behavior:

  • Scanning patterns: Chronic Accessibility
  • Transference: seeing old in new
  • Working models of attachment
  • Dual motives and Goals
  • Variance between self-evaluation and evaluation by others

5 Knowing Why

This chapter is about causes of our actions, which in reality are often hidden in some areas of the brain inaccessible to our consciousness. In such cases consciousness often used to generate a plausible story for reasons of our actions, which is typically has nothing to do with real reasons. A good example is experiment that is involving people with divided brain, when information causing action is presented to one part of brain, while remaining is unknown to another, which quickly invents causal story. Experiments show that causal explanation of own action is often not better, than explanation of action of strangers.

6 Knowing How We Feel

Similarly to actions emotions and feelings are often product of adaptive consciousness generated without knowledge of conscious self. Author believes that in this area psychoanalysis could be useful, helping people to understand their own feeling. Author discusses two main uses for this: unconscious early warning system and love / hate attitudes. He present description of experiments demonstrating that it is quite possible for people to believe that they have one feeling, when they actually have another one.

7 Knowing How We Will Feel

This chapter continues discussion of emotions only this time not current, but anticipation of the future. People typically either over or under estimate their future condition as consequence of some event. Neither winners of lotteries nor victims of disable event experience long-term happiness or suffering they expect. The effects are typically wearing out over relatively short time returning people to their typical emotional condition before event demonstrating high levels of resilience.

8 Introspection and Self-Narratives

This is about attempts to discover one’s own personality and unconsciousness through introspection. It goes back to Freud and his idea of archeological digging in individual’s history and memory to discover suppressed memories and emotions. It is illustrated by example from real estate experience when a good professional would never except buyers description of what he wants, but would lead buyer through process of discovery by showing different houses and carefully registering unconscious reaction until the unconscious set of requirements identified and appropriate would be sold. Similarly author is highly skeptical about requirement lists and sees psychoanalysis as discovery process to identify emotional needs and causes of problems.

9 Looking Outward to Know Ourselves

This is about using various objective methods such as time of reaction to subliminal messages to identify individual’s unconscious attitudes. For example it become popular to test racial attitude by pairing views of white and black faces with good and bad words. For example pair black and robbery and white and neighbor considered as fit together causing quick reaction, while white and robbery causes slow reaction. Also important for self-understanding is careful analysis of reaction of other people to us. Typically our own evaluation would be either over or under mark.

10 Observing and Changing Our Behavior

The final chapter is about observing our own behavior as the most important source of self-knowledge. A good quote for this from E.M. Foster: “How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?” In addition author looks at process of self-fabrication when person actually becoming what he/she is doing as in “do good, be good”. On other side of self-fabrication is fundamental attribution error when people attribute their actions to external circumstances. All this creates an opportunity to mold ourselves into whatever our conscious self wants us to be by doing, consequently training out adaptive unconsciousness to be what we want it to be. As example the author’s ability to overcome introversion by consciously forcing himself communicate with other people led to increased easiness of doing it and change of personality to be higher on extraversion than before his conscious effort.


I pretty much agree with notion of complex personality model with conscious and adaptive unconscious being semi-independent parts. I think that this understanding creates opportunity for people to use indirect methods such as analysis of behavior and feedbacks from others in order to improve understanding of adaptive unconscious and train it to some tricks that our conscious self wants us to be able to do. The methods of reaching to one’s adaptive conscious and taming it should become a big part of education for any human being.

20151031 Misbehaving

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The main idea of this book is that contemporary economics, especially mathematical economics based on unrealistic assumption that human beings are nearly perfect calculating entities (ECONs) that are nearly always capable to identify the best way to maximize monetary returns and consistently act to achieve it. The reality is humans are poor calculators and more often than not act or fail to act in contradictory ways quite often contrary to their best monetary interest. The real economy of humans consequently works quite differently from theoretical economy of ECONs, so makers of public policy should take it into account and act correspondingly to achieve best results.


  1. BEGINNINGS: 1970-78
  2. Supposedly Irrelevant Factors

In this chapter author describes how he discovered that real people behave unreasonably if compared to ECONs and that Supposedly Irrelevant Factors have huge effect on peoples’ attitudes. He provides examples such as: Students perceive results completely differently if results presented as 80 out of 137 that 60 out of 100. Mathematically it is the same, but psychologically 80 points are good and 60 points are bad because people unconsciously retain benchmark of 100 in both cases. After example author presents his view of humans and then asserts that SI Factors in reality are very important to understand human behavior.

  1. The Endowment Effect

Here author moves to specific types of human behavior inconsistent with expected behavior of ECONs, such as endowment effect when people value the same thing much higher when they own it than when they do not.

  1. The List

Here author describes his initial discovery of work by Kahneman and Tversky about shortcut heuristics people use in their economic decisions and predictable errors they make in the process.

  1. Value Theory

Here author provides more detailed analysis of value estimates supporting idea that people put significant higher value on loss than on gain of the same amount of money.

  1. California Dreamin’

This chapter is about author experience at Stanford and initial interactions with the first behavioral economists Kahneman and Tversky.

  1. The Gauntlet

This is about his experience at Cornell, author’s acceptance of behavioral economics and debates with traditional economists about key notions such as: Incentives, Learning, and especially Markets’ ability to correct human behavior by rewarding ECONs and punishing non-ECONs. Author is reasoning that it is not true and provides example such as GM that is consistently run poorly, but is still around overcoming market forces that supposed to do it away.

  2. Bargains and Rip-Offs

This is about mental accounting that occurs in the mind of humans and it is somewhat different than regular accounting that would be practices by ECONs. As example author uses coupons purchase of the same product from two different sources at different prices only because one of the sellers is upscale even when purchase occurs remote and there are no additional advantages provided by upscale seller.

  1. Sunk Costs

Similarly author discusses notion of sunk costs meaningful and acceptable for ECONs, but nearly completely alien to humans, even economically educated humans.

  1. Buckets and Budgets

This time author looks at mental accounts that are important for human, but somewhat irrelevant for ECONs who understand that money is fungible.

  1. At the Poker Table

This is similar difference when for humans history is important, for example poker players behave differently depending on whether they are winning or not, while for ECONs it is clear that every round of game is independent and history should be not relevant for decisions.


  1. Willpower? No Problem

Another difference is human difficulty with will power that sometime forces them to act preliminary to restrict their own freedom of action in the future. There is practically infinite will power in possession of ECONs so if human children have really difficult problem in marshmallow test, ECON children would presumably have no problem at all waiting for reward, providing net present value of 2 marshmallow in 20 minutes is higher then NPV of one marshmallow right now.

  1. The Planner and the Doer

This a little bit more detailed view at the use of planning to compensate for will power deficiencies. When human plays two roles: planner and doer, the planner creates limitations for future actions in order to force doer act more like ECON and avoid action under spur of the moment.


  1. Misbehaving in the Real World

This chapter is illustration of behavioral economics ideas based on author experience with consulting for Greek Peak resort and for GM. In the first case intervention was successful in saving the company by changing ticketing option based on patterns of human behavior, while the second, dealing with seasonal auto sales was not tried due to complexities of decision making by GM’s bureaucracy, despite sincere interest of some senior bureaucrats.

  1. WORKING WITH DANNY: 1984-85
  2. What Seems Fair?

This is about another drastic difference between humans and ECONs. It presents results of research showing that for humans fairness is very important and they would even accept loses to punish unfair counterparts. Obviously for ECONs the very notion of fairness is meaningless.

  1. Fairness Games

This is description of games used to test attitudes to fairness in various experiments.

  1. Mugs

This is about an interesting point discovered and later confirmed in multiple experiments that when people deal with meaningless tokens they behave more as ECONs, however the same experiments with something meaningful, for example when mugs with university logo used instead of tokens, they behave more like humans demonstrating endowment effect.

  2. The Debate Begins; 18. Anomalies; 19. Forming a Team; 20. Narrow Framing on the Upper East Side

This part is mainly about professional struggle that evolved between classical economists especially Chicago school and behavior economists around newly discovered anomalies in economic behavior. It also includes discussion of specific anomalies, and personalities from all sides involved in this struggle.

  1. FINANCE: 1983-2003

This part is about application of behavior economics analysis in financial area, the area where ECON attitude should be dominant.

  1. The Beauty Contest

This chapter includes discussion of efficient market theory, its impact, and consistent failure of this theory to explain human action in financial markets. It also includes an interesting discussion about multiple layers of thinking involved predicting other people’s actions such as If my opponent do A, I’ll do B, but if he is smart he would expect B and therefore he will do C not A, so I should prepare to do D instead of B and so on in infinite iterations.

  1. Does the Stock Market Overreact?

This is about predictability of stock market, or more precisely about its impossibility. Specifically it looks at overreaction to events.

  1. The Reaction to Overreaction

Correspondingly this is about reaction to overreaction, which can clearly cause serious problems – example provided: failure of CAPM.

  1. The Price Is Not Right

This is an interesting analysis of stock market over/under pricing as related to real price presented by present value of dividends:

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  1. The Battle of Closed-End Funds

This is a discussion about human illogical behavior in close-end fund trading when market price little related to fund’s asset value.

  1. Fruit Flies, Icebergs and Negative Stock Prices

This is another wonderful demonstration of human lack of logic based on stock prices of 3M and it’s subsidiary Palm when stock price of subsidiary (Palm) was much higher than price of 3M that actually included subsidiary.


  1. Law Schooling; 28. The Offices; 29. Football; 30. Game Shows

It is about author experience in Chicago and another set of real live examples of human behavior with drastic differentiation from ECON’s expected behavior.


  1. Save More Tomorrow; 32. Going Public; 33. Nudging in the UK

This is description of somewhat triumphal movement of behavioral economics into public conscious with publication of its findings getting wide popularity, important authors getting Nobel prices, and governments of Western countries happily jumping on its bandwagon in hope finally to get tool to nudge unwashed masses into behavior patterns deemed appropriate for them by elite bureaucrats and politicians.


Conclusion: What Is Next?

Author is very optimistic about future of economic of science overall and about inclusion of behavior economics into mainstream. He believes that future would bring dramatic improvement in economic data collection, economic education, and improved decision-making by everybody from individuals to governments.


I pretty much share author’s conviction that human beings are behaving quite differently from assumed ECONs who maximize monetary return in any situation. What I disagree with is the very notion that there is some correct mode of behavior that humans should be trained to understand and, if necessary should, be nudged or even forced to apply in their lives by some external entity either corporate or government bureaucracy. I believe that there is infinite variety of human objectives, goals, and wishes so there is no external entity that would have legitimate right to interfere with individual’s actions in strive to achieve these objectives as long as these action involve no violence, coercion, and deception. People should be educated to understand how economy works at both levels: individual where behavioral economics is supreme and ECON economics where simple accounting considerations play paramount role in business decision-making. I would fully support such education, especially if it goes beyond formal and becomes continuing support so individuals are provided with real time computer-generated analysis of their intended decisions based on ECONs approach to the world. However I absolutely reject idea of government using behavioral economics to nudge individuals into something they would not want to go.

20151024 Aha!

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The main idea is that human mind works in a very complex way when great many activities occur via interplay between conscious and unconscious parts of human mind resulting in “Aha” moments when after significant conscious effort to accumulate and analyze problem and related data the unconscious part of mind conducts background processing, which generates required solution. Examples of such solutions are provided in multiple areas from religion to math with more or less detailed discussion of how it happened.



Chapter 1: Seeing the Light

This is presentation of a few selected cases of religious revelations. The first one is C.S. Lewis sudden conversion from an atheist into deeply religious Christian. Another, much more consequential case, is Mohammed’s revelation leading to creation of Islam, and finally, Josef Smith’s founding of Mormon religion. All these cases presented as religious Aha moments.

Chapter 2: Vision or Hallucination?

This is discussion of nature of such revelations whether they are visions or hallucinations. Biological foundation for such staff to be hallucinations is pretty solid. The various conditions when human brain undergoing some kind of stress such as lack of oxygen or impact of chemicals derived from mushrooms or drugs can easily produce fully blown and highly convincing mental presentations of anything from aliens to Gabriel. It would also apply to some health and mental conditions such as schizophrenia or epilepsy.

Chapter 3: Other People’s Visions

The most interesting process, however is not that some people come up with grand vision of direct contact with superior powers or god, but rather why and under what conditions such vision become accepted by significant numbers of other people and develops into religion. After all, being omnipotent, god should have no problem communicating with all people in the world, rather than with selected individuals. However it is not the case and any religion starts with one individual who converts some people close to him and then many others join the club attracted by vision and growing power of numbers. Typically the founder of religion gets discarded at this point and much more pragmatic and effective individuals codify it in some standard form as holy book and use it to obtain prestige and power over true believers.




Chapter 4: The Two Kinds of Moral Epiphany.

This part is about another type of Aha moment – moral epiphany. Examples are Gandhi with his sudden rejection of colonialism and racism and Thomas Clarkson who started crusade against slavery in USA. The trigger for Gandhi was direct experience of inferior racial status; while for Clarkson it was intellectual work involved in essay competition for a prize. Author also presents his own moral epiphany that led him to become vegetarian. The main point here is that such epiphany comes as resolution of cognitive dissonance intolerable for some people.

Chapter 5: Moral Feelings and Moral Codes

This chapter is about morality as code of behavior developed in humans based on both their genetics and socialization. Such code makes some actions impossible regardless of circumstances, even if there are no logical or practical reasons for such rejection. Author believes that moral feelings are imbedded deeply in our psyche all the way down to the limbic system. He provides review of a few typical psychological tests demonstrating working of such moral feelings.

Chapter 6: The Problem with Moral Reformers

This chapter is about secondary moral epiphany that pushes individual to try change the world, with the primary being urged to change oneself. Obviously people do not like their morals and/or views challenged so it is no wonder that such moral reformers have a difficult time. Author discusses two challengers to existing views: Socrates in ancient Greece and Christopher Hitchens in our time. Author does not provide analysis of under which conditions such contrarians cease to be just a source of irritation for other people and becomes source of admiration and generate converts to their views, eventually leading to domination of their ideas. My guess would be that whatever nudges contrarian and drives him to rebel also nudges many other people and contrarian’s actions allow other people to free themselves from restrictions by joining the movement. The key here is resonance with subliminal unhappiness of masses. If such resonance exists, the moral change happens in the society. If not, then contrarian just perishes, but not necessarily together with his ideas, which could contaminate other people and become dominant long after original contrarian is gone.




Chapter 7: The Joy of Discovery

This is about joys of scientific discovery type of Aha moment. However this is different from religious or moral discoveries in general acceptance of inevitability of scientific Aha moments, because they represent just expansion of understanding of objectively existing world so such discoveries one way or another would be eventually done regardless of actual individuals doing it.

Chapter 8: On Keeping an Open Mind

Here author again bring idea of cognitive dissonance as driving force of Aha moment, only this time in scientific discoveries. In this particular case accumulation of new facts typically at some point demonstrate inconsistencies in existing paradigm, causing such dissonance to become increasingly intolerable and leading to invention of the new paradigm that successfully resolves the issue.

Chapter 9: Dealing with Rejection

The final chapter of scientific Aha moments deals with rejection of new ideas in science when promoters of such ideas suffer various levels of intensity punishment by establishment ranging from the death in labor camp for not supporting enough soviet biological “science” that was rejecting genetics to not getting tenure in American university for not complying with prevailing opinion of majority of professors. Sometimes innovators can overcome it, but generally according to old saying science progresses from funeral to funeral.



The Aha Moment in Mathematics

Chapter 10: Moments of Pure Insight

Aha moments in mathematics have different nature due to the characteristics of math as purely abstract logical contraction that could not possibly be driven by any authority whatsoever. Mathematical ideas either logical and internally non-contradictory or not, so Aha moments are relatively easily accepted, but at high levels of complexity it is open to delayed discovery of errors in logic and therefore could always be rejected.

Chapter 11: The Magic of Incubation

This is about process of mathematical discovery that contains 4 phases: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Author discuses all these phases in details demonstrating high levels of complexity for each phase requiring long time, sometime many years to complete.

Chapter 12: The After-Math

This is a review of one particular case of mathematical discovery related to notion of infinity and continuum hypothesis that was analyzed and discussed for nearly a century until it was proved that this hypothesis could not be proved.




Chapter 13: Lots of Little Ahas

This is a number of examples from arts when multiple small Aha moment leads to creation of valuable artifacts. Author compares it with math where logical construction of solution could have esthetical value for mathematicians. The bottom line is that sequential Aha moments in process of art creation are source of happiness for artist regardless of value estimate of this art by others.

Chapter 14: On Managing One’s Muse

This chapter is somewhat technical about methods of getting into the flow when multiple aha moments are generated.

Chapter 15: But Is It Art?

This chapter is looking in more details at interplay between art produced by artists and perception of this art my other people, especially authorities and government. It illustrates it with stories of Monet and Andres Serrano of Piss Chris fame. Author seems to be supportive to idea of government subsidizing art, but somewhat rebel against government persecuting or even killing artists for unacceptable art. He seems to be not completely clear about simple fact that both approaches are being two sides of the same coin – government violence in the first case by robbing bystanders to subsidize artist and in the second case by using violence against against artist.

Conclusion: Food for Thought

The final conclusion is that Aha moments are pretty much represent unique quality of humans that no other animas possess and that these moments are product of interplay between conscious and unconscious processes in human mind.


Ideas presented in this book are quite consistent with my believe that human brain is a complex network of analog computers without any centralized all-controlling unit whatsoever, where the conscious mind is just one of these computers working mainly in areas of communication with other humans, environment modeling, long term planning, and defining high level objectives to achieve. The actual achievement in form of finding solution for series of problems is occurring via mainly unconscious process of activation of multiple semi-independent neural networks (analog computers), which present solution to conscious mind in form ready to use. Since all this processing occur unconsciously it is not easy and requires lots of work and complete immergence into the problem in order to make one’s unconscious part of brain to work hard and eventually produce Aha moment. Finally, I do not agree that Aha moments are differentiate humans from animals. The chimpanzee that just discovered a way to open glass box with banana in it probably experience the same type of brain stimulation and human making new religious, moral, or scientific discovery. The only difference is probably that for humans this discovery becomes permanent addition to species wide database of ideas and knowhow, while for chimp it remains personal with minimal transfer of idea to nearby chimp via direct observation. However I would not exclude possibility that well designed experiment could prove chimp’s ability to transfer new idea via indirect communications, leaving humanity with even less differentiation from our close relatives, than it is commonly perceived now.

20151017 Machinery of Freedom

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The main idea of this book is to present consistent set of libertarian approach to practically all main functions of contemporary society and demonstrate how this approach could leads to much better society than we live in now. The key foundation of this libertarian approach is private property and use of privately controlled entities to fulfill all functions that currently done by governments not only in economic, educational, environmental, safety net, and similar areas, but also in area of use of violence necessary to protect country, maintain order, and support effective legal system.


Part I: In Defense Of Property

  1. In Defense Of Property

This is a brief review of meaning of property and its link to human rights. Basically it is about human rights to property. It also reviews notions of public property versus private property and different forms of property from land to airways. It also looks at market as a place for property exchange and government interference with exchange and other activities, consequently reviewing socialism as a system of coercion incompatible with human freedom that necessarily includes uncontrolled behavior and free exchange..

  1. A Necessary Digression: This is discussion about connection between effort and returns where author makes a point that in private property based free market society everybody gets what he deserves based on need for result of his/her activity.
  2. Love Is Not Enough: This is about free market exchange while being selfish, nevertheless provides necessary goods and services to everybody unlike any other system either religious love based charity or socialist expert led allocation of resources that typically leaves people at best underserved and at worse dead, like Ukrainian peasants who were starved by communists who confiscated their food and sold it on the world markets to finance industrialization.

Interlude: This is a brief note noting that reality is always different from theoretical analysis. In theory one can talk about pure private property vs. public property when in reality everything is always mixed in unpredictable proportions.

  1. Robin Hood Sells Out: This is an interesting point that majority of programs of welfare society in reality does not transfer resources from rich to poor, but quite opposite from poor to people who are better off. The typical example is social security that transfers resources from relatively poor young to relatively well to do seniors.
  2. The Rich Get Richer And The Poor Get Richer: The point here is that in free market society without government intervention while rich are getting richer, the poor have a lot more resources as result, so despite relative increase in inequality, the conditions of the poor are getting better all the time.
  3. Monopoly I: How To Lose Your Shirt: This is a very interesting and quite convincing discussion of impossibility to seriously benefit from monopoly on free market with multiple examples of how attempt to benefit from monopoly hurts monopolist at the long run.
  4. Monopoly II: State Monopoly For Fun And Profit: The second part of monopoly discussion relates to monopoly enforced by government. These ones are really profitable in all their varieties because they all amount to limitation of free market and artificially restrict supply, forcing customers overpay.

8.Exploitation and Interest: This is a brief discussion of Marx’s theory of value and consequently critic of idea of exploitation with derived notion of unfairness of inheritance tax.

  1. I Don’t Need Nothing: This is critic of use of notion of need as justification for claim on resources created by other people. As soon as needs are satisfied via government intervention, the individual ability to define own needs disappear, necessarily substituted by government decisions which needs are legitimate and which are not. Obviously such decision making process completely denies individual’s freedom.

Part II: Libertarian Grab Bag Or How To Sell The State In Small Pieces Paranoia

  1. Sell The Schools: This is about school vouchers as libertarian solution for education.
  2. A Radical Critique Of American Universities: This is critique of universities, as organizations in which interest of worker (teacher) does not really relate to the task of teaching. It is directed at obtaining tenure via publishing articles in professional journals and building career enhancing relationships.
  3. The Impossibility Of A University: Contemporary universities become political organization and as such they are promoting political solutions beneficial for them, which always include resource transfer to universities to train bureaucrats and overall growth of government in order to provide jobs for increased ranks of trained bureaucrats.
  4. Adam Smith U.: This is author suggestion for restructuring universities to make them flexible, market oriented, and capable to train professionals with skills valuable on free market.
  5. Open The Gates: This is libertarian solution for immigration: open gates. Author believes that as long as government expense is at or below taxes paid by immigrant, everything will be fine.
  6. Sell The Streets: This is suggestion to privatize streets and roads and make people pay for their use. It was written before GPS so technologically it become even more feasible now.
  7. 99 and 44/100ths Percent Built: This is suggestion to reshuffle city transportation system. It is outdated, but could be characterized as expansion of idea behind the Uber.
  8. A First Step: Here author discusses drastic localization of government as the feasible step in direction of libertarian future.
  9. Counterattack: This is about capitalism’s counterattack against big government, which always decreases quality of life when it expands in another area. This opens opportunity to legal action government supported against monopolies that hurt people.
  10. Might Have Been: This is about hypothetical development of space industry sans government intervention. It is quite possible that it would developed much faster and in more efficient way if it were private money used to try many different ways to achieve success and in process finding the most effective way. As it were, it become one and only way of development selected by bureaucracy that was used and whether it was efficient or not would forever remain unknown. Author even comes up with Friedman’s law: government invests twice as much as private sector to achieve the same result.
  11. Is William F. Buckley A Contagious Disease? 21. It’s My Life: These chapters directed against conservatives’ proclivity to criminalize non-violent behavior such as use of narcotics and overall government interference in medicine and other areas to save people from themselves. Obviously such interference is completely against libertarian ideas.
  12. The Rights Of Youth: This one is about libertarian attitude to children’s rights.
  13. Creeping Capitalism 24. If You Want It, Buy It 25. Scarce Means Finite 26. Pollution 27. Buckshot For A Socialist Friend

This group of chapters is about tendency of capitalism to fill up for multiple deficiencies of real socialism of XX century. It uses example of Czechoslovakia to demonstrate how it happens. It also discusses how socialism fails in different areas and, very important, it states that capitalism does not impose any restriction on people who want socialism except preventing them from taking property and lives of people who do not want socialism. After all millions of socialists and sympathizers can combine their property, set up whatever organization they want to and live according to their ideas.


Part III: Anarchy Is Not Chaos: Anarchy

  1. What Is Anarchy? What Is Government? 29. Police Courts, And Laws–On The Market 30. The Stability Problem 31. Is Anarcho-Capitalism Libertarian?
  2. And, As A Free Bonus 33. Socialism, Limited Government, Anarchy and Bikinis 34. National Defense: The Hard Problem 35. In Which Prediction Is Reduced To Speculation 36. Why Anarchy? 37. Revolution Is The Hell Of It
  3. The Economics Of Theft, Or The Nonexistence Of The Ruling Class 39. The Right Side Of The Public Good Trap 40. How To Get There From Here

These chapters present discussion about hypothetical libertarian society where everything including violent organizations of army, police, and legal system are in private hands and ruled by free market rules. Also is discussed a strategy of transfer from current society to libertarian one.


Part IV: For Libertarians: An Expanded Postscript

  1. Problems 42. Where I stand 43. Answers: Economic Analysis Of Law Enforcement 44. Medieval Iceland, And Libertarianism 45. Is There Libertarian Foreign Policy? 46. The Market for Money 47. Anarchist Politics: Concerning The Libertarian Part 48. G.K. Chesterton-An Author Review

This is continuation of review of fine points of libertarian position on implementation of substitutes for government functions of violence and economic control via money supply with libertarian solutions based on private property right.

Part V: Further Thoughts

  1. The First Legal System 50. Anarcho-Capitalism: The Kindergarten Version 51. Bargaining into Anarchic Order 52. A Positive Account of Rights: This part provides more detail on author views on non-governmental legal system, individual rights and libertarian approach to these issues.


  1. Market Failure, an Argument for and Against Government 54. Anarchy and Efficient Law 55. Default Rules and Stability 56. The Hard Problem II: Author defines Market Failure as situation when individual rational decision leads to irrational decision by the group. Example provided is soldier’s behavior on battlefield that if runs away alone would save his live without significant change in outcome, but if everybody runs battle would be lost and defeated army including this soldier massacred. Group cohesiveness is a hard problem for libertarians so author provides his ideas of solution.
  2. Initial Appropriation: This discussion is about libertarian ideas of initial creation of private property as moral foundation of libertarian society. Author reviews different approaches to this issue.
  3. Welfare and Immigration:

This is brief discussion about link between welfare and immigration: the best approach is unlimited immigration on condition that welfare state is dismantled.


Part VI: New Stuff

  1. Problems with Ayn Rand’s Derivation of Ought from Is 60. The Economics of Virtue and Vice 61. An Argument I lost: Here author discusses moral philosophy of libertarianism and critics Ayn Rand’s objectivism for logical deficiencies of its moral argument about life and death. Then he provides kind of economical point of view on vice and virtue.
  2. Capitalist Trucks 63. The Conservative Mistake 64. The Misuse of Externality Arguments:

These chapters somewhat repeat earlier discussion on necessity of government for control of use of common goods like roads and attempt to demonstrate that libertarian society could handle this and no government would be required for this.

  1. Unschooling: A Libertarian Approach to Children

This chapter is about author’s highly successful experience with educating and training his children at home.

  1. Welcome to the Future

The final chapter presents author’s hope that libertarian order will be achieved sometime in the future and the world of strong property rights, minimal to non-existing government, and free market is eventually coming on the long run.


I consider myself rights libertarian so my main difference with author is limited to private property – author believes in its sanctity, while I believe that property is just effective and efficient mechanism to control and use resources based on violence and coercion and as such has no sanctity whatsoever. However being the best mechanism invented to support human lives and society of humans, private property need a small enhancement in form of equal rights for natural resources for everybody so an actual property owner who controls property in amount more than average would have to purchase rental rights for such excess from people who own and/or use less. This enhancement removes the reason for welfare state, which legitimacy comes from need to support people who are propertyless and unable to make living by selling labor, because with equal rights for resources nobody is propertyless.

Another significant, but much less important difference is that author believes in viability of private army, police, and legal system, while I believe in necessity, of government in possession of overwhelming violent power capable to suppress any competition. I think that democracy in conjunction with bureaucratization of violent organizations of army and police when individual leaders could not obtain effective control over these organizations proved to be quite sufficient mechanism capable to prevent coups and use of violence in order extract rents directly. In my opinion multiple private armies and police organizations would be less effective in protection from external threat and prone to fights between themselves. Other than these issues I agree with just about everything in this book.

20151010 Get the Truth

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The main idea is to demonstrate that contemporary knowledge of human psychology allowed developing methods of interrogation that are both effective and humane, making traditional methods of torture and violent psychological pressure outdated and rendering discussion of “to torture or not to torture” meaningless.


  1. Of Espionage and Infomercials: The Extraordinary Power of Short-Term Thinking

It starts with the story of discovery of a spy inside CIA during routine polygraph test when one of authors discovered inconsistencies that caused him to initiate detailed interview. The result was unexpected confession in treason. This amazing result was achieved by exploiting Four Factors of Short-Term thinking:

  • Inherent vulnerability to influence
  • Repetition
  • Loss of Independent Thinking
  • Lack of immediately identifiable consequences
  1. The Best-Case/Worst-Case Continuum

In this chapter authors continue review of these technics using another example of discovering treason through interview. This time the technic involved is Interrogation / Elicitation: a process that is designed to influence or persuade an individual to reveal information that he has reason to want to conceal. This technic uses continuum of Worst/Best Case scenario when interrogator cautiously prompting interviewee to move along this continuum.

  1. Transitioning to Interrogation Mode: The DOC and the DOG

This chapter is about important moment in investigation – transition to interrogation mode. In this mode investigator gradually increases pressure making statements that not everything is clear and vaguely indicating that while suspicion is growing, there is still a chance to get away if good explanation provided. This forces suspect to talk and provide more material for discovery of inconsistencies and elements of actual truth.

  1. Uncovering a Spy: The Art of Creating the Monologue

Contrary to typical idea of interrogation, the real interrogation phase starts with monolog of interrogator. This chapter uses example of real cases to demonstrate how such monolog should be built in order to be effective.

  1. How to Deliver Your Monologue

This chapter is about art of delivering monolog. The most important part of it seems to by subdue fear of the person under interrogation and provide opening for this person to expose truth and all justifications this person has for his/her actions, however ridiculous they are. It achieved by delivering monolog slowly in subdued voice and constantly engaging object, but without confronting him. The key is convincing object that there is relatively easy way out, that interrogator is trying to find this way and generally wants to help him, and that this way necessary includes full confession of the truth.

  1. How to Tailor Your Monologue

This is more specific “how to” information about designing monolog. Here are key elements:

  • Rationalize the actions
  • Project the blame
  • Minimize seriousness
  • Socialize situation
  • Emphasize the truth
  1. How to Handle Resistance During Your Monologue

This chapter is about handling resistance. The resistance typically includes convincing statements, emotions, and/or denials. Convincing statements are neutralizing them by accepting everything that is true, while logically separating truthful part of statement from what it is trying to cover up and demonstrating that it did not work. Emotions are difficult to handle, but the key is not to respond emotionally, but rather demonstrate sympathy combined with calm assurance that emotions unfortunately do not relate to the matter and therefore could not possibly work. The method of quashing denials as with other methods of resistance is to demonstrate that it did not work by gestures and articulation, at the same time using objects’ first name and supportive approach as trying to help out from unbelievable denial by disclosing the truth.

  1. Going for the Gold: Collecting Nuggets of Information

This chapter is about importance of homework in preparation for interrogation. Without collecting enough applicable information to see inconsistencies and holes in object’s version of events and behavior, interrogation would fail.

  1. Crafting a Sincere, Empathetic Monologue: Fiction As an Option

This chapter is about use of deception in interrogation for various purposes often just to establish rapport with the object and convince him/her that interrogator understands the problems and basically is on the object’s side, trying to find way out. The typical deception is to accommodate interrogators’ personality and history to personality and history of the object. For example dealing with divorcee it help to tell that interrogator is also divorced, even if in reality the interrogator never was married in the first place. The tricky part is not overplaying it. It would probably be not advisable to tell chess master under interrogation that you are avid chess player if the closest to chess game you ever played were checkers.

  1. Do No Harm

This is about effectiveness of approach when interrogator sincerely looking for best possible outcome for everybody involved, including the object of interrogation, obviously not at the expense of interrogation’s success. The key phrase here: you are a good person even if you did some awful things, so let’s find a way to leave this things behind by confessing and improving chances for leniency in punishment. The key behavioral characteristic of interrogator is ability to do it sincerely.

  1. An Elicitation Case Study.

This is a case study of confession elicitation from individual who was pretty successful in convincing everybody in his innocence with no evidence to contrary in existence. It was achieved by pressing key points of the object’s psyche.

  1. If O. J. Simpson Did It: The Interrogation That Might Have Been

This is another case study only not real, but rather “what if” case, when authors speculate about what would happen if they were able interrogate O.J. Simpson. They believe that they would be able extract confession with relative ease and probably in one setting.

  1. The Elephant in the Room

The final chapter is an attempt to make a case in political issue of using torture in interrogation. The key point here is that effective interrogator does not need torture as interrogation tool, moreover it is typically counterproductive, making object to lock in and reject any cooperation. As example they provide story of Abu Zubaydah as H. Safran related it in his book. Author do not deny effectiveness of torture in extracting information, they rather point out that information provided would be not truthful and would cause moral damage to interrogator and humanitarian western society.


Long time ago I had a wonderful experience of being investigated by KGB and had to say that they used similar humane method, however severely backed up with threats, albeit indirect, of serious physical harm in the future. Interesting thing about it was that I had nothing to hide and all case was about me writing something that I would obviously gladly give to everybody who would ask casually. Interestingly enough attempt to get it via intimidation caused me to resist at least for a while. Based on this experience I would definitely agree that in trivial case of criminal or inappropriate behavior soft psychological pressure would work perfectly. However I seriously doubt that humane conversation would elicit specific actionable truth from terrorist in “ticking bomb” case. The most probable behavior by somebody who is prepared to die for a cause would be complete refusal to talk with infidel. History of torture goes back for centuries and demonstrated its usefulness in making people to confess anything and tell everything, albeit not always and not truthfully. In short it is disgusting, but well-known tool of interrogation and as such, its automatic exclusion diminishes assortment of tool interrogator can use. As to the issue of morality of torture, I do not understand how somebody could seriously claim that it is immoral to prevent torture of thousands potential victims of terror who could be burned alive as it happened on 9-11-2001 even at the cost of inhumane treatment for terrorists. Unfortunately in real live win-win solutions inherent to business driven cultures such as western culture is not always possible and win-lose solutions inherent to conquest driven cultures and ideologies such as traditional Islam and various mutations of National/International socialism are often the only conceivable methods to achieve objectives of members of these cultures and ideologies.

20151003 Shattered Consensus

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The main idea of this book is that America throughout its history went through 3 major revolutions each of which dramatically changed society despite mainly retaining formal features such as constitution and democracy. The first revolution was the triumph of agricultural democratic republic of Jefferson over mercantile republic of Hamilton in 1800. It established dual agrarian democracy based on uneasy union independent farmers of the North and plantation owners and slaveholders of the South. It lasted for 60 years and was destroyed in bloody Civil war (the second revolution) when contradictions between sections of the union exploded and led to conquest of South by the North. The consequences of this revolution destroyed slaveholding agricultural south and opened way for industrialization, pushing into secondary role independent farmers f the North. The development of following 70 years brought into play two new dominant forces: industrial capital and hired labor. The tension between these two forces came to the boiling point in 1930s as result of great depression and were resolved by the 3d revolution: New Deal. This revolution brought in new powerful force – ideologically liberal government bureaucracy, which to high degree subdued both labor and capital and established control over the country. This arrangement seems to be falling apart under weight of government regulation and increases in power of bureaucracy that created unsustainable welfare state and limited productive abilities of the country. Author believes that we are on the brink of the 4th revolution, which will resolve this crisis, but he does not know how it would be resolved.



The introduction presents this book as analysis of change in American political landscape that moved from general consensus between two main political parties on Keynesian approach to economy, growing welfare state, increases in government regulations, and resistance to Soviet communist expansion to two widely polar views with Democrats moving far to the left especially in international and security issues all the way to accommodating anti-American Islamic theocrats, while republicans moving to the right in economic issues away from Keynesianism to free markets, much stronger security posture, including actual wars if necessary. More important the whole population seems to be broken into two camps with levels of hostility unseen for a long time. The main point authors made is that old consensus does not exists anymore and we are at the brink of huge changes comparable with Civil War and New Deal in the scale of its consequences.


  1. John Maynard Keynes and the Collapse of the Old Order

This is retelling of Keynes’ story and main ideas of his work that pretty much came down to notion that free markets failed because economies become too complicated and only wise government management remediating these failures could save capitalism from its deficiencies.

  1. The Keynesian Revolution in Political Economy

In this chapter author reviews real live history of implementation of Keynes ideas over 75 years. Initially it was seemingly successful, creating illusion of control over economy, but eventually it failed bringing us deep recession that is currently moving into secular stagnation. Interestingly Keynesian era lasted 75, approximately the same as preceding it Laissez Faire era.

  1. The New Deal Metaphor

This is analysis of attempts to use New Deal as metaphor for contemporary period circulated by Keynesians who still fail to accept reality of real New Deal failure to restart economy and continue crediting it with after war boom that was in reality created by need to restore economies in countries nearly completely destroyed by the war. As soon as recovery was accomplished by early 1970s, a Keynesian policy led to stagflation that was overcome only by ‘s market revolution of 1980s.

4.American Capitalism and the ‘Inequality Crisis’

This is look at inequality “problem” popularized by occupy movement and supported by Piketty analysis of income distribution between labor and capital.

  1. America’s Fourth Revolution

The final chapter of this part analyses current economic and political situation in America with its polarization of various group of population many of them rent seeking and/or redistribution oriented. In author opinion situation is clearly developing in direction of 4th revolution that would radically change American society similarly to changes brought in by previous revolutions:

  1. Democratic-expansionist regime that starting in 1800 destroyed attempts to limit settlers’ expansion and establish big government federalist state. This regime slowly deteriorated under pressure of sectional divide between North and South and eventually was destroyed by Civil War
  2. Republican-capitalist regime from 1865 until 1930 that expanded unlimited capitalism throughout the country, destroying in process old farmers’ republic and substituting it with industrial democracy. This regime deteriorated at the end of XIX century, being incapable accommodate city dwelling labor that lead to polarization, union battles and progressive movement to control business. This regime was destroyed by the Great depression
  3. Democratic –welfare regime established by New Deal and economically based on Keynesian ideas. This regime started falling apart in 1970s and was corrected and approved, but not radically changed by Reagan revolution. Now this regime is quickly moving to destruction incapable to meet new challenges of automation and globalization.

As usual in such situation at the brink of next 4th revolution it is absolutely unpredictable what will be next. The only clear thing is that it is not going to continue as it is now.


  1. Liberalism at High Tide

This is about apex of liberal ideas achieved in 1960 when just about everybody was Keynesian in economics, liberal supporter of anti-poverty programs and racial quotas, feminism, and radical changes in culture. Even conservatives supported all of this, albeit claiming that they would be better managers of welfare state. After the small scare of McCarthyism in late 1940s liberals practically won ideological struggle, eventually moving to establish any non-conformism as expression of irrationality and defining republicans as anti-intellectual “stupid party”.

  1. Conservative Nation

This is another side of the story of American intellectual development in which economic ideas of Misses and Hayek took hold, Bill Buckley created popular periodical promoting conservative ideas, Ayn Rand produced anti-liberal novels promoting unabridged capitalism, and Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan start taking over republican party, pushing out semi-liberal trust fund rich republicans of Rockefeller type.

  1. Is Conservatism Dead? 9. Is Liberalism Dead?

This 2 chapters designed to refute ideas that either Liberalism or Conservatism is dead periodically popping up every time when one or another side has significant improvement in its electoral standing. In reality country is deeply divided with 1/3 of population mainly more productive people receiving a lot less from government than they lose to government intervention moving to conservatism, 1/3 of mainly government provided rent receivers and seekers moving to liberalism, and 1/3 of people with lower productivity level and significant share of resources available to them being provided by government continuously vacillating between two sides. So far both movements are alive, well, and demonstrated remarkable ability to bounce back after electoral defeats. Nevertheless the depth of separation growing and both sides are working hard either to increase productive opportunity for people in the middle for conservatives, or increase amount of government supported resource transfer to their clientele for liberals.

  1. Investing in Conservative Ideas

This is story of conservative movement, which being pushed out from officially supported intellectual positions of influence in mass media, education, academy, and arts, developed separate parallel intellectual infrastructure in think tanks, independent foundations, talk radio, cable TV and local political structures of republican party. Eventually conservatism moved from outside into mainstream of political debates with huge support from liberal politicians who consistently provide examples of complete failure of vast majority of their attempts to implement liberal idea in real life.


  1. The Kennedy, Legend; 12. JFK & Camelot; 13. Revisiting the Kennedy; Assassination after Fifty Years; 14. Was JFK a Conservative?

This part is dedicated to John Kennedy, his presidency, and liberal idolatry build around this story. It also restates amazing story of myth creation in which noble liberal Camelot was cut down by evil environment of America saturated with right wing conspirators. Author believes that this myth was a spark that ignited fire in the belly of liberal movement forcing it push ahead with major changes in American life. Never mind that by usual measurement Kennedy was quite conservative in this ideology and action, being democrat mainly due to his background as Irish Catholic. It is also discusses an amazing feat of ideological myth building when liberals managed to hung blame for Kennedy’s assassination on right wing, despite the fact that killer Oswald was far left individual with history of worshipping Castro and defecting to USSR.


  1. The Left University; 16. Reflections on The Closing of the American Mind;
  2. What’s Wrong with Our Universities? 18. Columbia Beats Harvard; 19. Liberalism versus Humanism

This part is about leftists taking over American universities and turning them into indoctrination centers of liberalism. It retells in details the story and positions stated in famous book by Bloom “Closing of American mind” published in 1987. In the following 30 years this process moved a lot further turning not only university, but the whole educational system run by government into ideological bastion of leftism, protecting prosperity of credentialed individuals within this system by turning young people into foot soldiers of democratic party.


Here author restates the main thesis of this book that American postwar consensus supporting limited capitalism with welfare state for all practical purposes is dissolved, leaving country divided between two camps:

Left, politically represented by united, under Obama Democratic Party, which main objective is expansion of predatory government and limitation of all economic and political freedom for everybody else.

Right, politically represented by Republican Party more or less combining traditional conservative wing and libertarian wing both of which mainly agreed on policy promoting decrease in size and influence of government in economy, but divided on government role in culture and values.

Author believes that the most probable outcome would be the next fourth revolution when one of these two camps win decisive victory forcing another camp to accommodate their positions to the new secondary role similarly to what happened in 1930s with New Deal.


I mainly in agreement with ideas expressed in this book and find framework of periodic revolutions quite plausible. The consensus of New Deal that prospered after the war is dead as well as Keynesian understanding of economy, and socialist ideas of government control over production. However I would expand the view of crisis from America to the whole world and would call it crisis of capitalist method of production based on government or business control over resources and labor sales by individuals situated outside of government bureaucracy and business managing hierarchies. This crisis caused by progress in communication, transportation, and data processing brings the whole world into one global market and increasingly makes human labor redundant for production of goods and services. I think that the revolution resolving this crisis is bound to occur in America and then expand itself throughout the world moving it into much more libertarian place than it could be imagined now. I think that preceding this revolution would be restructuring of the Right wing ideology in such way that would bring wide masses of middle class to their side by providing feasible alternative to limited government support of their needs. As soon as this restructuring completed, the 4th revolution leading to newly energize, highly productive and inclusive capitalism would be unstoppable. The alternative scenario of consolidation and victory of the Left wing ideology seems quite unfeasible to me, mainly because this ideology could not possibly satisfy deeply seated human needs for self-control, self-direction, and pursuit of happiness, even if at current levels of productivity it could satisfy minimalist needs in food, shelter, and entertainment.

20150926 Internet is not the answer

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The main idea of this book derived from author’s disappointment with Internet as the new media of exchange for goods, services, and ideas. Instead of mass prosperity with dramatic increase of small business included into global market place Internet brought us a few big companies that dominate various areas of internet such as Google for search and advertisement or Amazon for online retail. The great increase in productivity and decrease in transaction costs brought in by Internet caused decrease in jobs for middle class and consequentially change in population breakdown from haves a lot, haves quite a bit, and have nothings into billionaires and nobodies. The remedy proposed is trivial: government regulation and tax increases.


Preface: The Question

At the beginning author catalogues all things good that Internet was supposed to promote: more and better jobs via self-employment with access to global markets, more tolerance through social network, open and direct global communication between people from different countries, cultures, and dramatically decreased costs of business transactions and communication. Then he plainly affirms that none of this happened as predicted, instead Internet brought lots of bad things like loss of jobs to global market, loss of privacy, global monopolies, and such. In short: the Internet is not the answer.


The introduction starts with description of the Battery club in San Francisco that represents a special case of culture where young billionaires pretend to be non-elite at the same time boldly waiving their elite credentials. From here author makes his point that after we build the Internet, the Internet start rebuilding us, meaning society and its mores.


This chapter is very short retelling of the history of Internet creation.

Chapter Two THE MONEY

The main point of this chapter is to demonstrate that far from opening era of distributed capitalism, the Internet created much more concentrated global capitalism with a few monopolies like Google and Amazon outcompeting everybody else in monetizing Internet and creating world of a superrich fraction of 1% versus impoverished everybody else with practically very few in the middle.


This is discussion of disappearing of middle class using example of what used to be super global corporation, but currently bankrupt Kodak. In the old glory days it employed hundreds of thousands of middle class people who did imaging services for billions of consumers. Now much better imagining services at much lower cost are provided by just a few dozens of employees of Internet companies with bulk of revenues going not to rich owners of Kodak and its middle class multitudes of employees, but to superrich owners of internet companies and practically nobody else.


This is a more detailed look at Instagram as one of substitutes of Kodak in the new era. This company provides instant computer enhanced imagining that allow people to get better than reality images of themselves and everything they would like to imagine. Author seems to believe that such enhancement causes serious damage to out personalities and to overall culture pushing out reality, substituting it with dreams, and pushing people into narcissism.


This chapter is based on author experience as music lover in big records stores of London and then as start up Internet Company owner in music records industry. The big hope of many such companies over time turned into disappointment and frustration. This experience was very tough because initial hope that Internet will expand music business did not materialized. Just the opposite, while consumption of music hugely increased it did not created similar revenues flow for multitude of companies, but rather dramatically decreased amount of money paid for music due to simplicity of legal and/or illegal distribution that become unstoppable because of Internet.


This is continuation of discussion of new business model in distribution of all things convertible to digital form. The main point here is that instead of old Pareto rule when 20% of companies produce 80% of everything, digitalization turned into 1% producing 99% with corresponding loss of jobs and business and thousands middle class business owners with millions of employees loosing business to a dozen of billionaires with a couple hundreds employees at most. At the end author points out that with 3D printing even production of all thing material could follow the path of music and books.

Chapter Seven CRYSTAL MAN

This chapter looks at lost of privacy due to Internet and powerful super databases, comparing it to the old East German Stasi that tried to control people with a primitive technology of 1970s. It also brings in Jeremy Bentham and his idea of Panopticon with everybody always being under surveillance, pointing out that that’s where we are getting with companies and government tracing everybody all the time.

Chapter Eight EPIC FAIL

Here author expresses his bitterness directed at all these successful billionaires who made fortune in Internet in their 20s and have gall to promote failure as precondition for success. He obviously believes and probably correctly that failure is far from reliable path to success, but rather station in itself and quite often the final station for many. The final discussion in this chapter is about kind of secession practiced by rich and powerful who practically separate themselves from general population in isolated super luxurious world, leaving everybody else struggle in devastated world of middle class practically destroyed by Internet and its super cheap services.

Conclusion THE ANSWER

As one could expect, author sees the answer in big and powerful government that will stop libertarian juggernaut of Internet and tax superrich 1% into decency, distributing resources to 99% who were hurt by Internet.


I found factual part of this book that is describing fate of musical industry, author interactions in Silicon Valley interesting and curious, but analytical part is missing a lot. Author spends lots of space lamenting losses of middle class from disappearance of old style monopolies like Kodak and its hundred of thousands of jobs, but pays very little on other side of equation: dramatic decrease of prices and increase in functionality for all kinds of imagining service not available before that improve lives of everybody who is using these services including middle and lower classes. One thing I completely agree with author thou, is that Internet is not the Answer. I believe it is just a tool, nothing more and nothing less and tools change society, but do not define how it would change. Finally ideal of big government, big regulation, and big taxes, in my opinion is even less of an answer than Internet. This ideal is nothing more than a way to decrease quality of live for everybody except of a small cadre of politicians and bureaucrats, which would not help middle class in any way, shape, or form. The evil billionaires at least produced real goods and services that made them billionaires, while bureaucrats and politicians are purely parasitic creatures who only impede production of goods and services.

20150918 The Hidden Agenda of the Political Mind

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People’s political views and differences are not result of their psychological predisposition, but rather expression of their deep interests created by their belonging to specific racial, social, and economic groups within society, their religious and philosophical background, and their lifestyles. With all these circumstances being not easily changeable, the chance of reconciliation on many of current political differences are very small so the struggle will continue as long as there is no significant changes in underlying parameters for enough people on one side of the disputes acquire overwhelming majority and to be able settling issues the way they want.


PART I: Political Minds

Chapter 1: Agendas in Action

This chapter starts with review of 2012 election and Romney’s evaluation of his defeat as result of Obama’s ability to give out government goodies to supporters in form of welfare and other programs. From there it goes to confirmation with statistical data that self-interest does play a big role in voters behavior, only analysts often miss complexity of this self-interest. Authors provide an interesting name for this: Direct Explanation Renaming Syndrome (DERP), which means circular explanation of behavior based on answers to questions describing this behavior.. For example people who respond that they prefer to be with other people assigned label of extraverts with following explanation of their behavior directed to meet others explained by them being extraverts. The DERP syndrome if widely used in explanations of political behavior. Authors define their objective as to find explanations to political behavior in real interests of individuals and avoid labeling that leads to DERP.

Chapter 2: Investigating Interests

This is about what it means to advance individual’s interest and how much more complicated it is in reality than in academic and analytical writings where interest defaulted to narrow economic gain. At the beginning of the chapter authors review 5 claims that seemingly deny self-interest as an engine of political attitudes and action. They find that only one is actually true, 3 clearly false and one unclear. After that authors discuss nature of self-interest and find that it is extremely complex and very difficult to identify. Consequently they suggest substituting “interest” with “fitness” – something that advances person in his/her family everyday goals. Finally author point out that humans are social animals and live is a team sport environment so individual interest is highly correlated with advancement of group that individual belongs to and, since individual belongs to multiple groups sometimes with conflicting interests, the final combined vector of political action could be quite difficult to reconcile with separate components.

Chapter 3: Machiavellian Minds

This chapter starts with analysis of how mind works based on the latest achievement of neuroscience leading to conclusion that our conscious understanding of our own actions is often incorrect and is similar to works of public relations department, which main activity is not decision making, but rather decision justification for ourselves and external world. In reality our mind always directs our political positions and actions to be consistent with our self-interest. As example author reviews abortion issue trying to demonstrate that anti-abortion forces are driven not by purely religious or humanitarian motivation, but rather by self-interest of Ring-bearers, people who want to protect their monogamous way of live from supporters of free love by increasing cost of free love lifestyle. Correspondingly pro-abortion forces are not really that much care about women right to choose as about decreasing cost of free love lifestyle.

PART II: Political Issues

In this part authors look at specific political issues searching for underlying self-interest that defines positions of sides on these issues

Chapter 4: Fighting over Sex: Lifestyle Issues and Religion.

In this chapter issue under review is abortion and sides that support it and/or fight it directly linked to Freewheelers who are trying to protect their lifestyle and Ring-Bearers who are trying protecting their families from sexual predators. Authors extensively use these two morally incompatible groups and here is their definition:

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Chapter 5: Rules of the Game: Group Identifies and Human Capital

This chapter is about another set of hot issues: group identities and related discrimination and affirmative actions that authors being liberal could not possibly recognize as being the same thing. However the bottom line here is that they link it to human capital with logic of interest working in such way: individuals with low level of human capital support group based discrimination if their group have advantage because it improves their chances, while individual with high level of human capital prefer equality because their human capital supports their chances of winning in fair competition. Being complex creatures people could have different interest in different areas so they could support discrimination in one are and fight for equality in another without feeling the slightest remorse from contradiction.

Chapter 6: Money Matters: Redistribution and Hard-Times Programs

This chapter reviews economic interests of different groups and political positions derived from these interests. Here is a nice summary they provide:

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Authors also discuss here American exceptionalism represented by different break down between liberals and conservatives in USA and other countries depending on wealth and education with Americans of low wealth and education being materially more conservative than people at the same station in other countries.

PART III: Political Coalitions

Chapter 7: The Many Shades of Red and Blue

This chapter is about what makes people democrats or republicans and it is based on review of Harvard class of 1977. These are all rich and prosperous people and authors seem to find it paradoxical that they are 6 to 1 Democrats. Authors’ explanation is that these people are high human capital individuals and such people are inclined to be Democrats. Here result of their analysis as to predictive parameters to be a democrat:

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Another set of predictive parameters is income and church attendance:

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Chapter 8: The Republican Coalition

Here authors review republican coalition that they believe consist of partial inclusion from these groups:

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Chapter 9: The Democratic Coalition

Here authors similarly review democratic coalition collected from the following groups:

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PART IV: Political Challenge

Chapter 10: An Uncomfortable Take on Political Positions

This final chapter summarizes authors main thesis that political views are derived from direct interests of individuals whether they are consciously recognized or not and therefore generally these views are quite predictable based on economic position, human capital possession, and lifestyle of individual. The main inference from this analysis is that first and foremost that we cannot “all get along” and reconcile our difference because they based on deeply seated and not easily modifiable substance of our lives.


I completely agree with idea that we all have political view based on our position in society and lifestyle. I also agree that we all driven by self-interest disguised as noble reasons by our self-deception. The only issue I have with this analysis is authors’ position on human capital as direct function of education. I see human capital as much more complicated parameter related not that much to educational credentials, but rather to individual ability to successfully sell intellectual services. This approach would allow understand that seemingly paradoxical situation when very rich graduates of Harvard 77 are overwhelmingly democrats is no paradox at all because ability of these individuals to sell their services as highly paid lawyers, corporate and government officials, and such is highly dependent on government intervention, with democrats as party of big government clearly protecting well being of these people by expanding government. Even doctors and educators who are seemingly provide direct services to people are highly dependent on government intervention to force healthy people without children in school to pay high taxes so these professionals could charge exorbitant prices for their services. Without government intervention these services would be priced by market pretty much within financial abilities of people who actually require such services and these people would be inclined to drive hard in search of bargains. With government intervention force is used to confiscate money through tax and bureaucrats who allocate loot for acquisition of these services also benefit from high prices because it increases their share.

Similarly paradoxical issue with Kansas when low income working people prefer republicans would be better explained not by religious believes of these groups, but rather by their much higher ability to obtain wealth via selling their non-credentialed services and produced goods on free market without government intervention than on market limited by government intervention with its licensing, reporting, and compliance requirements they find very difficult to satisfy.

20150911 Who gets What

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The main idea of this book is that markets are not necessarily intrinsically effective when they are created spontaneously and quite often they fail in fulfilling their function of supporting efficient exchange of good and services, especially in a case of matching markets when subjects of exchange have unique parameters that should match for exchange to occur. Consequently in such cases of complex matching markets the conscious design of market place and its processes is required. It leads to main point of this book that the new and very important area of applied economics should be developed for markets design and implementation.


MARKETS ARE EVERYWHERE: Introduction: Every Market Tells a Story

This is review of markets as the places of exchange real or virtual with stress on difference between commodities market and matching markets. Very important point is that markets effectiveness and efficiency highly dependent on market design that often done informally without clear understanding what needs to be achieved and how. Author stresses 2 parameters of the market: thickness and congestion. Well-designed market should be thick and uncongested.

Markets for Breakfast and Through the Day.

This is discussion of commodities market and history of their development. Author using history of grain and coffee markets to demonstrate that it typically starts as matching market when every farmer sells specific batch of grain that overtime develops into commodity market when batches are mixed and grain sorted by some relevant parameters into trenches of consistent grades, making it a lot easier to trade. Author also discusses how contemporary communication technology such as Internet and mobile devices made very thick market for just about everything conceivable.

Lifesaving Exchanges

This chapter is about a very specific market that author helped to design: non-monetary market of kidney exchange. The problem was that it is highly complex matching marked severely impeded by government ban on organ sales. As result kidney provided exclusively on voluntary basis, typically by people who want to save their relatives. The problem of medical compatibility between donors and recipients makes this process highly complicated. Author describes in details challenges and solutions that allowed developing sophisticated multistep and multilayer market place effectively supporting kidney exchanges.


Part two is dedicated to market failures and their typical causes. In this chapter author uses history of Oklahoma land rush and its sooners to look at market failure caused by timing issues when market participants arrive at different times causing exchanges to occur too soon, consequently being by far less efficient than if all participants were present at the same time. Another interesting example of too soon exchange is marriage market for women that dramatically changed from 1950s to our time. Similar issues are demonstrated for doctors versus residents matching exchanges. Author also demonstrates how cultural preferences specific for doctors’ specialty lead to different outcome for similar market design that worked fine for one specialty, but not for another.

Too Fast: The Greed for Speed

This is about market failure caused by being to fast. This is discussed using NYSE and CME exchanges when at one point it was possible to make money by cutting millisecond from speed of exchange. Another interesting example discussed is matching market for court judges and students when students are looking for the most prestigious judge to clerk for, while judges look for the best students. Interesting detail is exploding clerkship offers, which are issued with expiration time that sometime counted in minutes.

Congestion: Why Thicker Needs to Be Quicker

This chapter is about search for goldilocks point when market designed to be not too fast and not too slow. It reviewed using example of Airbnb, which brings to the market underutilized living space and StubNub, which brought to the market old staff from the attics and basements. However most interesting is review of New York school placement matching market and how similar markets should handle congestion.

Too Risky: Trust, Safety, and Simplicity

This chapter is about key characteristics of the market without which it has hard time to stay open, especially trust and safety. It goes through discussion of value of good name and necessity to maintain information flow within effective parameters because too little information would prevent transactions from happening and too much would limit privacy, consequently creating safety issues. It also reviews Boston School assignment market that works differently from New York.


This is review of algorithms used to create market for new doctors assignments, which mathematically proved to produce optimum solution for individuals. However when encountering real live complexity such as assignment of couples, it requires quite a bit of tinkering and can deliver only good enough, but not necessarily optimal results. There is also an interesting discussion about centralized marketplaces versus central planning. As result the Rural Hospital Theorem was developed proving that it is not possible achieve stable outcome by changing market rules to achieve predetermine result if people do not want it.

Back to School

This is another recap of school assignment market functioning in New York and Boston with inevitable conclusion that no market design could compensate for insufficient supply of good schools.


This chapter is about very important part of any matching market: Signaling. The signals or, in other words, broadcasting information about possibility of match and most important probability that effort invested into exploring such match should not be wasted. Author reviews signaling in such important market as college admissions, job search, and love and marriage. Quite a bit of space assigned to analysis of auctions as signaling systems for matching markets.

FORBIDDEN MARKETS AND FREE MARKETS: Repugnant, Forbidden… and Desired

This chapter looks at legality and morality of some transactions that majority finds repugnant. An interesting point is made that sometimes transactions are considered to be fine as long as they are conducted in non-monetary form, but become repugnant when money added. Obviously kidney exchange is one of such transactions and author reviews implication of this attitude.

Free Markets and Market Design

This chapter is kind of summary of the book with inference that free markets are the best we have, but not perfect and therefore prone to failure from time to time. However it should not be the reason to switch from market to central planning, which is consistently inferior to the market. It rather reason to consciously design market to meet requirements of its participants in effectiveness and efficiency of exchange process. Author sees role of economists as market design engineers because market is not some natural phenomenon, but rather human artifact most often developed spontaneously. The conscious design quite possibly could provide for significant improvement in market design.


As far as I am concern it is the great book filled with very good ideas and interesting examples of implementation of these ideas in real live. I think that development of market engineering for complex matching market has great future as practical area of application for economic and psychological knowledge currently being developed on the large scale. I’d like to see multitude of well-designed markets substituting cumbersome bureaucratic mechanisms of big government and big corporations, eventually pushing out of our lives these monstrosities.

20150904 Our Kids American Dream in Crisis

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The idea of this book is to present statistical research showing increasing division of America into classes of people with unequal opportunities and support this research with real live stories from lives of people belonging to different classes in order to demonstrate that this separation is relatively new phenomenon practically unknown in America of 1950s and 1960s. Author believes that this process is very unhealthy for wellbeing of the society and threatens not only to economic development, but also to democratic political system.



This chapter starts with author’s recollection of his high school town in Port Clinton Ohio and brief review of several live stories of his classmates some of them from rich and some from poor families. This review demonstrates one of the main points of this book that America of 1950s provided clear path to success as achievement of solid middle class live for everybody, providing they worked hard and played by the rules. After that author compares it with similar lives of people in XXI century and concludes that it is not the case anymore because country clearly divided into rich and poor with poor having very little chance to improve their lives. He provides comparative maps for this town showing that instead of mixing rich as it used to be in 1950s, poor moved to separate place geographically:

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He traces this separation to income inequality, which is highly correlated with education and family structure:

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Chapter 2: FAMILIES

In this chapter author uses another small town Bend, Oregon to discuss changes in family structures demonstrating that sexual revolution destroyed family structures of uneducated people, but did not have such impact on family structures of educated people, creating huge difference in lives of children whose chances for good live are dramatically decreasing without support of strong families. Here are data provided for children in complete families depending on education of parents:

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Chapter 3: PARENTING

This chapter is a very interesting review of differences between parenting of educated and successful versus uneducated and unsuccessful. The graphs provided demonstrate that educated parents raise children in traditions of American culture with high value put on self-reliance and self-control, while uneducated poor transfer values of welfare state: obedience and external control by authority figures:

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Chapter 4: SCHOOLING

This chapter is about education with explicit assumption that higher education means higher income and better life. It includes comparison of two high schools on of them rich and another poor:

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Interesting fact is that money per student are pretty much the same, teacher per student ratio is the same, quality of teachers also the same, but outputs are dramatically different. This difference is persistent throughout total range of educational achievement indicating its dependence on family:

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Chapter 5: COMMUNITY

This chapter looks at another parameter: social network outside of family and quality of this network with inescapable inference that it also has significant impact on outcome:

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Chapter 6: WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

This is discussion about causes and recommendation and author seems to believe that one of the most important is separation of classes into different communities that do not communicate with each other and do not know how other part lives. Author is making case that it results in unequal opportunity and that this situation has do be fixed because it represents problem for economic development and for democracy itself, besides it is moral obligation of upper classes. Author provides list of areas and what he believes should be done in each of them.


I believe that process of country breaking down is well underway and could not be stopped without significant changes in the whole way of how we create and allocate resources. America of 1950s become much more egalitarian country than it was at the beginning of XX century due to two very special circumstances. One was ongoing process of substitution of plutocrats by bureaucrats as main force of society when plutocrats were on the way down in their ability to grab wealth, while bureaucrats still were on their way up in such ability so both these groups were somewhere above middle class, but not to such extent as it was before 1930 for plutocracy when government intervention was small and after 1960s for bureaucracy when government intervention become huge. Another one was the fact that Europe and world was practically in ruins after WWII and everybody everywhere desperately needed everything, so America, being untouched by destruction, had very good jobs for everybody who wanted to work and did not have or need welfare state for people who did not want to. Both these circumstances are long gone. Bureaucrats are firmly in control of government, which in turn is in control of just about everything with plutocrats playing just supporting secondary role. Plus the world expanded dramatically with free trade and dissolution of socialist model, bringing in huge amounts of cheap labor and pushing out of productive activities uncompetitive low skills Americans to such extent that their children find themselves in isolated communities with environment not conductive for skills acquisition. The key to solution would be such change in the system that would provide people with additional resources directly linked to their effort so the way up would be unimpeded. The current welfare state that provide resources independently of effort is bound to fail because humans are not animals and need much more than food and protection from elements.

20150828 Principles For A Free Society

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This is a very interesting attempt to review contemporary legal environment with its history of moving into direction of increasing state power and government intervention in all areas of life. However the main idea is not just to document it, but rather find some way to reconcile it with Laissez-Faire ideas that author believes are the best for economy and prosperity. Author seems to believe that these free market ideas in their simplistic form could not support effective functioning of society in contemporary complex environment, so the state power had to be used in multitude of situations to overcome these limitations, and he reviews such situations in this book.


Introduction: Reinvigorating Laissez-Faire

This is foundational part of the book with discussion of Laissez-Faire as concept often misunderstood as free for all with glorification of individual at the expense of society, instead of the best way to organize economy in common interest, which it actually is.

1.Natural Law: The Utilitarian Connection: Permanence and Change; Benevolence of Strangers; Sharing within the Family; Individual Autonomy; First Possession; Custom as a Source of Law

This chapter reviews two approaches to legitimacy of society organization: natural law approach which states that people have inherent unalienable rights and utilitarian approach which states that people should organized society in such way as to provide maximum benefits to maximum numbers. Generally author critic natural rights approach as foundation of Laissez-Faire and suggests that much better foundation could be build on notion of private property as more effective way to incentivize individuals to produce and cooperate for common benefit, than any other method.

  1. Social Norms versus Legal Commands: The Prisoner’s Dilemma Game; Hart’s Failed Distinction between legal and Social Norms; Sorting Sanctions; Two-Tier Sanctions; The Dependence of Social Norms on Law; Coercive Social Norms;

This chapter analyzes interaction between laws and social norms that provide a very sound base for human interaction either at market place or in other areas of human live. Author also provides critic of contemporary trend of increasing government power and influence by pushing legal norms into areas that traditionally were domain of social norms.

  1. Harm: The Gateway to Liability: Harm to Self; Harm to Others; A Shield of Liberty in the Late Nineteenth Century; A Sward against Liberty in the Twentieth Century; Looking to the Future;

Here author analyses notion of harm and its application in contemporary world. The most salient is discussion about difference between harm by aggression and harm by competition. While both types could cause pain and suffering for individuals, only the former causes negative consequences for society by causing interactions being a negative sum game, while the latter is actually beneficial because absent fraud and aggression competition is the only way to discover the best way to do things and move society overall in this direction. However despite generally supporting idea of unabridged competition sans aggression, author nevertheless supports idea of limited antitrust laws that restrict competition under some very specific circumstances.

  1. The Benefit Principle: Baseline Users; Positive and Negative Externalities; The Categories of Restitution; The Public Face of the Benefit Principle

This chapter looks at benefits that people did not ask for, but forced to be paid for. This is logical foundation of theories of social contract. This idea has very limited use in common law, but widely used by statists to justify their use of coercion to extract resources from productive people.

5.Altruism: Its Uses and Limits: Altruism and Self-interest; The Modest Uses of Selective Altruism; Altruism and Communitarianism; The Pretense of Altruism;

This is discussion of altruism and more important use of altruism as cudgel against Laissez-Faire despite the simple fact that it does not require or even promote greed and material self-interest. All it requires is to remove government force from resources production and allocation, leaving it to voluntary decisions of people. The typical result of government forced altruism is resource transfer from poor to rich under banner of help to the poor.

  1. Forfeiture: The Flip Side of Rights: The Common Law of Forfeiture in the Nineteenth Century; The Twentieth Century Welfare State;

This is kind of continuation of discussion of forced altruism, but it is conducted in terms of negative and positive rights, with negative rights being right to property, contract enforcement, and other legal tools to allow people to keep resources they produced. The positive rights that represent form of forced altruism that created basis for welfare state is basically rights to product of labor of other people. In addition to this the contemporary legal system often supports idea of individual’s right to be protected from own errors, mistakes, and even plain self-destructive behavior. However it creates huge complexity because protection of one person at the expense of another would cause push back from the loser, resulting in attempt to find some equilibrium that would take into account balance of power between constituencies.

  1. Boundaries: Firm and Fuzzy: Boundaries of Self; Boundaries of Land; Successive Holders of the Same Property; Invasions of Privacy; Boundaries in the Air Waves;

This chapter is about probably the most difficult issue facing libertarians who believe that individual’s freedom ends at the point of other individual’s freedom – the issue of boundaries. The biggest problem is that these boundaries are not purely physical; they also could include communications not only between individuals involved, but also between individual and third party in relation to another individual.

  1. Prom Rights to Remedies: The Sanctity of Contract; Property and Necessity; Damages, Injunctions, and Permits; The Constitutional Dimensions of Entitlements; From Remedies Back to Rights;

This chapter explores connection between rights created by legal system and remedies used to enforce these rights with conclusion that absolute conceptions of private property are valid in main, but with exception of special cases of necessity when property rights could be forcibly substituted with compensation rights.

  1. Common Property: A Peaceful Coexistence of Private and Common Property; The Constitutional Complications;

This chapter is about common property such as air and water and impossibility of dividing it into private domains.

  1. Common Carriers: The English Background; Late Ninetieth-Century American Developments; Interconnections; Rate Regulation; Contemporary Constitutional Issues;

This final chapter continues discussion of commons concentrating on their specific incarnation in what commonly is considered monopolistic arrangements such as railroads, radio spectrums, utilities and similar enterprises when competition believed to be next to impossible. Author believes that it warranties government interference to enforce general availability of service for everybody at affordable rates.

EPILOGUE A Return to Fundamentals

The final discussion is about necessity to adjust Laissez Faire ideas to contemporary complex society and economy when limiting state intervention is not enough and the used of state force could be justified for multitude of situations discussed in previous chapters of this book. The bottom line is necessity to find proper legal framework for state power to be “strong enough to hold us together, but not so strong as to reap us apart.


It is a very interesting approach and I found in this book quite a few examples of issues for which Laissez- Faire solution seems to be impossible or at least extremely difficult. Nevertheless none of discussed situations warranties, in my opinion, need for state power beyond prevention and/or retaliation for aggressive use of force or deception. I think that reason for my disagreement comes from different approach. Author seems to be looking at every situation from point of view of legal scholar that he is, meaning that he is looking to develop legal algorithm for solution that would fit any conceivable situation and could be enforced by external state power. I, on other hand, believe that many of these situations are so complex that such solution could not possibly exists, so all issues should be resolved between participants any way they want to on condition of non-use of aggressive force and deception. The caveat here is that I believe that equality and marketability of rights for resources and equality of borders between individuals would support such resolution if supported by availability of truthful information about issues and hand and past history of participants.

20150821 The Forgotten Depression

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The main idea of this book is to demonstrate that usual condemnation of Laissez Faire approach to economy as cause of the Great Depression is based on false narrative. This narrative presents late 20s as period of unabridged capitalism that led inevitably to disaster. Instead of just critiquing this narrative directly author looks at previous depression of 1920-21 when capitalism was a lot less constrained than 10 years later. In 1920-21 the federal government was run by debilitated Wilson who was not capable and later on by hands off Harding who was unwilling to interfere, resulting in much more Laissez Faire than under “great engineer” Hoover. Author quite convincingly demonstrates that 1920-21 depression was as severe or even more so than 1929, but without government intervention prices and wages dramatically went down, unemployment went up resulting in quick achievement of equilibrium and dramatically fast recovery.


  1. The Great Inflation

This chapter is about events preceding depression of 1920. It starts with events of WWI and wartime inflation that followed by contraction of production as result of cancelation of war orders in 1918.However instead of depression it was followed by boom due to consumer demand delayed by war and growth of Europe needs for reconstruction at least partially financed by US Treasury loans. However all this demand supported by money outrun production abilities, leading to inflation of 18.6% in 1918 and 13.8 in 1919. These problems caused significant labor disturbances and strikes. Another consequence was illusion of wealth making lots of people especially farmers borrow too much and overinvest into expansion.

  1. Coin of the Realm

This chapter is about monetary issues of the period starting from 1880 to 1900 when sticking to gold standard combined with fast growth in productivity produced significant deflation before it was substituted by inflation of progressive era. Despite dollar being convertible into gold, the money supply grew dramatically due to influx of European gold attracted by high interest rates. Author also discusses economic thinking of the period especially ideas of Fisher.

  1. Money at War

This is discussion of role of Federal Reserve with its gold supported notes in financing the war. It also reviews money movements during the war with initial withdrawals by Europeans at the beginning of war that followed by massive transfers to USA as payments for war materials. FEDs also increased money supply by supporting government Liberty bonds.

  1. Laissez-Faire by Accident

This is analysis of situation after WWI when due to sum of unexpected events American economy had chance to work in mode close the Laissez-Faire. Probably one of the most important events was temporary decapitation of American bureaucracy, due to Wilson’s stroke. As prelude author reviews two attempts of hands on control over economy: failed attempt to substitute Du Pond company with government controlled production for powder and Harry Garfield’s attempt to manage fuel that also failed spectacularly.

  1. A Depression in Fact

This chapter provides statistical justification to idea that slowdown of 1920 was indeed depression quite comparable to Great depression 1929. It also reviews and reject attempt by Christina Romer to decrease its scale and significance. The numbers for GNP is decline by 24% and unemployment 15%. Author brings in analysis of different industries from automotive to agriculture to support his point.

  1. City Bank on the Carpet

This is story of National City bank and Fed’s Comptroller of Currency John Williams who was overconfident in stability of banks just before depression. In reality many banks were overextended and National City was deeply in betting on sugar prices. Williams pressed the bank with investigations of not only its solvency, but also of corrupted practices.

  1. Egging On Deflation

Here author reviews Feds expansion of money supply to fight deflation with more than 100% of banks’ required reserves were provided by Fed on loan. However Feds abilities were limited by requirements to keep gold as reserve for Fed banks. Eventually they had to vacillate between fighting deflation with increase of money supply and inflation with increase of rate to 6%

  1. A Debacle “Without Parallel”

This is review of depression depth in terms of crash in commodity prices and stock market, which lost 39% of its value. Taking all together, the decline was unprecedented.

  1. The Comptroller on the Offensive

This is review of action of outgoing Comptroller Williams who was trying preventing increase in rate to 7% in addition to dealing with banks and trusts some of which like Guaranty he was fighting.

  1. A Kind Word for Misfortune

This is review of typical approach of American at the time to phenomenon of depression. It was considered a natural process of readjustment of economy to changing circumstances that had to occur for it to remain healthy. There is nothing to be done and one just had to go through it. The idea that massive government intervention could remove depression was already around, but it did not obtain massive support yet.

  1. Not the Government’s Affair

This is review of political environment and ideology in 1920 when both political parties consider economy mainly out of scope for political actions limiting such actions to monetary policies. Republicans hit Democrats with accusation of making dollar worth 50 cents and that was about it. Both parties complained about high cost of living, but Harding won overwhelmingly after promising do nothing with his slogan of “returning to normalcy”.

  1. Cut from Cleveland’s Cloth

This chapter is about initial actions of Harding presidency. As promised they cut down government expenses and resisted demands for public payments to veterans what later turned into demand for bonus.

  1. A Kind of Recovery Program

This is very brief review of Treasury secretary Andrew Melon actions directed at decrease of marginal tax rates. This counterintuitive move led to dramatic increase in tax revenues, as Melon had expected.

  1. Wages Chase Prices

This chapter starts with review of stock market movements prior to election then discusses process of deflation when downfall of prices led to decrease in wages. It caused significant disturbance by labor movement despite the fact that prices went down much faster than wages so real purchasing power grew. All that Harding administration did was to provide arbitrage services in extreme cases of union vs. management fights.

  1. Shrewd Judge Gary

This is story of Judge Gary namesake of steel town in Indiana. After presiding over multiple commercial cases, usually being supportive to business, Gary left law to become president of Federal Steel Corporation and was quite successful in withering economic downturn in part because he managed to make significant share of employees into shareholders, achieving improvement in morale and dedication of workforce.

  1. “A Higher Sense of Service”

This is continuation of analysts of political attitudes to the role of government in economics. Despite republicans being pro business and democrats being pro government, both sides saw business cycles as inevitable natural phenomenon. Even so the seeds of future government expansion were planted inside both parties with Harding proposing creation of public welfare department and Hoover busy building all kind of schemas for government intervention just about everywhere.

  1. Gold Pours into America

This is review of international economic position of United States at the time. As consequence of WWI it was highly advantageous, with USA exporting nearly double of its import and gold flowing into America from Europe. Eventually it stopped deflation and monetary situation started to turn around in early 1920.

  1. “Back to Barbarism?”

This chapter provides some examples of how American companies managed to get through this short depression by managing inventories, prices, and labor. Examples provided for DuPont, White Motor Company – the biggest trucks manufacturer at the time, and Sears. Overall American business had dramatic decrease in profits in 1921, which pretty much rebound in 1922. Author also discusses home construction and agricultural sectors.

  1. America on the Bargain Counter

This is analysis of impact of depression on various businesses with conclusion that it was very tough on businesses encumbered with excess inventory and rigid contracts and they suffered, while more flexible and liquidity rich business not only survived, but also prospered. By the end of 1921 depression was over and roaring 20s had begun.

  1. All for Stability

This is description of results and impact of this deep, but brief and self-healing depression. On one hand it proved that economy would self adjust if left alone, while on the other hand it demonstrated depth of pain and suffering that could be caused by even brief downturn. It caused search for controlling mechanisms capable to avoid this pain by using government power. The most well known were Keynes’ ideas of government intervention in business cycles by increasing spending during downturn. In America it was Fisher’s ideas of stabilization by controlling money supply. Eventually it became part of Feds mandate, when mechanism of purchasing Treasury securities by Fed was put in place.

Epilogue: A Triumph, in Its Way

Here author provides summery of events and consequences and discusses fate of main players.


I think it is a pretty good analysis of factual data and events of depression of 1920-21. It slightly overburdened by history of banks and monetary policy of Fed, but other than that it is a good narrative of period. Certainly each period in history unique so it is not possible to prove counterfactual ideas what would happen if in 1929 Hoover did what Harding did in 1920, that is exactly nothing, but in my opinion comparison of these two depressions provides good illustration of conceivable outcome. I personally believe that the issue here is more philosophical than political and it is idea that super complex information system that includes hundred of millions of self-directed human beings is not possible control and manage effectively via centralized hierarchical system of several hundred thousands of bureaucrats. The only way such system could possibly function effectively and efficiently is via self-regulated system of market economy, which is while not perfect, but at least functional, while bureaucratic system either in its deadly form of central planning or less severe form of regulatory state is typically dysfunctional.

20150814 Political Order and Decay

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The main idea is to identify based on history typical signs of political decay in contemporary societies. These signs are: dramatic decrease of income growth in developed countries, gridlock of democratic polities in solution of various problems, increase in bureaucracies and decrease in their effectiveness. Societies are reviewed based on different paths of development: OECD, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia. Despite Asian model of limited market capitalism under authoritarian rule still being on the rise and OECD model of democracy with free market severely impeded by bureaucratic welfare state being in decline, author seems to believe that East Asian model is not sustainable on the long run and OECD model with democracy has more potential for growth and improvements in human life.



  1. What Is Political Development?

Here author refreshes his definition of political development as total of 3 components: the state, rule of law, and accountability. He stresses the difference between rule of law and rule by law with latter often being a necessary predecessor of the former, but by far not the same. He also briefly points at sources of political decay and presents plan of the book as continuation and expansion of ideas presented in the first volume to the world development after Industrial revolution.

2.The Dimensions of Development

Here author presents data about dramatic change in technological and economy environment and is trying to place political development into framework of overall development of humanity in all relevant areas:

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  1. Bureaucracy

Here author correctly posits that the state is bureaucracy and reviews attempts to measure quality of the bureaucracy across the scope of state functions:

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  1. Prussia Builds a State

In this chapter author reviews history of state development in Prussia: the commonly accepted gold standard of bureaucratic welfare state.

  1. Corruption

Here author reviews phenomenon of corruption as inalienable part of any government and how it impacts development of the state. He differentiates corruption into 2 distinct forms: Patronage and Clientelism. He discusses patronage as more damaging form that is at odds with democracy and impedes development of accountability. He seems to consider Clientelism much more benign form of corruption that actually could be considered a primitive form of democracy that recedes with economic development when voters are too rich and educated to sell their votes to politician in exchange for some small potatoes. In this case the whole population practically becomes clientele because politician has to satisfy increasingly bigger share of voters to get elected.

  1. The Birthplace of Democracy

Here author discusses his thesis that early development of democracy, when country is still very poor, leads to development of low trust society and formation of rigid clientele / politicians combinations, preventing effective development of polity. He uses Southern Italy and Greece as examples.

  1. Italy and the Low-Trust Equilibrium

This is more detailed look at Italy where North and South had very different paths of development with South consistently remaining low-trust corrupted entity, while North developing into much more modern and effective capitalist polity. The special attention is given to issue of low versus high trust societies and how former causes severe problems for development.

  1. Patronages and Reform

This chapter is about American and British development. Both democracies started with government bureaucracies based on patronage, but only America developed fully blown clientele system. British implemented Northcote-Trevelyan reforms in 1854 that ended patronage and implemented system of examinations. This effectively removed aristocracy out of bureaucratic hierarchy and opened door for “meritocratic” elite. In America system of checks and balances prevented decisive reform from the top leading to transformation of patronage system into clientele system. Author sees it as “inherent tension” between democracy and “good governance”, with America being more democratic leading to it being poorly governed.

  1. The United States Invents Clientelism

This chapter is detailed look at American development and its differentiation from all other countries as result of maintaining ancient rules of separation of powers, checks, and balances that greatly complicate functioning of modern bureaucracy. In XIX century and a good part of XX century it led to municipal party politics with whole slides of population becoming clientele of city party machines such as Tammany hall.

  1. The End of the Spoils System

This is continuation of review of American development when the rising bureaucracy in turn defeated the spoils system established with Andrew Jackson’s victory over quasi-aristocratic patronage system that existed from beginning of republic. The Pendleton act of 1883 was a landmark in multi-year efforts to import European ideas of bureaucracy and rule by meritocratic elite. However it took another 60 years before bureaucracy, especially federal bureaucracy in alliance with progressive movement become absolutely dominant force in American society.

  1. Railroads, Forests, and American State Building

This is review of specific battles and victories of bureaucracy in railroad dealings with plutocracy and in building exemplary bureaucracy of Forest Service. Author looks at this from point of view of Principal/Agent framework, stressing that capture of public resources by special interest had never been far away from everyday reality.

  1. Nation Building

This is review of role of nationalism and identity politics in nation building. It provides an interesting classification of routes to national identity:

  1. Territorial expansion
  2. Genocide or ethnic cleansing to create homogeneous population on national territory
  3. Cultural Assimilation
  4. Adjustment of national identities to political realities.
  5. Good Government, Bad Government

This is discussion about quality of government with special attention of its variance and its dependence of the path of development. Author seems to believe that the best way is building a strong state first with rule by law supporting economic development and only later and gradually switch to rule of law and democracy (German way), with American way of starting with rule of law, effective market economy, and democracy and only later adding strong state being inferior, and Greek / South Italian way of starting with democracy and never really getting neither to the rule of law nor to the free market economy, being quite a lousy way to proceed.


  1. Nigeria

This is a brief case study of Nigeria as a typical example of undeveloped society where deep corruption and absence of democracy keep people in poverty despite or maybe even because of wealth of its natural resources.

  1. Geography

This chapter is discussion of influence of geography with reference to work of Montesquieu on nature of laws and contemporary economist Jeffrey Sachs and anthropologist Jarred Diamond both of whom seems to overstate this influence. Here author also defines 3 regions he will use to discuss political development: Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and East Asia

  1. Silver, Gold, and Sugar

This chapter is about development in Latin America where Spain at least partially transferred its institutions by imposing them on local population of mixed ethnicity and culture, creating in process policy week in both accountability and rule of law.

  1. That Didn’t Bark

The main point of this chapter is that in China’s as well as in Europe’s extensive wars facilitated creation of powerful states, especially in comparison with peaceful development of Latin America that paradoxically led to problems caused by weakness of the state.

  1. The Clean Slate

This is review of two exceptions to typical development of Latin American countries: Costa Rica that despite all odds did not become “banana republic” and Argentina that started very well and was on its way to becoming Denmark when it degraded dramatically to typical Latin American level of corruption and stagnation.

  1. Storms in Africa

This chapter is about reasons for weakness of Sub-Saharan states coming from absence of any developed states.

  1. Indirect Rule

This is continuation of the discussion with stress on corruption development during colonial period when very small numbers of European administrators dealt with local tribal kings.

  1. Institutions, Domestic or Imported

This chapter is about another type of powerful external intervention implemented by United States and Japan. It is also form of indirect rule, but mainly via international financial and political organizations.

  1. Lingua Franca

This chapter is about importance of creating national identity for political development. It reviews success story in Indonesia and Tanzania in comparison with failure in Nigeria and Kenya.

  1. The Strong Asian State

Contrary to Latin America and Africa, Asian Countries had highly developed and powerful states long before colonial intervention. Despite being technologically far behind these policies where able survive colonialism and in case of Japan even repulse it at early stages. Author also reviews an interesting case in Japan before and during WWII when military bureaucracy went completely out of control by existing structures of the state, leading to nearly complete destruction of the country.

  1. The Struggle for Law in China

This is review of XX century metamorphoses of highly bureaucratic Chinese state going through revolutions, civil war, totalitarian communist rule by Mao, and eventually arriving to bureaucratic rule by law combined with relatively free market of contemporary China.

  1. The Reinvention of the Chinese State

This is continuation of discussion on China, with stress on specific problem of bad imperator and challenge that complex bureaucracy represents for accountability. Author seems to believe that it will be eventually resolved via some form of democratic development.

  1. Three Regions

This is summary of 3 regions discussion with some interesting data presented for comparison:

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  1. Why Did Democracy Spread?

This is about the reasons for democracy’s expansion around the world. Author seems to be connecting it to division of labor, expansion of market, and individualization of population that participates in it. Consequently it led to expansion of political participation in the struggle over control of the state, which at the long run defines resource allocations and transfer. Here is graphic representation of these ideas:

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  1. The Long Road to Democracy

This is a brief history of democratic expansion with some data:

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  1. From 1848 to the Arab Spring

This chapter is attempt to link democratic movements in Europe in XIX century with recent Arab Spring with pretty sad conclusion that as European movement turned into nationalistic nightmare so Arab spring has all signs of turning into movement of religious supremacy of Islam because economic foundation of stable democracy is yet to be achieved.

  1. The Middle Class and Democracy’s Future

This chapter is about middle class, its role in democratization and politics. Most important it recognizes problem of disappearance of middle class as result of technological advancement including transportation and communications that allowed cheap immigrant labor inside developed country or cheap foreign labor in offshore installations directly compete with local middle class. Author believes that the only solution capable to save middle class is expansion of education.


  1. Political Decay

This chapter provides a shining example of political decay using US Forest Service, which went from exemplary government agency to unruly congregation of bureaucratic hierarchies serving mainly to provide living for its bureaucrats, lobbyists, and special interests protected by them.   At the end of chapter author provides generalization of political decay process using historical examples, but most important looking at what author believes deficiencies of Madisonian version of democracy with its checks and balances that far from being reliable safeguards against corruption.

  1. A State of Courts and Parties

This chapter looks at judicial capture of administrative process, which often gets ground down to stoppage by checks and balances in hands of competing parties with polar ideologies. It provides an interesting table for Ratio of Tax revenues to GDP:

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  1. Congress and the Repatrimonialization of American Politics

This is closer look at capture of legislature by special interests, as it is done in USA, working via lobbying process and how it accelerates political decay.

  1. America the Vetocracy

That’s how author characterized contemporary decay of American polity where quite a few groups have veto power and practically nobody can get things done as result. Author provides a very nice graph for this process:

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Author also discusses difference of United States from other countries and organization like EU coming to conclusion that America is trapped in bad equilibrium of Vetocracy. The Madisonian republic slowed advance of welfare state and author understands that Americans consider it a blessing. However the same factors made it difficult to rebuild system now when such state proved its inefficiency.

  1. Autonomy and Subordination

This chapter is about differences between governance of private business and government bureaucracies, stressing a need to find a balance between enterprises and democratic control. It also discusses issue of bureaucratic control, capacity of the state, and their relation to quality of government. It is supplied with a nice graph:

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  1. Political Orders and Political Decay

The last chapter somewhat summarizes author’s ideas presented in two books on political order and decay. It also presents a brief look at the future development when author discusses alternatives to democracy, especially Chinese model, eventually coming to conclusion that despite all problems democracy is still the best model available even if there is no guaranty that it will eventually win everywhere. There are just too many unpredictable random events and turns that could derail even highly developed society into political decay and degradation. Nevertheless democracy contains a very strong universal appeal attracting more and more peoples and countries to its side.


I find this book very interesting not only due to the thorough research and wealth of data accumulated, but also because it is all plugged in well thought through model of development of society and its polity. My main difference with the author probably relates to his disgust with Madisonian Democracy with its checks and balances that prevent effective government actions. I do not believe in wise politicians and all knowing and benevolent bureaucrats who would fix all problems if not overburdened with checks and balances. I believe in self-centered power hungry politicians and bureaucrats whose main purpose is to control other people’s lives for psychological satisfaction and transfer as many resources to selves for material satisfaction using government power. Moreover, I believe that no system of checks and balances would be able to contain these people in their strive to satisfy their own needs and wishes at the expense of everybody else, so the only solution is to restrict role of government and therefore violence, coercion, deception, and indoctrination to absolute minimum of protection against violence, coercion, deception, and indoctrination by other players: foreign governments, criminals, and crooks. In other words the best way to prevent political decay is to diminish importance of political power in all areas of our lives.

20150807 – A History of Strategy

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This is review of military strategic thinking throughout all known history from ancient Chinese to our days. The idea is to trace development of military thinking, provide brief review of ideas and individuals who did this thinking.


  1. Chinese Military Thought

Chinese approach to the war is as to an evil, even if sometimes necessary. It is violation of cosmic harmony and should be resolved as soon as possible via victory of the most virtuous. San Tzu defines virtue as harmony between leaders and people via strict discipline. The perfect army is so disciplined as not to require neither rewards no punishment. Tai Kung developed detailed structure for military control and planning and logistics requirements. Most important in Chinese strategy purposes is to minimize violence because it violates harmony. The victory should be achieved by superior intelligence and logistics placing adversary in position when he has no choice but surrender. Author highly appreciates Chinese military writings as unsurpassed in their sophistication.

  1. From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

For this part author selected Thucydides, Sallust, Caser, and Josephus as unsurpassed military historians. However he considers western strategic thinkers much less sophisticated and effective than Chinese. He discusses works of Aeneas (4th Century BC before Alexander) author of writings on military preparations, war finances, and other strategic issues. Later writer Asclepiodotus (1 century BC) produced works on tactics of phalanx, however they were pretty much outdated by this time. Author reviews a few other thinkers, the most outstanding being Flavius Renatus Vegetius (4 century AD) and his “Summary of Military Matters”. Byzantine Empire produced “Strategikon” (around 600) presenting top achievement of its military with ideas and methods later successfully used in struggle against Arabs. Much later around 900 it produced much less important “Tacticon”. Author considers totality of this literature inferior to Chinese because it did not produce coherent philosophy of war.

  1. 1500 to 1763

This period includes works of Machiavelli in which he developed idea of using conscripts as source of mass military manpower, however he underestimated artillery. Machiavelli become quite popular, but his military ideas were not applied in real world by anybody. After that author discusses a few other thinkers including Montecuccoli, Puysegur, Maurice De Saxe, and Frederick the Great, none of them really significant. Unlike many others, Frederick did apply his ideas in practice in Prussian wars with various levels of success.

  1. From Guibert to Clausewitz

This period from 1763 includes work of Gilbert based on analysis of 7 years war eventually resulting in ordinance of 1791 with which French army fought in Napoleonic wars. It included recommendation of moving troops in independent columns with lots of attention to maneuvers. In 1799 the first treatise on strategy: Spirit of Modern System of War” was produced by von Bulow. In it Bulow discussed use of geography, maps, and military staff to conduct proper preparations, analysis, logistical, and military movements based of plans. On French side promoter of ideas of war as movements of people and material through 2-dimensional space was Antoine Jomini who added multiple military concepts including theater of operations, bases and numerical representation of troops capabilities, and setting up specific objectives and lines of operations. Finally significant amount of material in this chapter allocated to Clausewitz who analyzed war and its purpose based on history and experience of Napoleonic wars. The quality of this analysis and ideas put Clausewitz at par with Chinese writing.

  1. The Nineteenth Century

Starting with Bulow and Clausewitz the military writing moved in more professional direction with soldiers writing for soldiers and away from mythological an historical approach. It was overall change in approach to writing caused by Enlightenment, but also by dramatic changes in military technology. Old prevalence of military formation in battle similar to parades became suicidal for troops and therefore not sustainable. In this relation author reviews work of French officer Charles du Picq, who proposed to move away from fighting in formations and switch to skirmishes with relative small, but self-sufficient combination of troops. However these regiments should be strictly controlled from one source and directed to dynamically attack or withdraw or move according to overall strategic intention of top commander. Unfortunately for millions of people fighting in WWI these ideas did not make it through into thick heads of generals for a very long time. Another outstanding thinker of this period was Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke. His work was not only theoretical, but also practical and directed at handling dramatically increased numbers of troops and needs for supplies. He handled it through creation of General Staff and development of detailed mobilization planning for multimillion armies, their movements and logistics. If Moltke developed tools for making effective army, another German general for Schlieffen developed operational ideas where to move this army and detailed strategic plans for war on two fronts West against France and East against Russia. These plans became foundation of German strategy in WWI.

  1. War at Sea

This chapter is about naval operations that normally attract a lot less attention than land armies. The eminent thinker in this area was an American Dennis Mahan. His approach was based on history and on analysis of operations of British Navy. Overall it came down to idea that achieving two connected goals: interrupt enemy maritime commerce and transportation and protect one’s own would lead to decisive advantage in any conflict of contemporary powers highly dependent on shipping of men and material in their ability to make war. Mohan believed that this objective could be achieved by gaining “command of the sea” through winning battle of battleships. The other strategy was commerce protection or interruption: battle of convoys Mahan considered secondary, if at all relevant because he believed that winning fight of battleships would allow blockade enemy ports and completely stop its commerce. Another thinker Julian Corbett actually was rich lawyer who just enjoyed developing ideas about naval strategy. He believed that land war is primary and naval operations are secondary and needed mainly to support armies. His writings are mainly case analysis of existing wars in support of this idea.

  1. The Interwar Period

The period between WWI and WWII was rich in strategic thinkers who tried to accommodate new technologies of warplanes, tanks, mechanized troops, and wireless communications into coherent strategic model of winning war. The most prominent were: Italian general Guilio Douhet – promoter of supreme role of airpower including its ability to win war alone. He greatly overestimated capability of technology of his time and underestimated ability of civil population to survive regular bombing, but his views were vindicated in WWII by American victory over Japan after using just two nuclear bombs. Another thinker British general John Fuller was proponent of rapid movement of mechanized troops and developed ideas that later become known in their practical application as blitzkrieg. Fuller was closely associated with Liddell Hart who promoted multidimensional attacks directed not at taking territory, but rather to disrupt enemy structure and operation making him incapable for organized resistance. Finally author includes in his review WWI German commander Ludendorff who in this period developed concept of total war that required totalitarian state in order to obtain complete control over population and all resources of the country, control that was not available to him in authoritarian German monarchy during WWI. Eventually the Ludendorff’s vision became reality of WWII.

  1. 1945 to the Present

The last chapter is dedicated pretty much to the world with nuclear weapons and development of MAD strategy of making war impossible to accept. Author also discusses Reagan’s strategic defense initiative and concludes that it did not really change MAD calculation since SDI tools are not possible to test on full scale while consequences of even small deficiencies in protection could be catastrophic. Therefore as of now the military confrontation is conceivable only at the small scale of terror versus anti-terrorism operations, and small wars with limited objectives.


It is very nice and concise review of writings about strategy, but it is not history of strategy. Strategy, as just everything else, has theoretical aspect of people writing about what should be done and practical aspect of how it was actually done. The writings review presented pretty well, but much more important and interesting to me aspect of practical application of strategy as it was developed and used by people who actually did, was left something out of scope. It is too bad, because the practical application is the most interesting part of history.

20150731 World Order

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The main idea of this book is to define meaning of world order and review history and parameters of most important world orders that existed so far:

  • Westphalian world order based on balance of powers created after 30 years war
  • Its metamorphosis after French revolution, Vienna Congress, and all the way to after the Cold war
  • Islamic world order as it was developed with initial conquests, decline and contemporary revival in form of Islamist movement
  • Asian, especially Chinese and Japanese historical development of world orders
  • American dominated world order and America strife to achieve universal principles of world order based on independency and trade

The main inference from all this is that we are at the beginning of dramatic change from current world order that become unsustainable to something new, but not yet known.


INTRODUCTION: The Question of World Order

Varieties of World Order; Legitimacy and Power

World order to the extent it exists today was established by victorious Western democracies after WWII. It did not take into account other cultures and other ideas of world order and consequently, due decrease of influence of western democracies, it started to unravel. When it happened, after Western retreat from colonialism and use of force to control the world, other cultures and countries like China, India, and Islamic world challenged existing order leading to its modification.

Author differentiates several world order models developed by humanity:

  • European world order created by Westphalian peace based of balance of powers with non-interference into internal affairs of states
  • Chinese world order based on supremacy of Chinese culture and state which is put in the center of universe with all other being barbarians practically non-relevant to overall development of humanity and not even worthy of conquest
  • Islamic world order based on supremacy of religion of Islam with all other world being subject to conquest, conversion to true religion or annihilation

Current world order of balance of power and noninterference is challenged from all sides including west, which challenges it in the name of human rights and environmentalism. Historically the world order could stand only if it is based on both power and legitimacy, which is very hard to achieve because of difference in values for different people causing them to question legitimacy, while changes in power causes rising countries to test their power.

CHAFFER 1: Europe: The Pluralistic International Order

The Uniqueness of the European Order; The Thirty Years’ War: What Is Legitimacy? The Peace of Westphalia; The Operation of the Westphalian System; The French Revolution and Its Aftermath;

This is about uniqueness of European world order born in Westphalia as result of 30 years war when nobody managed to win. It is based on balance of power when instead of winning all sides position themselves in such way that nobody has reasonable hope to win so the war is avoided. This system lasted until after French revolution when new method of mobilization of all country resources including mass conscription gave France upper hand in fight with all of Europe, at least for a while.

CHAFFER 2: The European Balance-of-Power System and Its End

The Russian Enigma; The Congress of Vienna; The Premises of International Order; Metternich and Bismarck; The Dilemmas of the Balance of Power; Legitimacy and Power Between the World Wars; The Postwar European Order; The Future of Europe;

This chapter is about restoration of Westphalian order by Vienna Congress and its extension for another hundred years up until WWI. It allocates special attention to Russia that was part of balance of power in both Europe and Asia, but then it continuously developed nationalistic narrative of being the third Rome destined to conquer and unify vast expanse of land from Europe to America. Another important part of this discussion about Vienna Congress is its redrawing of legitimacy landscape of Europe from dynastical lands of kings where marriages could lead to merge of countries as reliably as conquests, to ethno-linguistic map when legitimacy would come from ethnicity and language of people living on the land. It created potential for dissolution of multi ethnic empires like Austro-Hungary and merge of multiple principalities of Germany into one powerful state. Eventually this creation and consequent growth of nationalism led to another 31 years World War from 1914 to 1945 with intermission from 1919 to 1938. After that it was somewhat substituted with Ideological Cold War with intermediate actual wars testing continuing balance of power not only in geopolitical meaning, but also in military-technological meaning. At the end of this chapter author briefly discusses future of Europe and attempts to create European Union as tool for peaceful economic, cultural, and, on the long run, political unification.

CHAFFER 3: Islamism and the Middle East: A World in Disorder

The Islamic World Order; The Ottoman Empire: The Sick Man of Europe; The Westphalian System and the Islamic World; Islamism: The Revolutionary Tide-Two Philosophical Interpretations; The Arab Spring and the Syrian Cataclysm; The Palestinian Issue and International Order; Saudi Arabia; The Decline of the State?

This chapter is about Islamic world order as it was initially created and developed on the Arab – Sunni side. Contrary to Westphalian world order developed in Europe and based on balance of power, the Islamic world order is based on conquest and conversion of the world to Islamic faith by all means necessary. This idea worked fine initially and allowed Arabs to expand their religion into old Christian places in Middle East and all the way to India, but was eventually pushed back and stopped after 900 years of expansion. Eventually Islamic countries failed in competition with Western Europe leading to lose of power practically everywhere with the last Islamic Caliphate – Ottomans turning into semi-secular, semi-democratic and semi-European Turkey. Author looks at current resurgence of Islamic ideology, consequences of Arab Spring, Palestinian conflict, and position of rich monarchies of the region. He seems to be coming to conclusion that reenergized Islamic ideology of conquest not only rejects Westphalian ideas of peace with balance of power, but even legitimacy of contemporary states. For them the only acceptable future is complete victory of Islam and submission of everybody else.

CHAFFER 4: The United States and Iran: Approaches to Order

The Tradition of Iranian Statecraft; The Khomeini Revolution; Nuclear Proliferation and Iran; Vision and Reality;

This chapter is about other side of Islam – Iranian Shia republic closely linked to tradition and history of Persian Empire. It discusses Iranian objectives of becoming dominant initially in Middle East and eventually supreme Islamic power conquering the world. Author believes that such objectives are overreaching and eventually they will have to decide whether they will be country or cause.

CHAPTER 5: The Multiplicity of Asia

Asia and Europe: Different Concepts of Balance of Power;

Japan; India; What Is an Asian Regional Order?

This chapter is about non China Asia, primarily Japan and India. It briefly reviews history, especially period of European dominance and attitudes in these countries that appeared as result. Overall the estimate here is that they are mainly open for Westphalian approach with a covenant that balance of power includes external power like USA, contrary to traditional balance inside of region.

CHAFFER 6: Toward an Asian Order: Confrontation or Partnership? Asia’s International Order and China; China and World Order; A Longer Perspective;

This chapter dedicated to China and its newly acquired dynamism and power. It is now coming out from centuries of isolation initially self-imposed by arrogance and contempt for barbarians that eventually led to humiliations of XIX century, and then by communist dictatorship with its unrealistic pretenses for Big jump ahead. Author believes that the best approach is skillful combination of balance of powers with partnership needed to avoid confrontation and fears of hegemony. Alternative would be a disaster.

CHAPTER 7: “Acting for All Mankind”: The United States and Its Concept of Order

America on the World Stage; Theodore Roosevelt: America as a World Power; Woodrow Wilson: America as the World’s Conscience; Franklin Roosevelt and the New World Order

This chapter is the first part of discussion about America and its reluctant role on the world stage as superpower. American culture and traditions are not very conductive to ideas of balance of power, it has strong messianic trait with believe that everybody in the world wants to live like Americans and continuously revived attempts to promote itself, albeit not via conquest, but via typical American process of marketing. This chapter also looks at the weak attempts of Teddy Roosevelt to initiate building of Empire, which were given up rather quickly and substituted by abortive attempts by Woodrow Wilson to promote democracy.

CHAPTER 8: The United States: Ambivalent Superpower

The Beginning of the Cold War; Strategies of a Cold War Order; The Korean War; Vietnam and the Breakdown of the National Consensus; Richard Nixon and International Order; The Beginning of Renewal; Ronald Reagan and the End of the Cold War; The Afghanistan and Iraq Wars; The Purpose and the Possible;

This is review of American wars and politics after WWII to present. It includes some history of Cold War, its hot outbursts, and change in attitudes of American population to foreign involvements. The results are dismal with only one out of five wars (First Iraq) America achieving its objectives. Author provides a wonderful quote from George Shultz: “Americans, being a moral people, want their foreign policy to reflect their values. But Americans as practical people want their policy to be effective.” Author believes that this contest between idealism and realism is not going away as key feature of American politics.

CHAFFER 9: Technology. Equilibrium, and Human Consciousness World Order in the Nuclear Age; The Challenge of Nuclear Proliferation; Cyber Technology and World Order; The Human Factor; Foreign Policy in the Digital Era;

This final chapter is about new technologies and how they would influence world politics. It contains some interesting points, but in reality nobody knows.

CONCLUSION: World Order in Our Time?

The Evolution of International Order; Where Do We Go from Here?

The current world order as it was established after WWII and end of Cold war is going to change because economic and military powers of different countries had changed with raise of Asia especially China and relative decline of Europe. The change will have to occur in one of two ways either it will be redefinition of legitimacy or shift in balance of power. The former would be similar to initial raise of Islam or consequences of French revolution and the latter would be like end of Cold War with dissolution of USSR. It is up to United States to find way to support this change in such way as to avoid confrontation and hopefully arrive to general acceptance by powerful players universal principles, while retaining and recognizing reality of diversity of cultures and histories.


I found this book highly consistent with what I know about history and international relations and I fully agree that it all going to change and pretty soon. I also agree that “The Meaning of History” should be discovered, not declared. However I do not put lots of meaning into search for meaning for anything, so I take it as “Let’s wait and see what will happen”. On other hand I do not think that decline of the West, even if relative, is such inevitability. On contrary, I do not believe that current economic raise of Chinese autocracy is sustainable because it is mainly based on attachment to western markets as supplier of cheap labor with no environmental limitations in exchange for flow of investment and technology. This flow is bound to stop due to decrease in need for cheap labor because of automation and coming dramatic interruption of technology flow due to Chinese use of newly acquired technological ability for military purposes and massive violation of intellectual property rights. I expect massive automation to concentrate western attention on remodeling society on a new basis that would resolve problems of disappearing need in low quality labor and unsustainable welfare state. Result of this would be rejuvenation of Western, especially American civilization and the new World Order reestablished on the basis of core values of this civilization: individual freedoms, property rights, and free markets.

20150724 Excellent sheep

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The elite college education in America is broken. It is based on quasi-meritocratic admission system that selects applicants using tests and formal criteria that give priority to well-healed and hard working children of wealthy parents who pay for training, test preparations, and work these children so hard to excel that they become neurotic, psychotic, and miserable even if they do get into Ivy League. Consequently they become oriented to material success so they go into finance and law, rather than to do-good non-profits. Another big issue is decrease in quality of education that went away from great books and emphasis on learning how to think in order to train for less abstract practical skills like STEM. The obvious solution for author is to provide more money so more children could have access to intellect developing liberal arts education to prepare well rounded individuals and pay for this by raising taxes on 1%.


PART 1. Sheep

  1. The Students

The students are overworked and stressed by need to get all points checked as required for admission into top-level universities. They are highly trained in test taking, bag all required activities, and as result are over-programmed and often are at the brink of psychological meltdown. They are highly oriented to external success trappings at the expense of free development, leading to what author calls credentialism: accumulation of credits for activities person is not really interested in. These people are trained to compete and win and therefore seek external approval and appreciation over others in everything they do. Consequently they prefer careers in finance and consulting that lead to high monetary returns.

  1. The History

In this chapter author goes through history of development of admission process in XX century from admission based on status: WASP elite selected mainly by family status to meritocratic elite selected by ability to pass tests supplanted with high level of conformity to formal requirements however meaningful or meaningless these requirements are. It also touches such issue as university ranking and strives for top selectivity numbers. The short characteristic of resulting product of higher education became the name of this book: excellent sheep.

  1. The Training

The training students are going through is increasingly result oriented with objective to produce highly compensated lawyers and doctors, in process suppressing natural inclinations of individuals. Consequently it produces high level of stress and unhappiness.

  1. The Institutions

Author traces all these problems to historical change in education that occurred at the end of XIX century when top universities start moving away from English model of education designed mainly for financially independent elite and directed to produce widely educated ladies and gentlemen capable to lead, quite independently, their households, businesses, and government. The new direction was German model of highly specialized education designed for individuals with insignificant levels of initial wealth and directed to produce effective bureaucrats capable to successfully clime up within bureaucratic hierarchy in process obtaining wealth and power. Author designates two institutions as representing each of these modes: Liberal Arts college for English mode and Research University for German. There is continuing tension between these two modes within educational system with German mode becoming consistently more and more prevailing due, to significant extent, necessity to obtain financial return on education to repay loan and succeed. Finally author sees a negative side of dramatic expansion of high education after WWII in change of institutional approach to the students from highly humanitarian human development process to business process of producing effective money producing alumni out of raw material of a student.

PART 2. Self.

  1. What Is College For?

This is discussion of meaning of college education. Traditionally it was to teach a young generation “how to think”. The latest development in cost, loans, and attitudes brought a significant change. Now college is considered an investment and the meaning of college become to get good financial return on money paid for the college.

  1. Inventing Your Life

Here author provides a more meaningful suggestion on how to use college years: invent one’s life. It includes first of all developing good knowledge of self and defining, based on this knowledge, what direction in life to take. The second is developing ability to act even if it includes risk of failure. Overall this is the most important thing if one to avoid work that he/she hates and live good, enjoyable life.

  1. Leadership

All colleges claim to turn people into leaders and all look for students with “leadership potential”. Author somewhat rebel against this idea and suggests that it would be more important to train citizens, while leadership is secondary at best.

PART 3. Schools

  1. Great Books

This is a very interesting critic of contemporary movements of college education away from liberal art to practical areas of STEM. I think author makes a good sense when he writes about limited application of technological and practical knowledge compared with knowledge of how to think, how to build argument, and how communicate that supposed to come from liberal arts and great books. He also stresses that there is nothing antithetical between these areas of knowledge, they supplement each other, but basics of effective thinking and communications should come from humanities.

  1. Spirit Guides

This chapter is about another important part of college education that is dramatically diminishing lately: direct communication with teacher and mentoring of young people. The current environment with its dramatic increase of number of students and shifting of actual teaching from professors to assistants and adjuncts, mentoring becoming a lot more difficult, while with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) just plain impossible turning education from process of formation of personality into process of knowledge transfer.

  1. Your Guide to the Rankings

This small chapter is about general meaningless of ranking by some formal parameters that can easily be and are manipulated. Obviously there are material differences between colleges at different level in quality of teachers and not less important of students, but within group of colleges at the same level differences are not significant. Author actually expresses preference for second tier colleges.

PART 4. Society.

  1. Welcome to the Club

In this chapter author going a bit out of main theme of this book to contemplate about overall state of American society with its growing inequality, decrease in intergenerational class mobility, and other negative trends. He especially concerned with elite colleges cultivating conscious perception of its students of their own intellectual superiority. Interestingly enough he also provides some information about comparatively much higher grade-inflation in elite schools. This information put under question if these best and brightest are really that smart or they just benefited from mammy and daddy alumni status, wealth, connections, and/or skin color to get into elite colleges and then just glide on through life coddled in super safety super net of their status getting rewards without any proportion to achievement and getting their failure swept under the rug every time they need it.

  1. The Self-Overcoming of the Hereditary Meritocracy

In final chapter author expresses his opinion about what needs to be done to overcome hereditary meritocracy. He starts with expressing disbelieve in genetic character of intelligence based on statement that people like Charles Murray are bad, without even discussing data provided in Murray’s books. Much more reasonable is his statement about “Meritocratic” elite suffering epidemics of Ivy Retardation when people like Romney or Obama just plainly incapable to make emotional connection with regular people. When he makes case for change he give an interesting quote from Baltzell’s “The Protestant Establishment”: “History is graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privilege to leadership”. Author’s suggestions for remedy: change educational system to mitigate the class system through changing admission process making it based on class affirmative actions, weight SAT by socioeconomic factors, stop consider failures in applicant history as disqualifying, and a few other changes. As it could be expected big on his list is increase in direct taxes to expand high quality education for everybody and these taxes should be paid by 1%.

The final word however is that “the elite purchased self-perpetuation at the price of their children happiness” because they make elite education condition of prosperity and force their children to work too hard to obtain this education resulting in misery and psychological disorders.


This book is pretty good as eyewitness evidence for conditions of elite college education that builds meritocracy not on the merits of real live actions, but on the merits of testing, meeting formal requirements, and supreme value of conformism in search of good place in hierarchy of government or big corporations. I went though experience of college education in USA at the level of executive business school that had somewhat different dynamics, but from what I saw the narrative of this book rings the bell. I think that most important point here is that education for development of intellect significantly pushed out by education for obtaining top-notch credentials. The former is good for living in free market society when superior thinking and decision making abilities provide superior material and psychological returns, while latter is good for living in big government / big corporation environment where completely different skills set is required for prosperity that is good for success in office politics, but not that good for psychological well being. Unfortunately author’s leftist solution of big taxes for more liberal arts does not sound reasonable or plausible, not the least because higher public expense on education proved to be a failure many times over.

20150717 We the People

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The main idea is that USA deviated from constitution and expanded government to such extent that it is impossible to come back to the rule of law and constitutional republic as founders designed it. However not everything is lost because the huge bureaucratic machinery that rules USA, practically by decrees, is highly inefficient, overcomplicated, and has a zillion of contradictory rules and directions. It opens this system to effective push back from organized civil disobedience that potentially could start dismounting bureaucracy and initiate slow movement back to constitutional republic. It could be done within law by actively resisting the most egregious violations with legal and financial support of non-governmental organizations and funds created specifically for these purposes.



Chapter 1: A Broken Constitution

This is a brief history of destruction of American Constitution that was slowly occurring since the beginning of the Republic, but really took off in the era of New Deal when legal revolution of Roosevelt administration successfully attacked what still remained of state rights and practically removed any restrictions on government spending and regulations. Author believes that this revolution is not reversible because too many people now depend on government for resources for everything from social security to protection of environment, therefore no political party would be able to obtain support of majority if it tries to stop these resource flows.

Chapter 2: A Lawless Legal System

Here the point is made that despite incessant declaration of adherence to the rule of law by all politicians, in reality we live in practically lawless society because laws and regulations are too complex and contradictory for anybody to know and understand, process is too slow and expensive for people of reasonable means to be able to contest any violations by bureaucracy. It is also consequence of moral bankruptcy of legal profession when lawyers abandoned self-restrain causing explosion of litigation.

Chapter 3: An Extralegal State Within the State

This chapter is about regulatory state and administrative courts that all but eliminated Constitutional order of law creation and enforcement by creating parallel unconstitutional system of agency regulations and even administrative courts with power to enforce regulation as laws.

Chapter 4: A Systemically Corrupt Political System

This chapter is about political corruption that made it all but impossible serious reform of regulatory state and history of maturation of corruption in USA. This corruption is directly connected to amount of resources acquired by the state from productive part of population, which politicians have opportunity to distribute to their clientele. Since this clientele includes both rich and poor, providing money and votes, to make change is practically impossible. The deal is simple: rich get protection from competition and government contracts in exchange for financial support of politicians’ ambitions while in office and making them wealthy through lobbying and/or consulting after leaving office. The deal with poor is also not complicated: they vote for those who support more of welfare for them.

Chapter 5: Institutional Sclerosis and Advanced Democracy

Here author reviews in details why it is not possible to limit federal power via normal political process. The reason is well-established dynamics of collective action in advanced democracies when special interests include practically everybody making it impossible to remove redistribution and limiting political competition to competition between allied groups of special interests.


Chapter 6: On the Choice of Civil Disobedience

First author make case for legitimacy lost based on traditional American understanding of government legitimacy as voluntary agreement of governed. The federal government lost its legitimacy in theory during legal revolution of 1937-1942 and lost it in practice in 1960s. He estimate that only 10-20% of Americans would agree with this opinion, but he points out that the level of trust in government doing right thing fallen to even lower level. In practice Americans had 3 compacts that provided legitimacy for government:

  1. Americans would expect from government to limit itself to protection from enemies foreign and domestic.
  2. Government would not impose its position on moral issues. Prohibition is provided as example of correct resolution of moral issue via constitutional amendment.
  3. Government let Americans to have pride in themselves and would not interfere in private affairs.

Government violated all three in 1960s. Author provides details for these violations and states that it eliminated legitimacy of federal government.

Chapter 7: The Ground Rules for Civil Disobedience

Here author defines rules for civil disobedience: which laws and regulation should be and which should not be subject to disobedience. He also details how exactly such disobedience could be conducted. The main objective is to move to practical implementation of rule: “No Harm, No Foul”, by ignoring laws and regulations that have no relation to preventing harm to the people.

Chapter 8: Help for Ordinary Americans

This is analysis of federal government enforcement capacity based on numbers of attorneys, administrative judges, and other personal. Author believes that since these numbers are small the probability of ordinary Americans to be persecuted for disobedience is small and could be compensated by creating safety and support net in form of “Madison” funds to pay fines and compensate losses from government actions.

Chapter 9: Treating Government as an Insurable Hazard

In this chapter author reviews approach to government as insurable hazard and analyses one specific case of potential disobedience: inspection of dental offices. He believes that it would be possible to repulse government counterattack via expanded litigation and support of public opinion.

Chapter 10: From Systematic Civil Disobedience to a “No Harm, No Foul” Regulatory Regime

This is analysis of another potential movement to “No Harm, No Foul” regime based on assumption that it is possible to get courts to change approach to “Arbitrary and Capricious” clause of typical regulations. He even presents some evidence that such strategy could work.

Chapter 11: A Necessary Crisis

Here author reviews a conceivable scenario when failed regulatory state could lead courts to move back towards written constitution ignoring, if necessary, stare decisis based on 80 years of leftist big government supporting cases. He even provides a hypothetical scenario for such situation.

PART Ill A Propitious MOMENT

Chapter 12: The Return of Diversified America

This is a very interesting brief review of the history of ideological diversity in America. Below is table representing ideologies and attitudes of 4 founding groups of America:

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It did not have less diversity afterward with Germans, Irish, Jews, and many others landing in this country. Actually mid XX century period if highly uncharacteristic, relatively short, and practically ended by now, bringing wide diversity and consequently instability. The original constitution was so effective because it provided framework for mainly peaceful coexistence of these diverse groups that regulatory redistributionist state could not provide. The return to original rules of game and dismantling of such state could be one and only way to avoid not necessarily peaceful fight for spoils of redistribution.

Chapter 13: The Best of Times

Author believes that we live in the best time when it becoming possible to move on to expansion of liberty as it was understood in original American republic and in this chapter he reviews various factor that support this believe:

  • Technology, especially Internet opened option of government oversight by public
  • Visual evidence restricting government officials due to omnipresence of cameras
  • Internet based companies matching sellers and buyers outside of government controlled areas
  • Easy access to documents related to government actions and ability visually demonstrate negative consequences of these action, incompetence and corruption of government officials
  • The alienation of productive people resulted from continuing increase of their financial burden required to pay for government indulgence
  • The alienation of big business, which finds itself under continuing attack from government for both looting and scapegoating
  • Increasing tensions between federals government and state / local government on other side especially in area of environmental restrictions
  • Frustration of low level bureaucrats with their positions and opportunities

Chapter 14: Once the Curtain Has Been Pulled Aside

Here author presents a number of logical inferences for where we should be economically and politically at current and projected future level of technological achievements if we can limit or, even better, eliminate deleterious result of activities of “Government of the Factions, by the Factions, and for the Factions.” He is optimistic that growing diversity of America will make it to overcome current government logjam and that America, as we know it, will remain the land of the free.


I fully agree with author’s analysis of deadly threat for America’s soul created by dramatic expansion of big government into all areas of live pushing away free markets and personal freedom of the people. However I do not think that such remedy, as civil disobedience would work to push government back. People who control government: Bureaucrats and Politicians are pretty smart and highly capable to develop counter measures limiting or even just plainly outlawing Madison Funds, making it illegal for one person or organization to pay fine for another person, or even criminalizing disobedience. I think that development will go its usual way: revolution of groups of individuals who feel dispossessed and exploited by current regime against people who mainly benefit from this. We currently at the point in our development when majority of people who are hurt by regime believe that they benefit from it. This includes recipients of government handouts whether in form of welfare, low level bureaucratic government jobs, or government contracts. For time being real beneficiaries of the regime: high-level bureaucrats and government-connected plutocrats would be able to continue its offensive against America. The forces resisting them: free market plutocrats and productive individuals are getting progressively weaker for now because they are undermined by cheap foreign competition, automation of labor, and government intervention. However it will stop and pretty soon when government bureaucracy will keep increasingly proving in more and more areas that it is not capable to meet needs and wishes of individuals, turning even those who lives off government handouts against government. It would happen a lot sooner if these people would have other source of resources than sales or labor or government handouts.

20150710 Siedentop – Inventing the Individual

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The history of Western civilization shows that contemporary notion of individual and his/her natural rights is not innate for human species, but rather process of long cultural development of the Western world based on Christianity. The common for all humanity approach is not individual, but rather family based, including family gods, family hierarchy, and rigid roles for everybody highly dependent on age, sex, and other mainly inborn parameters. The process of creation of idea of individual was highly dependent on separation of temporal and spiritual world developed by Christianity as consequence of feudal development in Western Europe with its interplaying multitude of entities both religious and secular none of which could obtain continuing dominance. This separation opened way for the idea of moral equality under god, that was core Christian believe, to expand into all areas of Western civilization prompting establishment of nation states and wide accepion of notions of individual and individual rights.


Prologue: What is the West About?

The answer to this question has to be based on two assumptions: The first assumption is that it should be based on the long view of moral and religious development that formed distinct Western attitude to key questions of what is moral center and highest value of civilization. The second assumption is that such believes are extremely important, actually more important than material basis of civilization. Author sees the key differentiation of the West from other civilizations in its positioning of individual at the center with direct connection to the god or nature with no middle man in between, leading to separation of state and temporal world with its necessarily hierarchical structure from spiritual world where all individuals are equal before the god. This separation in author’s opinion came from Christianity and eventually spilled over from spiritual area into material world creating civil society, democracy, and human rights.


The World of Antiquity:

  1. The Ancient Family 2. The Ancient City 3. The Ancient Cosmos

The ancient family as it developed from bands of hunter-gatherers was self-contained entity that included not only material self-sufficiency, but also complete spiritual structure including family specific gods, normally ancestors, usually believed to be actively involved in current affairs and capable rewarding or punishing people. The top man – father was the only controlling authority with direct connection to ancestors. Any person had value only as a member of the family with specific place in the structure and no value as individual whatsoever. The city emerged as conglomeration of families and as such had to have its own superstructure including its own gods who did not substitute family gods, but rather represented super family – hence making universe with some family gods more powerful than others and city-wide gods controlling and protecting the city as whole. From here came citizenship as form of belonging to superfamily of the city by the virtue of belonging to one of founding families of patricians. The plebeians were latecomers who joined city without family and therefore were not included in any of existing families, had no family altar, no ancestors, and consequently no gods.   This family based multilayered structure was based on philosophy of superiority of family and critical value of its competition with other families, including military competition that was a make or break activity with labor and commerce denigrated as inferior activity that could not add to the glory of the family or city. The ancient world was built on inequality of individuals within family and inequality of families within polity. The ancient Cosmos was built in the same way.


A Moral Revolution:

  1. The World Turned Upside Down: Paul 5. The Truth Within: Moral Equality. 6. Heroism Redefined. 7. A New Form of Association: Monasticism. 8. The Weakness of the Will: Augustine

This part is about moral revolution brought in by Christianity. It starts with discussion about Paul promoting new notion of human equality before god, most important it was the first time when moral equality was unrelated to the family and background. It was built on Jewish religions innovation: monotheism and nonlinear understanding of time as in contrast to usual cyclical understanding. The new relation between people and god created by Christianity was different from Jewish understanding of God as somewhat tribal leader of “chosen” people. It was expanded to all of humanity, creating direct relationship between god and any individual who wanted to accept it. Paul substituted natural inequality with new moral equality of all individuals. This part also traces development of Christianity in Roman Empire from initial rejection and martyrdom to increasing popularity. It traces formation of Monasticism as a new form of association completely egalitarian and, most important, separated from traditional family and its polytheism. Finally it discusses Augustine and his notions of complexity of human will as a motive force representing power of the soul distinct from intellect.


Towards the Idea of Fundamental Law:

  1. Shaping New Attitudes and Habits 10. Distinguishing Spiritual from Temporal Power 11. Barbarian Codes, Roman law and Christian Intuitions 12.The Carolingian Compromise

This part continues discussion about separation of spiritual and temporal power, stressing completely different approaches to temporal accommodation of human action. Even if an individual practically could not exist outside of his/her predefine station in life and had to act according to whatever wee existing rules of game, the spiritual power of this individual was making him/her equal with others in relationship to the god. Consequently author reviews in this part historical development up to the point of Carolingian Compromise, dividing these temporal and spiritual between feudal lords and kings and Christian elite of bishops and popes.


Europe Acquires its Identity:

  1. Why Feudalism did not recreate Ancient Slavery 14. Fostering the ‘Peace of God’ 15. The Papal Revolution: A Constitution for Europe? 16. Natural Law and Natural Rights

The analysis if Europe uniqueness rises an interesting question about slavery. Why medieval Europe did not have slavery, but rather used serfdom? The answer seems to be moral equality coming from Christianity with its equality of souls in combination with small farm method of agriculture. Author also points to difference between peasants uprisings from slaves revolt. The former were inclined to create representative governing bodies, while latter were directed to getting away. Another unusual characteristic was formation of professional clergy and separate distinct hierarchy in society dedicated to management of souls versus management of bodies by feudal authorities. This chapter also reviews contest between religion authority of pope Gregory and German Emperor Henry IV secular power. Amazing part of outcome was general accepion of the idea that king’s soul is not materially different from other souls and would be treated in similar way by god. The consequent popes and kings continued this contest eventually developing legal framework based on partial revival of Roman law and removal of a king from soul to god connection.


A New Model of Government:

  1. The Centralization and the New Sense of Justice 18. The Democratizing of Reason, 19. Steps towards the Creation of Nation-States, 20. Urban Insurrections

This part is about development of law by canon lawyers who promoted secular law defining violations of such law as something separate than sin, creating separate areas for material and spiritual controlling systems for human behavior. They also introduced four fundamental changes in corporate law:

  1. Any organized group can be corporation instead of corporate privileges being granted by king.
  2. Corporation could create its own laws for its members, unlike traditional Roman law created by public authority only
  3. Requirement of consent of members for decision-making meant change flow of authority from the bottom up.
  4. They rejected Roman approach “what pertains to a corporation does not pertain to its members” turning corporate property formally into common property of its members.

Then author describes long history of expansion of ideas of separation of material and spiritual spheres implemented by popes from 1000 to 1300 as democratization of reason leading to development of notion of natural rights with consequential formation of nation-states moving identity of state away from a king to population and territory. Finally it reviews long process of incorporation of urban centers into these states with equalizing effect on individual rights and important role in new entities of new class created during this process: property/market oriented middle class intermediate between old castes of feudal society.


The Birth Pangs of Modern liberty:

  1. Popular Aspirations and the Friars 22. The Defense of Egalitarian Moral Intuitions 23. God’s Freedom and Human Freedom Joined: Ockham 24. Struggling for Representative Government in the Church 25. Dispensing with the Renaissance

This is discussion about process through which egalitarian moral institutions created by Christianity permeated individual attitudes and believes, leading to development of notion of individual freedom and representative government tasked with and legitimized for protection of natural rights.


Epilogue: Christianity and Secularism

Here author makes point that secularism is pretty much natural product of Christianity and usual popular believe that Christianity consistently and fiercely fought against development and expansion of science is incorrect, practically ignoring historical record of development of these ideas. This misconception at least partially based on presentation of ancient world as secular, when in reality it was world of family specific gods / ancestors providing supernatural support for family members. Author believes that key feature of secularism is its believe in moral equality of humans resulting in their ability to make their own decisions and have opportunity for free actions. As such it could not possibly contradict individual decisions about religious believes and actions providing they are voluntary and are not forced in any way.


It is a very interesting and new for me approach to development of idea of individual as an entity separate and different from family, tribe, and such. I am not sure that I buy idea that only Christianity with its moral equality before god and separate spheres for temporal and spiritual was sole or even main source of this idea. I would rather think that this idea is natural development in any culture that occurs with development of bigger populations, wider markets, and, very important, increased mobility of people within some big enough territorial entity under unified military control over population. When scale getting big enough, there is no way that family structure with its family god would provide material and spiritual support for fast moving people in even relatively primitive market economy because number of contact, alliances, and transaction with huge diversity of people would require spiritual and legal environment capable to provide common ground acceptable for everybody, that could not be possibly done with family gods. In this environment the spiritual environment had to move with individual pretty much as Jewish god would move with Jewish merchant wherever this merchant would travel, even if there is no Jewish community, leave alone family structured Jewish community in the new place. It would be interesting to trace development of notion of individual in Eastern countries where influence of Christianity was minimal for example during vast and loosely controlled Mongolian empire of XIII – XIV centuries with tremendous movements of diverse people, goods, and services throughout huge territories. Anyway it seems that all cultures had concept of human as an inseparable part of bigger entity, while still recognizing that it as a separate thinking, feeling, and acting entity driven by internal forces.

20150703 Hidden in the Plain sight

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The main idea of this book is that financial crisis of 2008 was produced by government intervention in economy. The prerequisite for it was first of all government push to expand home ownership via political methods by legislating “affordable housing” and then setting up goals for lending to people who traditionally would be considered unqualified for loans and forcing banks to meet these goal and GSE to buy loans to such people using dramatically decreased underwriting standards, consequently developing housing bubble. The secondary prerequisite was the change in accounting rules requiring to price assets to market that made assets dependent bank reserves highly volatile and dependent on housing market valuation. The crisis itself was caused by inconsistent reaction of government to manageable problems of investment banks created by liquidity crunch resulted from drop in housing prices. The initial rescue of Bear Stearns and following up refusal to rescue Lehman created huge gap in abilities to predict financial developments for financial managers, causing them to froze credit and run to liquidity in order to avoid bankruptcy.



1 Introduction: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again

The left worked hard to build false narrative about financial crisis of 2008. This narrative blames deregulation for causing the crisis. Author rejects this idea and points to actual causes:

  1. Government push for affordable housing goals that in practice forced banks to issue loans to people who were not qualified for these loan according to time tested underwriting standards
  2. This caused banks to decrease standards in order to meet government goals
  3. GSEs (Funny and Freddy) were also pushed by government so they start buying subprime mortgages
  4. This situation increased money flow into housing market, creating bubble with housing pricing nearly doubling.
  5. The second cause was change in accounting rules forcing asset reassessment to market, therefore creating hazard of liquidity crisis that eventually occurred when value of mortgage assets on books plummeted with burst of housing bubble.
  6. Moral hazard caused by inconsistent, even chaotic behavior of Feds and Treasury who first interfered with Bear creating expectation of government support for big investment banks and then let Lehman fail, creating situation of unpredictability that froze credit throughout the market.

2 The Difference between Prime and Nontraditional Mortgages: The Importance of Sound Underwriting Standards

Here author discusses traditional prime mortgages: 20% down, FICO >660, and DTI (Debt to Income) < 38%. He provides very enlightening table of default percentage in relation to variation of these parameters with Prime default rate 0.55% and Subprime from 0.98% to 7% depending on combination of subprime parameters.

3 The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Report and Other Explanations for the Crisis: Why Conventional Explanations for the Crisis Are Inadequate

This is about work of commission to analyze crisis that author participated in and reasons for his rejection of the report and other alternatives for causes of crises:

  1. Commission ignored Pinto’s report that demonstrated mass acquisition of subprime loans by GSE under pressure of government goals for affordable housing. Author believes that this report pointed to correct cause: dramatic increase of subprime loans on the books
  2. Low rates and foreign funds inflow: Author rejects it as insufficient in volume to cause bubble.
  3. Deregulation – per author there were no significant deregulation, because main deregulation – removal of Glass-Steagall led to creation of subsidiaries for depository business that were too small 1-5% of assets to have significant impact.

Author analyses other changes in legislative environment and concludes that they also could not have such impact. He also reviews multiple other explanations, but concludes that they are not adequate for scale of the crisis.

4 A Short History of Housing Finance in the U.S.: How and Why Housing Finance Was Substantially Changed in 1992

This is a brief history of American housing market after WWII that was very stable and successful until 1992 when housing bubble started to develop. Author blames growth of bubble on government intervention aimed to expand house ownership among unqualified people that started with Community reinvestment act.


5 HUD’s Central Role: How HUD Used the Affordable-Housing Goals to Reduce Underwriting Standards

This is about HUD as a tool to implement government policy of affordable housing that was implemented via % goal for banks and GSEs. Author provides graph demonstrating cumulative increase in subprime loans and growth of prices:

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6 The Decline in Underwriting Standards: How the Affordable-Housing Goals Forced on Increase in Nontraditional Mortgages

This chapter describes process of political interference into mortgage market and how it caused decline of underwriting standards. The table below demonstrates increase of low quality loans on GSE’s books:

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7 Force Fed: Why the Affordable-Housing Goals, and Not Market Share or Profit, Were the Sole Reason the GSEs Acquired Nontraditional Mortgages

This is detailed discussion of GSEs as political creatures. This nature defined GSE priorities when meeting political goals was much higher priority than any market related considerations. It is also provides logic of why any claims for GSE working to maintain market share are plainly incorrect.

8 Going Viral: Why and How Reduced Underwriting Standards Spread to the Wider Market

This chapter discusses how GSE behavior impacted wider market. This influence in combination with political pressure on banks practically forced non-government organizations follow suite. Here is the graph for this:

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There is also a very interesting table from Freddy presenting ratio of default for various deviations from prime conditions:

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9 The Great Housing Price Bubble: How Loosened Underwriting Standards Stimulated Its Growth

This chapter discusses overall nature of bubble and specifics of USA housing bubble of 2008 claiming that reason of unusual scope of this bubble (9 times bigger than any previous one and global rather than local) was political interference to dramatically decrease underwriting requirements and with it amount of money flow into mortgage market.

10 Flying Blind into a Storm: How the GSEs’ Failure to Disclose Their Acquisition of Nontraditional Mortgages Magnified the Crisis

This chapters describes various statistical and accounting technics that made growing bubble practically invisible for decision makers in both public and private sectors. Mainly it was done via classification of subprime loans as prime often using previous GSE criteria for loan purchases that were not operational any more in reality.

11 31 Million Nontraditional Mortgages Precipitate a Crisis: Why Even Government-Backed Mortgage Securities Were Contributors

This chapter discusses volume of bubble and some additional reasons for people missing it. First and foremost it was caused by dramatic inflation of housing prices that masked the problem by decreasing levels of defaults and delinquencies due to use of equity loans. It lasted as long as prices kept going up. As soon as prices stopped individuals with unaffordable loans stopped paying and bubble burst.

12 Fair-Value Accounting Scales Up the Crisis: How Mark-to-Market Accounting Made Financial Firms Look Weak or Unstable

This chapter discusses another precondition for financial crisis – switch to Mark-to-market accounting. It comes down to simple notion that bank reserves in form of marketable assets are highly vulnerable to price movements for these assets causing dramatic decline in reserves if price dropped significantly. With significant share of reserves tied up in housing related assets, burst of bubble immediately undermined liquidity of reserves of otherwise healthy institutions, pushing them into bankruptcy.


13 From Bad to Worse: How Government Blunders Turned a Mortgage Meltdown Into an Investor Panic and Financial Crisis

Here author presents crises development as consequence of government interference / noninterference that started first with unnecessary rescue of Bear Stearns that created market expectation for government interference on behalf of any significant player. As result management of Lehman brothers based its strategy on this assumption and did not apply emergency efforts to stop deterioration of liquidity position due to mortgage asset devaluation to market. The result of this strategy opened Lehman for bankruptcy and, when expected government interference did not occur, Lehman went down. The unexpected inaction of government practically froze credit everywhere because everybody recognized liquidity situation caused by the burst of bubble and nobody knew what expect from government. Author analyses in details all reasons that where provided for this interference / noninterference and concludes that these reasons are not valid.

14 The False Narrative and the Future: Why the Failure to Understand the Causes of the Crisis May Lead to Another

The final chapter discusses various false narratives provided to justify government action and assign responsibility for crisis elsewhere. It provides support for author ideas that these false narrative prevented effective learning from this experience and left open road to the next crisis that could occur for the same reasons as the last one: government push for increase in landing to political constituencies that could not and would not pay their debts in the future. It remains to be seen if this next attempt to sabotage American economy will be as successful as the previous one.


I found evidence provided by author and his logic very convincing and sequence of event leading to crisis highly feasible. Bubble burst causing decrease in mortgage related assets prices in turn leading to reserves liquidity crunch as result of mark-to-market accounting accompanied by Feds rescue of Bear Stearns and refuse to rescue Lehman made behavior of managers who froze all the credit logical and justifiable. I also think that his critic of various alternative justifications and explanations looks pretty robust and well documented. However I do not share fear of the next crisis developing in similar way mainly because it would require the same political approach based on liberal ideology and implemented by two consecutive presidents Clinton and Bush. I think that political power is going to shift and quite dramatically making repetition of crisis with the same causes unlikely.

20150628 Ideas with Consequences

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This book is a detailed analysis of activities of Federalist society in development of legal ideas related to the Originalist reading of US Constitution and, most important, of how these ideas were introduced and took root among the generation of lawyers who in process of development of their careers moved throughout the system achieving key positions and judges, litigators, and Supremes, eventually making consequential legal decisions based on these ideas. Author in great details reviews this process in its historical development for recent key decisions of Supreme Court that confirmed First Amendment Rights as related to political campaign financing in Citizen United and the Second Amendment right as individual right, rather than collective. Finally it discusses key constitutional issues of separation of power and role of judiciary that are strongly promoted by Federalist Society as “Duty to say what the Law is, not what it should be”, thus dispatching theory of “Living Constitution” to dustbin of history, if this effort is successful.


Introduction: 1. Understanding Federalist Society Network Influence

This book is about Federalist Society that was created in 1982 by young conservative lawyers and is identified here as Political Epistemic Network. The criteria for this identification provided in the table:

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The introduction discusses influence of the society and its impact on judiciary “counterrevolution” that over last few dozen years moved America’s legal profession somewhat back to original constitution, albeit just a little bit. Here is graph representing such influence:

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PART I: The State Exists, to Preserve Freedom

  1. The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: Lost and Found

This chapter provides some history and analysis of impact of members and associates of Federalist society on change in reading of Second amendment from collective rights as it was promoted by leftists to individual right as it was reaffirmed by current Supreme Court in Heller. Author provides detailed description and specific input by personalities linked to Federalist society who had impact on the decision including 4 Supremes.

  1. Judicial Activism, Inc.: The First Amendment, Campaign Finance, and Citizens United

This chapter reviews another hot spot of left-right struggle: application of the First Amendment to Campaign Financing reform. As in the previous case, author works through specific individuals and their input in legal discussion that led to Citizen United and identification of Corporations as entities for which the First Amendment applies as it is related to financing of political campaigns. Here author also provides the same graph populated with numbers of individuals associated with Federalist Society who participated in Citizens United.

PART II: The Separation of Governmental Powers Is Central to Our Constitution 4. Federalism and the Commerce Power: Returning to “First Principles”

This is about somewhat successful effort of members of federalist society to roll back unlimited power of Federal government created during New Deal by using Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution as generic tool to push “whatever you want” type of laws. The first success was in 1992 with New York v. US, then in Lopez (1995), and Morrison (2000). Author discusses personalities in Federalist Society who specialize on Commerce clause and their “Textualist-Originalist” interpretation of the Constitution and their intention to move legal environment to pre 1937 judicial revolution that practically destroyed constitutional limits on Federal government. Author present development of this movement via somewhat detailed analysis of these 3 cases.

  1. State Sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment: The Anti-Commandeering Doctrine

This chapter is about X amendment that for a long time was a dead letter of “Written Constitution”, meaningless in the environment of triumph of leftist “Living Constitution”. The cases reviewed here: Printz (1997) and Sebelius (2012) represent successful attempts to revive state sovereignty.

PART III: It Is Emphatically the Province and Duty of the Judiciary Branch to Say.

What the Law IS, Not What It Should Be

  1. Saying What the Law Is: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution

The last chapter is about role and meaning of judiciary, describing struggle of Federalist society members against leftist doctrine of judiciary as a tool of implementing their “progressive” ideals in circumstances when people and elected legislature do not support or even reject these ideas, something that Warren Court was famous for. An interesting point here is made about specificity of American Jurisprudence when judicial decision-making has to include written reasoning for the decision, unlike legislative decision-making. General idea promoted by Federalist society is the supremacy of written Constitution and it’s meaning over precedents that dramatically decreases power of stare decisis, consequently opening New Deal judicial revolution for dismantling. The actions of Federalist Society directed at creating a climate conductive for the constitutional change by:

  1. Getting the right cast of characters on the Supreme Court
  2. Acting as vigilant and vocal judicial audience
  3. Changing the debate and reducing the stigma of once-radical ideas and theories

Epilogue: An Agenda for Future Research: Looking Back, Looking Forward

The epilogue reviews attempt by left wing to create counterpart to Federalist Society that would defend their achievements in destruction of original Constitution and substitute rule of law with their own rule. Such counterpart – American Constitutional Society (ACS) was founded in 2001 and author suggest for future research look at progress of this organization in acquiring similar or even higher level of authority and influence in judicial decision making. So far two justices appointed by Obama did not have strong connections with ACS. Sotomayor was practically unknown to ACS, while Kagan did successful presentation to both ACS and Federalist Society. Moreover Obama failed to get congress approval for ACS activist Liu appointment to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seems to be specifically as result of his activism and expressed intention to use this position to promote leftist ideas.


For me the struggle between leftist ideas of living constitution and rightist ideas of original unchangeable (dead) constitution is highly enchanting. Generally I am in agreement with chairman Mao that “power is coming from the barrel of gun”, but the funny part is that gun is always in the hands of men and legal system, judicial ideas, and philosophical ideals pretty much define what is going on in the heads of these men and consequently where the barrel of gun will be pointed to. So far based on history and analysis of this book it looks like Originalist ideas of Federalist society represent more logical and more consistent with ideals of American culture approach and therefore command strong influence on outcome of competition in more than a few specific constitutional disputes. On the other hand majority of legal profession including professors and students seasoned in New Deal ideology are on the side of ACS and Living Constitution with unlimited power for government. So the balance of power is between minority associated with Federalist Society and their superior ideas meaning more in sync with American tradition and culture, and numerical majority dedicated to the New Deal with inferior ideas contradicting American tradition and culture. I guess watching with struggle would be highly entertaining for a foreseeable future. Especially interesting and unique to America is the situation when people with guns (military and police) are deeply supportive of traditional American culture, but tolerate leftist direction in government destroying this culture. The reason for this tolerance is traditional culture’s huge respect to democratic rule and law. Leftists, on other hand consistently push outside existing law and democratic traditions overriding them each time when they have power to do so either due to capturing democratically elected positions of power or legal authority to interpret law. I think that this contradiction could not continue forever and will have to be resolved.

20150620 Me Myself and Us

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This wonderful book was written to implement a great idea: to present recently developed knowledge in psychology ranging from big five to accommodation to environment, and use this psychological knowledge as tool to advice on how to achieve high levels of wellbeing.


ONE: First Blushes and Second Thoughts

This chapter is about how people think about themselves and others, what psychologist call “personal constructs”. It starts with a story of obnoxious man in restaurant and goes on to look at spectator’s approach of assigning psychological features to this unknown man. From this example it goes to notion of “frozen relationships” something like familiar face that one regularly meet in elevator, but has no intention to communicate with. The “personal constructs” define to the large degree individual’s attitude to self and to other people. Author presents example of a person who build his personality around one-dimensional construct as a military person and consequently fell apart after being rejected by ROTC.

Another interesting point here is a suggested division of people into things specialist and persons specialist, the first one looking at materialistic presentations of the person including fMRI and other tools and another one looking at psychological presentation extracted via conversations and questionnaires. At the end of chapter author reviews a case of personality evaluation with conclusion about “importance of having sufficient degrees of freedom in our comprehension of creatures – including ourselves”. This is achieved by looking at people through prism of two distinctive characteristics: fixed stable traits that are typical to what we are and free traits that we can use to override our stable traits in order to achieve some objectives.

TWO: Stable Traits and Well-Being: Set Like Plaster?

Here author reviews and critics Myers Briggs Types Indicator (MBTI) and discusses Big Five Personality Inventory (TIPI) in details for each characteristic:

  1. Consciousness: Structure, Chaos, and All That Jazz
  2. Agreeableness: The Promise and Problems of Being Pleasant
  3. Neuroticism: Sensitivity and Sensibility
  4. Openness to Experience: Receptivity vs. Resistance
  5. Extraversion: Arousal and Affect

THREE Free Traits: On Acting Out of Character

This chapter is about human ability to accommodate to situation regardless of how much it fit for fixed personality traits. The actual behavior depends on three motivational sources:

  1. Biogenic sources that arise from genetic make up of the person
  2. Sociogenic Sources that arise from process of socialization and depend on culture. As example author uses extraversion as specifically American cultural trait versus introversion typical for Asian cultures.
  3. Idiogenic Sources: Personal Projects and Free Traits.

The last one is typical when Personal projects require use of traits that are not typical for a person such as when deeply introverted person has to do public speaking. Everybody does it on regular basis by using free traits, but they have psychological costs and negative impact on health. Author reviews dynamics of this process and suggests technics that could decrease negative impact of acting out of character such as Restorative Niches where person can relax by going to natural way of acting.

FOUR: Mutable Selves: Personality and Situations

This is about personal propensity for situational accommodation. It is measured by self-monitoring (SM) scale. People with high SM concerned with how others see them and therefore are driven by situation, while people with Low SM mainly concerned with self-perception and therefore are driven by their own values. Mark Snyder created this self-monitoring scale. The chapter reviews specifics of behavior of HSM vs. LSM people and situation when one or another set of features provides advantage. However author differentiate SM from Big Five as non-fixed feature, it is rather personal trend, with person moving relatively easy between LSM and HSM depending on severity of stakes in a situation.

FIVE: Control, Agency, and the Shape of a Life

This chapter is about person’s internal or external orientation. Internals believe that their life outcome depend mainly on their effort, while externals believe in primacy of circumstances. These are mainly flexible traits so author reviews it in relation to a bunch of parameters and situations such as:

  • Resistance to Social Influence
  • Risk Taking
  • Linking Ends to Means
  • Delay of Gratification
  • Stress Control and Buttons (hooked or not)
  • Anxiety from loosing control
  • Adaptive Illusions and Strategic Spin

SIX: Hale and Hardy: Personality and Health

This is about link between personalities type. It reviews Holmes-Rahe scale of stressful live changes and how they inflict health. Turned out that stressful events have very different impact on different people, with individuals high on 3C: Control, Commitment, and Challenge as core aspects of their personality being stress resistant. Another example are type A super active personalities who are highly vulnerable to coronary disease, actually posing thread not only to themselves, but also to surrounding people. For these type A people even high 3C paradoxically can both enhance and endanger their health when they overcommit themselves, or try control uncontrollable, or take challenge that is not possible to meet.

Finally author provides very brief review of work of Aaron Antonovsky who came up with notion of salutogenic process when object of medical research is not illness, but condition of health. He found that health if connected with person’s Sense of Coherence (SOC), defined as “the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring, though dynamic feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as reasonably can be expected”.

SEVEN: Personality and Creativity: The Myth of the Solo Hero

This chapter looks at link between personality and creativity using materials from the Institute for Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR). This research was conducted based on two groups of architects one identified as highly creative and another one with similar professional characteristics, but not considered highly creative by peers. The results were:

  • Highly creative were not considerably more intelligent than control group
  • They had more freedom in early development and their families moved often bringing to their lives change in environment and experience of accommodation
  • Their interests were matching interests of professionals with high level of non-trivial information processing jobs like lawyers, authors, or musicians, but differentiated from professionals with trivial information processing requirements like bankers or police.
  • They were more likely Introverts per MBTI, be more Perceiving rather than Judging, significantly more Intuitive. Finally Thinking was more typical for people creative in science than in arts, with creative architects divided 50-50.

Very interesting was approach to complexity with preference to complexity at the beginning of creative project and preference for simplicity at the completion phase. Author also reviews relation between creativity and eccentricity, psychopathology, and wellbeing.

EIGHT: Where Are You? Personality in Place

This chapter is about link between personalities and places. It starts with description of debates between deconstructionist architect and architect supporter of small preindustrial towns as ideal communal living. From here it goes to discussion of design of living spaces and cities and how one person’s utopia could be another person’s dystopia and presents Environmental Response Inventory (ERI), which scores on 8 different dispositions toward physical environment:

  • Pastoralism (PA)
  • Urbanism (UR)
  • Environment Adaptation (EA)
  • Stimulus Seeking (SS)
  • Environmental Trust (ET)
  • Antiquarianism (AN)
  • Need for Privacy (NP)
  • Mechanical Orientation (MO)

This follows by quite sketchy analysis of suitability of different locations in USA for different types of Big 5 personalities. Final part of the chapter discusses different attitudes to Cyberia, meaning Social Media of Twitter, Facebook, and such.

NINE: Personal Projects: The Happiness of Pursuit

This chapter is about Personal Projects, the notion that includes practically everything that individual is doing intentionally. The bottom line of this discussion: Personal project are very important because they give meaning to the live and it is highly connected to the wellbeing of the person.

TEN Self-Reflections: The Art of Well-Being

The final chapter kind of links everything together in some semblance of formula for the Art of Wellbeing. It includes:

  • Sustainable Pursuit of Core Projects
  • Continuing Revisiting of Personal Constructs to assure they are not getting on the way of wellbeing
  • Context Monitoring: Scanning, Seeking, and Shaping Our Environments
  • Self-Reflections: Reconciling and Revitalizing

It ends with a beautiful metaphor of live as a dance when partners know each other to the slightest detail because these partners are: Me, Myself, and US.


I think that it is a great collection of psychological knowledge and, more important, demonstration of application of this knowledge to the process of self-discovery. I found it very consistent with what I learned not only from books, but also from real live experiences, which pretty much confirming validity of the knowledge presented in this book.

20150613 Twilight of Elite

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The main idea of this book is pretty simple: American society was built on idea of meritocracy, but it led to creation of elite that now controls just about everything. This meritocratic elite created the huge inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity between its members and everybody else, causing degradation of society institutions and disappearance of equality of opportunity. The remedy that would resolve the problem author sees in government action to increase equality via taxation and control over population, prompted by popular insurrectionist movements such as Tea parties and Occupy Wall Street. He believes that it is a natural process of dynamic democratic society and that result will be the new era of equality.



This chapter starts with the sentence: “America feels broken” and continues through laundry list of what is had been wrong with America lately from TARP and financial crisis to the way Americans feel about their life, stressing that this feeling of things going wrong is common on the left and on the right of political specter. It also demonstrates author disappointment with Obama administration as too cautious and too deferent to authority. Author perceives Obama’s rise as triumph of meritocracy at the time when Americans trust in institutions of society hit the all time low (How somebody can see meritocracy in a product of affirmative action is beyond my understanding). Consequently author identifies two types of attitudes to this calamity: insurrectionists and Institutionalists. The former believe that institutions of American society are broken and should be drastically changed; while the latter believe that these institutions just need some repair and maintenance. Author stresses that this situation occurred at the same time when American ruling elite changed from narrow group of WASPs to narrow group of individuals selected on the merits of their achievement – product of meritocratic rule established as result of anti-establishment revolution of 1960s. Finally author stresses his dual attitude to situation when he supports insurrectionist ideas, but afraid that big changes could go in direction that he would not like. On the top of it he seems to be just plain scared that the only institution that Americans still trust are army and police – not a good thing for a leftist revolutionary.


This chapter is about meritocracy in America as foundation of its culture and American Dream. It is discussed using example of highly selective Hunter school in Manhattan – well-defined road to top colleges and correspondingly top-level career. Author himself is the alumnus of this school so he presumably knows what he is talking about. Then author moves to social theorist Robert Michels who concluded that democracy is not practically possible because it always moves to oligarchy, when meritocratic leaders, elected or not, take over control of the state machinery and do whatever they want. So in order to remain in realm of democracy meritocracy has to comply with 2 principles: Principle of Difference and Principle of Mobility, assuring continuing competitive selection process. The problem is that unequal outcomes make equal opportunities impossible because winners create better start up opportunities for their children. Author believes that it pretty much happened in America by 2012 due to inequality of income, despite Americans’ believe that success depends more on person than on background.

Chapter Three: MORAL HAZARDS

It starts with description of suicidal attack on government building by self-employed consultant who was harassed by IRS because of a law created in 1986 specifically for tax break for IBM at the expense of self-employed software developers. Then author goes through a number of cases from Enron to financial crisis pretty much supporting anti-big business approaches of both Tea parties and Occupy movement and lamenting a fundamental inequality of accountability.

Chapter Four WHO KNOWS?

This chapter is about role of experts and inability of regular person to evaluate quality of expert advice. As rules of thumb for decision making author analyses tools available for regular person:

  1. Consensus about something such as gravity with example of it failing as in housing bubble;
  2. Proximity to the source of information with example of media when journalists’ proximity to sources supposed to assure validity of information, and again with negative example of Iraq WMD and Financial Crises when it failed.
  3. Good Faith into people we get information from. Once again author demonstrates that it is not enough on example of sex scandals of Catholic Church. In addition author laments expansion of secrecy that makes information inaccessible in order to support unwarranted faith in American institution. As one would expect it is supported by quite positive view of WikiLeaks affair. Eventually the conclusion is that progress depends on interaction between Institutionalists and Insurrectionists with former keeping eye on integrity of institutions and latter being “stewards of public life”.

Chapter Five WINNERS

This chapter is about American elite and what it is made off. It starts with complain against right wing politics who loudly claims to be victimized by media and intellectual elite, while in reality being themselves part of elite. Then author goes into theory and literature about elite with reference to Robert Michels, Pareto, Ortega y Gasset, and C Wright Mills. Eventually author comes up with definition of sources for elite status: Money, Platform, and Networks. Finally he reviews 1% pathologies and cult of smartness typical for American “meritocratic” elite.

Chapter Six OUT OF TOUCH

This about the distance that separate elite from regular people and how it is often intentionally hidden in order either to obtain votes by politicians or assure loyalty of sports fans, or convince people to work harder in interest of corporation. It is also about these attempts more and more often falling flat and failing to achieve these goals, eventually leading to massive alienation of people from institution and creation of Tea Parties and Occupy movements. Finally author goes through list of late crises from Iraq war to New Orleans, and Financial Crisis to demonstrate how this distance makes elite fail.


In this final chapter author proposes his solution for what he perceives as failure of meritocracy in America. This solution is “make America more equal”. He identifies two “eras of equality”, one from end of WWII until early 1970s and another one from late 1970s till now. The first era was the era of manufacturing prosperity with jobs for everybody that ended with Europe and Japan recovery after the war and end of American dominance of world markets. The second era is the era of meritocratic prosperity of educated people with wide availability of education for everybody capable to succeed. This era is ending now because according to the author inequality achieved through meritocracy is bound to kill meritocracy by providing unequal opportunity to children of high achievers, making gap wider and depriving children of underachievers of equal opportunities. Author sees the remedy in grass roots mass movement forcing renegotiation of social contract and reform existing institutions to decrease inequality.


MSNBC leftist pundit wrote this book, but, somewhat surprisingly, it is directed against the elite and calls to grassroots movement to dismantle this elite. Being leftist author directs his invectives mainly against private businesses and evil deeds of republican administrations, but it is interesting to note that he seems to understand the growing instability of existing arrangements and seeks to resolve it by changing social contract in order to decrease inequality in society. He is disgusted seeing inequality created in private business when hedge fund manager earns millions by making billions of profits for the fund, but seems to be perfectly fine when politicians and/or bureaucrats spend millions of public money on their upkeep in stile in return for directing billions of public money to their friends and supporters either for increasing their wealth or for supporting their causes, which is pretty much the same. From my point of view inequality is irrelevant, but the way it achieved is not just relevant, but is of paramount concern for prosperity of society.

From here follows that public sector superrich are evil because their wealth achieved by violently robbing productive people, while private sector superrich are relatively benign because even in worst case scenario they achieved their wealth by non-violently cheating their customers, while in more usual scenario they achieved it by producing goods and services that their customers buy voluntarily.

20150606 GDP

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This book is the detailed review of GDP, its history, method of calculations and most important its deficiencies. The main idea is that flaws are real, very significant, and there is no known way to fix them. The review of various alternatives demonstrates that they are even more flawed than GDP so there is no alternative but continue its use in foreseeable future despite all warts.


ONE: From the Eighteenth Century to the 1930s: War and Depression

This chapter is description of early attempts to calculate economic resources of the country. These attempts were caused mainly by the need to estimate resource availability for military actions. It started with William Petty in 1665 that produced population, income, and expenditure calculations for England, providing information necessary for effective taxation. Then it jumps to XX century when contemporary national accounts had been established during 1930 in UK and USA. One interesting quirk here is that father of American economic statistics Simon Kuznets wanted to exclude government military expenses, advertisement, and financial speculation as items that decrease wealth rather than increase it. He lost and now GDP includes all government expenses and other non-valuable staff making it quite inadequate tool for measurement of economic wellbeing of the country. Other countries such as USSR and Germany also developed GDP, but with some very specific caveats. For example USSR would not count value of services since services are not material and therefore according to Marxist orthodoxy has no value. This chapter also provides definitions of GDP and its tabular and graphic representations for all approaches: Value-added, Income, and final demand. Finally it analyses some inherent difficulties in GDP calculations related to technological developments, natural resources potential, and, most important, subjective character of this tool. As example of far reaching consequences of miscalculation author presents history of Britain “non-crisis” of 1976.

TWO: 1945 to 1975: The Golden Age

This is review of GDP golden age period when it was not only calculated for internal use, but also served as an important tool of comparison of economic effectiveness of various countries and even more important economic systems, serving as important tool in ideological struggle of cold war. As part of this discussion exchange rates and purchasing power parity are also analyzed. Interestingly enough it ends with admission that it was all not only highly approximate, but also subject to serial cheating both intentional and not by communist camp, which economic structure was designed to produce numbers for reporting to leadership and propaganda for masses, rather than for actual estimates of real goods and services production.

THREE: The Legacy of the 1970s: A Crisis of Capitalism

This chapter is about crisis of capitalism in 1970s presenting four challenges to existing approach:

  1. End of effective economic growth after Arab attack on western energy market
  2. Intensity of Cold war demanding huge military expenses, while communist propaganda within and without West generated misinformation, in order to undermine overall moral of western societies by creating false impression of Soviet economic superiority
  3. Environmentalist attack on industrial society adding additional burden on efficiency of production.
  4. Continuing drug on Western economy from perceived need to provide subsistence for developing countries that have no viable economy to speak of.

All this resulted in stagflation, loss of faith in Keynesian measures and overall moral and ideological bearings of West.

FOUR: 1995 to 2005: The New Paradigm

The failure of Keynesianism in 1970s led to change of paradigm to monetarism. This time it was based more or less on factual evidence from GDP data from increasing number of countries. These data supported Solow’s idea of technology as driver of economic growth and were based on data set created by Alan Maddison. As example author provides history if computer technology when for decades businesses increasingly invested into computers, while economists could not find any evidence that this investment make any sense whatsoever. Only during 2000s economists succeeded in identifying increase in productivity growth from 1.38 in 1972-1996 to 2.46 in 1996-2004. Author also reviews difficulty in measuring value of services and variety that exploded in all areas of business. Economists even come up with Hedonic index trying to measure improvement in quality and functionality of various products. Computers again used as example because it is quite striking how huge is difference in functionality between computer of 1990 and computer of 2010 sold at the same price.

FIVE: Our Times: The Great Crash

This chapter is about financial crash of 2007 that to significant extent was caused by economists’ inability to calculate real value of financial assets leading to dramatic overestimates during the boom. It also discusses inability to provide valid data that would include totality of economy including informal and household input. There is a charming quote from Robert Stone about arbitrariness of economic calculations: “… commercial products valued at market price, government services at cost, and household activities are simply ignored.” It also discusses “Production boundary” that in theory separates productive activities from non-productive, but in reality is just a bunch of arbitrary decision about what goes into calculations and what stays out. Finally it looks at relationship between GDP and other economic data and welfare of society. So far attempt to measure this welfare with various indexes including MEW and iSEW are far from perfect. Another attempt to measure economic wellbeing of society are various dashboard that include multitude of indicators. So far with all deficiencies of GDP nothing else was accepted as viable alternative to it.

SIX: The Future: Twenty-first-Century GDP

The last chapter is a look at the future development and analysis of specific challenges that GDP or any other measurement would face while creating meaningful indicator of economic welfare of society. These challenges are:

  • Dramatically growing complexity of economy
  • Difficulty of evaluating productivity especially in services
  • Intangibility of products such as new knowledge that could not be measured in any meaningful way
  • Sustainably of productive processes and their impact on environment.

The final conclusion is that GDP is a deeply flawed tool, but it is still a bright light shining through the fog of economic data and there is nothing else comparable to it.


This is a wonderful account of GDP as economic tools and it’s many deficiencies. I am strong believer in old wisdom of software engineering more than applicable in this case: “Garbage in – garbage out”. Our quasi-socialistic intellectuals and politicians keep trying to manage economy based on garbage based information like GDP and unsurprisingly continue produce garbage quality results. I believe it is absolutely not possible to measure economy in any meaningful way by calculating inputs and outputs for the simple reason that both inputs and outputs contain a lot more intangible, than tangible components.

Moreover I do not think it even make sense to try measure economy because the only reason for such measurement is to use it for management, but economy being practically livelihood of people could not and should not be measured. I believe that instead of look at economy as at machine to be managed by elites, much more productive way would be to look at it as an unmanageable conglomeration of people and resources, and all that conceivably could be done is to set some rules of game that would facilitate maximization of resource availability for people to pursue satisfaction of their needs.

20150530 Tales from the Both Sides of the Brain

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This book combines review author’s life history and his scientific experience. Most interesting are stories about scientific discoveries related to the functioning of a human brain especially the separation of duties between its left and right hemispheres. The method of research was direct experiment with individuals who due to an illness had these parts surgically separated and functioning as two brains in the same body.


Part 1 Discovering the Brain.

Chapter 1 Diving Into Science

This chapter is about history of author’s initial involvement with Caltech program in psychology and its outgrowing into neurobiological research. It is also an interesting review of California scene of higher education, scientific research, and even politics in 1960s.

Chapter 2 Discovering the Mind Divided

This is description of initial split-brain research conducted in early 1960s and personalities of leading scientists who participated in this development, their achievement, attitudes, and squabbles. The important discussion here is about difference in scientific research then and now, including continuing growth of dependency on government grants and bureaucratic approvals. Based in this it looks like achievements of 1960s would not be possible today due to bureaucratic red tape. It is also a description of important discoveries such as relative independence of some functions of left and right parts of the brain such as visual perception, combined with significant specialization in some other areas such as speech being nearly exclusively domain of left hemisphere. At the same time some sensory-motor integration was working across semi-spheres. An very interesting experiment demonstrated that some split-brain patients were able to control ipsilateral arm, but not hand, while just about everybody had good control of contralateral hand and arm. The outcome of this puzzle was the great discovery of absence of hierarchical central control system that researches expected to find in the brain. It turned out that it is rather loose combination of the multitude of semi-autonomous and sometime completely autonomous systems only partially synchronized.

Chapter 3 Searching for the Brain’s Morse code

This chapter reviews attempt to find communication code used within brain leading to discovery that such code does not exists. In reality coordination is achieved by using cueing strategy that allowed hemispheres transfer information via external cues even if they were surgically separated. This chapter also describes interaction and cooperation with David Premack and his development of “theory of mind”, meaning ability of a mind to continuously develop and test a theory about status of another mind. The ability to create and use theory of mind could be found in animals, but only to very limited extent. It fully blossoms only in humans and could be considered a very important point of differentiation between humans and other animals.

Part 2 Hemispheres Together and Apart

Chapter 4 Unmasking More Modules

This chapter moves to motivation mechanisms. The experiment was with rats who where fixed to be either want to drink or to run and indifferent to other activity so the setup was to incite rat to do what it does not like in order to get ability to do what it likes. As one would expect animals learned connection and successfully used means to ends procedures. It also describes a number of experiments using people with split brain to identify links between various methods of perception as related to use of right or left hemisphere. Another interesting experiment was with role of emotions. Left hemisphere was trained to make selection by using feedback for right and wrong, while right was not. Initially trained hemisphere quickly learned to make correct choice while untrained, as expected, did not. However after provided emotional feedback allowed untrained hemisphere to learn what is expected and select right answer. Another important discovery was identifying “interpreter” in left hemisphere. When split-brain patient had some stimuli presented to right hemisphere to make him do something and then asked why he did it, the left hemisphere responsible for logic and language processing had no knowledge about the stimuli so it would come up with some logical, even if complicate and twisted explanation of action through conscious intention that was obviously not the case. So instead of a little controller and “leader” in our head we actually have just a spin master who is continuously trying to make sense from whatever we do.

Chapter 5 Brain Imaging Confirms Split Brain Surgeries

This starts with review of experiment demonstrating “double simultaneous extinction” that allowed to demonstrate role of unconscious in making conscious decision even if person does not understand this role. From here author goes to the creation of cognitive neuroscience that he defines as “the study of how the brain creates the mind”. Here is diagram to illustrate this approach:

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The final part describes arrival of MRI and with it some limited ability to see what’s going on inside living brain.

Chapter 6 Still Split

This chapter is about farther development based on advances in fMRI, PET and other technologies. Then it followed by description of the next adventure when new experiments seem to be demonstrated connections between hemispheres of split brain. Eventually it was proved experimentally that it was cueing and other non-direct method of communications developed by patients with long experience of being tested that explained 78% accuracy of responses. Another series of experiments directed to mechanism of attentions demonstrated that each hemisphere had its own mechanism of attention control, but at the end attention was unifocal due to demand of resources when attention was on. Finally the chapter describes experiments with patients who had only partially split brain.

Part 3 Evolution and Integration

Chapter 7 The Right Brain Has Something to Say

This one is about new technology that allowed to record brain electric activity and its timing in different parts of brain during experiments. Based on this experiments they were able to identify synchronization mechanism of the brain. Another interesting phenomenon discovered was ability of right hemisphere slowly developing language ability after the split, even if this ability was limited. However it was based more on ability to transfer cues to the left hemisphere than actual development of the new functionality by the right hemisphere. This chapter also describes participation of psychologists in split-brain research that allowed identifying patterns of semantic and episodic memory with both hemispheres capable to do it, but each doing better in its area of specialization: right for visual data and left for verbal.

Chapter 8 Stately living and Call to Service

This chapter contains additional discussion of “interpreter” – the brain mechanics of making sense out of received information regardless of its having sense in the first place. There is an interesting discussion of human propensity to making mistakes as evolutionary advantage of making action possible even when information is incomplete or misleading. This chapter also describes initiation of Human brain mapping project based on dramatically increased capability of computers and neuroimaging.

Part 4 Brain Layers

Chapter 9 Layers and Dynamics: Seeking New Perspectives

The final chapter includes summary of the Brain principles:

  1. Brain comes with a lot of inherent programs – neurospecificity to handle environment
  2. Processes of underlying behavior, cognition, and even consciousness are highly modular and work in parallel.
  3. It has high levels of redundancy and plasticity to resist small to moderate damage.
  4. Lots of brain processes are not accessible to conscious perception so brain splitting that removes connection between hemispheres makes sensual right hemisphere inaccessible for logical left hemisphere and vice versa creating two conscious entities in one body each perceiving that nothing changed.
  5. Modularity of control functions is not limited to brain, but rather extended to all systems of the body making it into distributed network of analog control systems.
  6. Brain is built on an emergence principal when lower level complex systems organize into a new structure, with new properties that did not exist before.
  7. One issue author believes is still open is application of Supersede notion to the brain, which means that there could be no difference in high level function of the system unless there is some difference in physical condition of underlying lower level systems.
  8. Brain has layered architecture with different layers being semi-independent.

Author provides a nice metaphor for a brain: symphony orchestra with array of instruments organized into complex sequence of actions creating music, but cautions that in case of brain there is no central control to direct this orchestra.


From my point of view author’s lifetime of experimentation with split-brain patients provides a great insight into working of human brain that is very much consistent with my view at it. I believe that there is no mind/brain duality whatsoever, but rather fully material complex network of semi-autonomous biological analog systems working at some level of synchronization developed through continuing experimentation / system training when millions of experiments result in development of proper response to a multitude of environmental situations. On the higher level of consciousness brain is a complex instrument for past explanation building / future prediction development / communication and coordination with other brains to synchronize explanation-prediction-action / results analysis / explanation-prediction update for next action. All this together evolutionary justify complexity and cost of brain maintenance due to superior ability it provides for adjusting to continuously changing environment via complex cooperative actions.

20150522 The Price of Inequality

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It is simple: The income inequality is bad because it decreases productivity of society, causes social tensions, undermines rule of law, and even puts democracy in peril. The main causes of inequality are rent seeking, unregulated or under regulated markets, and misguided policies of balanced budgets and suppression of inflation. The remedy to decrease inequality is more government regulation of market, loose monetary policy, and massive wealth redistribution via government transfer programs.


Chapter One: AMERICA’S 1 Percent Problem

Author defines difference in income and wealth as America’s biggest problem and then makes main points of this chapter:

  • Prosperity of the last 30 years did not do a lot for poor because they are still poor. It did a lot for rich so they did become richer.
  • Unemployment increased and safety net is not capable to handle it
  • Standard of living declined.
  • Opportunity is not equal because majority of poor kids grow up to be poor adults, and the same applies to rich.
  • Internationally US is behind of other countries in equality and opportunity as defined by Gini coefficient

All this analysis is done on monetary basis and abstract shares of population without any attempt to look at personalities such as if today’s richest 1% are the same people that they were 10 years ago, or what actual goods and services available to today poor? Nice example of this analysis is statement at the conclusion of the chapter that obesity-suffering poor today are worse off than hungry poor of the beginning of XX century.

Chapter Two: Rent Seeking and Making of Unequal Society

This is a nice chapter about rent seeking through government support and monopolies. While author attacks Chicago school for claiming that free market would destroy monopoly he seems to be unable to provide example of monopoly in really free market environment. For example his discussion of Microsoft monopoly on Windows does not explains that it was result of government intervention and that this monopoly failed to survive appearance of new technologies from open source operating system to Web based applications and mobile computing.

Chapter Three: Markets and Inequality

At the beginning of this chapter author declares intention to demonstrate how market creates inequality, but he still had to bring government as the force that defines market and therefore makes all discussion about market causing inequality mute. After that he is trying to rebuff attempts to justify inequality by presenting it a source of incentive for oversized effort to achieve prosperity. He also partially accepts role of technology in creating ability for some people produce a lot more than other people, but somehow he does not feel that it justifies for these people getting very high remuneration as well. Surprisingly he clearly sees that in reality government causes inequality, but he meshes it with unidentified “broader social forces”.

Chapter Four: Why it Matters?

The point here is that inequality matters because it makes system less productive by removing initiative at the lower level of society, especially when inequality is result of rent seeking. Somehow author relate it to tax cuts and deregulation obviously believing that government intervention could remove accesses despite presenting multiple facts that it was government, or more precise politicians whose intervention created bubbles, rent allocation in forms of subsidies or preferential taxation, and regulation designed to promote politicians’ agenda regardless of economic soundness of these measures. Author makes a point that inequality arises because private rewards are different from social returns due to difficulties of adapting “good policies” in United Sates where majority believes in free market rather than in benevolent and wise politicians.

Chapter Five: A Democracy in Peril

This chapter is combination of two points. One is that inequality undermines democracy through unequal access to political actions for rich and poor, making poor to lose trust in the system and potentially rebel. Another one points to the evils of globalization as it is practiced now, mainly in interests of rich and influential people.

Chapter Six: 1984 Is Upon Us

This chapter is about psychological aspects of politics and economics. The main point here is that perceptions and believes are malleable and rich and powerful frame believes of majority in such way that Americans support mainly free market capitalism instead of what author seems to believes is much better system: limited capitalism with market heavily regulated by wise elite. Obviously this evil manipulation is powerless against acute intellect of the author who can see through it, unlike typical Americans of smaller intelligence.

Chapter Seven: Justice for All? How Inequality is eroding the Rule of Law

Here author goes through impact of changes in legal system that are directed to benefit rich at expense of everybody else such as Predatory lending, Bankruptcy laws, Student loans, and Securities fraud.

Chapter Eight: The Battle of the Budget

This chapter is about budget, more precisely about which government expenses author believes are good and should be expanded: all forms of wealth transfer and infrastructure maintenance, and which are bad: military. Obviously the worst evil of all is austerity that deprives noble government of means to spend money. Lots of space here dedicated to justification of Obama’s stimulus mainly based on bulletproofed logic: It did not work as we said it would, but it was great and worked marvelously because otherwise everything would be even worse than it is.

Chapter Nine: A Macroeconomic Policy and a Central Bank by and for 1%

This chapter is mainly about FEDs policy with critic directed against policy of inflation containment. In author’s opinion monetary policy should be directed first and foremost against inequality and inflation be damned. The logic here is simple: inflation hurts people who have money now such as bondholders and lenders and help debtors and other people who do not have money.

Chapter Ten: The Way Forward: Another World Is Possible

The final chapter contains a number of proposals that author believes would dramatically improve American economy and decrease inequality. They are:

  1. Curb excesses at the top via more government intervention into financial organizations landing policies including compensation policy combined with clear rejection of any future bailouts
  2. Tax reform increasing progressive character of income taxes, estate tax, and closing loopholes.
  3. Additional wealth transfer to low-income population via expansion of government education, healthcare, and other transfers in all conceivable forms.
  4. Restrict globalization and trade
  5. Political reforms restricting use of money to promote political views for rich and corporations.

The final point author makes is about choice of alternatives for future: either America of haves and have-nots, or America of haves continuously having less for benefit of have-nots leading to happy time with liberty and justice for all.


There is an interesting contradiction in this entire thing about inequality: author constantly points at government as source of rents for rich, restrictions on poor, bad monetary and budgetary policies, and so on; while at the same time demanding more government intervention in economy including direct control over healthcare sector in edition to education, wealth redistribution, restrictions on political participation for rich and similar movements in direction of unlimited government. However this contradiction is easy to understand if one looks at position of author in the society as academician living off government educational expenses and grants. He seems to be saying that what is going on is not right and leads to dismal results because government is not robbing productive people enough and, even more important, it directs loot into hands of plutocrats rather than bureaucrats and academicians as himself. So it is not about government being too big or too small, but about who controls it so if right people in power, then government should be unlimited, huge, powerful, and unrestricted providing wise distribution of resources to eliminate inequality. In short it is typical progressive mutation of socialist ideas with productive part (economic superiority of socialism over capitalism) dropped due to overwhelming evidence of socialism failure in XX century. Author, as all other progressives, wants capitalism to stick around and keep generating wealth so superior intellectuals have something to redistribute for the best of all members of society. Too bad it is not going to happen as it did not happen in all previous socialist experiments because human beings hate to work without incentive so outcome of author’s ideas is quite predictable: stagnation, misery, and increase of all racial, class, religious, and other tensions in society with the latest demonstration of which provided by Obama’s administration. What is puzzling is why author believe that resulting explosion would not hurt and rather badly people like him. The experience of either international socialism of Chinese or Soviet type or National Socialism of German type demonstrated that their supporters from Academy fared not that well winding up at best in rural areas for reeducation or at worst in concentration camps. I guess history is not strong side of such progressives.

20150515 Violence and Social Orders

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The main idea of this book is that the typical approach to understanding history and development of the state and society is insufficient for explanation of many known facts and developments and the new framework for analysis in social sciences is required if we want to understand them. Author provides such framework with Idea of qualitative difference between two types of societies: Natural Order of Limited Access typical for the vast majority of societies when it is controlled by violence of dominant group of elite and Open Access Order when society is not directly controlled by any group, but rather is continuously in process of compromises and accommodations between multiple groups not only elite, but practically of everybody with access to information and organization open for all.


  1. The Conceptual Framework: 1.1 Introduction; 1.2 The Concept of Social Orders: Violence, Institutions, and Organizations; 1.3 The Logic of the Natural State; 1.4 The Logic of the Open Access Order; 1.5 The Logic of the Transition from Natural States to Open Access Orders; 1.6 A Note on Beliefs; 1.7 The Plan

This book is built on the concept of social order of organization of human society. The original way of organization existed in hunter-gatherer societies. Author calls it foraging order and does not allocate lots of attention to it because it is pretty much gone. The concern of this book is with two contemporary social orders. One is society organization that author calls Natural State or limited access order. It was created as consequence of agrarian revolution about 10,000 years ago. This order based mainly on personal relationships and individual has or does not have access to power and resources based on his/her belonging to various groups divided by family connections, religion, locality, and such. The third order author identifies is the open access order created as consequence of industrial revolution. In this order personal relationship while still matter, nevertheless lose paramount significance opening way for impersonal interactions based only on mutual benefits derived from these interactions. Instead of individual whose value defined by belonging in limited access societies we have individual whose value defined by this individual qualities and abilities with little if any regard to background. Author also provides evidence of correlation between type of social organization and material prosperity of society with more open access society significantly richer than limited access societies. Interestingly enough the difference could be traced not to higher economic growth of open access societies overall, but to their ability to retain achieved economic levels even in bad times. Author provides initial overview of logic for Natural Order, Open Access Order, and Transition from one to another.

  1. The Natural State: 2.1 Introduction; 2.2 Commonalities: Characteristics of Limited Access Orders; 2.3 Differences: A Typology of Natural States; 2.4 Privileges Rights, and Elite Dynamics; 2.5 Origins: The Problem Scale and Violence; 2.6 Natural State Dynamics: Fragile to Basic Natural States; 2.7 Moving to Mature Natural States: Disorder, Organization, and the Medieval Church; 2.8 Mature Natural States: France and England in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries; 2.9 Natural States; Appendix: Skeletal Evidence and Empirical Results

This chapter is an analysis of Natural state, which is the state with preponderance of limited access order. The key feature of such state is that it is always based on violent dominant coalition that limits access to resources to everybody. All Natural orders of limited access have typical characteristics: they limit access to organizational forms and trying to control trade in order to support rent extraction for members of dominant coalition. Author also defines three types of natural states: fragile, basic, and mature. Fragile are natural states in which dominant coalition does not possess overwhelming power to suppress all competition leading to ongoing violent struggle. Majority of all states start in this way when close by tribes coalesce into one entity. The basic natural states have stable and durable organizational structure with well-defined elites and rules of succession. The rule of the dominant coalition generally accepted by population as legitimate. The mature state is farther extension of basic state when dominant coalition allows creation of elite organizations outside of state. It typically creates codified laws and organizations to support it with increasingly wide share of population acquiring status of legal entity and capability to use laws for their benefit. Author reviews history of Carolinians, Aztecs, Rome, France, and England to illustrate his model including transformational development from fragile to basic to mature Natural state.

  1. The Natural State Applied: English Land Law: 3.1 Introduction; 3.2 The Chronology; 3.3 The Courts, Legal Concepts, and the Law of Property; 3.4 Bastard Feudalism; 3.5 Bastard Feudalism and the Impersonalization of Property

In chapter author applies concept of Natural state to England in more details reviewing English Land Law, development of court system, and Impersonalization of property with progress of feudalism. This chapter also contains a very interesting statistical data on class structure and income distribution of England as a mature state of Natural order in 1692.

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  1. Open Access Orders; 4.1 Introduction; 4.2 Commonalities: Characteristics of an Open Access Order; 4.3 Institutions, Beliefs, and Incentives Supporting Open Access; 4.4 Incorporation: The Extension of Citizenship; 4.5 Control of Violence in Open Access Orders; 4.6 Growth of Government; 4.7 Forces of Short Run Stability; 4.8 Forces of Long Run Stability: Adaptive Efficiency; 4.9 Why Institutions Work Differently under Open Access than Limited Access; 4.10 A New “Logic of Collective Action” and Theory of Rent-Seeking; 4.11 Democracy and Redistribution; 4.12 Adaptive Efficiency and the Seeming Independence of Economics and Politics in Open Access Orders;

This chapter is detailed discussion of Open Orders, which is kind of description of contemporary developed Western societies. Its main characteristics defined as having open access for individuals to organizations, impersonal control over violence, protected property rights and generally preponderance of rule of law, competitive elections leading to restriction on rent seeking by political means, and, finally, relative autonomy of market economy. One interesting and non-trivial part of this discussion is author’s understanding of role of creative destruction in prevention of monopolies, something that usually missed, substituted by unwarranted believe that government prevents and controls monopolies by regulation. There is a very interesting point made about Open Access framework that it explains why relatively free market continue survive in developed western countries despite proliferation and power of bureaucracies and rent seeking special interests. This point is that Open Access to organization allows creation of wide variety of conflicting special interest groups that happily expose and undermine each other’s rent opportunities leading to continuing political equilibrium, restricting overall rent extraction in society, and leaving space for free market. Another difference of Open Access framework from general approach is that it does not consider Democracy as conduit for income redistribution. It is considered more as the tool to create complimentary to market sources of goods and services that some groups of population have difficulty obtaining from market system such as social insurance, infrastructure, and such. In short author believes that this complementarity substitute of market with limited government changes the zero sum game of redistribution into positive sum game of public goods generation.

  1. The Transition from Limited to Open Access Orders: The Doorstep Condition:

5.1 Introduction; 5.2 Personality and Impersonality: The Doorstep Conditions; 5.3 Condition #1: Rule of Law for Elites; 5.4 Doorstep Condition #2: Perpetually Lived Organizations in the Public and Private Spheres; 5.5 Doorstep Condition #3: Consolidated Control of Military; 5.6 The British Navy and the British State; 5.7 Time, Order, an Institutional Forms;

This chapter is about when and how transition from Natural to Open access orders occur with special attention to doorstep conditions for such transition:

Step 1: Establishment of Rule of Law for Elites

Step 2: Establishment of Permanently lived Organization in the Public and Private Spheres with continuously widening access to such organizations for everybody

Step 3: Consolidated Control over Military that prevents any possibility of armed clashes for dominance between various groups of elite.

All these conditions are intertwined and build on one another.

  1. The Transition Proper: 6.1 Institutionalizing Open Access; 6.2 Fear of Faction; 6.3 Events; 6.4 Parties and Corporations; 6.5 Transition to Open Access in Britain; 6.6 Transition to Open Access in France; 6.7 Transition to Open Access in the United States; 6.8 Institutionalizing Open Access: Why the West?

This chapter is review of actual process of transition as it occurred historically in the most advanced countries of Open Access Order: Britain, United States, and France.


  1. A New Research Agenda for the Social Sciences: 7.1 The Framing Problems; 7.2 The Conceptual Framework; 7.3 A New Approach to the Social Sciences: Violence, Institutions, Organizations, and Beliefs; 7.4 A New Approach to the Social Sciences: Development and Democracy; 7.5 Toward a Theory of the State; 7.6 Violence and Social Orders: The Way Ahead;

The final chapter is about suggestions for use of the new framework of Natural Order developing into Open Access Order for research agenda in Social Sciences. This includes concentration of research on use of violence, lifecycle of Institutions, Organizations, and Believes that drive human actions.


I found the new concept of access orders (Limited versus Open) very interesting and well thought through. I think application of this framework to historical research would be very enlightening and its application to current situation especially in relation to developing world could lead to a very practical recommendation in regard to how to use both aid money and violent intervention in order to achieve real progress in their situation. These requirements become imperative if we want to stop civil and religious wars, economic and other man-made disasters in the third worlds that spills out into lives of people of the First world in form of terrorism, flows of refugees, and continuing need for humanitarian aid.

20150508 Libertarian Mind

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The main idea of this book is to thoroughly describe the main points of libertarian ideology and discuss contemporary issues, problems, and solutions that could be derived using consistent application of this ideology.


  1. The Coming Libertarian Age

This chapter is an attempt to explain libertarianism as philosophy of freedom and define link of freedom with economic prosperity based on historical data. It is also about libertarianism as specifically American philosophy based on national character of Americans as children of immigrants creating the new world from a scratch. It also discusses contemporary decline of American creed and political fights between conservatives and liberals currently under way. Author presents fundamental ideas of Libertarianism and positions this philosophy in 2-dimensional space of Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom versus one-dimensional left-right continuum typically used. In this space Libertarianism is high on both dimensions while Conservatism is high on Economic Freedom and low on Personal and contemporary Left Liberalism is high on Personal and low on Economic Freedom. Author believes that eventually people prefer Freedom in all areas so Libertarianism will grow to be the dominant ideology of America.

  1. The Roots of Libertarianism

This is review of history of Libertarianism starting with 6 century BC Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, then it goes into discussing old testament where God cautions people against kings, and finally it is looking at relatively contemporary ideas of Pluralism, Religious Tolerance, and Natural Laws. Review of contemporary history of implementation of these ideas is based on European and especially English and American history as it should be, because nowhere else they had any serious influence until very recently. In view of this history author discusses classical Liberalism of XIX century and its decline at the beginning of XX century. Final discussion is about Ayn Rand as promoter of Libertarianism in Philosophy, popularization of these ideas among population, and impact of Austrian School of Economics that provided strong support to the idea of freedom as the only effective method to achieve economic prosperity.

  1. What Rights do We Have?

This is discussion about rights and from libertarian point of view the valid rights relate to right for self-ownership and what people can or cannot do to each other without violating these rights. Author reviews not only libertarian position of basic self-ownership right, but also alternatives: rights by some people over others from monarchy when a king is the owner of everybody to communism when formally everybody owns everybody. For libertarians rights means first and foremost equality of rights, but only as equality before the law and equality of opportunity, but not equality of results. The right for private property augments the most important right for self-ownership because the property is extension of self. However original acquisition of property is treated in completely fantastic way as a right of the first comer to declare whatever is not owned by anybody as his property. Author also provides details of Nozick’s theory of justice:

  1. Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to this holding.
  2. Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in transfer, from someone else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding.
  3. No one is entitled to a holding except by applications of 1 and 2

The complete principle of distributive justice would say simply that a distribution is just if everyone is entitled to the holdings they possess under the distribution

Author supplements libertarian definition of natural rights with the Nonaggression Axiom: No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else.

Through the balance of the chapter author discusses application of natural rights and their limitations.

  1. The Dignity of Individual

This chapter starts with discussion of trust and complex network of associations to assure validity of this trust as basis of contemporary economy using example of worldwide ATM network. From here analysis goes to individual as the basic unit of libertarian social analysis. It goes through history of expansion throughout American history of notion of individual with rights to all human beings and then reviews contemporary condition of individual in American society and attacks against individual rights from all kinds of collectivists who seek to establish group rights as superior to individual’s.

  1. Pluralism and Toleration

Pluralism here includes moral pluralism when morality of individuals derived from diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. Contrary to both liberal and conservative attitudes libertarians believe that the only legitimate role for government is to establish such rules of interaction that everybody could practice his/her morals without interfering with others. Such rules necessarily should include religious tolerance and separation of conscience and state,

  1. Law and the Constitution

The libertarian attitude to law is based on simple rules: Do not hit other people, do not take their staff, and keep your promises. Author also provides a bit more sophisticated requirements for laws based on Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty”:

  • The laws must apply to everyone including rulers
  • No one is above the law.
  • Power should be divided.
  • The law should be made by one body and administered by other.
  • The independent judiciary should control administration of the law
  • The administrators of the law should have minimal discretion.

The following up after these definitions is the review of contemporary conditions in USA demonstrates significant deviations from these rules, rending contemporary America in material breach of the Constitution.

  1. Civil Society

Libertarians believe that government should be limited and main support for human’s pursuit of happiness should come from the Civil Society defined as pretty much all voluntary associations either commercial or not. Author reviews different types of voluntary association and their various functions including all sorts of cooperation, mutual aid, and charity.

  1. The Market Process

This is about libertarian attitudes to the Market. It is reviewed as usual in relation to dominant ideas of XX century: socialism and central planning. Author expresses the Hayekian idea of impossibility of central planning at the society level and posits that planning is possible and necessary at the low level of complexity such as individual enterprise. From this point of view he reviews usual market related issues: information processing and coordination, division of labor, competition, entrepreneurship, prices including price controls, economic growth, jobs, regulation, taxation, and free trade. Finally he takes page from Frederic Bastiat and discusses “what is seen and what is unseen”.

  1. What Big Government is all About

Author reviews growth of government and increased prosperity of bureaucracy in Washington and concludes that it is not different in any way shape or form from all other governments in the world history, which in their essence are just a group of bandits. The democratic character of American government does not make it into “government of us”, but rather just provide people with a limited choice of which group of bandits would use direct violence to satisfy their needs for the next period of time. One of the most important points libertarians make is that people incorrectly assign government characteristics of benevolent individuals, when in reality it is just a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats as flowed as any other group of humans and not particularly different from groups of politicians and bureaucrats in control of corporations. He also reviews process of special interests obtaining what they want because of government’s ability to concentrate loot by taking so little from many that they would not resist and gives it to a few making it highly justifiable for a few to fight for. It leads inevitably to situation when everybody is a loser and everybody is a winner of this redistribution process except from politicians and bureaucrats with sticky fingers who are winning all the time. There is also a very interesting reference to work of Amilcare Puviani who identified 11 strategies governments use for robbing people without igniting any serious resistance. Author also discusses tremendous support provided to politicians and bureaucrats by intellectuals in art, education, entertainment, science, and other areas of intellectual pursuit that has little or no value on the free market and exchange for a share of the loot. Without such support allowing building ideological justifications the robbery on existing scale would not be possible. The final point in this chapter is that government based parasite economy is growing exponentially and getting close to choking real economy by the minute.

  1. Contemporary Issues

Here author reviews contemporary issues the libertarians have to deal with if they to achieve success. Number one is to restore economic growth, which he believes could be done by adhering to libertarian principles: individual responsibility, rule of law, and property rights. The second most important is cutting budget, meaning decrease in size in power of government. After that author goes through the list of issues from inequality to healthcare and presents brief libertarian recommendation for each of them.

  1. The Obsolete State

Here author discusses what he believes is incorrect notion of market failure. Too often people understand this term as failure of market supply them with what they want at price they would agree to pay. When it does not happen they ready to ask government to interfere and provide goods and services using force either via nationalization, or price control, or subsidy, or something else of this nature. Author quite reasonably points out that typically when it happens people do not really get what they want, instead they get government created low quality and insufficient quantity goods and services that could not match similar goods and services provided by market. He provides laundry list of such situation in education, healthcare, and other areas where people run away from government to market sometimes even if they have to run to the dangerous black market where government could use violence against them just for participating in this market.

  1. The Libertarian Future

The final chapter formulates the believe in bright libertarian future that is getting closer and closer with each government failure to deliver on its promises and each increase in deprivation caused by government takeovers of various areas economy. Author makes important point that libertarians do not believe and do not suggest utopia as it did communists and socialists of all types. Libertarians propose framework for free people going about their business with voluntary exchange and cooperation, the situation that inevitably becomes framework for utopia the form and details of which is not possible to imagine.


I consider my ideology as closed to libertarianism as I can possibly be close to ideology of any other human being who is not I at this time (I would definitely have a huge fight with me as I was at some other times of my life). However I am the Equal Rights Libertarian meaning that I do not except idea of validity and fairness of current distribution of private property especially for natural resources. I believe that whatever this distribution is it is much more result of violence, banditry, and robbery, than some idealistic original discoverer of use for some natural resources and therefore owner of property on this resource with consequent fair transfer from hand to hand over generations. However I do not believe that this existing unfairness could be somehow corrected by additional acts of banditry and robbery in transferring and/or redistributing these property rights. As to nationalization of property history decidedly demonstrated that violent transfer of resources into hands of bureaucrats and politicians would do nothing but create more misery and suffering for vast majority of people. So my remedy is to leave property owners in control of their property, but declare equal rights of everybody for natural resources, and not as formality, but as practical method of providing everybody with something to trade on and live off with people who use less than average being able to sell these rights to people who use more than average. I believe that it would make everybody property owner and therefore defender of property, free markets, and ideologically libertarian. Without some kind of similar reform vast majority of people, who do not have any property to speak of and who had to sell their labor for living at exceedingly lower price because of competition from automation, would never support libertarian idea of sanctity of private property, rule of law, and free market all of which for them are nice thing in theory, but having no relation to their real live on practice. .

20150501 The New Class Conflict

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The main idea of this book is that the new class – the Clerisy in alliance with High Tech Oligarchs is taking over America and trying to destroy traditional American middle class and its dreams about house, good job, family, and suburban live. This new class conducts ideological war against American Middle class dream and trying substitute it with some kind of minimal environmental impact existence with low levels of consumption and high level of reliance on government. While this attack was successful so far, it seems that this success is coming to the end. The next generation begins to express its alliance to traditional American dream despite years of indoctrination in schools and universities. The real live consequence of expensive education not delivering good job and necessity of coming back to parents’ house to live in childhood room will probably override indoctrination leading to resurrection of America and defeat of Clerisy and High Tech Oligarch in their quest to subdue it.


  1. The New Class Order

This chapter is about changing class structure in America. The main features are:

  • Rise of new high tech oligarchs who do not need a lot of workers to create their products and therefore get to keep newly created wealth without sharing it with unionized militant workforce
  • Expansion of Clerisy and Gentry Liberalism – groups sustained by government either as government employees or recipients of government transfers to education, science, art, and similar activities that would have little value on free market.
  • Two groups above push changing attitude to growth mainly directed against improvement of life for other people. A good example are liberals who after obtaining nice housing out of city fight against urban sprawl and demand government to protect their good life by forcing these “others” to live in overcrowded cities.
  • Traditional backbone of America – Yeomanry: small business owners, middle level workers, and independent professionals are loosing ground under attack from these new forces against their livelihood. This attack is not only economic, but also ideological attack against their American Dream, middle class way of live, and their religion.
  • New oligarchs and statists also expand lowest and poor layers of population by using multitude of welfare programs, and opening door for massive illegal immigration in hope to obtain reliable voting block with numerical advantage over middle class.
  1. Valley of the Oligarchs

This chapter analyses the new high tech oligarchs, their background and attitudes. It also looks at source of their power that author calls technocoolies – educated people from third word countries massively imported into Silicon Valley who attracted by American dream and are much cheaper and a lot more dependent on companies than similarly qualified Americans. Author also look at the huge divide created by this new development in Silicon Valley when small part of population is extremely rich, while vast majority especially immigrants extremely poor with very little in between unlike regular America.

3.The New Clerisy.

This chapter is describing the new class that author identifies as clerisy – educated people employed in various forms of white color jobs related to government bureaucracy, media, education, science, entertainment and similar highly subsidized areas. Generally this class very much similar to old religious classes of clerics in premodern society fulfilling the similar function of justifying and supporting existing order and indoctrinating young people. They also constantly in conflict with free market forces of society that they despise and consider undeserving to keep wealth they created. Author also discusses singularity as a Clerisy’s Dream of High-Tech Nirvana where deserving people merge with computers in all-powerful combination while undeserving people become superfluous mass reduced to human animals.

  1. The Proletarianization of the Middle Class

This chapter describes ongoing process of degradation of middle class (Yeomanry) that includes elimination of small independent businesses and semi-qualified jobs that used to provide for middle class income. It includes some history of this class from its beginning as farmers in the country of easy available land, then its blossoming in the middle of XX century as middle class employees of big unionized companies and owners of small businesses, and finally its dramatic decline at the end of XX and beginning of XXI century due to automatization and globalization of production. The Clerisy’s vision of future live for this class author provides reference to Obama’s propaganda clip “Live of Julia” where each step in the live of woman depends on government and all decisions in this live made by wise bureaucrats.

  1. Geography of Inequality

This chapter is about growing fight between clerisy and yeomanry for living space. Clerisy is working hard to convince or force yeomanry into crowded cities claiming that it is “progress” and living in small spaces without car is the best way to save environment and achieve economic progress. They practically declared war on Suburbia and “urban sprawl”. Interestingly enough they do not apply it to themselves preferring spacious living from big suburban houses for lower levels of clerisy to the huge estates for the members at the top.

  1. A Screwed Generation?

This chapter takes on the generational problems encountered by Millenials who seems to be moving in direction of becoming the first generation of Americans who have it worse than their parents – baby boomers. Everything from destruction of family and disappearance of middle class jobs to extended live span of their parents and correspondingly declined Social security and Medicare, and especially raise in globalization seems to be working against them. However the most painful is lost of traditional path to the top via education. It became very expensive and does not bring such returns as it used to be, leaving the new generation with degrees and huge debt, but without professional jobs and staff that used to be coming with these jobs: homeownership and middle class lifestyle. However at the end of chapter author noted that Clerisy’s propaganda seems to be failing miserably and young generation still wants its American dream with all its attachments: home, family, children, and suburban living.

  1. Renewing Aspiration

The final chapter is brief review of multiple previous crises of capitalism and how each time capitalism would come out of this restructured, renewed, and stronger than ever. Author hopes and believes that it is going to happen again and to make it happen the decisive ideological and cultural war against clerisy should be waged. The victory would probably include wide suburban middle class running tremendous amount of independent self-employed businesses and pushing aside high tech oligarchs with their environmental and middle-class killing agendas.


Generally speaking I agree with analysis of current situation especially as to the role of High Tech Oligarchs and Clerisy. However I see it not as a new phenomenon, but a continuation of all American tradition of middle class bureaucracy that just moved from middle management position in various private enterprises to Clerisy positions in governmental and government dependent organizations. The biggest problem in my opinion is actually psychological. If in the old system all these middle managers and professionals were a necessary component of the productive machine, the clerisy is pretty obviously is not productive, consistently demonstrating its uselessness to everybody capable to see. It dramatically decreases agreeableness of actually productive people to confiscatory taxes or unsustainable debts necessary to feed the clerisy. Ideological attack by clerisy on religion, culture, lifestyle, and families of these people hardly could be considered a smart strategy for clerisy prosperity or even survival even if it’s numbers continue to grow. The old paradigm of propertied man buying labor from non-propertied and all paying taxes for social safety net and relatively small clerisy overhead is disappearing. The new paradigm that would give meaning to people’s live and resources to make this live into American Dream is needed and Singularity is not it.

20150424 Political Ideologies and Parties

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The main idea of this book is that ideologies and parties are not the same. Ideologies are coalitions of people with relatively closed set of ideas, while parties are coalitions of people in pursuit of democratically assigned political power. American society went through long process of development when ideologies grew into internally consistent sets of ideas and took over parties making them into conduits of specific ideologies and creating polarization and gridlock in that results from division of power in American system. This book is the review of this process.


  1. Introduction: Distilling Their Frenzy from Some Academic Scribblier

This starts with introduction of two men who were not men of action, but whose ideas created foundation for a lot of political actions in XX century. The first was Herbert Croly who built ideological foundation of contemporary left progressivism and second was William Buckley who built ideological foundation of right conservatism. Author characterizes these ideologies as “Jeffersonian Ends with Hamiltonian Means” for Croly and “Standing Athwart History Yelling Stop” for Buckley. From here author goes to the main thesis of this book that ideology and political party are different and in American history mostly where not internally consistent until recently.

  1. The Coalition Merchants: Ideologies, Parties, and Their Interaction

Here author defines Ideologies and Parties as different types of coalitions that influence each other, but include individuals with different views and approaches because they pursue different purposes. The ideology seeks to increase number of individuals adhered to its ideas and therefore necessarily purify these ideas, make them attractive, and pushes out renegades who deviate from these ideas. Political parties seek winning coalitions in order to obtain majority of voters and therefore easily tolerate deviations from purity as long as ideas are not completely subverted. Moreover political parties could and did maintain coalitions with wide variety of contradictory ideas as long as obtained power benefited all its constituents.

  1. Creative Synthesis: Why Ideology?

This chapter provides details about mechanism of formation of ideological coalitions. Author defines ideology as set of policy preferences derived from personal make up of individuals, both genetically and culturally, combined with their interests broadly understood. Author believes that ideology formed via process of Rawlian reflective equilibrium when ideology switches from deduction to induction and back to reach judgment about “right and wrong”.  He also defines “long coalition” based on preference matrix from game theory. Author also provides illustration of key features of ideologies:

  • Ideologies would apply principles and connect issues from one context to another
  • Ideologies would care as much about Who is Right as about What is Right
  • Ideologies would focus on resolving internal conflicts and sorting out what it means to hold the ideology.
  1. The Independent Development of Ideology

This chapter is about development and change in ideology. It attempts to measure this process by using statistical analysis of correlation between various ideological issues and change of these correlations over the time. It demonstrates how the ideological positions crystallized into internally consistent set of ideas with correlation growing continuously over the time. The process is traced from the middle of XIX century till present time. This review covers hundreds issues, thousands pundits, and opinions. A very interesting list of ideological issues in discussion by decade is provided starting from1910 with analysis of how these issues were incorporated into ideological coalitions.

  1. Ideology Remakes the Parties

The next step is analysis of how ideological coalitions practically took over parties turning them from mainly partisan organizations combining various ideologies and dedicated to moving partisans into position of power into ideological organizations working to implement ideology. It also reviews development of progressive ideology as initially non-partisan ideology versus Liberalism and Conservatism.

  1. Issue Politics in Ideological Context

This is review of development and politization of two issues: Race and Abortion.

  1. Ideological Parties and Polarization

This chapter analyzes contemporary polarization of American polity as consequence of ideologies taking over political parties that in turn was result of growing irreconcilable divisions between intellectuals. It has an interesting graphical representation of the process based on pundits’ ideal points changes from 1910 to 1990..

  1. Conclusion: Toward the Study of Creative Synthesis

The conclusion is about implication of research results provided in this book. It looks like we’ll have relatively long period of paralyzed government because American system designed to support action only when at least some part of minority supports them.


This is an interesting review of political development of American democracy. It looks like this system went through process of development and organization from initial small time corruption mechanism when politics mainly were used to obtain access to limited power government and take away some goodies for friends and family with ideological underpinning playing relatively insignificant role, to the big and practically unlimited power government when corruption is expanded from stealing to controlling allowing politicians to implement whatever grand ideological schemes they can come up with using majority of resources available for society. At this point it is somewhat restricted by American system of division of power so highly polarized parties of somewhat equal power and representation are able to keep divided government from acting. But it will last only until one of the parties will be able to obtain electoral supremacy and start implementing its ideology on the mass scale. It is a big question whether loosing side would continue to adhere to democratic process if their ideological believes are being crashed and their way of live is being destroyed.

20150417 The Mind and the Market

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This book is review of intellectual attitudes to market and capitalism in Western thought. It starts with defining who are the people producing intellectual environment, form attitudes of population, and eventually define issues and approaches to their resolution. The scope of this book is from the late XVII century through the end of XX century and it includes all main intellectual currents related to capitalism either positive or negative.



The introduction describes genesis of this book and defines main notion used in it: capitalism- the system based on market exchange and private property of legally equal individuals. Obviously it exists only to the extent in conditions when the state with its violent machinery supports and protects two keystones of capitalism: equality before law and private property of individuals.


This is historical review of relationship between morality and commerce. Ever since ancient Greeks and all the way through development of Christian civilizations this relationship was pretty bad. The main issues and suspicions always were around real intentions and honesty of the commerce participants. The profit as intent of activity was considered impure and activity itself was considered suspicious because of common attitude that there is a given amount of wealth so any commercial activity leading to increase in wealth of one person was at the expense of another. However it was somewhat compensated by accepion of property rights as legitimate part of god’s creation. Eventually medieval Church found equilibrium in pushing unacceptable part of commerce such as usury to outsides such as Jews while making legal system and property rights into noble institutions.

CHAPTER TWO – VOLTAIRE: “A MERCHANT OF A NOBLE KIND”: The Rise of the Intellectual; Exchange and Toleration: The Political Argument; Intellectual Speculation; The Defense of Luxury; Avarice and the Jew: The Limits of Enlightenment

This chapter is about new type of a person – intellectual who is professional thinker and is capable to make living by selling his/her books, ideas, opinions, and lessons. It is written based on the life and writings of Voltaire who had quite positive views of capitalism and commerce. He strongly defended market exchange and believed that it creates tolerance and prosperity. However being also a businessman and dealing in real world he had quite a few nasty encounters with other businessmen and was not really impressed with their honesty and integrity. Neither they were impressed with his personal qualities. It was probably one of main reasons for him to develop strong anti-Semitic views since many of these people were Jewish.

CHAPTER THREE – ADAM SMITH: MORAL PHILOSOPHY AND POIITICAL ECONOMY: Smith’s Life and Milieu; The Consumer Revolution; Explaining the Market; The Legislator and the Merchant; The Moral Balance Sheet of Commercial Society; The Visible Hand of the State; Virtues Inferior and Superior

This is review of live and writing of Adam Smith – the first serious analyst of capitalism as economic system. Somehow it is usually missed that Smith was not an economist, but rather a moral philosopher and his analysis of capitalism concluded that it is not just an effective system of production and distribution, but, even more important, it is a superior moral system because it dramatically decreased violence in interactions between people and promoted tolerance by creating condition when well being of people in society mutually reinforcing.

CHAPTER FOUR- JUSTUS MOSER: THE MARKET AS DESTROYER OF CULTURE: The Virtues of Knowing One’s Place; Destroying the Local Culture; Creating the Poor; Commerce and the Eclipse of Virtue

Much less known, but really important conservative thinker Justus Moser reviewed in this chapter had quite a negative view of capitalism not least because of its meritocracy that destroyed well-organized and stable hierarchical societies. The list of capitalism’s crimes in his opinion was long and, interestingly enough, still repeated by many leftists: destruction of culture, disruption of orderly functioning of society, promotion and enrichment of undeserving people, and eventually destruction of virtue.

CHAPTER FIVE – EDMUND BURKE: COMMERCE, CONSERVATISM, AND THE INTELLECTUALS: The Intellectual in Politics; The Market for “Intelligence” and “Public Opinion”; The Critic of Abstract Reason; Burke as Supporter of Commerce; Burke and the British East Indian Company; Burke’s Analysis of the French Revolution; The Noncontractual Basis of Commercial Society

Another conservative thinker – Burke, represents quite different approach to capitalism. He not only accepted free market approach in production of goods and services, but also expanded it into the area of ideas and politics promoting market place of ideas. His conservatism was also constructive when he provided critique of abstract reason stressing its limitations and impossibility to match complexity of reality. He also pointed out non-contractual nature of society rejecting popular at the time ideas of Rousseau.

CHAFFER SIX – HEGEL: A LIFE WORTH CHOOSING: Feeling at Home in the Modern World; The Setting of The Philosophy of Right; Individuality and Universality; Civil Society and its Discontents; Beyond Civil Society; The General Estate and the Role of the Philosopher

The next thinker – Hegel reviewed here is interesting by simultaneous affirmation of market and somewhat worshipping attitude to the state. The main reason for this was his understanding of society as entity created and held together by the state and his rejection of ideas of natural rights. He also saw property as result of historical process rather than natural right of men. Consequently while understanding positive role of market in economy, Hegel viewed state and civil service as superior entity that should control and direct market forces. Naturally at the top of this hierarchy he saw philosophers as himself explaining and pointing out right direction for state to act.

CHAPTER SEVEN- KARL MARX: FROM JEWISH USURY TO UNIVERSAL VAMPIRISM: Marx’ Jewish Problem an His Labor Problem; From Hegelianism to Communism; Engels’ Critique of Political Economy; Jewdom Transferred; Beyond Particular Identity: The Communist Manifesto; From Usury to Vampirism: Capital; The Aftermath

Obviously nobody had more influence in building intellectual basis for attitude to capitalism than Marx and Engels. Their main ideas were expressed in Communist Manifesto and did not change that much until the end of their lives. Key parts of their ideas: labor theory of value and correspondent theory of labor exploitation by capital, continuous worsening of conditions for labor classes, proletarian revolution with complete nationalization of private property followed by dramatic increase in productivity that would allow ridding of division of labor and return to earthly paradise that they believed existed in form of primitive communism, all these proved to be wrong, however they still remaining popular among pseudo intellectual products of western universities. Author also allocates lots of space to discussion of Marx’s anti-Semitism as expression of his believe in direct link from Jewish religion and culture to capitalism and it’s most ugly in his opinion form-usury. Author points out that Marxism spawn two main political movements: communist movement – virulent and deadly murderous produced Soviet and Chinese communist systems that practically self-destruct by the end of XX century due to economic non-performance, while other relatively benign social democratic movement is still with us, albeit in continuously weakening form.

CHAPTER EIGHT – MATHEW ARNOLD: WEANING THE PHILISTINE FROM THE DRUG OF BUSINESS: Life Among the Philistines and Hebraists; Arnold’s Critique; The Roles of the Intellectual

This chapter is about a lot less known contemporary of Marx – Arnold, who actually produced much more potent anti-capitalism ideas. The main potency of his ideas came from his suggestion to leave commerce more or less alone and direct main efforts to domination of intellectual areas of society especially education and control over government. His vision was of society with lowly materialistic part producing wealth, while superior intellectuals would form upper class controlling and directing use of this wealth in “common interest” including limiting levels of production is they feel it necessary. Arnold ideas, while initially overshadowed by Marxism, seems to be feeding current elitist anti-capitalism movements around western world substituting to large extent discredited ideas of socialism.

CHAFFER NINE – WEBER, SIMMEL, AND SOMBART: COMMUNITY, INDIVIDUAIX1T, AND RATIONAITY: Setting the Terms; Commercial Transformation; Weber: Efficiency and Disenchantment; Simmel: Money and Individuality; The Dialectics of Means and Ends; Sombart: Blaming it on Jews; The World War as Turning Point

This chapter looks at three German thinkers who provided influential prospective on capitalism and its development. Weber linked capitalism to Protestantism and its ethics. He maintained that capitalism was the most effective method of production, but culturally deficient because it distracted people from pursuing greatness of their nation. Simmel also mainly supported capitalism but he believed that it represents triumph of means over ends. He believed that by making people to spend lots of intellectual efforts on making money capitalism diminished their ability to spend these efforts to achieve nobler objectives. The third German thinker Sombart hated capitalism. As usual it comes together with hate to the most capitalistic people – Jews, destroyers of everything beautiful, cultural, and with their attraction to lowly commercial activities antithesis to noble militaristic high culture of German people.

CHAPTER TEN – LUKACS AND FREYER: FROM THE QUEST FOR COMMUNITY TO THE TEMPTATIONS OF TOTALITY: From Intellectual to Revolutionary; Educator of the Revolution; The Party as Community; Freyer: Alienation and the Quest for Community; The Particularist Critique of the Market; War, the State, and the Preservation of Cultural Particularity; Revolution from the Right?

This chapter is about another couple of German thinkers – enemies of capitalism. Both of them hated economic and political freedom of common men, both of them supported big government control over economy, both of them had vision of united community led to progress by wise leaders. The small difference was that one of them Lukacs was Jewish and another one Freyer was not. Consequently one of these philosophical twins, the Jewish one, become communist and another one – national-socialist. One particularly interesting legacy of the communist thinker Lukacs is idea of capitalism as system of illusion that deprives regular people of ability to understand their own interests. So these poor souls mistakenly believe that their best interest is to have good home, abundance of goods and services, and good live overall, while in reality their real interest is to work themselves to death on some great project of communism. Obviously only individuals with superior intellectuals power are capable to understand this real interest and lead stupid masses in correct direction. For both of these guys there is no limitation on methods used to achieve their “noble” goals so deception, violence, and anything else conceivable is a fair play.


Creativity and Resentment in Schumpeter’s Early Writings; The Birth of Irony form Catastrophe; From Prosperity to Depressions; Schumpeter’s Analysis of the Depression and New Deal; Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy; The Role of Intellectuals

This chapter is a very interesting view at Schumpeter that I really did not think about when reading his works. While being very strong defender of capitalism and promoter of idea of creative destruction Schumpeter writes a lot about inevitability of socialism and how it could work (Interestingly he was not able to find way for socialism to work well economically). The point made here is that Schumpeter actually used irony to get through intellectual defenses of socialism and big government ideas build in through educational system of indoctrination into minds of vast majority of people.

CHAPTER TWELVE – FROM KEYNES TO MARCUSE: AFFLUENCE AND ITS DISCONTENTS: The Paradox of Keynes; The New Affluence and the End of Ideology; The European Roots of Markuse’s Thought; Redefining Oppression as Repression. Domination Through Sex and Affluence

This chapter reviews ideas of Keynes and Marcuse. The first one creating pseudo scientific justification of big government that intellectuals were looking for to justify their continuous struggle to grab more power, while the second one developing somewhat weird combination of sexual obsession with economical and political issues. Both these thinkers are intellectually of low grade, but they both got fame and money by meeting not too discrete needs in intellectual justification and sophistry of government bureaucrat and hormonally challenged teenage baby boomers. It makes sense that when baby boomers get older and somewhat less obsessed with sex, Marcuse was discarded, while Keynes ideas alive and well despite being proved wrong many times over both in theory and practice. The obvious reason for continuing presence of these failed ideas is their value for government bureaucracies as justification of their resource redistribution activities.

CHAFFER THIRTEEN – FRIEDRICH HAYEK: UNTIMELY LIBERAL: The Making of a Liberal; Vienne Liberalism, the Jews, and the Defense of Creative Minorities; Rent Control and the Hazards of State Intervention; Socialism, Planning, and the Functions of the Market; The Critique of “Social Justice” and the Hazards of the Welfare State; The Intellectuals Again. The Hayekian Moment; The Tensions and Limits of Hayek’s Thought

The final chapter is about Frederick Hayek and his ideas about technical impossibility of socialism as effective economic system due to complexity of knowledge and information flows in contemporary society, the problem resolved quite satisfactory by capitalism using free pricing of goods and services. It does mention Ludwig Von Mises as economist who was the first conclusively proving this in his works, but allocates a lot more attention to Hayek as the most effective promoter of the view of capitalism as the greatly superior economic system and free market as one and only method of effective and efficient resource allocation. Hayek also provided effective critic of welfare state developing intellectual ammunition for conservative movement of 1980s that partially reversed economic decline of western democracies. Author also stresses Hayek’s shortcoming especially in his exaggeration of consequences of limitation on market forces. So far welfare state and growth of bureaucracies did not bring us back to serfdom, it just made economy sclerotic, population well fed, but limited in its endeavors by economic stagnation caused by regulations, even if somewhat compensated by flow of new technological toys providing entertainment and distraction.


In conclusion author provides a few pages of very good and brief review of intellectual thought in some 20 points from “Centrality of the Market” to “Vital Tensions” of human lives and their change in capitalist societies.


It is a great review of capitalism related western thought for last 300 some years written from point of view sympathetic to capitalism, but with deep understanding of anxieties of capitalism enemies that causes continuing attacks against this economic system despite the fact that it brought unimaginable before prosperity to everybody in the world. Ironically time and again this prosperity is turned against capitalism mainly for the reason of not everybody being equally prosperous at the same time. However every time when this enmity takes over and capitalism system restricted or even destroyed in some country it always resulted in dramatic decrease in quality of life for people in this country leading sometimes after decades of misery to return to capitalism in one form or another. I believe that the only way out of this conundrum is such change in society organization that would give everyone unalienable property and therefore stake in capitalist system.

20150410 Sapience

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The main idea of this book is to review history of humanity with stress on key points of human development that made humans the most successful animal known. These points are:

  • Cognitive revolution that created abstract thinking allowing supreme levels of cooperation and communication;
  • Agricultural Revolution that created environment for empire building and increase in numbers of humans way beyond natural capacity of environment;
  • Discovery of ignorance and Scientific revolution that radically improved quality of human lives.

Final conclusion is that humans practically become gods limited in their abilities only by natural laws and while it is not possible to predict where we are going, it could be said that evolutionary history of humanity ended and we are at the beginning of consciously directed development.


Part One: The Cognitive Revolution

  1. An Animal of No Significance

This is a brief review of our limited knowledge about existence of different humanoids. Homo Sapience was far from the only one among many apes with big brains, some of them with the bigger one than Sapience. The point is made that with high cost of big brain all these apes could been developed only due to higher survival efficiency caused by this brain and expressed in cooking and other uses of fire. It drastically decreased time and effort needed for feeding. Somehow Sapience were able to benefit from this more than any other species and within relatively short time of less than 70,000 years they settled everywhere around the world exterminating and interbreeding with other brainy apes.

  1. The Tree of Knowledge

Here it becomes interesting because it introduces an idea of Cognitive revolution that allowed Sapience to create abstract entities capable to coordinate and direct actions of individuals in organized manner. Author provides an interesting table to presents it features and consequences:

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  1. A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve

This is a brief review of what is known about prehistoric societies otherwise known as bands of hunter-gatherers. The main point here is that it was way of live for which we are the most adjusted by evolution of our bodies from our digestive tract and attraction to high calorie food to our social brain effectively supporting complex relationships in groups of up to 150 individuals. It was sustainable, but really tough existence that is only partially could be understood due to absence of artifacts. Part of it is that even if we can find some artifacts they are often support contradictory narratives even in such simple issue as whether war or peace prevailed in live of prehistoric people. There are archeological places with skeletons indicating death from natural causes, but there also places with evidence of massacres. From cognitive revolution point of view an important fact is evidence of art dated to 15,000-20,000 years and demonstrating that at least some abstract ideas start forming in human minds about this period of time.

  1. The Flood

The final chapter of this part discusses expansion of humanity throughout the world. While still maintaining structure of small bands and still relying on hunting and gathering humans become so good at it that they were able to move everywhere in the world in process extinguishing multiple species of big mammals who were good targets for coordinated hunting by the group of humans with decent planning and communication capabilities.

 Part Two: The Agricultural Revolution

  1. History’s Biggest Fraud

This chapter is about transition to agriculture. Interestingly enough it presented agriculture as a big fraud that nature inflicted upon humanity. The promise of agriculture was easier living due to ability to grow more food, but biological nature of humanity caused humans to multiply as soon as more food become available pushing them into Malthusian cycle and in process decreasing quality of life by making people work harder, accept deteriorating diet of grains or rice, and fight each other in territorial wars. All these developments related to agriculture taken together put high premium on tribe’s ability to expand beyond 150 individuals and direct coordinated actions of thousands people in war or big long-term projects. The tribes that managed to meet this challenge by inventing abstractions of god(s), great leaders, and such become winners taking more land, incorporating other tribes in their society, and acquiring slaves to till their fields.

  1. Building Pyramids

This chapter is review of abstractions that people come up with within framework of agricultural society. These abstractions run from Hammurabi code (1776 BC) to US Constitution (1776 AD), from religions of old with multiple and highly specialized gods to contemporary monotheistic religions like Christianity or Islam, and atheistic religions such as communism or National Socialism. Author provides common characteristics for imaginary order created based on such abstractions:

  • The imagined order is imbedded in material world
  • The imagined order shapes our desires
  • The imagined order is inter-subjective meaning it is subjective, but shared by multiple individuals, typically by majority of the people in society.
  1. Memory Overload

This chapter is about next cognitive step when people invented tools to overcome memory limitations of individual human. This step was invention of writing that allowed fixing information in stone and much later in computer memory, creating foundation for managing millions of individuals as one body via nervous system of bureaucracy. Correspondingly continuing development of knowledge created multiple scientific languages for different areas such as calculus, mathematics, chemistry, and many more.

  1. There is No Justice in History

This chapter is about organization of society at the level of unequal groups of people defined by various often randomly selected individual features such as skin color. Author provides framework of development of vicious cycle of rigid social system:

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Discussion is related initially to racism and then goes to sexism, providing an interesting table of attitude changes:

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Author also poses an interesting question: “How come that human society that extensively relies on cooperation the less cooperating sexual group (males) are routinely dominate ove more cooperating group (females). He has no answer at this point.

Part Three: The Unification of Humankind

  1. The Arrow of History

The view of history had changed from image of arrow flying in some predefined direction to quasi-static condition continuously interrupted by unpredictable events and therefore moving chaotically from one direction to another. In other words it is being in flux with no predestination whatsoever, but with some loosely defined direction nevertheless. This direction could be rather defined as consolidation of humanity that started at very low level of groups and growing into one global entity of humanity. This process is based on foundation of three abstractions: money, empires, and religions.

10 .The Scent of Money

The first abstraction – money supports effective division of labor and exchange of goods and services. This chapter is a very short discussion of money with stress on its function as trusted medium of exchange.

  1. Imperial Visions

The second abstraction – imperial visions provides for unification of humanity in large entities that provide security, create common trade space, and develop common cultural space for huge numbers of people over extended territories. Here is tabulated representation of empires life cycles:

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The final destination of this vision where we are moving now is a global empire that includes all of humanity held together by common culture and common interests.

  1. The Law of Religion

The third abstraction – religion provides for unified philosophical view of the world that support culture of the society and cohesiveness of its members. This chapter reviews a number of religions developed by humanity including secular religions such as Buddhism and Communism. It also provides a useful graph for their understanding:

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It also distinguish as a separate category humanist religions:

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  1. The Secret of Success

This is discussion of how humanity get to the point it is in now – a dominant species in process of merging into one global entity. The point is made that history is second-order chaotic system meaning that any prediction changes outcome, making it unpredictable in principle. For the most part history did not lead to improvement of human lives, this is very recent phenomenon and even so it was not true for many people who perished in calamities of last century despite dramatic increase in productive abilities of humanity and improvements in all areas of technology.

 Part Four: The Scientific Revolution

  1. The Discovery of Ignorance

The science starts with recognition of ignorance. Historically people always new everything about the world meaning that they believed they know everything there is to know and this knowledge is contained either in heads of wise old men or in sacred books. The discovery of ignorance prompted beginning of search of knowledge, creating science:

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  1. The Marriage of Science and Empire

This chapter is about how Europe managed to combine newly found scientific approach to the world expressed in new technology and imperial conquest, while other cultures especially Chinese were not able to do it.

  1. The Capitalist Creed

This is about another component of European success – capitalism that provided economic foundation for application of science and technology to real life problems. Interestingly enough it looks at capitalism and monetized economy from morality point of view when everything is based on trust. Trust in money being a good conduit for value, but most important trust in the future as foundation of modern economy:

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  1. The Wheels of Industry

This chapter is about some features of capitalism such as technology advancement, mass production including treatment of animals as machines. It also linked to consumerism with an interesting point that in the past objectives of aristocratic elites were dedicated to consumption, while regular people worked hard just to survive. The current conditions of developed capitalism led to situation when business elite works hard to invest capital in most effective way to achieve high return, while regular people work a lot less if at all and consume a lot more.

  1. A Permanent Revolution

This chapter is about other side of capitalist development: the great weakening of family and community and their substitute by the state and virtual community:

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  1. And They Lived Happily Ever After

This is about human happiness and meaning of life, the issues that become important after science and capitalism provided enough food and consumables to maintain this life nearly effortlessly.

  1. The End of Homo Sapience

The final chapter is about next phase in history of Sapience when humans achieved ability to consciously redesign their own DNA and rebuild biological world around them to whatever specification they would like. Combined with already dramatically changed material world with its houses, cars, communications, and array of newly created goods and services this final frontier signifies end of Homo Sapience as animal created by evolution and begins new chapter of Sapience that created himself.

Afterword: The Animal that Become a God

The book ends with a charming point that while humans become gods they are still do not know where they are going and what they want to achieve. So the final question is: “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?


I find the framework of history of Homo Sapience presented in this book highly viable with decent explanatory power. Especially interesting is notion of discovery of ignorance that I do not remember encountering anywhere else. Another interesting point while not entirely new, but somehow poorly understood, is that capitalism is economic system build on trust and this is a very important reason for its success. I would not completely agree with author about current situation, which he believes characterized by increase in strength of state and market at the expense of family and community. I think that we will see decrease in the power in influence of state and restructuring of family and community that would change from family held together by external forces of laws and traditions to family held together voluntary by mutual affection. The similar process would happen with community when it will change from territorial community of kin to virtual community of individuals with similar interests and attitudes. In short – the real story of humanity is just beginning.

20150403 Social

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Human brain is first and foremost tool for social connection between people. The need for social connection is even more important than food for survival and it show in all human activities including initial behavior of infants.


Part One: Beginnings

1 Who Are We?

This starts with the story of author grandparents who were so closely connected that literally could not live one without other. Then story goes through famous Regan / Mondale debates when Regan’s joke allowed to establish direct social connection between him and public leading to victory in elections. Finally it arrives to evolutionary value of social connection with wonderful graph of its historic and developmental progression:

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  1. The Brain’s Passion

This chapter is review of technology and research of brain activities specifically oriented to identify part of brain that is activated by default whenever brain is not tasked with specific activity. It arrives to the Social Brain Hypothesis stating that our super big brain was evolutionary developed to support our connectivity and cooperation with each other.

Part Two: Connection

  1. Broken Hearts and Broken Legs

This chapter is analysis of fear with interesting point that lots of people more afraid of public speaking than broken leg. From here discussion goes to social pain and suggestion to turn Maslow’s pyramid upside down putting self-actualization into foundation of needs making it more important than physiological needs. As prove two points provided: the first is the fact that painkillers work to sooth psychological pain and another one based on experiments with baby monkey and feeding machine vs. cozy machine. All this supported by fMRI research of brain activities. It was also tested by another set of experiments with Cyberball social rejection game.

  1. Fairness Tastes like Chocolate

This is discussion about fairness with usual reference to ultimate game. However fairness here is defined more as sign of social acception and recognition of value of the person, than anything else. From here it goes to importance of being liked to wellbeing of the person. Then it follows with discussion of using praise and recognition as reward and finally comes to conclusion that need to avoid social pain and obtain recognition is as important as physical pain/pleasure dimension and could even be causally related to altruism.

Part Three: Mindreading

  1. Mental Magic Tricks

This chapter is about mindreading as it is practiced in social games like Rock- Paper/Scissors when everything depends on reading adversary’s mind. It reviews a number of experiments related to taking into account other’s mind, discusses brain structures that manage this process, and its implication for social cohesiveness.

  1. Mirror, Mirror

This chapter is about mirror neurons, data and experiments in support of this theory and cracks found in it. It also discusses social evaluation constantly conducted in order to understand behavior of other people and to be able to answer questions How, What, and Why for this behavior. It suggests that mind reading combined with mirroring makes Social Worlds possible.

7.Peaks and Valleys

This chapter discusses ups and downs of human live. Then it goes into three types of human empathy: understanding, affect matching, and empathic motivation. It seems to be supported by the Septal Area of the brain. It also discusses autism and its probable causes.

Part Four: Harmonizing

  1. Trojan Horse Selves

This is a very interesting take on the problem of consciousness and self-awareness: what is its evolutionary value? The answer here is that it is the Trojan horse that makes people more social and consequently capable for self-sacrifices on the behalf of group. To support this idea author provides quite detailed overview of related parts of brain. Author actually comes up with idea that would probably become all the rage in political and business analysis of focus groups: neural focus group when result based not on what people say, but what area of their brain is gets lighten up when some product or political candidates presented. Looks like it has better predictable power than just asking.

  1. Panoptic Self Control

This chapter starts with an interesting anecdote demonstrating how a low value gain right now can cause person to forfeit much more gain in the future, kind of restatement of marshmallow experiment findings. Then it goes into brain’s mechanics of self-control reviewing separately a Motor self-control, Cognitive self-control, Perspective taking, and finally control over emotions via mechanisms of suppressing or reappraisal. There is also an interesting question of who benefits from self-control. Unsurprisingly, author believes that society benefits most with mechanism of switching it on and forcing individual to behave as in panoptical environment when being watched changes behavior to comply with norms. At the end of chapter author again stresses that our Self is formed by society to maximize benefits for it, rather than for individual.

Part Five: Smarter, Happier, more Productive

10 Living with a Social Brain

Here author goes into discussion about happiness and its connection with sociality of the brain. He spend some time on explaining “paradox” of money not bringing happiness only to conclude that happiness is linked to social connections and these connections in contemporary world get weaker all the time due to surrogates provided by technological tools like TVs, Internet, and such.

11The Business of Social Brains

This chapter is about implication of social brain to motivation. It represented by SCARF model: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. Author believes that this combination has significant motivational power and should be used extensively in addition to money to improve business relations and consequently productivity.

12.Educating Social Brain

The final discussion is about contemporary education and how it is often fails to take into account social characteristics of human brain. Some ideas for modification of current processes such as special attention to development of self-control, gearing process to age related changes in emotional condition of children, provide also training for emotional regulation and mindreading discussed in detail.


I think there is a lot of common sense related to human social connectivity here that is coming greatly enforced by technological understanding of a human brain and psychological experiments that demonstrate various aspects of it. The bottom line humans are social animals whose big brain developed by evolution to support group survival with the same if not higher priority than survival of individual. I find especially interesting the part on motivation, which is going to be more and more important when humanity moves from expansionary phase to sustainability phase with material wellbeing becoming insignificant and human routine labor unnecessary. SCARF and other methods of using intrinsic strive for sociality seems to open way for creating meaning of life in the new environment when plain survival, procreation, and resource acquisition are given and could not provide such meaning any more.

20150327 The Meaning of Human Existence

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The meaning of human existence is not coming from god or any other supreme conscious entity that set up some objective for human live. It comes from evolution that produced humanity via change-selection process. Every human being is just an intermediate link in the continuing process of development of humanity and meaning of live is to prevent interruption of this process and eventually to take over future development away from evolution into consciously development under human control for human objective. This process should include transformation of continuously changing environment in such way that it would become sustainable with maintenance of biodiversity, merge of technology and humanities, and probable improvements in both human biology and society.



  1. The Meaning of Meaning

It is an interesting discussion about meaning of “meaning”. Two definitions are provided: Intentionality as in Intention that implies Design that implies Designer; and another one: Accidents of history and evolution creates meaning without any need for intentional design or designer. The first definition is trying to answer to “WHY” by referencing to Designer’s intention, the second: by trying to answer this question by using science and reformulates question into HOW DID IT HAPPENED and WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT.

  1. Solving the Riddle of the Human Species

This is discussion about riddle of human nature and how it came to be. It very briefly reviews prehistory of human species with conclusion that we are just a biological species adapted to live in biological world; no notions of angels or demons would be applicable.

  1. Evolution and Our Inner Conflict

This is the presentation of key features of our species as product of multi-level evolution when features preferable for individual survival are always in conflict with features preferable for group level survival causing extreme complexity of human behavior and attitudes.


  1. The New Enlightenment

The new Enlightenment is the path that author believes we are already on. It is merge of science and humanities. This chapter reviews historical process of enlightenment as generation of new form of human mental representation of the world via scientific method that not only developed into separate branch of knowledge but become practically dominant approach. The new Enlightenment would be based on global interconnection and bring science and humanities back together.

5 The All-Importance of the Humanities

This is discussion of current and future technological development that would allow humans to practically reinvent themselves as species by changing DNA, environment, even creating new species as needed. Another important question is what humans would do if robots do all the work. Author believes that the only way to answer these questions is via development of humanities.

6 The Driving Force of Social Evolution

This is discussion of social evolution through the prism of two competing theories of evolution: theory of inclusive fitness and theory of multilayered evolution that includes individual level and group level. Author himself over the years moved from complete support of inclusive fitness to individual-group duality of evolutionary process.


  1. Humanity Lost in a Pheromone World

This chapter is the step aside from human world and attempt to find explanations in the world of insects, which is the area of author’s expertise.

8. Superorganism

This is about ants and their society that could be considered as a super-organism.

9. Why Microbes Rule the Galaxy

This is view at colonies of insects as superorganisms. Interestingly enough these superorganisms are as complex as human society and are as effective in survival games as humans are even if there is nothing even remotely close in structure and functions of colony of ants and human city. The main difference is that humans are autonomous self-conscious creatures who however have inherent need to congregate in groups and coordinate their actions, while insects have not even an inkling of individuality and self-consciousness in any of their separate organisms.

  1. A Portrait of E.T.

This is a speculative discussion of possible ETs and what their features would be based on what we know about evolution. Unsurprisingly they have all typical characteristics of humans. They even has to achieve similar level of ecological consciousness to understand that conquest of earth makes no sense so we can rest assured that war of the worlds is not going to happen.

  1. The Collapse of Biodiversity.

This chapter is dedicated to discussion of dramatic decrease of biodiversity caused by expansion of human species. Author expects the bottleneck of existence that world will go through during current century with appearance at the end sustainable balance between humanity and all other species.


  1. Instinct

The key point here is that humans as all other animals are driven by instincts, needs, and prone to develop phobias that are all but impossible to overcome. There are overall at least 67 universals found in all known human societies such as music, sports, body decorations, incest taboos and others making it highly probable that they have genetic origins common for humanity. It also includes acquired preference for natural environment that person grew up in that, however has underlying preference for natural environment of savannah where humanity came from.

  1. Religion

This chapter is about religion and its biological roots. From evolutionary point of view of multilevel selection, religions are highly beneficial adaptive tool that increases coherence of the group and assures necessary sacrifices by an individual for the best of the group. However all religions tend to define people as us: the true believers and others who reject the truth. Consequently all inclined to fight these others until they accept the truth or annihilated, making it quite difficult for humanity to coexist. The solution of this problem is found in America. It is tolerance for everybody’s faith and creation myths.

  1. Free Will

This is discussion of human free will with reference to failure of philosophy to come up with anything even remotely plausible. However being scientist and biologist at that author has no doubt in material nature of the mind and free will and assigns high expectation to the new project for Brain Activity Mapping (BAM). Author also expresses an interesting notion of self, as confabulation for multiple stories from individual’s past, present, and imagined future constantly reprocessed and changed to refit them to perceived reality. The final note here is that free will as notion is highly adaptable feature that helps human to survive in complex world regardless of actual production of human action based on neural activities of the brain.

  2. Alone and Free in the Universe

Author is mainly optimistic about future of humanity, however he sees a lot of danger in contradiction between human nature created by evolution, Paleolithic environment, and what is required to accommodate to techno scientific global human community. Author compares negative features of human nature to biological notion of tolerable parasite load when presence of parasite does not hamper survival of organism. One of the most virulent and distractive features of human nature author considers religious denial of science, especially evolution. At the end author once again stresses what he believes is necessity of merge of science, humanities, and art in unified model of reality.


I pretty much agree with just about everything in this worldview. I also believe that humanity is the random outcome of spontaneous biological evolution, that human mind has 100% material base, and that we have to transform ourselves into sustainable society in harmony with environment. The only probable disagreement is that I do not see it happening via coercive power of governments and I do not believe that biodiversity is that important. I think that we are on the brink of remodeling environment rather than just accommodating to it and that would include development of new organisms, modification of our DNAs, and reconstruction of environment to fit our needs. However in my view the meaning of human live depends on time scale we apply looking at it. At the scale of a few decades of our lives it has lots of meaning in enjoying and/or suffering everything that life can provide for human being. On the scale of billions of years of universe it makes no sense whatsoever.

20150320 End of Big

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This book is about dramatic consequences of what author calls radical connectivity – the ability of everybody to obtain any information and connect with everybody else in the world. His main idea is that consequences of such democratization of communication undermines institutions of society and endangers its effective functioning.



This is about fear that author feel before Internet expansion and increase in freedom of people that it brings with it. Author does not trying to hide that he is active member of big left and as such in awe before big government and other big institutions of society. Even if he states at one point that some big institution deserve to die, he still believes that without some of big institutions led by supremely wise men like Obama, we all going to suffer. He clearly stated his fear that without all these big institutions and their power all “progressive” achievements of last 150+ years in limiting economic and personal freedoms of Americans will be lost. In addition to general statements about big institutions and threat to their existence this chapter also goes through brief history of development of computers that become basis for radical connectivity from PC through Internet and mobile devices. It also includes some interesting passages about what author calls “Nerd decease”, situation well familiar to everybody who ever dealt professionally with people of high technology. Quite often these people tend to look for overcomplicated technological solutions for problems that could be easily solved in much simpler way. As example he provides typical situation when complex code was developed to transfer reports to user when it could be easily done by manually delivering it across the aisle in the office.


This chapter reviews dare situation of big news organizations that are getting killed by freedom of everybody to collect and distribute information. Behind author’s worries about decrease in professionalism of news media one can clearly see fear that without tightly controlled information flow the left political movement would be hard pressed its traditional advantage in setting up narrative and manipulating public opinion. Author is trying to find solace in some leftist success stories of online community organizing such as Huffington and Guardian experiences, but it is hard to believe that these leftist organizations that would have to compete with multiple online rightist organization could possibly provide such dominance as leftists had in time past when all three and only three TV news services were leftist. They had such amazing capability to distort information that they managed to create perception of right wing guilt in such event as communist Oswald killing president Kennedy.


Being one of technological leads in Obama campaign, author seems to be more positive in his views on impact of radical connectivity in politics mainly because Obama’s campaign was able to benefit from indoctrination of youth by public schools and colleges and therefore tap into their enthusiasm and pockets. However even in this area where author built successful carrier, he is filled with fear because radical connectivity can push upfront populist movements like Tea party that are capable to destroy leftist big government game that for more than a century was based on two big government parties: Bureaucratic party of Democrats and Crony capitalist party of Republicans.

  1. BIG FUN

This chapter is review of slow moving demise of another bastion of leftism – big entertainment. With virtual impossibility to control production and distribution of online entertainment Hollywood and traditional Music industry are in process of loosing control over content and distribution. Practically they are loosing monopoly power on propaganda via entertainment. Author also afraid of power moving from content oriented big entities such as Hollywood that had always been political to platform oriented big entities such as Amazon that do not really care about content, making it much more difficult from point of view of message control.


This chapter is looking at impact of radical connectivity on big government. It recites a few cases of groundswell, meaning people finding ways to get around big government, and naturally states his fear of chaos if big government loses control over people. Another fear that is mentioned here is the fear of people sorting themselves out into separate like-minded groups and trying to handle their problem without government interference. I guess one of the main problems it represents for a liberal is dramatic increase in difficulties to conduct robbery of productive people on behalf of unproductive because it would be a big challenge to convince them that robbery is for common good when they know that they have nothing in common with beneficiaries of robbery whether these beneficiaries habituate in welfare slams or posh government offices. The final part of this chapter is dedicated to transparency of government and lobbying opportunities provided by online organizing.


This chapter is about impact of radical connectivity on war. The believe expressed here is that Internet, global connectivity, and similar thing completely change methods of conducting hostile actions leading to empowering of individuals to fight using terror actions and information disclosure. The big idea here is that government could not possibly shut down some digital networks. I guess meaning of big armies, their capabilities, and war with massive death is beyond author’s imagination, probably due to the lack of historical knowledge.


This one is about elite education and government based scientific community with its process of elite selection and pier review based approval and legitimation that is increasingly coming under pressure from various forms of online education and knowledge development and dissemination. All these developments undermine authority and consequently cause fear for big government types. Author describes attempts to establish at least some authority online via authoritative sources such as Wikipedia and various fact check websites, but he does not feel that these attempts are really successful in achieving their goals.


This chapter is about online goods and services providers that increasingly push out big companies substituting them with small shops and remaking America into free agent country. One of the most important points here is that economy of scale is loosing its advantages when it competes with economy of cheap information flows. Specifically reviewed are software sharing services and the cloud. This chapter is a great resource for all kind of information about weird web sites related to small online businesses.


The final chapter is kind of summary of situation. Author clearly sees that we are at the point of revolution in human history as big or even bigger then revolutions of early XX century that swept away thousands of years of monarchies and aristocracies ruling the world. It looks like big institutions of our time are moving in the same direction – they will be swept away by newly acquired power of individuals to control their lives, their productive, consuming, intellectual, and communicative activities. Author seems to be desperately looking for new institutions that could save power of elite or as he puts it “direction-setting inspirational leadership”, but could not find anything.


I agree that we are moving into new age of radical change in society institutions due to “radical connectivity” as author puts it. Contrary to the author I see only good coming from it because increase in power of individuals is not coming at the expense of decrease in power of some benevolent abstract entities of big government or big anything. It is coming at the expense of power of other individuals who are in control of these big institutions and routinely use this control to transfer to themselves wealth and resource created by other people. It short if “radical connectivity” wins, the contemporary elites will go the way of aristocracies a centuries past into oblivion. Author seems to fear this and I relish seeing it coming.

20150313 Moral, Believing Animals

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The main idea of this book is that humans are qualitatively different from other animals mainly because of their inherent need and ability to believe in some narrative and to adhere to morals derived from this narrative. This believes and corresponding morals pretty much define human actions and attitudes to each other and environment. From here follows that other theories of human nature either rational choice or structural functionalism are incorrect with most critic directed at ideas of sociobiology.


  1. Introduction

This book is an attempt to answer to question what kind of animals is humans? The main themes are theory of culture and human action, rejection of simplifications in other theories of culture, and, finally it elaborates a descriptive anthropology of personhood in attempt to understand human social actions.

  1. Human Culture as Moral Order

Author postulates a normative approach to culture stating that humans are inherently moral animals, meaning understanding of right and wrong and continuing matching of intentions, desires, and actions against these notions. The same applies not only to individuals, but also to social institution and cultural structures. This morality is controlled by human emotions, especially by empathy and only seldom fails in some individuals who are psychopaths and generally recognized as deviation from the norm. It also goes into details of social structures defining them as a complex set of rules and resources. For examples author looks at Universities and at markets stating that they are all inherently linked to morality of any given society and cannot function without it. Author also reviews some implication of his approach.

  1. Believing Animals

The main point here is that all humans are believers and base their actions and behavior on unverifiable assumptions they obtain during socialization. Typically any believe that an individual has is not a subject to change by presentation of empirical facts. Sometimes it is possible to change, but it does not come easy and often feels like revelation. However the person does not cease to be believer, but rather just switch to another set of believes. Author thinks that the human characteristic of believe is responsible for variety of incompatible cultures and religions existing in the world. Also reviewed here sociological research and theories with critic that they tend to ignore or at least minimize the role of believes. Finally it touches our specific set of believes – democratic capitalism that treated as just another set of believes not that different in its nature from any other set of believes like believes of a medieval peasant or aristocrat.

  1. Living Narratives

This chapter is about currently active narratives with stress on idea that our current narrative based on science, technology, and such is still developed as stories and they are not only made by humans, but also make humans by continuously supporting culture that forms them. The author reviews samples of narratives such as American Experiment narrative, Islamic Resurgence narrative, Christian, and some other narratives. Then he reviews how narratives impact individual and then specifically looks in details at American Sociological narrative. The interesting point at the end of chapter is that it is not possible truly be a relativist and consider all narratives as of equal value because it is not humanly possible to overcome your own narrative whatever it is at the time. The end of chapter provides a very short overview of philosophical approach to competition, mixing, and recombination of various narratives.

  1. On Religion

This is an attempt to answer to the question what is religion? Author comes up with a very reasonable definition: “Religions are sets of beliefs, symbols and practices about reality of superempirical orders that make claim to organize and guide human life”. This follows by speculation about origins of religion

  1. The Return of Culture?

This is review of development of sociology of culture in XX century when it went from structural functionalism with its stress of leading role of culture in society and as defining factor of individual behavior through second half of century when Marxist interpretation of superstructure based on economics was main force in its turn pushed away by theories of rational choice and eventually somewhat coming back to ideas of culture based sociology that incudes much richer accounts of human life than original functionalism.

  1. Conclusion

The conclusion briefly restates author’s dissatisfaction with existing approaches: sociobiology, rational choice theory, exchange theory, and evolutionary psychology all of which he considers being developed from antimentalist, noncultural traditions of Western social theory. Author restates his approach that humans are moral and believing animals and that there is intimate connection between morals and social institutions and that it impacts all actions of human individuals.


I pretty much agreed with proposition that morals and behavior are based on believes, but do not see how it contradicts either evolutionary biology or even sociobiology. As soon as we take out consideration of intelligent superior being(s), we necessarily wind up with evolutionary explanations, of which the most plausible for me is theory of dual level selection based on fitness of individual within the group and of group amongst other group. Believes and corresponding morals are dynamically changing sets of memes that are continuously invented, reinvented, survive or perish with individuals and groups carrying them. Sometimes the survival of individuals and groups depends on their ability discard existing believes and accept new ones that better support their survival at the moment. The great example of dramatic and massive changes in believes and consequently morals provided by history of Islamic conquests, probably the most consistent violent expansion of ideology in history.

20150306 Sleepwalkers

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The main ideaof this book is that WWI was long in coming and that this conflict was based on dynamic change formed over some 30 years of previous diplomatic maneuvering. Individuals who were making decisions on all sides just followed usual patterns of behavior that was created during prewar years and even if many were able to see the giant catastrophe they were getting themselves into, were not able to change patterns of behavior and decision making leading to it.


Part One: Roads to Sarajevo

  1. Serbian Ghosts: Murder in Belgrade; ‘Irresponsible Elements’; Mental Maps; Separation; Escalation; Three Turkish Wars; The Conspiracy; Nikola Parle Reacts

The first chapter is about Serbian history and culture formed in long struggle with Ottoman Empire. It starts with story of coup against Serbian king and establishment of new dynasty under control of militant Serbian nationalists. Probably the most important part of it is discussion about culturally dominant view among population of Great Serbia that would include many lands only tangibly related to Serbs. The point here is that Serbian nationalists saw possibility of development only as consequence of great European war in which bordering with Serbia and much more powerful Austro-Hungary and Ottomans would be defeated, opening way for the new country under Serbian control – Yugoslavia. Interestingly enough that was actually what happened as consequence of WWI.

2.The Empire without Qualities: Conflict and Equilibrium; The Chess Players; Lies and Forgeries; Deceptive Calm; Hawks and Doves;

The second chapter looks at another part of equation: Austro-Hungarian Empire. The main point here is that contrary to usual interpretation heavily influenced by knowledge of what happened after WWI, this country was not a sick pitiful entity on the brink of collapse. It was rather healthy and economically prosperous society that was capable more or less successfully keep in check centrifugal forces created by multi-national nature of population. While politically this semi-democratic state was often in paralysis, it boded very well for economic prosperity and well being of population. Maybe this example of political importance intertwined with economic vitality provided fodder for ideas that eventually led to creation of Austrian school of economics.

Part Two: One Continent Divided

  1. The Polarization of Europe 1887-1907: Dangerous Liaison: the Franco-Russian Alliance; The Judgment of Paris; The End of British Neutrality; Belated Empire: Germany; The Great Turning Point? Painting the Devil on the Wall;

This is review of dynamical changes in alliances going on in Europe for 20 years at the end of XIX century. Mainly it was a drift through various combinations to France – Russian alliance to contain Germany in the centre of Europe and prevent its expansion outside. The important role was plaid by French – Germany competition in Morocco that pushed France to look for allies. It found such initially in Russia that needed French financing to recover after loss in war with Japan, and then in British who were concerned by Germany naval buildup.

  1. The Many Voices of European Foreign Policy: Sovereign Decision-makers; Who Governed in St Petersburg? Who Governed in Paris? Who Governed in Berlin? The Troubled Supremacy of Sir Edward Grey The Agadir Crisis of 1911; Soldiers and Civilians; The Press and Public Opinion; The Fluidity of Power;

This chapter is an interesting review of internal powers and decision-making processes in all main countries. It shows real weakness of all monarchs who rarely if ever were able to make their decisions stick. It also demonstrates that majority of European monarchies including even Russia were semi-democratic entities in which relatively free press and public opinion played a significant role.

  1. Balkan Entanglements: Air Strikes on Libya; Balkan Helter-skelter; The Wobbler; The Balkan Winter Crisis of 1012-13; Bulgaria or Serbia? Austria’s Troubles; The Balkanization of the Franco-Russian Alliance; Paris Forces the Pace: Poincare under Pressure;

This chapter is about history of Balkan conflict that at the beginning was conflict of several Christian Balkan countries against Ottomans with Bulgaria playing main role and then between these countries with Serbia leading piling up of everybody else on Bulgaria. All this was going on with heavy interference from Russia, France, and Austro-Hungary.

  1. Last Chances: Detente and Danger 1012-1014: The Limits of Detente; ’Now or Never’; Germans on the Bosphorus; The Balkan lnception Scenario; A Crisis of Masculinity? How Open Was the Future?

This chapter is about attempt of détente between Russia and Germany that failed mainly because both sides could not risk their existing alliances. This failure created strong feelings in Germany that time is not on their side because Russia was quickly rearming its military using French money, while Austro-Hungary was very low on military expenses and Ottomans were growing comparatively weaker. When Germans increased their influence with Ottomans to the point of taking over military command, Russians become convinced that it was aimed to close the critical trade rout for their grain via Bosporus. In turn Russians did everything possible to increase their influence on Balkans trying to assure that this rout remains open.

Part Three: Crisis

  1. Murder in Sarajevo: The Assassination; Flashbulb Moments; The Investigation Begins; Serbian Responses; What is to be Done?

This chapter is detailed review of actual assassination in Sarajevo and its fallout. Especially interesting is Serbian initial reaction, which was not to conduct serious investigation and not suppress nationalists’ celebrations, consequently humiliating and provoking Austrians.

  1. The Widening Cycle: Reactions Abroad; Count Hoyos Goes to Berlin; The Road to the Austrian Ultimatum; The Strange Death of Nikolai Hartwig;

This is review of public reactions to events and maneuverings between Germany and Austro-Hungary with Germany pushing for quick and decisive action. It seems to be possible that this was based on believe that conflict is eventually inevitable, while its delay would be detrimental to Germany chances.

  1. The French in St Petersburg: Count de Robien Chanees Trains; M. Poincare Sails to Russia; The Poker Game;

This is about overall French-Russian relationships and specifically detailed description of Poincare visit to Russia during the crisis where both sides agreed to take side of Serbia even if it would cause military conflict.

  1. Ultimatum: Austria Demands; Serbia Responds; A ‘Local war’ begins;

This is brief, but detailed account of Austrian ultimatum and Serbian response. An interesting thing about it is that initially even before it was formally delivered Serbian leaders were scared enough to consider its acceptance. However with Russian and French assurances that they would not be left alone, they moved to reject Austrian demands initiating local war that quickly started to escalate.

  1. Warning Shots: Firmness Prevails; ‘It’s War This Time’; Russian Reasons;

The initial steps to war at this point become practically inevitable because, at least partially due to prevailing military doctrine that stated that mobilization and positioning of troops is critical for achieving success. This chapter reviews Russian thinking and acting in view of this doctrine.

  1. Last Days: A Strange Light Falls upon the Map of Europe; Poincare Returns to Paris; Russia Mobilizes; The Leap into the Dark; ‘There Must Be Some Misunderstanding’; The Tribulations of Paul Cambon; Britain Intervenes; Belgium; Boots

This chapter recounts the last days of piece when mobilizations and counter mobilizations went full speed underway. Interestingly enough in addition to Austrian ultimatum to Serbia there was another ultimatum by Germany to Belgium demanding to open passage for German troops. The Belgium’s rejection and the following German aggression brought into hostilities Britain. British previously stated that German passage would not cause military response if it were limited geographically: remaining south of Sambre -Meuse line. Germans just ignored this opportunity and went full speed ahead with invasion. The final small note is description of people in remote areas of Russia learning about war. They did not even know who is war against and often come up with completely incorrect guesses.


This is a very interesting prehistory of WWI with all its political and diplomatic maneuvering and intrigues. It all looks like a complicated game that rulers and their bureaucracies played jockeying to get better positions relative to one another to be eventually converted into more territories and people under their control at the time when they were not really able to control effectively people and territories they already had. It is also amazing to me how far away from everyday real lives of normal people all this occurred and how little regular people feel need to watch this and try to be involved. As result the masses paid huge price for letting their elites to play. Happens every time.

20150227 Debt

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Debt is bad, creditors are violent creatures that spoil everything and society should clear debt for everybody because some rich and powerful do not pay their debts anyway.


1 On The Experience of Moral Conclusion

Author starts by establishing his leftist credentials as participant of anti-globalization movement. As such he demanded abolishment of 3d world countries debt. In one of his encounters with civilians he bumped into a new and alien for him idea that debt should be paid. This started his research that produced this book about debt. Being leftist author considers debt as something very bad, but he is not satisfied with just moral side of it. He goes to history to trace debt origins and development.

2 The Myth of Barter

The first step of his review author is trying to disqualify typical economic idea of origination of money–based market: impracticality of barter leading to creation of money as universal exchange tool. The main point of this chapter is that barter in real primitive one-tribe economy was not used because there were no real exchange of goods and services, just mutual help and cooperation in survival process. However, when he turns to actual anthropological research he brings example of barter exchange, albeit not within a tribe, but rather between tribes as part of regular encounter. Even more interestingly he comes to conclusion that original medium of exchange was credit with money invented much later.

3 Primordial Debts

This is more detailed review of the Credit Theory of Money – theory that money was invented as unit of measure of debt. From here author links debt to the state power claiming that debt and consequently money were not created to meet exchange needs of people, but as tool of robbery forcing people to pay taxes with state issued money which could be acquired only by selling goods and services to representatives of the state. Another theory discussed is theory of primordial debt that was recently developed as part of intellectual foundation for Euro. The main idea is that all humans born already in debt to society because without it they could not possibly exists. The state and government is embodiment of the society and therefore every human is in debt to government and the only meaning of his life is to pay this debt back. To author’s credit he is capable to think it through to logically inevitable conclusion of individual being the slave of the state as in USSR. The final point is made that usual dichotomy of the market vs. the state is wrong. As author sees it states created markets and markets require states.

  1. Cruelty and Redemption

This is discussion of duality of the money: IOU on one side and commodity on another. Somehow it goes into discussion of economic ideas of Niezsche but then successfully goes back to evils of debt.

5 A Brief Treatise on the Moral Grounds of Economic Relations

Here author brings in anthropological research to establish qualitative and moral difference of debt comparatively to all other obligations. The first step he does is to try redefining communism as a system of mutual obligations that exists always and everywhere in compliance with slogan “from each to each”. He even states: “Communism is the foundation of all human sociability”. After that he is moving to “Exchange” treating it as an inferior method of interaction comparatively to Communism. Somehow he believes that exchange implies hierarchy so he tries to show that “exchange” produces “hierarchy”. At the end of chapter he goes into discussion of meaning of debt stating that it is just an incomplete exchange.

6 Games with Sex and Death

This starts with a strange statement that if we reduce human life to “exchange” only eliminating “communism” and “hierarchy”, we somehow move all humanity who is not adult males into background. He also introduces a new notion of “human economy” meaning “economic systems concerned not with the accumulation of debt, but with the creation, destruction, and rearranging of human beings. Then he goes into anthropological example of such economies running on blood debt, flesh debt, slavery, and such.

7 Honor and Degradation or On the Foundation of Contemporary Civilization

This chapter is about mainly non-material debts of honor and honoring one’s debts. Author brings it to an interesting point about “human economy” starting with slavery. He sees slavery not as primarily regular economic phenomenon, but rather as human relations phenomenon that he defines as “a human being ripped out of one’s contest”. From here he goes to defining slavery as “social death” and then to linking it to honor. He defines honor as “surplus dignity” often achieved by diminishing dignity of other especially by eliminating dignity of slaves. It is kind of human non-economical exploitation. Finally he links honor to money and debt by claiming that they are more measure of honor than actual economic tools. In conclusion of this chapter author comes up with a mind bugging and charming idea that we are masters and slaves at the same time and our freedom comes down to our ability to drive ourselves as slaves.

  1. Credit versus Bullion, and the Cycles of History

Here author returns to economy and money, looking at historic process of exchange development similar in multiple cultures from non-quantifiable Credit / Debt to Commercial loans to money exchange and quantifiable debt with term conditions. He believes that this process went in parallel in Mesopotamia, China, and Egypt and was completed about 750 BC in all these cultures with establishment of money exchange and formal debt processing.

9 The Axial Age (800 BC – 600 AD)

The next step was development of philosophies by such figures as Pythagoras, Buddha, and Confucius all living at the same time around 500 BC. German philosopher Karl Jaspers called it Axial Age and claimed that it was the age of philosophical awakening of humanity. Author is trying to link to invention and expansion of coinage to destruction of “human economies” by wide scope conquests such as Alexander’s and needs for easily transferrable and transportable media of exchange independent from human relations of credit. This need came from dramatic expansion of markets when individuals exchanging goods and services would have transactional encounters and may never meet again in their life times. Coins also where a great tool to support mercenary armies when soldier could carry acquired wealth wherever he would go. At the end of chapter author tries to combine historical development of interconnection between market, state, war, and religion into 8 steps process:

  1. Markets appear as side effect of government administrative systems and then provided logic and practical tools for mercenary warfare eventually subjugating government itself
  2. As result military-coinage-slavery complex emerges ideologically supported by materialistic philosophies
  3. As reaction and rejection of this materialism philosophies of humanity and soul are developed, creating foundation for ethics and morality
  4. Clash of these philosophies and elites supporting them led to prolong period of struggle between various ideologically based social movements
  5. Same social movements rejected war and aggression becoming peace movements
  6. The next step was development of market based philosophical ideas with non-material debt in foundation of many of them
  7. Rulers embraced these philosophies and managed to control empires on their ideological foundation such as Constantine’s Christianity
  8. Eventually the stability was achieved by dividing everything into separate spheres: one sphere of spiritual, religious, and human considerations and another one of crude materialistic, based on market, and driven by money and power actions.

10 The Middle Ages (600AD – 1450 AD)

The Medieval period saw the end of big empires and return to “human economies” in their feudal form either in smallholdings of European knights and kings or big bureaucratic Empire of China or Cast Aristocracy of India. It also produced new religion and civilization of Islam.

  1. Age of the Great Capitalist Empires (1450-1971)

Here author reviews West European development of contemporary capitalism and its expansion around the world. He divides it into several parts:

  1. “Greed, Terror, Indignation, debt” is about territorial expansion of European states based on superiority of actions of European adventurers and profit seekers often driven by debt who conquered America over potential competition like China who did not really care to compete.
  2. “The World of Credit and Interest” is about “break of old system of mutual aid and solidarity” and substitution it with market mechanisms of Cash, Credit and Interest.
  3. Development of the new system into “ Impersonal Credit-Money”
  4. Final formation of capitalism’s all financial features specific for this economic system occurring even before industrial revolution. Author is also claiming that capitalism was never based on free labor. His reason: slavery, Chinese laborers, and even all forms of wage labor (which author seems to believe is a form of slavery).
  5. Apocalypse: Author believes that capitalism, as economic system cannot stand idea of its own permanency and constantly in search of the new form of apocalypse looming ahead from world revolution to nuclear holocaust to global warming. He somehow manages to link it to accumulation of national debt that is infinite expansion of credit into the future.

12 The Beginning of Something yet to Be Determined (1971-)

The beginning of the end of capitalism and start of something new author assigns to the date in 1971 when USA stopped exchange of dollars for gold. Then he goes into discussion of national debt, fiat money, and comes with conclusion that it could not keep going on for much longer and will have to be changed by some mass movement based on new ideas. Interestingly enough he expects the new big idea that will turn world around to come from Iraq and Islamic tradition built around notion of debt, or maybe it would come from feminism, or from Islamic feminism.


In conclusion author declares that debt and credit drives economy and it is actually bad for two reasons: one is that only industrious individuals would prosper, while lazy would suffer, which is morally not acceptable; and the second reason is that the industrial prosperity and hard work lead to destruction of environment, global warming, and/or some other calamity yet to be defined. The author’s proposal to save the world therefore is to clear all debts and start again from the scratch as pure and moral society with no debt whatsoever.


This book is somewhat fascinated trip into leftist notions of economic history and finance. In this leftist worldview the economy is divided into good “human economy” where there is no money, no credit and consequently debt, and people just share what they produce without expecting something in exchange. Author even trying to bring back from dust been of history and beautify the old name for this – communism. It seems to me that there is lack of understanding here that finance is nothing more than automatic resource allocation to where it would produce most good, meaning under “good” goods and services. Therefore debt as integral part of finance is just a part of this process of allocation. Obviously when such allocation is done not by capitalist based on where it would produce most profit, but by politician or bureaucrat based on where it would be most beneficial for his/her career, then it would be unreasonable to expect increase in quantity and/or quality of goods and services. So I would suggest to keep in place all debt created in market economy and liquidate all debt created by politicians and bureaucrats. And since this debt is often to majority of regular people who for example paid into social security all their lives, lets cover this debt liquidation by confiscating wealth from politicians, bureaucrats, and other individuals who earned their living from government salaries, grants, and other transfers beyond minimal amount necessary for survival. We do not want anybody, even socialist professors to starve.

20150220 Language: The Cultural Tool

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The language is the communication tool that makes humans what they are. Without language it would not be possible to achieve group cohesion specific to the humans, which gives them huge evolutionary advantages and more than fully justify huge brain and long period to maturity required for effective use of this communication tool.


Introduction: The Gift of Prometheus

Author defines language as tool and compares it with fire in its importance for human survival. The difference between fire and language however is that language is purely human invention and does not exists without humans. This tool allows handling problems created by need to maintain cohesion of human groups and effective communication it requires. The book reviews specifics of these problems, solutions provided by language, actual application of these solutions, and variety of such solution due to variety of cultures.

PART ONE: Problems

Chapter One: Language as a Social Tool

Author starts with description of problems he encountered as anthropologist and missionary in the new and completely unfamiliar environment. The discussion is mainly around issue whether language is the biological tool and inherent part of human personality, or it is an invented cultural tool used to respond to survival related pressures of environment.

Chapter Two: From Fire to Communication

This is about the nature of language as communication tool. It discusses whether it has genetic origin or just genetic predisposition for development, whether its grammar inherent for all versions of human languages or it could be different from language to language. There is also discussion about invention of language and its relation to use of fire. The fire created more need in cooperation and lead to discovery of other minds and development of language as tool to connect minds.

Chapter Three: Crossing the Communication Threshold

This discussion is partially about power of the words and partially about theory of communication when language services to overcome noise and deliver message. It also includes discussion on coherence of series of words and sentences build into a story capable to transfer highly complex message from one brain to another.

Chapter Four: Does Plato Have a Problem?

This is discussion about link between language and knowledge based on Plato’s ideas of an a priori knowledge and data supporting or debasing this idea. It also goes into more details about genetic base for language and human brain’s language related areas.

PART TWO: Solutions

Chapter Five: Universals and Faculties

This is about language being a tool that provides solutions for problems encountered in each specific culture. It again returns to discussion of language not being preordained faculty based on genes because there is no language organ to be found and even more important, Chomsky’s ideas not fit with expanded knowledge of diverse languages and their radically different grammars. Here author applies his extensive experience with various tribes and languages acquired during anthropological research. It also refers to the fact that language is learned from other people and all cases when individual were deprived of help from other humans they did not develop anything like language ability.

Chapter Six: How to Build a Language

This is somewhat technical discussion of language structure, its flexibility and continuing development. It applies an interesting way of analysis by using correct grammar and words in meaningless or unrealistic combinations. It also provides T-model of language with top being mental dictionary going down to sentences / semantics on one side and syntactic / sound structure on other side.

Chapter Seven: The Platforms for Language

This is about different platforms used for language from sound based on human anatomy to various writing methods, signs, everything else conceivable.

PART THREE: Applications

Chapter Eight: Aristotle’s Answer: Interaction and the Construction of Cultural Signs

This is about process of learning language and whether it is based on inborn instinct of language acquisition or it is specific use of general ability to learn new staff. One of interesting facts is that children seem to learn sentences as they learn signs as whole. It also discusses hierarchical structure of languages and human expectation of hierarchy in complex systems. Lots of space also allocated to links between culture, language, behavior, and underlying knowledge that defines it.

Chapter Nine: Language the Tool

Here author returns to his main concept that language is just a tool for communication and community building. It also includes discussion about situation when multiple languages used by people and how they interconnect. Author supports teaching Ebonics and bilingual education on the basis that to press with English puts children with diverse background into disadvantage. Finally link between language and culture is demonstrated by examples of parallels in culture and language acquisition by children and by linguistic impact of cultural notions about hierarchy of relatives in various cultures.

PART FOUR: Variations

Chapter Ten: Language, Culture, and Thinking

This time it is impact of language on the way of thinking that is reviewed. One of the most interesting examples is language without numbers and correspondingly complete lack of quantitative thinking in culture where it is used. Another example is of languages in which speaker’s body is not used as the center of coordinates so there is no left/right or up/down.

Chapter Eleven: YOU Drink. YOU Drive. YOU Go to Jail. Cultural Effects on Grammar

This is even more technical review of link between culture and grammar. It is discussed using example of recursion.

Chapter Twelve: Welcome to the Freak Show

The final chapter is an attempt to prove value of diversity of languages and call to save this diversity as much as possible. It also looks at various creoles, pidgins, and other languages as subsets and/or combinations.

Conclusion: Grammar of Happiness

The final conclusion of this book is that language reveals the engine of our souls, our mind and it is cognitive fire of human life.


I think that the main point that language is cognitive tool absolutely necessary for building understanding of the world internally in human mind and maintain communications and cooperation with other humans is very valid and I fully agree with it. However I think that value of diversity of languages is overstated because every language is inseparably linked to the culture and when culture gets destroyed by encounter with other technologically and politically more powerful culture, the language has little chances to survive. It could be maintained artificially or even restored from practically nothing as contemporary Hebrew, but it could happen only in exceptional cases when group of people is isolated and is under hostile pressure. The normal development leads to merge of cultures and consequently merge of languages so diversity of languages serves no other purpose then artificially maintain weaker culture. It is unfortunate because the real human beings pay price for this anthropological indulgence in form of less communications, less cooperation, and consequently lower quality of life due to unnecessary cultural and linguistic isolation.

20150213 Morris,Ian-War! What is it good for?

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The main idea of this book is that wars are not always bad, but rather often are necessary and benevolent part of human society’s development. Wars could be divided into productive wars, which increase power of state that allow rulers who are always basically bandits to suppress rival gangs, bringing dramatic decrease in violence and turning robbery into stationary prosperous business when people who are being robbed accept robbery as reasonable payment for protection. This situation is contrasted with bad wars when state power decreased or even completely destroyed resulting in substitute of one powerful stationary bandit who cares about future by multitude of roaming bandits who care only about maximizing current loot, destroying in process productive powers of society as whole.


Introduction: Friend to the undertaker: This starts with recollections of Cold war and recognition that violence and violent death consistently decreased over known history. The more detailed look at history led author to conclusion that wars relate to growth of state power: War makes the State and the State makes peace. As illustration author provided Ferguson’s table:

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From here comes idea of separating wars into productive and unproductive with the following historical review.

  1. The Wasteland? War and Peace in Ancient Rome:

This chapter starts with battle between Romans and British tribes at the Craupian Mountain in 83 AD. The Romans won and dealt with losers with usual at the time cruelty. However historic record and archeological data show that level of violence in these areas went down dramatically afterword, while level of trade and prosperity was up. After reviewing a number of similar occurrences using not only historical, but also anthropological data author defines this situation as benevolent influence of stationary bandit who cares about long term rent that could be collected from conquered people. At the end the main question of this book defined as why in some cases it happens, while in many other cases it does not.

  1. Caging the Beast: The Productive Way of War

This chapter starts with critic of idea of special western way of war as characteristic of prosperous democratic agricultural societies. It states that 3 similar empires of ancient word: Roman, Parthian, and Han all coming into existence through conquest and merge of smaller entities were quite similar in many ways. They were similarly situated geographically in what author calls lucky latitudes: wide area from Atlantic to Pacific with good enough land and climate for extensive agriculture. In military affairs they went through similar technological phases presented in very neat graph:

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The main point made is that these agricultural empires successfully suppressed violent ways typical for all small pre-agricultural societies of frequent small-scale confrontations between neighboring tribes. The small encounters were substituted by big battles with consequent cruel suppression sometimes at the level of genocide, eventually bringing peace and prosperity for remaining population.

  1. The Barbarians Strike Back: The Counterproductive way of war A.D. 1-1415

The next step came with development of big horses and tools to ride those, producing cavalry that made mobile forces much more effective and gave military superiority to barbarians who overtime successfully destroyed all big empires. Author defines it as counterproductive wars. Instead of the stationary bandit – the state that cared about prosperity of rent producers came military superior mobile bandits who cared only about the loot. The final result was break down of big empires into small feudal state mainly self-sufficient, military based on fortifications for defense, heavy armored cavalry for suppression of rent producers leaving on territory under control, and semi-ritualistic knight’s alliances constantly in competition to identify and define allocation of territories. Author defines such wars as counterproductive because they increased overall levels of violence and decreased productivity levels around the world.

  1. The Five Hundred Years’ War: Europe (Almost) Conquers the World, 1415-1914

This chapter is about European military dominance in the world that author explains by effective use by Westerners of two non-western inventions: guns and ocean going ships and navigation. Despite rather quick acceptance of guns non-European countries never were able to catch up with European development of new military technologies, tactics, and drilling. There is also a very interesting discussion about mingling of commerce and war. Overall the European conquest of the world should be treated as at least somewhat benevolent because it resulted in dramatic decrease in wars and violent deaths. It is also mentioned that parallel to this went dramatic improvement in productivity due to industrial revolution.

  1. Storm of Steel: The War for Europe, 1914-1980s

This is review of long World War between European powers that lasted from 1914 until 1990 with some intermissions and long phase of Cold War. This long war had not only military, but even more so ideological character putting not only countries, but also people inside countries against each other fighting over selection of the best way to prosperity. One side was looking for prosperity via freedom both political and economic, while other side was looking for unity and top down commanding management of everything. Eventual outcome was semi-working arrangement of welfare state with limited market economies in all developed countries.

  1. Red in Tooth and Claw: Why the Chimps of Gombe went to War

At this point discussion is moved to biological causes and functions of violence and war starting with discussion differences between war like chimps and peace and sex loving bonobos. Turned out that even bonobos become much less peaceful when they encounter deficiency of resources. However the chapter ends with idea that human brain combined with contemporary technology decreases chances of war due to its suicidal character.

  1. The Last Best Hope of Earth: American Empire, 1989-?

The final chapter is review of contemporary relatively benign situation when American preeminence suppresses any significant wars around the globe providing for relatively low levels of violence. However author see future threats that could come from raise of China, India, conflict between rich and poor countries, and population groups inside countries. In short our long history of wars and violence is not over yet.


I find concept of productive and unproductive wars interesting and generally sound. However war and violence, while being the ultimate shortcut to achieving goals in resource acquisition and psychological satisfaction, is wider phenomenon than just power play between bigger and smaller or stationary and mobile groups of bandits. As long as shortcut of war works, people would use it to achieve their objectives, but I believe that technology including technology of organization of society on the basis of voluntary exchange rather than violent transfer of resources provides some hope that eventually it will be overcome.

20150206 Human Capital

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The most important part of capital necessary for production is human capital that is humans with accumulated knowledge and skills allowing such production. This human capital has all characteristic of any other forms of capital such as ability produce profit in form of earnings to owner of this capital, investment options in form of expenses on education, and so on. Human capital is probably the most important form of capital and should be consciously developed and expanded.


INTRODUCTION TO THE SECOND EDITION; INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST EDITION: Introduction includes brief description of the structure of this book and content of its chapters.

II. HUMAN CAPITAL REVISITED: Introduction; Education and Training; Human Capital and the Family; Human Capital and Economic Development; Conclusions

This is introduction of the notion of human capital as combination of knowledge and skills obtained via education and training. It reviews formation of such capital starting with the family and its highly positive impact on economic development.

Part One: Theoretical Analysis.

III. INVESTMENT IN HUMAN CAPITAL: EFFECT ON EARNINGS: 1. On the Job Training: General Training; Specific Training; 2. Schooling; 3.Other Knowledge; 4. Productive Wage Increases;

This is analysis of educational investment based one separation of specific and general training with causal relation between accumulation of training and earnings rate. Sources of human capital defined as formal schooling and all other knowledge obtained outside of formal education. Finally wage increases that provide better access to goods and services including medical services are reviewed as methods for employers to increase human capital of their labor.

IV. INVESTMENT IN HUMAN CAPITAL: RATES OF RETURN: 1. Relation between Earnings, Costs, and Rates of Return (Addendum: The Allocation of Time and Goods over Time); 2. The Incentive to Invest; Number of Periods; Wage Differentials and Secular Changes; Risk and Liquidity; Capital Markets and Knowledge; 3. Some Effects of Human Capital; Examples; Ability and the Distribution of Earnings; Addendum: Education and the Distribution of Earnings: A Statistical Formulation; Addendum: Human Capital and the Personal Distribution of Income: An Analytical Approach; Supplement: Estimating the Effect of Family Background on Earnings

This chapter includes mathematical representation of relationship between earnings, costs and rates of return on human capital. This is followed by an analysis of dynamics of human capital in relation to age including variations of investment and returns. Overall, as expected investment decreases with age, while returns increase up to a point. It is especially typical for formal education when the length of remaining work life decreases value of investment. It also provides examples of such dynamics for various situations with detailed analysis of distribution of earnings.

Part Two: Empirical Analysis

V. RATES OF RETURN FROM COLLEGE EDUCATION: 1. Money Rates of Return to White Male College Graduates Returns; Returns 1939; Costs 1939; Rates in 1939 and 1949; 2. Some Conceptual Difficulties; Correlation between “Ability” and Education; Correlation between Education and Other Human Capital; 3. Rates of Return to Other College Persons; College Dropouts; Women; Rural Persons; 4. Variation in Rates of Return

This is an empirical analysis based on statistical data. The findings include: Return on college education for while male 11-13%. While high educational achievement strongly correlates with higher ability, author established that ability is responsible for proportionally smaller share or returns for higher levels of education. Rates of return declined from 1900 until 1940, but then grew up significantly despite increase in numbers of educated people. Rates of return are higher for white males than for black and higher for black men then for white women. Significant effort also allocated to analysis of returns causes broken down between abilities and education. It seems that ability as defined by high school rank and family background has increasing impact on earning with education, but it is not always consistent and depends of methods of analysis used.

VI. UNDERINVESTMENT IN COLLEGE EDUCATION? 1. Private Money Gains, Social Productivity Gains 3. Private Real Rates: This is analysis of comparative advantage of investment in education over other forms of investment. It also provides data about growth of investment ratio of human capital as share of total investment, indicating growing appreciation of its value.

VII. RATES OF RETURN FROM HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION AND TRENDS OVER TIME 1. The Rate of Return from High School Education; 2. Trends in Rates of Return; After1939; Before 1939

This is analysis of returns on high school education. Unsurprisingly it was high before 1939 when it was relatively rare, but started going down with increase in numbers of graduates. However comparatively with dropouts it remains high as long as there are enough of middle level jobs for such people.

VIII. AGE, EARNINGS. WEALTH. AND HUMAN CAPITAL: 1. Age-Earnings Profiles; 2. Age-Wealth Profiles

This is an interesting analysis of relation between human capital of labor and its dependency on age. It is consistent with previous findings with income gap between people of different educational levels expanding up until middle age and then slowly decreasing. However total amount of wealth earned has obviously cumulative effect due to simple fact of disproportionally higher level of saving and investment rate for higher income individuals.

 IX. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS: 1. Summary; 2. Future Research; 3. Concluding Comments

This chapter is a brief restatement of previous chapters and suggestion for future research into quantitative impact of different kinds of abilities on earnings, social effects of higher levels of education, and also variation of effects of human capital development on various countries.

Part Three: Economy-Wide Changes: Introduction

X. HUMAN CAPITAL AND THE RISE AND FAIL OF FAMILIES: 1. Introduction; 2. Earnings and Human Capital; 3. Assets and Consumption; 4. Fertility and Marriage References; 5. Empirical studies; 6. Summary and Discussion

This is analysis of impact of human capital on wider condition of society as whole: it’s economic growth, foreign trade, family conditions and so on. It is also provides review of empirical studies on cross generation cumulative impact or lack thereof. Some interesting findings are: earnings regress to mean faster in rich families than in poor; Consumption is opposite; Fertility is higher for rich, but lead to dilution of wealth.

XI. THE DIVISION OF LABOR, COORDINATION AND KNOWLEDGE: 1. Introduction; 2. Division of Labor among Tasks; 3. Coordination Costs; 4. Knowledge and Specialization; 5. Extent of the Market; 6. The Growth in Specialization and Knowledge; 7. The Division of Labor Between Sectors: teachers and Workers•

This chapter is review of relation between division of labor and human capital. Overall higher level of human capital occurs when the knowledge is specialized and applied via extended division of labor. However it is limited by extent of the market: the wider market, the better return of human capital.

XII. HUMAN CAPITAL, FERTILITY, AND ECONOMIC GROWTH; 1. Introduction; 2. Basic Properties of the Model; 3. Fertility and Growth; 4. Comparative Advantage in the Production of Human Capital; 5. Discussion; 6. Concluding Remarks

This part is the detailed view of relationship between human capital, fertility, and economic growth. It analyzes returns on children vs. return on human capital with conclusion that it depends on overall level of human capital, division of labor, and economic conditions of society. In developed countries high level of all these factor leads to higher return from human capital than from children causing relative decrease in fertility, while in economies with low level of development return on children is higher causing preference for higher fertility vs. higher education.


I think that this research of human capital and its economic value is extremely interesting and provides a glimpse of future development when human capital could become by far the most important and valuable form of capital dwarfing all others. It should come as an inevitable consequence of access of each individual to reasonable levels of material well being when material staff could become much less valuable due to its triviality. Much more value would be assigned to satisfaction of intellectual and psychological needs that would come from complete merge of production and consumption of human capital.

20150130 The State

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The main idea of this book is that a state is just a bunch of bandits who established dominance over population of some territory by conquest. It was written in 1908 so the factual and historical base of data supporting it somewhat limited, but author nevertheless makes convincing case in support of this idea.


I. THEORIES OP THE STATE the Sociological Idea of the State

This chapter reviews different theories of the state and points out their inadequacies. Author comes up with his own definition: The State is a social institution imposed by a victorious group of men on a defeated group.

II.THE GENESIS OF THE STATE: (a) Political and Economic Means; (b) Peoples Without a State: Huntsmen and Grubbers; (g) Peoples preceding the State: Herdsmen and Viking; [d) The Genesis of the State

Here author provides a key statement that there are only two conceivable ways to obtain means that humans need to satisfy their desires: work and robbery. The robbery is defined as political means and work as economic means. After that primitive pre-state societies reviewed with conclusion that main reason for absence of states at this point is that low productivity and inability to save resources, which makes robbery ineffective in resource acquisition for hunter-gatherers and primitive agriculturists. However it makes sense for herdsman due to mobility of cattle and for maritime robbers such as Vikings. From here author defines genesis of a state as consequence of conquest of agriculturalists by herders and hunters going through several stages of increasing sophistication eventually resulting in fully formed political structure.

III. THE PRIMITIVE FEUDAL STATE: [a) The Form of Dominion; [b). The Integration; [c). The Differentiation: Group Theories and Group Psychology; [d). The Primitive Feudal State of Higher Grade

This chapter is review of primitive feudal state. Author defines it as form of domination: warlike minority, closely interrelated, dominates over population of some territory collecting rent. Author looks at it as an organic process of small, but energetic and active entity taking over control of big, but passive entity similar to biological interaction of sperm and egg. Author also reviews psychological underpinnings of political arrangement such as psychology of aristocrat versus peasant. The final part of this chapter reviews wars as process of formation of higher grade of feudal state through conquest and merger of smaller states.

 IV. THE MARITIME STATE: (a) Traffic in Prehistoric Times; (b) Trade and the Primitive State; (c) The Genesis of the Maritime State; [d) Essence and Issue of the Maritime States;

Commercial capital and trade determine type of state based on access to the ocean or sea. Real estate capital determines another type of the state: land based state. Both types of state based on robbery and provide protection against other robbers and pirates. The difference is that maritime states based on robbery of commercial traffic that spawns cities and consequently land based property, while territorial states mainly based on rent robbery of settled population with robbery of traders being secondary. This chapter reviews details of history and sociological structure of such maritime state.

V. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FEUDAL STATE: (a) The Genesis of Landed Property; (b) The Central Power in the Primitive Feudal State; (c) The Political and Social Disintegration of the Primitive Feudal State; [d) The Ethnic Amalgamation; (e) The Developed Feudal State

Author defines feudal state as mainly territorial, based on landed property. He reviews genesis of feudal state as basically process of merger and acquisition via war and power. In process multiple groups and ethnicities get included into developing feudal state leading eventually to its maturity with creation of specific strata of population permanently assigned to some specific activities either agriculture for peasants or military and political pursuits for aristocracy.

VI. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATE: (a) The Emancipation of the Peasantry; (b) The Genesis of Industrial State; (c) The Influences of Money Economy; (d) The Modern Constitutional State

This chapter reviews genesis of contemporary constitutional state, which occurs via struggle of internal forces rather than external forces of conquest or expansion. The end of conquest results in destruction of social contract between aristocracy and peasantry when defense become function of huge conscription armies and protective function of aristocracy outdated. This in turn creates unwillingness on part of peasant to pay rent and causes growth in need of internal army of overseers and necessitates increase of rent to feed them. Another serious factor in undermining feudal state is growth and empowerment of cities, which is based on cities role in commercial exchange on countrywide market and industrial production that becomes necessary for survival of the state. All this lead to renegotiation of existing order, elimination of static strata of society with its substitution by free labor and capital, and eventual transformation to constitutional state. 


Author sees eventual development of state into constitutional state with freeman citizenship in which political means (state violence) would lose it’s meaning and will be degraded to minimalistic administrative functions. Eventually the state as violent force standing outside and above society will practically disappear merging with civil society.


This is one of these books that make detailed and convincing case for something that seems to be just a plain common sense. I am fully agreed that the state is just a form of violent dominance of one group of people over another. However I think that process of state formation presented in this book is somewhat simplistic and leaves a lot outside of the scope. Most important is process of development within society methods of indoctrination and ongoing ideological control of population. It is interesting that in a case of regular gang of robbers nobody neither robbers nor people being robbed are confused about character of what is happening. The huge difference of the state compared with any other gang is that not only gang (state) members often see themselves not as robbers, but as benevolent force, but also people who are being robbed believe the same.

20150123 The beginning of infinity

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This book is about nature of Progress and the main idea is that it is unstoppable and unbounded because it is based on human intrinsic need to find explanations and to build such model of environment that it would be good enough to facilitate survival.


  1. The Reach of Explanations:

The first chapter lays out foundation for the book. It reviews process of building explanation as sequence of Sensory experience – Derivations (Extrapolation, Generalization or Induction). The point is made that empiricism, which makes sensory experience the main source of knowledge is not correct because building of real model of reality require much more sophisticated critical analysis to overcome false impressions such as flat earth. In short: appearances are deceptive and so is blind following to authority. The main achievement of Enlightenment – development of philosophy of science is not just experimental testing, but understanding of need for criticism of authority not based on another authority, but on different explanation of existing facts and discovery of new facts based on the prediction provided by new explanation.

  1. Closer to Reality

Scientific instruments are bringing us close to reality because they provide new and expanded option for theory-laded collection of facts.

  1. The Spark

This chapter starts with review of the fact that most non-scientific explanations are anthropocentric. These explanations so often were wrong that they cause creation of “Principle of Mediocrity”, which states: “there is nothing significant about humans in the cosmic scheme of things”. Another influential idea is “Spaceship Earth”, which states: “Earth is like spaceship designed to support human live and civilization”. Author believes that both these ideas are mistaken. Humans are not a trivial occurrence in the universe and there is no special accommodation created for humans. It is rather human existence based on ability to acquire knowledge and accommodate to reality even if it is hostile and inhospitable because people are universal constructors and the most significant part of their construction activity is construction of explanations. The most important take out from this chapter are two statements:

Problems are inevitable

Problems are soluble

  1. Creation

These chapter reviews different explanations of creation from creationism to evolution. The most interesting part is look at the knowledge acquisition as Lamarckian process with memes being developed with view of adaptation and optimization versus genes being developed by process of random change and selection.

  1. The Reality of Abstraction

This chapter reviews two misconceptions: Reductionism – the idea that science always must reduce phenomenon to components in order to explain it; and Holism the idea that all significant explanations are of components in term of wholes.

Author position is that there is no necessity for hierarchical structure of explanations; they could be at the any level and of any complexity as needed. The important point is that abstractions are real.

  1. The Jump to Universality

All knowledge growth is incremental, but at some point it usually lead to qualitative change when reach of knowledge become universal. One of examples provided is switch from Roman numerical to Arabic. Roman numerals being dependent on new symbols with number increase are inherently limited, while Arabic being algorithmically built with just 10 symbols provides notation for infinite numbers.

  1. Artificial Creativity.

This is review of attempts of creation of AI starting with Turing; all consistently failing. Author infers that the issue is unresolved philosophical problem of not understanding how creativity works.

  1. A Window on Infinity

This is review of mathematical and philosophical view of infinity and multiple infinities imbedded in each other. It is illustrated by Hilbert’s experiment with Infinity Hotel. The inference is that development of new knowledge is infinite and its content is unpredictable.

  1. Optimism

This is about unpredictability of the future, but at the same time possibility to predict direction of the future. This comes from the Principle of Optimism: All evils are caused by insufficient knowledge. So logically since amount of accumulated knowledge grows, the evils should decline.

  1. A Dream of Socrates

This is a phantasy flight related to the problem of complexity of communications. It is also called “Socratic problem” because Socrates did not leave anything in writing, everything from his dialogs came second hand from Plato. Overall communication problem does not really relate that much to form and/or technology, but rather to process of ideas movement from the mind of one person to mind of another. This process is very complicated because both transmission and reception of ideas based on huge amounts of preset ideas so “A” in one mind even if communicated as “a” could easily be processed into “B” in another mind. An interesting example is provided for information transfer during learning process of high physics. Teaching and learning is never ever conducted using original works of discoverers. It is conducted using specially developed training materials that considerably decrease difference between mental database of original author and contemporary student.

  1. The Multiverse

This is a small deviation into area of quantum physics designed to demonstrate that physical world is a multiverse, and its structure is determined by information flows in it.

  1. A Physicist’s History of bad Philosophy

This charter explores philosophical meaning of Quantum theory and why this meaning was actively ignored and even resisted by physicists. The reason provided: the bad philosophy that is philosophy, which actively prevents growth of knowledge. Most damage causes by bad philosophy came from idea of separating a scientific theory into explanationless predictions and arbitrary interpretations.

  1. Choices

This chapter starts with review of apportionment problem: how provide fair proportional representation in democracy. It turns out that it is mathematically impossible to do within a quota. Therefore idea of “will of society” is pretty much meaningless, leading to Popper’s criterion: Good political institutions are those that make it as easy as possible to detect whether a ruler or policy is a mistake, and to remove rulers or policies without violence when they are. A wider philosophical interpretation: it is mistake to conceive of choice and decision-making as a process of selecting from existing options according to fixed formula, it is missing the most important part: creating new options.

  1. Why are flowers Beautiful?

This chapter is about aesthetics and its meaning. Contrary to usual approach that it is subjective, author is trying to prove that there is objective truth in it that comes from its evolutionary function of attractions, but also from its function of helping communication between people.

  1. The Evolution of Culture

This chapter about change in culture that occurs via evolution of memes as ideas that causes behavior. They could benefit people, or they could hurt people, but what relevant is how good they are in causing people pass them on and making people to act on them. Author differentiates rational and anti-rational memes. The rational survive by helping their holders while anti-rational by suppressing critical abilities of holders. Western civilization is now unstable because it is switching from static society consisting of anti-rational memes to stable dynamic society consisting of rational. 

  1. The Evolution of Creativity

This chapter is about human ability to replicate memes and creativity as outflow from this process. In other words human existence depends on belonging to the group, communication between members of the group and even incorporation of individual into the group requires individual to possess effective mechanism of memes’ acquisition, which is acquisition of knowledge. The same mechanism is used to create new knowledge and therefore is source of creativity. The other important point is that memes are not copied, but rather developed by each individual in his own mind under influence of environment and communications with other individuals therefore assuring uniqueness of mind of every individual.

  1. Unsustainable

This chapter is about static society discussed using example of Easter Island and documentaries made about it. It shows that society could become static and stop solving problems leading to complete destruction. It follows by critic of ideologues who cannot conceive complexity of future changes in knowledge and therefore try to build strategies of violent actions to conserve whatever current level of technology and wealth exists and prevent future disasters that are more often then not are just work of imagination. The real progress is in ability of society to constantly change by developing new knowledge and expanding its wealth making it possible to meet future challenges that are not possible to predict anyway. 

  1. The Beginning

This is final discussion about many cases of people declaring that all discoveries either already made or about to be made and that the knowledge is finite. Author’s inference is that all these statements either simplistic or overcomplicated are plainly false and we are at the beginning of infinite process of knowledge acquisition and that there is only one way of making real progress, it is to seek good explanations with creativity and criticism.


This is another book that promotes ideas I am pretty much agreed with. I think that our historical experience shows that humanity makes a great progress when creativity of individuals is not restricted by narrow-mindedness of other individuals, usually those in power. The creativity and criticism always come together and help resolve new and newer problems that inevitably occur all the time. There is really no option to freeze present whether it is current natural environment, or human relations, or structure of society, or whatever. The only choice we really have is freedom when unlimited creativity and criticism would produce resolution of problems, if we want to achieve progress, meaning improvement in human lives. The alternative – lack of freedom, restriction on creativity and criticism would not maintain current status of society and environment, but rather lead to regresses meaning decrease in quality of human lives and even complete destruction.

20150116 Pentland,Alex-Social Physics

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The main idea of this book is to approach human society as physicists approach natural phenomenon by collecting huge amount of data and applying statistical analytical tools to find out explanatory rules for this phenomenon. The most interesting thing about this is the new method to collect data about human behavior using GPS and communication tool to pick up tons of information about who communicate with who, when, where, and for how long.


1.FROM IDEAS TO ACTIONS: Using Big Data to Understand How Human Societies Evolve: What Is Social Physics? A Practical Science; Big Data; A Rich Social Science; Plan for the Book; Data-Driven Societies: Promethean Fire; SPECIAL TOPIC: LANGUAGE

This is a description of idea of this book: use of quantitative methods of big data to discover mathematical connections between ideas flow and human action. The point is made that typical method of social science: laboratory experiment and polls are not adequate for purpose of developing understanding of dynamics of human society. The new method would be based on analysis of trillions of transactions between individuals that are captured by multiple automatic data collection devices from credit card readers to cameras everywhere.

PART I: Social Physics

2. EXPLORATION: How can We Find Good Ideas and Make Good Decisions? Social Learning; Idea Flow; Idea Flow and Decision Making; Tuning Networks; Exploration

This is about exploration as the best way to find good ideas and make good decisions. Example is used of transactions analysis of trading system eToro where trader can either make his own decisions or jus copy other traders. The resulting graph provided showing that the best strategy is in the middle, while isolated traders and echo chamber traders has lower returns then traders in the range of moderate idea flow. After that Bell Stars study reviewed that demonstrated star performers consistently engage links to experts in order to collect various ideas and view points. The key findings: Social Learning is critical; Diversity is important; Contrarians are important.

3.IDEA FLOW: The Building Blocks of Collective Intelligence; Habits, Preferences, and Curiosity; Habits versus Beliefs; Collectively Rational, Not Individually Rational; Common Sense

Two studies are conducted to explore process of ideas flow: Social Evolution and Friends and Family collecting 2 million hours of interactions between people. It identified key components: habits, preferences, and curiosity. The analogy provided: We all sail in the stream of ideas provided by people around and it forms our habits and preferences. This linked to ideas of fast and slow thinking with adoption of habits and preferences going via slow thinking process and then becoming foundation for fast thinking and common sense. Consequently, as rule, individual thinking is based on collective rationality, but is not rational per se. From here author brings common sense as in old English use of “kith” as group of people with common believes and thinking.

 4.ENGAGEMENT: How Can We All Work Together? Social Pressure; Digital Engagement; Subjugation and Conflict; Rules of Engagement; Next Steps; SPECIAL TOPIC: THE MATHEMATICS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE

This chapter is about working in the group and achieving cohesion. Unsurprisingly it is all about social pressure and top performers making other individuals work harder. It also states that that synchronization of idea flows in-group is critical. After discussing for a while subjugation and conflict mainly between groups, author comes up with rules of engagement that allow achieving behavior changes: Interaction, cooperation, and trust building.

 PART II: Idea Machines

5.COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: How Patterns of Interaction Translate into Collective Intelligence; Measuring What You Manage; Productivity. Creativity. Improving Idea Flow

While author uses trivial notion of collective intelligence, he nevertheless comes up with interesting finding that such intelligence works best when interactions within group occur on more or less equal basis. The critical factor is diversity of ideas generated and freedom in critic of ideas. Application of these ideas in modifying business processes also provided.

6.SHAPING ORGANIZATIONS: Social Intelligence Through Visualization of Interaction Patterns; Engagement; Exploration; Diversity. Social Intelligence

This short chapter is about tools that allow visualization of interaction using sociometric badges and simple software to generate graphs from communication logs.

7.ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE: Social Network Incentives Can Be Used to Create Instant Organizations and Guide Them Through Disruptive Change; Instant Organizations; Organizations in Stress; Trust; Next Steps; SPECIAL TOPIC: SOCIAL SIGNALS

This is about instant organization created to achieve a specific goal. The example provided for balloon search when organization was instantly created by profit sharing between individuals who spontaneously self-organized into network necessary to complete the task. The key was rewarding not only people who actually completed task, but also people who expanded network because in this specific case success was dependent on size of network. Another little side story is measuring trust between based on frequencies of communications. It seems worked pretty well.

 PART III: Data-Driven Cities

8.SENSING CITIES: How Mobile Sensing Is Creating a Nervous System for Cities, Enabling Them to Become More Healthy, Safe, and Efficient; Behavior Demographics; Transportation; Health and Disease; Social Network Interventions; From a Digital Nervous System to a Data-Driven Society

This is about exploring new opportunities provided by technology to analyze patterns of behavior in contemporary cities. An example provided of GPS data analysis of cell phones movement to identify concentration of people in different localities during work days and weekends. It showed that population contains different “tribes” with different patterns of behavior. All this can help to predict consumer behavior, transportation needs, disease expansion, and similar things. The key idea is that we should move into transforming cities into data driven dynamic organisms.

 9.CITY SCIENCE: How Social Physics and Big Data Are Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Cities and Development; The Social Physics of Cities; Social Ties in Cities; Exploring the City. Idea Flow in Cities; Designing Better Cities; Data-Driven Cities; Next Steps; SPECIAL TOPIC: DIGITAL NETWORKS VERSUS FACE-TO-FACE

This is discussion of idea that concentration of people within face-to face distances in cities facilitates interactions and increases ideas flow. Author even claims ability to predict GDP and creativity of places based on such data. As prove author provides graph that represents growth of GDP vs. Rate of Idea flow growth.

 PART IV: Data-Driven Society

10.DATA-DRIVEN SOCIETIES: What Will a Data-Driven Future Look Like? The New Deal on Data; Enforcement; The Wild, Wild Web; Data-Driven Systems: Challenges; Social Physics versus Free Will and Human Dignity

This is an attempt to assess future data-driven society. Author believes it should be based on data ownership laws such as:

You have the right to possess data about you

You have the right to full control over the use of your data

You have the right to dispose of or distribute your data

Author understands that enforcement would be a problem, but he believes that it could be solved using trust networks. Finally author discusses social physics versus Free will and Human Dignity. His approach is that since social physics based on statistical regularities and does not force anything on anybody, there is no conflict between those notions.

 11.DESIGN FOR HARMONY: How Social Physics Can Help Us Design a Human-Centric Society; Natural Law: Exchanges, Not Markets; Design for a Networked Society; Data for Development: D4D; Summary: Promethean Fire

The final chapter dedicated to attempt to convince reader that social physics is the way to improve society and make it more human centric. Author believes that future is exchange networks that are different from market because it based on trust and personalized services.


I found this book quite interesting especially it experimental data. The ideas of harmonizing society based on data have a lot less value due to the simple fact that humans are not particles, but rather complex, self-directing, and, most importantly, constantly changing creatures so all and any rules developed based on big data bound to be outdated just about time when they are clearly formulated. I also find it a bit funny how deep hate and rejection of market is inculcated into psyche of contemporary intellectuals limiting their ability to understand world around them. The best example is the last chapter when exchange treated as something different from the market. Historically and linguistically market means just a place where exchange occur. In contemporary world it is practically everywhere because humans have a lot more freedom than they used to have. That’s why people are routinely talking about non-monetary markets such as marriage market.

20150109 The Power of Habit

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The main idea is that human behavior is defined by habits to much higher degree than it is usually thought. Moreover not only habits define our behavior they do it in such way that we are often completely missing reason for doing something because we are driven by habits not by reason. On the bright side it is possible to recognize habits and either enforce them or consciously change them depending on habit’s usefulness for our wellbeing. There are quite a few methods provided to do just that leading to final statement that we are responsible for our habits and should consciously analyze and control them.


PART ONE: The Habits of Individuals

  1. The HABIT LOOP: How Habits Work

The initial point is made that habits are quite powerful and not directly depend on memory. To illustrate this point 2 cases of amnesiacs are presented one of which is famous H.M. It follows by description of experiments with mouse and labyrinth. The analysis of mouse’s brain activity demonstrated that with development of habit moving within specific path the brain activity decreased. The habit process has 3 steps: cue – routine – reward. The key points are the cues the slightest variation of which could prevent routine from execution, leading to change in habits. All this research demonstrated that habits are very powerful and saturate our activities without us consciously tracing them. At the same time they are delicate and could be manipulated and intentionally designed.

  1. THE CRAVING BRAIN: How to Create New Habits

The first story in this chapter is about marketing success of promoting Pepsodent back in early 1900. The way it was done included creating a craving in this case craving for removal of film from teeth in the morning with reward of good smile and healthy teeth. However cue and reward were not enough so the next part presents another successful marketing story of smell removing spray Febreze. Ad campaign based on product ability to remove bad smell failed as well as attempt to create new habit. Success occurred when they managed to include the product as finishing step in existing routine of home cleaning to add good smell. The Pepsodent story also included an additional trick. It was not necessary abstract wish to remove film that caused people to use paste, but rather tinkling taste of freshness added to it. The point is confirmation signal that person receives during activity that it is working and prompting continuation of routine.

 3. THE GOLDEN RULE OF HABIT CHANGE: Why Transformation Occurs

This is about changing habits. The chapter starts with the case of behavior change of players in football team and then jumps to the story of AA. This analysis brings idea that change is possible when sequence of habit is modified by different routine. The person starts using different routine when usual cue occurs and uses the same reward when routine completed. In example with AA the cue: need to remove restriction used to start new routing of AA meeting instead of old of getting drank to achieve reward in form of relaxation.

PART TWO The Habits of Successful Organizations


This chapter is about identifying specific habits on which one should concentrate in order to achieve positive change. This discussion is based on the case of Paul O’Neill- Alcoa CEO who used concentration on safety to turn company around. It is also discusses process of habit’s routine substitution using incremental method of small wins.

 5. STARBUCKS AND THE HABIT OF SUCCESS: When Willpower Becomes Automatic

This is discussion of willpower as success factor. Obviously it could not possibly go without marshmallow test. More interesting is that it provides some methods of increasing it, specifically need for planning as stimulant. The experiment described people who underwent orthopedic surgery and needed regular exercise to recover. People who wrote down their detailed goals for a week recovered materially better then people who did not. As confirmation business case for Starbucks is provided to demonstrate how organization can achieve results by using extensive training program to instill good habits. 

  1. THE POWER OF A CRISIS: How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design

This chapter uses examples of hospital and London underground fire to demonstrate power of habit in relationship between groups within organization with conflicting interest. Hospital case is about switching from suppressing input from nurses into making them valid participants of medical process. London case is about ignoring emergency signal with tragic consequences because it came from unexpected source. Both cases show how people developed habits necessary to maintain truce between groups within organization at the expense of individual freedom of action for its members and how these habits led to catastrophic consequences that could have been prevented. The outcome was change of habits to provide more freedom at the expense of subordination. 

  1. HOW TARGET KNOWS WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU DO When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits

This is discussion of habit manipulation successfully used by private companies and government organizations. One of cases involves big data analysis of purchases to identify individuals with specific condition for example pregnant women. Another one is successful operation of American government to convince people use organ meat during WWII. 

PART THREE The Habits of Societies


This is about link between power of habit and movements. Two examples are provided Rosa Parks and movement for bus boycott and Saddleback church. The point here is that movements can change social habits and it starts at the local level when individuals not satisfied with whatever status quo is begin resonate with each other exchanging their views until it becomes intolerable for them to refrain from actions. At this point some accidental or planned event can jump start movement of people who resonate with each other. The wider is cycle of friend and acquaintances for individual in the center of this incident, the faster and more powerful waves are moving out from the center causing change sometimes rapid in existing social habits. An interesting analysis provided for Summer of Freedom when students from North went down South to demonstrate for civil rights. The question asked was why some students went on this dangerous journey and some did not. The answer was unexpected. It was not personal qualities or even circumstances that made difference, but rather level of involvement in networks with other people who expected one to South.

  1. THE NEUROLOGY OF FREE WILL: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?

The final chapter discusses level of control that individual has over his/her own habits. The case reviewed of a woman who developed gambling habit. Then analysis proceeds to include cases of sleepwalking. Author contrasts these two cases as one of a gambler as a case of being under conscious control, while another one – sleepwalker killer as a case of lack of control. The main point here is that as long as conscious control present the habit could be changed per individual’s decision to make this change.


I found it quite interesting and useful especially parts of the book related to control of habits and their modification to fit person’s objectives. I believe that I used quite a few of technics discussed in this book to establish habits that I wanted and it served me quite well so far. Nevertheless it is always nice to have some more or less scientific research supporting things that one is doing in his life in addition to multiple examples of how this staff works.

20150102 Made in America

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The main idea of this book is to trace how unique American culture and mentality developed over the time and what are main characteristics of this culture. After reviewing history and specific traits of Americans the main feature of this culture presented as self-control of individuals with continuously growing freedom, security, choices, and quality of life. It is also specific to Americans that they tend to belong to voluntary associations and persistently work on self-understanding and self-improvement in pursuit of happiness.



This is about stories that make people American and what that means. In short it is combination of culture and character of independence and sociability. It is also about contrast between Americans of past who were fighting for mere survival and Americans of today who live in the land of plenty. This is also about myths of American social story with example of Christmas holiday, which was never a holiday of deep religious meaning. So here are some of myths and their debunking:

  1. Americans used to move around less than now: Actually Americans used to move around a lot more in previous centuries
  2. Americans moved away from religion: Actually proportionally more Americans belong to churches now
  3. Americans become more violent: Actually crime is down consistently despite temporary spikes in the second half of XX century
  4. Americans become alienated from their jobs: Actually most move to more interesting and creative jobs away from agricultural and industrial drudgery
  5. Americans become indifferent to the needy: Actually needy now are a lot better off than they used to be even if it is via government programs

The point of this book is to show how much American culture changed or did not change in the last hundred years in most important areas of live: security, goods, groups, public spaces, and mentality. The main thesis is that all these areas greatly improves and instead of changing American national character expanded it and provided opportunity for many people become more “American”. There is also a word about “American exceptionalism”. Author rejects its denial as well as meanings of “Exceptionally good” or “Exceptionally evil”. He defines it just as “significantly unusual” and it is hard to deny that America is very unusual country and the most unusual is its middle class mainstream, whish despite everything is still alive, well, and continue to expand including more and more people.


This chapter reviews history and provides facts of tremendous improvement of American’s security. It goes step by step through all major security issues:

  • Security from death and disease: dramatic improvement in life expectancy and quality of life
  • Security from One Another: despite violent inheritance of American population this kind of security also has been dramatically improved. Despite periodic spikes of violence and crime overall trend is significant decrease in crime.
  • Security from Privation: This is more complicated case to make because early Americans by the time of revolution were the wealthiest people in the world due to easy availability of land. This wealth was partially lost due to industrialization when many Americans become employees of somebody else. However American salaries always remained materially higher than anywhere in the world. The difficult problem in this new environment of dependence on job market with insecurity of unemployment was partially resolved via safety net of social security, unemployment and disability benefits, and welfare.


This chapter about American love / hate affair with consumerism and materialism. There is a very interesting dynamics here: American who have little want more material goods and work hard to get them, but then their children who grew up in relative luxury reject it and strive to live non-material simple live. Well, it seems to be only while they are young and careless. The bottom line is that by now average American family moves about 3 tons of staff while relocating, which is a lot more than it would ever be before. Actually more goods means more possibilities in pursuit of happiness and that is all what America is about.


This chapter is about American tradition of forming groups and cooperating in all things conceivable. Contrary to typical in other cultures attitude to individual as a member of a group based on birth, Americans see individual as independent entity who voluntarily joins community of other individuals in order to achieve all kinds of objectives not achievable on his/her own. The chapter goes into details of history of cooperation specifically analyzing the puritan community as being tightly connected religious group with strict religious norms really unusual for America of “born free” people. Overall the foundation of American culture was in remote small households’ voluntary cooperation and dependency on similar nearby households for support in all things conceivable including defense. With growth of population density, cities, and overall interactions between individuals this tradition grew into multiple societies either religious or secular for mutual help and support with one thing being common: voluntary character of participation. Author points out to multiple research of decline of American associations in late XX century, but he seems to be not sure that it will not follow by resurrection of this tradition and possibly in a new form.


This chapter is about role of public spaces in American culture. It starts with opening ceremony for new department store in 1895 as symbol of expansion of public spaces in American life. The in goes to review how it came about Initial period of American development was characterized by mainly secluded way of life of farmers interrupted only by attendance of churches, taverns, and markets all of which were not that close to living spaces. Only later in XIX century when Americans moved to the cities and new technology like street car become widely available cutting down effort needed to access public spaces, the role of such spaces started to grow. Many activities that used to be home based such as entertainment, political gatherings, and even dining moved to public spaces of movie theaters, restaurants, bawling alleys, and such. It lasted up until new technologies of late XX century such as TVs and computers attracted people back to their homes and, while keeping them there opened infinite opportunities to communicate with everybody everywhere over Internet. This chapter also reviews political development between all politics being local and low significance of political issues to politics being of national and even international significance and formation of virtual congregation of individuals based on their political believes and inclinations, while not related to locality at all.


This is probably the most interesting part of the book that relates to American mentality and its changes over time. Two things identify American attitudes to all things mental: tight link to pursuit of happiness and approaches that were changing all the time going through tremendous number of fads, scientific, semi-scientific, and just plain weird theories many of which were expressed in actions in typically American way. These attitudes were expressed as many other things American in life and writings of Ben Franklin with his inherited from puritan forefathers need and love for introspection and following actions on self-perfection. There were and there are lots of ways to express this typical American need: diaries, behavior manuals, lectures, discussion clubs, and everything else conceivable including services of shrinks to improve mental wellbeing and achieve self-improvement. Obviously to improve oneself, a person should find this self and this is another ongoing concern of many Americans. The chapter reviews many areas of mentality, but the main feature of Americans’ thinking is their nearly universal believe in individual being the driver of his/her live and external circumstances being just limitations or opportunities. It is contrasting with many other cultures when circumstances are driving individual live from beginning to the end. Also there is very interesting discussion about rationality of Americans based on everyday documentation such as farmers’ ledgers, debt letters and similar things. Another unusual trait of Americans is their religiosity that somehow very comfortably coexists with rationality. One more typically American mental trait is ability and habit to deal with multiple choices. The variety of choices in all conceivable areas of human existence is and had always been hugely outstanding characteristic of American life so ability to deal with it effectively is a huge part of American mentality very poorly understood if at all by people from other cultures. At the end of chapter author promote an interesting idea that a lot in American mentality could be explained via metaphor of bookkeeping, that is bookkeeping of happiness in live.


The final chapter is restating of main ides of this book that there is exceptionality in American culture and there is continuity to it despite all changes in population, technology, believes, and everything else. As to the question if life got better the answer is always ambivalent because people tend to beautify the past and discount the present. However the answer could be found in response to two questions: 1. Was the past better? The vast majority believe that yes, the past was better. 2. Would you agree to move to the past if you have access to time machine? The same vast majority would not agree to go back and live in the past.


I am in agreement with main ideas of this book and found it quite fascinating to go through history of different aspects of American life and culture to get better understanding of how we got to situation we are today. The only thing that is missing is about public spaces. I think that new technologically created public spaces such as Internet with variety of virtual communities that are forming now will not only substitute local organizations of old, but greatly increase coherence and political power of regular middle class Americans, by allowing mass movements from home and by doing so getting lots more people involved in political activities.