1. A review copy of The Mystery of the Invisible Hand, by “Marshall Jevons.” A didactic novel, better than I expected, but not as good as The Price of Everything. I did finish it. My favorite passage, though, is when the author quotes Carl Christ.
Some people think that economists care only about money. I have heard an unkind critic say that an economist is someone who would sell his grandmother to the highest bidder. This is quite wrong. An economist, or at least a good economist, would not sell his grandmother to the highest bidder unless the highest bid was enough to compensate him for the loss of his grandmother.
2. How Civilizations Die, by David P. Goldman, who writes columns as “Spengler.” Very anti-Islam, very pro-Jewish and pro-Christian, very heavy on the civilization-barbarism axis. Not a book you turn to for even-handedness or diplomacy. One representative sample:
Wherever Muslim countries have invested heavily in secondary and university education, they have wrenched their young people out of the constraints of traditional society without, however, providing them with the skills to succeed in modernity. An entire generation of young Muslims has lost its traditional roots without finding new roots in the modern world. The main consequence of more education appears to be a plunge in fertility rates within a single generation, from the very large families associated with traditional society to the depopulation levels observed in Western Europe. Suspended between the traditional world and modernity, impoverished and humiliated, the mass of educated young Muslims have little to hope for and every reason to be enraged.
I think that recent events will lead people to give more consideration to such darker outlooks. If Presidents Bush and Obama had something in common, it is that they both believed that the process of political modernization among Arab Muslims would prove simpler than it has. Bush was overly optimistic about Iraq, and Obama was overly optimistic about the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
For a different take from the civilization-barbarism axis that is too long to excerpt but interesting, see Forfare Davis.
By the way, my Facebook feed has changed radically in recent months, with much less political snark and a surfeit of cute animal videos. Part of me wonders if something like that happened in Britain when Hitler took power in 1933. Was politics just too unpleasant to contemplate at that point?