1. The Captured Economy, by Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles. I don’t think I have much more to say about it than what I wrote here.
2. How to Think, by Alan Jacobs. The topic of political emotionalism is something of a well-squeezed orange these days, at least among people who are not too overcome with political emotionalism to be disturbed by it. Jacobs gets some juice out of the orange, and I have drafted an essay that uses his book as a jumping-off point. I particularly like his emphasis on thinking as a social phenomenon, and the way that he works through what that implies.
He emphasizes that that he straddles two separate worlds–religion and the academy, and he thinks that this helps with being able to empathize with different points of view. I can remember at a very early age feeling that I straddled two separate worlds. In 4th and 5th grade, my street in suburban St. Louis was white trash* (except for my college professor father), but some of the other streets that fed my elementary school were middle-class professional. The children were very different, and I was one of the few kids with friends of both types.
*You might think I’m exaggerating. But there was a lot of fighting and roughness among the kids, and even among the adults. The most dramatic incident was when Steve Stella’s mom grabbed a woman by her hair and banged her head against the curb. That’s not the sort of thing that middle-class kids encounter these days. (No, Steve Stella is not anyone famous, or anyone I’ve kept track of. I feel free to use his name on the theory that he did not grow up to be anyone you know.)
3. Economics for the Common Good, by Jean Tirole, a review copy of which was sent to me. At close to 500 pages of translated-from-French prose, this will not be an easy one to get through. So far, the main thing I have against it is the title. Something like “What economics can do for public policy” would go down more easily. I’ll let you know more when I am done–not necessarily finished–with the book.
4. The Second World Wars, by Victor Davis Hanson. This not for a WWII neophyte, since it offers no chronology. Nor does it offer the currently popular “how it looked to the ordinary grunt” perspective (at least so far–I am not finished reading). The book is primarily a vehicle for the author to offer his opinions about why things played out as they did.
He is unfashionably Anglophilic. Also, he emphasizes the industrial might of the United States and the Soviet Union. This in turn leads him to attribute the Axis defeat to the folly of Hitler’s choice to invade Russia, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, and Hitler’s decision to declare war on the U.S. Interestingly, I skimmed through the chapter on Pearl Harbor in Churchill’s third volume, and it makes no mention of Hitler’s decision to declare war. It reads as if Pearl Harbor automatically put the U.S. in the war against Germany.
VDH provides provocative and credible evaluations of the cost-effectiveness of various military tools. American submarines and Soviet tanks receive high marks. Paratroops and battleships receive low marks. He argues that Britain and the U.S. learned from mistakes and improved tactics and machinery (such as faulty torpedoes on American submarines when the U.S. first entered the war) more quickly than did their enemies.
Recommended for World War II buffs. Also, after I wrote this post but before I scheduled it to appear, Tyler Cowen reviewed the book very enthusiastically.