Saturday, January 30, 2021

Review of The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History, Empires 

Short Description


Elaborate Description

This is about New York when it was known as New Amsterdam, and the coveted island of Manhattan.  The island was found by Hudson by disobeying orders from his company.  An island strategically located to provide protection, nourishment, and trade access.  The Dutch allied and traded with the Native American Indian neighbors.  The Dutch culture was tolerant of foreign products, ideas, and people, making New Amsterdam a welcoming place, center of trade, which precipitated in created a melting pot of cultures.  Initially a company town, but as the settlement grew, the people demanded a voice in their governance.  When the city would change ownership to English and be known as New York, the people would get their voice and keep their diverse livelihoods. 

During Hudson’s time with the Muscovy Company, his role was to find a shortcut to the East via a frozen Northeast passage.  Hudson’s failed to find the route and the company dismissed the trade with Americas.  Either because of Hudson’s personality or company’s financial circumstances, the Muscovy Company dismissed Hudson.  The Dutch East India Company recognized his mariner abilities and hired Hudson.  Disobeying the company’s instruction to go northeast, Hudson went in the opposite direction.  Going to the America’s, Hudson had come across an island that the local Indians called mannahata.  The company, rather than be outraged by the disobedience, found what Hudson brought back to be intriguing. 

The initial Dutch settlement established relationships with some Native American Tribes.  The Native American Tribes were not allies with each other and had conflict with each other.  Mahicans chose to relocate near the Dutch for trade and defense.  Manhattan was a very strategic island.  Large enough to support a population, while small enough for a fort to defend.  Nearby areas provided access to various food sources.  Nearby waterways that enabled easy transportation.  Close to an Indian fur-trade.  

New Amsterdam was a company town rather than a city.  The inhabitants were employees rather than citizens.  The port acted as a way station for many traders, with the company facilitating in transactions.  The problem was that New Amsterdam was not financially viable like other company towns which were able to repay their investment.  When the West India Company made New Netherland a free trading zone by giving up its monopoly on trade in the region, the port became profitable.  Although New Netherland started to grow as many entrepreneurs saw it as a base for Atlantic trade, the company struggled. 

Although the Dutch wanted military-trading posts and did not want to establish permanent colonies, New Netherlands refused to remain a trading post.  The governors of New Netherlands used autocratic rule while the people asked for democratic rule.  Military dictatorship usually worked for the Dutch, but not at New Netherlands.  The company denied representative government to the people, but the people enjoyed many other rights such as religious liberty which was a rarity during the era.  The Dutch were able to keep New Amsterdam because they had the military and naval power to protect it.  Over time, the company did not send requested reinforcements even with increased threats.  It was the English that gained enough naval power to threaten the city, and were willing to provide its people with a representative government.  Many New Amsterdam people flipped their allegiance to the English.  The government relented and surrendered the city rather than fight, turning New Amsterdam into New York.  The city would change ownership a few times before becoming an American city.  The peoples variety of races, religions, and language were allowed to coexist and thereby maintain their way of life because the place worked.  

Seeing the purchase of Manhattan for $24 which was commercially worth trillions from hapless Indians is wrong for many reasons.  Rather than the price for Manhattan of $24, it was actually products worth sixty guilders.  Products that might not have had much value in Amsterdam, would have been more valuable for the settlers, and extremely valuable for the Indians.  The Dutch had tacit knowledge of the Indians, and knew them as very skilled, cunning, curious, pig-headed, and cruel like the Europeans who met them.  The Indians saw land ownership differently than the Europeans.  As Shorto points out, while Europeans consider permanent property transfer, the Indians saw the real estate deal as a rental agreement, and a treaty or alliance between two groups.  Indians continued to use the land even years later after the purchase.  When present, Dutch authorities treated Indians to hospitality and gave them more presents.  Over the years, the Dutch also provided protection to Indians.  Contact with Indians was complex.  Many were friendly, while many being vengeful.  Previous clashes created bloodier reprisals.  Protecting Indians with which agreements were made from enemy tribes.  The stereotype of primitive and defenseless were engrained after the separation on European and Indian villages, because they did not know the Native American Indians tacitly.  

The biggest influence of the Dutch Republic was its culture.  The Dutch were primarily traders which meant that they were exposed to many different peoples.  Rather than be antagonistic to foreign people and their ideas and products, the Dutch were tolerant of them.  Tolerance was good for business.  Tolerance during this time period meant putting up with rather than celebrating diversity.  Publishers were mainly uncensored which gave rise to intellectual life resulting in the production of many books.  In New Netherlands, the Dutch were traders rather than trappers, that meant a need to rely on Indians for their skills.  Cooperation was preferable to fighting.  

Dutch cultural attitude of tolerance was in contrast to other European and England’s cultures.  England during the time was engaged in religious wars.  Intolerant to differences and going as far as persecuting differences.  The Puritans were a persecuted group but they themselves were also intolerant and persecuted those who were not their type of Puritan.  Many Puritans were persecuted by other Puritans, but were welcomed by Dutch communities. 

The book is generally well written but has a problem with flow.  The transitions between ideas, people, places, and chronology prevented a coherent understanding in many parts.  Part of the problem is that the surviving documents that the author is using are not complete.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why did Hudson disobey the Dutch East India Company’s instruction to go northeast?
•Was Manhattan a strategic island?  
•How much did the island cost to buy?
•How were the relations between the Dutch and the Native American Indian tribes? 
•How did New Amsterdam operate as a company town?
•What did the Dutch want New Amsterdam to be like?
•Why did the people of New Amsterdam want a voice in their government?
•How were the Dutch able to keep New Amsterdam?
•Why did New Amsterdam become New York?
•What was Dutch culture like?
•What did the people who lived and live in New York inherit from the Dutch?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781400096336
Pages to read:   357
Publication:     2005
1st Edition:      2004
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          4
Overall           4

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Review of Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Short Description

Elaborate Description

An ask of philosophers to do better.  Philosophy creates the world in own image, rather than see variation and diversity of thought.  The philosophers believe their own interpretation of everything.  Claiming truth and falseness in relation to their philosophy.  Trying not to be dogmatic while imposing their own views.  More fearful of being understood than misunderstood.  Truth is something they hold dear but cannot afford a systematic valuation.  Often times becoming the very things they denounce.  

This book is very difficult to read because it is not a systematic account.  Seemingly random thoughts strung together.  The thoughts appear to have a connection with each other, but it is a fragile connection.  Very little cohesion with poor transitions between the ideas.  A reader will find many beautiful statements, but the statements are in isolation.  Little reasoning behind the claims, but appear to hold some truth to them.  Every reader will find something in the book, find something relative to what they are looking for.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why do philosophers create their own world?
•What does it mean to stare into an abyss and have the abyss stare back? 
•Are philosophers dogmatic?
•Why is it so hard to understand philosophers?
•What value do philosophers have on reason? 
•How can philosophy be improved?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781503250888
Pages to read:   113
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      1886
Format:           Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          1
Overall           1

Review of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = Learning Economics: Basic to Advanced

Short Description

Quotes
“Fear and debt drive this system.  We are hammered with messages that terrify us into believing that we must pay any price, assume any debt, to stop the enemies who, we are told, lurk at our doorsteps.” – John Perkins, Introduction: The New Confessions, Page 19

“A corporate empire supported and driven by the US government” – John Perkins, Chapter 3: “In for Life”, Page 45

“The corporations that hired them, although paid by government agencies and their multinational banking counterparts (with taxpayer money), would be insulated from congressional oversight and public scrutiny, shielded by a growing body of legal initiatives, including trademark, international trade, and Freedom of Information Laws.” – John Perkins, Chapter 3: “In for Life”, Page 49
Quotes with permission from publisher

Elaborate Description

Military occupations and colonializations have become too risky in geopolitics.  The solution was to use the private sector to reach the same goals for global power.  US intelligence agencies would scout prospect Economic Hit Men (EHMs) who would be hired by international corporations.  The EHMs would make nations financially depended on the US, as either the leaders would accept the loans or be removed by the US government.  US corporations would gain the construction money, so no loan money would ever leave the US.  Any scandal would be portrayed as corporate greed as they were paid by the private sector.  The corporations would be paid by government counterparts with taxpayer money, while insulated from congressional oversight and public scrutiny.  A system that allows the use of US power and influence without accountability.  US empire composed of corporate power, a corporatocracy. 

The job of Economic Hit Men (EHMs) is to justify large loans whose money will be used for massive corporate engineering and construction projects.  Then work to bankrupt the countries who will then be beholden to creditors and will be forced to provide concessions.  Propositioned leaders have a choice whether to accept US loans to indebt their countries, or have the CIA remove them.   When the country cannot repay the loans, the country will be forced to give up resources such as oil and provide benefits to the creditors.  Collusion of corporations, banks, and governments to coerce acceptance of debts which benefit the creditors at the expense of the debtors.  A system creating long-term financial dependence which fosters political loyalty.

Fallacious and bias economic models are used to prove the debts will be useful.  The models legitimize the debts.  The models show that the whole country will benefit for a long time.  In reality, only few in the country will benefit while resources are taken away from those who need it.  In the debtor country, the financial burden will be on those most vulnerable, the poorest citizens as their access to resources and institutions will be limited to cover financial servicing fees.  Few people in the debtor country will benefit, but the country as a whole will show an increase in economic production (GDP, formerly GNP).  Economic progress in which the rich get richer while poor grow poorer.

Many people taking part of this system had rationalized their activities by claiming that they were protecting the US and fighting communism and terrorism.  Perkins was part of this system and although had doubts, participated in enabling increased US power in many countries.  This book is an attempt to make amends, hence his confessions.  

Those who suffered under the imposed requirements by the US had been left with no other option but to seek help from US enemies, which ended up giving credence to US claims and punishments.  The world is outraged by US circumvention of international law, but the people in the US are not aware of crimes committed by their government or what the world thinks of it.  The press provides scant views on the issues due to pressure from the government.  The system pretends to reduce threats to the US and increase US power, but results in increased threat to world security and destruction of US influence on geopolitics.  Other countries are now taking a more pronounced and leading role in cooperating with international affairs because of the lack of trust in the US. 

The way the system operates now is different but has the same results.  The corporations convince governments to give them favorable tax and regulatory treatments.  It is the US taxpayer who pays for the corporate subsidies.  Money that is diverted from public institutions go to corporate funds.  The corporations love receiving social programs that support them, but criticize social programs which do not directly benefit them.  International corporations can easy move their production sites to different regions, as such, the corporations have huge bargaining power to influence governments to support their corporate views.

The book has a few problems which reduce the credibility of the claims made.  1) Written in a way that is very sympathetic of the author.  The author keeps claiming that he felt bad about his participation in the system, and that it was his guilt that made him change and write about the system.  Although he sometimes describes the benefits he received, it seems that the author wants forgiveness.  The situation is indeed complex, but the way it is written seems like many times the sympathy is meant to remove himself from his actions.  The continuous sympathizing tries to guilt the reader into making him a hero who was fighting against the system, which makes the sympathy seem credulous.  He participated in a system that made him wealthy and continues to use the money generated from the corrupt system.  The use of the money for institutions which help people seem to be justifications for the wealth to appear acceptable.  2) Many chapters are written about international affairs.  The reader will be introduced to geopolitics at its worst.  The problem is that there seems to be a lack of evidence and details around the events.  The lack of information makes the situations appear conspiratorial.  The author does acknowledge the conspiracy feel of the events, and does provide additional sources.  The extreme duality of the descriptions makes them appear credulous.  Believing the sequences of events is easy for someone who already has a negative view of US policies, with this book providing further justification.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What is an Economic Hit Man (EHMs)?  What is their purpose? 
•What happens to the debtor country’s economic position after accepting the loans facilitated by the EHM?
•Why do countries accept large loans that they cannot reply?
•Who benefits from the loans? 
•How are the economic models created?  What role do they serve in the loan process?
•Why does the system of EHMs exist?
•What is government’s role in EHMs?  What do government benefit from using EHMs?
•How do corporations benefit from EHMs?
•What is the corporatocracy?
•How do the EHMs themselves justify what they do?
•Why does the US circumnavigate international laws?  How does the international community react to these acts?  How do US citizens react to these acts?
•How has the EHM system changed?  What makes an EHM recently?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781626566767
Pages to read:   337
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2004
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           4

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: Tight and Loose Cultures and the Secret Signals that Direct Our Lives by Michele Gelfand

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Sociology


Short Description

Elaborate Description

Cultures coordinate behavior.  The type of social norms and how they are enforced are determined by culture.  Fitting on a spectrum between tight or loose cultures.  Tight cultures are rule makers and have little tolerance for deviance.  Loose cultures are rule breakers and are highly permissive.  Each type of culture has its advantages and disadvantages, a tight-loose trade-off.  Knowing the distinctions enables people and business to understand how they need to operate to successfully coordinate behavior to obtain desired results and prevent conflict.  Tight and loose cultures see and judge each other differently, which if not properly handled can end up with conflict.  

Social norms are learned by observing how others behave.  Behaviors that are rewarded and punished signal desired norms.  Some norms appear to have no logical meaning while they are still being followed.  Social norms can act like shortcuts to morality, overriding individual judgments of what is right or wrong.  Seemingly random, social norms are rather an evolved social function for cooperation.  With cooperation, the human species has succeeded in making grand accomplishments. 

Loose cultures are generally open but have disorder.  Loose cultures tend to be rule breaking, but rule breaking creates a feedback loop that facilitates more violations. Tight cultures are more conforming but less tolerant of deviants.  Individuals in tight cultures downplay their uniqueness because coordination is easier if everyone is like everyone else.  This is a tight-loose trade-off.  For some organizational needs, a loose culture would be advantageous, but a loose culture would be disadvantageous with other organizational needs and vice versa for tight cultures.  Tight cultures have more self-control, while loose cultures adapt to change more quickly.  

Social norms are responses to ecological and difficult circumstances.  When there is a threat, strong social norms are needed for cooperation.  Strong norms are needed to prevent individuals from going rogue.  Fewer threats result in less need for coordination.  Being exposed to diverse perspectives makes people more tolerant of a wider range of behavior.  When individuals, organizations, and countries need to work with those from a different cultural background, conflict can occur.  As tight and loose cultures have different modes of behavior, they create different behavioral expectations.  Different cultures break each other’s expectations, creating conflict.  Knowing the different cultural types can prevent conflict and facilitate coordination.  

Most of this book is a lot of minor examples and experiments which contrasts tight and loose cultures.  Many examples are short and not detailed, which sometimes makes it difficult to read as it can prevent an understanding of how this example interacts with its related cultural aspects in different settings.  There is a plethora of experiments, but although they do highlight certain lessons, they have a problem with replication and generalizations.  Much like in all social sciences, examples and experiments need to be appropriately questioned into how they fit in any particular context.  The majority of the book is an exposition of the differences between tight and loose cultures, with not enough about how they interact.  Gelfand recognizes the difficulties of interaction between tight and loose cultures, and writes about the conflict the interactions can create, but not much is written about to overcome that conflict. 

Gelfand suggests that goldilocks cultures can be beneficial in obtaining the appropriate advantageous for a particular organization.  Extreme tightness or looseness prevents the advantageous aspects of the alternative cultural type.  Knowing how to negotiate with different cultures facilitates appropriate expectations.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are rule makers / rule breakers? 
•Why do we follow social norms?
•How are social norms learned?
•Are social norms moral?
•What is the tight-loose trade-off?
•What are the benefits and disadvantages of a tight culture? How about for loose cultures?
•Is there a goldilocks condition between tight and loose for cultures?
•Are cultural aspects permanent? 
•How do cultures change their cultural aspects?
•What can cause a culture to become loose? How about become Tight?
•What role does gossip play in social norms?
•What happens when tight and loose cultures interact?


Book Details
Original Title:  Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World
Edition ISBN:  9781501152955
Pages to read:   206
Publication:     2019
1st Edition:      2018
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           4

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Review of Vikings: The Viking Age From Beginning To End by Stephan Weaver

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History, Empires

Short Description


Elaborate Description

A short book that covers Viking history from late 8th century to mid-11th century.  Their invasions, social circumstances, and mythology are included while also correcting some misperceptions.  Vikings made their presence felt in England, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Vinland, and France.  The era of Viking invasions has three potential catalysts.  1) The invasions were retaliation for coercion and terror in trying to turn them into Christians.  2) Need for resources led them to trade and obtain trading partners in new territories.  3) Growing population with a lack of fertile farmland caused them to seek it elsewhere.  In many instances emulated the people under their reign.  

The raids were typically small but appear to have been part of grand strategy.  Usually raiding in the winter as the regions under attack would lack support.   What gave the Vikings superiority was the Viking longships which were fast and could travel shallow waters.  Some Vikings left regions because they were paid to leave.  Other Vikings settled in regions where armies could not remove them.  While other Vikings lost battles and retreated.  

Social culture was typically hospitable and welcoming of strangers.  Although the Viking was not larger-than-life-size, because of their harsh environment, physical chores, and battles, they were physically stronger than average man.  Women were independent and had certain rights which permitted them to enjoyed relatively more liberty than other regions during the time period.  Large slave population for daily and physical chores.  The kings title was fought for rather than inherited.  

A quick read.  As this is a short book, it discusses the Vikings in broad descriptions and does not contain many details per event.  A very good overview of the Vikings which allows the reader to consider looking for more.  Provides history from different perspectives rather than glorifying or demonizing the Vikings.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why did the Vikings go on raids?
•What kind of tools and strategies available to the Vikings? 
•How did regions facing the Vikings handle the invaders?
•How would you describe the social circumstance of the Vikings?
•How were the Vikings politically organized? 


Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940155046578
Pages to read:   73
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2015
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           4

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Review of How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History

Short Description

Elaborate Description

The purpose of this book is to rectify a wrong, the wrong being leaving Irish history in the fringes and not providing the Irish the credit it deserves for preserving civilization.  A social and religious history of Ireland.  As (Western) Rome fell, Europe saw many libraries destroyed and people become illiterate.  Intellectual life in Europe ground to a halt, but fortunately, many works survived via Ireland.  When Patrick turned the Irish towards Christianity, the monks gathered and transcribed as many books as they could.  As the monks traveled and expanded their reach, they brought their knowledge with them.  In this way the Irish saved civilization because otherwise, many foundational ideas would have been forgotten. 

The fall of Rome had precipitated in destruction of its social and intellectual standards.  Libraries burned and no opportunities to learn.  Roman law survived the destruction of its civilization as bishops remained.  With the fall of intellectual standards, the people became more illiterate but desired the lost peace provided by a rule of law.  Bishops were used to read and write the laws.  The kings were educated by bishops in diplomatic elements of justice. 

Although Rome’s civilization fell, many works escaped destruction.  The surviving works preserved many intellectual topics.  Patrick managed to convert many Irish to Christianity by transmuting Irish virtues to Christian equivalents.  Loyalty, courage and generosity turned into faith, hope, and charity.  Many Irish wanted to be Romanized and saw that becoming Christian conferred its privileges. 

As membership and monks grew, the monks started to gather and teach.  Soon after, students came from all over to Ireland to learn.  The monks turned no one away due to the Irish virtue of hospitality.  Tolerant of people and ideas.  Rather unlike the orthodox tradition of uniformity, the monks tried to obtain as many books into their libraries.  Monks began to set up libraries in different communities which brought even more students to Ireland.  As the monks expanded their reach, they brought their learning with them.  Illiterate Europe was reconnected with its own past via scribal Ireland. 

This book tries to rectify a wrong, that the Irish are generally left out of history of civilizations, but this book only briefly discusses the Irish and gives more prevalence to other societies.  For a book on Irish history, there is not much Irish history in it.  Although the Irish should get credit for their part in preserving intellectual thoughts, it is wrong to give them all the credit as the empire of Islam did the same and more.  Pretentious credit is a wrong as much as not giving enough credit.  It is generally true that intellectual life was difficult in Europe after Rome’s fall it is not true that there was no learning.  There were trends to learn and gain knowledge that did not come from the Irish books, such as from underground philosophical movements.  Another reason for the fall of intellectual life was not Rome’s fall, but because Christian communities banned opposing ideas. 

The story does need more Irish history but what it does tell is a story of intellectual life.  That tolerance to different people and ideas is very effective in convincing change.  Knowledge and information are tenuous and fragile as by not passing them on, they are lost.  The transmission of knowledge and information to the future is paramount to the progression of the human intellect and civilization. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What was lost when Rome fell?
•What was preserved when Rome fell?
•Why did the fall of Rome precipitate in the creation of the Feudalistic era? 
•Why was Roman law used after Rome fell?
•What do you think of Irish culture?
•How did the Irish save civilization? 
•How did Patrick convert the Irish to Christianity?
•Why did the monks start education students?
•Why were the monks tolerant of different people and ideas? 
•Why were monks important for the transmission of information? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780307755131
Pages to read:   162
Publication:     2010
1st Edition:      1995
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           3

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review of Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics

Short Description


Elaborate Description

This book is not about the particulars of the coronavirus pandemic.  This is a book about how the world has handled the pandemic and the changes that occurred within the economies.  Countries and cities had different preparedness ability to handle pandemics, but it seems all were unprepared for the scale of the pandemic and economic consequences.  A pandemic which is shaped and is shaping a deeply interconnected world.  The pandemic has changed the social and economic life of individuals and companies.  Zakaria focuses on the political factors which influenced how the pandemic was handled, and the social and economic changes in the structure of world economies.  

Pandemics are not new and there are those who kept claiming that they are inevitable and should be prepared against.  In terms of biology, a virus does not actually want to kill its host as that would kill the virus as well.  It is not possible to stop nature from producing outbreaks of new diseases, but a pandemic to those diseases is optional.  Preparation and efficient responses can limit the spread of the diseases.  The risk of pandemics is high not only because of nature, but because they are able to be manufactured.  Although bioweapons are more practical, protecting against these weapons has very few employees and a lack of budget, unlike other forms of national defense which are more easily detectible.  

Experts operate by obtaining, questioning, and testing hypotheses.  Data influence the conclusions.  As different data is obtained, the conclusions change.  In the initial stages of any pandemic, Covid included, have a dearth of information and contain erroneous information which needs to be used for decisions.  Making claims before the appropriate evidence creates backlash of disbelieve in the future when listening to the claims would be appropriate.  Given the chance, the public can understand nuance, but elites usually patronize the public.  

How well a country handled the virus depended not on its size, but on the quality of government.  What Zakaria sees as a competent, well-functioning, and trusted state.  Quality governments are able to generate wealth and direct it to where it is needed.  The US has a long history for being anti-statist, with the recent decades having many officials which wanted to heavily reduce the government.  An anticommons has occurred with the US government as the system of checks and balances made easy to block any action.  

This pandemic and many other issues require international support to ameliorate.  International relations have been improving after WW2 with many international treaties and institutions.  Recently, the US has been removing itself from the international stage.  The lack of international support reduces the ability of the world to reduce or ameliorate many problems, and increases the threat of conflict.  

The world has been moving to the digital economy but many did not see that as relevant to their decisions.  Many seeming taboos of online have been broken as companies and people connect via digital space.  Working from home maintains productivity with flexible hours and less office-space.  The problem with going digital is that size matters, whereas small business have more difficulty gaining users.  

The author uses many claims which seem true and seem to be platitudes, but are not actually true.  Provided confirmation biased claims while in a different context explaining them in more detail.  These pretentious claims seem to try to soothe fears by adding a bit of certainty and glorification which cajoles the reader to feel some safety in the words, but they contradict many themes which Zakaria continuously frames.  The pretentious claims are a minority in this book, but they create problems as by referencing myths, sustains them, and prevents accepting the history and circumstance that led to the situations.  A big convoluted claim is about government and markets.  In some instances, the author references that markets were not enough and that government is needed, while in others that government was preventing private solutions.  The story of the interaction between government and private sector needs to be ameliorated.  

The pandemic has shifted many economic and social facets.  Weaknesses became pronounced as the strengths could not compensate for their troubles.  Going digital seems like progress, but it has become very difficult to tell genuine information from fake news.  While some governments do an effective job at mitigating woes, other governments blame others rather than deal with the issues.  Economic and social circumstances are shifting, but hopefully many lessons are learned to facilitate appropriate action in the future.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•Why is coronavirus so virulent?
•How are pandemics handled?  Compare how they were handled before and now. 
•Why are some countries able to effectively handle the pandemic while others having so much trouble? 
•What are some shifts in international politics?
•Why were hospitals unprepared for a surge in hospital care needs? 
•Why do people support a particular political party?  How does this influence their ideological commitments? 
•How do experts operate? 
•Why are experts not trusted?
•What is the problem with scientist making bold claims?  How does the public react to the claims?  
•How have views changed to going digital?
•Who benefits from going digital?
•How did markets react to the pandemic?  

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780393542141
Pages to read:   181
Publication:     2020
1st Edition:      2020
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4