Saturday, July 31, 2021

Review of Post-Ottoman Coexistence: Sharing Space in the Shadow of Conflict edited by Rebecca Bryant

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Sociology

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Shared spaces are those in which different faith and ethnic groups come together to work, worship, rejoice, and connect.  Coexistence obtains special meaning when it is lost.  Its loss is felt deeply, but evanescent during existence.  Events that make history are not those which make coexistence as everyday life rarely leaves a record.  Coexistence is an uneventfulness from which much can be learned.  A culture in which everyone practices small acts of diplomacy.  Even under enormous tension, different people can come together.  Mistrust and hostility can come about by the rash actions of a few.  

The Ottoman Empire appreciated differences and managed them.  Allowed people of other religions to be judged under their own laws and represented by their religious leaders.  Although other religions were allowed within the Ottoman Empire, they were subordinated to Islam.  Muslims imposed their physical signs on architecture to show superiority.  This trend was reversed as the Ottoman Empire weakened.  Ottoman Empire right to rule depended on its defense of the peasants.  To guarantee the peasants subsistence and market provisions, while preventing excessive accumulation by private individuals.

What was lost in deportations was the community, culture, and the deep bonds between people.  The home was not a completely private space, neighbors could easily stop by and drink coffee.  Keeping the doors open meant that the neighbors frequently interacted with each other, which facilitated the practice of moral exchange with everyday diplomacy.  Getting back to coexistence is made difficult by the narratives being told about the past as they silence many minority counter-narratives which threaten the hegemonic narrative.  

Although the book uses a variety of means to show coexistence, there seems to a lack of convergence.  The lack of clarity about what time periods are being discussed to what the examples mean reduces the understanding of the topic.  There were parts of the book that were well written and bring with them meaning to coexistence, but a large part of the book is best understood by those who have personal experience with the topics, or have a decent understanding of the historic and contemporary related topics. 

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 shared spaces?
•What is coexistence?
•Why is coexistence hard to identify?
•What can be learned from coexistence?
•What was lost from the Ottoman Empire culture? 
•How did the Ottoman Empire manage different groups?
•What everyday acts made the culture that was lost?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781785331244
Pages to read:   272
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          2
Overall           2



Friday, July 30, 2021

Review of Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age by Amy Klobuchar

This review was written by Eugene Kernes


Short Description

Elaborate Description

Trusts and monopolies are anti-competition.  They not only remove choice from consumers and increase the price of their products, they limit innovation and prevent alternative solutions by absorbing or harming competitors.  Monopolies became so big in the 19th century that their power facilitated social unrest.  Antitrust laws were made to break up monopolies, which were effective when used, but were rarely used due to political power of the monopolies, or the laws ineffectiveness.  What is needed is to update the antitrust laws for the new and different versions of monopoly power.  Antitrust laws give businesses and citizens more leverage.  Bringing with it competition, and overall better customer and social experience.

Trusts are a legal term for various companies transferring their shares to a single holding company.  The shareholders of the holding company receive a part of the earnings.  Trusts were used to eliminate competitors, use strategic pricing to make it hard to compete with, force products on consumers, and have more control over working conditions.  The elimination of competition by mergers gives the monopolists power.  

Monopolies have a lot of power, so much that they could intimidate legislature.  With politicians being self-censored from fear of the monopolists.  As monopolies grow, so does their power.  Inability to check the increased power came about by being unprepared or inept, but also from arrangements being made between the monopolists and the politicians.

Going against monopolies has been a foundational tenant of America, as in the USA was founded by going against the monopoly of British power on colonial American decisions.  The American anti-monopolist agenda was in opposition to how British monopolies controlled what could be bought, from whom, and at what price.  Many of the monopolies came about through corruption and influence rather than merit.  Colonialist who tried to compete with the British monopolies, were fined or imprisoned.  When the economy got tough, rather than provide relief, the British government demand more profit to be sent their way.  The monopoly that precipitated the American Revolution was the British East India Company, which had come about from the Tax Act (later known as Tea Act).  The company would effectively prevent the colonists from buying tea from the Dutch, including the prevention of illegal tea smuggling.  

During the 19th century, as the abuses from monopolies mounted, there were governors and legislatures that did try to rectify the situation, but the bills that passed Congress were watered down to prevent any effective change.  The more powerful and bigger the monopolies got, the greedier they became.  The public became so angry that they started to rebel against the monopolists.   It was local politicians who started to go against monopoly powers because it was their local small business and workers who were being hurt.  The politicians job depended on doing something against monopoly power. 

When antitrust laws were put in, such as the Sherman Act, many courts favored the monopolist’s business interests than the social interests.  It was during the Roosevelt era that antitrust laws took effect.  Roosevelt’s socioeconomic background allowed him to understand what trusts meant for the various classes.  Roosevelt recognized that trusts damaged business and government interests as they resulted in riots and social upheaval.  Business and governments would have social trust built by reducing the power of those who had too much, because it would reduce the risk of riots and strikes.  There was mixed efficacy of antitrust during the Roosevelt and Taft administration.  The industries targeted by them were selective.  Favored industries received favored interests, which left many powerful industrialists with a lot of power.  Nixon would use antitrust legislature to attack political enemies, rather than on merits. 

What caused antitrust laws to be less effective was situation during the times, as other social factors took precedence.  Ideology about the laws also reduced its effectiveness.  The way in which the antitrust laws such as Sherman Act and Clayton Act are written do not make it easy to facilitate antitrust decisions.   

Large and powerful companies are too big to succeed as they threaten innovation and harm consumer choice.  What is needed is to update antitrust laws, as they are the leverage that business and citizens would be able to use.  Citizens would get lower prices and more choice.  Businesses would not be squeezed out.  

The initial third of the book is a wonderful account of the impact of antitrust laws and monopoly power.  During that part of the book, the author writes in a manner that explains how the laws help everyone, and the threats monopoly power has.  Brings with it various perspectives from seemingly different political backgrounds and creates a shared understanding of the problem.  After that, the book because very political.  More about political attacks than the merits of the decisions.  References how the opposing political party has done a lot of damage to competition by not seeing antitrust laws favorably, but does not mention all the policies that the author’s political party has done to stop competition.  Rather than wanting competition on its own merits, the book is more about a politically favorable competition.  In terms of economics, although the author does provide a little bit about why some monopoly practices might be favorable, there is no discussion about why government sometimes support oligopolies and monopolies for the benefits they provide.  Benefits not to the shareholders, but for the communities and citizens they support.  The only trusts and monopolies that are discussed are those which have done a lot of harm to the interest of the citizens and competitors, but not about the basic economic reasons in which size can be more efficacious. 

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 trusts and monopolies?
•What is monopoly power?
•What is the importance of competition?
•How do laws impact monopoly power?
•Why do businesses want monopoly power?
•What limits antitrust laws?
•How did monopolies impact the formation of the USA? 
•How did the monopolists of the 19th century wield their power? 
•Who decided to fight trusts and monopolies? 
•What limited the Sherman Act? 
•Who were the trust breakers and why were they breaking trusts? 
•What does it mean to be too big to succeed? 
•What is the ‘Amazon Defense’? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780525654902
Pages to read:   334
Publication:     2021
1st Edition:      2021
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           3


Monday, July 26, 2021

Review of Greek Mythology: Captivating Stories of the Ancient Olympians and Titans by Ross Tanner

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Sociology

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Myths might be fabricated and exaggerated, but they can hold some hints of reality.  Some events may have taken place, but symbolized in a way that humans could express.  For the Greeks, the myths served not just entertainment, but for ethical purposes.  The stories depended on the leader’s motivation, to either justify action or teach lessons about the varieties of results that come from intentions.  As for the myths themselves, when there were fewer gods, there was more peace.  The more gods brought into existence, the more conflict there became.  From the primordial gods, to the second generation Titan gods, to the third generation Olympian gods.  Going from being represented by abstract ideas, to each generation becoming more anthropogenic. 

This is a short book about the Greek gods.  Which includes their linage, as the relationships between the gods is disclosed.  Describing what the gods represented, and the potential real expressions of their symbolisms.  Given the brevity, it is hard to understand the complexities of their interactions and loyalties.  Partly because different sources have different claims to events and actions.  Much like the author claims, to understand the myths more fully will require other sources.  


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 some requiring themes in the gods actions? 
•What are the classifications of gods? 
•What role do myths have on society? 
Book Details
Edition ISBN:  2940154703878
Pages to read:   51
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2017
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall           2


Review of The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Short Description
Excerpts

“If I say to you that in my view all people fall into two camps, those fundamentally afraid of things and those fundamentally not afraid of things, would you think me radically overstating or oversimplifying?” – Padgett Powell, Page 46


“Does integrity le in failure?” – Padgett Powell, Page 49


“When people elect no to speak to you, should you not speak to them or deliberately continue to speak to them?  If you elect to continue speaking to those not speaking to you, should the motivation be to pique them or to repair relations” – Padgett Powell, Page 80

Quotes with permission from publisher

Elaborate Description
Every sentence in this book ends with a question mark.  With questions abound, on topics trivial and important, the reader cannot help but consider them.  The questions are very thought provoking.  They range from a variety of topics, and sometimes go into more detail.  What matters is how the reader engages with the questions.  Either by looking up the unknown references, or by considering the personal implications of the question.  Some questions are better put than others, highlighting that the way in which questions are raised, determine how they are engaged with.  As seemingly simple questions, can have very complex answers.  For the questions prompt thoughts which are a reflection on the readers mindset.  

The problem with this book is that the questions are seemingly random.  Some questions go together or dig deeper, but most are not related to others.  That makes this book harder to read, as the reader needs to stop at every question to consider the implication.  But that might have been the purpose of the book, and can be enjoyed.  Maybe if the book was edited to containing sections about related questions would have improved the book, or taken away its value.  The book is a novel way to provoke thinking about oneself.  

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?
•Can you make connections within the questions?
•What do you think of the way the questions come about?
•Do the questions make sense?
•What do you think of the questioning format of the book? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780061859434
Pages to read:   164
Publication:     2010
1st Edition:      2009
Format:           Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          2
Overall           3

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review of The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond by Jim O'Neill

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics

Short Description

Elaborate Description
Jim O’Niell coined the BRIC, which is short for Brazil, Russia, India, and China.  The BRICs were seen to be high growth countries because they have large populations which are engaging in international trade.  The basics of growth depends on population and productivity.  There cannot be sustained growth without an incentive for work, such as obtaining an appropriate income from labor.  More income means more consumption opportunities.  Resources do need to be better managed, but over time different resource sources can be found and consumption pattern change.  Each of the BRIC countries had a lot of problems, but they are willing to change and engage with the world.  

The author acknowledges the complexity of economics and does not appreciate lazy acceptance of consensus.  The problem is that any problem with the BRIC is denounced easily.  Even as the model changed and grew to be more inclusive with other countries, the basic model pretentiously holds.  The author also denounces people who did not lazily accept the model, and the detractors who consider its limitations.  The model may be well developed, but it remains a model that challenges reality.

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 the BRIC model?
•How do countries grow? 
•What determines the size of the economy?
•What are the limitations with each BRIC country and why is it part of the model? 
•Does the world have resources to sustain the increased growth? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9781591844815
Pages to read:   232
Publication:     2011
1st Edition:      2011
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          1
Overall           1

Monday, July 19, 2021

Review of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Psychology
Intriguing Connections = Earth's Flora and Fauna 

Short Description

Elaborate Description
There is a lot of resistance for animal intelligence due to human ego and limited experimental ability.  Humans wanting to be the standard for intelligence prevents seeing different intelligence needs in animals.  Many cognitive tests are done without considering the animals perception of the world, its umwelt.  Animals given tools and tests that fit the way they interact with the world, show remarkable intelligence.  From culture to political struggles.  It is offensive to animals to call human misbehavior as acting like animals, because animals have a lot of self-restraint.  This book is not just about animals or psychology, it is also about the continuous struggle in science to get appropriate conclusions.

The two dominant schools of thought on animal research hold mechanical views about animals as either they are stimulus-response machines, or were genetically endowed with instincts.  Behaviorism sought human-control over the animal by placing the animal in barren environments that left little else to do than to participate in what the experimenter wanted.  If they did not behave as wanted, they were considered misbehaving.  Ethology was about natural behavior with the interest on what occurred spontaneously.  Behaviorist tented to be psychologist, while ethologist tented to be zoologists.  

Cognition is a process by which sensory input about the environment gets put into flexible application.  Intelligence is the success of cognition.  Words are not needed in thinking.   Each animal is specialized to live within its own ecology.  Having evolutionary developed many ways of thinking how to adept to the ecology.  Animals want to learn what they need to know by creating learning opportunities.  Not needing every possible adaptation, so they are not developed.  A cognitive ripple occurs within cognitive capacity as any discovered capacity is older and more widespread than initial thought.

Animal intelligence is on a continuum of variations rather than just between human and other animals.  Using humans as the standard for intelligence is misrepresenting the use of intelligence.  Although each species has ecological niches which consist of the habitat an organism needs to survive, each species also has an umwelt.  An umwelt is the subject world created by the organisms’ self-centered representation.  It is the way each species perceives the world.  

Observations depend on what questions are asked and how the experiments are set up.  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  Not seeing a capacity in a species does not mean that the species does not have the capacity.  It is highly possible that the test missed something or the test did not fit the species.  Single observations, anecdotal evidence is not enough for conclusions, but they do inspire observations and experiments facilitate understandings that get closer to conclusions.

Before any tests, scientists need to understand the animal’s typical behavior.  Conditioning can help, but there are many unconditioned behaviors that can be brought about from the experiment even though the experiment cannot claim to have created the behaviors.   Testing an animal needs to consider the animal’s temperament, interests, anatomy, and sensory capacities.  A test cannot be expected to perform well when it that does not take account of the animal’s motivation and attention.

Testing animals using human standards rather than the species umwelten is wrong because different animals have either different uses for the same concepts, or not even need the concepts as there was no need to develop an understanding of that concept.  Animals are extraordinary in doing things that are needed from their perspective.  

Giving tests on animals who are not ready to take the test, due to anxiety or distractions, usually results in poor performance.   Measuring human children against apes in testing situations provides many false comparisons.  The human children not only get to interact with an experimenter of the same species, but they are usually accompanied by a parent, and other verbal supports.

Animals do talk to one another to find out about wants and information.  Depending on the animals, they can have very political and social lives.  From getting support for their future actions, to knowing how to reduce stress and bring about harmony.   Rather than being stuck in the present, animals can have very well developed learning practices that become needed only in the future.  They are able to test their abilities and improve upon them.  They even have culture as they can learn from one another.  

While anthropomorphism risks seeking human traits on animals, anthropodenial risks a priori rejecting human traits on animals.  Anthropomorphism can anthropodenial can help guide questions and direct attention if applied properly.  Anthropomorphism can help with animals that are very similar to humans.  Anthropodenial can help with animals that are very different to humans.

The book is well written with many stark examples that showcase animal intelligence.  More than animal intelligence, as many concepts can be applied to humans.  The problem with the book is that there are times that having some psychology background would make for easier reading.  

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 the different between the animal’s ecology, and its umwelt?
•What is cognition? 
•How should tests be done on animals?
•What do scientist need to have before testing on animals? 
•Do animals have social lives?
•Do animals engage in politics?
•Do animals have language? 
•What are the differences between the behaviorism and ethology schools of thought?
•What and how do animals learn? 
•How fair are the tests on animals against humans?
•What role does human ego play in the science of animal cognition? 
•What is the difference between anthropomorphism and anthropodenial?  

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780393246193
Pages to read:   241
Publication:     2017
1st Edition:      2016
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          5
Overall           5


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Review of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

This review is written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = History

Short Description

Elaborate Description
Benjamin Franklin was a complex character who is seen differently depending on the nation’s changing values.  With humble origins, Franklin would shape the identity of the U.S. and the structure of power.  Showcasing his changing mind and the lessons learned over his lifetime.  Franklin had a practical view of engagement, and avoided dogma.  Even while engaged in business, Franklin inspired many public works.  Although not formally trained in science, his innovations harnessed the power of lightning.  With his ability to handle difficult negotiations, he was designated as a representative for international affairs.  Much like most colonialists, Franklin was a loyal Englishmen who supported the British Empire, but because of the way colonies were treated, became a revolutionary who sought Independence.

The way Benjamin Franklin would argue his ideas would change over time.  Learning quickly how to influence people more effectively.  Going from being contradictory, to becoming less contentious and less confrontational.  Taking on the style of a humble enquirer, learned from books that described the Socratic method.  As much as possible he tried to not to show pride.  Franklin made personal rules that he would like to hold such as being frugal, sincerity, industriousness, and not speaking ill of others.  Some of his rules he was better able to follow than others.  Franklin had a moral ledger, as he kept trying to make amends for mistakes he made.  Created sheets of pros and cons to help make decisions.  

In politics, business, science, and in religion, Franklin tried to be pragmatic, and avoided being dogmatic about any idea.  An outlook into wealth that became known as middle class.  Being seen as part of the masses rather than being derogatory towards the masses.  Had a personal magnetism that attracted people who were able to help him.  Franklin had a charm about him, and willing and ready to win friends and patrons.  Although Franklin could easily obtain acquaintances and casual friends, he had difficulty nurturing deep bonds with people.  Lost many male friends, but would have many female friends which were not lost.  

Benjamin Franklin was the 10th child in the family.  His father, Josiah, wanted him to become a preacher.  The way to become a preacher was to send Benjamin to college, but Josiah had a change of mind.  Franklin did not go to college partly because of economic reason, partly because Josiah saw that Benjamin’s personality would clash with the demands of the pious or faithful.  Rather, Franklin’s education would be an apprenticeship to his brother James, who was setting up to become a printer.  During this tenure, there would be a lot of hard feeling with James mistreating Benjamin, and Benjamin wanting independence.  When an opportune moment came, Benjamin Franklin ran away from Boston, and headed to New York.  But on the journey to New York, Franklin met people, one of whom influenced Franklin to continue the journey to Philadelphia.  

At Philadelphia, while working for printer and writing papers, Franklin caught the attention of the Governor, Keith.  Governor Keith encouraged Franklin to open up his own printing shop.  As Franklin’s family was unwilling to invest, Keith claimed he would.  Keith sent Franklin to buy equipment in London, but provided no credit.  The governor was able to provide encouragement but could not give credit that he did not have.  

Back at Philadelphia, Franklin went back to his former print job with Keimer, but Keimer was mistreating Franklin by using arbitrary authority.  Their work relationship was strenuous but each needed the other to get the work done.  Given the relationship hardships, Keimer started to get apprentices which Franklin would teach, as in Franklin understood that he was being used to teach his replacements.  Franklin was willing to use Keimer as well, by entering a partnership with an apprentice who’s father would fund their own print shop.  

While running a print shop, Franklin did not stop to network.  He founded a club called the Junto, for tradesmen and artisans to meet, rather than a club for the social elite.  At the club, Franklin created former rules that would allow each member to get along with each other, and taught how to better make their arguments.  The emphasis in the club was self-improvement.  Many ideas came about from discussions in the Junto.  Ideas such as a police department, a school, and a fire department.  The club was so successful, that Franklin encouraged others to form their own spinoff clubs.  The Junto was also helpful in creating demand for Franklin’s print shop. 

At Franklin’s shop, he made a show of being seen as industrious.  Using prior skills, Franklin wrote many papers for the shop using pseudonyms.  Many of the articles were satirical accounts of current events.  Fabricating events to draw in readership.  Within a town that could support only two printers, Franklin third shop was only possible because of the business he received from Junto members.  What became evident was that he would need the distribution aspect of printing, which was held as a monopoly by a competitor.  This created tension, as the rivalry between the three papers caused them to attack each other in print.  Franklin’s paper was becoming more partisan, while making a case that it was for consideration of a free press to express different ideas to enable their dialogue.  With the acknowledgment that the printing business required an income at the same time as informing the public.  Without the control of the distribution, Franklin needed to bribe the carriers to deliver his paper.  Franklin became the postmaster, the distributer after finding that then postmaster was not keeping appropriate accounting.  

When he was a printer, he made a common-law arrangement with Deborah.  Deborah’s husband had left her, but there was no divorce, so a common-law arrangement protected both Franklin and Deborah.  Franklin and Deborah had a partnership in which the way the household was to be run.  Deborah helped Franklin with the print shop as well.  Franklin liked to travel, and as Deborah did not, they were apart for long periods of time.  Their respect and loyalty would endure.  Franklin and Deborah had few children, but they also had William, Franklin’s illegitimate son.  During this era, couples tended to have a lot of children.  Children helped with the menial chores and other tasks, which made them a resource rather than a burden.  Many children would die before becoming of age.  Franklin and Deborah lost some children in their youth, and did not have many children in total.  Franklin and William would eventually take opposite sides for the War of Independence. 

Franklin became more religion the older he got, but he was always pragmatic about religion.  Despising dogma.  Wanted religion to be an influential factor in peoples lives, to make them more virtuous.  Given the dogmatic problems he saw, Franklin created a moral perfection project.  A practical guide on how to be more virtuous.  The focus was on virtue and rational utility rather than the nature of God and religious faith.  This fits in with the era’s enlightenment movement.  

With the post of postmaster, Franklin and the Junta were able to influence policy.  A public policy that they had contributed to was a police patrol.  Initially, the police force was meant to defend against the France and France’s allies.  But later, the police force would become a military organization that would facilitate independence from the British Empire.  The police force would be a private institution because the government, controlled by the Penn’s, did not want to finance the association.  Pennsylvania being a Proprietary colony, as in governed by a family via a monopoly from the British Empire.

When Franklin retired, he pursued science.  Franklin had no background in science, and saw the science as amusement, in which practical applications could be derived.  Electricity was then used for amusement purposes, jolts provided from static electricity and other glass objects, but Franklin experimented with electricity to make it useful.  Many terms created by Franklin, are still used to describe electricity.  The invention of the lightning rod was how the science of electricity was put into practice.  Lightning storms before the lightning rod, wreaked havoc to infrastructure and people.  

Franklin was taking up a more political role in the late 1740s.  Wanted to avoid too much authority but saw a role for government which came in the form of a public-private partnership.  Believed in order, but wary of too much social engineering.  One of his public policy beliefs was to provide everyone an opportunity to succeed, not just the elite.  In economic policy, he had a problem with the mercantilist way the British Empire prevented manufacturing in America and use it only for natural resources, because American demand would be far greater than the available supply.  

Franklin’s views on slavery were ambivalent initially, but then became abolitionist.  During certain times of his life, he had slaves but found it uneconomical and weakened those who had slaves because they would be prejudice against work.  

Although the British Empire did not want too much cooperation between the colonies, the French threat made it necessary.  During a meeting of the colonial commissioners and Indian groups, Franklin proposed a plan that would later be known as federalism.  United in defense of all the colonies, but each would have their own local governing power.  At this point, many colonists, which included Franklin, were still favoring the British Royalty.  Although Franklin wanted the colonial assembly to choose the federal congress, others favored the king choosing the congress.  In these arguments, the germinal stage of taxation and representation would be set.  The assembly would later send Franklin to London regarding the issue of the Penn’s tax issues.  

Franklin would go to London as a loyal Englishmen to strengthen ties, rather than seek independence.  Seeing America as integral part of the empire.  But wanted the colonists to have full rights as any British subject, rather than second-class citizens.  Rather, the British government did not even recognize the rights the colonists did have.  As the argument that Franklin was trying to make was against the Penns, Franklin would even propose to turn the colony to a Crown colony.  After the frustration with arguing against the Penns, Franklin had a reprieve back in Philadelphia, but it was not long before he was needed back in London.

This time Franklin was to argue against taxes, particularly the Stamp Act.  Franklin accepted the imposition of external taxes, but not internal ones.  His claim was that it was unconstitutional to impose internal taxes without representation.  This frustration created another colonial assembly which now wanted to unite as a political unit.  The taxes made royal rule unpopular in the colonies, and contemporaneously colonial pleas unpopular in London.  Franklin’s view was that the enforcement of the Stamp Act would divide colonies and the empire, while he was still trying to prevent the separation.  British government wanted the taxes so that the colonies can be profitable to the empire, and to pay for debts in their defense.  But Franklin made the case that the colonies defended themselves, and by doing so defended British interests which had cost the colonies and for which were still unreimbursed.  Franklin’s defense of the colonies would gain him a reputation as being near indispensable for diplomacy. 

From the negotiations, many of the tariffs were removed, but the tea tariff remained and gave the East India Company a virtual monopoly on trade.  Franklin made the reports public to the colonies who then proceeded to destroy East India Company property and dump tea into the sea.  Even with the tensions, Franklin had supporters who tried to prevent further escalation and war.  Franklin had wanted reconciliation, but the British kept rejecting reconciliation and continuing to subjugate the colonies.  In response, over time, Franklin changed his mind and sought for independence.  Back in Philadelphia, Franklin was proposing the structure of colonial government.  The power that each state would have in the united nation.  Was part of the editing of the Declaration of Independence.  

To gain independence, the revolution would need international support and recognition.  As such, Franklin was designated to create ties with France.  While in France, there were many spies among Franklin’s patrons, but Franklin did not seem to mind, and used them in turn.  With France, Franklin facilitated recognition for the America’s without giving exclusive rights to France.  Although Franklin was highly supportive of France, he also did not want to not be dependent on European powers.  Throughout the negotiations, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin would have to cooperate which was difficult given their vastly divergent ideas about policies and work ethics.  While obtaining status for America, Franklin was willing to use France and British interests against one another.  With the conclusion of Revolution and obtaining Independence, Franklin came back to Philadelphia and helped shape national power structure.  

The book is a wonderful expression of the life of Benjamin Franklin from the perspective of his time, rather than how the same acts appear later.  Including all the complexity of his family life and the constraints on ideas.  The only limitation of the book is that sometimes, events are not given their full context and background, making it difficult to understand the reason for and outcomes of the events.  

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 Franklin decide to start writing his autobiography? 
•How to describe Franklin’s personality?
•What was Franklin’s work ethic?
•Was Franklin religious?
•Did Franklin have a moral code?
•What were Franklin’s economic views?
•How did Franklin view his family members? 
•Describe Franklin relationship with Deborah?
•Why did Franklin not attend college?
•How was Franklin under apprenticeship to James?
•How was Franklin under apprenticeship to Keimer?
•Why did Franklin decide to get his own print shop?
•What was the purpose of the Junto?
•What public work projects came from the Junto?
•Why did Franklin use pseudonyms to write papers? 
•What did Franklin write about?  What manner did Franklin use to write in?
•How were the papers received? 
•Why did Franklin want to become the postmaster?
•Why did Franklin want to colonies to have a police patrol? 
•Why did Franklin take to science? 
•What were Franklin’s views on government? 
•How would a public-private partnership work? 
•How did Franklin view slavery?
•Why did Franklin want the colonies to be united?  What was the political structure that Franklin envisioned about the unity between the colonies?
•What were Franklin views on the British Empire? 
•How would Franklin handle negotiations with the British? 
•Why did the colonists not want the Stamp Act?  Why did the British try to impose it? 
•Why did Franklin seek Independence for America from the British Empire? 
•Why did the colonies need France as an ally? 


Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780743260848
Pages to read:   498
Publication:     2003
1st Edition:      2003
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5


Monday, July 12, 2021

Review of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics, Behavioral
Intriguing Connections = How to Teach? How to Learn?

Short Description

Elaborate Description

Failure can be a wonderful learning mechanism.  It informs what decisions are wrong, and how to reconsider them.  Failure is difficult to accept as a positive outcome, especially when failure comes without a lesson.  Society tries to create systems to prevent failing because failing feels bad, but that also prevents learning.  Failing can be due to good decision making, such as taking a risk.  Risks such as tying things differently.  It’s not possible to avoid failure when trying to succeed.  Failure is part of the process but it is not about failing for its own sake, as what matters is how to fail.  Failing early and often, rather than failing in a catastrophe.  Failure can be embraced, and seen as a learning opportunity.

Failures are not accidents.  Accidents are coincidences which could not have been anticipated.  There was no error in judgment, as no decision or action should have been done differently, even if they were available.  Mistakes are errors in judgment but when no major problems occur in the aftermath.  Errors that can inform of what could have become a terrible situation, and potential preventative measures to be taken.  Safety nets turn failure into mistakes.  Failure is relative to alternative outcomes that could have prevented the problematic outcome.  Failure is when the safety nets do not work.  Complex systems have a variety of interactions that can be unpredictable and unexpected which will cause failure that are not the fault of a decision, person, or procedure.

There is a lot of valuable information that can be gained from failure, which should not be dismissed.  Failing is constructive when it comes from taking appropriate risk, not risking too much, and not for its own sake.  Manageable risks enable learning.  It is impossible to know if a decision is good until it is put to the test, as in put to the trials of reality.  But hindsight makes it easy to believe that predictions can come about from reason.  People want to believe predictions are possible because they are a cure for failing, but no matter how informed or smart an individual is, predictions in many cases are not likely.  Experts appear to be better predictors because successes are remembered, while mistakes are not.  The many successful scientific and technological ideas that work now, came about through various iterations of terrible ideas.  

Growth mindset people tend to see challenges as opportunities to learn.  While fixed mindset people see challenge as a signal to seek less demanding tasks.  Those in the fixed mindset not only avoid harder tasks, but they can deliberately hamper their performance with excuses against doing the tasks. 

Failing well means learning from mistakes.  It inspires change in what is being done.  What is needed is to understand the mistakes that lead to failure.  Some mistakes need punishment.  Other mistakes were random coincidence from which no decision could have been known beforehand to prevent the outcome.  Failure can happen spontaneously, not because of malicious intent.  Sometimes there is someone to blame.  Other times blaming others prevents learning about what happened, such as random coincidence.  People have a hyperactive agency detection system which them to see intention rather than coincidence. People think they have more control over their lives than they actually do, its called the illusion of control.

Success teaches as well, but can also teach bad lessons.  If prior success was based on natural talent, it can teach the qualities are based on intrinsic value, rather than the development of skills.  Rather than telling people how good/bad they are, its best to emphasize the process of the learned or developed skills.  Emphasizing the effort rather than intellect, talent, or looks.  That skills and ability come about through struggle, rather than from a lack of trying.  

Parents and schools have been trying to take failure out of the learning process.  Without failure, there is no need to develop the emotional attitude to overcome the fear of failure.  Students usually see the best works produced, not the various terrible earlier drafts.  As the struggle is not seen, the impression created is that being good at somethings means not creating bad stuff.  There is a problem with teaching when no matter the performance, everyone succeeds.  It prevents learning from failure.  Being overly protectives means preventing others from learning.

What makes homo sapiens successful is their ability to collaborate on massive projects.  Successful groups talk and communicate their values.  Communication brings about a culture which can either enhance prosperity, or inhibit it.  No matter the intellect of any given individual, it is through collaboration can they be succeed.

Different cultural rules develop based on the risk of failure.  Hunting is a risky endeavor in which skill was not the only factor to be able to eat, as what was needed was luck that the animal would show up.  Sharing reduced the risk within the variance of food supply.  Cultures that had a stable food supply did not need to share.  Foragers and farmers have different values because their risks are different.  Foragers needed an immediate social insurance so developed values of reciprocity and equality.  Farmers need to ensure future productivity so developed values of proportionality and justice.  The way those values come about in 21st century politics is by seeing income as hard work or luck.  Seeing income as earned through working hard, politically would mean favoring lower taxes and reduced safety net. Seeing income as luck, politically would mean favoring redistribution and making sure everyone pays their fair share in taxes.  

Markets are not just a set of formal rules, as they are also composed of informal rules.  Those informal rules work if they are aligned with the risk environment.  Both sets of rules determine what the appropriate actions are.  Appropriate actions are easy when they are rewarded, while difficult when they are not.  Swift and consistent punishing allows individuals to known what the inappropriate behavior are.  Sporadic punishments can reinforce inappropriate behavior.  Lack of punishment teaches that violations carry close to no risk.   Forgiveness is needed to move forward.  But too much forgiveness invites further transgression.  

Experimentation’s limit is the complexity of the gargantuan number of interactions that could occur.  Experience helps with similar types of decisions, but innovative policies require anything but similar types of decisions.  Public policies rarely have experimentational foundations.  To be effective, experimentation needs to be tested over multiple times, which often results in failures.  An experiment failing does not mean that the experiment was wrong.  Depending on how the experiment is structured will determine what information it can explain. 

It is wrong to assume that someone can take all the risk out of the system.  The closer the assumption is to a riskless system, the worse the outcome because people will not be prepared for failure.  Problem with safety nets is forgetting that they are there.  That mistakes have been made, but are not identified.  Mistakes are usually identified when there is a failure.

People sometimes pretend that everything is fine even when everything is not fine is called the normalcy bias.  People have a strong inclination to behave in their normal manners when things are clearly not normal.  Taking a risk can lead to failure or success, but it is a problem when the failures proceed with escalating commitments.  

Failures can be prevented by spotting the mistakes and correcting them.  But it is hard to change decision making.  Change is difficult when historically there have been a lot of success using the same decisions.  All this makes new policies not perform well under old rules based on well-established mind-sets.  Difficult to change when the brain is invested in commitments which makes it hard to let go.  Rather than try to refute ideas, the individual will recruit evidence to prove an idea correct.  Confirmation bias causes people to support wrong ideas, but it also creates a person willing to contradict the idea.  Diversity of views facilitates alternative views that prevent being captured by a particular idea.

Although the central theme of the book is failing, all the lessons appear like pieces of a puzzle that do not come well together.  A concluding chapter that brings together all the takeaways, and how they fit together, would have enhanced understanding.  What is also problematic are the examples.  Although important and do highlight key aspects of failing, they seem to have pieces missing.  Hard to generalize the examples provided.  There also seems to be inconsistency in some of the claims made such as the negative aspect of having to constantly give feedback at a work place, even though feedback is part of the learning mechanism as well.  A part of the book deals with the importance of communication, well, feedback is communication that helps establish appropriate behavior over time to build the appropriate cultures.  


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 does it mean to fail?
•How to fail?
•How to identify mistakes? 
•What can failure teach? 
•What does it mean to take risks?
•Who or what is to blame for the failure? 
•How can schools teach failure? 
•How does success come about?
•What are safety nets?  What impact do the safety nets have?
•Is it possible to build a fail-safe world?
•How does science make progress?
•What is the difference between having a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?
•What can success teach?
•How does culture shape failure? 
•How should punishment be applied?
•How should forgiveness be applied? 
•What are the limits to experimentations? 
•Why did the kindergartners build taller architecture than the engineers?
•What is the technocratic fallacy? 
•Does socioeconomic status matter when failing? 
•How do societies deal with a variable food supply?
•What do foragers value?  What do farmers value?  Why does each value what they value?  Why the difference? 
•What happened between the car companies and the unions in the 1970?
•How do employee and employer relationships differ between countries? 
•What is the inattentional blindness?
•How does playing games help?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780698151499
Pages to read:   246
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          5
Overall           4

Friday, July 2, 2021

Review of Lombard Street A Description of the Money Market by Walter Bagehot

 This review was written by Eugene Kernes


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

Short Description

Quotes
“It is sometimes said that any foreign country can borrow in Lombard Street at a price: some countries can borrow much cheaper than others; but all, it is said, can have some money if they choose to pay enough for it” – Walter Bagehot, Chapter I. Introductory, Page 3

“Credit is a power which may grow, but cannot be constructed.  Those who live under a great and firm system of credit much consider that if they break up that one they will never see another, for it will take years upon years to make a successor of it.” – Walter Bagehot, Chapter II. A General View of Lombard Street, Page 38

“There is a partnership in industries.  No single large industry can be depressed without injury to other industries; still less can any great group of industries.  Each industry when prosperous buys and consumers the produce probably of most (certainly of very many) other industries.” – Walter Bagehot, Chapter I. Introductory, Page 38

Elaborate Description

This book is a reaction to the amount of funds, the amount of debt that has become available at Lombard Street.  So much money was available to lend and so much was borrowed that it seemed that everyone could get money if they were willing to pay enough for it.  Banks acting as intermediaries between those who have money and those that need money.  Lombard Street being a central location of the 19th century that comprised many banking institutions.  With so much debt, and the economy being very interdependent, a need a rose for a reserve fund, what is now called a central bank.  With a goal of reducing panic and crisis, but comes at a price of changing incentives and containing functions that can exacerbate the crisis.

A basic foundational fact about banking is that the institutions are depend on borrowed money.  Credit means confidence and trust given.  Banking acts as an intermediary between firms that are on the rise in which money can be easily employed, and firms which are stationary or declining that have more money that than can be used.  Borrowed money enhances the ability of the firm to produce.  From providing funds to start ventures, and also to lowering prices below those who are relying on just on their own money.  

With so much borrowed money comes the risk that the banking and industrial system would be in danger if enough people demanded money.  Each industry is connected to others by the purchases they make.  Should an industry have economic problems, the problems will reverberate to other industries.  Prudent banks will save reserve money during normal times, to use in exigent times.  Credit is a system that cannot easily be brought up.  Breaking the system of credit will destabilize the economic system.  There will be a long wait for a successor system.  

Due to the danger of an unexpected increase in demand for money from banks, a reserve fund is to lend that money needed to be established.  Setting up a reserve found has many perils such requiring state aid, reduces incentive for banks to save money, depended on a single individual or group for decision making rather than the average wisdom and folly of competitors, and can be pressured by board of directors for high dividends which require a small reserve.  There are many unexpected events and accidents that can cause a panic to the credit system, but a central bank needs to be prepared for all of them by keeping a large cash reserve.

During a time of crisis, the central bank’s goal is to reduce the alarm, and not do more to exacerbate the alarm.  To do this, the central bank needs to lend vigorously.  A high interest rate for the loans prevents those who do not need the money from obtaining more money, and acts as a fine on unreasonable timidity.  Loans based on good securities should all be made.  To refuse a loan based on good securities would be cause other loans from being fulfilled thereby exacerbate the panic.  What qualifies as good securities is the same qualifications during normal times, easily convertible assets to solvent merchants.  Simple rules tend to be uniform and can cause more problems than they fix because the dangers faced are complex and many. 

This book was written when the Bank of England was taking on the responsibilities of central banking.  The lessons derived from this book are present in the 21st century, but there are also many adjustments.  The writing of the book is not always smooth and has poor transitions, and contains many antiquated terminologies.  Some of the arguments are contradictory and are not fully explained.  

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 banks use borrowed money?
•What is the function of banks?
•What is credit?
•What causes a panic happen?
•How should a bank prepare for a panic?
•Why is there a need for a reserve fund, a central bank?
•Why is the economy interconnected? 
•What are the problems with a reserve fund? 
•How does a central bank reduce a panic?
•How does a central bank exacerbate a panic?

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9781461072096
Pages to read:   144
Publication:     1873
1st Edition:      2013
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          3
Overall           3


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Review of Individualism and Economic Order by Friedrich A. Hayek

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Economics
Intriguing Connections = 1) Learning Economics: Basic to Advanced, 2) To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Short Description

Quotes
“The difficulty which we encounter is not merely the familiar fact that the current political terms are notoriously ambiguous or even that the same terms often means nearly the opposite to different groups.  There is the much more serious fact that the same word frequently appears to unite people who in fact believe in contradictory are irreconcilable ideals.” – F. A. Hayek, I. Individualism: True and False, Page 8

“While the design theories necessarily lead to the conclusion that social processes can be made to serve human ends only if they are subjected to the control of individual human reason, and thus lead to socialism, true individualism believes on the contrary that, if left free, men will often achieve more than individual human reason could design or foresee.” – F. A. Hayek, I. Individualism: True and False, Page 12

“The constitutional limitation of man’s knowledge and interest, the fact that he cannot know more than a tiny part of the whole society and that therefore all that can enter into his motives are the immediate effects which his actions will have in the sphere he knows.” – F. A. Hayek, I. Individualism: True and False, Page 14
Quotes with permission from publisher
Elaborate Description
This is a book about economic epistemology.  Questioning the language and assumptions that economists use.  How they are ambiguous and misused.  Those questions are directed at how people know information, and the limitation to understand a complex reality.  Knowledge is dispersed in the economy rather than being centralized.  Each individual has expectations that need to be continuously adjusted to coordinate behavior with others.  What matters is who makes the decisions based on what knowledge.  The limitations of knowledge means that decisions need to favor local agents rather than distant centralized authority.  Decisions are propitious by those who have specialization of knowledge in a given area. 
 
The language used by people is ambiguous.  The same words mean different things to different people, and can unite people who have contradictory beliefs.  The usage of the words changes over time, leaving them with the same name but attached to heterogeneous principles.  Many ideas contain assumptions which are not realistic.  Applying assumptions which assume away complexity results in policies that are either misleading, or dangerous. 
 
Individual human reason is limited in understanding the complex economic reality.  Individuals possess dispersed knowledge bits which are incomplete and at times contradictory.  Using that knowledge, the economic problem of society is how to best allocate resources to any member when the resources relative importance is known only to the individuals.  The problem is the utilization of knowledge which is never complete.  Each individual possesses limited knowledge can only respond to situations with that limited knowledge.  Acknowledging the limitation of knowledge in practice results in limited coercive or exclusive power. 
 
The state is a deliberately organized institution that is consciously directed power, which provides the framework for societies individuals to collaborate.  As the state functions within a society, it should be small.  There is a vast difference between rules and orders.  Government by rules informs individuals of responsibilities that shape decisions, while a government by orders imposes specific duties.  There are many actions that governments can take that are not coercive which go beyond the enforcement of civil and criminal laws, while also enhancing efficiency of individual action such as by reducing avoidable uncertainty and spreading information. 
 
Coordination requires planning.  The problem is who is supposed to be doing the planning.  It can be done in a centralized way or decentralized way.  Centralized planning directs the economy with a unified plan.  Competition is decentralized planning by different economic agents.  Theories that design a society need to be under control of individual human reason.  But individuals who come together tend to have better results than those designed or foreseen by individual human reason.  Those who believed in individualism want to find institutions in which individuals would voluntarily contribute to the needs of other.  That is problematic because there are conflicts of individual interests. 
 
Hayek takes a stance of going against the rationalistic psychology defined by Economic Man.  Explaining that the Classical economists were describing a very complicated and realistic understanding of human nature who adjusts to circumstance.  The role of the individual within a society is to adapt to changes and conventions which appear to be irrational, without recognizable justification, and not the result of intelligent design.  Traditions and conventions which are not enforceable but create a set of expected behaviors which allow for coordination of individuals. 
 
Equilibrium depends on intertemporal decisions, which inherently means individual foresight.  Comes about from the convergence of expectations and planning, which any change disrupts the equilibrium of actions.  Time is an essential feature of equilibrium because it comes about from the relationship between actions depended on anticipation.  But this has a problem of the way in which equilibrium is achieved, the way in which knowledge is communicated.  Hayek argues against the solution of perfect competition where people are close to omniscient.  The assumption subsidized the acquisition of knowledge.  Equilibrium comes about from this assumption because it is assumed to be the outcome.  What Hayek saw was that equilibrium still comes about from individual spontaneous actions which was not planned but looks like it was made by a centralized plan. 
 
Economic problem come about from change.  Without change, there is no need to make different decisions.  As the problem of economics is rapid change, the ones who decide how to change should be those with tacit knowledge of the problem.  Those familiar with the circumstances and changes can make quick adjustments with the available resources.  It would take time to convey the changes to a central authority and more time to deliver a response after aggregating available knowledge.   Central authorities see the economic statistics but there is knowledge which cannot be entered into statistical form which makes it impossible to convey. 
 
Hayek goes against perfect competition, as the concept is not actually describing competition.  Perfect competition assumes away the need for individuals to adjust to changes, as they are assumed to already be adjusted to everyone.  Perfect competition is the absence of all competitive activities.  It is competitive activities in which individuals find alternatives by the various means that the market spreads the information.  A tool of discovery by exploring the unknown.  Making new decisions and attempting to do things differently.  Many of those who advocate free markets are actually protecting their own privilege rather than in opposition of all privileges.  The disciple of the competitive markets needs to apply not just to the masses, but also those who are against state control.  

The book has a lot of knowledge to deliver but it does so with, at times, difficult writing.  At times being very tedious and at other delivering clear arguments.  As this book is a collection of essays, they sometimes contain passages that contradict themselves.  The themes in the book are similar, but have poor transition.  There is more critical analysis in arguing against terrible ideas, than in providing an understanding to those supported.  

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 language ambiguous? 
•Why do words mean different things to different people? 
•What are the limitations to knowledge?
•Why do people need to adjust to others?
•To what problems should what type of knowledge be applied? 
•What is specialization of knowledge? 
•What is wrong with perfect competition?
•What is the state?
•How and why do individuals collaborate? 
•What is the difference between government by rules and government by orders?
•Do people plan?
•What is centralized planning? 
•What is competition?
•What is the Economic Man?  What are the problems with Economic Man?
•What is equilibrium?
•Why follow conventions? 
•Why does change happen?
•What does change do the economics?


Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780226321219
Pages to read:   210
Publication:     2012
1st Edition:      1948
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          5
Overall           5