Friday, September 30, 2022

Review of A History Of The Federal Reserve: Volume 2, Book 1, 1951-1969 by Allan Meltzer

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in:
Intriguing Connections = 1) Monetary Policy, A Leaver of the Economy
Watch Short Review


“Independence should be strengthened.  Responsibility for policy outcomes should not be avoided in discussions of independence.  An independent central bank can cause unemployment or inflation.  The public generally blames the administration and Congress for these outcomes.  They may lose office.  Federal Reserve officials may be criticized, but they retain their positions.  Following the two major errors of the twentieth century, the Great Depression and the Great Inflation, no Federal Reserve officials had to resign.” – Allan H. Meltzer, Chapter 1: Introduction, Page 22

“March 1951 Accord with the Treasury changed the Federal Reserve’s formal status from subservient to co-equal partner with the Treasury.  The Treasury remained responsible for debt management; the Federal Reserve gradually regained authority to change market interest rates, reserves, and money.” – Allan H. Meltzer, Chapter 2: A New Beginning, 1951-60 , Page 250

“The main factors driving professionalization were the increased demands that governments and the public placed on economic policy, the growing sophistication of financial services and economic analysis, the widespread use of these services, and the frequent crises in the international monetary system.  No to be overlooked was the presence of a new generation of economists who had developed Keynesian economics and were eager to use their tools to improve the country’s economic performance.” – Allan H. Meltzer, Chapter 3: The Early Keynesian Era: A Low-Inflation Interlude, 1961-65 , Page 280-281



The Federal Reserve took responsibility for economic stabilization and fiscal policy.  In addition to the normal duties of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve was tasked with managing the unemployment rate.  This arose because citizens were demanding maintenance of economic prosperity.  Greater interest in Federal Reserve operations by Congress, challenged the Federal Reserve’s independence.

This was a Keynesian Era, for many of the economists developed Keynesian methodology, and wanted to try out their tools.  Keynesian economists became prominent within politics.  Keynesianism took a proactive approach to the economy, by using discretionary resources for smoothing business cycles.  The Federal Reserve did improve its ability to resolve crises, but at a cost of incentivizing further bailouts.  There was also a high rate of inflation.  The Federal Reserve was limited in its ability to manage inflation because of other regulations. 


Responsibility, and Accountability:

Historically there was a need to separate the power to spend, and the power to finance spending by expanding money.  Rules such as the gold standard rule, and balanced budge rule enforced the separation between fiscal and monetary policy.  Both rules lost prominence by 1951.

The Federal Reserve regained authority to manage interest rate, reserves, and money during 1951.  Making the Federal Reserve co-equal partners with the Treasury, rather than subservient to the Treasury.

William McChesney Martin ended the struggle of power between Washington and New York, with Washington in charge.  Greater cohesion of the System also made the System susceptible to political pressure. 

Although Congress could be punished for Federal Reserve action via voting, the Federal Reserve maintained a separation between responsibility and authority.  Even after having major economic failures, no Federal Reserve officials was asked to resign.  A way to align responsibility and authority is by coordinating a transient policy objective between Federal Reserve Chairman and the Secretary of the Treasury.  Not meeting the objective would require an explanation, or a resignation if the explanation was not accepted.  


Policies Followed:

Policy followed by the United States was Too Big To Fail, where size of financial firms excused them from failure and obtained bailouts.  The author claims that size should not prevent a failure.  The institution can remain, but with different management and a loss to the stockholders.

Many banks resisted joining the System to avoid par collection, and costly reserve requirements.  Even without membership, all banks had to par collect and adhere to Federal Reserve’s reserve requirements by Congress.

Under the Employment Act, the Federal Reserve was tasked with reducing the unemployment rate.  The emphasis on employment came from congressional interest in Federal Reserve operations and decisions.  Which also included more frequent congressional hearings.  Policy coordination sometimes challenged the Federal reserve independence. 

Federal Reserve members questioned the rate that banks should repay their debts.  Wanted to apply pressure for repayment, but without causing other banks to borrow. 


Economic Ideas, and Economists:

Economists gained more political power during the 1960s.  Demand for their services was due to frequent international monetary crises, and public policy.  Services that improved due to professionalization of monetary policy. 

There was conflict within economic perspectives.  A battle of ideas between Monetarists and Keynesians.  Monetarists claimed that monetary authority determined the stock of money but public demand determined the price level.  Wanting to follow rules of policy, rather than discretionary policy.  Discretionary policy created uncertainty in planning for future actions.  Keynesians thought that discretionary policy can stabilize an inherently unstable economy by adjusting expenditures, tax rates, and interest rates.  The monetarists thought that the private sector is self-stabilizing and that government policy usually made outcomes worse. 



This is not an introductory book on monetary policy.  To understand much of the history presented, would require the reader to have a background in monetary policy.  Supplementary research might be needed to understand the context of the disagreements of monetary policy ideas.

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 people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Why was the Federal Reserve tasked with managing fiscal policy, such as the unemployment rate?
•How did oversight of the Federal Reserve change?
•How did Keynesian economists want to manage the economy?
•What was the conflict between Monetarists and Keynesians?
•How did the Federal Reserve manage inflation?
•Is the Federal Reserve accountable for its responsibilities?
•Why was there a separation between the power to spend and power to finance?  What changed with these views?
•How did William McChesney Martin influence Federal Reserve policy?
•What is the policy of Too Big To Fail?

Book Details
Publisher:         The University of Chicago Press
Edition ISBN:  9780226520018
Pages to read:   686
Publication:     2009
1st Edition:      2009
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           3


Monday, September 26, 2022

Review of Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin To Munger by Peter Bevelin

This review was written by Eugene Kernes  

Book can be found in:
Book Club Event = Book List (11/26/2022)
Intriguing Connections = 1) How to Teach? How to Learn?

Watch Short Review


“It is our brain, its anatomy, physiology and biochemistry and how these parts function that set the limits for how we think.” – Peter Bevelin, Part One: Chapter One: Our anatomy sets the limits for our behavior, Page 4

“Failure to detect threats is often more costly than false alarms.  Our ancestors learned through trial and error that in the log run, pain could be avoided if they were fearful.  They survived the dangers because they learned how to respond.” – Peter Bevelin, Part One: Chapter Three: Adaptive behavior for survival and reproduction, Page 24

“Predictions about the future are often just projections of past curves and present trends.  This is natural since our prediction about the future are made in the present.  We therefore assume the future will be much like the present. But the future can’t be known until it arrives.” – Peter Bevelin, Part Three: Chapter One: Systems thinking, Page 126

Mistakes provide information on how to resolve them.  It is a mistake to not correct the mistake.  Reality is complex and mistakes cannot be eliminated, but preventative measures can be taken to mitigate the harm.  To understand mistakes requires an understanding of how information is processed.  Understanding the process of thinking requires recognizing the various influences on thoughts, and the misjudgments that are made.  Knowing the influences and thinking traps, provides information on how to avoid the misjudgments and improve thinking.  Knowing the influences also facilitates an understanding on how others think, and behave.  

The physical existence provides some limitations to understanding and thinking.  The mind and body are interconnected, for expectations are converted into a biochemical reality.  Thinking is shaped by interactions with the world.  Experiences change how the brain is wired.  Individuals have different values and ways of thinking because they had different experiences.  Different experiences that can create difficulty communicating values.

The Shaping of Experiences:
The brain microwires itself continuously in response to experiences.  Nobody has the same micro wiring of the brain because of different life experiences.  Different life experience makes individuals unique.  No individual has the same experiences with life’s various factors.  Different experiences produce different outcomes in values and character.  Making it difficult to understand other people’s behaviors, because they have different understandings.  To understand others requires the near impossible, adapting to their situation and experiences.  

Brain connections develop, change, and weaken depending on the experiences.  The more similar the experiences, the more connections made about those experiences making it easier to remember and learn within those experiences.  Experiences become stored representations of behavior and their outcomes, that are used within forthcoming situations.  

Emotions impact judgements.  Better to wait after an emotional event, before making decisions.  As emotions influence behavior, they need to be understood.  Attributing negative emotions upon a behavior can reduce the behaviors appeal and usage.  

Evolutionary Competition: 
Conflict arises due to limited resources.  Competition is a form of conflict that influences the distribution of the resources.  Environment changes within regions and time, changes the success of forthcoming decisions.  People need to adept to the changes, which can change biology and social infrastructure.  Evolutionary changes can be quick, but complex development requires a lot of time and variation.

For humans, survival depended on cooperation within the society which provides incentives for cooperative behaviors and informational exchanges.  Within groups, Individual weaknesses could be compensated by other individuals or group behaviors.  Cultural evolution is usually much faster than genetic evolution.  What has been learned by the community gets passed down, and combined with even more learned information.  Culture is something that is learned, while genetic biology is inherited.

Humans are not driven by happiness, but harm avoidance.  Ancestral trial and error taught that more pain could be avoided by being fearful.  That avoiding even false alarms provides less pain than failing to detect threats.  Surviving dangers by learning how to respond.  

What that means is humans are more sensitivity to pain, and remembrance of negative stimuli.  Pain aversion encourages interpretation of choices and events with favorable values.  Which includes a preference for reasons that already support internal belief system.

Planned Uncertainty:
Uncertainty and unknowns make people feel uncomfortable.  Categorizing ideas simplifies complexity and makes the ideas easier to recognize, differentiate, and understand.  Understanding the complexity leads to information as to why things happen, which facilities predictions about the future.  Predictions about the future are based on patterns within events.  Knowing the patterns reduces uncertainty and increases comfort. 

What is known is important to remember, but there is an attraction to new information and novel experiences.  Brain is stimulated by novelty.  The potential rewards obtained from the yet unknown motivates a search for exploration.  To make discoveries and learn.  

Knowledge of the past can guide decisions, but the context of those decisions has changed, which requires taking into account the difference between present and future conditions and consequences.  Past experiences are valid for similar conditions.  As conditions change, past experience cannot readily be used for predictions, because the consequences will be different.  Hindsight makes everything seem obvious and simple, but the forthcoming events have a lot of variability in outcomes and random chance.

The future cannot be known until it happens.  What we know about the future, are just historical trends projected forward.  Exact probability is only possible in situations where all possible outcomes are known, and the outcomes are equally likely.  The probabilities could be obtained given a large number of trials.  Even within probabilities, there are basic rules.

Planning does not eliminate intended or unintended consequences.  Uncertainty about causes and outcomes prevents complete anticipation of events.  Consequences depend on contingent events.  Planning uses models, which can provide a false sense of certainty which increase chances of mistakes.  Some systems have a lot of know factors in which formulas are easily fillable.  Some systems have a variety of hidden factors and many more contingent causes.   

Checklists are a form of planning, but their usefulness depending on context, reducing reliance on memory for needed information, are usable, and are in sync with reality.

Because of uncertainty, and other factors, there is a preference for immediate gratification at the expense of the future.  Paying more for the contemporary reward. 

How To Change Behavior:
Effective change comes about when individuals take internal responsibility for the change.  Leading to discovery of ways on how they can help themselves, rather than by pressuring them to help themselves.  Asking questions can provide information on behavioral consequences, which causes the individual to think for themselves.  Finding their own reasons to change.  

Individual responsibility should be for upside, and downside.  People need to take accountability of their actions.  Taking individual responsibility by thinking for oneself rather than delegating thinking to others.  Diffusion of responsibility through more people reduces the personal responsibility creating a situation where everyone seems responsible but nobody is actually responsible.

Changing behavior is more effective when individuals are praised, rather than punished.  Encouraged to do what is right, then disapprove of what went wrong.  Create incentives depending on what is wanted to be achieved.  Know the factors that determine needed results such as differences between skill and chance.  Properly ascertaining situational factors and individual roles can determine what needs adjustments.  Failure can be due to a poorly designed system, rather than a culprit.    

What happened, already happened and cannot unhappen.  Punishment is meant to provide a warning to others, so that others can avoid doing the same error, or stop repeat offences.  Others are changed by what happens to others.

Internal responsibility makes people more committed, and therefor harder for them to give up.  Hard to change after investing a lot of effort into something.  Change would require accepting wasted effort.  By being consistent, pain of accepting a loss can be avoided.  When decisions are challenged, people become defensive and even more committed to their ideas.  Public statements make people more committed therefor unlikely to change.  If the idea might need to change later, better to avoid making them public.

Explanations makes persuasion and behavior modification easier because the reasons for the change become understood.  Logic has limits in persuading people to change their minds.  Appealing to emotions can also change behavior.  

As humans want to belong to groups, social approval is an effective behavioral modification device.  Reciprocity is a social responsibility.  Individuals want to give back when someone else has given them something.  

Error Correction: 
The sooner bad news is shared, the sooner the problems can be corrected.  By knowing what can go wrong and the consequences, can preventative measures be taken.  Preventative measures such as a margin of safety.  Preventing something from happening usually requires less effort than solving something.  Knowing what to avoid reduces mistakes.  

The challenge is not to deceive oneself, because self-deception is easy.  Usually, individuals deny or distort reality to become more comfortable, especially when the identity and self-interest are threatened by reality.  Rather than bend reality to suit understanding, bend understanding to suit reality.  Ignoring unpleasant facts does not make them disappear.  Bad news informs of what is needed to be changed.  Need to face reality when the costs of denial are larger than benefits of facing reality.  

Confirmation bias prevents people from discovering where their ideas are wrong, and therefore prevents learning how to correct them.  Need to search for disconfirming evidence, and unlearn wrong ideas.  Need to consider alternative understandings.  An objective outsider can provide a guide to what is wrong.  Opposition can provide very valuable feedback, such as describing errors.

Unreal expectations are caused by overconfidence.  Overconfidence in expectations creates conditions for becoming vulnerable to disappointment.  Overconfidence in abilities can lead to disaster when trying to overcome limits.  Understanding limitations means understanding capacity.

By Association: 
Associations can be misleading.  People are more complicated than simply all good or evil.  Motivations are complicated and are not simply financial.  Social and moral motivations influence behavior.  

First impressions do not provide much information.  Appearances do not determine the character of the individual.  An appearance can be a social mask. Decisions about people should be made by what was actually accomplished, and their past behavior.  

Contrast distorts how information is perceived.  Comparisons tend to attract successes over failures.  Comparisons should be limited to oneself past and present.  Comparisons with others creates internal friction.  If goals are achieved, how other faired should not matter.  Then again, internal frictions such as envy or greed can motivate a response that benefits the individual and society.  

There is a conflict of interest when someone provide information that can improve the individual which, in which someone benefits from individual’s use of that information.  Cannot readily trust those that have a conflict of interest.  Those in authority have their own conflicts of interest which induces them to not want the best for the individual.  Expertise can be faked.  Statements should be evaluated based on their underlying facts, not to personal qualities of whom is delivering the statements.  

Informational Awareness: 
Shared information draws attention, while missing information tends to be ignored.  Need to search for alternative explanations and consider missing information.  The digital age has provided more access to information, and misinformation.  More information does not necessarily lead to having more knowledge or making better decisions.  

What is being presented on the news is subject to biases and vulnerabilities.  The media can be manipulative and use deception.  When considering information, need to consider the normal outcomes of similar situations.  Better to have accurate information than dramatic information.  Facts need to be provided for vivid stories.  Within events, need to figure out the difference between meaning and noise.  

Evidence of confirmation carries more weight than lack of evidence against an idea.  Evidence can cause a variety of explanations, rather than a single explanation.  Seek evidence that is contrary to the selected explanation.

Members within a group have different motivations, information, and interpretations.  Need to create an environment where everyone is able to speak and openly disagree.  That can come about when preventing social pressure.

Knowledge is only useful if there is someone who can perceive the information being signaled.  Information is useless without a perceiver.  Names to ideas are not knowledge for to understand something require knowing what happens.  Meaning about size comes about in relation to other related objects.  Miscommunication occurs when the speaker and responder are using the same words but with different implied meanings.

Specialists know a lot about their information, but not other pieces of information that are important.  Specialization means a lack of range in ability.  As problems and ideas do not stick to just a specialization, need to compensate by acquiring important ideas from various disciplines.  Gather ideas from other disciplines, and figure out their reliability.  Knowledge does change, but there is no need to question important ideas until evidence arrives that they are wrong.  Learning and re-learning are a lifelong journey.

To Act, Or Not To Act: 
Decisions are not limited to action.  Waiting and doing nothing, is a decision.  There are costs to acting, or not.  Doing something is not necessarily what obtains results.  If outcomes are inappropriate, then do not do what causes the outcomes.  Avoiding bad behavior by inactivity, is a very active activity.

If something displeases the individual, the individual should not do that to others.  Popularity does not mean righteousness.  No need to do displeasing activities just because others are doing them.  

Solvable problems could be corrected, therefore no need to worry about them.  Problems that cannot be resolved means that there is no reason to worry about them either because nothing can be done about them. 

This book is a collection of succinct summaries of various influential ideas.  To understand each idea would require more research.  More detailed accounts of the ideas can be found in their original sources.  

There are a variety topics and thinkers, but they are concentrated within business economics, and a few individuals.

The claims and ideas can be contradictory.  Having the same idea, but in a different context produces different conclusion.  The sporadic placement of similar ideas makes even complimentary ideas appear contradictory.  

An example of contradictory claims is recognizing the value of hearing out the opposition, but in another context asking to disregard what others are saying or doing.  A complimentary claim that appears contradictory explains that doing nothing is an activity in has the connotation of facilitating action, but then asking not to confuse doing something with results. 

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 people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•How can mistakes be used? 
•What is needed to improve decision making?
•How to avoid misjudgments?
•How does the physical reality influence thinking?
•How do experiences shape thinking and the physical reality?
•Why can communication be difficult between individuals? 
•How does the brain wire itself?
•How do emotions influence thinking?
•Why do conflicts arise? 
•What is evolution?
•How did ancient humans survive?
•What is the social infrastructure? 
•Do people seek happiness?
•Why are individuals sensitive to pain and how does that influence thinking?
•Can the future be planned?
•Why is uncertainty uncomfortable? 
•How can history be used? 
•How to change individual’s own and other people’s behavior? 
•What is the use of punishing others?
•How to understand associations between people and ideas?
•What are the limits to information?
•Can evidence confirm ideas?
•What are the benefits and limits of specialists?
•When should decisions be acted upon?
•What makes genes difficult to understand? 
•What are the limits to evolutionary explanations?
•What determines mental capacity?
•How do bacteria interact with the cycle of life? 
•What is Pascal’s Wager? 
•What is the Elihu Root System?
•What is the price of money?
•Does it matter whether success is deserved or not?  What determines deserved success? 
•Can encouragement and criticism be relied upon? 
•How effective are drugs?  What can impact a drug’s efficacy?
•How to manage with stress?

Book Details
Publisher:         PCA Publications [Post Scriptum AB]
Edition ISBN:  9781578644285
Pages to read:   300
Publication:     2022
1st Edition:      2003
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Friday, September 9, 2022

Review of Inventing the Enemy by Umberto Eco

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Sociology
Book Club Event = Book List (03/11/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Why Conflict Occurs And How To Resolve Them?

Watch Short Review


“Having an enemy is important not only to define our identity but also to provide us with an obstacle against which to measure our system of values and, in seeking to overcome it, to demonstrate our own worth.  So when there is no enemy, we have to invent one” – Umberto Eco, Inventing the Enemy, Page 2

“No one could seriously include Einstein’s theory of relativity under the label o relativism.  To say that a measurement depends on the conditions of movement of the observer is regarded as a valid principle for every human being in every time ad place.” – Umberto Eco, Absolute and Relative, Page 33

“Of all the elements it is the one most liable to be forgotten.  We breathe air all the time, we use water every day, we continually tread the earth, but our experience of fire is in danger of gradually diminishing.  The role once played by fire has slowly been taken over by invisible forms of energy.” – Umberto Eco, The Beauty of the Flame, Page 44



The essays are united in their randomness.  Provoking curiosity in a variety of topics, that otherwise might not have been provoked.  Encouraging reflection on otherwise ignored topics.  Each topic has ideas in contrast with others, as ideas identify their value in contrast to other ideas.  By being challenged in the presence of opposition, can the errors of the ideas be identified.  By overcoming the errors, do ideas become better. 

To learn about contradictions within the ideas requires individuals to be willing to learn information that is not yet believed.  To interact and acknowledge the differences.  To try and understand the complexity of information rather than just the stereotypes.  Conflicts arise when being challenged, but to overcome the conflict would require communication.  Communication depends on listening, and having silence to hear others.  But the ubiquitous constant distractions prevent silence that is needed for communication.


An enemy provides a contrast to one’s own values, which define an identity.  Enemies behave differently, and have different values.  An enemy provides a challenge to values, in which not only do the values becomes measured but also demonstrate their worth in overcoming the challenge.  As the identity is built in the presence of others, differences are found even if they do not matter.  Enemies are invented even when there are no enemies.  Although others are needed, they are also in some way intolerable because of their differences.  Turning the other into an enemy creates conflict that can lead to self-destruction.

Threats to one’s own values are the real threat.  What becomes threatening is the differences between one’s values and the oppositions values.  The different sides view the other as a homogenized group, and obtain negative characteristics.  The opposition becomes evil and characterized by negative attributes such as ugliness.  Alternatively, everyone identified as supporters become defined as good and have positive attributes such as beauty.  Civilization seems to depend on having enemies.  If not a human object, then the threat comes from nature or social force that needs to be defeated. 

When dealing with the enemy, morality facilitates an understanding of the enemy, rather than pretending that there are no enemies.  An even greater challenge than the challenge posed by the enemy, is to understand other people in their complexity rather than by stereotype.  Complexity that acknowledges and interacts with the differences.  Normal behavior tends to simplify the opposition into a homogenous caricature, while seeing supporters are complex.   

War depends on having an enemy.  There are those who claim there are benefits to war, as there are features of war that facilitate a harmonious human society.  War enables effective governance, and reduces supply pressures.  Nations develop their identity through war, and the legitimacy of its governance.  Creates an equilibrium between classes.  Provides a validating reason for exploiting antisocial elements of society, and direct delinquents to effective behavior. 

Absolute, and Relative:

That which does not depend on something else is usually referred to being absolute.  The absolute has motivations and reasons without external influence.  While cognitive relativism sees objects as being determined by human faculties.  Which creates an interesting irony as the theory of relativity would not be labeled under relativism because motion would be valid for everyone in every time and place.  Without absolutes, there are only interpretations.  Which would also require interpretations of interpretations, but cycle of interpretation would require something to begin the process. 



The essays have varying qualities.  The essays have very little connection to each other and are random curiosities.  Curiosities that can inspire further consideration of the topic, but that would depend on the reader’s interests.  

The essays usually make a claim, and then provide a variety of examples.  The amount of examples can be overwhelming, and might not add much addition content to the claim other then as further proofs of concept.   

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 people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Why invent enemies?
•What is the purpose of the enemy?
•How are values defined and their worth declared?
•Why is it difficult to consider complexity of information? 
•What impact can a war have on social life? 
•What is the absolute, and the relative?  How are they connected? 
•Among the elements, why does fire need an explanation? 
•Why is there an interest in treasure hunting and finding secret islands? 
•How to go about using astronomy?

Book Details
Publisher:         Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Edition ISBN:  9780544104686
Pages to read:   224
Publication:     2012
1st Edition:      2011
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall           3

Monday, September 5, 2022

Review of Citizenship Papers by Wendell Berry

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes  

Book can be found in:
Genre = Politics
Book Club Event = Book List (01/21/2023)

Watch Short Review


“A government, committing its nation to rid the world of evil, is assuming that it and its nation are good.  But the proposition that anything so multiple and large as a nation can be good is an insult to common sense.  It is also dangerous, because it precludes any attempt at self-criticism or self-correction; it precludes public dialogue.” – Wendell Berry, A Citizen’s Response to “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America”, Page 5

“Facts in isolation are false.  The more isolated a fact or a set of facts is, the more false it is.  A fact is true in the absolute sense only in association with all facts.  This is why the departmentalization of knowledge in our colleges and universities is fundamentally wrong.” – Wendell Berry, Going to Work, Page 41

“People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves.  They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when “peace movement” becomes violent.” – Wendell Berry, In Distrust of Movements, Page 44

The book contains a range of topics which include epistemology, economics, national security, and agriculture.  The topics are intimately tied, especially because each has a political theme.  To understand information, needs an understanding of a lot of related information and how they interconnect.  With that information can an understanding be built as to the potential consequences of behavior, alternative ways to behave, and solutions to problems.  

Citizens within democratic societies need to figure out how to manage the various topics together, rather than just have decision told to them by leadership.  Citizens need to discuss the issues, and understand the consequences of taking certain actions, because they impact other citizens and nations.  Economic production can threaten communities and the environment, but citizens can change policies and behavior.  Conflicts do arise, but if they are resolved with violence, then violence becomes justified.  To end cycles of violence requires peace oriented behavior.

National Security, Violence, and Democracy: 
Leaders speak from a perspective of representing citizens, but the decisions made are by the individual.  They do not necessarily reflect what citizens actually think.  Leaders during war assume an acceptable price, but that price becomes what was paid.  There never was an accepted level of sacrifice.  While others make sacrifices, those who live proclaim them acceptable.

When a nation is attacked, the reasons for defensive action would be publicly known.  Alternatively, reasons for aggressive or preemptive action would not be publicly known, but known to the few close to the center of power.  Preemptive war can be started by the leader.  Justifying the war with secret information, without the need to share the contents of the secret information.  The war is planned in secret.  Without the need of forewarning to execute the plan.

Preemptive attacks do need secrecy, for a discussed preemptive attack would risk being preempted by opposition.  Preemptive war is undemocratic, for the leader cannot obtain the consent of the governed.  This strategy requires the public to be manipulated by executive power.  As information will not be shared, that means that the public needs to be ignorant.  Public needs to be fearful of potential consequences of not following the directives of executive power.  Even legislature would need to be intimidated.  Depending on how much secrecy there is in the government, determines how democratic and free its people are.  Secrecy is inherently undemocratic.   

Violence without authorization from a national government is considered terrorism.  The same acts of violence with the authorization from a national government is considered war.  The same acts that are condemned as atrocious under terrorism, are not condemned under war.  Using different standards for the same violent acts for terrorism and war, means accepting and affirming the legitimacy of war.  Sanctioned violence defined as ‘just’ by the state, enables the same acts to be justified in the same way by individuals.  Committing violent actions against opposition, justifies the opposition’s use of the same acts against one’s own people.  By trying to destroy the opposition, nations create conditions to destroy themselves. 

A war on terrorism requires constantly needing new enemies.  Making the war endless, expensive, and supportive of bureaucracy.  A nation that is at war with terrorism is making a case of good versus evil.  That the government wants to remove evil from the world.  Which has the assumption that the government and the nation are the representatives for the good.  But nations are far more complicated than being just good.  Making the assumption that what the government does is good precludes public dialogue.  Assuming the side of the good prevents self-criticism or self-correction. 

It is very understandable to want to reaction against an attack.  But the reaction usually comes from fear and lack of proper direction.  There are many domestic issues that cannot be rectified by attacking foreign peoples.  Reactions to attacks cannot protect against destruction of the environment, selfishness, wastefulness, and greed nor obtain self-sufficiency or the consequences of dependence.  Foreign and domestic terror are related, but while the public is usually kept aware about foreign terror, domestic terror is ignored. 

National security would require becoming more self-sufficient, to prevent dependence on other nations who might not be at peace later.  This policy would require appropriate taking care of the environment, adjusting resources use, managing imports, improving community relations and foreign relations.  Without an environment that supports life, there would be no point in military strength.  Difficult to defend freedoms, when necessities are imported from foreign nations with no such concern for one’s own nation.  Should a war break about in which the imports are no longer provided, would have negative consequences on the national supply.  

The rule of law is upheld by a nation that declares itself above the law.  Foreign power catastrophic weapons are deemed illegitimate, but not one’s own national catastrophic weapons.  It is contradictory to speak of wanting cooperation and many other celebrated virtues, while also making claims about sole intention for making war.  Cannot reduce terror, by holding terror as a fear against the world.  A rouge state is defined in the pursuit of national interests with military capabilities that can threaten neighbors.  That is any nation, expect one’s own.     

The end of WW2 brought about ideals of a united world for peacemaking.  But has become globalized under trade that seeks to plunder the world of cheap resources.  Difficult to know how nations protect themselves under this regime.  Difficult to know how the economy would survive wars of nations. 

War is a profitable business, while peace is not.  War has been extravagantly subsidized.  Violence does not lead to peace.  Peaceable means are needed for peace, but are not yet the methods used to obtain peace.  Method is still the paradox of trying to make peace by making war.  Opposition to violence has become selective or fashionable, which is a brutal hypocrisy of violence against other humans and nature.

Historically, violence leads to reciprocity of violence.  Violence committed with moral superiority of justice, affirmation of rights, or defense of peace do not end violence.  They justify the continuation of violence.  Preparation for more violence.  

Economics, the Environment, and Agriculture:
To obtaining the products to satiate economic desires, nations have been willing to sacrifice their environments and communities as normal costs of operations.  Work and economic production needs to not destroy the environmental resources, but be sustainable without degrading the users.  There needs to be a balance between environmental preservation, and economic opportunities.  

The modus operandi is to delegate economic and political activities to others.  That change can only occur in the realm of politics, which has already gotten the economic proxies.  An assumption that passive consumers can change which will cause public experts, politicians, and corporate executives to change.  

Delegation of production to industrial society has led to people not knowing the histories of their products.  People no longer know how to produce food, take care of the environment, or even their communities.  Difficult to understand the environmental costs of products, and even the origins of the products.  The information is too scattered, and the economic processes too complicated.  Those within the industries that supply the products, can have reasons for not wanting to share the information about the product histories.  

Globalization has become dominated by supranational corporations, which use economic exploitation similar to colonialism.  Supranational corporations manage the rules of the global economy through the World Trade Organization.  Operating without election and can overrule regional laws that conflict with the free market. 

Agriculture is lucrative for everybody, except those who produce the food.  Powerful corporations and food conglomerates became wealthy through the work of struggling and failing farmers.  While the agriculture business claim this as progress.  Neither industry nor politics expects decent prices for food products that can help farmers.  Farmers need to be part of the solution within the agriculture economy.  

The Knowledge of Facts: 
Knowledge is impossible to know in any complete form, or all the consequences of actions taken.  Mystery is the norm.  Existence is more complicated and intertwined than simple.  Individuals and societies are complicated, and are most certainly not idealized perfections.  Willingness to judge negatively ancestors who were partly sinners, means being judged under the same terms by successors.  

Things that become popular, are in danger of being oversimplified.  Such an as oversimplification of the destructiveness of human relationship with nature.  Movements also oversimplify, and have a tendency to become self-righteous and self-betray.  Denying people rights and privileges, that those within the movement demands for themselves.  The problems caused are by other people, and propose policies to change the problems, but not behavior.  Claiming to be a particular type of movement or for a purpose, but in practice not keeping to how they define themselves such as peace movements using violence.  Making impossible to mean what is said because language becomes anything that anybody wants it to mean.  

Knowledge is useful no matter its age, or whether it is empirical or not.  Factual information is not sufficient for what is considered true.  A fact is a sum of information about the thing.  Abstract representations would not be recognized in practice for what they are.  Recognition requires incorporating various information.  Facts do not live in isolation of other facts.  Facts are only true with all their associated facts.  Departmentalization of knowledge limits understanding and creates many false ideas.  Only the thing, idea, person, or place can represent itself.  Everything else is an incomplete model.  Only tautologically can reality be represented in its true form.  

Social orders are socially constructions fiction.  Not because they are false, but because they are incomplete.  Even by trying to make them as inclusive as possible, still makes them exclusive.  Usually find what has been excluded too late.

There are different ways of handling information such as being rational or sympathetic.  Under a rational mindset, any trade-off can be rationalized.  While under the sympathetic mindset, nothing can be rationalized.  Fear of being wrong or misled motives the rational mindset, while the sympathetic mindset is motivated by failures of carelessness and exclusivity.  Many trade-offs fail as they lead to disaster. 

The essays have varied quality.  Topics are interrelated, but the essays are not necessarily related to each other.  Synthesizing a coherent understanding from all the topics is the responsibility of the reader.  
Recognizing social contradiction is a familiar theme in the book, but sometimes the explanations are lacking and are one-sided.  Sometimes making moral arguments, without explaining why the alternatives are causing the harm.  Simplifying the alternative ways and solutions opens the arguments to their own contradictions and counterclaims.  Understanding the why of the alternatives can facilitate in finding solutions.

An example of a one-sided argument is the negative consequences of delegating economic production to others.  By delegating and not needing to think about that production, the individual can apply themselves elsewhere.  If everyone needs to understand every bit of economic production, there would not be much delegating and each person would not have much more on their minds than that information.  Ideas, economics, and society can become stagnant.

Another example of a one-sided argument is the need for self-sufficiency.  Security and other benefits of self-sufficiency are provided, but not their costs.  Self-sufficiency means less trade, but that makes war more likely.  Trade increases the cost of going to war, for the nations rely on each other.  As the author supports peaceable ways of cooperation, trade is what makes peace become profitable.  Self-sufficiency means not having much peaceable negotiations with neighbors.  Limits the products and ideas within a nation for the nation would have to produce and figure out everything on their own rather than dividing the labor of that effort.  Also, the author supports a sustainable environment, but agriculture production for different foods can be done more sustainably in other countries because their soil and environment can be more adequate for that kind of food.  Self-sufficiency is just a different way of degrading the environment.

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 people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•How are facts related to other facts?
•How should democratic societies approach issues within their society? 
•Why is there a need to maintain communities?
•How does the environment get used in the economy?
•Do democratic leaders represent the citizens? 
•What sacrifices are worth the price of war? 
•What is the difference between defensive and preemptive action?  How do they impact citizens?
•How does government withholding secret information reflect the public?
•What is the difference between terrorism and war?
•How is terrorism and war justified? 
•What does a war on terrorism mean?
•Is any nation good or evil?
•How to cooperate with other nations, while maintaining the ability to act alone?
•Does national security depend on self-sufficiency?
•Is war or peace profitable? 
•Can peace brought about by violence? 
•What costs does economic activities have?
•Why do individuals delegate economic and political activities to others?  What are the consequences of the delegation?
•What are product histories and do citizens need to know them?
•How is globalization managed?
•How is agriculture managed? 
•What are the limits to knowledge?
•How should ancestors be judged?
•What are the advantages and consequences of popularity?
•How do movements behave?  
•What do large concentration of animals and large fields of monoculture evolutionary produce?  

Book Details
Publisher:         Counterpoint
Edition ISBN:  9781619024472
Pages to read:   189
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2003
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5

Friday, September 2, 2022

Review of Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = 1) Adventures Of The Space Faring Kind, 2) Once Upon A Future

Watch Short Review


“There was also a sense of danger here that was wholly novel to his experience.  In very earlier landing, he had known what to expect; there was always the possibility of accident, but never of surprise.  With Rama, surprise was the only certainty.” – Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 4: Rendezvous, Page 11-12

“During the first “nights” in Rama it had not been easy to sleep.  The darkness and the mysteries it concealed were oppressive, but more unsettling was the silence.  Absence of noise is not a natural condition; all human senses require some input.  If they are deprived of it, the mind manufactures its own substitutes.” – Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 17: Spring, Page 84

“He did not interrupt the Commander again, and made no comment when Norton had finished.  Yes, it made sense, and was so absurdly simple that it would take a genius to think of it.  And, perhaps, someone who did not expect to do it himself.” – Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 31: Terminal Velocity, Page 165

After the Earth has been ravaged by meteorites, leading to a loss of cities, wealth, and knowledge, humans became determined to prevent more disasters.  Turning their energies from fighting each other, to unity in the goal.  By 2130, asteroids were easily discovered and their statistical movements calculated.  But then a mysterious asteroid was discovered, to be a lone wanderer from outside the solar system.  The asteroid was named Rama.  Although initially rejected an unimportant, turned out to be very important.  When images of Rama were taken, Rama was accepted as no mere asteroid, but a massive spaceship.  For information gathering, the ship Endeavour was selected, with its Commander Norton.  They need to find out the purpose of Rama.  This is a space adventure full of decisional uncertainty.  An adventure with plenty of planetary politics. 

The book takes a while to build the suspense, which contain repetitive activities.  What the activities do is create a consistent story, and explain decisional minutia.  Details that explain the complexity and sometimes monotony of the type of exploration they are undergoing.  

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 people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Why did humanity become united?
•Who are the simps and what is there purpose?
•How are the planets governed and what are some politics?
•What are the different inhabited planets, their environments, and what kind of cultures did they produce?
•What is Rama?  
•What is the purpose of Rama?
•What are some internal features of Rama?

Book Details
Publisher:         Bantam Spectra [Bantam Books]
Edition ISBN:  0553287893
Pages to read:   243
Publication:     1990
1st Edition:      1973
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall           5