The World in 2036 – Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an awesomely successful investor, public intellectual and author of many best sellers. The wiki page on NNT says that–

“Taleb criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis. He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events. He proposes what he has termed “antifragility” in systems; that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility as well as “convex tinkering” as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.”

The Economist published a brief piece by him in 2010 titled, “The World in 2036: Nassim Taleb looks at what will break, and what won’t .” It has aged pretty well, and I suspect that he’s largely accurate. Here it is.
Continue reading “The World in 2036 – Nassim Taleb”

A Lee Kuan Yew Anthology

Recently, Mr Zane Austen assembled “The Comprehensive Lee Kuan Yew Anthology” (PDF, 200MB.) I quickly scanned through the over 12,000 pages. For people like me who think that LKY was one of the greatest  benefactors of humanity in the 20th century CE, it is a good reference work. (Hat tip: @smjalageri via twitter.)

James Buchanan – In Summary

It is rare that an author puts the summary of his subject matter at the beginning of the introduction of the book. It’s what David Reisman does in his 2015 book titled James Buchanan (part of the Palgrave Macmillan Great Thinkers in Economics Series.)

At the top of my list of the great in economics, I put Buchanan, Hayek and Mises. Their works have informed my understanding of economics. The sad fact is that it was only after I finished my formal training in economics that I began to read them. Better late than never, though.

Back to the book by Reisman. Since I am familiar with Buchanan’s work, I found the summary concise and accurate. I realize that it may not mean much to someone who is not familiar with Buchanan’s ideas. But here it is, for the record.

Continue reading “James Buchanan – In Summary”

Nobies on The Simpsons

The all-wise wiki says, “The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of American life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.” Continue reading “Nobies on The Simpsons”

Hay You

“The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.” ― Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions 

Continue reading “Hay You”

Friedman on Free Lunch

In 1993, at the grand opening of the Cato Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Dr Milton Friedman gave a talk. It is worth listening to even after 28 years. He was introduced as “the Nobel Prize winner, economic trailblazer, author, scholar, statesman, champion of political freedom and economic liberty, Dr. Milton Friedman.”

Friedman was awarded the Nobel Memorial prize in economic sciences in 1976. He died in 2006 at the age of 94.

Although the substance of his talk at the Cato Institute relates to the US, it is relevant in a much larger contemporary context of what is going on around the world and in the US. Understanding Friedman’s points helps us make sense of the world. Besides being informative, he is as always delightfully funny and entertaining. Here’s the .mp3 audio of the talk. Continue reading “Friedman on Free Lunch”

Hayek on Monotheism

I have the most profound respect for F. A. Hayek (1899 – 1992). He was one of the greatest economists of the 20th century CE. I am supremely grateful that I have access to his ideas, thanks to my formal training in economics. All the effort of studying economics is worth the reward of being able to read Hayek.

I was delighted to learn what Hayek thought of monotheism, one of the two ideologies — the other being socialism/communism — that I thoroughly detest. Here it is: Continue reading “Hayek on Monotheism”

Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh

H M P Belmarsh

“Her Majesty’s Government”, also known as the United Kingdom Government, is certainly not all evil but considered comprehensively across the centuries and around the world, it is as evil as governments get.

“Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service” administer civil and criminal justice through the courts of England and Wales (not Scotland and Northern Ireland). As part of that, Her Majesty runs prisons. UK prisons are not the worst in the world but it includes “Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh” which has the distinction of being “UK’s Guantanamo Bay”.

Julian Assange has been incarcerated in H M P Belmarsh since April 2019.  His “crime”? Exposing the criminal behavior of those who run the military-industrial complexes like Messrs. Bush and Blair. Which explains why the British government is punishing him by throwing him into Belmarsh and the US wants him extradited to the US.

Belmarsh is for the worst of the worst. Around a third of the inmates are Islamic terrorists.[1] Continue reading “Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh”

Ask me Anything — the Hayek Edition

Gandhi First IgnoreHere’s the last bit from Hayek’s Dec 11 1974 Nobel Prize lecture:

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society – a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

One of the recurring themes of Hayek’s was the idea that social engineering is quite distinct from engineering of the natural world. With the appropriate technology and scientific knowledge it is possible to engineer machines and use them to control the world of objects, perhaps for the better, but human beings are not objects without volition. Humans have a will of their own and they pursue ends that are dictated by their desires and preferences which are neither fixed nor can be known by others. Social engineering always fails and makes a bad situation worse. Continue reading “Ask me Anything — the Hayek Edition”

Will Durant on Great Minds and Ideas

Durant Great Minds IdeasWill Durant (1885 – 1981) the wiki informs us “was an American writer, historian, and philosopher.” He wrote the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, published between 1935 and 1975,  written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel Durant. His work The Story of Philosophy (1926) helped to popularize philosophy. “He sought to unify and humanize the great body of historical knowledge, which had grown voluminous and become fragmented into esoteric specialties, and to vitalize it for contemporary application,” the wiki notes.

Indians may find his view of India interesting. Once again let’s refer to the wiki:

In 1930, he published The Case for India while he was on a visit to India as part of collecting data for The Story of Civilization. He was so taken aback by the devastating poverty and starvation he saw as result of British imperial policy in India that he took time off from his stated goal and instead concentrated on his polemic fiercely advocating Indian independence. He wrote about medieval India, “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”

Sadly hundreds million Indians continue to suffer “devastating poverty and starvation” nearly a century after Durant made the case for India’s release from British imperialism. Among the many causes for this immense tragedy is an important one missed by most Indians — that while British imperialism ended in 1947, imperialism did not end. The British designed and constructed the machine that imposed grinding poverty on India but Indians not only maintained the machine in good working order but improved its efficiency.

India’s heart-breaking poverty is entirely indigenous, made in India by Indians for Indians. Continue reading “Will Durant on Great Minds and Ideas”

%d bloggers like this: