Random links leftover from cleaning up my blog
What should Russia be called?
According to a new-ish report, Vladmir Putin doesn’t so much oversee a totalitarian state as a “mobilization state” – private, individual actors are mobilized for state purposes, without being directly controlled by the state. “The government is willing – within certain bounds – to accept the presence of civil society, a free press, independent economic activity, and even some political pluralism. However, in keeping with its general philosophical belief that it is at (political) war and faces an existential cultural and political threat from the West, it reserves to itself the right to co-opt any individual or organisation when it feels the need.” This is the new face of authoritarianism.
David Brooks is right, but his column leaves me wanting more:
To use a fancy word, there’s a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate. A few people I interview do this regularly (in fact, Larry Summers is one). But it is rare. The rigors of combat discourage it.
So losing our belief in free will could have negative effects on those around us. It could also undermine our own success in life. In a recent study, Tyler Stillman of Florida State University, working with Vohs, Baumeister and others, found that people who said they believed strongly in free will also tended to have more positive expectations about their career success. Is this just delusional thinking? Apparently not. When Stillman and colleagues asked supervisors to rate the work of their employees, those with a greater belief in their own free will were generally rated as performing better than those with weaker beliefs (Social Psychological and Personality Science, vol 1, p 34).
In bureaucracies many people have the authority to say no, not the authority to say yes. Steve Jobs knew why the second part is so important.
The natural state of humanity is poverty, not abundance. Poor, nasty brutish and short was the way of life for nearly until 250 years ago, especially poor. Here was life in the early 1700s, for example:
- Every item of clothing was made by hand to fit the consumer. Suits made like this today costs around $4,000. Consider affording that on subsistence wages.
- In France, it was common for poor laborers to not wear shoes.
- With low economies to scale and expensive transportation costs, everything but the priciest of materials was expensive to ship. Spices, whale byproducts and tobacco were among these items.
- Interest rates were 30-60%.