Most Interesting Reads for the Week (November 30, 2014)

Here’s some of the more interesting things I’ve read on the Internet over the last week…

  • A very dated but useful look at the importance of cooperation. “A straightforward message is, then, that each of us may live happier and, in the main, more successful lives, if we treat our fellow human beings as individuals with whom we can readily work. This is a rational rather than a moral argument. It should appeal to all those pragmatists who want to look after themselves.  Cooperation is good business practice.”
  • Is there simply enough work for everyone? “The injunction given Millenials in particular forms a kind of double-bind: you need to get a job to become qualified (there is no job/you don’t have the qualifications); you need to become qualified to get a job (you have a Ph. D. but still no job/you have a job and hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans); you are a leech and a waste to the system if you’re incapable of obtaining qualification and a job. Studiously avoided is the question: does America have 40 hours of socially-useful work for 195 million people (the number of working-age adults) to do? And if we genuinely don’t, why waste society’s resources on pretending there is?”
  • How the EU and Russia got crossways with each other over Ukraine. “Foreign policy has long been considered one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s greatest strengths, but even she ignored the warning signs. Merkel has proven herself over the years to be a deft mediator who can defuse tensions or work out concrete solutions. But crisis management alone is not enough for good foreign policy. Missing in this crisis was a wider view and the ability to recognize a conflict taking shape on the horizon. Instead, officials in Berlin seemed to believe that because nobody wanted conflict, it wouldn’t materialize.”
  • When your very existence contradicts the national narrative. “For a creedal country like America, this poses a problem—in nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country’s nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, ‘You wear the mask.'”
  • I’ve long thought America is governed by some of the dumbest smart people I’ve ever met. “In the policy community, people who may wish to do more than tailor ideas to pre-existing, polled audiences have discovered that in doing so they run the risk of offending someone on Capitol Hill who might not vote to confirm them in top jobs were they ever to want them; that is to say, originality is not only frowned upon, but it is actually institutionally quashed. Thus, far too little bold thinking goes on in the country’s think tanks. It is safer to write an article that doesn’t offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground.”
  • Why mercy ought to be at least considered as an objective of good public policy. “As Stevenson might put it, we have chosen to treat people as if they are as bad as the worst thing they ever did. We hate not only the sin, but the sinner. For a putatively religious country, we seem to have forgotten one of the central lessons of all religions, and certainly the central message of Stevenson’s work—that every human being is capable of redemption.”
  • There’s nothing conservative about suburbia. “The sad reality is that, despite the marketing, the suburbs were never about creating household wealth; they were about creating growth on the cheap. They were born under a Keynesian regime that counted growth from government spending as equivalent to that coming from private investment. Aggressive horizontal expansion of our cities allowed us to consistently hit federal GDP and unemployment targets with little sophistication and few difficult choices.”