Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007 – What I Am Reading These Days

Summertime and the living is easy! Or easier than in the fall and winter months anyhow, especially if you're in the firewood business. Here is what occupies me now. Any suggestions? I am open to them.

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
“Urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to documenting the astonishing depth of squalid poverty that dominates the lives of the planet's increasingly urban population...Though Davis focuses on individual communities, he presents statistics showing the skyrocketing population and number of 'megaslums' (informally, 'stinking mountains of shit' or, formally, 'when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery') since the 1960s. Layered over the hard numbers are a fascinating grid of specific area studies and sub-topics ranging from how the Olympics has spurred the forceful relocation of thousands (and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands) of the urban poor, to the conversion of formerly second world countries to third world status.” From a Publishers Weekly review from the website for the book.

The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System by Milovan Djilas
“For Djilas, communist regimes were slumbering civil wars between the government and the population. The government could only keep control by using physical (knocking down insurrections, incarceration and show trials) and ideological (censure) violence.

Djilas also analyzes the role of Lenin and Stalin in the creation of this State bureaucracy.
The Hungarian Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz defined the difference between fascism and communism as follows: fascism was a reality, communism a utopia, but both were characterized by the ruling of one party which wielded uncontrolled and unlimited power. Both were a disaster for the population. Djilas' book is the 'classic' about totalitarian bureaucracies. A must read, not only for historians.” A reader's review from the website for the book. First published in 1957, Djilas got three years in a labor camp as punishment for writing it from the Yugoslavian state.

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan Caplan
Timur Kuran, author of Islam and Mammon: The Myth of the Rational Voter discredits the fashionable view that democratic politics necessarily prevents socially harmful policies. Voters lack incentives to become well informed about political controversies, Bryan Caplan shows, and their policy choices tend to be based on deeply, persistently, and systematically mistaken models of reality. Caplan's findings lead inexorably to the conclusion that democratic governance can be improved only through reforms based on realistic assumptions about human cognition. Anyone concerned about political efficiency should read this elegant book carefully.” From a promotional blurb on the dust jacket back cover. From what I've read so far, it would be the perfect companion for Hans-Herman Hoppe's book Democracy: The God that Failed, at some anarcho-lib seminar or study group.

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