If you think you might enjoy this book, you will. Johnson does a good explaining his theory of innovation (disclaimer: with which I agree), provides a...moreIf you think you might enjoy this book, you will. Johnson does a good explaining his theory of innovation (disclaimer: with which I agree), provides a series of illustrative case studies from the worlds of natural man-made invention, and demonstrates a great deal of self-awareness in the concluding chapter, where he notes that case studies in themselves demonstrate nothing, and proceeds to a more comprehensive treatment of innovation in the past 400 years or so. In addition, Johnson clearly wrote the book so that the reader could not only see how society can best foster innovation, but the individual as well. While in no way a self-help book, many will benefit from his treatment of the "commonplace book" and how some of the world's greatest thinkers increased the odds of successful innovations by developing a few replicable practices (e.g., writing everything down, maintaining multiple strong interests). Finally, the book is peppered with compelling anecdotes and details that make the chapters a joy, even if you are already familiar with the chapter's particular theme.
It's worth noting that he states that his conclusions do not imply that a dramatic overhaul of intellectual property law would be beneficial. What's more, he equates IP with capitalism, and "non-market" (e.g., academic research group that rely on citations/tenure rather than patents) with socialism. I found this discussion a bit sloppy, and I was disappointed by the unfortunate misclassification in the sentence above, and the failure to offer a convincing argument why his conclusions did not imply that a reduction in IP would benefit innovation and society at large. I think Johnson simply did not want to open that can of worms, but disappointing nonetheless. (disclaimer once more: I support the dramatic reduction of IP law.)
Overall, an excellent history of innovation, and the individual practices and environments that best foster it. To continue down this rabbit hole, I'd recommend "Against Intellectual Monopoly", which provides a more rigorous assessment of how and when invention arose in systems with and without intellectual property protection in the past few hundred years, and how IP law arose.(less)
Game theoretic exploration of the sub title: "Rather than probing the motives of rebels or the nature of their organizations, I instead ask: Why would...moreGame theoretic exploration of the sub title: "Rather than probing the motives of rebels or the nature of their organizations, I instead ask: Why would governments adopt policies that impoverish their citizens? Why would they “overextract” wealth from their domains? Why would they alter the distribution of income so grossly that it would become politically unsustainable? By addressing such questions, I explored the ways in which incumbent regimes prepared the field for the forces of political disorder."
Explains political order and disorder in the context of the roving/stationary bandit problem (greater political risk (e.g., elections) negatively affects the regime's behavior), and the relative rewards of predation versus legitimate tax revenue.
Disagrees with conventional wisdom in that he dismisses the importance of private income (but not public revenues) on political order (as the decreased cost of rebellion is canceled out by the decreased value of predation), and adeptly notes that importance of ethnic diversity is contingent on the variables mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Bates' book marginally added to my knowledge of political order, but presents a quick (216 page) game-theoretic explain of state failure: "In light of the evidence Africa offers, political order cannot be treated as a given. Rather, I argue, it results when rulers – whom I characterize as “specialists in violence” – choose to employ the means of coercion to protect the creation of wealth rather than to prey upon it and when private citizens choose to set weapons aside and to devote their time instead to the production of wealth and to the enjoyment of leisure. When these choices constitute an equilibrium, then, I say, political order forms a state."(less)