Is that all Smith said? Huh? I do like PJ O'Rourke but in this one I think he must have been a bit light on passing on nuggets of wisdom from The Weal...moreIs that all Smith said? Huh? I do like PJ O'Rourke but in this one I think he must have been a bit light on passing on nuggets of wisdom from The Wealth of Nations. I don't feel as satisfied as I thought I would. But perhaps I have to read Smith's work myself before I can make that call.
And all those in jokes about obscure US politians and personalities aren't alwyas successful with a foreigner... (less)
Now that I've read his book I'm not going to take his name as a profanity. He's not so evil, he's just different. He's not drawing a moral map for our...moreNow that I've read his book I'm not going to take his name as a profanity. He's not so evil, he's just different. He's not drawing a moral map for our leaders based on high ideals. Instead of building castles in the sky like so many before and after him, M is looking at history and instructing in accordance. It's not pretty but perhaps it is an accurate depiction of the truth of our past exploits. Whether one is repulsed by The Prince or not, this book provides a valuable counterpoint to visions such as Plato's Republic.
Personally I'll be sticking to my dreamy idealism when I'm King of Earth but it's good to know what I'm up against.(less)
"...the obstacles to reducing human poverty are mainly to be found not in shortages of money, resources or technology, but in various forms of human o...more"...the obstacles to reducing human poverty are mainly to be found not in shortages of money, resources or technology, but in various forms of human obtuseness".
Economics Professor Robin Marris uses a 1997 British government draft policy as a launching point for this book. After 100 pages of statistics and analysis of poverty in both rich and poor nations he gives us a twelve-point action programme, effectively a one chapter summary of the preceding eight.
A strong point is the depth of information he presents in a reasonably readable way. There are a lot of interesting numbers on employment, income, GDP, population etc. A weak point is that he sees poverty as a purely economic problem with an economic solution. I do not agree.(less)
I wonder if the people who need to read this book ever will. If they do I hope they are not so confronted by it that they cannot hear its message.
As a...moreI wonder if the people who need to read this book ever will. If they do I hope they are not so confronted by it that they cannot hear its message.
As a downshifter myself I completely agree with Mr Hamilton. I am disgusted at what humanity has become. We are capable of truly great things but find ourselves striving for everything shiny and flashy and useless at the expense of everything that we truly value but have forgotten. Affluenza, the idea and the fight against it, is worth five stars.
But to the book itself I can only give three. The interesting and ghastly stats are presented well however they are broken up with corny anecdotes without reference. These little lame snippets are probably based on some reality but they have no place here. In particular I roll my eyes at the story of the father taking the boy sailing and writing in his diary 'wasted day'. It breaks my heart and enrages my mind!
In light of the global financial crisis this book is particularly prescient. Hamilton told us we are living beyond our means in 2004. We continued scaling up our credit until bang: in late 2007 our bubble burst and we found ourselves in the most severe financial crisis in 50 years. Hamilton predicted this. Now Western governments are attempting to continue the delusion by promoting consumerism as a remedy to this mess. We are digging our hole deeper and deeper.
This book made me question myself and how I live my life. For this alone I recommend it strongly. (less)
This was an odd one, Dr Suter you are full of surprises. Your Defence took me on an unusual journey and I never could guess what would happen next. Th...moreThis was an odd one, Dr Suter you are full of surprises. Your Defence took me on an unusual journey and I never could guess what would happen next. The beginning was somewhat expected: you can't start an argument without articulating what your arguing about. So then you presented an definition of globalisation that I have never seen anything like.
I didn't disagree with it, in fact I liked it. Economic globalisation, public order globalisation and popular globalisation. You gave some examples of each category (respectively): transnational corporations, the UN, NGOs. Next sentence was like any other first year arts department essay: this book argues that...
But where was the argument? Certainly there was a lot of good stuff about NGOs like Greenpeace and a lot of bad stuff about transnationals like Nestle. No prizes for guessing about where your allegiance lies. But what about your central thesis?
I did like the little historical notes about Westphalia but it's not what I came here for Doc. Defend Globalisation! You could have at least left us with a standard concluding remark that restated your case. Nope. You had "The challenge is to use the benefits of globalisation, as provided by public order globalisation and popular globalisation, to address the negative impacts of economic globalisation...".
I did find it an easy and interesting read though. With one exception on page 42: "the saying goes, the horse is out of the stable door and so there is no point in trying to work out how to close the stable door".
I'll give your editor the credit for that one.(less)
James Norman's report on Bob Brown is an easy to read, clear description of the facts of Bob's life. He traces the events from Bob's birth to 2004 wit...moreJames Norman's report on Bob Brown is an easy to read, clear description of the facts of Bob's life. He traces the events from Bob's birth to 2004 with a few quotes from the man himself and those in his inner circle. There's not much in the way of analysis but perhaps it is a little soon to expect this, given Bob's star is still well and truly rising.
I imagine Norman will be accused of putting some kind of soft light on Mr Brown. The book is almost completely free from any kind of criticism or hint of controversy or anything negative about Mr Brown at all. The only thing mentioned is that Bob sometimes gets cranky. Given the state of politics in this state and country I think we can forgive him this.
Of course I'm hopelessly biased as well, but perhaps the reason Norman couldn't find much mud to stick in his book is that there simply isn't any. The honest face of Australian politics is just that. Bob is a force for good. This message comes through strongly and I found it truly inspirational.
Four stars. I wanted more out of this book but for the moment I'm content. Here's one of my favourite quotes, so relevant right now:
"We have got some very big problems confronting us and let us not make any mistake about it, human history in the future is fraught with tragedy ... It's only through people making a stand against that tragedy and being doggedly optimistic that we are going to win through. If you look at the plight of the human race it could well tip you into despair, so you have to be very strong."
This collection of essays tracks the progress of Greens from the death of Lake Pedder, past the Wesley Vale and Franklin campaigns to April 1990, a ye...more This collection of essays tracks the progress of Greens from the death of Lake Pedder, past the Wesley Vale and Franklin campaigns to April 1990, a year after the Green Independents signed the Accord with Labor allowing them to form government in Tasmania. The essays range from lyrical pieces praising nature to critiques of the Greens and their strategies and philosophies. Authors include Christine Milne and Bob Brown, who have since become Senators in Federal Parliament; Richard Flanagan, now a famous author; and numerous other luminaries of the Tasmanian conservation movement.
Bob Brown wraps up the volume with an essay that has the warmth and cadence of one of his speeches. It touches on many of the themes of the book and set me off on numerous daydreams before I reached the end.
I found a lot of this still very relevant today. The book provides a nice little portrait of ecologism in Tassie in the 70s and 80s: the birthplace of something big.(less)
War over the environment in Tasmania has been ongoing for many years and no battle has been more furious or longstanding then that of the forests. As...moreWar over the environment in Tasmania has been ongoing for many years and no battle has been more furious or longstanding then that of the forests. As in many conflicts, the first casualty is truth. There is much published material on both sides of the debate but Anna's book tries to walk the narrow path between.
It is clear however where Krien's sympathies lie. To a logger, in response to being asked where she puts herself on this issue, she says "I like nature. I like creatures." While she doesn't spell out her position more explicitly then this, the way she writes betrays her. Her words on forests and the animals that live within them are filled with heart and emotion. On the economics and politics she's colder, more cynical and more precise.
At the same time I feel she is not pushing an agenda. Krien's a journalist embedded in the front line and she's telling it as she sees and experiences it. Trees are beautiful, the economics of woodchipping is doubtful and there is a long history of corruption in the politics of Tasmanian forestry. These are simple truths but Krien does not treat them simply. She is careful to put thorough investigation behind her arguments. Her questions and criticisms are aimed at loggers and activists alike.
Into the Woods doesn't provide a solution but instead gives us accurate portrait of the debate as a whole. Krien's writing is interesting and enjoyable and she very successfully puts a human face on the people of both sides of this battle.
Books on fast-evolving topics expire quickly so I was reluctant to start on Lakoff's 2004 Don't Think of an Elephant. But though the theory has been a...moreBooks on fast-evolving topics expire quickly so I was reluctant to start on Lakoff's 2004 Don't Think of an Elephant. But though the theory has been around for some time, I wonder if the lesson has sunk in yet? For me, the case in point was Australia's Gillard Government trying to establish an emissions trading scheme last year (2011).
The Right, who have shifted even more to the right after announcing their own emissions trading scheme in 2007, responded to Gillard with "great big new tax." This worked very, very well. Like a slowly turning ship our media went from calling the scheme emissions trading, to carbon pricing and finally a carbon tax.
After the media adopted the right's framing the debate become one about a carbon tax. The left used the right's language and people started talking about tax instead of pollution. Even progressive politicians followed suit. I was shocked. I wasn't familiar with Lakoff's techniques but I did understand that the issue in question wasn't tax, but pollution.
Progressives have not learned the lessons in this book.
The models Lakoff propose resonate with me. By necessity any model is going to be a pared away version of the world but it's a handle and it's something we can develop into a powerful tool. This small collection of essays is an accessible primer into Lakoff's thought -- a field guide to framing. (less)
Paul Collier writes well about economics and development of poorer nations. The Bottom Billion, his award-winning manual on what holds nations back an...morePaul Collier writes well about economics and development of poorer nations. The Bottom Billion, his award-winning manual on what holds nations back and how they can overcome their challenges, earned him invitations from leaders around the world.
The Plundered Planet delves further into one of the difficulties identified in The Bottom Billion: the difficulty emerging nations face in reaping the benefits of natural resources. How to capture the value of natural resources and preserve their wealth while staying within ecological bounds and avoiding the slide into plunder?
This sounds like a book right up my alley: one that looks to strike a balance between social, environmental and democratic imperatives. And when Collier sticks to areas of his expertise I get a lot out of The Plundered Planet. When he strays into other fields I suffer. Early on in the book he sets up one of his lines of argument by identifying what he calls the Romantics. These are those blind to all issues but environmental and are typified by Prince Charles who, Collier reports, has set up some kind of old world village where peasants are preserved. Collier repeatedly lampoons the Prince of Wales as an example of a pious, muddleheaded environmentalist. And he may be. But he’s not a spokesperson of the environmental movement and his place in society has not been created on the back of his enviro credentials.
To balance his Romantic Collier describes the Ostrich who advocates for winning the scramble for natural resources and sees ecological issues as problems for the future if problems at all. Unfortunately the Ostrich does not feature after the preface of The Plundered Planet. Seems to me Collier wanted to tread a middle path so set the Romantic and Ostrich extremities to match, but by leaving out arguments against Ostriches for the remaining 250 pages he starts to veer in their direction.
Throughout the book Collier reveals himself in offhand statements that are far from self-evident truths. Nature is here to serve us, he says on page 32. It’s there for us to make something of, he continues, and this is justified with a parable from the bible. On page 208 I made note of the language he uses to describe the 2008 global financial crisis: a catastrophe, a crisis. Then on the same page he talks of the 2008 food shortage in northern Africa as a “major political event.”
And now to what I liked about The Plundered Planet: parts two and three. Here Collier sticks to the economics of natural assets and puts some ideas down as to how their value can be captured and built upon. I like the way he puts weight into his arguments not with formulae but by looking at case histories en masse. It’s powerful and thought provoking stuff. One particularly memorable moment is when Collier compares carbon dioxide to lobsters. Under the ethics of custody, humans of the present are entitled to eat the sustainable harvest of lobsters. To eat more would be ruinously expensive as we’d have to compensate future humans for something they’d (being richer than us) value much higher than we do. The same model holds for a safe climate. Under utilitarianism, he continues, the same conclusion is reached by a different method. Cutting carbon dioxide emissions now is our ethical obligation. (less)