Few more links

April 03, 2022

Sorry for the hiatus, the assembly line is back up and running:


Is forgiving student debt a progressive cause?  This economist thinks not, and she has a lot of data to back up her case. Interesting. Read it.


On the other hand, this study sounds entirely too plausible to me—and I suffer from it more than most...


Art Tatum and the Black Virtuoso tradition—a tradition of remarkable piano music.

”The Black Virtuoso Tradition remains virtually invisible for two reasons. The first is that other pianists don’t purvey it. The other is that it combines “popular” and “classical” genres. It’s actually therapeutic – as I remark in Behrouz’s film, “it heals the schism driven like a stake through classical music in America.”“


Wow, perhaps “mixture with Neanderthals was the rule rather than the exception when the first modern humans arrived in Europe.”

And another story, on another candidate for oldest modern humans in Europe.


An only so-so review of a recent book by one of my favorite literary critics, Christopher Ricks.  Yes, he does occasionally veer towards perhaps over-reading things; but his own intellect is so illuminative that I forgive him.


This, from a year ago, by William Galston, is a big deal: “Seventy-seven percent of conservatives, 56% of moderates, and 54% of liberals now see China’s economic rise as a critical threat.”


Good piece offering a realistic assessment of the relative capacities and challenges of the US and the PRC.


This is an unbelievably terrifying story, in which the government of the PRC is clearly the central malign actor. Imagine Chernobyl, but with truly global consequences. And it will happen again, so long as the PRC has the government it does now. Which means, it will happen again. 


A fascinating account, that I only partially (at best!) understand, about the divergent paths of the PRC and the USSR in the 1980s, and the PRC and Russia in the 1990s.  My key takeaway is that politics matters as much as sheer economics, if not more. It’s also an interesting piece for small asides, like this one:

“In the 1990s, one of the underrated intellectual developments in Western economics was the convergence of macroeconomics and political science. In political science, this unleashed the “rat choice” revolution and an obsessive focus on causal identification and quantitative methods. In economics, it led to the systematic incorporation of political economy into economic modeling.” 


In light of the Ukraine invasion, I went back to this piece in New Left Review--so rarely do things in NLR seem to intersect with observable reality, that I wondered how it stood up to recent events.  Judge for yourself. The piece still strikes me as weird, and has more than a tinge of Marxist dogma’s aroma about it (e.g., “It was only thanks to the Red Army, sweeping through the region in early 1921, that the three republics were established and their borders drawn.”  Hey, we’re the Red Army, and you’re welcome!), though maybe the pro-Russianness is only due to the anti-Americanness (thus he describes Russia’s “Syrian intervention in 2015, where the Russians helped to clear the mess left by the American intervention,” which is a strange way of saying “the Russians came in to prop up the murderous Assad regime,” but whatever), but no matter what: it is the only piece I’ve seen on the Armenian-Azerbaijani war that covers it extensively, let alone one that puts it within a larger geopolitical (and historical) context.  So for both these things, highly useful.  And who knows, the dogma probably conveys Russian, or at least Putin's, thinking pretty accurately.

One thing that’s especially interesting here: the Caucasus, kind of like the Balkans, can feel very marginal to us these days; but when geopolitics mostly meant the maneuvering of land powers on eurasia—which means, up until at least the 17th century, and arguably the 18th or 19th—the Caucasus was one of the crucial nexus points in world politics, kind of like the Straits of Malacca or the Suez Canal today.  The Romans and Persians were always getting into it over the Caucasus, back in the day, for instance.  (And remember, it was only in the Napoleonic era that the geopolitical command of Eurasia became contestable, and even deferrable, from its margins—Napoleon was the last plausible Eurasian overlord, in the lineage from Darius and Alexander to Attila and Harun al-Rashid, to Genghis Khan and Suleyman and maybe Charles V (or Philip II)—though those last two were also the first properly oceanic overlords, as well.


A good interview with Matthew Rose, author of A World After Liberalism. The book is very interesting indeed, as the interview makes clear.


Take care, everyone.