Archive of posts with tag 'politics'

What if Government Paid Better?

October 14, 2020 • #

In his book Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama has a section on corruption in political systems and how it impacts economic development:

There are many reasons why corruption impedes economic development. In the first place, it distorts economic incentives by channeling resources not into their most productive uses but rather into the pockets of officials with the political power to extract bribes. Second, corruption acts as a highly regressive tax: while petty corruption on the part of minor, poorly paid officials exists in many countries, the vast bulk of misappropriated funds...

Weekend Reading: Notes Meta Layer, PG, and the Trump Era

September 5, 2020 • #

📝 A Meta-Layer for Notes

Julian Lehr raises an interesting idea on taking notes: the importance of spatial context.

💬 PR Interviews Paul Graham

Antonio Garcia-Martinez’s newsletter kicks off with an interview with Paul Graham.

🏛 The Trump Era Sucks and Needs to Be Over

Matt Taibbi is always good for cutting to the chase.

Donald Trump is so unlike most people, and so especially unlike anyone raised under a conventional moral framework, that he’s perpetually...

On Legibility

July 31, 2020 • #

I think I probably read three different pieces this week alone that reference James Scott’s Seeing Like a State. It presents an argument about the desire for “legibility” that overthrows and reorders bottom-up, emergent systems that develop naturally.

In this piece, Venkatesh Rao dives into what legibility means and what happens when the pursuit of order and “governability” ignores locally-discovered motivations that could be at work informing why a system works the way that it does.

Boca Raton, planner's paradise Boca Raton,...

Image credits: Daily Overview

Weekend Reading: Looking Glass Politics, Enrichment, and OSM Datasets

July 18, 2020 • #

🐇 Looking-Glass Politics

On private emotions being thrown into the public sphere:

People escape the Dunbar world for obvious reasons: life there appears prosaic and uninspiring. They find a digital interface and, like Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, enter a new realm that glitters with infinite possibilities. Suddenly, you can flicker like a spark between the digital and the real. The exhilarating sensation is that you have been taken to a high place and shown all the kingdoms of the world: “These can be yours, if. . . .” If your video goes viral. If...

Weekend Reading: The Hour of the State, Location AI, and Mapillary Acquired

June 20, 2020 • #

💬 The Hour of the State or Explosion From Below?

Martin Gurri is one of the best minds we have for the current moment. Make sure to subscribe to his essays on the Mercatus Center’s “The Bridge.”

The American people appear to be caught in the grip of a psychotic episode. Most of us are still sheltering in place, obsessed with the risk of viral infection, primly waiting for someone to give us permission to shake hands with our friends again. Meanwhile, online and on...

Weekend Reading: Dracones, Calendars, and Science 2.0

June 6, 2020 • #

🐉 Hic Sunt Dracones

Adam Elkus with a great essay on the current moment:

“Is this as bad as 1968?” is an utterly meaningless question precisely for this underlying reason. People do not invoke 1968 because of the objective similarities between 2020 and 1968. They do so because we have crossed a threshold at which basic foundations of social organization we take for granted now seem up for grabs. This is an inherently subjective determination, based on the circumstances of our present much as people in 1968 similarly judged...

Weekend Reading: Post-Truth, Knowledge, and Game Graphics

May 30, 2020 • #

⚖️ The Way Out of Post-truth

Another razor sharp analysis from Gurri:

The collapse of trust in our leading institutions has exiled the 21st century to the Siberia of post-truth. I want to be clear about what this means. Reality has not changed. It’s still unyielding. Facts today are partial and contradictory—but that’s always been the case. Post-truth, as I define it, signifies a moment of sharply divergent perspectives on every subject or event, without a trusted authority in the room to settle the matter. A telling symptom is that we no...

Weekend Reading: Two Elites, DOS in VR, and Personal Brainstorming

May 23, 2020 • #

🏛️ A Tale of Two Elites

Martin Gurri on the growing similarities between west and east coast elites:

The effect, I suspect, will be the exact opposite of the reactionary dream. In wild and seedy digital gathering-places, far from any pretense of idealism, political discussion will inevitably grow more unfettered, more divisive, more violent. The attempt to impose Victorian standards of propriety on the information sphere will end by converting it into a vicious and unending saloon brawl. No matter how revolting the web appears at present – it can always get...

The Revolt of the Public in 10 Minutes

May 20, 2020 • #

Author Martin Gurri posted this quick 10 minute summary of his book The Revolt of the Public. It was one of my favorite recent reads, and in this video he does an excellent job summarizing his key diagnosis of what’s behind the degradation of authority from institutions and dissolution of public trust in them.

His insights connect information dissemination, institutions, and authority — the public expects unrealistic levels of service and expertise from institutions, while institutions also promise far more than they’re capable of delivering....

Weekend Reading: The State and the Virus, Future of Work, and Stephen Wolfram's Setup

April 18, 2020 • #

🏛 The Individual, the State, and the Virus

I agree with most of Kling’s takes here on the role the state should play in the coronavirus crisis.

👩🏽‍💻 Mapping the Future of Work

A nice comprehensive list of SaaS products for the workplace, across a ton of different categories. Great work by Pietro Invernizzi putting this database together.

⌨️ Stephen Wolfram’s Personal Infrastructure

Mathematician and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram wrote this epic essay on his personal productivity...

Three Languages

April 7, 2020 • #

The economist Arnold Kling is a regular on EconTalk.

This interview discussion revisits his 2013 book, The Three Languages of Politics in light of the current political landscape.

In the current media landscape, amplified by the massive expansion of networks and social media, everyone is talking past one another. Not even speaking the same language.

To quote Kling from the interview:

People are not trying to change the minds of the other side, or trying to open the minds of their own side. They’re trying to...

David Deutsch on Brexit and Error Correction

April 3, 2020 • #

I ran across this interview with physicist David Deutsch, with his thoughts on Brexit. A lot of great stuff here on resilience, error correction, individualism vs. collectivism, Karl Popper, and Britain’s first-past-the-post system.

Weekend Reading: Soleimani, Prosperous Universe, and Roam

January 11, 2020 • #

🇮🇷 The Shadow Commander

This 2013 piece from Dexter Filkins gives an excellent background on Qasem Soleimani, an important figure now well known after his killing a couple of weeks ago, but prior to that hardly known by anyone other than experts, even with his massive influence in the region.

🌌 Prosperous Universe

I’m always intrigued by complicated simulation games. I remember a few of these “real-time” MMO games being popular in the early days of online gaming. Glad to see the genre still kicking in an era of low-attention-span gaming...

Weekend Reading: Darwinian Gastronomy, Humboldt, and Taxes

November 16, 2019 • #

🌶 Darwinian Gastronomy

Turns out cultures from warmer climates evolved a taste for spicy foods to combat the presence of more diverse bacteria:

Alas, nothing in nature turns out to be that simple. Researchers now suggest that a taste for spices served a vital evolutionary purpose: keeping our ancestors alive. Spices, it turns out, can kill poisonous bacteria and fungi that may contaminate our food. In other words, developing a taste for these spices could be good for our health. And since food spoils more quickly in hotter weather, it’s only natural that warmer climates...

Weekend Reading: Iceland, the Use of Knowledge, and CLI Search

September 14, 2019 • #

⚖️ The Use of Knowledge in Society

I’ve been reading some of Hayek’s famous articles this week. This one is all about what he probably considered one of the most important concepts, since these basic ideas form a central thesis for most of his works. His argument was for bottoms-up, decentralized systems of decision-making instead of centralized, top-down systems:

The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in...

Weekend Reading: Intellectual Humility, Scoping, and Gboard

August 31, 2019 • #

🛤 Missing the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Honest postmortems are insightful to get the inside backstory on what happened behind the scenes with a company. In this one, Jason Crawford goes into what went wrong with Fieldbook before they shut it down and were acquired by Flexport a couple years ago:

Now, with a year to digest, I think this is true and was a core mistake. I vastly underestimated the resources it was going to take—in time, effort and money—to build a launchable product...

Weekend Reading: Private DNS, Opportunity, and Millennial Socialism

February 23, 2019 • #

🔌 Announcing Privacy-First DNS

This is an old announcement, but new to me. CloudFlare now hosts privacy-centric DNS at, available to all:

We talked to the APNIC team about how we wanted to create a privacy-first, extremely fast DNS system. They thought it was a laudable goal. We offered Cloudflare’s network to receive and study the garbage traffic in exchange for being able to offer a DNS resolver on the memorable IPs. And, with that, was born.

🛰 Opportunity is No...

Progress Report: The Federalist Papers

December 4, 2018 • #

I’m making my way through The Federalist, which has been on my reading list forever, and for which I had my interest rekindled last year reading Alexander Hamilton.

For those that don’t know, it’s a collection of essays written by the trio of Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to convince the populace of the need to ratify the then-draft US Constitution.

Up to Federalist No. 25, the focus is on a) the utility and importance of the “union of states” as a concept worth pursuing and cementing and b) the insufficiency of the Articles of...

Francis Fukuyama on The Origins of Political Order

November 29, 2018 • #

Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in the last 5 years. It traces the history of human social hierarchy and government from antiquity to the French Revolution. This talk is a great high-level overview of the ground covered in the book. Think of it as a preview and convincing teaser to the full work.

Elections, 2018

November 6, 2018 • #

Voting is something most Americans take for granted. In our work we cross paths with a lot of folks in other countries where this luxury is rare, corrupt, or non-existent. Humanitarian projects and security work allow us to see firsthand how much less individual freedom and respect citizens have in so many places around the world.

2018 election

Each year when I walk over to the polls to vote and see all the other people out to cast theirs, I think about how cool it is to get to contribute. Our system is definitely...