Moments of Inertia by Rachel Crawford

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2017 in Reading

One of my goals for 2018 is to ready 20 books. That’s about 2 books per month! So far I’m enjoying doing more reading, because over the last few years the amount of books I’ve managed to get through has really dropped off.

Time to reflect on some of what I read last year.

The Economics of Enough

A book by Diane Coyle (who incidentally was on Planet Money’s The Indicator podcast this week). I read this towards the end of 2016 and finished it in January 2017, so I don’t remember the details very well, but I do remember finding it interesting. Being a book about the future of civilisation, it has its share of gloomy forecasts, but it has a positive message, too. We can, in fact, solve (or at least handle) these problems that face us in the 21st century: climate change, the financial meltdown cycles of capitalism, overcompetition for natural resources, economic inequality, the crisis in democracy…

There’s a lot of them. Diane’s presents some of her solutions as almost inevitable, sooner or later, and that the longer they are delayed the more damage will fill the gap until their implementation becomes unavoidable. Her main suggestions are, in brief and broadly:

  • Improve how progress and production is measured and statistically analysed. How are we to address any issues if we cannot fully understand their scale and their causes?
  • Encourage saving of money and discourage spending, in particular on high-carbon consumption. She advocates taxation on consumption. Promote investment in projects with long-term benefits, rather than short-term returns.
  • Austerity is okay if you convince the public that it’s for a good reason.Cuts in public expenditure are “inevitable” as is “reforming the provision of services”. Yeah, uh.
  • Reduce income inequality.
  • Experiment in how to re-engage disengaged citizens with public policy-making processes. With the Internet?
  • The Office for Budget Responsibility is a good thing, in principle, because it has “an explicit duty to take account of the long-term and future generations”.
  • Countries should just go ahead and address the issues of climate change as best they can, with or without international agreement. They certainly shouldn’t wait around for that to happen, anyway.

The Mythology of Work

I don’t remember much about this. It comes from the right place, one of deep skepticism about the mores that bind us to the millstone, but it is not written well or accessibly. I found it a little masturbatory, to put it bluntly. And not in the good way.

Which made me sad. I would like to be able to recommend a book on this subject to people.

The Goblin Emperor

I enjoyed this! It’s about a guy who gets catapulted overnight from royal family reject to improvisational imperial majesty. The reader shares his POV as he navigates his way through the tumultuous waters of his first year of emperor-hood, dodging schemes and plots galore. The setting is kinda cool, with baroque, almost steampunky elements, and some excellent made-up names, like Varenechibel and Edonomee.

Take my review with a pinch of salt. I read the book on the flights to and from San Francisco, and I appreciated perhaps more than I would have otherwise because it allowed me to escape into a fantastical world in which people have leg room.

The story has progressive leanings, but I find myself agreeing with Lyta Gold’s opinion that

Novels like The Goblin Emperor are especially disappointing because they’ll go out of their way to include genuinely progressive elements – acknowledgement of inequality, protagonists of color, gay characters, heroines who persist – but consistently stop short of portraying anything resembling large-scale political or societal change.

Hmm!

Scotland the Brave

Something about the past and future of Scotland as a place in the world. Positive!

The Knowledge Corrupters

Isn’t it great how much effort some factions put into undermining the ability of people to reach political consensus, or indeed any kind of agreement at all, by sowing distrust in scientific sources and demolishing the integrity of the journalistic profession? All so they can make more money?

Thunderbird

Chuck Wendig continues his flawless streak as the writer of Miriam Black, hardcore detective extraordinaire who can see how you die. This is pure edge-of-your-seat excellence, like the preceding three novels in the series. Not much more to say about it than that. It’s just good.

The Shepherd’s Crown

It took me a long time to get around to reading this one because it felt like finally saying goodbye to an author whose books played a massive part in raising me from childhood to young adulthood, laughing, crying and thinking all the way. He’ll never really be gone, though. Not while his characters are still taking readers like me on adventures they’ll never forget.

The Gates of Azyr

A horror story. I am not referring to the novel, but to the following sentence: I read a Warhammer novel. My first. And the really scary part? It’s not my last.

The Joy of Tax

Richard Murphy on what exactly tax is, and how it’s an indispensible tool for shaping the economy and addressing social ills like economic inequality and excessive carbon consumption. We should all care about it a lot more, and put to flight the school of thought that says that tax is inherently evil. He proposes a lot of ways to improve the United Kingdom’s tax system, as well as providing some useful lessons on how money works.

Here is Richard Murphy defending his book against David Cameron, who made a joke of it at the Conservative Party conference. That will probably make you want to read it more.

Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing

More economics. A guided tour of how badly messed up the market for land in the United Kingdom and a number of other Western economies is, and how it messes up other areas of those economies. The book is in agreement with The Joy of Tax about a number of things, like how bad council tax is, and how we should probably tax land ownership. I found it quite interesting, but a little dry and technical in places, like its title. I might re-read it to see if I understand some more of it.