Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton

In a radio interview, Tracy Kidder, who’s written quite a few good books and at least one important one, advocated for a sort of Maxwell’s demon approach to book reading. He divides books into two main categories: books in which he has interest and books in which he does not. He went on to say …

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Already There

One of the difficulties of diagnosing contemporary US culture is that we lack perspective. Here’s a helpful ichthyological fable I heard somewhere: Two young little fish are swimming around and they come across a big older fish who asks, “How’s the water, boys?” The little guys are unsure of how to respond and they swim …

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Fighting Fire With Arson: A Response to Yale Professor Robert J. Schiller’s misguided but not unexpected piece on the housing bubble, titled “Infectious Exuberance” and appearing in the July/August 2008 Atlantic.

Shiller believes our two recent “epidemics of financial optimism” (the dot-com and real estate bubbles) could be followed by a more disastrous financial epidemic if “irrational pessimism and mistrust” manage to spread from the lips and fingertips of sourpuss chicken-little financial pundits to the wider population. According to the author this third epidemic is easily …

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What does it take to cause agony in another human being?

Last night, I turned away from the HBO miniseries Elizabeth. A man had attempted to kill the queen and he was being stretched on the rack in a creepy, dark, moist, windowless and hell-like torturing dungeon. The putative and apparent goal of the torture was to extract “information” from the man, who had been acting, …

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