Reading on Thursday and Friday 26/27 January

A bumper post today, covering both days!

This blog post by Duncan Green on looking at interventions on a 2×2 matrix of certainty/uncertainty is extremely powerful and has implications far beyond the aid industry he is writing about.  It applies in any case where the government intervenes.  Given the evidence in book’s such as the late Anthony King’s The blunders of our governments some humility about where we are uncertain can go a long way.

Duncan Green’s blog is full of many such gems.  Another recent post talked about what makes networks tick.  I have written before (on Linkedin) about network effects in stakeholder engagement.  Always useful to get another perspective, which can add to my thinking.  Similarly, this blog on the RSA website about why diverse opinions lead to better outcomes is a great example of why networks are so powerful.

I have been reading James Brennan’s book Against Democracy recently.  His call for epistocracy reflects a broad dissatisfaction with modern politics (although Prof Brennan isn’t jumping on a bandwagon here – he has been a democracy sceptic for quite some time).  This article in the New Yorker talks about the work of Charles Taylor, including his views about the revitalisation of local democracy.  The article also quotes a terrifying figure, that 40% of Americans have lost faith in democracy (in a poll last October) – this is prime breeding ground for oligarchs and demagogues.

I mention the Farnam Street blog a lot and I make no apology for this.  The guy reads a lot and then makes the key ideas available to the rest of us chugging along in his wake.  This recent one talks about the practical nature of George Washington’s self-education.  My own reading is a mix of practical self-improvement and for pleasure but I recognise the approach laid out here.  I also recognise Washington’s ambition.  I may not be the son of a moderately well-off landowner as he was (quite the opposite in fact!) but I recognise the desire to be something more than the circumstances of birth have made you.


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