Reading on Wednesday 8 February

I finished reading Jason Brennan’s book Against Democracy.  His criticism of democracy (which takes up most of the book) is well founded but, then again, are there any serious people out there who genuinely think democracy is perfect?  I agree, partly, with his test for whether another system should replace democracy – whether or not it delivers better government.  This is a positive test and I would add a negative one – whether it is less open to abuse for personal gain.

His typology of hobbits, hooligans and vulcans is ok, I guess, but I question his assumption that coldly rational vulcans are necessarily the best to decide on government.  Is there no room for compassion and empathy here?  Some of the most egregiously authoritarian regimes in history have been based on highly rational approaches to public policy.

Near the end he talks about an analytic method, using voter data, to assess what the people really want (my italics).  For me, this set alarm bells ringing in my head and the voice of Isaiah Berlin shouting over the top of them.  I would offer here a comment on the Pythia, the Greek oracle (which is the analogy he uses) – the power always lies in the hands of the priests.

I remain open to being persuaded by the idea of an Epistocratic Council with veto power, which he mentions but doesn’t seem taken with as it is not “true” epistocracy.  My concern would be who designs the criteria for membership of the Council – again, power lies in the hands of the priests.

Anyway, in other reading today…

I have written before about the analogy between networking and gardening.  Here is Ivan Misner, who really knows what he is talking about, describing networking as being more like farming than hunting.  That’s close enough that I can say we are in agreement!  His “7 ways to better networking” leans heavily, rightly so, on softer skills and resonant behaviour.  To quote the title of a book about building rapport – it’s not all about you!

This article, on the so-called 5-hour rule, needs to be read in the context of books like Cal Newport’s Deep Work in order to properly understand what deliberative work looks like.  A commitment to self improvement like this would fit very well into a stoic career.  I would have to class myself as “aspirational at best” in that regard.


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