Reading on Saturday 11 February

This by Tom Nichols on the death of expertise is a good read.  You can disagree with him on where the “appeal to authority” line should be drawn but can (probably) agree that it should be.  I liked this quote:

“Today, the primary requisite of seniority in the policy world is too often an answer to the question: “what did you do during the campaign?” This is the code of the samurai, not the intellectual, and it privileges the campaign loyalist over the expert”

Fourteen economic and policy experts have written a book “A wealthier, fairer Scotland: The political economy of constitutional change” – coming out in March.  I have it on pre-order already!

A good few years ago I said (on Twitter of course) that we were seeing a return of Laconic rhetoric and that aphorisms would make a real comeback as a result.  I’m a fan of aphorisms and one of my favourites is “people ascribe intelligence to those with whom they are in agreement” so of course anyone writing that aphorisms are making a comeback must be really smart! (not sure if I wrote this aphorism or adapted it from somewhere else – that is one of the interesting things about aphorisms, they often become divorced from their origins remarkably quickly).  My love of aphorisms is the same reason I like writing haiku.

This link is for a review of a new book of aphorisms by Sarah Manguso called 300 Arguments.  Sounds good to me.  Interesting point of the review is the line “Manguso’s statements feel like they have maybe always existed; like they came from an oracle”.  The best of all aphorisms seem timeless.

I recently finished reading Jason Brennan’s book Against Democracy and this article on the need for deeper democracy (as against “electoral fundamentalism” which is often taken as a substitute for real democracy) is a good antidote to it. 

Technocracy (or epistocracy) tends to breed populism (“the elites are making decisions against the interests of the public”) which in turn breeds fascism (“those who disagree with the will of the people are traitors”).  Elections are not the be all and end all of democracy.  Initiatives like the RSA Citizens’ Economic Council are the way in which we will improve our democracy (which is not a binary state, there is a spectrum).


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