Category Archives: Books

The Rotten Roots of Modern Conservatism

It is a puzzle to many liberals – how do conservatives think about policy? For example, how could they be against helping people get health care at reasonable cost? At first blush, it seems that it is the manifestation of mean spirited selfishness. And that is true – with a twist.

The twist is that there is an intellectual core to this school of thought. That intellectual core preaches that a selfish society is a better society. There is no “shared interest”, just pure self-interest. When that self interest gets diluted, it loses its intellectual vigor.

That school of thought is not from Adam Smith. It  has instead a more modern progenitor – Ayn Rand. Rand wrote two books that lay out her ideas – The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. And modern conservatives treat these books are the words of a prophet.

BTW, One of the most devoted Ayn Rand true believers used to run the Federal Reserve – Alan Greenspan. Greenspan could not imagine that self-interest could lead to the demise of institutions that were essential to supporting it. And that is precisely what happened in the 2008 meltdown. Greenspan was dumbfounded and remains so today.

Robert Reich discussed Rand in the video below – and if you want to be part of the  political debate that rages these days, you might want to take a look and decide for yourself whether Rand was  a prophet of a quack social psychologist.

I have labelled Rand’s influence “rotten”. Why? For two reasons. First, there is a major difference between playing a game with passion (something Rand would approve of) and ignoring whether the rules of the game are biased towards one side (something Rand would suggest we do). Second, Rand’s approach to making society work runs headlong into a discovery that we have made about innovation. Innovation is not an act of individual ego. It arises out of social connection. And celebration of unbridled ego therefore, is a recipe for a less prosperous society.

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Books Ordered: The Culture Code by Coyle

I posted on Dan Coyle’s new book “The Culture Code” a while back, and I have ordered it. When it arrives, I will go through the book, not just for fun, but to incorporate what Dan is writing about into our innovation and team building models that we teach here in Tartu.

I will keep you posted.

And errr … I may be ordering The Perfect Scoop. Just for fun.

Have a great weekend!

Living Bella Figura

From a new book by Kamin Mohammadi

“She walks down the street with a swing in her step and a lift to her head. She radiates allure as if followed by a personal spotlight. She may be tall or short, slim or pneumatically curvaceous, dressed discreetly or ostentatiously―it matters not. Her gait, her composure, the very tilt of her head is an ode to grace and self-possession that makes her beautiful whatever her actual features reveal….She is real and gracing the streets of every city, town, and village in Italy right now. She is the embodiment of bella figura and she cuts an elegant dash through our mundane modern world.”

Image result for Bella Figura: How To Live, Love, And Eat The Italian Way

The author explains

“My version of bella figura is a philosophy of life for appreciating the beauty in everything, making everything you do in life as beautiful as possible,” she explained during an interview from her home outside Florence, where she’s lived since 2009. “It’s not necessarily the traditional definition, but I think that’s its essence…I’m very conscious that my book focuses on the positive.”

There is something to this!

Yes, You Need More Food Books!

Not recipe books. But books that are focused on one of the few things that rival sex for passion – food! Bon Appetit has a very nice selection of non-fiction and fiction.

This first selection caught my eye

Paris à Table: 1846 by Eugène Briffault

History buffs and Francophiles get to nerd out in Paris à Table by Parisian writer/theater critic Eugène Briffault. The book was published in 1846 and re-released for the first time in English this year. Briffault chronicles 19th century French society through the lens of culinary culture, and translator J. Weintraub does an excellent job of relaying Briffault’s illustrative descriptions for the 21st century reader. Briffault has (very funny) strong opinions about how his countrymen dine, especially those who take part in the “impudent custom” of déjeuner dînatoire, now known as brunch. Even in the 1800s, brunch was dismissed as an excuse for men to start drinking champagne before noon (proper women did not brunch). He would have loved BrunchCon.

An excuse for drinking champagne before noon? When asked why he drank a glass of champagne with breakfast, Rumpole creator John Mortimer said “Because I can.”

Looking for Summer Non-Fiction?

Summer is my main time for reading and each summer, I try to assemble lists of books that are “must reads” for me.

This summer, I will be re-reading several books that I talk about all the time.

  • Flow by Csikszentmihalyi – This 1991 book lays out the argument for gamification and embracing an active versus passive lifestyle. I am a great believer in using gamification as a learning tool, so I am going back to this book all the time
  • Playing to Win by Lafley and Martin – How do you institutionalize strategic learning ? Lafley and Martin offer a compelling model

I will be taking a look at at least one of these books recommended by JPMorgan. BTW, I found that Dan Coyle (recommended for his book  “The Culture Code”) is a very good writer.

Here is the video promo

Enjoy!