Thursday, October 26, 2017

Three links for Thursday

This is a typically lengthy and insightful essay from Scott Alexander posted three years ago:
Somehow it reads as if from yesterday. Scott writes about the American incarnation of his Red/Blue/Gray tribes - but of course they're universal.


As a Gray Tribe member, I score utilitarian rather than compassionate. My BS detectors are thus powered up when I read another liberal, hand-wringing diatribe against torture ("It doesn't work!").

Bruce Schneier is paid-up Blue Tribe and uncritically recommends this lengthy article:
"The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets"
which is actually unfailingly fascinating.

But it's The Guardian: the underlying liberal agenda sets up a false interrogation dichotomy: ham-handed brutality vs. sophisticated, empathic 'rapport'. No contest as to which wins there.

The article is forced to concede that it does take two to do rapport:
"Irish paramilitaries were trained to focus their gaze on a spot on the wall and remain utterly silent. Some suspects give only monosyllabic answers, or stick to scripted responses, or simply turn their chair around, presenting the interviewer with the back of their head."
If you're prepared to (competently) torture it can presumably work. Thankfully most bad guys are not sufficiently well-trained or hardcore to resist the highly-effective social-engineering described in the article. There are very good utilitarian reasons not to legitimise torture, whether it works or not.


I'm reading Duncan Foley's excellent primer on Capital.

PDF link

Foley is a clear and creative thinker who is prepared to bring some simple mathematics to the table. He's interested in presenting the conceptual apparatus of Marxism in an orderly manner rather than simply providing a slimmed-down exegesis of the books themselves. His approach is very much rooted in applying Marxism to the present day economy, which informs both his appraisal and his examples.

He reconstructs in mathematical form the circulation of capital and Marx's simple and expanded reproduction equations before moving on to the 'transformation problem', crisis theories and Marx's concept of socialism. Here's the table of contents:

1 On Reading Marx: Method                            1
2 The Commodity: Labor, Value, Money        12
3 The Theory of Capital and Surplus Value    31
4 Production under Capitalism                        49
5 The Reproduction of Capital                         62
6 The Equalization of the Rate of Profit           91
7 The Division of Surplus Value                     105
8 The Falling Rate of Profit                            125
9 The Theory of Capitalist Crisis                    141
10 Socialism                                                   158
Suggested Readings                                      173
References                                                     177
Index                                                              181
In addition as you can see, this introductory book is quite short.


  1. If I am looking for an easy introduction to Marx, maybe this is it?


Comments are moderated. Keep it polite and no gratuitous links to your business website - we're not a billboard here.