Month: August 2017

The Iron Throne: Why do Americans cheer for Khaleesi but want to depose dictators?

‘The breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.’For all the praise that has been rightly heaped on Game of Thrones its greatest accomplishment has yet to be realized: Game of Thrones has set the American people up to finally realize that they’ve been getting foreign policy wrong for a very long time. Consider this irony. Every week, millions of Americans root for Daenerys Targaryen to bring order and stability to the land by using force to seize power. Will Daenerys hold elections? Probably not. And yet, in the political realities of Westeros, Americans want Daenerys as the least bad option. Politics is not about what we’d like. Instead, it’s as Otto von Bismarck said. Game of Thrones may seem like a fictional story but it is a distillation of massive amounts of real history. George R.R. Martin famously based the book on England’s War of the Roses when multiple claimants to the throne sparked a series of wars that raged for 32 years. And it powerfully reveals why the Arabs say “Better a hundred years of tyranny than one day of anarchy.” As bad as the rule of King Robert Baratheon may have been, that indifferent tyranny was much better than the anarchy that followed. The problem is that this is not the frame of reference of most Americans. Most Americans have as their frame...

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How Do You Deliberately Create a Golden Age?

Golden Ages: Why Not Deliberately Create Them? Across the world and throughout the ages, Golden Ages have appeared. Ancient Greece, Han Dynasty China, the early days of Islam, Italy during the Renaissance, the Scottish Enlightenment to name just a few. During these times and in these places, there is a great flourishing of human creativity, innovation and progress. And yet, somehow, these periods then fade. The lights turn off just as quickly as they turned on. The Golden Age gives way to a Dark Age. If you ask most people why Golden Ages appear and then disappear, they probably couldn’t...

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Silicon Valley: Does a Culture Famous for Autism Understand How Humans Work?

This week an engineer at Google wrote a piece, in part, about what he saw as a certain amount of scientific denialism at Google. Diversity programs incorporate science denial. Gender, he argued, is not merely a social construct but has biological underpinnings. Testosterone is a thing, guys. It affects how people think. And maaaaaaybe the reason why so many men are engineers and rise to positions of prominence is because testosterone makes thinking more systematic and drives status-driven males to rise to the top. Silicon Valley is a boys club because biologically boys are better engineers and have the...

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Middleman Minorities: Jews, Armenians, the Overseas Chinese and Other Victims of Their Own Success

Imagine moving into a community with a tight-knit culture to which you obviously don’t belong. You don’t have any property. You don’t have any connections. And you’re not going to be allowed to rise through the system. You have to find a way to work outside the system in social and economic roles that rely on nothing more but your intelligence and hard work. With the Christian prohibition on money lending, the Jews stepped into this role and through hard work and tenacity they became rich. However, when times turned tough, it was all too easy for Russian Tsars, French Politicians,...

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Why Argue About Fish Evolution When We Can Build Consensus on Evolving a Better Society?

Humanity loves stupid arguments over symbols. There’s arguments about flags. There’s arguments about holy books. There was the Affair of the Sausages. There’s the argument on college campuses about cultural appropriation of other people’s cuisines. There’s the argument over whether the changing designs on Starbucks Holiday Cups are part of a larger war on Christmas. And there is English football hooliganism which just shows that some humans will find any excuse for a good fight. Humans are amazing at getting our priorities out of order. If you’re arguing about sausages, fighting about your soccer team and worrying about the...

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