DEBT: The First 5000 Years While the “national debt” has been the concern du jour of many economists, commentators and politicians, little attention is ever paid to the historical significance of debt. For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors—of arguments about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession, restitution, the sequestering of sheep, the seizing of vineyards, and the selling of debtors’ children into slavery. By the same token, for the past five thousand years, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of debt records—tablets, papyri, ledgers; whatever form they might have taken in any particular time and place. Enter anthropologist David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5000 Years (July, ISBN 978-1-933633-86-2), which uses these struggles to show that the history of debt is also a history of morality and culture. In the throes of the recent economic crisis, with the very defining institutions of capitalism crumbling, surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans felt that the country’s banks should not be rescued—whatever the economic consequences—but that ordinary citizens stuck with bad mortgages should be bailed out. The notion of morality as a matter of paying one’s debts runs deeper in the United States than in almost any other country. Beginning with a sharp critique of economics (which since …
Cheap may not be such a dirty word these days. Weber takes both a personal and historical view of American frugality, from Benjamin Franklin to John Maynard Keynes. The author also recollects her father’s conservative spending philosophies and expounds on an examination of social programs, alternative movements and mainstream institutions and offers tips for traveling the world on a tight budget. See her profiled in the New York Times for more info: frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com This event took place on October 6, 2009 in Google’s Mountain View, CA office, as part of the Authors@Google series. Video Rating: 4 / 5
Full of the same humor that made Stuff White People Like a New York Times bestseller for 14 weeks, Whiter Shades of Pale features an innovative, brand-new twist–region-by-region breakdowns and illustrations of the differences that make White People hilariously and ridiculously proud of where they’re from. —Random House Publishing Group More from the New York Times Book Review: In Whiter Shades of Pale, Mr. Lander’s targets are more far-flung, and it’s a treat to watch him take aim. He takes note of the industries, in addition to classical music, that survive solely on white guilt: “Penguin Classics, the SPCA, free-range chicken farms, and the entire rubber bracelet market.” About the chef Anthony Bourdain’s TV show — during which Mr. Bourdain eats arcane dishes and complains about tourists — the author writes, “There hasn’t been a show this reaffirming to white people since ‘Seinfeld.’ ” You’ll find Whiter Shades of Pale in that dimly understood and flimsy bookstore subdivision, the humor section. It belongs upfront, where the best new nonfiction walks point. Video Rating: 4 / 5
Renowned linguist Steven Pinker speaks at Google’s Mountain View, CA, headquarters about his book “The Stuff of Thought.” This event took place on September 24, 2007, as part of the Authors@Google series. For more information about Steven Pinker, please visit pinker.wjh.harvard.edu Video Rating: 4 / 5
“Turning Oil into Salt: Energy Independence Through Fuel Choice” by Gal Luft “Turning Oil into Salt” was co-authored by Gal Luft and Anne Korin, the co-director of the IAGS and co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition. The book describes how, throughout history, the pursuit of strategic commodities has governed world affairs. Centuries ago salt enjoyed a monopoly over food preservation, and securing access to the white mineral shaped the great empires’ international behavior. Today, it is oil that monopolizes our transportation system giving those who control it inordinate power on the world stage. Breaking the oil cartel and oil’s monopoly over transportation fuel is the only way to bring about energy independence, insulate our economy against future oil shocks and win the war on radical Islam. Energy independence is not about the amount of oil we use or import; it’s about turning oil from a strategic commodity second to none to just another commodity.