A European Union (of sorts)

From Perry Anderson’s third and final essay on Europe for the LRB:

Those from the EU actually living and working outside their country of birth in the Union form a number smaller still, less than 4% of its total population in 2015, of whom the large majority were manual labourers of one kind or another. As late as 2008, they made up less than 2% of the population of Western Europe.

For those wondering, 4% of the EU’s population in 2015 was about 20 million people. Less than a third the population of France, twice the population of Greece.


Hardly a day goes by without the catalogue of social media’s harms expanding. Our smartphones are bridgeheads from which apps like Instagram undermine our self-esteem, attention span, sleep, mental health, and relationships.

One relationship social media has improved for me, is my relationship with art. Instagram has made it incredibly easy to discover art. Some friends have gone beyond discovery, and started to participate as customers as well; buying art directly from artists or small galleries has never been easier.

Which leads me to the artist Beeple, who I discovered today and could not resist sharing. His artwork is weird, irreverent, shocking, and profane. I love it. You can see an example to the left, but please go on over to his Instagram for thousands more. In a testament to the view that creativity is a numbers game, he has been creating a new image everyday for over 5000 days (you do the math).

His digital art has sold for millions through a new application of the Blockchain. You can buy something here for far less.

Check out his site here, and a write-up in Esquire here.

Thanks to Marginal Revolution for the heads up.

Selected quotations

I have been re-reading Christopher Hitchens’ Letters to a Young Contrarian and wanted to share a few passages which stayed with me

On racism

It especially annoys me when racists are accused of ‘discrmination.’ The ability to discriminate is a precious faculty; by judging all members of one ‘race’ to be the same, the racist precisely shows himself incapable of discrimination

On the open conflict of ideas and principles

Conflict may be painful, but the painless solution does not exist in any case and the pursuit of it leads to the painful outcome of mindlessness and pointlessness; the apotheosis of the ostrich.

Contrast this to the unashamed recommendations of the mindless that are offered to us every day. In place of honest disputation we are offered platitudes about “healing.” The idea of “unity” is granted huge privileges over any notion of “division” or, worse, “divisiveness.” I cringe every time I hear denunciations of “the politics of division” – as if politics was not division by definition.

He quotes Eugene Debs, addressing socialist voters in the 1912 election campaign:

he would not lead them into a Promised Land even if he could, because if they were trusting enough to be led in, they would be trusting enough to be led out again.

The life of Eugene Debs, a unionist and socialist activist who was imprisoned for denouncing American participation in World War 1, is worth examining. I have just bought this biography of the man.

They come from the land of the ice and snow

Got the first view from Antarctica today. I hope not the last.

Would whoever this is mind getting in touch via the comments or email? I’d love to hear about what you are doing there…

A quick Google search suggests Antarctica is inhabited entirely by Penguins, murderers (and their victims?), or monsters. Be safe.

Recent additions to the library

New additions to the bookcase that may be of interest to you:

Special mention to Perry Anderson’s threepart series on Europe in the LRB. The series clocks in at 45,000 words, and I’m only a third the way through. Recommended, if only for his erudition.

Now if only books could be read as fast as they could be bought.

What I’m reading

My post on what one should read was quite popular, so I thought I would share what I am reading right now, as an illustration of the principles in action.

I usually try to pair an easier and harder read together. This once meant non-fiction during the day and fiction at night, but I increasingly prefer biography or history as my bedside reads. I usually have a Spanish novel at hand and read a few pages each morning to practice – it’s more interesting than Duolingo.

  • Una historia de amor y oscuridad – Amos Oz
  • Black Swan – Nassim Taleb
  • The Essential Keynes – Edited by Robert Skidelsky

What next?

Debt ยป Melville House Books
Easily the best cover on the ‘to-read’ list

Something appealing while browsing a bookstore on a sunny Saturday is not always what I feel like reading standing in front of my bookshelf on a Tuesday night. The solution has been to buy liberally, and have as many options as possible at home. Add to that Christmas, and my ‘to-read’ has swelled to a largely aspirational status. Still, I find it comforting to sit surrounded by little rows of colorfully bound and titled mysteries.

  • The Path to Power – Robert Caro
  • On the Genealogy of Moral / The Gay Science – Nietzsche
  • Debt – David Graeber
  • Assorted Poems – Keats
  • The God Delusion – Dawkins
  • The Mediterranean (Abridged single volume) – Fernand Braudel
  • Perdido Street Station – China Mieville
  • The lucky country – Donald Horne

To this must be added the impossible-to-catch-up-to pile of London Review of Books back editions. If you don’t already, you really should consider subscribing. It truly is the best magazine in the world.