What I’m reading

Marx and Engels : Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy

The Communist Manifesto, in particular. It’s kind of fun writing, with lots of anger, plenty of history and a little bit of philosophy. Some of the prescriptions will seem pretty common-sensible to most people (abolition of child labor), others kind of crazy (separation of the family). The things that they condemn about capitalism is what I think makes it great, like advances in technology (damned steam!)  that make work for humans obsolete. For a different perspective I might read this eventually.

Joseph Liouville 1809-1882:: Master of Pure and Applied Mathematics

Academics can be very petty. I guess when reputation is the currency, people will do what it takes to reduce others while maintaining their own. Liouville didn’t do it so much as others, but there are dozens of anecdotes about Professor A who points out a trivial error in Professor B’s paper in order to embarrass them. Urbain Le Verrier, the discoverer of the planet Neptune, would “forget” to turn on the heat in buildings that he maintained when his adversaries were scheduled to meet in them. All in the name of science.

The Honest Rainmaker

Colonel John R. Stingo recounts his experiences selling rain. Mostly he just worked out the odds of rain happening anyway, and pocketed the money if he got a little bit lucky. So far (halfway through the book), everyone seems to be happy with his services. Is it immoral to sell peace of mind to people? Maybe not, but I’m pretty sure that Stingo had a few other business ventures that might be more questionable.

 

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