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books

A Time for Choosing: Free Enterprise in Twenty-First Century Britain

T. NA and The Free Enterprise Group

Not my usual kind of book to read. I wanted to see what strong support of capitalism/neoliberalism/free-enterprise is like.

I actually like many of the perspectives in it:

  • tend towards creating environments where things can happen, rather than centralized planning
  • embrace modern education techniques, immigration, and technology
  • concerns about property prices

... however, I find them very lacking in some important topics:

  • limited perspective on climate change, focuses on CO2 only, and suggests much can be solved by increased productivity and technology
  • unquestioning about the usefulness of GDP as a measure
  • uncritical of the impacts of large organisations with a lot of power - they use it to increase profits via whatever means possible, not just free enterprise
  • narrow view on work being the only way to a self-empowered enjoyable life

They are not as deep-thinking as I had hoped, the focus is much more on policy ideas (each chapter/section ends with a list of manifesto policies) than really questioning their assumptions and models.

the IEA seeks to calmly and rationally put the case for a greater role for markets and a smaller role for the state.

This is from the IEA (a neoliberal thinktank) in the preface, and provides a hint of their unquestioning belief in neoliberal ideology.

Hopefully I will write some more extensive thoughts on it in the future with some quotes from the book :)

Creating Freedom: Power, Control and the Fight for Our Future

Raoul Martinez

Very nice book overall.

Includes a nice bit suggesting how we shouldn't focus so much on the GDP:

Placing GDP at the top of policy priorities is a recent phenomenon. The concept was developed by economist Simon Kuznets, who warned against it being used as a measure of social welfare. His warnings have been largely ignored, but his measure has not. It took a few years, but by the end of the 1950s growth had become the overriding policy objective in the US and elsewhere.

Some direct quotes from Simon Kuznets:

Distinctions must be kept in mind between quantity and quality of growth, between its costs and return, and between the short and the long term. Goals for more growth should specify more growth of what and for what. (1962)

The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income (1934)

From http://ec.europa.eu/environment/beyond_gdp/key_quotes_en.html

One of the main issues I had with it is there is a strong point made about how little responsibility we have for our actions as we have very little choice over most things in our lives. Later he introduces some of the choices that we can make, but this doesn't seem to be connected to the responsibilities that might come with that.

Becoming a Technical Leader

Gerald Weinberg

I became a fan of Weinberg after reading the short book Are Your Lights On which guided me to look deeper to think about what the real problem in a given situation is.

I would probably enjoy any of his books, I love his casual style, and unconventional thinking. He is always looking at the surprising realities, rather than the formal structures or processes.

It leads him to a very organic, consensus-based, and personal approach to leadership:

The organic model says that leadership is the process of creating an environment in which people are empowered.

Our method of consensus requires that each group member agree with each item’s ranking before it becomes part of the group decision. For people not experienced at consensus decision making, this method can at times be both time-consuming and frustrating. It appeals to problem-solving leaders, however, because it typically produces high- quality decisions.

To become a technical leader, it’s not sufficient to know what goes into leadership. No matter how much you know intellectually, you will find yourself sorely tested by the practical realities of changing yourself.

He is always careful to understand the context in which a particular rule/guideline/principle will apply and what it's limitations are (that topic is dealt with in much more depth in An Introduction to General Systems Thinking).

Each chapter ends with questions to ask yourself, some of the ones I liked were:

What is your principal source of power at work? What relationships is that power based on?

What power are you now trying to hang onto? What is the worst thing that might happen if you let go? the best thing?

What would you do if you won five million dollars in a lottery? What keeps you from doing it without the money?