Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: A World of Difference, by Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser: Interesting breakdown of the reasons why Europe and the U.S. have found themselves in two different equilibria w.r.t. redistribution policies and attitudes toward the welfare state. I think they wrote off social norms much too quickly (arguing that norms differ because of a top-down process initiated by institutions which are the main cause.) I was very interested and convinced by their argument that race plays a role by allowing the median American to see poverty as an outgroup problem. (But more on that later.)

A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution, by Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis: Good book about the evolutionary aspects of social preferences, which is a different angle than the one I research but one that I find recreationally interesting. I wish I knew more about the historical debate/controversy w.r.t. group-level selection. It seems entirely non-problematic to me. I had to rush through this too fast because someone put a library hold on it, so maybe I missed some of those subtleties.

The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, by David Brooks: I don't think it's possible to improve on this in the popular-social-science category. My hero-worship of David Brooks continues unabated if not strengthened. (I've also never been so unable to keep from laughing out loud on the BART when listening to text-to-speech on headphones... I got a lot of weird looks from other passengers during his hysterical descriptions of the "Composure Class"...) Anyway, the book weaves together personal narratives of the individuals from two generations with mounds and mounds of research pertaining to every stage of their lives in a way that makes it very hard to stop reading and impossible not to see the relevance of that research. I am too prone to writing off minor cute experimental/empirical results so being forced to read an integrated literature review that ties it all together for me is really nice.


airocca said...

does this mean you have the brooks one on tape, if so, can i borrow?

Vera L. te Velde said...

i don't have an audio version, but I have an ebook version, which you can definitely have :) kindle text to speech works pretty well for me, or on android, moon reader pro with text-to-speech (for some reason other readers didn't do TTS correctly or at all for me) (and btw the SVOX "michael" us english male voice is relatively decently parsable at high speeds...)