24 August 2009

Books

I read Down to the Crossroads: On the Trail of the 2008 Presidential Election by Guy Rundle. I had already read some of the content as it was published in Crikey last year, but it was easier to read in book form. It seemed an appropriate book for a flight to New York.

I enjoyed the acerbic wit, viz my favourite sentence: 'It was inevitable that John McCain would talk about prescription drugs to this crowd, this gathering of sun-kissed retirees in a conference centre in the vast hinterland of Florida sprawl, a place whose sense of instantaneous history-less-ness makes Surfers' Paradise feel like Rome under the Medicis.'

I did surprisingly well for a non-fiction book, i.e. I finished it within days. It is psephology of a kind. (The study of public elections; statistical analysis of trends in voting; (now usually) the prediction of electoral results based on analysis of sample polls, voting patterns, etc. see the OED). The great thing is that this word was invented in 1952, although largely defunct relatives such as psephomancy and psephism have been around for a while. Psephos is Greek for pebble, with reference to the ancient Athenian method of voting by putting a pebble in a ballot box.

I am now trying to read Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor by Anthony Everitt. I am not a big history reader, but I enjoyed watching Rome, the TV series by HBO. Funnily enough, last time I came to New York I only got about a third of the way into Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. Perhaps when people rave about how good pseudo-fictionalised-history books are it is best to bear in mind it is all relative. Relative to translating knotted string. No, I will persevere. Having some visual imagery to draw upon will help.

I am also reading How to Argue with an Economist by Lindy Edwards. It is arduous, but insightful in respect of the key challenge of government, in as much as that is determining the degree of market intervention it should undertake to achieve its social agenda.

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