Notes From All Over 23/01/2010

A few older essays – long, but still containing insight:
Rafe de Crespigny. ANU Faculty of Asian Studies. Posted 7 June 2004.
Dr. de Crespigny quite literally wrote the book(s) on the later Han dynasty and the “great disunion” that followed its collapse. In this essay (part of the George Ernest Morrison Lecture Series in Ethnography) de Crespigny distills three books worth of information into a compact 15 pages. Many in this section of the blogosphere find value in studying the fall of the Roman Empire; I posit that the Han dynasty’s decline into warlordism provides lessons just as valuable for modern scholars of civilization. This essay is as good an introduction to the topic as any you will find outside of 900 page tomes, and it is better than a few of those as well.
Rand Simberg. The New Atlantis. Summer 2009.
Perhaps the best piece I have ever encountered on space exploration. Simberg provides both a sweeping overview of America’s engagement with the final frontier and needed guidance as to how space exploration can continue in a world where scientific progress is no longer jacked on insatiable great power politicking.
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. The Breakthrough Institute. 10 December 2009.
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus have struck gold once again. Theirs is an essay that caters to none and leaves those from all sides of the arena bruised and battered. It is also a work of utter brilliance.

But there is no need for me to write a full promotional –  their introductions speaks for itself:

From the opening ceremony’s video of a little girl running from an earthquake to the promises of emissions reductions, everything taking place in Copenhagen is contrived. The outcome of climate talks — no treaty, no emissions reductions — was known in advance. And yet participants pretend there is an unfolding drama. As such, Copenhagen is history’s first completely postmodern global event. It’s a festival of phoniness. With the ambitions of Versailles but the power of Davos, Copenhagen creates a cognitive dissonance for its creators, which results in ever-more manic displays of apocalypse anxiety and false hope. In the end, Copenhagen tells us more about ourselves — our post-American world, our fragmented media environment, and our hyper-partisanship — than about any attempt to slow global warming.
And that is just the essay’s tag line.

ADDENDUM: A fourth essay of equal weight to those of above is worth the readership’s attention:

Jonathan Rauch. National Journal. 5 September 1992.

Our Republic is sick: Rauch diagnoses our illness. The first part of his argument is in no way novel – a collection of factions and interests groups obstruct the national interest. Rauch goes a step past this, however, and concludes that this is the natural state of any liberal democracy who has not felt the iron hands of dictatorship and war. In applying economic formulas to politics, Rauch forces America to look in the mirror and see the demons within.

Hat tip to Joseph Fouche of the Committee of Public Safety for this one.

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