Overview: Must-reads and good reads

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Must reads

[3] see esp. pp. 5-22 on "the basics."

  • Brooks Jackson, Honest Graft,[4]
  • Charles Lewis, The Buying of the President, 2004,[5]
  • David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal,[6]
  • Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action (Amazon)
  • E. E. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People (Amazon)
  • Stuart Sutherland Irrationality ([7])
  • R Douglas Arnold, 'The Logic of Congressional Action'([8])
  • Roger B. Myerson, Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict (Amazon)

Good Reads

  • George Lakoff, "Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea"
  • Sandel, Michael J. "What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets." The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Delivered at Brasenose College, Oxford, May 11 and 12, 1998. On web as a pdf [9]. Usefully distinguishes between the "argument from corruption" and the "argument from coercion" in debates over limits of commodification.
  • Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1992), perhaps best read in conjunction with David S. Lovejoy, The Glorious Revolution in America. (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1987). What emerges from these two is in part a question: were colonial concerns about British corruption overblown, or reasonable, and to what extent did these inform the revolution. Also helpful in understanding what corruption meant, historically, to British citizens and American colonists.
  • Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System. Lewis F. Powell to Eugene B. Syndor Jr., August 23, 1971, available from http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html. Considered the start of the modern conservative movement, this memo outlines a vision through which businesses, organizations, and individuals unite to form a single machine through which to influence politics.
  • James Q. Wilson, Political Organizations, esp. chapters 1­5, 8, 13; and Bureaucracy, esp. chapters 5, 9. Proposes a useful model for predicting policy outcomes based on nature of interests involved in debate, i.e. concentrated vs. diffuse interests.
  • Bent Flyvbjerg, Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice (U. Chicago Press 1998) (extended case study of effort to change planning practices and traffic in downtown Aalborg, Denmark). Flyvberg carefully documents how power works to define its own rationality. See also Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter: Why social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again (Cambridge U. Press 2001) for his more general prescriptions on inquiry into this sort of thing.
  • Cass Sunstein, Infotopia, 2006, Oxford. Deliberation --as a process to arrive at the truth or the best decision-- is often infected because of power dynamics. Small inputs from "everybody" might lead to better predictions, decisions, etc., since a huge group is less susceptible to undue influence of all kinds than a small group.
  • Adam Curtis, The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (BBC Two, 2007). Curtis's criticisms of game theory and public choice theory reminded me of Lessig's alpha-lecture defense of "naive volunteerism" against Thomas Friedman. Curtis portrays game theorists as victims of paranoia--not only a perhaps plausible paranoia of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but of actual clinical paranoia. Game theory assumes that everyone will do whatever it takes to advance their own interest, no matter what it does to anyone else. Social norms and decency are then difficult to account for in the theory. Lessig spoke of the "pathological, the unreformable, and the rest of us", but to game theorists everyone would be unreformable.
  • Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel: Economic gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations. Goes through economic techniques of analyzing the levels of corruption and how it affects corporations. Covers also United States in some depth.

Must reads rationales and citations