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Mate: Become The Man Women Want: When I started the dating advice book by Tucker “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” Max and Geoffrey “Dear obese Ph.D. applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation” Miller, I was not expecting that my primary complaint would be that the book was irritatingly politically correct. And yet here we are.

The primary thesis of the book is that if you acquire a bunch of generic, common-sense good qualities– volunteering, having a clean house, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, treating your depression, learning to appreciate the small things in life– then women will be more attracted to you and you will be able to parlay your attractiveness into lots of casual sex or a relationship with a woman who similarly has a bunch of generic common-sense good qualities. I’m not necessarily opposed to this dating advice. It seems pretty harmless. Even if it fails you’ll end up with an exercise routine and a clean kitchen. But it is also obviously not how human sexuality works.

Like… there are lots of beautiful, intelligent, kind, and in every way desirable women (and men, and nonbinary people) who will ignore a dozen potential partners with many generic common-sense good qualities and zero in on the sad three-legged puppy that they need to rescue with the power of their love. Of course, if you want to date an emotionally healthy person with good boundaries– and you do– you probably want to have a handle on your mental health shit. But it is just not true that everyone is more attracted to people who have a handle on their mental health shit than people who don’t. Lots of those emotionally healthy people with good boundaries have gone through a long process of personal growth in which they realize that, regardless of what their heart and/or boner say about the matter, they should stop trying to save wildly dysfunctional people with the power of their love.

Romance novel heroes are standardly issued with a dark and tragic past! Mr. Darcy is one of the most iconic romance novel heroes of all time! Loki fangirls exist! This is because being a complete garbage disaster is in fact a thing many people find attractive!

This book is also peppered with a variety of baffling statements. Depressed people aren’t funny! (Have you ever met a stand-up comedian?) Jason Statham would have an easier time getting laid than Johnny Depp! (I admit that I am too gay to appreciate Jason Statham, a person with a continual air of being thirty seconds away from talking to me about grills, but I think even straight women have to agree that, setting aside the ‘is an abuser’ issue, Johnny Depp is more attractive.) Women paradoxically want both assertive and competent men and kind and sweet men, and it is baffling because those things are basically opposites, but she really wants you to be sweet to her and assertive to other people! (What.)

In conclusion, you should instead read Models. Models is good.

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty: Should be renamed Dictators Behaving Badly, because much of the charm of this book comes from learning about all the different ways in which dictators behave badly. (I now have strong feelings about the former president of Uzbekistan. Fuck the former president of Uzbekistan in the ear.)

Acemoglu’s thesis is that institutions can be divided into “extractive institutions” and “inclusive institutions”. (Of course, there are also nations with totally nonfunctioning institutions, such as Somalia during the Civil War.) Inclusive institutions enforce property rights, treat people equally, incentivize economic activity, create law and order, and give everyone a say in government. Extractive institutions are structured to extract resources from the many to the few. In general, extractive institutions result in less growth. Extractive institutions oppose the destabilizing force of innovation, which might make it more difficult for elites to get all the money, and which is necessary for economic growth. And extractive institutions tend to be politically unstable, because the primary way to earn money is to control the institutions.

In general, both extractive institutions and inclusive institutions tend to persist in a particular location. Revolutions that overthrow extractive institutions tend to just install a new set of people in charge of the same old extractive institutions. However, major events that disrupt the existing political and economic balance in a society can cause institutions to shift from extractive to inclusive, or vice versa. Historical examples include the Black Death, the Industrial Revolution, and the opening of Atlantic trade routes.

Highly recommended. I think this sort of economic history approach is one of the best ways for me to learn history– it helps me understand not only what happened but also why.

The Little Book of Restorative Justice: I always kind of thought the thing I believed about criminal justice was called “restorative justice”, and I have read this book and now I know it’s definitely called that, so that’s good.

The conventional criminal justice system focuses on offenders getting what they deserve. Restorative justice is focused on victims getting what they need and on offenders taking responsibilty to repair the harm they caused. For example, victims often need to understand exactly what happened, to tell their story, to have a sense of empowerment, and to receive restitution. In a restorative-justice framework, offenders if necessary are at least temporarily restrained, take accountability for their actions, change their behavior so they don’t commit crimes again, and reintegrate into the community.

It’s simultaneously very surprising and not surprising at all that restorative justice was invented by a Christian. On one hand, it’s a very Christian set of beliefs. On the other hand, I rarely expect Christians to behave in a particularly Christian way. The author is Mennonite, and I have a vague sense that Mennonites are better on the radical forgiveness thing than most Christians.

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