February 2022


I’ve planned on reading Ursula Le Guin’s “ambiguous utopia” for a while now, as I most recently discussed in my last review of a scifi novel (which also happened to feature an anarchist society of exiles on a moon orbiting their despised former government while still exporting food or other resources to it), and got some extra motivation when I read this while writing that review. In a way it’s fitting that I had a digression from scifi into cultural anthropology, since Le Guin herself was the daughter of anthropologists and the stateless societies they study could have helped to inspire her.

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A while back somebody I can’t remember linked to a review of Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” which explained Robert Moses’ success as a combination of his idealistic reformer streak (and public image) with a cynical side focused on power. I could never remember where to find it, and after the last time I asked about it and somebody linked it I forgot again. Well now (I think) I’ve managed to find it again at the Substack of Sid Jha, in two parts (which I hadn’t remembered before). I didn’t check out more of Jha’s writings before, but I see he’s got shorter takes on more books like this one with two opposite perspectives on WW2*. As I type this I’m in the middle of Ezra Klein’s podcast with Alex Tabarrok on how it’s impossible to build anything quickly in America, often blamed on the reaction to Moses’ excesses (associated with Jane Jacobs) resulting in federal regulations tying funding to neighborhood level veto-points.
*I’m now spending more time on Youtube series about that as well, making me feel more like one of those awful normies abetting the decline of the text-heavy web in favor of inferior recorded media optimized for smartphones & virality.