The gist of this book can be summed up in the following quote: “Great Powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending more on ‘security,’ and thereby divert potential resources from ‘investment,’ [compounding] their long-term dilemma.” Sound familiar? The key word is “relative.” That’s super if you’re growing at 4% a year, but if there are other countries growing at 8%, then you’re losing power. It doesn’t even have to be that great a difference: “A country whose productivity growth lags 1 percent behind other countries over one century can turn, as England did, from the world’s undisputed industrial leader into the mediocre economy it is today… not because it wasn’t growing, but because others were growing faster.”
Therefore world power is in constant flux. The unique set of circumstances that vaulted the United States to ridiculous heights in the 20th century are no longer present, leading to gradual loss in power and industrial capacity that becomes another’s gain. A country’s resources, technology, education, culture, and a multitude of other factors determine its economic growth rate, and that will never be the same as other nations.
“Those who do not advance, go backwards and who goes back goes under.”
This is a dry, technical, and long-ass book that took me forever to read because I was usually camped out in front of Wikipedia to learn more about the events mentioned. Nonetheless, I think every man must read it to understand the workings of state power and what amounts to the foundations of modern human society. It helps you wade through today’s bullshit news cycle to look at the big picture and determine what’s really going on in the world.
A People’s History Of The United States (strong recommendation)
The previous book had me leaning more pro-war and pro-state. I become convinced that resource grabs were simply the way things should be done in a cruel world to ensure survival of states. This book brought me back down to Earth, showing the human costs of those actions in the United States, specifically in regard to the obscene greed of its upper class (top 1%).
The analysis here shows that from our founding, the United States is a country created by the rich white man for the rich white man. All other groups, such as blacks, Native Americans, women, laborers, and the landless poor, have been suppressed, killed, or marginalized to continue the great sucking of wealth and power to the elite that continues today right out in the open. Only when the elite’s very stability is threatened do they make concessions to those groups. For example, Zinn argues is that they gave blacks “Civil Rights” not out of moral duty, but because black agitation was increasing unrest at home and the amount of criticism they received abroad, jeopardizing their long-term wealth-stealing goals.
One thing that strikes me about this book is that today’s problems, such as Wall Street raping the treasury, the government getting into wars against countries that haven’t attacked us, and special interests fighting tooth and nail against increasing our standard of living, are essentially yesterday’s problems, and not much has changed. That’s just testament to what the book calls the most ingenious control system that has ever existed. Our two-party political system is perfectly tuned to distracting the white man against the black man, labor against professional, right against left, and immigrant against natural-born, while the top 1% continue growing their wealth at unprecedented rates. The author makes it clear that both Democrats and Republicans are complicit and that the “apparatus” is rigged, contributing to what Malcolm X called the world’s biggest “con game.” If you’re a fan of 1984, past actions of the United States will ring familiar.
This book will help you redirect your anger from the Mexicans, from the religious nuts, from black people on welfare, to the real cause of this country’s problems: the top 1%, who are immune to our laws and will stop at nothing at taking every dollar they can possibly grab. I highly recommend this book for any American citizen. It’s what you didn’t learn in high school.
I thought of Malcolm X as a violent and racist figure of the Civil Rights movement, a portrayal the media was pushing at the time of his ascendance, but I was wrong. From reading the speeches in this book it’s obvious he was the ultimate truth teller, breaking down hypocritical and oppressive American policies better than anyone else at the time.
He believed in basic human rights for black people, rights that the Constitution should have already given them, but advocated violence when those rights were denied. He definitely didn’t believe in holding hands to sing “We Shall Overcome” while his people were being lynched and firehosed, making Martin Luther King and the rest of The Big Six seem more like Uncle Toms who got tricked by the government to tame down their demands in exchange for being figureheads in their people’s movement.
You don’t have to be black to read this book. If you hate the US Government then you’ll be nodding your head throughout, though of course black people will be able to identify with it more. Choice quotes:
“It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep. This is what they did with the  march on Washington.”
“Three hundred and ten years we worked in this country without a dime in return—I mean without a dime in return. You let the white man walk around here talking about how rich this country is, but you never stop to think how it got rich so quick. It got rich because you made it rich.”
“When you take your case to Washington, D.C., you’re taking it to the criminal who’s responsible; it’s like running from the wolf to the fox.”
“Nobody can give you independence. Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. If you can’t take it, you don’t deserve it.”
“It takes power to make power respect you.”
It’s sad that his life ended prematurely. I think he had the potential to make real changes not only for blacks but all oppressed people, including the lower class.
If you liked Kitchen Confidential, then you’ll like this follow-up, where Bourdain continues to tell food stories with his sharp humor and honesty. The fact that I’m the opposite of a foodie yet still enjoy Bourdain’s writing is a testament to his strong personality. Quotable gems:
“Whatever riches they may have acquired or may yet acquire, there is and always will be the lingering and deeply felt suspicion that come tomorrow, it will all be gone. No amount is enough or will ever be enough, because deep in the bone they know that the bastards could come knocking at any minute and take it all away.”
“Luck is not a business model.”
“It’s very rarely a good career move to have a conscience.”
This book shares theories of sexual selection, first starting with animals, particularly birds and chimps, and then humans. While it won’t help you with your game, it’s a fascinating look into how sex is a huge evolutionary driving force. It pushes the fact that animals don’t just evolve to compete with other animals, but to compete with members of the same species, and it’s that sexual evolution that has made big-brained humans what they are.
I like how the book describes why the sex act even exists, a question I hadn’t contemplated (answer: parasite resistance). It explains less complex questions such as why men are a knowledge-hungry gender (answer: in the past, gaining enough knowledge to outwit other males got more sexual partners, so that trait persisted over time). The term “social proof” isn’t specifically used, but there are explanations as to why it’s such a powerful attractant. It also suggests that men are so power-crazed because in the past those who sought and gained it were the only ones who procreated. The author even describes how and why a woman’s body declines horribly after 30.
I’ll admit it was a dry work, and even with my biology background some of it still went over my head, but I’ve only scratched the surface at the amount of insight this book contains.
“The nature of the human male, then, is to take opportunities, if they are granted him, for polygamous mating and to use wealth, power, and violence as means to sexual ends in the competition with other men—though usually not as the expense of sacrificing a secure monogamous relationship.”
Here’s a Nelson laugh to beta males: “[The modern woman] strives to acquire a provider husband who will invest food and care in her children while finding a lover who can give those children first-class genes.”
And a fuck you to feminists: “The assertion that ‘culture’ explains human variation will be taken seriously when there are reports of women war parties raiding villages to capture men as husbands.”
I was turned on to Starting Strength by this excellent article, which explains how what you’re doing in the gym is probably not making you stronger. The book was highly detailed (nearly 60 pages on how to do a squat) and helpful with explaining proper technique, though the programming section was a bit sparse (here it is in a nutshell). While I’m no gym newbie, I am one of those guys who have been going for a while on and off and can’t say I’m getting stronger. I’m going to try this program out and report back in a few months.
I remember a couple of years ago I’d see “Three Cups Of Tea,” a book about a white man helping build grade schools in Afghanistan, prominently displayed in bookstores. The book launched the author and his charity to lofty heights, but unfortunately it was a scam. The guy who wrote Into The Wild denounces him in a short but strong book with backing interviews and evidence. If you hate fakers and phonies like me, this book will give you a massive hard-on.
Americans are a trusting people, and here we have just another case of them getting scammed by some purported do-gooder who is nothing more than a con artist. I do have one tip for everyone: be very wary of people helping others outside their race. When a white man is gung-ho about helping Muslims or blacks or whomever, an eyebrow should be raised. No, both eyebrows!
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (free on Kindle)
The first half was interesting as we learned about how Ben built his wealth, but then it became a painful slog. I can’t recommend it. I did like this quote though:
“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. This, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas.”
The Communist Manifesto (free on Kindle)
The only reason I read this was so I can drop it in conversation and have people think that I’m an intellectual. Unfortunately it’s an excruciating read. If you want to get the gist of it then check out the Spark Notes. The most important thing I learned from this book is not to read any more books over 100 years old.
I feel quite ripped off from this purchase. The first article by Peter Drucker was helpful (you can read it for free here), but then it was a nonstop stream of corporate-speak bullshit and self-help mumbo jumbo that is old news to anyone who’s worked in an office for a year or two. This compilation had more to do with how to be a better corporate manager than “managing yourself.” Waste of money.
Do you want to read more book reviews? Click here for the previous set.