Apologia della cattiveria by Teodoro Klitsche de la Grange

I could not resist purchasing and reading a book that was attempting to make the point that there it is something good about being bad.

With only 32 pages (plus the notes) it is a pamphlet more than an essay.

The first important point of the author is the split of the behavior as private citizen from the one as a public officer.
The importance of being good in our private live is recognized and then the author moves on explaining why being bad as a public officer sometimes is not only acceptable but badly needed.

Then the book shows several examples of “bad” behaviors from public officers that led to a lesser damage and examples of “good” behavior that led to major public damage.
If the state, and as a consequence the people with public roles, is unwilling to use some degree of violence there it is no point at all in having a state because the individuals that disagree with the government decisions can’t be forced into accepting them.

Bad guys, without quotes, are born every day: a state that can be “bad” is needed.

Incubo a cinque stelle by Roberto Dal Bosco

At the last national political elections in Italy a relatively new party got about 30% of the votes.
While it was not uncommon in Italy in the past to have a relevant percentage of “protest” votes it never went to such a high percentage.

The author digs into the details of what is the vision of this party and of the people who lead it.
While the content is interesting the book is too stretched and with many repetitions of the same concepts and quotes.
While each time they are in a different context, appropriate and well documented this still makes the reading at times boring.

I’m fairly sure that the same exact content could be delivered in 30% fewer pages with similar or better overall effect.
For this sole reason I’d not advocate this book: people’s time is precious and authors need to value it when writing.

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

I love food.
A lot.

It is too bad that this usually goes together with consequences: extra weight and all the rest that then, in most cases, follows.

According to the author this is not necessarily always the case.
He explains in the book that it is more about quality of the food rather than about quantity: insulin production is the pivotal factor in storing energy as fat.

To support his point he shows several cases of populations with high fat ingestion that are not fat and that start to become fat once they start to use the “western diet”, groups of people with limited amount of available daily calories that become obese anyway, experiments with mice in laboratories.
His conclusion is that the foods that drive up the insulin production are the ones that will increase the fat buildup in a person.

On the basis of his findings the author suggests a diet that goes in the opposite direction of the ones promoted by the national health advisory councils in the western world: skip cereals (even unrefined), vegetables with high amid content and sugar while getting all the desired proteins, non-caloric vegetables and fat.

Sooner or later I’ll give a try at this shift of eating habits: most of the food I like better already falls in the categories he suggests hence I should be keep up with the change at least for a while.

Obesita’ e tasse. Perche’ serve l’educazione e non il fisco.

The title can be translated as “Obesity and taxation. Why it is necessary an education and not a taxation”
Massimiliano Trovato groups in this book for IBLLibri (the publishing entity of the Istituto Bruno Leoni) a series of contributes on the subject of the policies to solve the problem of a population that shows behaviors that put under pressure the public healthcare system.

The title references the policies against obesity as the core focus, but the book includes contributes that analyze also past and current policies aimed at stopping other personal behaviors (tobacco and alcohol consumption) that have a similar effect on the healthcare system but a longer history of policies aiming at stopping them.
In several cases the taxation had no measurable effect on the consumption of the undesired products and in some had negative effect not foreseen.

The authors of the contributes include: William Shughart II, Randall Holcombe, Gordon Tullock, Edward Glaeser, Richard Tiffin and Mattew Salois, Franco Sassi, Richard Williams and Katelyn Christ, Scott Drenkard, Alberto Alemanno and Ignacio Carreno.

Edward Glaeser essay on “Paternalism and psychology” deserves a special mention because the issue of the risks associated with use of soft paternalism are not limited to the specific subject of obesity and consumptions disincentives.
Soft paternalism is used more and more by the governments of the western world to shape the behavior of the population in all aspects of public and private life as it seems less invasive than hard paternalism, but it’s easily useable as a lock pick to ease the introduction of hard paternalism later down the road without facing a strong opposition.

I liked the entire book and recommend it.
Given the low quality of the cover is not a book that can witstand many reads: it’s one of the few cases when I’d suggest an electronic version instead of the printed one.

Alitalia. La privatizzazione infinita by Andrea Giuricin

Lately the media, at least in Italy, are full of news about a new crisis of Alitalia and the not-so-creative approach of the government to the problem of the (again) substantially bankrupt company.

This book was written after the very long process that transformed Alitalia, the main italian airline, from a state-owned company into a (supposedly) public one 2009.
It details all the political decisions that impacted an operation that was supposed to be made according to market rule and ended up to have very little free market in the actual decisions.

The book is missing the recent evolution of Alitalia due to the fact that was published in 2009, but provides all the elements needed to read the new wave of announcements of solutions for the problems of the company.
To read it today is a little depressing because the risks foreseen have become a reality and the inefficiencies appear to be still in place, both in the company vision and in the way the politic is attempting to fix the situation.

I fear that Alitalia’s problem will find a (temporary) solution like in the previous crisis: using money from the pockets of the citizens.

Doppio Misto by Raffaele La Capria

Some time ago I posted briefly about a book with the very same title.
While searching for it in my preferred online bookstore I happened to get La Capria’s book in the list of results and on the basis of the short excerpt available I decided to take it.

I could have used a better criteria to select a book.
I’ve found the book fairly boring, self-centered to the point of being irrelevant for the reader.
The only positive thing is that it a very light load for the brain and take little time to read.
Do yourself a favor and save your money or, if you own it already, save at least your time.

Doppio misto. Autobiografia di coppia non autorizzata by Claudio Bisio and Sandra Bonzi

It’s a light and easy book about the life of a wife and a normal, albeit famous in Italy, husband.
While the episodes appear often paradoxical and excessive it’s actually very close to the reality of a normal family.
At least of an italian one.

I’ve read loud to my wife several pages and she found them very amusing.
Book strongly recommended (if you speak Italian)

Alcestis by Euripides

Last weekend I was looking for a relaxing reading and picked up this old classic.
I was lucky to find an old edition (Neri Pozza editore, 1968) with an introduction written by Carlo Diano and that was worth reading.
The story in itself is well-known and can be easily found online.
But the most interesting elements reside in the details of the dialogues of Adameto with his father and with Hercules and the actual reading is needed to fully appreciate them.

If you’re looking for a quick read (it took me only a couple of evenings) it’s a good alternative to recent instant books that it’s not difficult to read but still provides some food for thought

Democracy: the god that failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

When I started reading this book I was a bit shocked.
I was raised, as most people of my age in the western world, with a few clear ideas including that democracy is the best form of government.
For this reason i thought that the title of the book was intriguing, but I was not prepared to the full, systematic demolition of democracy that the author has carried over.
The first few chapters I was having a sort of cognitive dissonance because the reasoning was sound but clashing with my education about government forms.

Reading Tocqueville in the past has provided me with a good perceptions of the risks of democracy but only to the point of getting me to believe that much care was necessary to avoid them while keeping democracy in place.
Hoppe instead attacks democracy from the foundation: for him it’s not a problem of deviations from the right implementation that make democratic experiences bad, it’s the very nature of democracy that leads to the actual implementation problems that it’s easy to spot in most (if not all) countries of the western world.

While progressing with the reading I got more and more convinced by the reasoning.
There it is a major weakness that I perceive (and it’s not unique to this author’s reasoning): assuming people to be part of the “homo economicus” specie and hence to take rational decisions.
Behavioral finance was born because most people is unable to be rational even when dealing with money and numbers: I doubt that more rationality can be expected when other elements with no defined market value are added to the mix.

Overall it is a book worth reading and I recommend it.

The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life by Kenneth Minogue

In the recent past I’ve read an old book from the same author titled “the liberal mind” with great satisfaction so I had a strong incentive in reading the most recent one.

It’s a great reading that makes me feel frankly sad because I feel like there it is no escape from the negative impact that democracy is generating.
Parents with a strong ethic face a major challenge in educating the childrens.
While in the past the society used to help them face the natural rebellion of teenagers now all the external pressure (TV, peers, legislation) goes against a their attempt at raising responsible adults.
And a number of parents don’t even attempt at raising new responsible adults as a recent book edited in Italy testifies.

The more and more frequent request for “self motivated” people in the job postings is a strong indicator that Minogue is right when he describes the evolution of our society.
In the not so distant past most workers were characterized by the pride they felt in doing their job (even the most humble) well and there was really no need to express this as a desired tract of the candidate.
The standard now is that most of the workers, even in good positions and with nice jobs in most of the cases are focusing on what they are (or aren’t) getting instead of being dedicated to their duties.

The book is not really offering a procedural solution, but is providing the needed awareness to help the reader immunize himself and then his friends and relatives from the bad ethics generated by our society.