It’s still not entirely clear to me what ‘Principles’ is. Part of the reason is that its author is not entirely sure what principles are.

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‘Stańczyk’ by Jan Matejko, 1862, via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

By Matthew Walther

Review essay: Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio, Simon & Schuster, 2017, 592 pages

On the first page of his best-selling memoir, Ray Dalio unburdens himself of the opinion that he is “a dumb shit.” Nothing in the ensuing six hundred or so pages convinced me that I should dissent from this verdict.

I can say honestly, in keeping with the book’s own serial inducements to “radical transparency,” that my endorsement of Dalio’s conclusion about his own intelligence was arrived at without prejudice. Cognitive bias had no role, only the preponderance of textual and pictorial evidence. Before I was asked to review Principles, I had never heard of its author or of Bridgewater, the investment firm that Dalio founded in his apartment four decades ago. …


And what caused them in the first place? A firm consensus on the question — if it ever existed — has been lacking for over a decade.

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‘The Defenestration’ by Václav Brožík, 1618. Photo: Christophe Boisvieux/Corbis via Getty Images

By Timothy Crimmins

Review essay: A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars by Andrew Hartman: University of Chicago Press, 2015, 384 pages, $30

In America, “culture war” is a term of surprisingly recent origin. It dates from the early 1990s, and the conflict it signified was declared over almost as soon as it was named. “In his convention speech, Pat Buchanan referred to the ‘culture wars,’” Irving Kristol wrote in 1992, “I regret to inform him that those wars are over, and the Left has won.” Despite occasional conservative successes, the Left “completely dominates the educational establishment, the entertainment industry, the universities, [and] the media.” …


On defense R&D and innovation

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Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

By David P. Goldman

The digital age produces binary outcomes. Winners tend to win overwhelmingly — in war as well as in business. The Soviet Union crumbled in the late 1980s when American technology bested Soviet military spending, then estimated at a quarter of GDP. The enormous Russian bet on military power lost and Communism fell. America emerged from the Cold War with a degree of military superiority greater than any country in modern history. …


The office is a stage on which we act out capitalism’s fantasies of itself. Set changes are necessary as the spirit shifts and the plot develops.

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Photo: Nikolaevich/DigitalVision/Getty Images

By Scott Beauchamp

It would be too much to say that the office is the prime locus of utopian aspirations in American life. But the claim wouldn’t be entirely misleading, either, and it might even shed some light on what the office actually is. From their earliest days as dingy counting houses in Boston and Manhattan, American offices have adapted to the flux of capitalism. Or capitalisms, really. Each new management technique or architectural fad, if not the direct result of some larger shift in modes of production, at least isomorphically reflects the evolution of capitalism’s spirit. From Taylorism to the open-plan design, the office is a stage on which we act out capitalism’s fantasies of itself. …


The ultra-wealthy can afford to live in the borderless world they advocate for, but most people need a coherent, sovereign political body to defend their rights as citizens

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Delano grape strikers to urge workers to join them on October 20, 1965, in Hayward, California. (The word ‘huelga’ in Spanish means ‘strike.’) Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

By Angela Nagle

Before “Build the wall!” there was “Tear down this wall!” In his famous 1987 speech, Ronald Reagan demanded that the “scar” of the Berlin Wall be removed and insisted that the offending restriction of movement it represented amounted to nothing less than a “question of freedom for all mankind.” He went on to say that those who “refuse to join the community of freedom” would “become obsolete” as a result of the irresistible force of the global market. And so they did. In celebration, Leonard Bernstein directed a performance of “Ode to Joy” and Roger Waters performed “The Wall.” Barriers to labor and capital came down all over the world; the end of history was declared; and decades of U.S.-dominated …


The merits of the various alternative paths being considered for government-sponsored enterprises—and the political obstacles they face

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Image: Sean Gladwell/Moment/Getty Images

By Dean Baker

In one of the fateful moments in the financial crisis, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed in conservatorship on September 6, 2008, one week before the earth-shattering collapse of Lehman. The panic that followed the Lehman bankruptcy overshadowed the crisis facing the two mortgage giants, but the idea that these two companies could both face insolvency would have been ridiculed in the years prior to the crisis. …


Its elusiveness stems from denials that neoliberals themselves have made about their efforts

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Vanity Fair, from ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (John Bunyan) by Frederic Shields, via Print Collector/Getty Images

By Philip Mirowski

Reactions against the use of the term neoliberalism have usually taken one of two forms: first, that “neoliberalism” is nothing more than a fevered delusion or a mirage perhaps shared with a few other addled persons, and thus best ignored; and second, that if such a thing does indeed exist, it is far too uneven and inconsistent to count as a serious analytical category. To be fair, mobilization of the term “neoliberalism” has grown uncomfortably sloppy among a subset of those on the left. Broadsides have equated it to laissez-faire economics, market fundamentalism, libertarianism, globalization, biopolitics, financialization, and many other things. Even some of the most celebrated recent intellectual histories on the topic, like Angus Burgin’s Great Persuasion or Daniel Stedman Jones’s Masters of the Universe, have tended either to abjure the label altogether, or to make a botch of distinguishing neoliberals from libertarians and plain vanilla conservatives. …


The economics of current political anger clearly connects with the way capitalism has evolved over the past 50 years

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‘The Crabbed Millionaire’s Puzzle’ by J.S. Pughe, 1901, via Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons

By Fredrik Erixon and Björn Weigel

Western capitalism is in bad shape. A decade has passed since banks and financial houses began to crumble and took Western economies to the brink of collapse, but economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic remains weak. It is still determined more by governments and central banks than the animal spirits of entrepreneurial capitalism. It is hardly a consolation that the U.S. economy performed somewhat better than Europe’s when investment as well as new firm creation is muted, real employment levels remain low, and people feel that their economic prospects have improved little. …


Important lessons both for American policymakers looking to promote economic growth in other regions and for foreign policymakers seeking to recreate the “magic” of Silicon Valley

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Image: Fanatic Studio/Getty Images

By Robyn Klingler-Vidra

In a 1986 speech, then president Ronald Reagan lamented that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” This statement epitomizes the neoliberal view of how Silicon Valley became a global beacon of high-technology ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and venture capital. For followers of Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman — not to mention staunch libertarians and “tech bros” in the Bay Area today — Silicon Valley is the triumph of the free market and American capitalism.

Sometimes the role of early military investment in radar and other technologies is acknowledged. Silicon Valley’s colocation with leading universities such as Stanford is occasionally credited as well, as is the proximity of Bell Labs. But the U.S. government’s role in the promotion and coordination of technological innovation is typically obscured. This imagined Silicon Valley narrative, as I call it, which lauds the triumph of unencumbered market forces, leaves out the government’s crucial role as financier, profit-enabler, and permissive but intentional regulator. …


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American feminist Alice Paul (1885–1977) raises a toast at a women’s rally. Paul authored the first equal rights amendment considered by Congress in 1923. Photo: CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

By Cass R. Sunstein

What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now? These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning political enemies?

In Young Radicals, Jeremy McCarter explores the lives and views of five American radicals who thought that society had to be remade in fundamental ways. John Reed, Alice Paul, Randolph Bourne, Max Eastman, and Walter Lippmann are his cast of characters. I want to use McCarter’s account to cast light on five enduring radical “types”: Manicheans, democrats, identitarians, propagandists, and technocrats. All of them should be immediately recognizable today, especially on the political left. …

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American Affairs

a quarterly journal of political thought and policy

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