Knowledge gainer books

On Democracy
by Robert Dahl
http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Professor-Robert-Dahl/dp/0300076274

A cute little book that explains democracy in a nutshell. Great for people who can’t even spell democracy.

“Dahl has written a fine little book on his favorite subject, aimed as much at the general reader as at the student of politics… On democracy is a great success.” — The Economist


The Clash of Civilizations And the Remaking of World Order
by Samuel Huntington
http://www.amazon.com/Clash-Civilizations-Remaking-World-Order/dp/0684844419

Thirsty for knowledge on international affairs / social science / anthropology? This is a great book to start, very readable and rich in content.

An exerpt from the last chapter on a potential WW3 scenario:

“Assume the year is 2010. American troops are out of Korea, which has been reunified, and the United States has a greatly reduced military presence in Japan. Taiwan and mainland China have reached an accommodation in which Taiwan continues to have most of its de facto independence but explicitly acknowledges Beijing’s suzerainty and with China’s sponsorship has been admitted to the United Nations on the model of Ukraine and Belorussia in 1946. The development of the oil resources in the South China Sea has proceeded apace, largely under Chinese auspices but with some areas under Vietnamese control being developed by American companies. Its confidence boosted by its new power projection capabilities, China announces that it will establish its full control of the entire sea, over all of which it has always claimed sovereignty. The Vietnamese resist and fighting occurs between Chinese and Vietnamese warships. The Chinese, eager to revenge their 1979 humiliation, invade Vietnam. The Vietnamese appeal for American assistance. The Chinese warn the United States to stay out. Japan and the other nations in Asia dither. The United States says it cannot accept Chinese conquest of Vietnam, calls for economic sanctions against China, and dispatches one of its few remaining carrier task forces to the South China Sea. The Chinese denounce this as a violation of Chinese territorial waters and launch air strikes against the task force. Efforts by the U.N. secretary general and the Japanese prime minister to negotiate a cease-fire fail, and the fighting spreads elsewhere in East Asia. Japan prohibits the use of U.S. bases in Japan for action against China, the United States ignores that prohibition, and Japan announces its neutrality and quarantines the bases. Chinese submarines and land-based aircraft operating from both Taiwan and the mainland impose serious damage on U.S. ships and facilities in East Asia. Meanwhile Chinese ground forces enter Hanoi and occupy large portions of Vietnam.

Since both China and the United States have missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the other’s territory, an implicit standoff occurs and these weapons are not used in the early phases of the war. Fear of such attacks, however, exists in both societies and is particularly strong in the United States. This leads many Americans to begin to ask why they are being subjected to this danger? What difference does it make if China controls the South China Sea, Vietnam, or even all of Southeast Asia? Opposition to the war is particularly strong in the Hispanic-dominated states of the southwestern United States, whose people and governments say “this isn’t our war” and attempt to opt out on the model of New England in the War of 1812. After the Chinese consolidate their initial victories in East Asia, American opinion begins to move in the direction that Japan hoped it would in 1942: the costs of defeating this most recent assertion of hegemonic power are too great; let’s settle for a negotiated end to the sporadic fighting or “phony war” now going on in the Western Pacific.

Meanwhile, however, the war is having an impact on the major states of other civilizations. India seizes the opportunity offered by China’s being tied down in East Asia to launch a devastating attack on Pakistan with a view to degrading totally that country’s nuclear and conventional military capabilities. It is initially successful but the military alliance between Pakistan, Iran, and China is activated and Iran comes to Pakistan’s assistance with modern and sophisticated military forces. India becomes bogged down fighting Iranian troops and Pakistani guerrillas from several different ethnic groups. Both Pakistan and India appeal to Arab states for support—India warning of the danger of Iranian dominance of Southwest Asia—but the initial successes of China against the United States have stimulated major anti-Western movements in Muslim societies. One by one the few remaining pro-Western governments in Arab countries and in Turkey are brought down by Islamist movements powered by the final cohorts of the Muslim youth bulge. The surge of anti-Westernism provoked by Western weakness leads to a massive Arab attack on Israel, which the much-reduced U.S. Sixth Fleet is unable to stop.

China and the United States attempt to rally support from other key states. As China scores military successes, Japan nervously begins to bandwagon with China, shifting its position from formal neutrality to pro-Chinese positive neutrality and then yielding to China’s demands and becoming a cobelligerent. Japanese forces occupy the remaining U.S. bases in Japan and the United States hastily evacuates its troops. The United States declares a blockade of Japan, and American and Japanese ships engage in sporadic duels in the Western Pacific. At the start of the war China proposed a mutual security pact with Russia (vaguely reminiscent of the Hitler-Stalin pact). Chinese successes, however, have just the opposite effect on Russia than they had on Japan. The prospect of Chinese victory and total Chinese dominance in East Asia terrifies Moscow. As Russia moves in an anti-Chinese direction and begins to reinforce its troops in Siberia, the numerous Chinese settlers in Siberia interfere with these movements. China then intervenes militarily to protect its countrymen and occupies Vladivostok, the Amur River valley, and other key parts of eastern Siberia. As fighting spreads between Russian and Chinese troops in central Siberia, uprisings occur in Mongolia, which China had earlier placed under a “protectorate.”

Control of and access to oil is of central importance to all combatants. Despite its extensive investment in nuclear energy, Japan is still highly dependent on oil imports and this strengthens its inclination to accommodate China and insure its flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, Indonesia, and the South China sea. During the course of the war, as Arab countries come under the control of Islamic militants, Persian Gulf oil supplies to the West diminish to a trickle and the West consequently becomes increasingly dependent on Russian, Caucasian, and Central Asian sources. This leads the West to intensify its efforts to enlist Russia on its side and to support Russia in extending its control over the oil-rich Muslim countries to its south.

Meanwhile the United States has been eagerly attempting to mobilize the full support of its European allies. While extending diplomatic and economic assistance, they are reluctant to become involved militarily. China and Iran, however, are fearful that Western countries will eventually rally behind the United States, even as the United States eventually came to the support of Britain and France in two world wars. To prevent this they secretly deploy intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles to Bosnia and Algeria and warn the European powers that they should stay out of the war. As was almost always the case with Chinese efforts to intimidate countries other than Japan, this action has consequences just the opposite of what China wanted. U.S. intelligence perceives and reports the deployment and the NATO Council declares the missiles must be removed immediately. Before NATO can act, however, Serbia, wishing to reclaim its historic role as the defender of Christianity against the Turks, invades Bosnia. Croatia joins in and the two countries occupy and partition Bosnia, capture the missiles, and proceed with efforts to complete the ethnic cleansing which they had been forced to stop in the 1990s. Albania and Turkey attempt to help the Bosnians; Greece and Bulgaria launch invasions of European Turkey and panic erupts in Istanbul as Turks flee across the Bosporus. Meanwhile a missile with a nuclear warhead, launched from Algeria, explodes outside Marseilles, and NATO retaliates with devastating air attacks against North African targets.

The United States, Europe, Russia, and India have thus become engaged in a truly global struggle against China, Japan, and most of Islam. How would such a war end? Both sides have major nuclear capabilities and clearly if these were brought into more than minimal play, the principal countries on both sides could be substantially destroyed. If mutual deterrence worked, mutual exhaustion might lead to a negotiated armistice, which would not, however, resolve the fundamental issue of Chinese hegemony in East Asia. Alternatively the West could attempt to defeat China through the use of conventional military power. The alignment of Japan with China, however, gives China the protection of an insular cordon sanitaire preventing the United States from using its naval power against the centers of Chinese population and industry along its coast. The alternative is to approach China from the west. The fighting between Russia and China leads NATO to welcome Russia as a member and to cooperate with Russia in countering Chinese incursions into Siberia, maintaining Russian control over the Muslim oil and gas countries of Central Asia, promoting insurrections against Chinese rule by Tibetans, Uighurs, and Mongolians, and gradually mobilizing and deploying Western and Russian forces eastward into Siberia for the final assault across the Great Wall to Beijing, Manchuria, and the Han heartland.

Whatever the immediate outcome of this global civilizational war—mutual nuclear devastation, a negotiated halt as a result of mutual exhaustion, or the eventual march of Russian and Western forces into Tiananmen Square—the broader long-term result would almost inevitably be the drastic decline in the economic, demographic, and military power of all the major participants in the war. As a result, global power which had shifted over the centuries from the East to the West and had then begun to shift back from the West to the East would now shift from the North to the South. The great beneficiaries of the war of civilizations are those civilizations which abstained from it. With the West, Russia, China, and Japan devastated to varying degrees, the way is open for India, if it escaped such devastation even though it was a participant, to attempt to reshape the world along Hindu lines. Large segments of the American public blame the severe weakening of the United States on the narrow Western orientation of WASP elites, and Hispanic leaders come to power buttressed by the promise of extensive Marshall Plan-type aid from the booming Latin American countries which sat out the war. Africa, on the other hand, has little to offer to the rebuilding of Europe and instead disgorges hordes of socially mobilized people to prey on the remains. In Asia if China, Japan, and Korea are devastated by the war, power also shifts southward, with Indonesia, which had remained neutral, becoming the dominant state and, under the guidance of its Australian advisors, acting to shape the course of events from New Zealand on the east to Myanmar and Sri Lanka on the west and Vietnam on the north. All of which presages future conflict with India and a revived China. In any event, the center of world politics moves south.”


金融的逻辑
by 陈志武
http://book.douban.com/subject/3891900/

I have mixed reactions about this book. The author’s ideas are quite interesting but a bit extreme at times.

The most interesting parts are the final chapters, discussing Confucius values and the development of finance.

Not 100% agree with the author’s strong views, but nevertheless worth a read.

Excerpt from later chapters:

“人出生之前是无法选择家庭和出生顺序的,所以,以长幼定名分、责任所实现的利益交易是非自愿的交易。而强制性的交易有悖于个人权利。

不以个人权利但以名分界定的等级结构,的确让中国社会在2500年中基本不变(改朝换代除外),但这种文化也阉割了中国人的个性,阉割了我们的创造力。阉割了个性的结构或许稳定,可代价是中国长期处于温饱和饥饿之间。就以这些年的留美学生为例,我们这些学生以及毕业后留美工作的人,虽然专业水平较高,但跟美国人、印度人、欧洲人相比,儒家文化让中国人往往缺乏个性,习惯于听话,但不争取自己的权利和利益。“顺从”、“听话”的习惯当然让我们只适合打工。

国粹派喜欢说西方文明是物质文明,而中华文明则是更高境界的精神文明,其根据似乎是西方近代工业科技发达,物质生活丰富,而中国却到近年才解决温饱。——这种逻辑值得商榷,原因很简单,西方物质生产比东方发达并不必然意味他们的精神文明就落后,而东方的物质生产落后也并不必然意味我们的精神文明就先进。会不会是东方的物质文明和精神文明都落后呢?

我们可以从三方面看这个问题。第一,精神生活丰富的前提是精神食粮供给丰富,学术和文学艺术又是其主要源泉。中国的学术两千多年围绕儒、法、墨、道家打圈圈,佛教在汉代逐步进入中国后,曾推动过唐宋时期文学、诗词等领域的发展,也出现过宋明理学的发展,但总体上没离开对早前经典的解读和再解读,并且这些哲学与文学发展基本限于士大夫的小社会内,对绝大多数人为文盲的社会的精神生活影响有限。正如著名的新儒学代表人物张君劢在20世纪30年代所感言的:“然秦后两千年来,其政体为君主专制,养成大多奴颜婢膝之国民。子弟受大家族之庇荫,依赖父母,久成习惯。学术上既受文字束缚之苦,又标‘受用’‘默识’之旨,故缺少论理学之训练,而理智极不发达。此乃吾族之受病处。”(张君劢:《明日之中国文化》第84页,山东人民出版社,1998年版)。

中国并没像西方那样有系统组织的宗教,规范人们日常行为的儒教不是严格意义上的宗教。在这种缺乏正式的理性与非理性生命观的社会里,大众的精神世界只好由“牛鬼蛇神”迷信来支配,看不出这种精神文明高级在哪里。反倒是汉代进入中国的佛教、明代进入的天主教以及其它基督教派扩展了我们的精神资源。退一步讲,“中庸之道”扼杀的不只是物质文明上的创新能力,而且也激发人们不要在精神资源上有“出众”的创新突破。

第二,或许有没有以宗教或者理性学术支撑的精神文明不重要,更重要的是我们把生活重点放在精神追求上,而不是过分追求物质生活。中国人追求的精神生活或许不是宗教性的,而是家庭温暖和亲情。但是,人之间的友情是一件非常个人化的事情,每个人有不同偏好、不同性格,即使是同父母的兄弟姐妹,性格与喜好也难以相同,他们除了知道彼此是兄弟姐妹而“应该”有亲人关系外,不一定有心灵深处的相通,不一定有出于“自愿”的友情。家庭成员间会因为名分以及相应责任而彼此相依赖、相交往,可是这不等于他们的关系能超出原始情感而达到更高的心灵沟通境界,就像包办婚姻中夫妻知道彼此有责任、是夫妻,但他们之间可能没有“爱”的体验。难以想象在人的个性与自由空间都被压抑的社会里,情感与
心理世界能够天马行空,飞翔到朴素感情之外。 ….”


Beating the Street
by Peter Lynch
http://www.amazon.com/Beating-Street-Peter-Lynch/dp/0671891634

The truth is, cash starts to deplete fast without a job! In order to enjoy and prolong a happy “retirement”, it is important to start planning as early as possible. If you haven’t already deployed your capital, this should be one of the first books to read!

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