1. Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game. I’ve misplaced my copy of Foundation and Empire, so I decided to pick up the Ender Quartet. I found Ender’s Game difficult to put down at times. The use of children in war presents a series of complex ethical dilemmas. I’m sure Bryan has read this one; I’d be very interested in his take. They’re making a movie version. Here’s the trailer.

2. Fred McChesney, Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion. Basically, politicians extract rents (contributions, speaking invitations with juicy honoraria, etc) from firms in exchange for withholding or withdrawing legislation that would damage them. It’s a story I don’t want to believe because it just sounds too audacious, and yet there’s a lingo to describe it: milker bills, juice bills, fetcher bills. The most interesting part I’ve read so far concerns politicians’ threats to regulate an industry in such a way as to destroy income accruing to firm-specific assets that the firms have worked hard to establish. The value of your brand name, for example, falls if the government “offers” (read: threatens) to regulate the entire industry. It’s a special-interest story about politics enabled by voters who believe the public interest theory of the state.

3. Jeffrey Tucker, A Beautiful Anarchy. G.K. Chesterton once said that “we are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” Indeed, that’s what starts off the “I, Pencil” Movie. Tucker goes through a series of essays discussing how the state is superfluous while the undesigned order of the market is a fountain of riches. My major takeaway: be an earlier adopter of technology.

4. Arnold Kling, The Three Languages of Politics. Kling argues that people of different political persuasions view the world along fundamentally different axes. It’s thought-provoking, to be sure. Progressives view the world as a struggle between oppressors and the oppressed, conservatives view the world as a struggle between civilization and barbarism, and libertarians view the world as a struggle between liberty and coercion. I’ll be very interested in empirical follow-ups. Perhaps we’ll see more libertarian arguments couched in terms of the progressive and conservative axes. Kling discusses his new book in this recent EconTalk podcast.

5. Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto. Here’s my two-sentence summary:

1. Simple checklists can and do prevent errors in fields like surgery, and they allow us to “outsource” routine processes to lists.
2. Think about contexts in which a checklist might be appropriate ( church set-up, getting ready to leave for work, planning a party, etc) and make a checklist to avoid errors and unnecessary stress.