Monday, April 25, 2011

Patel - the Value of Nothing

Pickings were slim at the airport today. There were the usual Friedman/Tipping Point style books, but I'd rather read the dictionary than another of those. Raj Patel's "The Value of Nothing", an examination of externalities from a neo-Marxist perspective, looked at least novel.

I got something out of the book. I now know that while I'm a filthie commie Rationalist by GOP standards, I'm a long way from people like Klein, Patel, and others of the Hard Left. We have substantial agreement on ends, but their means read like a recipe for flail. Not coincidentally I feel the same way about Marx - sympathy for the ends, no value to the means.

I also found an unattributed quote in the 2009 book, inserted as though Patel wrote it ...

There are two novels that can transform a bookish fourteen year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.

In March 2009 John Rogers, in his blog Kung Fu Monkey, [1] wrote:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

I hope this is a mistake, but although it's been noted elsewhere the error has never been corrected.

Reading Patel, I'm reminded that the Hard Left shares some of my thoughts on emergent corporate entities. I will claim a significant distinction however. Patel and his kin see these emergent entities as rapacious and destructive. I see them as powerful but simple minded, with interests that usually align with civilization and sometimes even with "the weak". They are humungous beasts that walk the "realer than real" world of Finance, but they are not predators. They are coopetitors with humans -- and there's a chance that we can steer them ...

Update and [1]: When I first wrote this I was puzzled by attributions to John Rogers, when Kung Fu Monkey was the only source I could find. John Rogers contributes to KFM and wrote the original quote. So it should be attributed to John. Thanks to an Anonymous comment for the clarification. I really should have figured this out on my own!

Update 4/28/11: Good news on the citation. Patel noted the mistake a year ago and posted on it. Thanks Nick for the comment.


Anonymous said...

Your paragraph is ambiguous about this, but John Rogers is the blogger behind Kung Fu Monkey.

JGF said...

Duh! I should have figured that one out on my own. I've updated the post with the clarification.

Nick said...

Note on Raj's blog:

JGF said...

Thanks Nick, I'll add that to my post.