Book review: A. Gruen, Wider den Gehorsam

Gruen elaborates on the concept of blind obedience. He explains how we identify and sympathize with, and rationalize ourselves as loyal to, the persons who have power over us (or we think they have).

What I learned from the reading was that submission to an authority is often unconscious to us. The obedient tends to sympathize with the powerful instead of opposing him. Hence the structure is self-enforcing.

Many examples Gruen draws from are from the Third Reich. Current political events are only mentioned: Fukushima, refugee crisis, income inequality.

I seem to have a reluctance against psychoanalysis (I did not know Gruen's profession before reading), I currently prefer arguments from evolutionary psychology. That is why I believe that, while on one hand self-alienation might be an important factor and self-reflection might be a way to overcome blind obedience, on the other hand there might be other even more important factors such as group conformity that this book fails to explore.


Book review: J. Klare, Was bin ich wert?

This book (written in German) takes you on a journey to all concepts of (financially) valuing the author's life: value of a statistical life (VSL), human capital, quality adjusted life year (QALY) and many (20 or so) more.

The concepts are presented in an informal, personal way almost without displaying any formula. At the same time, the author makes a point to find an exact number for his very own life. During his research, the authors identifies and explains ethical and methodological problems. For instance, some aspects of the human life such as its dignity can not be measured in money.

Personally, I liked most the approach of the priest in chapter 39, who says (my translation):

You discover your value when you enter into relationships with other people.

At the end of the book, the author averages the values determined by the different concepts. This is not the best estimate in my opinion. A better way would be to sum up the different values.

All in all, a thought-provoking, easy-to-read book which I really enjoyed.


Age of U.S. President Candidates

This is a remake of a chart at reddit 6 months ago. I had an idea back then, but did not work it out and now the discussion is closed.

The data comes from wikipedia, dimdat and NYT.

The graph was created with R, here is the source code.