Tuesday, January 10, 2012



July 12, 2004

1.  Why did Hamilton feel so strongly about promoting mercantilism
(e.g., Is it the "lever of the riches" or an emulation of England)?

2.  How would the government and business environment of the United
differ today if Hamilton had not caught Washington's attention in

3.   Other than the sawbuck, what is the most enduring monument to
Hamilton (e.g., the Fed, the political party, the army)?

4.  What defined Hamilton's consciousness (e.g., outsider who becomes
war hero, Fed Ex deliveryman, workaholic Wall Street lawyer) ?

5.  Was Hamilton the original Democrat or Republican (current parties)?
  Does either party label fit?  Would Dewey, James or Holmes think of
Hamilton as "like-minded"?

6.  Is Ron Chernow a good biographer, and if so what are his weaknesses?

7.  For extra credit, who is the man without qualities in this book?

8. Why was Hamilton silent during the Constitutional Convention
(after his "monarchy" speech)?

9. Why was Hamilton so eager to become Washington's number two
again during the Quasi War with France of 1799?

10. What were some of the principal reasons Hamilton's political
judgment became so poor/sour in his 40's?

11. Was the duel with Burr avoidable/inevitable?

12. Did Burr kill Hamilton on purpose and if so, why?

13. Did Hamilton and Angelica Church make love?  Is the proposition
that they did not because of the close relations among  Alexander, Angelica and
Eliza persuasive?

14.  Would Hamilton be considered one of the important founders based
largely on his role as the key cabinet member under Washington? Without
this role, would he make the cut based on his Revolutionary War exploits
and his role as prime mover of the Federalist Papers? Given Hamilton's
relatively detached involvement at the Constitutional Convention, and
the relatively limited direct impact of the Papers on the ratification
of the Constitution, do you question his achievement with the Papers
(apart from his ability to explain and promote the work of others)?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Discussion Outline for Final Hour by Martin Rees and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright

To:  Book Club
From:  Fred Snow
Re: Book Club-Final Hour by Martin Rees and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright
Date: July 21, 2003

1.  Rees discusses the necessity of  'going slow."  Wright discusses the need to tolerate a "seductive effect."  Joe Tainter, an archeologist, has proposes a model regarding the rise and fall of complex societies (i.e., they don't necessary collapse, such societies return to a "normal" period of less human complexity when investment in complex society reaches a point of declining marginal return).  Are we going there?

2.  Rees discusses the advisability of science policy based an a sort of Pascal model (i.e., even through the probability if the existence of a vengeful God is remote, the price of being wrong keeps us in line).  As a policy matter, should we try to restrict/slow down science even when there is no theory suggesting a catastrophe should occur?  Genetic engineering of food comes to mind as an example.

3.  One of Rees more interesting risks is the risk of becoming less human because we can change the chemistry of our minds?  Should we as a society try to restrict access to therapies which present such a risk?

4.  Rees identifies the risk of global warming as a grave (a combination of high probability mixed with a highly bad result).  Efforts to control global warming have largely failed.  What is the role on nonzero sumness to this risk,  Can society be influenced by nonzero sumness even when the result is unknowable?  Do we adequately evaluate the interests of "others" when we nonzero (e.g., unborn individuals, the environment, other societies).

5.  Is the difference between the Islamic terrorist and western man merely a timing difference (I know this is obscure, just think in terms of the here and now and the afterlife)?

6.  From a writing standpoint, did Rees hold your interest?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lunar Men

Finally finished Lunar Men while on vacation. Can't imagine a less interesting book about some of the most interesting men.