The art of war, 80's paranoia, free trade, and more

The art of war, 80's paranoia, free trade, and more


The renowned economist Dambisa Moyo has made a name for herself by tackling difficult problems head on and coming up with unconventional solutions. She has looked at the troubled history of development aid, the economic rise of China, and the global struggle over resource control. In our incisive interview with her, which you can read here, she diagnoses the financial and monetary issues plaguing the world today and outlines the threat they pose to our most cherished political institutions.


This classic text on strategy by the 6th Century BCE Chinese military thinker Sun Tzu influenced generations of China’s emperors in their conduct of war, emphasizing planning, preparedness, and focus as the only possible path to victory — in itself never certain. The book has enjoyed a massive afterlife in the modern world, becoming popular as a businessman’s vademecum, a manual for better living, even (shudder) a dating handbook. But for all its emphasis on a brutal reckoning with the reality of war, the book itself treats war as something of a last resort rather than a first: a philosophy we wish more leaders in today’s world adopted.


This nightmarish depiction of a world brought to the brink of nuclear holocaust by inhumane AI and a gifted but naive hacker is most famous for a line delivered by the computer tasked with handling U.S. nuclear deterrence efforts: “The only winning move is not to play.” It’s a period gem from John Badham — directors of the late 70’s classic Saturday Night Fever — but it does capture, with real prescience, our contemporary anxiety about tech unmoored from humanity and systems that take on a perverse life of their own.


ON THIS DAY IN 1772 . . .

The great economist David Ricardo was born. Ricardo, an early proponent of free trade and a convinced enemy of the political protection of national economies, is one of the economists whose ahead-of-its-time thought had proved most crucial to the development of the global economy over the 20th and 21st centuries. The London-born son of a stockbroker, Ricardo made a fortune — the equivalent of 120 million — in his early forties, evidence that he understood the practical side of economics as well as its abstract underpinnings. His theory of comparative advantage remains a crucial one in modern economics, and his devotion to a free and open global economy puts him among good company.