Saw Collaborators at the National Theatre, about a fictionalized Mikhail Bulgakov (author of The Master and Margarita) forced to write a hagiographical play about the early life of Josef Stalin. The play blurs boundaries as Bulgakov imagines Stalin writing the play himself, while Bulgakov does Stalin's paperwork: you're never quite sure what's real.
The play's deservedly got great reviews: it's very funny in places, and has good performances. Simon Russell Beale does his usual great job as a jocular yet menacing Stalin. Alex Jennings plays Bulgakov very well as he gradually starts to sympathize with the dictator.
Overall, excellent play, well worth seeing.
What I'm Watching
Saw The Trouble With Harry on DVD. 1955 Hitchcock comedy. The discovery of a body causes a cascade of events as different people believe themselves responsible.
Not bad, though some of the farce elements are pretty dated. I think it probably comes across as a lot lighter now as the black comedy where nobody particularly cares about the death isn't so shocking.
What I'm Watching 2 Saw the Confessions from the Underground Channel 4 documentary. Quite interesting. Does look like they've decided to trade away some safety in order to increase the service, but in general I think I'm in favour of that.
Went up to Hampstead Heath in the snow on Sunday, was pretty jammed with people.
Lots of pics.
Socioeconomics. Graph of US poverty by age. Seven things I learned about transition from Communism
Fifth, economists have greatly exaggerated the benefits of incentives by themselves, without changes in people. Economic theory of socialism has put way too much weight on incentives, and way too little on human capital. Winners in the communist system turned out not to be so good in a market economy. Transition to markets is accomplished by new people, not by old people with better incentives. I realised this and wrote about it in the mid-1990s, but the lesson both in firms and in politics in profound: you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, even with incentives.Sci/Tech. The price of your soul: neural evidence for the non-utilitarian representation of sacred values. Prize for tricorder invention, via.
Conversely, I would argue that the quality of governance in the US tends to be low precisely because of a continuing tradition of Jacksonian populism. Americans with their democratic roots generally do not trust elite bureaucrats to the extent that the French, Germans, British, or Japanese have in years past. This distrust leads to micromanagement by Congress through proliferating rules and complex, self-contradictory legislative mandates which make poor quality governance a self-fulfilling prophecy. The US is thus caught in a low-level equilibrium trap, in which a hobbled bureaucracy validates everyone�s view that the government can�t do anything competently.
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