Monday’s Equality Lessens

An Address on Liberty (Deirdre McCloskey)

As usual, insightful and educational.

Much of our life is governed neither by the government’s laws or by solely individual fancies, but by
following or resisting or riding spontaneous orders.

The speech also references Harrison Bergeron, the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (published in 1961), which NOL treated few years ago. I have to admit, I only knew the author’s name and no more. The opening is quite something:

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

This absurd world drips vitriol, though the target is debatable: Most see a parody of socialistic/ communistic principles, though others think that the irony was intended to the (Cold War) US perception of those principles. Also: What’s this thing with dystopias and April?

Vonnegut is the second-in-a-row author from that era that I added to my list, after the recent discovery of Frederik Pohl (just acquired The Space Merchants, written with Cyril M. Kornbluth, in a decadent 90s Greek version).

(H/T to Cafe Hayek for the McCloskey link, and Skyclad for the title word play).

Book list triple threat

Neither new books, nor in any particular order. Hell, did not even read them all in 2021.


  • Mistborn trilogy – Gripping enough, long slog, well-thought magic system. (Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Alloy of Law, a sequel that became the 1st part of another Mistborn trilogy. Gritty steampunk setting, the mix & match of magic powers didn’t do it for me. Meh. (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Reckoners trilogy – Almost fine for YA. Forgettable. (Brandon Sanderson)
  • Earthsea Quartet – Rich and beautiful, seems a bit dated or familiar, since it set standards encountered in later works in the genre. (Ursula Le Guin)
  • Farseer trilogy – Intricate world building, the 1st person POV suits. Curiously, the 2nd book is the best of the series. (Robin Hobb)

Prose-wise, Le Guin and Hobb lead by a wide margin vs Sanderson. The two also go beyond the usual hack-n-slash and shed light to the more mundane labors of daily life in a largely medieval world. A documentary on castles/ forests/ ports could certainly use a few of Hobb’s descriptions and terms.

  • The Lacquer Screen – A detective novel set in Imperial China, of a particular subgenre called gong’an. I enjoyed the ambience of Tang period, while the whole read is quite old-fashioned. (Robert van Gulik)

Comic Books

  • Watchmen – Superb. (Moore/ Gibbons)
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – I expected to like it more, I think. (Miller)
  • Blacksad (#1-5, integrated version) – Sublime artwork, storylines good but uneven. I had already read #1-3 some 15 years ago. (Canales/ Guarnido)

On the pile

  • The dispossessed (Ursula Le Guin)
  • Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  • Ship of Magic (Robin Hobb)
  • Superman: Red Son (Millar/ Johnson/ Robinson/ Wong/ Plunkett)
  • Batman: White Knight (Murphy)

And a sole non-fiction entrant to the pile:

  • The Body: A Guide for Occupants (Bill Bryson)


  1. The colonial contradictions of Albert Camus Oliver Gloag, Jacobin
  2. The making of the modern Right (oligarch’s revenge) Manisha Sinha, Nation
  3. On being eaten Lesley Evans Ogden, Aeon
  4. Eternal hospital Hao Jingfang, Noema