As we end 2015, we’re going to begin a new tradition on this blog. Periodically, I’ll be publishing a reading list of things that people are talking about that deserve your attention. I will try, to the best of my ability, to curate it against bias, but I’m only human, so take it with a grain of salt.
So in fewer words, we don’t recommend you begin 2016 until you’ve read this best-of list for 2015.
Best wishes for the New Year.
The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic by Amanda Gefter
Gefter tells the story of Walter Pitts and the community of wunderkind scientists whose efforts to map the human brain in the 1940s inadvertently supplied the framework for modern computing. This will be a Hollywood movie, I guarantee it.
The Peril to Democrats of Left Leaning Urban Centers by Joel Kotkin
Though relatively unknown to most news junkies, pundit Joel Kotkin is a favorite among public policy professionals because of his ability to build compelling arguments from boring demographic data.
In his essay, “The Peril to Democrats of Left Leaning Urban Centers,” Kotkin posits a fascinating framework to explain the rise of progressive-style liberalism in big city politics and offers a word of caution to those who pin their political fortunes on it.
Trump vs. The Modern Political Campaign by Benjamin Wallace-Wells
Donald Trump’s bid for the Presidency may be the biggest news story of 2015, leaving political experts at a loss to explain his meteoric rise. Wallace-Wells’ essay looks at the constitution of his campaign organization for answers, and reaches fascinating conclusions about Trump’s unexplored advantages as a candidate who has no regard for his political future or that of his party.
Mizzou, Yale, and Free Speech by Nicholas Kristof
The issues of race, identity, and free speech have perhaps been second only to Donald Trump in the 2015 news cycle. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof takes on these issues in tandem in his extremely thoughtful and bottomlessly fair essay below.
The Middle Class Squeeze by Charles Moore
“Wealth Inequality” is the boogeyman of the media class. But what exactly is it? And how do you fix it?
Rather than shooting at easy targets like corporate largesse or a global conspiracy of elites, Moore looks into the underlying sickness that has caused inequality and offers original insights into how we might heal the patient.
The United States Doesn’t Spend Enough on It’s Military by Reihan Salam
To build his case for a larger military, Salam takes inventory of the current world order, unpacking the state of play (and risk) on all seven continents with simplicity and ease that will make all readers feel like experts on big time geopolitics by its end. Whether or not you agree with his conclusion is unimportant – you should read his essay just because it’s the best primer on world affairs out there.
How I Helped Todd Aiken Win, So I Could Beat Him by Senator Claire McCaskill
In 2012, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) was given about a 0 percent chance of re-election in a state that had turned deep red in the years since Obama’s presidency. This is her own account of the extremely unorthodox technique she used to secure re-election – namely, by using her own campaign funds to make sure the worst possible Republican was her opponent: the now infamous Rep. Todd Aiken.
The Republican Structural Advantage by Thomas Shaller
In this scathing essay, Shaller evaluates an under-reported trend in American politics: the huge advantage Republicans have gained in state and local government. No understanding of politics in 2015 would be complete without this article, which, we should say, isn’t very friendly to Republicans.
The Global Battle for Oil Market Share by Daniel Yergin
The Pulitzer Prize winning scholar who invented the concept of “Peak Oil” doesn’t disappointed as he unpacks the consequences of today’s cheap oil – an unexpected change of course in 2015 that has enormous geopolitical consequences in Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East.