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Friday, September 30, 2022

Review: Amazon Basics Medium Point and Shoot Case

 The worst part of the Ricoh GR3 is how fragile it is. I've had to send it in for a repair nearly every year. One of the damage was caused by my rough handling of the camera when it was in the Black Widow Holster after a hike. I decided then that I needed a more protective case for the camera during the trip. While cycling you don't need a case, since the camera is either in the jersey pocket or in the handlebar bag. But when hiking, it's no big deal to have to unzip a case to get out the camera, so I opted for the cheapest I could find, which is the Amazon Basics Medium Point and Shoot case.

The case fits the GR3 snugly, with an extra pocket for any additional accessories you might need (spare battery, etc) which I didn't use. It's a tight fit, but getting the camera out quickly was never a problem, and putting away the camera doesn't take extra care. I expect to break the zipper sooner or later, but at $10 a case I've already gotten good use out of it.

Modern travelers will probably never go to the trouble of carrying a separate point and shoot camera. I find it's worth it to get good captures of places like the alps, so I'd recommend going to the trouble of getting something like the GR3 and a protective case for hiking around.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Review: A Brief History of Equality

 I really enjoyed Piketty's book on Capital in the 21st Century, so when I heard about his follow up, A Brief History of Equality, I had to check it out from the library and read it. Unlike that other book, this book is a lot shorter. Also, it has a different translator, someone much worse at turning academic prose into readable English, so unlike the former book, this book reads a lot more awkwardly, which is a pity, because the ideas in this book are well worth thinking about.

Piketty in his interview with Ezra Klein calls his book optimistic. I actually had to struggle to see what he meant. For instance, very early on, Piketty acknowledges that the inegalitarian nature of human society has historically only been changed by violent reprisals from the oppressed:

the most fundamental transformations seen in the history of inegalitarian regimes involve social conflicts and large-scale political crises. It was the peasant revolts of 1788–1789 and the events of the French Revolution that led to the abolition of the nobility’s privileges. Similarly, it was not muted discussions in Paris salons but the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue in 1791 that led to the beginning of the end of the Atlantic slavery system...The experiment of Soviet communism (1917–1991), a major event that runs through and to a certain extent defines the twentieth century, perfectly illustrates these two pitfalls. On the one hand, it was in fact power relationships and intense social struggles that allowed the Bolshevik revolutionaries to replace the czarist regime with the first “proletarian state” in history, a state that initially achieved considerable advances in education, public health, and industry, while at the same time making a major contribution to the victory over Nazism. Without the pressure of the Soviet Union and the international communist movement, it is not at all certain that the Western property-owning classes would have accepted Social Security and progressive income taxes, decolonization and civil rights. On the other hand, the sanctification of power relationships and the Bolsheviks’ certainty that they knew the ultimate truth concerning equitable institutions led to the totalitarian disaster we witnessed. The institutional arrangements put in place (a single political party, bureaucratic centralization, hegemonic state property, and a rejection of cooperative property, elections, labor unions, and so on) claimed to be more emancipatory than bourgeois or social-democratic institutions. They led to levels of oppression and imprisonment that completely discredited this regime and ultimately caused its fall, while at the same time contributing to the emergence of a new form of hypercapitalism. That is how, after being in the twentieth century the country that had entirely abolished private property, Russia became at the beginning of the twenty-first century the world capital of the oligarchs, financial opacity, and tax havens. (kindle loc 278)

This is indeed a view of history I'd never heard expressed before --- that the only reason the West actually has a welfare state and reduced inequality was the explicit competition with the communist system and ideas expressed by Russia, which promised a better life than those in the West who lived in a harsh capitalistic system. I will note that by the time FDR took office, capitalism had effectively failed the majority of people living under the system --- the great depression was neither self-correcting nor humane.

I learned many fascinating pieces of history in the book I'd never encountered anywhere else, not least because Piketty with his French background is much more versant with French colonialism than I ever was, and willing to criticize the European past:

According to a rather widespread fairy tale, legal equality has been definitively established in Western countries since the Enlightenment and the “Atlantic revolutions.” In this narrative, the French Revolution and the abolition of aristocratic privileges during the night of August 4, 1789, appear to be foundational events. The reality is obviously more complex. The republics of France and the United States were in essence slaveholding, colonial, and legally discriminatory until the 1960s. The same was true of the British and Dutch monarchies. Almost everywhere, the equality of rights proclaimed at the end of the eighteenth century is above all an equality of White men, and especially of property-owning White men. (kindle loc 1791)

And here, we come to the optimistic part of the book. He explains how Sweden came from a state of inequality to becoming one of the most egalitarian societies in the world:

On the eve of World War I, the concentration of property was just as extreme in Sweden as it was in France or the United Kingdom (see Figure 17), and Sweden was incontestably the European country that had gone furthest in the constitutional and electoral codification of its inequality.14 Then, during the interwar period, the Social Democrats took control of the Swedish government and put their country’s state power in the service of a completely different political project. Instead of using property registers and incomes to distribute the right to vote, they began to use them to make the richest people pay progressively heavier taxes, all in order to finance public services. These services allowed relatively egalitarian (here again, in comparison to other countries) access to health care and education for the whole of the population. This experiment shows how little anything is fixed. People sometimes imagine that there are cultures or civilizations that tend by nature toward equality or inequality: Sweden is supposed to have always been egalitarian, perhaps because of an ancient passion proceeding from the Vikings, whereas India and its castes are eternally inegalitarian, no doubt for reasons just as mystical that proceed from the Aryans. In truth, everything depends on the institutions and rules that each human community gives itself, contingent on power relationships, mobilizations, and social struggles, within unstable trajectories that would merit close examination. (kindle loc 1943)

He then goes on to show how easily we accepted certain premises about how, for instance, public companies are managed. For instance, the German model has workers/employees have an equal stake in the enterprise at the boardroom level. The fact that we only typically imagine the American/British model of shareholder supremacy means that we've had lack of exposure to alternative methods of management:

nothing guarantees that stockholders are more competent to manage an enterprise than a company’s employees, or that they are more invested in its success over the long term. Often, the opposite is true: an investment fund can put capital into an enterprise and withdraw it again in a short period of time, whereas employees generally invest a major part of their lives, their energy, and their skills. In many respects, employees constitute the company’s first long-term investors. If we look at the big picture, we can only be surprised by this persistence of plutocracy in economic matters.  (kindle loc 2034)

He counters the common conservative criticism of government intervention, that government is inefficient. We all too often forget that schools and elementary education was once a largely private affair:

Vast sectors of the economy, starting with education and health care, and to a considerable extent transportation and energy as well, have been organized outside commercial logic, with various systems of public employment, mutualist or nonprofit structures, subsidies and investments financed by tax revenues. Not only has this worked, but it has worked much more efficiently than in the private capitalist sector. Even if some lobbyists in the United States continue to claim the contrary (for obvious reasons, and unfortunately sometimes with a certain efficacy), everyone who cares about facts now knows that public health-care systems on the European model are both less expensive and more efficient, in terms of well-being and life expectancy, than the private companies in the United States.8 In the education sector, hardly anyone is proposing to replace elementary schools, secondary schools, or higher education with corporations governed by the logic of capitalism (kindle loc 2391)

Piketty goes on to dismantle the myth that nobody ever paid the 90% marginal tax rate introduced by FDR as part of the new deal:

 What were the real economic effects of fiscal progressivity? Here we must put an end to a widely accepted notion, that the highest tax rates were never applied to anyone and had no substantial effect. It is true that the 70 percent or 80 percent tax rates affected only a small minority, generally the richest 1 percent (or even 0.1 percent).16 But the fact is that at the beginning of the twentieth century, the distribution of incomes and especially of properties was extremely concentrated: the richest 1 percent held more than half the total wealth in France, and almost two-thirds in the United Kingdom. The richest .01 percent held more than a quarter of the wealth in France, and more than a third in the United Kingdom. If we exclude housing and focus on the ownership of the means of production, the concentration appears even greater. In other words, even if the 70 and 80 percent tax rates concerned only the top hundredth or thousandth, these very restricted groups had considerable weight in the inegalitarian regime that characterized the property-owning societies of the Belle Époque. (kindle loc 2497)

 He notes also that there is no evidence that innovation or productivity is hurt by highly progressive tax rates:

 the rise in power of strongly progressive taxation seems in no way to have discouraged innovation or productivity. In the United States, the national income per inhabitant rose at a rate of 1.8 percent per annum between 1870 and 1910 without an income tax, and then at 2.1 percent between 1910 and 1950 after its introduction, and at a rate of 2.2 percent between 1950 and 1990, when the top tax rate reached, on average, 72 percent. The top rate was then cut in half, with the announced objective of boosting growth. But in fact, growth fell by half, reaching 1.1 percent per annum between 1990 and 2020 (see Figure 23). Beyond a certain level of inequality, repeatedly increasing differences in income and wealth has clearly had no positive effect on economic dynamism. (kindle loc 2560)

He further points out that the increased disparity in how much private companies with excess profits can pay versus what government can pay also makes it harder to attract people to government:

If capitalist enterprises in the information technology sector pay extravagant remunerations in order to poach almost all the most expert computer scientists on the market, that can seriously complicate the task of the public agencies entrusted with regulating them (unless they choose to encourage the race toward ever greater differences in pay). The same holds true in finance or law. The fact that salaries have been reduced to a scale of one to five and no longer one to twenty, or even one to a hundred, is not only a matter of distributive justice. It is also a matter of efficiency for public regulation, and it contributes to the construction of alternative modes of economic organization. (kindle loc 2937)

All this is to say that a strongly progressive tax rate is a big deal, and helps much more than it can hurt. The last part of the book proposes many ideas, some of which are very radical but interesting to contemplate. For instance, you could tax wealth estates to redistribute the wealth more equally:

 With the parameters used here, those who currently inherit nothing (approximately, the poorest 50 percent) would receive 120,000 euros, while those who inherit a million euros (which corresponds to the average inheritance received by the richest 10 percent, with enormous disparities) would receive 600,000 euros after taxes and endowment. We see that we are still very far from equality of opportunity, a principle often defended at an abstract and theoretical level, but one which the privileged classes fear like the plague as soon as any concrete application is envisaged. In theory, it would be completely possible (and in my opinion, desirable) to increase much further the redistribution of inherited wealth. It will be noted that the proposed system of financing is based on tax scales similar to those that were already used during the twentieth century, with rates ranging from a few percentage points for assets and income lower than average to 80–90 percent for the highest assets and income. (kindle loc 3030)

The book points out that the current state of the world excessively benefits capital and investment, rather than people who cannot as easily flow across borders untaxed. The results are that people do not trust globalization: 

The heart of the new rules is the free circulation of capital, without any compensation in the form of regulation or common taxation. In sum, states have instituted a legal system in which economic actors have won a quasi-sacred right to enrich themselves by using a country’s public infrastructures and social institutions (such as the educational and health-care systems), and then, with the stroke of a pen or the click of a mouse, to move their assets to another jurisdiction, without any arrangement to follow the wealth in question and to tax it in a way that is fair and coherent with the rest of the tax system. This is, de facto, a new form of censitary power, in the sense that the states that have signed such treaties can, from the moment that they refuse to reconsider the commitments made by earlier governments, wind up explaining in all sincerity to their people that it is strictly impossible to tax the first beneficiaries of international integration (billionaires, multinationals, those with high incomes), and that consequently they must turn once again to taxpayers in the lower and middle classes who have had the good taste to remain quietly where they were. The logic claims to be unanswerable. The reaction of the classes that don’t move their assets around is just as unanswerable: all this leads to a feeling of abandonment and a hatred of globalization (kindle loc 3137)

The scope of the book is incredible. He covers education as well, attacking legacy admissions, and asking the question of why private universities that benefit from being tax-advantaged then have the luxury of hiding their admissions policy behind vague assertions, and allowing legacy admissions, to the point where faculty and academics in those institutions see nothing wrong with the approach:

Although these universities have benefited from multiple sources of governmental financing, they have succeeded in convincing powerful political figures that it is normal to let them do as they please with their admissions algorithms, including giving priority for admission to “legacy students” (that is, the children of alumni or rich donors). In other words, not only do fabulously high tuition fees put the best universities out of reach for the least well-off students (unless they have exceptional grades granting them access to scholarships), but the richest parents can pay a kind of supplement to make up for their offspring’s insufficient grades. Universities explain that the rate of legacy admissions is minimal, even as they deny access to this information and to the formulas used to assess grades and donations...It is striking to see the number of academics in the United States who have become used to this reality: after all, if it provides supplementary funds from generous billionaires who want to have their offspring admitted, why not? It would be simpler, however, to make them pay the same amount in the form of taxes intended to finance education for all, and principally those most disadvantaged (and not the contrary). In any event, these delicate questions should be decided democratically, after transparent discussion of the pros and cons, and not in the smoke-filled rooms of governing boards dominated by donors. (kindle loc 3337-3350)

Ultimately, Piketty expresses hope that because all these deficiencies and inequitable outcomes are a result of human systems and history, he thinks that they can change. In particular, he believes that the West in response to a new competing political system in the form of China, will have to change to become more equitable just as competition with Russia led to the modern welfare state. This is the part of the book I don't buy, since as he stated early in the book, it usually takes violent revolution to get the rich to agree to part with even a tiny bit of their wealth in order to preserve their heads. The result after all that might be a more equitable and moral society (and maybe one capable of tackling climate change --- though there is no guarantee --- Piketty himself provides many examples of historical instances where the result of a violent revolution was an even more corrupt and inequitable set of institutions), but having to live through that period of history can't possibly be comfortable.

In any case, the quality of the ideas in the book make it well worth wading through the frequently turgid prose that the translator failed to alleviate. You should read this book. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Review: Granite Gear Tyre Levers

 I picked up Granite Talon Tyre Levers because 11 speed chains are so tight fitting that I can no longer just undo the chain master links with my hands. These are the cheapest I can find, and much cheaper than the Wolf-Tooth 8-Bit Pack Pliers, which look really cool but I cannot justify a $70 tool. The Pack Pliers by wolf-tooth are $33, more than twice the price!

I never used the tyre levers as tyre levers because I also carried my favorite VAR tyre levers during the tour. However, when I discovered that TSA had lost one of my derailleur cables I used the chain pliers to remove the chain so I could remove the front derailleur, and that worked great, both for taknig off the chain and putting it back on. The tool also cleverly has a place to store a spare set of master-links, which is handy.

The tool works great, and I think it's definitely well worth the extra weight. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Review: GoPro Hero 8

 Xiaoqin wanted a GoPro Hero 8 for the tour in the hopes of capturing good video. The GoPro Hero 8 had good reviews and was somewhat reasonably priced, and the bike mount for it was also easy to get and use. What was astonishing to me, however, was how easy it is to lose the little pieces associated with the GoPro. For instance, the screw on the bike mount got lost early on during the trip, and we couldn't find a replacement anywhere until I had the idea to buy it from and ship it to a hotel we had reservations for.

Similarly, we lost the battery cover for the GoPro pretty early on, and it's nearly impossible to get a replacement! All the replacements we found on Amazon were not waterproof, leaving a port open for the USB-C charging port. I guess the main reason people lost the cover was because you have to remove it to charge, and hence the standard replacement eliminates the need to remove the cover for charging. Fortunately, if you want to swim or dive with the GoPro, you simply would buy a cheap waterproof case for it.

In practice, the video captured is very good, as are the sounds captured. However, the biggest problem with video is that you have no idea what's going to be good coming up, so the best bet is to just turn it on and keep it running. Here, the GoPro has several issues. The worst of it is that there's no indication as to whether the unit is recording. When you start it, there's a period of time when it would show the video being captured, but after a while the screen turns off and it's very easy to forget whether or not you have it on. It would be nice if there was a blinking LED to indicate on or off. Similarly, the Hero would bounce and get jerked around and I'll discover after we got home lots of footage of the front wheel spinning against the ground.

Finally, to my mind the biggest issue with capturing video is the amount of effort to be spent editing it. Editing video is mind-numbingly boring, and I could not bring myself to do much of it.

All in all, I think that photos are worth the effort, but you'd have to be a more better videographer than I am to produce good video after something like the tour of the alps. The footage when it is good is good, but there's too much of it for me to be happy to spend time editing. I think bike tours just aren't made for this sort of stuff.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Review: Walkable City

 Walkable City is a book written by a city planner about how to make a city walkable. He has laudable goals but hides an anti-cycling agenda amongst his many platitudes which destroyed his credibility for me. I wanted to like the book. It points out the many penalties of the American lifestyle, where you sit in a car to go anywhere, and end up paying more for cars, paying in increased obesity, increased traffic fatalities, and time spent sitting in traffic. He points out (rightly) that electric cars don't solve the problem --- they might be environmentally less destructive, but you're still stuck sitting in a car.

He even confirms one of my favorite swear phrases, "DLTE" (Dummy Lamb Traffic Engineer), providing lots of ammunition:

While all traffic engineers can be trouble, state engineers are the toughest because they have no obligation to listen to a local mayor or citizens. They answer to a higher authority, which is ultimately the god Traffic Flow. They will typically claim a concern for walkability and “context-sensitive design,” but everything is still viewed through the lens of “level of service,” and level of service means smooth flow. Incidentally, state DOTs are also a huge source of work for planning consultants, which is a big reason why few planners are willing to stand up to them...It seems a bit unfair to blame the city engineer for this situation. Because most of the public complaints one hears in cities are about traffic, it stands to reason that any good public servant would work to reduce traffic congestion. This would be acceptable if efforts to reduce traffic congestion didn’t wreck cities and perhaps also if they worked. But they don’t work, because of induced demand. Most city engineers don’t understand induced demand. They might say that they do, but, if so, they don’t act upon that understanding. I say this because it would seem that almost no traffic engineers in America possess the necessary combination of insight and political will that would allow them to take the induced demand discussion to its logical conclusion, which is this: Stop doing traffic studies. Stop trying to improve flow. Stop spending people’s tax dollars giving them false hope that you can cure congestion, while mutilating their cities in the process. I understand that it might be difficult to tell the public that you can’t satisfy their biggest complaint. (pg 88-89)

For all that, he claims to be realistic, that most American cities don't have sufficient population density to support more than a couple of blocks of walkable downtown. Compound that with city zoning codes that require parking to be built and we end up with the shape of modern American cities today. He also points out that the familiar story of conspiracies of businesses tearing out street cars in order to switch to buses and private car had a very willing accomplice --- the American public:

In 1902, every U.S. city with a population of ten thousand or more had its own streetcar system.5 At midcentury, Los Angeles was served by more than a thousand electric trolleys a day.6 These were torn out in a vast criminal conspiracy that is as well documented● as it was inevitable. It’s easy to get mad at General Motors and forget that, at the time, most cities and citizens delighted over the change from old-fashioned streetcars to streamlined buses. The real transition, of course, was from dependence on a public system to liberation via the private automobile, albeit subsidized formidably with public dollars. We trashed our trains because we wanted to and nobody said we couldn’t. (pg. 141)

 So if you can't achieve the kind of density you routinely see in European cities, why not encourage cycling? Here, Speck buys completely into what John Forester calls the cycling inferiority complex. He claims that cycling in traffic is too difficult and challenging for normal humans to master. So cyclists must be protected by bike paths and bike lanes (bike lanes are insane --- paint can't protect you!). But he gives the "Naked Streets" movement a pass:

Naked streets refers to the concept of stripping a roadway of its signage—all of it, including stop signs, signals, and even stripes. Far from creating mayhem, this approach appears to have lowered crash rates wherever it has been tried. Following Monderman’s advice, the Danish town of Christiansfeld removed all signs and signals from its main intersection, and watched the number of serious accidents each year fall from three to zero. (pg. 176)

So somehow naked streets are great for walking, but not for cycling?!! Worse, his claim that cyclists can't be educated to interact with traffic properly doesn't jibe with what anyone with eyes can observe for himself/herself in European cities. I've watched Italian grandmothers get on their bike and ride into a busy traffic circle at rush hour, in traffic that would make many League of American Bicyclist cycling instructors cower. But somehow the author visited many European cities and never saw the same thing.

I learned many things, such as why zoning was invented (it's not completely evil --- it's to make sure that factories and pollution spewing power plants can't be built next to residential areas). I learned many things about how to make even parking structures work alongside a walking-friendly city. I learned how if you build a house, it's far better to have a sitting-height wall than a full size wall:

 When we built our house, I put a sitting-height wall on both sides, and a prominent sidewalk-hugging bench by the front door. You would be surprised how often someone sits there. Never mind that on occasion that person is a homeless crack-smoking schizophrenic … it was the right thing to do. (pg. 241)

Good luck convincing anyone to do that now that he's admitted that crack-smoking schizophrenics would camp out on your front door.

When I was in my 20s I thought I hated cities. Now that I'm better travelled, I've realized that I don't hate cities. I hate American cities. This book articulates many of the reasons why and many of the culprits. But its amazing hostility towards vehicular cycling and unwillingness to embrace cycling as even a potential solution to problems facing the American city made me frown with discuss over many of the treatment in this book. The book was written before ebikes. With ebikes in the picture even his objections are pretty dumb. Read this book if you must. But keep in mind that it's a non-cyclist prescribing how cyclists should behave, which is suspicious and patronizing.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Review: Walz Technical Cycling Cap

 Cycling caps are under-rated for cycling. Most people don't know the difference between a cycling cap and a baseball cap, because they look so similar. Cycling caps are made of much lighter material, and the bill is specifically designed to be used in two positions: flipped up, so you can get a better view, and flipped down, so that rain doesn't get into your eyes or glasses, or to shade your eyes. On long climbs in Europe, I don't wear a helmet, I wear a cycling cap. The cap wicks sweat out into the bill, and on a hot climb when you're sweating heavily, the sweat drips off the brim of the cap instead of running into your eyes.

There are people who wear cycling caps under their helmets, but I never did so... until I found the Walz technical cycling cap. Unlike the traditional cycling cap which is typically cotton, these are made out of the same technical material that makes up cycling jerseys. This means that they dry even faster than the traditional cycling cap, and are lighter as well.  They also fit better than the cotton ones, because the elastic doesn't need to be as strong because compensating for technical fabric is easier than compensating for the stretch cotton eventually gets with time. They wash easily, and because the material is lighter, fits well enough under a helmet that for the first time, I did a tour without carrying sweatbands, relying on my cap to wick sweat away.

They're comfortable, lightweight, and keep the rain out as well. Their only drawback is that they're costly. But I bought two.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Review: The Economics of Discontent

 I don't remember how The Economics of Discontent made its way into my Kindle, but given that it's currently free on Amazon as of this writing, I'm guessing I picked it up as some sort of freebie.

I started reading it and discovered that it makes a lot of sense, and explains much of today's political landscapes:

Electoral successes kept coming, each one making these majorities seem less foolish, or at least less lonely. It has become harder to isolate the populist parties. Time and time again these electoral gains have been dutifully explained away as flukes, the results of unique circumstance. But if all the boats are rising at once, it must be that the tide is coming in. The dissenters voting for these parties are the losers of globalization: younger, poorer, less educated. Blue-collar voters indeed tend to vote either for strong redistribution – the far left – or for suppression of immigration – the far right. (loc 387)

It's one thing to report on what's obviously been happening in the last few elections, but Jean-Michel Paul has cogent and relative explanations, tying together quantitative easing to  how disinvestment in education, increasing unskilled immigration, and reduced investment in societal infrastructure in Western countries led directly to the current state of political affairs. Even better, Jean-Michel Paul has an international perspective, teaching me that it's not just the US that have faced these problems in recent years:

The same phenomena can be observed even in Sweden, where the portion of GDP going to wages is now the same or lower, depending on whether or not one accounts for capital amortization, than it was in the ’70s. Not surprisingly, the drop is more pronounced in manufacturing, which is more susceptible to competition from lower wage countries’ imports than local services. In Sweden, the share of wages going to high-skill workers is growing, leaving less for their low- and medium-skill counterparts (Sanandaji, 2013). (kindle loc 644)

 Paul makes the good point that when extreme inequality happens, property rights and private property can suddenly be taken away through revolution or even more or less peaceful change. He tells a very personal story:

My family worked in the Belgian Congo in the ’50s and ’60s. It genuinely thought, and indeed most probably did, help develop the country. It worked hard and generated some savings that it invested in a magnificent local property in Kinshasa. But somewhere in the process, along with all the other colonists, it lost track of the fact that the wealth generated was not sufficiently shared, that it may have been partly the product of their hard work but also of the country and its population at large, that a new local elite was not progressively trained and handed power to as it should have been. Popular resentment among the local population understandably grew in face of the lack of progress and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a privileged caste with little desire for change*. When this beautiful country finally became independent, it was ill-prepared, and events took a drastic turn. My family’s property was nationalized and their life savings lost. Along with so many other formerly privileged, they returned to Europe with nothing to show for their years of toil, unable to comprehend what had gone so badly wrong. History is full of similar short-sighted ruling classes that failed to understand the social contract that guaranteed their property. (kindle loc 899)

 Paul does not do what many neo-liberal or liberal commentators do, which is to dismiss the concerns of the working class over lower-skilled immigrants:

Migrants accounted for 47 percent and 70 percent of workforce growth in the U.S. and Europe, respectively, over the last 10 years. But, in Europe, only 14 percent of the increase in the high-skilled workforce came from immigration. That is, while the high-skilled have benefited, the low- and medium-skilled population has had its earnings ability capped, or even lowered, because of greater external and internal competition (Elias Naumann) (OECD). The locally established low skill population rightly recognizes the new entrants as competitors. Their economic prospects will be negatively affected on the one hand, while on the other, resources dispensed through the state from which they benefit will have to be shared among more people. Indeed, a majority of those opposed to immigration are in fact in favor of high skill immigration. This makes sense as the new high skill immigrants are expected to be net contributors and thus not an economic drag or competitor for the lower skill native population (Gallup) (PEW)...Western societies have to make a painful moral choice. They can continue to provide an internal safety net for all inhabitants by rejecting low skill migrants and enforcing deportation. Or they can accept there will be two classes of citizens that will be treated very differently and fundamentally renounce the universality of social protection and basic public services. This is a choice that states should have made clear to their electorates long ago but have preferred to ignore as elites have racked up the short-term gains of an unsustainable status quo. Ignorance cannot remain bliss forever, and the choice is only becoming harder the longer it is deferred. GLOBAL TRADE Globalization and trade liberalization were supposed to make us all better off through the mechanism of trickle-down economics. (kindle loc 1583-1639)

He also points out that the global economy and globalization (outsourcing) is a political decision, driven by tarriffs, rather than a result of improved technology reducing transport costs:

Western societies have to make a painful moral choice. They can continue to provide an internal safety net for all inhabitants by rejecting low skill migrants and enforcing deportation. Or they can accept there will be two classes of citizens that will be treated very differently and fundamentally renounce the universality of social protection and basic public services. This is a choice that states should have made clear to their electorates long ago but have preferred to ignore as elites have racked up the short-term gains of an unsustainable status quo. Ignorance cannot remain bliss forever, and the choice is only becoming harder the longer it is deferred. GLOBAL TRADE Globalization and trade liberalization were supposed to make us all better off through the mechanism of trickle-down economics...The authors found strong correlations across U.S. regions between increased exposure to Chinese imports and lower employment, labor participation, and wages. They estimated that a sustained increase of $1,000 in imports per worker resulted in a $500 reduction in effective annual wages per working age adult and an increase in government benefit spending of over $50 (kindle loc 1666-1689)

He gives a cogent argument about how the EU and Euro zone is actually much worse positioned to absorb this kind of shock than the USA, where the blue states seem happy to subsidize red states by huge amounts of transfers through the federal government almost indefinitely. 

The solutions that Paul proposes are fairly straightforward, but unfortunately probably impossible to adopt:

Illegal immigrants should be treated with basic human decency. At the same time, Western majorities have rendered their judgment on illegal migration at the ballot box: They need to be forcibly repatriated to either their last point of embarkation, or their country of origin if it can be determined...A system that legitimizes and gives access to illegal immigrants is fundamentally unfair to legal immigrants and to the most vulnerable members of Western countries, who will face unfair wage competition, reduced public service access, and a smaller slice of the social spending pie. It is ultimately unsustainable...Western leaders are paying the price for ignoring how globalization imposed costs on the middle class and pain on those with lower skill levels. The answer isn’t trade isolationism but smarter policies to correct these imbalances. In particular, preference should be given to free trade with countries that have similar income levels and do not run systematic current account surpluses. (kindle loc 4019-4098)

He also has similar proposals regarding houses that are bought and then left empty, as happens in a lot of places like Vancouver and San Francisco, as well as increasing investment in education and public infrastructure. But he proposes no plan for any established parties to adopt such a movement. 

The book is full of data, references, and cogently thought out arguments. It was very much worth my time. I recommend reading it.