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Jim Jones' surviving sons, former followers remember the victims "I think it's criminal that we know so much about Jim Jones. What about these other people? They were just the best people," former Peoples Temple World reacts to deaths of hundreds in Jonestown massacre "I wanted to know why.
Why did Jim Jones do this? Why did my wife die? Why did my mother die? Why did my friends die? Leader Jim Jones, hundreds of followers die in mass murder-suicide Jones and others died after being poisoned with cyanide in syringes or ingested with a powdered soft drink, shot or stabbed. Survivors recall shooting that killed congressman, journalists. What happened the last night before the massacre at Jonestown Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown, where he met with members of the Peoples Temple, and on the day of the massacre, he was attacked by a man with Jim Jones sets up Jonestown compound in Guyana In , about 50 of Jones' followers left California to help him build his "utopia" vision deep in the jungles of the South American country.
Ex-members claim Jim Jones practiced faux suicides. Jim Jones was 'a predator,' ex-members allege Former Peoples Temple members said Jones became extreme, manipulating his congregants with blackmail and administering humiliating beatings to those How Jim Jones rose to power within his Peoples Temple Jones promoted social justice, racial and class equality and desegregation.
But some of his former followers said he paid lip service to those ideas Who was the Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones? Captivated by the charismatic style of Pentecostal and Methodist preachers, Jones became a preacher himself and founded his ministry, the Peoples Federal prosecutors seeking rare death penalty for NYC terror attack suspect The last time the death penalty was used in a New York federal case was in The US should emulate a different country.
I think that the US should learn from Germany. I think of Germany as the country that has done the best job of nurturing its communities of engineering practice. For decades, or maybe centuries, Germany has engaged in industrial deepening.
I was there earlier this year to study its excellence in industry. Today, German companies remain leaders in many segments of industrial technologies. Germany and the rest of Europe seem to have missed the bus to the digital age. Germany and the US have different strengths. The former is good at industry, the latter is good at information technology. But I find it odd that each is poor at what the other is good at. Both the US and Germany have experienced disappointing growth over the last few decades; I can identify incriminating data points for each country.
It seems like people have mostly given up on the idea of generating wealth by doing new things. As that share falls, I wonder how that affects the mindset of legislators, who anticipate diminishing responsibility for allocating funds.
In absolute terms, the budget they control is still enormous. But I suspect that it takes away the initiative of US politicians: If legislators no longer have room to identify new initiatives for spending, what is there to do except find new things to ban, and then argue with the other side?
The US and Germany are innovative in different ways, and they each have big flaws. I hope they fix these flaws. I believe that we can have a country in which wealth is primarily created by new economic activity, instead of by inheritance; which builds new housing stock, instead of permitting current residents to veto construction; which has a government willing to think hard about new projects that it should initiate, instead of letting the budget run on autopilot.
Development is the only hard truth or, the social consequences of economic growth. Acceptance of low economic growth is the hidden premise in most commentary that I read.
I consider it to be the deepest bias in American and European intellectual society today: And I find no theme more radical and refreshing than generalized frustration that economic growth is way too low. That expectation increases risk appetites for both companies and individuals: All of this is on top of the fact that higher growth improves our capabilities to deal with various problems.
I think that these principles are clear to companies in Silicon Valley, where executives make decisions based on their expected position in six months rather than their current position. I suspect that a history of growth also has positive effects on government policies. It encourages the government to engage in long-term planning, because legislators have seen things get better and expect greater room for maneuver.
The countries with low growth will continue to stagnate, because economic rigidity is self-reinforcing; the countries with high growth will continue to grow, because dynamism is self-reinforcing.
The latter will have optimistic people, while the former have settled into complacency. Dystopian science fiction is the natural outcome of stagnant growth; no wonder so much of the science fiction published in the last few decades has been so bleak.
What else should we expect when digital technology accelerates but nothing else does? My message to US, Japanese, and European voters is to please cast off this appalling indifference to low economic growth. It seems like you can get the electorate fired up on any political issue except for serious discussions on how to reach a sustained acceleration of GDP. Optimism as a propellant of growth or, more industry and less Twitter.
I concede the circularity to the argument, because optimism is probably endogenous to growth. That was a time of fantastic advances in chemicals, rubber, electrical machinery, scientific instruments, and many other things. How refreshing to consider that people thought that technology was accelerating on many fronts, not just a handful.
It was an enormous production that encouraged people to imagine the promise of industrial technologies and to think about how the future will be better than the past. It required the labor of some three thousand carpenters, electricians, draftsmen, and model-makers, and the manufacture of five-hundred thousand miniature buildings varying in scale, and fifty thousand futuristic silver automobiles—ten thousand of them designed to move.
I think that US culture took a wrong turn when we decided to make fun of plastics and subsequently to celebrate Wall Street instead. Plastics are extraordinary, but the graduates of our top schools are much more enthusiastic about joining an investment bank than to improve our mastery over materials. Would anyone else like to subscribe to a magazine on industrial goings-on?
If we solve some of the big constraints, what kind of advances can we look forward to? On the margin, what should we be diverting our attention from? I mean to tune out the angry side of Twitter. The good parts of Twitter are very good indeed, and every day I marvel at how many great links are dropped into my feed by people I follow.
Generally I try to follow people who do the same. We should resist this tendency to think that a loud tweet has the capability to inflict devastating blows on the other side: Another possibility is to leave the US, as I did. I understand that this is not an option for everyone, but for some young people at least, maybe this is a good time to spend time abroad.
Get out when unproductive debate is the ambient national mood, and move to a more sane environment where you can really learn something instead. I know few people who are broadly curious about the material world and industrial technologies. I think it would be great if we learn more about those things at the expense of paying attention to politics.
People with the right priorities. His novels stress the importance of the material world; and he believes in the capacity of science fiction to inspire optimism. I find that Matt Levine is another writer who has a clear sense of the limits of digital technologies. Here are a few other people I wish highlight as having the right priorities.
They each played some role in helping to build out the digital world. After they put in that work, they mostly switched their attention to improving the material world. What did the co-founder of Microsoft decide to focus his energy on after he left the company?
Not computers, the internet, or mobile. He thought that there were enough people working on the digital world, and that he and his capital should mostly try to improve the material world instead. Freeman Dyson has a wild imagination, and usually his crazy ideas have nothing to do with the digital world.
He laid out his case in a Bloomberg Businessweek essay. Grove was skeptical that startups can provide a large number of jobs; that the US should focus on scaling up the startups into big companies; and that when the US exports jobs, it also exports innovative capacity and scaling expertise. In other words, he lamented the loss of process knowledge. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.
Grove ended his essay with a call to rebuild the US industrial commons; or as I would put it, to regain the pools of process knowledge.
Does better capital allocation always lead to technological acceleration? In fact, I would argue that some of the responsibility for the loss of process knowledge can be attributed to the US financial sector, consisting of both investors and financial analysts, with its emphasis on return on capital. This is also something that Andy Grove brought up. In my opinion, the US financial sector has underappreciated how important it is to have a deep pool of technically-experienced workers. As a result, investors and financial analysts have systematically rewarded the firms that are most eager to reduce headcount, which they see as a cost.
I believe that tools and IP are the natural consequence of developing process knowledge. What are some challenges to these views?
I also acknowledge that there are many challenges to my argument. Here are a few I find most interesting. The number of German manufacturing workers has also been in decline. Yes, the number of German manufacturing employees has also been falling see the statistics , and the chart in this Brad DeLong piece. I would cite a few things to say that it has preserved them. First, while real output of manufacturing in the US is still at a lower level than in , German real manufacturing output has significantly surpassed its pre-recession levels and has returned to its long-run growth trend.
The post is here. Has most process knowledge already been embedded into tools? One of the best essays I read recently is by Willy Shih, who argues for the affirmative.
I recommend reading the whole thing, that essay is one of the prompts for this piece. Relatedly, income between countries has continued to diverge even though any sufficiently-capitalized firm can buy the same advanced machinery. These facts suggest that some countries are using tools more effectively than others, probably because they have more process knowledge.
The thrust of my piece is to ask more people to consider how process knowledge grows and to suggest that we should be pushing forward the technological frontier on many more fronts. Definite optimism as human capital.
I want to tie this piece off by returning to semiconductors. I believe that technological progress is not inevitable, and that we have agency on how hard to push it forward. A doubling of transistor density every 24 months is not some foreordained natural law, gifted to us through heavenly benevolence.
When we subsequently want to revive the industry, it may not be as simple as plugging in the machines, blowing the dust off of the blueprints, and then happily expect production to resume at prior levels. The hard-won process knowledge held by these engineers will have decayed, and the workers will have to relearn a bunch of things. I think this decay in process knowledge has happened to a lot of industries.
I find that a wonderful thing to believe in. That means thinking more in terms of systems. Healthy ecosystems are hard to maintain, but if you build them up and continue to inject vitality into them, they deliver sustained breakthroughs.
But I think that the marvels of the digital world have made it harder to see how slowly everything else has moved. Many segments of technology have made cautious progress, and we neglect to see that because our phones engross us so. Our apps keep getting better while our physical world is mostly stagnant; I think that the wonders of consumer internet have deluded us on how contingent our technological foundations have been.
One of the possible consequences is that much of the science fiction published in the last few decades veer towards cyberpunk dystopia. The Three Body Problem is an exception. Industrial deepening leads to science fiction that is optimistic, while digital proliferation pushes it towards dystopia. But people subsequently began to lower their expectations. The contrasting receptions of these two similarly titled exhibits are consistent with what the aggregate and sectoral data are trying to tell us.
Instead, the question of how to do so should preoccupy many more of us. The smaller reason first: Conquering dynasties tended to burn the records and rewrite the history of the previous dynasty. Cao Cao was a great poet and general; even when we all know that he was the target of absurd libels, everyone still loves to hate him. The more important reason: China did not trigger its own industrial revolution.
The first imperial dynasty was established 2, years ago, and the civilization has something like 5, years of recorded history. Did life change much for the average person throughout most of that time? Dynasties came and went, but the lives of most people changed little throughout millennia. The overwhelming majority of people earned a meager living by farming their small plot of land throughout the entirety of their short lives, just as their ancestors had done and as their descendants would continue to do.
Some people would move to settle new lands; some people would be conscripted to fight enemies; some people would die in bouts of famine, disaster, or warfare. These are typical misfortunes that have afflicted people everywhere in the world.
The richer parts of China developed an impressive commercial culture and a sophisticated economy in arts and crafts. But given the lack of sustained industrialization, these offered only marginal improvements in overall living standards.
I read somewhere that the populations of Nanjing, Suzhou, Beijing, and a few other cities had not grown from the Song to the Qing, a 1, year interval. It makes clear the fact that the imperial era never really broke out of Malthusian dynamics: The lack of intense industrialization really until the 20th century is the best case I can make for ignoring imperial history.
I much prefer reading about Germany, which offers such thrilling growth stories in sectors like chemicals and steel. After some investigation, my view has shifted somewhat. Mostly I hold on to the idea that learning about the dynasties is not terribly worthwhile, for exactly the reason I outline above.
There are many obviously interesting questions. How did the country manage to get so big early on? How did state capacity evolve over all this time? How did it mostly hang together throughout millennia? There is plenty of scholarly treatment of these questions, mine are of more narrow personal interest.
With that disclaimer, here are some questions I find interesting. How did the north keep the seat of power when the center of population moved south? Once it did so, people filled these areas up quickly, because these regions have more reliable rainfall than the north.
Soon, their cities had become the cultural and fiscal centers of the empire. Hangzhou and Suzhou developed vibrant commercial systems and became richer than the north, which suffered chronic grain shortages. And yet, aside from a few brief exceptions, China has always been governed from the north. Why this persistent divergence between the political and fiscal centers of the empire, even after a few dynastic cycles? It seems like Germany is not the only country to have been ruled by its Prussia instead of by its Rhineland.
If we accept the work of Kenneth Pomeranz, the Yangzi delta was about as rich as England and Holland by as late as We can let the other Europeans decide this one.
In my own opinion, there are about five great cuisines of Europe; and that figure approaches a dozen in China. Is there anything to infer from the idea that China has produced so many distinct and excellent regional cuisines?
The Manchus bureaucratized themselves in the shape of the Ming before they successfully overran the empire. Chinggis Khan did the same with Mongolian tribes before he took on the Song. Each felt there was something to learn from imperial governance. I can find plenty of novel developments, like traveling circuits of censors, strategic grants of the salt monopoly, reliance on rites as a source of legitimacy, this list can go on and on.
Which conditions prompted their emergence? How do we evaluate how effective they were? We hear a lot about the imperial examinations and rule by eunuchs; do we feel we understand these systems pretty well at each point in time?
We know that the wall was breached. And it was not fully contiguous, so invaders could simply ride around the fragments. But is it possible that it worked fairly well for most of its history?
The north, the east, the southeast, the central region, and the southwest all feel like places with distinct cultures. What did each region specialize in to generate wealth? What was their relationship with the central government in different periods? How does economic geography shape their respective cultures?
Was there any reason that Hunan cuisine must be spicy while Jiangnan cuisine should not be? What should we infer from good craftsmanship, in porcelain, silks, and other fine goods? Severe climate volatility disrupted European politics, prompted improbable invasions, and triggered accusations of witchcraft all over the continent. And yet the Ming managed to endure extensive weather volatility, which brought multiple famines and floods, before it was finally overrun by the Manchus.
How did it manage to persist for so long? Each of them faced vast challenges. It managed to hold on to power for half a century after an apocalyptic band of religious fanatics occupied the fiscal center of the country, coinciding simultaneously with a foreign invasion led by gunboats. Even the mighty Tang had trouble facing down huge threats, from Turkic peoples, Tibetans, Khitans, the Nanzhao Kingdom, to say nothing of a catastrophic internal rebellion. Song persisted under even more severe conditions.
Each of these dynasties lasted a surprisingly long time given the scale of the challenges they had to face. Some of these questions should be easy to Google and answer. I think that the educated person should know the broad strokes of Chinese history. The value I personally get from reading imperial history is that the knowledge enriches my visits to different cities. If so, the history there is very rich indeed. Have you ever wondered what would happen if the state imposed military service in perpetuity, so that every generation of descendants has to serve?
Imperial history is a rich mine for information on how a state imposes order, how it spreads ideology, and how it renews itself after a crisis. Now is a good time to discuss one of my favorite recent essays: Actually my entire essay was originally triggered by this piece, and what I am trying to do here is merely to provide a comment to it. Most large Chinese cities look similar in the same ugly way, with big apartment blocks, wide avenues, concrete everywhere. How is it that the splendid cities of the past have all been reduced to such dreadful streets and buildings?
Contrast that mess with the well-preserved cities of Europe, which have kept the churches, monuments, and sometimes even whole streets in as marvelous conditions as when they were first built. Disregard of the material past is a tragedy for the modern traveler. We have to use our imaginations and be guided by the texts, for these cities offer very little guidance when we examine them today.
But Leys argues that this failure to maintain historical monuments is in fact a sign of vitality: The Chinese past is both spiritually active and physically invisible.
My heart trembles with nervousness whenever an essayist invokes geist. But perhaps Leys is on to something here, and instead of trying to grasp Chinese history by seeing, we ought instead do so through listening. How good are monuments as guides to the past, really? Perhaps very little at all, and the continuation of intangible traditions is more valuable instead.
Instead of building magnificent pyramids and churches out of stone, Chinese have accepted that time wears down all structures. Eternity can inhabit not the building but the spirit. Thus, in addition to mostly neglecting to maintain structures, Chinese have been extraordinarily active in burning, vandalizing, and utterly destroying the material heritage of their past.
He cites a Ming essay pondering the necessity of gardens: Many famous gardens of the past exist no more but in literary form; given how perishable gardens are, why not skip the fragile stage of actual existence, and go straight to the permanence of literary existence? Millennia later, words are all that we can hope to pass on. That feels facile, and the connection is from me, not Leys. Having spent some time living both in Europe and Asia, I have to say that the nice cities of Europe feel much too nice.
Perhaps on the margin, Europe can use a bit of Chinese disregard of its material heritage, so that it has to think about how it will build the future. One final note on this topic: The ingredients and the methods of cooking are different and combine in mostly wonderful ways; see my notes above on noodles.
Aspects of Chinese Classical Aesthetics. The Hall of Uselessness. I find paintings to be the easiest entry point into Chinese high culture. I find Chinese paintings to go along well with the type of melancholy framed by Laszlo Foldenyi.
No longer do I find it such a mystery that the chief art critic of the Times once wrote: Beneath its fine-boned brush strokes, ethereal ink washes and subtle mineral tints flow feelings and ideas as turbulent as those in any Courbet nude or Baroque Crucifixion. If painting is not your thing, I suggest looking at porcelain. The best works from the Ming and the Qing are very fine, and one needs only to gaze closely to appreciate their details and sheen.
I find the blue and white Ming ceramics to be pretty boring. My two favorite ceramics exhibits are at the Asian Civilizations Museum and the Shanghai Museum, I believe both are permanent exhibitions. The deepest art is calligraphy, and that remains mostly beyond me. Zhu Da , , drew nice fish and birds. My favorite is the one on the Yuan and Ming , written by Brooks himself. I want to conclude by switching gears.
Instead of telling me what I should know about imperial history, I wish to solicit suggestions for something different: Japanese industrial policy in the latter half of the 20th century. Japan was a trailblazer. It had some astonishing successes, but also a lot of failures.
What are the books and papers I should be reading instead? That learning, broadly defined, ought to accelerate over time. Instead of expecting it to slow over time, we should spend our days trying to accelerate the growth of our knowledge base.
My observation is that most people expect learning to decelerate. The result is that they more or less lose interest in improvement. The world is big enough, and any individual is small enough, that we can accelerate learning over time.
And I submit that positive belief that this claim is true would make it so. Okay, maybe these are saying the same thing: One can learn more by traveling to new places, being social in different ways, reading new types of books, changing jobs or professions, moving to a new place, by doing better and by doing more.
Writing stuff out and putting ideas out there helps too, and I wish that my friends wrote more. Speaking of writing, I regret to have posted only six essays in My two best pieces have been Definite Optimism , a proposal for developing a concrete vision of the future, as well as the importance of maintaining an industrial base; and Girardian Terror , which describes the problems that come from focusing our gaze on each other, instead of matters of the world. That is to say, instead of most posts being idiosyncratic and unrelated to each other, more of them are cohering together into themes.
Some people have remarked negatively upon the length of my posts. I kicked off the year with a piece on what I find so bizarre about California , and I present there a framework for viewing the world. My review of The Complacent Class has a lot to do with my review of the Three Body Problem , which makes sense since both are commentary about China. Why so few people major in computer science was the second most read piece of the year.
Girardian Terror coalesced various themes of this site since its beginning, while Definite Optimism is commentary on my change in perspective since I moved from New York to Asia. Certainly I wish to write more than six pieces a year. But I have to contend with the fact that I have a full-time job after all, and writing essays here is supposed to be for fun. And while I wish I wrote shorter posts more often, much of my quick writing has moved to email correspondence with friends, so these posts end up more as polished final products rather than spontaneous thoughts.
What Everyone Needs to Know. Much of my reading has been China-focused recently. Unlikely Partners , by Julian Gewirtz, gives a good sense of how post-reform policymaking happened: Thanks to Simon Cartledge for lending me all six books in the series. At some point one has to stop reading books about that war, and for me this about does it. How Asia Works , by Joe Studwell. Should you meet anyone who doubts that this subject is worth studying, I suggest responding with this quote: In a sense, the best nonfiction I read this year was the Financial Times.
Its culture section is excellent, and I feel that it delivers the most intelligent way to approach news. I had wished to re-read the Proust series, but failed to finish. One piece of good news is that the second half of the new Penguin translations ought to be released in the US this year, so that fresh translation will provide an impetus.
I watched only a single TV show this year, which I really enjoyed: The shots are beautiful and the drama is compelling; it was a significant inspiration for my piece on Girard. I regret to have mostly ignored TV as a creative stimulus this year, and concede that my imaginative capacity has possibly suffered as a result.
The very best movie I watched this year was The Florida Project , so good I saw it in theaters twice. Some parts were really funny, some other parts were very moving, do try to go. Mountains May Depart , Jia Zhangke. It and Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom have the best names in this post. Toni Erdmann , Maren Ade. The magic of both Toni Erdmann and The Florida Project is that they make one sit very still in the theater, transfixed, with no idea how the current scene will resolve, nor what the next scene will bring.
Youth , Feng Xiaogang. This is straightforwardly a propaganda film. Its first minute is quite good, you can watch a Youtube clip here. A question I like to ask when I travel: This year, I had the chance to visit every part of the Sinosphere or places where people are majority Chinese: Singapore is a remarkable city, and it takes only one visit to see that.
Out of all these places, I had the most fun in Taipei, which I found to be the place best optimized for eating and leisure. Macau certainly does the latter, but to proportions that approach the grotesque, while meal for meal, nothing beats the inventiveness of Taiwan. My favorite travel experience was in China itself. I submit that really every part of China is worth seeing, not just Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Beijing.