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What the Editors Are Reading

No one so much as pauses when the mob shouts down reasonable voices during a panic. Just witness the media’s daily performance during the COVID-19 crisis. CNBC hit the ejector button on author James Grant during a live broadcast when he wondered aloud if the government’s civil society shutdown might lead to more harm than good. Even after crises subside, no one defends that same voice of reason when he repeats his advice with the posterity of hindsight.

Luckily for humanity, several modern-day prophets persist without defenders. One prophet in particular, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, gloats at his opponents’ cowardice. He rubs his incontrovertible conclusions in the faces of those busy defending a status quo that enriches a select few at the expense of the common good—politicians with their power grabs, corporate executives with their bailouts, and academics with their burnished reputations from rewriting history during the maelstrom.

I coincidentally started reading Taleb’s Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (2012) the week before the country melted down. Taleb argues for a third category beyond the easily broken and the resilient: the antifragile, a thing that, like a newly healed broken bone, becomes even stronger through shocks than it was in its original state. Far too much of modern society falls into the fragile category, a by-product of gargantuan size and a failure to build redundant systems.

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