The Digest #64

Published on February 5, 2021

“Those of us who are storm-tossed on the waves of popular opinion must devote ourselves to the will of the people, massage it, nurture it, try to keep it happy when it seems to turn against us. If we don’t care for the honors which the people have at their disposal, then obviously there is no need to put ourselves at the service of their interests — but if political rewards are indeed our goal, then we should never tire of courting the voters.”

Cicero, as quoted in Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

Jeff Bezos Steps Down as Amazon CEO, by Todd Haselton, February 2, 2021. Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of later this year, handing over the reins to Andy Jassy who has been with the company since 1997. CNBC reported on the news earlier this week and included the full letter from Bezos to his employees explaining his decision. I would also recommend reading his letters to shareholders over the years. (CNBC)

The Relentless Jeff Bezos by Ben Thompson, February 3, 2021. “He is arguably the greatest CEO in tech history, in large part because he created three massive businesses, all of which generate enormous consumer surplus and enjoy impregnable moats:, AWS, and the Amazon platform. … These three businesses are the result of Bezos’ rare combination of strategic thinking, boldness, and drive, and the real world manifestations of Amazon’s three most important tactics: leverage the Internet, win with scale, and being your first best — but not only — customer.”  (Stratechery)

Jason Zweig on Psychology, History & Writing, January 28, 2021. Jim O’Shaughnessy and Jamie Catherwood interview Wall Street Journal columnist and author Jason Zweig in this far-reaching podcast covering topics from psychology and investing to the power of writing and learning from the past. (Infinite Loops Podcast)

Analyzing and Investing in Insurance & Reinsurance Businesses, January 28, 2021. Geoff Gannon and Andrew Kuhn have resumed their podcast series and recently posted an excellent discussion of the insurance and reinsurance industry. I found their discussion of Progressive particularly interesting. (Focused Compounding Podcast)

Chamath Palihapitiya – The Major Problems Facing The World, February 2, 2021. In this wide-ranging discussion, Patrick O’Shaughnessy interviews Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder and CEO of Social Capital. The interview starts with a discussion of Palihapitiya’s modest upbringing, how this has impacted his views on inequality, and how he thinks society can empower individuals who start out with few advantages. Agree with his views or not, Palihapitiya is never boring and has often led me to think about topics that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. (Invest Like the Best)

How to Read More: 8 Reasons and 7 Strategies to Read More Books by Ryan Holiday, January 26 2021. “There’s a reason it was illegal to teach slaves to read. There is a reason that every totalitarian regime has burned and banned books. Knowledge is power. It sounds like a cliché, but clichés only sound that way because of the generally accepted truth at their core. What is less of a cliché, but actually more true, is the converse of that idea: A lack of knowledge is weakness—it engenders supplication and makes resistance harder.” (

The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship by Amanda Mull, January 27, 2021. The obvious impact of the pandemic has been to limit contact with close friends and relatives outside one’s immediate household, not to mention office interactions being replaced with Zoom calls. The less obvious impact is the reduction of interactions with people we know less well but regularly encountered in daily life. These interactions may not be with close friends but are nonetheless important for individuals as well as for society in general. (The Atlantic)

The Staircase of the Self by Lawrence Yeo, January 30, 2021. “Imitation is the birthplace of human behavior. There’s no way around this fact, and we all intuitively understand this to be true. However, why is it also intuitive for us to scorn imitation as we age? Why does it become desirable to discard societal norms to become our “authentic selves,” or to escape this sense of self entirely? Well, to answer these questions, we’re going to have to take a journey through the stages of one’s identity, and how we internalize it at each level. To do this, I’d like to introduce what I call The Staircase of the Self…”  (More to That)

The Keto Way: What If Meat Is Our Healthiest Diet? by Gary Taubes, January 29, 2021. Advocates of plant-based diets often cite the environmental benefits, which seem quite clear, but often couple that rationale with the assertion that plant-based diets are inherently healthier than animal-based diets. But is this actually the case or have government recommendations, with the encouragement of the food industry, encouraged people to adopt carbohydrate heavy diets that have led to the obesity epidemic? Gary Taubes considers these questions in a recent article. (WSJ)

Zena Hitz: Liberal Arts Thinking, February 2, 2021. I have long been fascinated with the Great Books program offered by St. John’s College so when I saw that David Perell had interviewed Zena Hitz, a tutor at St. John’s, I decided to listen to the podcast right away. A “tutor” at is the equivalent of a professor, except St. John’s purposely avoids that term: “The title “professor” is avoided to signify that it is not the chief role of the tutors to expound doctrines in their field of expertise. Instead, learning is a cooperative enterprise carried out in small groups with persons at different stages of learning working together.” This interview was an interesting and wide-ranging discussion of the liberal arts, education, religion, and more. (North Star Podcast)

Photo of the Week

The east coast of the United States received significant snowfall earlier this week which was reportedly the remnants of a massive system that dropped up to nine feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. While the east coast will no doubt be free of snow by the end of May, that is unlikely to be true in the Sierra Nevada which holds snow through the late spring and summer months, as this photo from May 2015 shows.

Near Mt. Whitney, California, May 23, 2015

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The Digest #64
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