"Follow the money" - All the President's Men, 1976
When I chose "The Integrity of Western Science" as my first annual reading theme, I viewed it as the first in a trilogy of "Truth, Justice, and Faith." As 2017 drew to a close, I began wondering how I would approach a "Year of Justice." The thought of slogging through a stack of law school textbooks made me cringe. I thirsted for adventure after a bone-dry year of scientific epistemology. What if I flipped "justice" on its head...?
Two of my favorite books from last year were "Ranger Games: A Story of Soldiers, Family and an Inexplicable Crime" and "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic". Both books reveal the hidden mechanisms that drive the darker side of our society. I love learning how the world works, but I seemed to be completely oblivious to an entire shadow world that lurks beneath our everyday lives.
And so the idea for a "Crime and Punishment" theme was born. I decided early that I wanted to focus on financially-motivated crimes. No rapes, murders, or crimes of passion for me! I wanted to learn where the economic mechanisms of polite society break down. How does money flow through the underworld? What separates successful criminals from the morons? How do the police investigate? Where is the line between crime and business? When do crimes become so big that you call them "statecraft" instead?
An hour of googling resulted in the following rough criminal taxonomy:
Heists: banks, art, casinos
Smuggling & Trafficking: narcotics, arms, human
White Collar: embezzlement, tax evasion, price fixing, industrial espionage, money laundering, cyber crime
Deception: cons, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, identity theft
Corruption: bribery, extortion
Violence: mugging, kidnapping, murder for hire, conquest
Over the course of the year, I plan to read a few books in each of these categories. I'm also looking forward to learning more about the institutional structures on each side of the law - from oligarchs and organized crime to the FBI and Interpol. Courts and prison will get a few books as well.
If you're interested in joining me for parts of this crime safari, please sign up for my mailing list below. Each month I'll pick a book and hold a virtual book club over Google Hangouts. Book selections and call details will be sent out over the mailing list.
Book Club Schedule
(new book added at the beginning of each month)
- "American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road" - February 25 at 1PM ET
- "Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice" - March 25 at 1PM ET
So go ahead, sign up. This is an offer you can't refuse...