The entrepreneur was disappointed by my cynicism. The industry’s problems, he believed, could be solved with more technology. As a matter of fact, his startup was working on just the thing: a tool that would tackle a problem caused by tech. If he was successful, the world (and his bank account, and his investors’ bank accounts) would be better off for it, he argued.
So if I could just do him—and by extension, everyone—a favor and explain that in an article, it would really help us all out.
I came up with my own arbitrary set of rules for the year. I wanted a plan that was serious but not so draconian that I would bail out in February, so while I couldn’t buy clothing or speakers, I could buy anything in the grocery store, including flowers. I could buy shampoo and printer cartridges and batteries but only after I’d run out of what I had. I could buy plane tickets and eat out in restaurants. I could buy books because I write books and I co-own a bookstore and books are my business. Could I have made it a full year without buying books? Absolutely. I could have used the library or read the books that were already in my house, but I didn’t; I bought books.
Our loose rule was to never spend more than two weeks apart as a family, and Phil insisted on it with a kind of urgency. We had babysitters, but Phil refused to hire a full-time au pair. More than once, I found myself asking, “You want to bring the baby to what?” Or “You want us to come to Winnipeg in the winter while you’re shooting?” And he’d say, “Just bring him. We all need to be together.” As our family grew, he remained adamant about it. “Can’t we leave the little ones home, and you and I and Cooper——?”
“No. We’re all doing it together.”
When I look back at how close we all were, I wonder whether Phil somehow knew that he was going to die young. He never said those words, but he lived his life as if time was precious. Maybe he just knew what was important to him and where he wanted to invest his love. I always felt there was plenty of time, but he never lived that way. I now thank God he made us take those trips. In some ways, our short time together was almost like an entire lifetime.
Anecdote and colourful characters abound, and the writing rests on a very serious trawl through some farflung archives. It forms part of a new wave of history writing that allows us to appreciate the achievement of earlier generations of scholars and statesmen in constructing, with all its imperfections, the world order we still inhabit. Like much other recent work, it highlights the symbiosis of central European Jewish and Anglo-American legal traditions in the making of this order.