August 31, 2016
Quote of the Day
The West now has a comparable chasm between daily life and the media, but it goes in the opposite direction. Daily life is wonderful: Unless you actively hunt for outliers, you're surrounded by well-fed, healthy, safe, comfortable people enjoying a cornucopia of amusement. The media, however, uses the vastness of the world to show us non-stop terror, hate, fear, brutality, and poverty -- not just in the Third World, but right here at home. -- Bryan Caplan, Animal Farm in Reverse
Something to look forward to
The world is in good hands, no matter what fool or crook we elect to head the Executive Branch.
August 30, 2016
Are you a Cornucopian?
August 28, 2016
In other words, Aristotle believed that a dropped rock fell to the earth because rocks belonged on earth and wanted to be there.Aristotle. What a dumb-ass.
In But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, Chuck Klosterman wonders what beliefs we hold that will engender opprobrium from whatever a blogger is in 2000 years. And he even speculates a bit on what a blogger will be in 2000 years.
The mere fact that I can imagine this scenario forces me to assume that it won't happen. It's a reasonable conclusion to draw from the facts that presently exist, but the future is a teenage crackhead who makes shit up as he goes along.
Klosterman is a music critic with an engaging wit and the capacity to consider unpopular thoughts. One of the first sections is on music. "How many composers of March music can you name?" asks the author. Unless you're a specialist or aficionado, It's exactly one: John Phillip Sousa. This was a popular genre a hundred or so years ago. Now we know it all under one name.
Pedants can name two or three of Shakespeare's contemporaries. Russ Roberts and I (Did I mention there is a great EconTalk podcast on this book?) can each name a bunch of jazz artists from the first half of the 20th Century, But most would give Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra. So, Klosterman, wonders who will capture our age for music? For literature?
As I write this sentence, the social stature of Elvis and Dylan feels similar--perhaps even identical. But it's entirely possible that one of these people will get dropped as time plods forward. And if that happens, the consequence will be huge. If we concede that the "hero's journey" is the de facto story through which we understand history, the differences between these two heroes would profoundly alter the description of what rock music supposedly was.
This is where the book is great: the meta and context's effect on what we recall. Things will not be weighed on the same scale we use today. If rock is to be remembered as an entertainment vehicle, Elvis is a great choice. If the art and adolescent ennui define it, then it's Dylan. Culture, Beatles. I'm going for hair and ABBA myself.
But those who know Shakespeare, Frank Sinatra, Sousa, and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright are those who know the minimum.
To matter forever, you need to matter to those who don't care. And if that strikes you as sad, be sad.
He moves from art to science to politics. For science he interviews Brain Greene at Colombia University and Neil de Grasse Tyson, conceding the choice is "a little like writing about debatable ideas in pop music and interviewing only Taylor Swift and Beyoncé Knowles." Interestingly he gets two poles.
When I sat down in Greene's office and explained the premise of my book-- in essence, when I explained that I was interested in considering the likelihood that our most entrenched assumptions about the universe might be wrong-- he viewed the premise as playful. His unspoken reaction came across as "This is a fun, non-crazy hypothetical." Tyson's posture was different. His unspoken attitude was closer to "This is a problematic, silly supposition."
Hands up if you're surprised.
The sports section is great. I disagree with those who predict the demise of the NFL over concussions. This makes me the perfect, Tyson-esque patsy who cannot conceive of things' not following their current trajectory. I know a good friend of this blog who thinks it's a fait accompli. Klosterman thinks it will follow a boxing/MMA track and become a violent boutique sport beloved by those who cannot support wussification of encroaching modernity. (Those are my words, here are his:)
Conversely, football is experiencing a different type of crisis-- there is a sense that the game is being taken from fans, and mostly by snooty strangers who never liked the sport in the first place. It will come to be seen as the persecution of a culture. This makes football akin to the Confederate flag, or Christmas decorations in public spaces, or taxpayer-supported art depicting Jesus in a tank of urine-- something that becomes intractable precisely because so many people want to see it eliminated.
When we get to politics, things get -- in somebody's least favorite word -- "problematical." He has the Wilson-Roosevelt-Obama view that the antiquated Constitution will fall because it cannot change quickly enough to acclimate to a changing world.
Now, that is a fair and widely held critique. It could have been an interesting spot to discuss whether some philosophical ideas "all men are created equal" might indeed be immutable. He shows great fairness and humility discussing whether the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, or some lesser light will define our music.
Suddenly when predicting the fall of America, he sheds his humility.
I imagine America as a chapter in a book, centuries after the country has collapsed, encapsulated by the casual language we use when describing the foreboding failure of the Spanish Armada in 1588. And what I imagine is a description like this: The invention of a country is described. This country was based on a document, and the document was unassailable. The document could be altered, but alterations were so difficult that it happened only seventeen times in two hundred years (and one of those changes merely retracted a previous alteration). The document was less than five thousand words but applied unilaterally, even as the country dramatically increased its size and population and even though urban citizens in rarefied parts of the country had nothing in common with rural citizens living thousands of miles away.
I disagree, but concede validity. I am, however, subtracting fractional points for two items. One, he is painfully back-and-forth, but maybe I'm wrong throughout the book, excepting this. Two, he drops two snarky footnotes. This is a quasi-academic book and well referenced. But in this section, he has a line that suggests "the Second Amendment is outdated." Click the footnote and get "and it is!" two paragraphs later, there is some tommyrot about the 14th Amendment having been sold out when personhood was awarded to corporations with another footnote: "and it is!"
Hardee har har. I can hear the tittering in the faculty lounge, but it was a Magoffin, a show-the-penny, a what-have-you that seriously undercut the spirit, seriousness and premise of the book. I'd suggest that if there is one immutable facet of history it is the people's consistent need to defend themselves from their government.
A great and interesting book. Maybe others will be more forgiving of those flaws -- certainly many will accept or appreciate them. But 3.75 stars from me.
August 25, 2016
Price Chart - Free Enterprise vs. Socialism
Thanks to this article at FEE, the Foundation for Economics Education, here is the price analog to nanobrewer's tabular comparison of goods and services that are delivered by government (or highly regulated by it) versus those that are more freely traded.
I'm sure glad that government doesn't consider televisions a "human right." If it did, fewer humans could afford to have them.
Why, it would take the former Secretary 12.5 seconds of speechifyin' to afford one of those! It's outrageous!
But not necessarily capitalism's fault...
Pinch Me - Anti-PC pushback, on a college campus?
I really did believe I would live to see this day, I just didn't expect it to happen before the zombie apocalypse.
A letter to incoming freshmen at the University of Chicago cites a report on freedom of expression that it issued in January of 2015 in support of its new policy against "safe spaces."
The report quotes a former president of the University, Hanna Holborn Gray, as saying that "education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.
Let's hope it's contagious.
August 24, 2016
August 23, 2016
All Hail Harsanyi
There are, no doubt, many good reasons a person might have for not wanting children. But, certainly, it's tragic that some gullible Americans who have the means and emotional bandwidth -- and perhaps a genuine desire -- to be parents avoid having kids because of a quasi-religious belief in apocalyptic climate change and overpopulation.
Quiet around here: summertime blues? Tired of the battle between HRC's measured mendaciousness or DJT's boisterous blundering (or bellicosity, depending on the day)?
Anyway, here's my chart for FB someday soon (as a followup to my roasting of Amm. 69), based somewhat on recent events.
comments? glaring omissions?
August 21, 2016
Hayek set out to clarify the character of that "most valuable friendship" using Mill's words and those of Harriet Taylor Mill. Two points require emphasis. First, as noted above and as the essays below attest, the task of locating the letters, let alone the additional requirement of organizing the words to tell a coherent story, was simply unprecedented. Second, Hayek's deliberate tactic of letting Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill speak almost exclusively in their own words, was an extraordinary--perhaps unique--choice at the time, one that puts Hayek at the forefront of literary criticism, a field in which he has yet to receive due recognition.Don't know about y'all, but when I think of romance, one name floats to the top: Friedrich August Hayek. Yet in his Hayek On Mill: The Mill-Taylor Friendship and Related Writings -- while ostensibly about Harriet Taylor's intellectual influence on John Stuart Mill -- the Austrian monetarist was, as editor Sandra J. Peart notes, not immune to the personal story.
Sometimes in the attempt to pin down influence, credit, and blame, the overwhelming power of the story becomes obscured. Despite his interest in the economic and social thought of Mill and Taylor, Hayek was apparently also deeply taken by the love story; certainly the collection here attests to how he deliberately conveyed the drama and heartbreak associated with the romances.JS Mill is introduced to young Harriet Taylor at a social gathering. This mirrors A.S. Byatt's Possession [Review Corner]. While there is an ocean of differences in plot and character, it is quite easy to believe that this collection influenced if not inspired Byatt.
Young Miss Taylor is married to an older, wealthy merchant and the ensuing attachment between Mill & Taylor is not well accepted in Victorian society. Taylor is an intellectual powerhouse and is quickly drawn to Mill, whose infatuation lasts a lifetime. Mill read Classics in Greek and Latin at age six and remains a favorite of moderns who try to assess IQs of historical figures. It is quite defensible to claim Mill as "the smartest man who ever lived." In his Autobiography, he maudlinly ascribes all significant influence to Taylor. As if Einstein said "oh, all those ideas on Physics really belonged to my girlfriend.."
Hayek's charge is to evaluate this claim and -- being Hayek -- question the extent of her influence in Mill's dabbling in socialism.
As noted above, d'Eichthal continued to try to answer all criticism, informing Mill about Saint-Simonian views as well as the organization of the Saint-Simonians. Yet, whatever affection Mill felt towards d'Eichthal or attraction towards the Saint-Simonian program, we learn from Hayek that Mill stopped short of endorsing Saint-Simonianism wholesale or recommending Saint¬Simonian arrangements as a policy prescription. He did so on the grounds that such sectarianism was incompatible with individual liberty.
Hearts and confessions: I cherry picked that quote to help square my appreciation for Mill with the extent of his appreciation for Continental thought and Socialism. Can we blame this on Taylor? To some extent.
To the consternation of society, their relationship continues, though likely platonically, for several years. His effusive dedication to her in the first printing of Principles of Political Economy upset her husband and all their friends and was pulled from subsequent printings. Eventually John Taylor dies a grisly drawn-out death during which Harriet does not leave his side. Her dutiful nursing is both out of character and endearing. After his death, Mill and Taylor wed. Some say their marriage was as platonic as their friendship, but it was not as lengthy. Both died of consumption, Harriet Mill decades before her second husband.
As the introductory quote suggests, the story is entirely told through the correspondence. Hayek provides expository information and historical context, but no commentary or opinion. He is a superb research assistant, but his contribution is as a research assistant, not a Nobel Laureate Economist or thought leader.
It's an incredibly entertaining read. It costs $55 on Kindle; thankfully my niece the librarian found me a copy in a transfer from the University library at Auraria. I purport that I am the first to crack this particular volume. But perhaps they wore out the old copy and I was the first to open the replacement volume.
And yet, be wary of learning too much about your heroes. Mill is one of the root nodes on individual liberty and Taylor a foundation of women's rights. With that disclaimer out of the way, I must relate that neither are especially endearing. The volume is no doubt enlightening to the scholars who study each (again, reflecting "Possession"). But to one less acquainted with their biographical details, it is a more scholarly read.
It grieves me but I give my hero, Hayek, only 3.5 stars on this.
August 10, 2016
Children Dying to Cover Asses?
My fourth link suggests an even more nefarious agenda:
Here is one reason an FDA staffer would file a complaint against eteplirsen: To protect his job after a contentious proceeding noticed by patients, the press and several U.S. Senators. The agency manual says that "all initiators of disputes are protected from any retaliation by their supervisors, peers, leadership and others, related to initiating or engaging in this process."
Researching the links to the previous posts, one cannot help notice jg's prescient comment to the first:
How can this be excused as "for the children?"
Trump's Allies in the Media.
I just wonder how many #nevertrumpers will be driven back into the fold by the unfair treatment the GOP Nominee receives.
On a day 44 previously unreleased emails have been found and a stunning-even-for-Clintons "Pay for Play" has been exposed, all non-NYPost outlets are leading full-time with Trump's soi-disant threat. Really? In fairness -- and this is jk -- this is at worst inartful. It's "binders full of women" again.
Donald Trump deserves -- no we all deserve -- better than this.
August 9, 2016
All Hail... VDH
The good professor believes that the Democratic alternative - Hillary and the record of President Obama - is so bad that "almost any Republican could take at least 45 percent of the vote, regardless of the shortcomings of the candidate or campaign." But, he says, Donald may be the "almost."
So is character really fate? Or is there any chance that the outer Trump's business savvy and heralded self-interest might half tame his inner Trump to avoid subterranean mines, to keep him on message, and to relax and ride the wave of the disastrous daily news fare to the White House?
I suppose some may dismiss his perspective since he doesn't even bother to mention that "there are other candidates in the race." Perhaps that's because, for every practical purpose, there aren't.
August 8, 2016
Quote of the Day
The Hill reports that "before [Mrs.] Clinton’s appearance, conference staffers went around the room reminding people that it's inappropriate for journalists to give politicians standing ovations." -- James Taranto, "Times is on her Side, Yes it Is."Yeah, I used to hate that at President Bush's news conferences. They take up so much time. Siddown, Cokie!
Not as Bad But Still Dangerous
What a splendid year for a free trader.
While Trump's belligerent mercantilism gathers support among voters and elected Republicans, it's easy for committed free traders to find themselves in support of Hillary Clinton. To be sure, Clinton has offered her own condemnations of trade and globalization, but beside Trump's near-total ignorance of the economics and institutions of trade, her stances seem more like typical campaign rhetoric. For fans of free trade and globalization, Clinton is a much more appealing candidate simply by not being horrible.-- -- Bill Watson @ Reason
August 5, 2016
No, an establishment voice against Donald Trump is not news. Fair point.
But I am thinking of joining the establishment.
This is what became obvious, probably fatally so: Mr. Trump is not going to get serious about running for president. He does not have a second act, there are no hidden depths, there will be no "pivot." It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it's that he doesn't have the skill set needed now--discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment. There's a clueless quality about him. It's not that he doesn't get advice; it's that he can't hear advice, can't process it or turn it into action.
The last paragraph is a particular frustration. Obamacare is spitting up blood this morning, Sec. Clinton scored a four-pinocchio and a pants on fire rating from left-of-center fact checkers. Yet we are talking about the Khans and crying babies. President George W. Bush was rumoured to say "can't anybody play this game?" when his fellow Republicans were bad at politics. I think that thought daily.
If I really wanted him to win, I would be despondent.
August 3, 2016
Fire Up the Internet Segue Machine®
I was surprised -- yes you may laugh -- to read that the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race is no more. The week-long stage race through Colorado was wildly popular, yet lost $10 million in one year.
A few rich guys and a hyperactive promoter kept the business side afloat. But, sans angel, who pays the bills?
A race on par with the Tour of California, Hunter said, "is what Colorado more than deserves."
On planet jk, everyone loves jazz, really good coffee, and cycling. Cycling is a tough sell on TV. Much as I look down at soccer, cycling is worse: you watch four hours for tens of minutes of excitement (though the scenery is better and they don't feign injury). The strategy is subtle. And there are zero ticket sales. People crowd around the sides of roads, but at least at Woodstock they collected some money.
Sad to see you go, good race! But you good people were promised a segue.
I reserve the right to a Review Corner on the book, but let me first hawk a fascinating EconTalk podcast with Matthew Futterman on his book, Players. Futterman takes a very hard nosed look at the historical economics of Sport and produces some non-intuitive conclusions.
Sport and capitalism lovers will enjoy the suggestion that the excellence and financial success sports has enjoyed is predicated on adequately paying the players. Monopsony hiring has never been more explicit, and yet the successful sports built themselves on a base of solid professional athletes who could devote the time and effort to their craft. When they stopped requiring second jobs to pay the bills, it attracted and retained better talent.
August 1, 2016
Jerry Doyle, RIP
Another B5 cast member now sleeping in light: a wonderful tribute.