catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Archive for December 2004

Credit where credit is due

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This report claims that the Israelis are not getting a fair go in the press coverage of their contribution to the relief effort in SE Asia.

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December 31, 2004 at 10:14 am

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You couldn't make it up!

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The White Australia Policy Revisited

Is this for real or is someone having a lend of us?

Keep the yellow hordes out of Victoria!

Thanks to The Currency Lad for that feed:)

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December 31, 2004 at 8:53 am

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The spirit of consumerism

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Articles attacking ‘consumerism’ are as much part of the Christmas season as Santa, cards and gifts.

In The Age this morning Marcus Godinho says

A growing number of researchers are putting a lack of happiness down to consumerism. Survey after survey demonstrates that the desire for material goods, which has increased hand in hand with average income, is a happiness suppressant, with diseases of affluence ranging from obesity to depression.

But as this analysis, like Santa, just something else dressed up? I don’t think the literature on happiness identifies ‘consumerism’ as a major cause of unhappiness. Poverty, loneliness and illness are the key factors associated with unhappiness. Every survey I have ever seen finds that, on average, affluent people are more happy than poor people (I have discussed this here before). And presumably affluent people do more ‘consuming’ than poor people.
Read the rest of this entry »

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December 31, 2004 at 8:42 am

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History of the US revisited

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This is a summary of a new and very politically incorrect history of the US.

Extract

Despite the horrendous destruction of the Civil War, America recovered and prospered, owing to a largely free economy…but when the Great Depression struck in 1929, Herbert Hoover responded with the supreme inanity of trying to keep wages up. In doing so, he ensured massive unemployment.

[As did our centralised wage fixing system]

Franklin Roosevelt of course continued and greatly extended Hoover’s interventionist policies. In doing so, he prolonged the depression throughout the 1930’s, and prosperity did not return until after World War II. Woods is careful to note, here following Robert Higgs, that the war itself, with its vast conscription of men and resources, was not a period of economic good times.

The New Deal made constant efforts to increase the power of labor unions, and “progressives” often cite the Wagner Act and similar measures as among Roosevelt’s greatest triumphs. Woods remarks: “The ways in which labor unions impoverish the economy are legion, from distortions in the labor market to work rules that discourage efficiency. In a study published … in late 2002 … economists Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway of Ohio University calculated that labor unions have cost the American economy a whopping $50 trillion over the past fifty years alone.”

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December 31, 2004 at 8:22 am

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The cost of giving

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An update on the cost of traditional presents over the 12 days of Christmas.

Gold rings down, french hens up, milkmaids steady, fuel costs up delivery charge for on line purchases.

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December 31, 2004 at 8:05 am

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Difficult writing

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Everyone knows the syllogism:

Profound writing is difficult to understand
This writing is difficult to understand
Therefore this writing is profound.

This may be the case with some writers (I find Kant unreadable), but if they really want to be understood they will usually provide helpful commentaries and summaries of their own writing in “plain English”, or the ideas will be explained by good commentators and critics.

It is safer to assume that difficult writing that does not yield up its meaning after a serious effort on your part is not profound but simply confused. Unless of course the subject matter is genuinely deep, at the frontier of some field such as quantum physics, and requires some special knowledge (perhaps mathematics). Read the rest of this entry »

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December 30, 2004 at 1:13 pm

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Jacques Barzun and the debate on education

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One assumes that when NASA assembled a team to conquor space they assembled the best brains they could find to contribute to the task. This was certainly the case with the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb.

If we want to do the best for education in the would-be clever country it would be really clever to draw on the best commentators on the theory and practice of education. That list would have to include Jacques Barzun, the French-born US writer of 30 books, leading teacher and administrator at Columbia University. However I have not yet seen any mention of his work or his ideas in local writing and commentary on education and the universities. Read the rest of this entry »

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December 30, 2004 at 11:15 am

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