Insta-Millard Pundit, economics edition: Adam Smith was a bleeding heart liberal

December 21, 2013

In a new book, author Jack Russell Weinstein argues that we should pay more attention to Adam Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments,  and not allow Smith’s humanitarian pleas for good community be hijacked by libertarians, conservatives or liberals.

Adam Smith’s Pluralism, Jack Russell Weinstein, Yale University Press, 360 pages

Adam Smith, updated. Illustration by Michal Hogue.

Adam Smith, updated. Illustration by Michal Hogue.

A review of the book explains further, at American Conservative, “Adam Smith, Communitarian:

Weinstein builds upon Smithian harmony, explaining that while life is not always commercial, it is always communal. Community, in turn, derives its lifeblood from “imagination,” because imagination creates the capacity for sympathy. Unlike Kant and other Enlightenment thinkers, Smith “presumes human difference” as a necessary and inherent aspect of civilization, rejecting the Kantian ideal of “noncontextual normativity.” Smith recognized that cultural, temporal, and social differences shaped norms and values, making it impossible to create a single, all-inclusive norm of human behavior. This is why sympathy is so important. It offers a means that is natural to the human condition—our desire to commiserate with our fellow man—to bridge the gap between our differences.

Smith believed that “political society is not derived from a social contract,” according to Weinstein. Instead, society is a natural expression of what it means to be human. The state of nature for Smith is one of community, and the ultimate questions related to human society are questions of morality and virtue, not economics and politics. Thus, a broad, morally robust education rooted in a particular community is essential to forming sympathetic individuals. While Smith did not idealize the role of education—it could not completely eliminate human selfishness and vanity—he believed it had the power to “direct vanity to proper objects” and to “convert competing passions into a harmonious character.”

[The blog post's headline should be read with more than a hint of sarcasm; hate to have to explain that.]

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“It’s a Wonderful Life,” Republican edit

December 17, 2013

It's a Wonderful Life

Movie house poster for “It’s a Wonderful Life” (from Wikipedia)

Jimmy Kimmel’s crew put together the trailer for the new, GOP-edition of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Frank Milewski, and the “real communists of Bedford Falls.”

It’s a wonderful life, Christmas, Capitalism, Communism in America Politics.

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If Stalin said America is “a healthy body,” why can’t anyone find the source?

March 14, 2012

Joseph Stalin, via Chicago Boyz

Joseph Stalin would have to have been drunk to call the U.S. “healthy,” and to have complimented America’s patriotism, morality and spiritual life. Even then, it would be unlikely. Why does this quote keep circulating?

This has been floating around Tea Party and other shallow venues for a while, but I’ll wager Stalin did not say it:

“America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold:  Its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life.  If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”

I can’t find any source for it; it’s mostly quoted on right-wing sites where people marvel over what a prophet Stalin was.  All requests for a citation in five or six different forums I’ve checked, are unanswered.  Nothing like it appears at the often-checked Wikiquote.  The Stalin Archive holds nothing close to the claimed quote.

Perhaps more telling:  Is it likely that Joe Stalin ever would have called the U.S. “a healthy body?”  Stalin was of a school that claimed capitalism was diseased, and America was infested with a soon-to-be terminal case.  If he called America “diseased” by patriotism and religion, it would be consistent with other statements, but his calling America healthy for patriotism and spiritual life, it’s inconsistent with other claims he made, about America and about capitalism (see Stalin’s 1929 remonstrance to the U.S. Communist Party, for example).

So, Dear Readers, my request to you:  Can you offer the source of this quote, Joseph Stalin or not?

Why would a false claim from Stalin get such a life on the internet?

Update, March 15, 2012:  I’m calling this one:  It’s a bogus quote.  Joseph Stalin didn’t say it.  Not as many comments here as e-mails and comments on other discussion boards and Facebook — no one has come even close to anything like the line above from Stalin.  No source quoting the line even bothers to give a decade, let alone a year, a location, and a citation that would pass muster in a sophomore high school English class.  Tea Partiers, you’ve tried to twist history again — stop it.

Update March 1, 2013: If you’re checking in here studying for a DBQ for an AP class, please tell us in comments, which AP class, and what city you’re in.  Thanks.


How deep is the stupid in Tea Party and among their fellow travelers?

August 28, 2011

Barack Obama has managed to tack on a bit over a trillion dollars to the national debt, mostly in a successful effort to keep the U.S. and the world from plunging into a Greater Depression.  We haven’t shaken off the harmful effects of the Republican assault on capitalism during the previous years’ assaults on the Constitution, science, education and other American institutions.

But in the alternate universe of conservative thought, Obama’s put $15 trillion in new debts on the books.  Being off by a factor of 10 to 15 is an accomplishment worthy of someone wholly unconnected with reality.  That would be Victor Davis Hanson in this case.  Not sure why, but some search took me to a blog called The Clue Batting Cage — batting away clues to reality is a sport to them, I suppose.  There I found this post:

Here’s some excellent wording from Victor Davis Hanson.

Despite nearly $15 trillion in federal debt, the administration apparently wants to defy the rules of logic and do more of what made things worse in the first place, under the euphemism of “investments.” American popular culture has coined all sorts of proverbial warnings about such mindless devotion to destructive rote: “Don’t flog a dead horse,” “If you are in a hole, stop digging,” and “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

No matter: The administration still adheres to the logical fallacy that the toxic medicine cannot be proven to be useless or harmful, because there was supposedly never enough of it given. And the proof is that the worsening patient is still not quite dead.
:
That there is never enough spending is a seductive fallacy because it never requires any empirical proof: If millions of those supported by the state have lost their self-reliance and self-initiative, perhaps it is because millions supported by the state were not supported well enough, and so in response, some resorted to stealing things they could not afford.

How many others could possibly be with these yahoos, looking through the telescope backwards?

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Here’s what I posted in comments:

It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of someone who recommends Bob Park’s blog, and approves of Victor Hanson’s blather at the same time.

But then I look closer. You missed the boat completely. You didn’t even recommend the right Bob Park, but some imposter named Parks. You missed reality by one letter.

Reality is not an opinion, not that I expect you’ll ever change your opinion on that.

Lay off of Morgan’s blog for a while, maybe read some science or something. You may not feel better in the morning, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

9:38 PM

Delete

The author complains that my comments are too acid, and that the National Science Foundation is a “government site.”

If you call a private foundation the government supports, independent from the government by design to keep its advice unbiased, does that make it a government site?

Or is it still a four-legged calf?

A wise person said that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t get to by reason in the first place.  That’s the problem with the Tea Party in the first place.  It’s also the problem in the second place, and the third place, and on all issues.

To the Tea Party mindset, they are all five-legged dogs.

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com


Cracks appear in Rick Santorum’s personal constitution

August 6, 2011

Rick Santorum in Iowa, Huffington Post image

Rick Santorum in Iowa, Huffington Post image

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s reluctant grip on reality appeared to be vanishing fast in a stop in Iowa, Thursday.  He said America’s schools are for indoctrination of students, and he doesn’t like the current round of indoctrination.

Geeze, this ought to be in The Onion.  Is Santorum really this disconnected from America and life?  Are there actually people out there who don’t look around for the guys in the white clothes with straight jackets and nets when they hear him say this stuff?

I don’t generally cite to The Huffington Post, but when the warning claxons go off, you ought to see if there’s danger before dismissing them as error:

Rick Santorum woose voters in Orange City, Iowa - Des Moines Register photo

Rick Santorum woos voters in Orange City, Iowa - Des Moines Register photo

During a stop in Iowa on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that “schools indoctrinate our children,” the Des Moines Register reports.

“You wonder why young people can vote and flock for a guy like Barack Obama and say, if you look at the surveys, that socialism is better than capitalism — well, that’s because they don’t understand America,” he explained, according to the Register. “I said ‘indoctrination’ and I meant it,” he said.

What survey does he have that claims any group in America, other than the Tea Party or the American Communist Party, say socialism is better than capitalism?  Since curricula in every state teach the opposite, the existence of such a poll would be powerful evidence of critical thinking powers in students that most teachers would not attest to.

Maybe more important, perhaps we should  worry about just what all those thousands of nice Baptist ladies are teaching our kids in Texas, eh?  Not to mention the Lutheran ladies in Iowa.  Santorum is sniping at teachers, but if you look at the demographics, it makes little sense.  Teachers are, like the rest of America, about 90% Christian, God-fearing, flag-waving American patriots.

Well, nothing Santorum says makes much sense, does it?  Santorum lent support to the War on Education.

Santorum argued that the country’s education system is leaving students with an insufficient grasp of history. His remarks come with the widely-anticipated Ames Straw poll — a table-setter event for next year’s Iowa caucuses — less than two weeks away.

What in the hell do the schools in Ames, Iowa, look like, that Santorum can say that stuff about them?

By the way, if people learned history accurately in high school, Rick Santorum wouldn’t stand a chance in any election today.  But I digress.

The Des Moines Register article adds the details that Santorum made note of recent testing that shows American kids don’t know enough about American history — always the case, by the way — and that a college prof from Kansas said he gives his students the test required of immigrants applying for citizenship, and most can’t pass the test.

I’m game:  Let’s give the test to Santorum.  If he doesn’t pass, though, we can’t deport him.  We have no vehicles capable of getting to Mars.

HP offers information that may explain Santorum’s insanity:  The same article notes he’s touring Iowa in two vans with his seven children.  In this heat?

Does the Iowa division of child protective services know about this?  How about the division that worries about children torturing their parents?


Obama’s cabinet: Neal Boortz spreads hoax smear, months after debunking

July 23, 2010

Neal Boortz, the Georgia-based radio broadcaster, goes beyond irresponsible journalism.  After we caught Boortz spreading false tales about Hilary Clinton last year, I proceeded to ignore him.

Traffic links pointed to Boortz this morning — now we find he’s spreading a hoax about Obama’s cabinet’s qualifications, months after the guy who started the false story caught his error and retracted it.  [July 4, 2011 - If that link doesn't work, try this link to Boortz's archive.]

That’s not just irresponsible and sloppy:  Boortz clearly has a grudge and will tell any falsehood to push his agenda of hatred.

Birds of a feather:  Texas deficit champion Rick Perry with Neil Boortz, who tells whoppers about Clinton and Obama

Birds of a feather: Texas deficit champion Rick Perry, who refused to talk about his $18 billion deficit in Texas, with Neil Boortz, who spread a hoax about Hillary Clinton in 2008, and now spreads old hoaxes about President Obama.

Boortz posts this at his site, probably as a warning for what his philosophy of reporting is:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.”

Frederic Bastiat

Just before Thanksgiving last year, a J. P. Morgan official wrote a humorous piece of conjecture for his weekly newsletter — a week when most of the markets in the U.S. were closed, and so there was little news.  Michael Cembalest, the chief investment officer for J. P. Morgan, without serious research wrote a piece wondering about what he saw as a lack of private sector experience in Obama’s cabinet in those positions in Cembalest’s view that are concerned most with job creation.

The spin meisters at American Enterprise Institute abused Cembalest’s rank conjectures as a “research report,” created a hoax saying Obama’s cabinet is the least qualified in history, and the thing went viral among otherwise ungainfully-employed bloggers (a lot like Neil Boortz).

Cembalest retracted his piece when he saw, in horror, what had happened (but not before I was too rough on him in poking much-deserved holes in the AEI claim).

Cembalest called me before the end of that week, noting that he’d retracted the piece.

Nearly eight months later, full of vituperation but bereft of information, today Neil Boortz resurrected the hoax story on his blog (on his radio program, too? I’ll wager Boortz is double dipping with his false-tale telling . . .).

Here’s a series of falsehoods Boortz told:

Last year J.P. Morgan thought it might be interesting to look into the private sector experience of Obama’s Cabinet. America, after all, was in the middle of an economic disaster and the thought was that the president might actually look to some people with a record of success in the private sector for advice. So a study is done comparing Obama’s Cabinet to the cabinets of presidents going back to 1900. secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy and Housing and Urban Development were included. The J.P Morgan study looked at the percentages of cabinet members with prior private sector experience, and the results were amazing.

The presidential cabinet with the highest percentage of private sector experience was that of Dwight Eisenhower at around 58%. The lowest — until Obama — was Kennedy at about 28%. The average ran between 35% and 40% … until, as I said, Obama. Care to guess what percentage of Obama’s cabinet has prior private sector experience? Try 7%.

Here’s a start at the truth — try 11 times the experience Boortz credits:

All totaled, Obama’s cabinet is one of the certifiably most brainy, most successful and most decorated of any president at any time.  His cabinet brings extensive and extremely successful private sector experience coupled with outstanding and considerable successful experience in government and elective politics.

AEI’s claim that the cabinet lacks private sector experience is astoundingly in error, with 77% of the 22 members showing private sector experience — according to the [standards of the] bizarre chart [from AEI], putting Obama’s cabinet in the premiere levels of private sector experience.  The chart looks more and more like a hoax that AEI fell sucker to — and so did others.

Boortz is eight months late, and the whole truth short.  Shame on him.

Not just false stuff — old, moldy false stuff.   Atlantans, and all Americans, deserve better reporting, even from hack commentators.

_____________

Coda:  Sage advice, but . . .

Boortz includes this warning on his website:

ALWAYS REMEMBER
Don’t believe anything you read on this web page, or, for that matter, anything you hear on The Neal Boortz Show, unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove its accuracy to your satisfaction. This is known as “doing your homework.”

Great advice — but no excuse for sloppy reporting.  He should follow his own rule.  On this piece, Boortz didn’t do his homework in any fashion.  He’s turning in somebody else’s crap, without reading it in advance, it appears.


Texas standards: Students in the dark about “capitalism”

March 19, 2010

Tony Whitson from Curricublog made the killing observation:

BookTV [C-SPAN] this weekend has Steve Forbes talking about his new book,

“How Capitalism Will Save Us.”


With these new Social Studies TEKS, TX students won’t know what such a
book is about.

Small bit of humor from a truly sad situation.  One of the leaders of the Texas State Soviet of Education defended the evisceration and defenestration of social studies standards saying they didn’t need to listen to liberal college professors.

In economics, the professor was a conservative, well-respected economics professor from Texas A&M University, one of the most conservative state universities in the nation (with a Corps of Cadets numbering in the thousands and tradition deeper than Palo Duro Canyon and broader than the Gulf of Mexico).   Calling these people “liberal” is tantamount to complaining about the communism espoused by Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower — that is, it demonstrates a divorce from reality and rationality.

In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge problem, but it’s more than a trifle.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to fully comprehend market economics in the U.S. without understanding what capitalism is, and how it works.  Teachers will be left to find their own materials to explain “free enterprise” and, if the students ever make it into a real economics course in college, they will discover “free enterprise” is a quaint, political term that is not discussed in serious economics circles.  Texas students will, once again, be pushed to the hindmost by Don McLeroy’s odd views of America and what he doesn’t want Americans to know.

For example, look at the Council for Economic Education — while “capitalism” is not the only word they use for market-based economies, you’ll have a tougher time finding any definition of “free enterprise.”  Or, more telling, look at the Advanced Placement courses, or the International Baccalaureate courses.  AP and IB courses are the most academically rigorous courses offered in American high schools.  The Texas TEKS step away from such rigor, however (while the Texas Education Agency rides Texas schools to add rigor — go figure).  IB courses talk a lot about enterprise, but they don’t censor “capitalism,” nor do they pretend it’s not an important concept.

At the very conservative and very good Library of Economics and Liberty (which every social studies teacher should have bookmarked and should use extensively), a search for “free enterprise” produces 77 entries (today).  “Capitalism” produces almost ten times as much, with more than 750 listings.

Which phrase do you think is more useful in studying American economics, history and politics?

Teachers will deal with it.  It’s one more hurdle to overcome on the path to trying to educate Texas students.  It’s one more roadblock to their learning what they need to keep the freedom in America.

Warren Buffett, Businessweek image

Capitalism - Warren Buffett - BusinessWeek image

Bernie Madoff (photo credit unknown)

Free Enterprise - Bernie Madoff

The real difference?  Literature on capitalism frequently address the issue of moral investments, and the need for some regulation to bolster the Invisible Hand in producing discipline to steer markets from immoral and harmful investments.  The essential history politics economic question of the 20th and 21st centuries is, can economic freedom exist without political freedom, and which one is more crucial to the other?  We know from every period of chaos in history when governments did not function well, but bandits did, that free enterprise can exist without either political freedom or economic freedom.  I think of it like this:

Capitalism

Free Enterprise

Adam Smith Blackbeard the Pirate
Warren Buffett Bernie Madoff
Investing Spending
Building institutions Taking profits
Retail Robbery
Wholesale Extortion
Save for a rainy day debt-equity swap
Antitrust enforcement to keep markets fair Don’t get caught, hope for acquittal
Milton Friedman P. T. Barnum
Ludwig von Mises Charles Ponzi
Friedrich von Hayek Richard Cheney, “deficits  don’t matter”
Paul Krugman Kato Kaelin
Stockholders Victims and suckers

Stand up for good history in Texas

December 17, 2009

Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to:  The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.

Do I exaggerate?   Very little, if at all.  Really.

There’s a lot to say.  I may have another post on it this week.  In the meantime, the indefatigable Texas Freedom Network works to organize for the hearing on the issue in January.  SBOE hopes it will be a quiet, non-confrontational meeting, and they will do whatever they can to prevent Texans from telling them to have good history standards that make great students.  So it’s important that you speak up — especially if you’re a Texan.  Here’s what TFN said in an e-mail alert:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.

___________________________________________________

Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.

Spread the word even farther — help save history, in Texas:

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20 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell – reverse domino effect

November 9, 2009

High school sophomores in Texas study world history, and juniors study U.S. history. At 16 and 17 years old, they have difficulty figuring out the fuss over the Berlin Wall. It’s just pictures in their textbook.

The Wall was already three or four years gone when they were born. They don’t remember living with the Soviet Union at all — it’s been Russia to them for their entire lives.

I have some hopes that the celebrations set for this week will aid their understanding, on the 20th anniversary of the breaching and destruction of the wall.

Dominoes set for celebration of the Berlin Wall's destruction.  AP photo by Herbert Knosowski, via Canadian Broadcast System

Caption from CBC: "Dominoes are placed where the Berlin Wall once stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital. (Herbert Knosowski/Associated Press)"

An enormous line of giant dominoes is set up along the line where the old wall stood – to be toppled on November 9, the anniversary of the official breaching of the wall.

It’s the “domino theory” in reverse.

About 1,000 plastic foam dominoes will fall to the ground Monday along the route where the Berlin Wall once stood to mark the 20th anniversary of the crumbling of the Cold War barrier.

The 2.3-metre-high blocks, painted by schoolchildren, stretch for 1.5 kilometres in a path near the Brandenburg Gate and the German parliament.

Former Polish leader Lech Walesa, whose pro-democracy movement Solidarity played a key role in ending communism in Eastern Europe, will tip the first domino at 8 p.m. local time.

I made one visit to the wall, late on a night in 1988.  American Airlines explored the possibility of taking over the service authorized from Munich to Berlin.  Soviet and East German rules required passenger flights to stay at a very uncomfortable 10,000 feet.  Pan Am had the route, but Pan Am was in trouble.  We spent a day with Berlin airport authorities and real estate agents trying to figure out how to set up a reservations office and other ground facilities.  European airports tended to force foreign carriers to share gate facilities, which was a problem, and we devoted a lot of time to gathering data for computer lines.

But then, after a smashing dinner of sausage and German-style potatoes in a great, small Berlin pub, we talked our taxi driver into giving us a tour of the wall.  He drove a spot near the Brandenburg gate, and there on a chain link fence keeping westerners from the wall were eight fresh wreaths.  Eight people had died trying to cross from East Berlin to West Berlin in the previous six months.  One wreath for each death.

Just over a year later, the Berlin Wall itself would be gone.

West Berlin acted much like a normal, western European city.  But the wall was there as a constant reminder of the oppression on the other side, a dull fog to constantly dim even the sunniest day.

Old posts on the Berlin Wall here at the bathtub are suddenly popular — usually they get a lot of hits after March when U.S. schools get to the post-World War II era, the Cold War and the Berlin airlift.  I imagine the current popularity has something to do with the anniversary.

I hope somebody has some great video of the dominoes toppling.

Dominoes acerbicly note the irony:  While the U.S. feared nations would fall under communism in a “domino effect,” especially in Southeast Asia (Indochina), communism broke up in a domino effect, as one communist-dominated country after another found freedom near the end of the Cold War.  Why has no one done a serious essay on the domino effect of freedom?

More news and resources:

Famous sign warning visitors leaving West Berlin

A sign of old times, now unneeded

Viral dominoes: Help spread the news:

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80/20 Day: July 15, 1848, birth of Vilfredo Pareto

July 15, 2009

Happy 80/20 Day!

Italian economist, engineer and political activist Vilfredo Pareto was born on July 15, 1848, in Paris, where his father had fled due to political difficulties.

Pareto should be more famous, for his explanation of the 80/20 rule, and for his contribution to making better things, the Pareto chart.  Many economic texts ignore his work almost completely.

Vilifred Pareto, Wikipedia image

Vilfredo Pareto, Wikipedia image

His contributions, as accounted at Wikipedia:

A few economic rules are based on his work:

Resources:


Obama fans, Democrats: Political stuff clearance sale!

May 31, 2009

Great idea.  Really.  There’s a lot of campaign stuff left over.  Rather than dump it, they’re selling it cheap.

Image from the Obama campaign site, June 2009

Image from the Obama campaign site, June 2009

Government and politics teachers can stock up on the stuff to decorate the room.  AP Government teacher Mrs. Richie, at Duncanville High School had a collection of bumperstickers that went back 30 years before she retired (where did that collection go?)

Or, maybe you just need tote bags to replace the plastic and paper choices the grocery store gives you.  Green up, cheap, at the Obama site!

Over at Republican National Headquarters, they’re having a sale on politicians, I hear. Entire Congressional committee minorities, cheap.  Izzat so?  Not really.  Really?


Public Lands insanity

November 16, 2008

Remember when Strange Maps “discovered” that so much of the 13 western states is owned by the Federal Government?  On the one hand, it was nice to see people paying attention to public lands in the west.

Public lands.  Photo from the Montana Wildlife Federation

Public lands. Photo from the Montana Wildlife Federation

At the Bathtub, we remarked on the history of the issue with a map that showed where the publicly-owned lands really are (the Strange Maps version only showed a dot in the middle of each state proportionate to the federal land held in the state.)  On the other hand, it was an open invitation for know-nothings and know-littles to jump in with silly ideas.  Remarkably, the post remained free of such folderol — until just recently.

None of these sites gives any serious thought to the idea.  None provides a scintilla of an iota of analysis to indicate it would be a good idea.

As one of the the principal spokesmen for the Sagebrush Rebellion in the early days, I want it known that I’ve thought these issues through, and argued them through, and followed the documentation for 30 years (Holy frijole!  I’m old!).  Issues with public lands revolve around stewardship.  Bad stewardship is not improved by a change in ownership.  Ownership change has all too often only led to worse stewardship.  Selling off the public lands is a generally stupid idea.

Certain local circumstances change the nature of a tiny handful of such deals — but not often, not in many places, and not enough to make a significant contribution to retiring any debt the federal government owns.

On the other hand, incomes from these lands typically runs a few multiples of the costs of managing them.  The Reagan administration discovered the lands were a great source of money to offset losses in other places, and for that reason (I suspect) never really got on the Sagebrush Rebellion band wagon — or, maybe Reagan’s higher officials just didn’t get it.

It’s troubling that such a flurry of stupidity strikes now, during a transition of presidents. This is how stupid ideas get traction, like kudzu on a cotton farm, while no one is paying deep attention.  Let’s put this idea back into its coffin with a sagebrush stake in its heart.

Bottom line:  Keep public lands in federal trust.  The Sagebrush Rebellion is over.  The sagebrush won.

_____________

Speaking of presidential transitions, who should be Secretary of Interior?  Stay tuned.


Can I turn this in late? More economics carnivals

May 31, 2008

Struck in Traffic works to lay claim to the title of King of the Economics Carnival with his bi-weekly American Economics Blog Carnival. Two editions since I last posted on it (though I confess, I visited a couple of other occasions thinking I would post).

For those correspondents who argue with me that the U.S. faces a crisis of turning to socialism, I invite you to find either posts advocating socialist policies (5-years plans, anyone?), or from obviously Marxist or socialist economists. Tell us what you find in comments, please, I dare you.

And I wonder: Do students learn the meaning of the word “sepulchre” anymore? Would they get the reference to a “white sepulchre?”


Censorship in the oddest of places

May 12, 2008

I think it was Euripides who said, “Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.” Evidence of the madness sometimes is small compensation for bearing the burden of having to deal with the madness of others.

Iaian Murray’s book is getting accolades from some of the odd sources you’d expect to rave over the book without ever having seen it or giving it a moment’s analysis as to accuracy, relevancy, or morality. I stumbled into a bunch of such sites looking to see why Murray took after me, and what I had said that he quoted, to earn me a place in his index.

One would not expect to run into a censorship buzzsaw at a site that proclaims itself to be free enterprise. But Bloodhoundblog has frustrated all my attempts to correct their errors on DDT, in a post “Cleaned by Capitalism: Our professed love of nature is an artifact of our enormous prosperity.” Perhaps I shouldn’t complain — the offending language on DDT was removed eventually. The extolling of Murray’s book remains, however, in an odd screed against public roads and compact fluorescent lightbulbs (go read the site — can you tell what the guy thinks about CFLs?)

Can the irony get much deeper?

Humorously, there is an ill-informed discussion of fascism vs. socialism as communism in the thread — the discussants blithely unaware that totalitarian censorship is a sin under any fair government scheme.

Was it just that they don’t want to discuss the science of DDT? I’ve corrected a minor error in history, too, in a later comment; will that comment hold up? You might want to check out the comments. Do you think the existence of public lands encourages their abuse? It seemed to me the discussants didn’t understand at all that much of our environmental trouble has occurred on private land, often problems of toxic pollution created by the owners of the land.

Ardent and loud “capitalists” often are the first to sell out. They fall for censorship, they fall for hucksterism — just so long as they still get to wave their flag, insult the academy, and a promise they can make some money doing it. Businesses didn’t stand up to fascism in the early 20th century — nor much of any other time business was promised a license to continue operations.

The issues are not simple. If we insist FedEx not do business in China, do we miss a great opportunity to insinuate a capitalist enterprise as a wedge into a crumbling structure of oppressive politics? If we allow China to host Olympic games, do we strengthen their oppressive structure, or weaken it?

Should we stand idly by while the Chinese government censors the internet (and this blog) to its own people? Should I not kick a little when Bloodhoundblog censors my comments?


Two million minute challenge

May 9, 2008

Just over two weeks to graduation, son James is concerned about global competitiveness.  He’s off to study physics at Lawrence University in the fall; he is insistent I note the news in the paper this week.  I still have an active  stake in public schools, after all — good call, James.  Here’s his concern, below.

Each child has two million minutes of life over the four years of high school. Whether the U.S. can remain competitive in the global economy depends more than ever on how each child allocates those two million minutes.

A new film raises concerns that U.S. children are losing out against students from India and China.

Dallas Morning News business reporter Jim Landers wrote about the movie, “Two Million Minutes,” in an article May 6. It’s an indication of something that this is front page in the business section — an indication of genuine concern, one may hope.

Science and mathematics education gets the major attention in the film. One wishes this film could compete with the anti-science film “Expelled!” which still lingers malodrously in a few theatres across the nation.

Landers wrote:

2 Million Minutes argues that “the battle for America’s economic future isn’t being fought by our government. It’s being fought by our kids.”

And in a series of international comparisons, the U.S. kids are not doing so well. The one area where they score better than the rest is self-confidence.

Once they leave the eighth grade, students have a little more than 2 million minutes to get ready for work or college and the transition to being an adult. This documentary, made by high-tech entrepreneur Robert Compton, follows two high school seniors in Carmel, Ind., two in Bangalore, India, and two in Shanghai, China, to see how they use their time.

All six are bright, accomplished, college-bound individuals.

Our students spend a lot of time watching TV, working part-time jobs, playing sports and video games, but not so much on homework. The Chinese kids spend an extra month in school each year, more hours at school each day and more hours doing homework. By the time they graduate, Chinese students have spent more than twice as much time studying as their U.S. counterparts.

While one may hope kids will pay attention, one may be unhappy to recall the topic, and many of the same or similar numbers, were published nationally in the 1980s by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at the U.S. Department of Education. I remember it well, since I was publisher for some of the work.

The website for the movie offers more details, including a calendar of screenings. DVDs are available, but at very high prices — $25 for home use, $100 for school or non-profit use. I’d love to show it to students; I can get a couple of much-needed PBS videos for that same price. I hope producers will work to arrange distribution competitive with opposition movies like Stein’s. I’ll wager “Expelled!” will hit the DVD market at about $10.00, with thousands of DVDs available for free to churches and anti-science organizations.

Landers chalks up some of the stakes, and we should all pay attention:

Nearly 60 percent of the patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the field of information technology now originate in Asia.

The United States ranks 17th among nations in high-school graduation rate and 14th in college graduation rate.

In China, virtually all high school students study calculus; in the United States, 13 percent study calculus.

For every American elementary and secondary school student studying Chinese, there are 10,000 students in China studying English.

The average American youth now spends 66 percent more time watching television than in school.

SOURCE: “Is America Falling off the Flat Earth?” by Norman R. Augustine, chairman, National Academy of Sciences “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” committee


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