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Greed's Bad Sister

When you read conservative and libertarian economists, you will inevitably, at one time or another, run into an interesting paradox: the envy paradox. While greed among this type is the good bad emotion, and has been since Mandeville pointed out the virtue of the vices in a system of markets, envy is the wicked sister, the bad bad emotion which we must shame. The reply, when one criticizes some billionaire, often rings this chime: you are envious! Myself, I'm envious as hell. And you can't take the truth (I'd shout back, Jack Nicholson style). Envy is just justice on a bad hair day. Prima facie, the diabolization of envy and soft focus on greed makes little sense. If you dub envy “aspiration”, hey presto, it becomes a virtue. Sell the sports car, sell the high end restaurant, use the envy - this is 101 Marketing. The Horatio Alger striver, realizing that capitalism is the best of all systems and the thing to do is to swim upstream and rescue the bankers daughter, is mucho
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The Great wrong place

  In his famous – and to my mind famously wrongheaded – essay about “mysteries”, W.H. Auden wrote: “Actually, whatever he may say, I think Mr. Chandler is interested in writing, not detective stories, but serious studies of a criminal milieu, the Great Wrong Place, and his powerful but extremely depressing hooks should be read and judged, not as escape literature, but as works of art.” We have long accepted not only Chandler but every motherfucker who writes as writing works of art. Art is a category,   not a laudative. The reason that this passage sticks with me is the naming of the Great Wrong Place. I have often felt like I have spent a considerable portion of my life   in the Great Wrong Place, and that it didn’t have to be like that. This is why, I suppose, I am so fascinated by seedy stories of crimes and misappropriations during the Cold War, and the entire history of that encounter between two bad options, squeezing us, the inhabitants of our various Great Wrong Places, i

A valedition: the party dress

  She bleeds all in her dress on the back seat of the taxi Home from the bone Another good girl dawn   Even in my Emily Dickinson silence I can always hear the click click click Of the bitch about to pounce.   Although I dream of sitting among the big cats Don't you know I’m low in the zoo order from maneater to shrew.   Later, at the dry cleaners, the man says the dress would the multitudinous seas incarnadine. Too bad, I sez   It was one of my favorites .-Karen Chamisso

In what language do we read faces?

Often, when you read the conclusions of the psychologists in the U.S. or the Anglosphere in general, you come away feeling that psychologists treat English, or at best English and a few other European languages, as a sort of universal blueprint to feelings. Thus, in a famous study of facial expressions and emotions, Paul Ekman claimed that the Fore group in New Guinea recognized and categorized facial expressions in the same way as Americans, according to some universal menu of emotions. This research has often been criticized, and anthropologists seeking to replicate Ekman’s work claim that the Fore responses they get are different. Ekman, as a matter of fact, did not speak either the Pidgin or the Fore language. However, he didn’t seem to feel he had to: like many English speakers, he felt his native language endowed him with all the psychological knowledge he would need. I don’t think this is true. For it to be true, English would have to be an unusually hypercognized medium. I ta

what is wrong with Von Mises (Ludwig, not Richard)

  I ain’t satisfied at all, at all   with Jonathan Rée ’s London Review essay on Hayek. An essay in the form of a review, the classic LRB format. Ree starts out wrongfooting from the moment the runner is off his mark: in the first graf: “We s​ocialists like to hark back to better days, when ideals shone bright and principles stood tall: equality, fairness, democracy, internationalism, mutuality, jobs, education, food, housing, medicine, pensions, peace, friendship and love. But there is one strand of the tradition we prefer not to think about: the idea of putting an end to the wasteful chaos of capitalism by implementing a comprehensive economic plan.” “We socialists” here puts Ree on a definite side, from which he can pretty much cut away at socialism. This is the timehonored neoliberal stance of all the socialist parties that tossed themselves in the garbage in the post-Wall period – the French socialists, the Italian Olive tree, the English Labour party. In fact, of course, g

ChatGPT, Perceptual absorbance and machine dreams

  I am a great admirer of Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s “History of Train Rides: on the industrialization of space and time in the 19th century.” It is through Schivelbusch’s history that I grasped a social force that has continued up through ChatGPT: that the “modern era” is defined by a series of perceptual shocks and absorbances. Schivelbusch began researching the early response to the train and found that the speed at which trains travelled had a definite effect on the sensorium of the early riders. In the twentieth century, instruments were often dubbed the “extensions of man”. It is against this organic notion that Schivelbusch writes, since his sense of the industrial complex sees “man” divided up into different specializations: here’s the customer, here’s the conductor; here’s the coalminer, here’s the economist; here’s the victim of the accident, here’s the insurance company. The power of steam was distributed over a number of industrial branches - perceptual shock and absorbance is

Chichikov and Charlie Javice

  The story of Charlie Javice, one of Forbes 30 under 30 – along with Sam Bankman-Fried – was unrolled at length in the NYT's Sunday section. How she was a poor girl, the daughter of Didier Javice, who has worked on Wall Street for more than 35 years, with 11 years at Goldman Sachs and three at Merrill Lynch, and a mother who the NYT could not contact or find on Linked in. You know the type – her Mercedes was a hand me down from Dad, the private school she attended did not vote her prom queen, etc. She had a revelation – from God above, the ultimate billionaire – before she was out of that school, however: "Ms. Javice’s career helping others began, in her telling, on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. She spent time volunteering there one summer, between terms at her private high school in Westchester County, N.Y.” God, perhaps, directed her to Wharton. It is the Wharton that throws me off. It is a top business school, like Harvard School of Business, and it discourages its s