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Showing posts from January 13, 2008

1979 - a flashback

One thing LI loves about libertarians is their “never say die” attitude to reality. If reality blows up your ideology – why, then reality just needs a bigger dose of ideology! If we have a financial system which used the “magic of the market place” to take a financial sector that has the dull task of providing money for investment and turned it into the exciting task of betting on betting on betting on The Wheel of Fortune, the fault lies not in the financial market – but in the remaining structure of regulation. We never de-regulate enough, you see. In fact, of course, we need a lot of re-regulation. We need re-regulation out the bungus. We need to regulate the financial markets to make it very, very difficult to maintain a hedge fund. We need to rein in derivatives, and we need to make sure that the excuse that is usually given for not regulating derivatives – that the market is played only by millionaires who can afford it – is roundly shown up as the lie that it is. In reality, t

smash goes the clown

“Doubt everything at least once”, as Lichtenberg once encouraged himself , “even if it concerns the proposition two times two equals four.” The doubt, according to Lichtenberg’s belief, set autonomous thought in motion, and autonomous thought sets aside the veils that cover the world. Once these have finally disappeared for good, the true will prevail over the false everywhere, and the world will at last become better. Thought produces clever people. In a better world, however, humans are happier, and who says that the clever people won’t finally win their share in this happiness? Nestroy, the contemporary of Schopenhauer, puts an end to this legend out of the siècle des lumières, bold and confident of the future. He goes through with the whole thing: he uses his understanding, he emerges from intellectual immaturity, he doubts. He rips apart the veils that cover the world and what does he see? The dummies win. They are the happy ones. They earn the big money. In another monolog fr

News Flash!

We live in a time of few issues. Everything is going great. But underneath, people are thinking, do we really live in paradise? Isn’t there some issue we should be concerned about somewhere? Or is it just gonna be the cabana boys and ice cream from now on out? Oh, how the West doth sleep! The answer is here, and it is grim: the Russkies are at it again! You remember when they used to wave their missiles at us. Now those bastards are trying to connect Extra terrestrial carnivores, no doubt to gain allies and wipe us out! In the old days, we would have found this out from Weekly World News. Sadly, our only source for the secret information that we all need has gone bust – although with this news about the Russkies, I think we know now who was behind closing down our only unbiased source of news! Luckily, the Guardian is filling the gap. “ ET stay home We should resist the efforts of Russian scientists to contact aliens who could threaten our very existence” Says ever frowning Davi

the vulnerable self

Two blogs have commented on LI’s latest posts. My so called Midlife Crisis writes: “… LI looks at the reason/emotion split (aka mind/body dualism) through the lens of an essay by William Hazlitt, and finds it wanting. LI interprets Hazlitt to posit that imagination is implicated in decisions and consciousness as much as reason (mind) and emotion (body), and teases out the following moral implication: [quoting me talking about Hazlitt]… This account of "imagination" leaves it a metaphysical entity (although I don't know if Hazlitt's idea of reason devolved upon a metaphysical mind or the physical brain) and as it is not a satisfactory one for modern science. Still, the analysis of imagination as being neither reason nor emotion and its necessity for decision and action indicates a problems with mind/body dualism.” Praxis asks some questions, in a longer post, about my whole project and its relationship to Freud. Specifically, how does psychoanalysis, with its use of t

Double Indemnity

" Anonymous: I am a new respondent but have read the column for a long time. I believe that you are a natural born teacher turned columnist. Would you please explain at greater length and in more detail the last three paragraphs of today's column. The nest shoe to drop you call credit default swaps but I would like a more detail understanding and how they could trigger a financial chain reaction. Steven Pearlstein: This is a hard one, and I worked long and hard on those three paragraphs last night. Let's just say there is this huge financial market you don't even know about where banks and hedge funds and big investors make bets with each other, in the form of contracts: A pays B $100 to "insure" that $10,000 worth of junk bonds at Company C don't default. If they do default, then B pays A $10,000. Now what makes this interesting is that A doesn't actually have to hold the junk bond (or the CDO, or the syndicated bank loan, or the municipal bond, al

Fun and Games on Wall Street

Well, LI is nearly there on the 12,500 prediction - just fifteen days late! Might as well lay down my prediction for this year, which is a year end unemployment rate of 6 to 6.5. Citi melts down - the congress investigates big bad ball players - John McCain looks forward to the next 100 years of our occupation in Iraq - and it is another day of crackle and pop in these here states! I can tell it must be bad on Wall Street, as all the gleeful econ-bus blogs that were doing the sarcastic thing over the past month about how bad the financial meltdown really is - making with the black humor jokes - have stopped joking. They are unusually sober. There's an old wives tale that just before you get a heavy rainfall of stockbrokers jumping out of 25th floor windows, there is an uncanny quiet - not a peep from the wheeler dealers, the spinners, the bucketshop boys. This portends a bad bad year for LI. Which is so sad, since we were going to join the lower middle class this year. But it lo

Reason and Imagination - fin

“We fell ill on leaving Madagascar to go to the country of the Whites, people thought of the Whites then as cannibals … We suffered greatly on board ship, particularly from the pitching and rolling that caused us to fall. There was no-one to restrain us, or to sustain us, and more than once we might have fallen into the sea. When we arrived in Great Britain we didn't know the White language, not even a word, and the Whites, for their part, didn't know our language, not even a word.” In the January, 2007 issue of History Today, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones recounted the story of seven boys from Madagascar who were sent to England to go to school – specifically, Class 1 of the Borough Road School in Southwark in 1821. They were the sons of nobility in the court of Radama I. The King was playing off the English against the French at the time. His larger plan was that the boys would be apprenticed at some point to learn manufacturing, particularly gunpowder manufacturing. In the event,

news from the war of mirrors front

Ségolène is hot today – «L’état de grâce s’achève, l’état de disgrâce commence», veut croire Ségolène Royal, qui lâche ses coups: «Le roi s’amuse, vit comme un milliardaire et s’offre même des bijoux de milliardaire.» Face à un Président tour à tour taxé de «désinvolture», d’«improvisation», de «fébrilité», d’«exhibitionnisme» et de «provocation», elle entend «incarner de nouvelles raisons d’agir, d’espérer et d’avancer». Jusqu’au prochain congrès? “(The state of grace [for Sarkozy] is finished, the state of disgrace begins, opines Ségolène Royal, who unleashes her blows: the king entertains himself, lives like a billionaire, and even gives the jewelry of a billionaire” Against a president reproached turn and turn about with ‘indifference’, ‘improvisation’, ‘general spasticness”, ‘exhibitionism’ and 'provocation', she means to “embody new reasons to act, hope and advance.” Right up to the next convention [of the PS]?” Sarkozy has been the subject of more admiring press i

Reason and Imagination 3

About Reason and the Imagination – let’s begin with the beginning image, or similitude, in the essay. It is an overdetermined one – the similitude between the map, which is what the utilitarians go by, versus the picture, or the globe versus the local. Of course, maps are not neutral things: “They [the theorists] had better confine their studies to the celestial sphere and the signs of the zodiac; for there they will meet with no petty details to boggle at, or contradict their vague conclusions. Such persons would make excellent theologians, but are very indifferent philosophers. To pursue this geographical reasoning a little farther. – They may say that the map of a country or shire for instance is too large and conveys a disproportionate idea of its relation to the whole. And we say that their map of the globe is too small, and conveys no idea of it at all.” Given these images, one might expect a defense of the local, imagination, against the universal, or reason. Which is why Haz

Promoting my academia column in the Austin American Statesman

I was editing away today on a dissertation {and I'm looking for more editing, please!) and forgot that I was supposed to be all about me today. Me, as in I, as in not-you, as in my column in the Austin Statesman on two books: Trying Leviathan by D. Graham Burnett and Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison's groovy Zone book, Objectivity. This is my second column so far, my dearest and nearest, and I'm looking to franchise this baby - gonna send it around to various newspapers in various high ed towns and offer it for peanuts - that is, a week after the statesman publishes it. I'm not sure if this will work, but I'm gonna give it a shot. And if it does work, I'll be your man on the university press beat. So, did I say Me? Yes. This has been shameless self promotion on the part of LI. Check it out! PS - here's my editor Jeff's blog post about this.

Carry on you wayward son and other great lines of poetry

Obviously, the place to go on the intertubes today is the Werepoet’s site for the close reading of one of those masterpieces that justify all the effort humankind made 2 million years ago to stand up on its hind legs, to wit: Starship’s We built this city on Rock n Roll. George Saunders, eat your heart out.