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Showing posts from July 6, 2008

the economy of loaves and fishes

Kevin Phillips, as a populist, always gets under the skin of professional economists. And, of course, when a professional economist is put in a corner, he responds with professional jargon. Like Sganarelle in The Doctor in Spite of Himself, mixing up medical and rhetorical effects, economists will immediately revert to model talk when pressed, disregarding the fact that their enemy, the populist, is criticizing the very idea that those models represent economic reality. The economist will then defend himself with some reference to other sciences in which models are used, like physics. Thus, Tyler Cowen, the man who wants you to believe that there is no difference between trading between Austin and Dallas and trading between Austin and Bangalore, gave Phillips book the thumbs down in his review of it, which ends by saying: The author should spend a week locked in a room with the Solow model . Of course, as I have pointed out in my own post on trading the residual, the Solow model is v

the human limit/l’expérience-limite

Before I had ever read the phrase “ l’expérience-limite” , I had felt it. In the rather peculiar way one gropes around a hole in the dark, gaining a hand understanding which is, of course, difficult to put into words that belong to the world of light. The feeling, which was especially strong in me in the eighties, was that the norms of success, success as I had imbibed it in the burbs where I grew up, encoded, at a deep level, a ghastly defeat. The term of success were simply the terms of a dishonorable surrender, a betrayal of the forces one’s ego could muster, just so as to retire to a lifetime of being able to purchase enough stupifiants to help one forget the treason, that failed slave revolt. This is, of course, a child’s view of that artificial paradise, our life now. On the other hand, our criteria are determined by our situation – I have no overall vision of this time in which to judge it absolutely. So, when I encountered the phrase in Blanchot, who I read after reading Ba

In praise of bourgeois theater

LI loves Roland Barthes. But we don’t share all of Barthes’ tastes. For instance, Barthes said, in an interview, that he could never feel “close” to Molière. In Molière, he saw foreshadowed the bourgeois theater for which Barthes, famously, had extreme distaste. No Artaud or Brecht came out of Sganarelle’s pocket. What came out of Molière’s pocket – Labiche, Nestroy, Offenbach – is oriented to a certain kind of laughter. For Barthes, this laughter came out of the smiling, healthy lips of the bourgeois as a sort of baying of the hounds. It was unlocked by simple contradiction: those contradictions which unfolded, tactically, as characters scheme to realize desires which are, on the surface, prohibited by the bourgeois order, but which turn out to be eminently subsumable under that order. That is, in fact, the function of the laugh – it is an acknowledgement of weakness and an acceptance of the underground order, that social supplement which drains off certain irrepressible desires.

Happy Tanabata!

Our far flung correspondent, Mr. T in NYC, reminded us yesterday that today is Tanabata day – at least it might be. I am hoping he will send some pics of how he celebrated it. This day should be dear to those who love the stars – North, I’m lookin’ at you! – and for those living in smoggy regions where the stars barely peep through – I will shed tears for you. As for LI, we are going to pray for our wishes to come true. And then we will watch this nice little video from Oomph, the German metal goth band that has its own ideas about wishes. Happy festival, you all!

Some jottings

Notes: - Some dates. In 1695, Perrault’s Contes de la mere Oye is published. Mlle L’Heritier’s La Tour Ténébreuse ou les jours lumineux, which contains Ricdin-Ricdon, was published in 1705, though it was in circulation, I believe, earlier. Antoine Galland published Le Mille et une Nuits between 1704 and 1717. And, finally, Augustin Calmet’s Dissertations sur les apparitions, des anges, des démons et des esprits, et sur les revenants et vampires de Hongrie, de Boheme, de Moravie et de Silésie was published in 1746. We will return to all of this later. ... - In the introduction to Calmet’s dissertation, he writes that the supernatural has changed even in his native Lorraine in the last fifty years. Each century, each country has its fashions, its diseases, its particular visitations. Once, people made pilgrimages to Rome. Once, the countryside would be flooded, in times of crisis, with flagellants. “At the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth, everybody i

Trading away the residual

In development economics, the “residual” refers to the factor in the growth of the economy first identified by Robert Solow in 1956. It had been thought that physical capital accumulation, plus land, explained the growth of national economies. After Solow, whose model indicated that these could account, at most, for 50 percent of economic growth, economists started exploring just what the residual was. This was the beginning of the new growth school, with its emphasis on knowledge, technological change, education. Alas, this changed emphasis rather neglected the relationship between physical capital accumulation and ‘human capital”. For economists, humans are blanks. The man who works as a welder can be retrained to work in a grocery store, or to make chips for a computer, etc., etc. His work preferences, his experience, counts for zip. It is only – ah, the sweetness of it all! – when you get to highly skilled labor like, say, being an economist that you have to be careful to preserve

and idiot begat moron, who begat imbecile...

Well, finally an article about a presidential candidate who gets Iran right. A candidate who demands peace with Iran. A candidate who sees through the bullshit... Alas, it is not MY candidate, Barack Obama, who has somehow floated into the hands of the D.C. consultant class over the last couple of weeks. I don’t see in Obama an ultra-liberal, but I did see in him a man who had figured out that our foreign policy was as dysfunctional as the Manson family, with much more bloody consequences. Alas, he seems to be trying to placate an establishment that has been seriously weakened by its contradictions, failures, and pathology. The current meme: things are goin’ right in Iraq, because the surge was so awesome, is the latest bs being tossed out by that establishment. To which Obama’s reply should be, the surge was not awesome at all, but was simply a compound of misbegotten policies sinking us ever deeper into a country from which justice and self interest both demand we withdraw. The O