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Showing posts from October 27, 2013

the morality of splashing water

When I was toiling away, learning philosophy back in Grad school, I pretty much focused on Western philosophy. That’s a vast amount of material there, bucko, and I figured that if – by the time I was doddering on the lip of the grave – I understood some of it, that would be enough of an achievement.   But such projects belong to the long ago of academia. Since the, I’ve become a pirate intellectual – or, less boldly, a dilettante eclectist – or perhaps even less boldly, an an anonymous reader between the lines – I’ve come to operate under the proud slogan: fuck the context, show me the beef. Or something like that.   Which brings me to Mencius’ marvelous question, which is quoted in Yi-Fu Tuan’s Dominance and Affection: the making of pets: “Mencisu asked, “Is it right to force water to leap up?” He was taking the position that human nature is inclined to act in certain ways and not others, using the movement of water as an analogy. “Water,” he said, “will flow indifferently to e

dreary days

Virginia Woolf once began a diary entry by saying that the day had been dreary and that nothing happened. Then she reproached herself: this was no way for a writer to treat even a day on which nothing seemed to happen. She compared such days to trees in winter. The glory of the tree, the leaves, have fallen, and all that is left are bare branches and the trunk. One tends not to see the tree, then. And yet it is in this state that you can most see the tree, its growth against the damage of insect, lightning strike, impoverished soil,  and weather – in short, what it had become. I think that is a rather brilliant comparison, even though writing for others is all about brilliant and hyperreal days, where the criminal is escaping the police, where the adulterous love affair begins to germinate at the party, where Madame Bovary takes poison and spontaneous cumbustion claims the ragman. But the forest in which these events take place is vast, and consists of dreary or happy days where n

for price controls: a solution to healthcare costs in America

Like many a crank before me, I am unhealthily attracted to arguments about economics. This last week there has been a lot of fun activity in the blogosphere around that perpetually arousing topic, is economics a science or not? Science, here, doesn’t mean a social science. The problem with economics, I think, is that there is an impulse within the discipline to understand it as something more like a natural science – a science like physics. This is, I think, a bogus credentialing move with serious consequences for the way economists think and advice. Being held prisoner by a bunch of assumptions both about what science is and about what the economy is about, economists all too often end up leading those who listen to them into dead ends. A good case in point is the matter of price controls. Economists now, whether chicago school or MIT school, show the same horror for price controls as the Victorians showed for the   mention of sex. It just shouldn’t be done! Economics d