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Showing posts from May 11, 2014

assassinating the forbes 400 myth, larry summers edition

Everybody is under suspicion But you don't wanna hear about that... It is to two economists with the American EnterpriseInstitute, Steven Kaplan and Joshua Rauh , that we owe the meme that the Forbes 400 represents the fruits of social mobility, the rewards of an essentially meritocratic society.. Kaplan and Rauh have divided the individual who find places in the Forbes 400 from 1982 to 2012 into three categories: that that come from wealthy families, those that come from upper middle class families, and those that come from working or middle class families. The claim to discern a distinct change from 1982 to 2012 – the number of individuals coming from wealthy families declines, while those from upper class families increases. Thus, there is churn at the top, due to the meritocratic structure of American capitalism. Lets go into the ways Kaplan and Rauh are full of hooey. A.      Granting, for the moment, that the categorization, although a bit fuzzy, does actually repre

the democracy team: how to understand American foreign policy

Philosophers have long argued about what democracy really means. Western politicos don’t have that problem – democracy is a team name, like the Rangers. Nobody expects the Rangers to be rangers, and nobody expects the “democratic forces” supported by the krewe of Clinton, Bush, Obama, Blair, Hollande etc. – whatever figurehead is in power - to be democratic. Blair, in one of the comic highpoints of his miserable reign, toured the Gulf states and touted the democratic alliance (of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Mubarrak’s Egypt) against the enemies of democracy, i.e. Iran. Of course, Iran has at least the trappings of a democracy, much like the U.S. and the U.K., while Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most totalitarian country in the world, and showed what it thought of civil protest by invading Bahrain when the Arab Spring threatened the ruling prince. Not that I am defending a country that routinely condones torture and has the highest prison population in the world – but I would still call t

the breaks

Breakes on a bus, brakes on a carBreaks to make you a superstar Breaks to win and breaks to lose But these here breaks will rock your shoes And these are the breaks According to Robert Craven’s 1980 article on Pool slang in American speech, breaks – as in good break, bad break, those are the breaks – derives from the American lingo of pool, which is distinct from  British billiard terms. The difference in terminology emerged in the 19 th century, but  he dates the popular use of break (lucky break, bad break, the breaks) to the 20s. I love the idea that this is true, that the Jazz age, the age of American modernity and spectacle, saw the birth of the breaks. If the word indeed evolved from the first shot in pool – when you “break” the pyramid of balls, a usage that seems to have been coined in America in the 19 th century, as against the British term  – then its evolution nicely intersects one of the favored examples in the philosophy of causation, as presented by Hume.