Archive for the 'Rhetoric' Category

THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE

December 11, 2012

by Mario Rizzo

Some people rest the case for representative democracy on the idea that its decisions express the “will of the people.” Those who believe this have never thought deeply about what they are saying. I am inclined, in response to these believers, to use my favorite paraphrase of Ludwig Wittgenstein, “You can mouth the words, but you cannot think the thought.”

What is the will of the people?  Whatever it is, it is certainly not without contradictions, illusions, misinformation, and wishful-thinking – just like a lot of individual thought. But as an aggregation of individual thought it is a construct used to justify all sorts of things. In some people’s minds, this construct has claim to moral authority. Read the rest of this entry »

Supply and Demand in Music

January 17, 2012

by Edward Peter Stringham*

Many economists are criticized for being unable to communicate their ideas in am intelligible and non-boring way. How many people, for example, jump to listen about a debate about the Austrian theory of the business cycle? It turns out quite a lot. John Papola and Russ Roberts demonstrated to the world that lots people will actually listen to an economics discussion if presented in an interesting way.  Their videos recently surpassed 4.5. million views. They did an amazing job especially with their good casting decisions for the reporter at the end of the second video.

This year I decided to run a video contest for students to create music videos that help illustrate the laws of supply and demand. Read the rest of this entry »

Revolution on Wall Street?

October 3, 2011

by Chidem Kurdas

Protestors have “occupied” a square near Wall Street for weeks. Hundreds of them were arrested, some 700 while blocking the Brooklyn Bridge. The movement may be spreading to other American cities. At least one demonstrator says: “This is a revolution.”

They complain of joblessness and the inequities of global capitalism, though the sources of their distress vary widely, from having to pay back student loans to the depredations of the internal combustion engine. At this point their immediate, tangible adversary appears to be the New York Police Department. It is easy to make fun of disaffected middle-class kids with Apple computers camping out in Downtown Manhattan. They bask in media limelight while taunting working-class cops. Still, we should try to understand the matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Patriotism

July 4, 2011

by Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Were anyone to call me dishonest or untruthful he would touch me to the quick. Were he to say that I am unpatriotic, he would leave me unmoved. “What, then, have you no love of country?” That is a question not to be answered in a breath.

The early abolition of serfdom in England, the early growth of relatively-free institutions, and the greater recognition of popular claims after the decay of feudalism had divorced the masses from the soil, were traits of English life which may be looked back upon with pride. When it was decided that any slave who set foot in England became free; when the importation of slaves into the Colonies was stopped; when twenty millions were paid for the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies; and when, however unadvisedly, a fleet was maintained to stop the slave trade; our countrymen did things worthy to be admired. And when England gave a home to political refugees and took up the causes of small states struggling for freedom, it again exhibited noble traits which excite affection.

But there are traits, unhappily of late more frequently displayed, which do the reverse. Read the rest of this entry »

Confusion Masquerading as Science? Taxes and Spending

May 29, 2011

by Mario Rizzo

I am always amazed that when many economists give policy advice the sophistication and logical rigor that the discipline so values gets completely lost.

There are many ways to interpret this. One is that the level of precision appropriate to theory and to applied economics is not appropriate to the “art” of economic policy. Of course, I would suggest that maybe this teaches us something about the ultimate value of sophistication in the theoretical product. Do the precise concepts of theory and applied economics have referents in the “real world”? Or is most of the precision lost when we try to understand the world and recommend policies? This is an important question.

However, here I am interested in the sloppiness of the policy-relevant discussions that even very good and respectable economists produce. One interesting example is a recent “Economix” piece in The New York Times by the Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt.

I have two points: first, the confusing mix of science and value judgments; and second, the naïve analysis of the political process. Read the rest of this entry »

Sowing and Reaping: The True Sickness of Society

January 12, 2011

by Mario Rizzo  

There has been much moaning, even before the Arizona shooting incident, about why “we” cannot be civil in our political discussions and why political parties cannot work together for the common good. 

Most of this is pure logorrhea.

There are some simple facts the commentators cannot or will not face. The reason we cannot have a coherent, comprehensive plan to solve the political and economic difficulties of the federal government (and of the state governments) is that people do not have a coherent, comprehensive hierarchy of values beyond the basics of social order. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Potok’s Loony Logical Leap

January 11, 2011

by Roger Koppl

The tragic shooting in Arizona has sparked a fight about whether today’s right-wing political rhetoric is somehow responsible for egging on Jared Loughner.  The evidence so far is against the claim.

Mother Jones, hardly a right-wing rag, interviewed a friend of Loughner.  It seems that Loughner had a grudge against Giffords after she failed to give him a satisfactory answer to a question he put to her at an earlier event.  Loughner told his friend that he had asked Giffords,  “What is government if words have no meaning?” Read the rest of this entry »

Could Sarah Palin Be Right?!

December 30, 2010

by Mario Rizzo  

In an editorial the Wall Street Journal criticizes Sarah Palin for criticizing Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. The point seems to be that such talk from the Ms. Bully Pulpit is innocuous or benign. The writer makes an analogy with Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. 

Now if Michelle Obama were just a Chicago-based community activist who was organizing a nation-wide propaganda campaign to urge people to eat healthily I would have no objection.   Read the rest of this entry »

Anti-Intellectualism and Freedom

September 28, 2010

by Chidem Kurdas

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, a historian who died in 1970, is very much part of politics several decades after it was written. The past two years brought many charges of anti-intellectualism by left-liberals against people on the other side of the political divide.  The latest in Hofstadter-inspired critiques is an attack on Tea Partiers by Will Bunch — The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama.

The term anti-intellectualism does not just denote those who don’t care for intellectuals. Rather, Hofstadter presents it as an ideology, an “ism” that periodically besets American culture and deprives intellectuals of political power. This deprivation disappears under certain administrations. Thus regarding the late 19th and early 20th century he wrote that “In the Progressive era the estrangement between intellectuals and power … came rather abruptly to an end.”

Similarly in the New Deal: “Never had there been such complete harmony between the popular cause in politics and the dominant view of the intellectuals.” Unfortunately – from Hofstadter’s perspective – this harmony was disrupted by right-wing reaction against policies associated with intellectuals. Read the rest of this entry »

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