Ten Years After Lehman (3): The Haves

by Edward Chancellor*

The Greek philosopher Aristotle attacked the charging of interest on grounds that lenders demanded more money in return than they supplied. This ancient prejudice against interest lingers in the French economist Thomas Piketty’s claim that inequality increases when the return on capital, a quantum which includes the rate of interest, is higher than that of economic growth. Yet the overwhelming evidence from the easy money that followed Lehman Brothers’ demise shows that inequality really takes off when interest rates are maintained at artificially low levels.

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The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences

by Gene Callahan

Let’s take social science broadly, in the sense of German wissenschaft, so that The Republic and Politics and The Social Contract are social science. (I would contend that they are, in fact, often much more scientific than the latest regression study of how detergent use correlates with the suicide rate.)

So what, then, are the most important ideas ever put forward in social science? I’m not asking what are the best ideas, so the truth of them is only obliquely relevant: a very important idea may be largely false. (I think it still must contain some germ of truth, or it would have no plausibility.) Think of it this way: if you were teaching a course called “The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences,” what would you want to make sure you included?

Here’s my preliminary list. What have I left off? What have I mistakenly included? Continue reading

Obama Has the Right Idea

by Gene Callahan

There has been a lot of commentary about Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley at the White House to discuss Crowley’s arrest of Gates. I must say that I admire Obama’s approach here, as I find it refreshingly Aristotelian: the right way to sort out conflicts like that between Gates and Crowley is to have a symposium and engage in reasonable discussion about the problem.

Man: The Political Animal?

by Gene Callahan

I recently saw a prominent anarchist saying, in effect: “Look, we can all go wrong — after all, one of the greatest thinkers in history called man ‘the political animal.'”

This statement, I think, exhibits a common misunderstanding of what Aristotle meant here. Man is a political animal, the Philosopher held, because he is the one animal that tries to order his social arrangements according to his sense of, and rational arguments about, the justice of those arrangements. Thus the anarchist, in debating the justice of the State, is illustrating, and not disputing, Aristotle’s point.

It is, in fact, Hobbes’s position that the anarchist should dispute — if man is not naturally a political animal, then justice is just a creation imposed on the natural human exogenously, and there really is no arguing against the justice of the Leviathan — there simply is no justice in the absence of whatever it defines as just!’