Friday, 6 May 2016

Friday Morning Ramble–06.05.16

 

Clearing my tabs again …

“Gareth Morgan’s “Foundation” was at it again last week. Attacking personal freedoms to achieve the society Gareth wants. ‘Instead of a facile debate over whether a sugar tax would work or not, we should be discussing which we value more – living in a free society where you can eat what you like and burden the state, or whether we value having a healthy, productive society. …”
Morgan Foundation attacks personal freedom ... again – LINDSAY MITCHELL

"Another nasty and stupid Government scheme bites the dust." We hope.
'Social Bond' programme stalled by negotiations – RADIO NZ

“As for the Prime Minister’s final claim, that the New Zealand economy is doing ‘incredibly well,’ words almost fail me.  At a cyclical level, our unemployment rate at 5.7 per cent is still uncomfortably high (and much higher than it was when the government took office…).  Productivity growth remains mediocre at best, and there is no sign whatever that New Zealand is making up any of the ground lost relative to other OECD countries in the last 50 years or more… it is the continuation of a long slow relative decline. [T]he insouciance in the face of all this underperformance almost defies belief.”
“Quality problems” – CROAKING CASSANDRA

“The young, the renters, the new arrivals disproportionately choose not to vote, and so they get done over in the political process.  House prices stay high as a result.
    “I’ve never found the story particularly persuasive [however].”
Does voter turnout explain dysfunctional housing supply markets? - CROAKING CASSANDRA

“New Zealand should take a lead from this on several grounds.”
Changing the Game in Australia: Federal Government Looks at Local Infrastructure – Phil McDermott, CITIES MATTER

[PS: “London's high living costs saw the number of 20-somethings fall by 3%, between 2011 and 2014 -poor land use blamed.”]

The only thing approaching housing affordability in NZ is rent. True story.
A housing rental crisis? – LINDSAY MITCHELL

Niko Kloeten: “Must be all those first-home buyers trying to save for a house...”
Big drop in Sky subscribers – STUFF

Tairawhiti gets the prize for most benefit babies in the cuontry. “Tairawhiti is Gisborne northwards. Almost one in three children born in 2015 would be on welfare either immediately or shortly thereafter.”
Where the benefit babies are born – LINDSAY MITCHELL

Not for the first time, Greenpeace misses its target.
Greenpeace states its business with six tonnes of dairy waste – NZ HERALD

Confirmed!
All Blacks deliberately 'poisoned' at 1995 Rugby World Cup, says former Nelson Mandela bodyguard... – NZ HERALD

Implications here for land taxes, and those who analyse them: “…mainstream economists tend to think of marginal land earning zero rent, because that is the only logical conclusion if we divide the spectrum of land fertility into infinitesimal units. But in the Austrian approach — characterised by purposeful choice, rather than indifference — somebody will obviously bring a parcel of land into cultivation only if it offers a prospective rent (however small).”
Rothbard on Land Prices – Roberty Murphy, MISES DAILY

Every industry gets worse when government gets involved … (this shows the case of Health in the US; same graph could be drawn for every industry in every place …)

Non-Physicians-in-Health-Care

Meanwhile, in London: “… the Labour Party’s best buddy of a who’s who of islamofascism, has beaten the château bottled shit on the far left green lunatic fringe of the Tory Party…”
Anti-Semitic apologist for terrorists voted Mayor of London, again – Perry de Havilland, SAMIZDATA
[Background] Three elections, none are likely to please: Part 1. London election – LIBERTY SCOTT

“What has happened to Turkey? How has the country of Ataturk become the country of Erdogan? Turkey reflects a Middle East in cultural regress. But it's also an indictment of Western foreign policy…”
    “The post-Pax Americana world doesn't bode well for Europe.”
Turkey's return to illiberalism should worry us – DOUGLAS CARSWELL

“…the pathological love that many intellectuals felt for an evil system, and how we've still not had an adequate public accounting for the crimes of 20th century intellectual apologists for Marxist regimes.”
May Day: The Conspiracy of Silence Around the Romance of Evil – Michael Strong, A THOUSAND NATIONS
Victims of Communism Day – WASHINGTON POST
On May Day, Remember the Victims of Communism—and Condemn the Evil Ideology – OBJECTIVE STANDARD
Why Socialism is Morally Wrong: The Basis of Property Rights – OBJECTIVISM FOR INTELLECTUALS

Pre-war Vienna. Fascinating place, fascinating time, “fascinating history with many implications.”
1913: When Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Freud and Stalin all lived in the same place – BBC NEWS

“Beck talks about fatalism and determinism. If this borderline delusional prattle is the alternative to progressivism and socialism, then progressivism wins, hands down.”
Glenn Beck is Going Bonkers – Michael Hurd, LIVING RESOURCES CENTER

Check your premises: “The political terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ have been with us since the French revolution when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. Today, the right is traditionally represented by different groups of conservatives—compassionate, neo, fiscal, social, religious, etc.—and the left by miscellaneous groups of, you guessed it, leftists—liberals, social democrats, progressives, socialists, and so on.
    “However, as with most things political coming out of France, the left/right designation has caused more harm than good. It represents a false dichotomy between slightly different versions of collectivism...”
Focus on Right and Wrong, Not Right and Left – Anders Ingermarson, SEPARATE

 

“These are the times
that try men’s souls.”

~ Thomas Paine, The American Crisis

The pundit’s pundit writes: “For a candidate like Trump to win the nomination, it means that several things have gone wrong — both for the Republican Party and in the assumptions we made about how party nominations work. The other day, I summed up the three most important such factors as follows…
Why Republican Voters Decided On Trump – Nate Silver, FIVE THIRTY EIGHT

So what now for principled American voters? Choose your weapons.
Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton: America now faces a truly appalling choice – Allister Heath, TELEGRAPH
Vote Libertarian? – Monica Beth, FACEBOOK
A Standard to Which the Wise and Honest Can Repair – TRACINSKI LETTER
#NeverTrump and #NeverHillary: The most self-loving way I can think of not to vote for slavery-by-proxy – Greg Swann, SELF ADORATION
A closing political statement – Robert Bidinotto, FACEBOOK
An “Extinction Level Event” – Paul Blair, FACEBOOK
Against Trump – Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED

So that didn’t take long. (Bernie for VP?)
Donald Trump say he’s open to higher minimum wage, goes after Bernie Sanders supporters – WASHINGTON TIMES

“With the protest movement known as ‘Trumpism,’ we are witnessing the final collapse of conservatism — the political view that has loosely animated the Republican party since the 1950s. This is a profound shift in American political culture. It is the kind of thing only history — properly pursued — can explain. So it’s time for me to launch my new [online] present-centricTM lecture series…”
Present-Centric(TM) History of the Republican Party is First in New Series – Scott Powell, POWELL HISTORY

A teenager summarises US voters’ choices:

DecisionTime

 

"Once upon a time, nearly everyone was environmental."
Environmentalist — becoming a dirty word - JO NOVA
Hey, Environmentalists – Stop Being Such Dicks – ECOMODERNISM

Who would have thunk it, eh?
Study: Increase In CO2 Is Literally Making The Earth Greener – DAILY CALLER

“One of the first glaring claims Gore makes is about Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He claims Africa’s tallest peak will be snow-free “within the decade.” Gore shows slides of Kilimanjaro’s peak in the 1970s versus today to conclude the snow is disappearing. Well, it’s been a decade and, yes, there’s still snow on Kilimanjaro year-round. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure this out. One can just look at recent photos posted on the travel website TripAdvisor.com.”
The snow job of Kilimanjaro – Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES

Problems for the Unreliables.
Top 11 problems for wind and solar - CFACT

“But my fundamental, experienced sense of the world was based, unsurprisingly, on what I saw: a mix of farms, forests, towns and suburbs, with the occasional patch of wilderness or big city, and beaches somewhere along the edge. That's the world that many other Americans know, too; for many of us, indeed, it is the world.
    “It was certainly my world. Or at least it was until I became a long-haul pilot. Suddenly, as part of my work, I started spending long hours over Siberia, the Sahara, northern Canada, and central Australia, over tundra or taiga, deserts or towering snowy peaks, over vast lands that are only barely inhabitable…”
I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see every day. – VOX

Bjorn Lomborg: “The World Bank’s self-proclaimed “new course” toward focusing on global warming over poverty reduction is an alarming development for the planet’s poorest.”
Dear World Bank, poverty is more urgent than global warming – Bjorn Lomborg, LINKED IN

Cleeeeeeese

“If you’re worried that the politically-correct Social Justice Warriors will destroy this country -- don’t be.We predict they will destroy themselves long before they have any shot at performing their crybully coup d’etat. (Why, with Hillary Clinton as their latest victim, they’ve already begun to eat their own.)”
How to Be Politically Incorrect – Chris Campbell, LAISSEZ FAIRE TODAY

Proponents of e-cigarette bans have little interest in health. Except perhaps their own.
There Might Here Be Both Bootleggers and Baptists – Don Boudreaux, CAFE HAYEK

 

"Ayn Rand contends that intellectuals failed to grasp the source of
businessmen’s productivity and the destructive effects of collectivist
schemes implemented by government coercion. By failing to uphold
the value of individual liberty, intellectuals paved the way for
authoritarian states and the decline of freedom in the twentieth century."
~ Comment on ‘The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age’ by Ayn Rand

This trumps politics. But politics has caused it.
Hillary/Trump will be the least of your worries. America has economic diarrhea – COBDEN CENTRE
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession? – TELESUR TV
Ultra Petroleum Files for Bankruptcy, Citing $3.9 Billion Debt – BLOOMBERG

"Somebody must have reinstated Paul Krugman’s passport. He was recently back in Japan to meet with the world’s leading economy-wrecking triumvirate —-Prime Minister Abe, BOJ Governor Kuroda and Finance Minister Taro Aso—–to dispense some desperately needed advice.
    "Japan is on the verge of a second recession during Abe’s tenure despite [because of?] his plunge into full frontal Keynesian stimulus.  But since March 2013 when Kuroda cranked up the BOJ’s printing press to white heat, two main things have happened. The BOJ’s already bloated balance sheet has exploded by 2X and the flat-lining Japanese economy has continued undulating to nowhere."
What Comes Next——Krugman’s Fiscal Equivalent Of War - David Stockman, CONTRA CORNER

Andrew Sheldon: “There seems to be an anarchist streak among Australian nanny statists.”
Australian entrepreneur revealed as the creator of Bitcoin – HERALD

There are some issues…
A brief guide to everything that’s annoying about Apple- GUARDIAN

“In their efforts to jam the square peg of financial theory into the round hole of human nature, economists have perpetrated some pretty stupid things. But few of them are dumber than the efficient market hypothesis.”
When the game changes: Making money in a ZIRP world – Tim Price, COBDEN CENTRE

“Children are not the only ones who like Myths. A few economists like them too.”
5 Myths Many Economists Believe – Don Boudreaux, CAFE HAYEK

“As the U.S. slides into protectionism and xenophobia, let's remember this. Free trade encourages true friendships.”
The Moral High Ground of Free Trade – Stephen Hicks, SAVVY STREET

Now this interactive map below is really cool. “UCL's Energy Institute has created an mesmerising time lapse of global shipping, plotting every single commercial cargo ship's position, speed, and route around the globe for one year.
    “The most incredible thing about this story, this symphony of human activity, is that there is nobody in charge, nobody planning it, no central intelligence telling people to move this or that from here to there. And yet it happens anyway….
”The beating heart of global civilisation.”
An Awesome Map of World Trade and Shipping – Daniel Bier, FEE

 

"When children understand that they don’t know everything, and when they know where to look for answers to their questions, they can start to acquire knowledge faster, without repeating the same mistakes over and over again."
Infants Understand More Than You Think, Study Shows – TIME

"Every time we say 'be careful' we express, quite clearly, our lack of faith in our children's judgement, which too often becomes the foundation of self-doubt."
Eleven Things To Say Instead Of "Be Careful" – TEACHER TOM’S BLOG

“Kylie D'Alton, the blogger behind how we montessori, shares her experiences of parenting the Montessori way.”
The mother-of-two who uses the Montessori approach to raise her kids – MAIL ONLINE

The child’s work, from 0 –3 (very different to 3-6 … )

The Child's Work from Montessori Guide on Vimeo.

 

“But there is no reason why colleges and universities should have a privileged status in society, one that entitles them to use the state to plunder people through taxation in order to provide a welfare dole to the school.”
End welfare for colleges and universities – Jacob Hornberger, HORNBERGER BLOG

“It can almost seem like entrepreneurs are a breed apart. But they’re not. All of us are born with the ability to take risks, think creatively and challenge the everyday way of doing things. And as hokey as this can sound, we would all do well to tap into those traits in both our lives and our careers, whether we work for ourselves or not."
What Entrepreneurship Can Teach Us About Life – Stephen Hicks, WSJ

Shakespeare is everywhere!

 

 

What every mug punter has been asking themselves this week.
Should you have bet on Leicester City? – STATS CHAT

Office jargon? Being self-employed, I’m mostly mercifully unaware. (But let me mount an argument for ‘synergy’ … )
A brief history of office cliches – WE ARE MEL

“For writers, readers, and writer-wannabes (doesn't that cover almost everybody?), some great quotes from a screenwriting guru.”
Robert McKee Quotes (Author of Story) – GOOD READS

Mythology and religion were the first (primitive) philosophy.
Phylogenetic analyses suggests fairy tales are much older than thought – PHYS.ORG

 

 

new-book-frank-lloyd-wright-philip-johnsons-rivalry-05

“Few people have had as monumental an impact on American architecture as 20th-century luminaries Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Often overlooked, however, is their intense rivalry…”
Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson’s Rivalry Is Chronicled in a New Book – ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST

Interesting idea.
Instead Of Renting An Apartment, Sign A Lease That Lets You Live Around The World – FAST COEXIST.COM

Great story. Now sadly illegal. “Three enterprising youngsters throw in their desk jobs to design and build a house on a steep Whanganui hillside.”
A Whanganui house designed and built by recent graduates - HOMESTOLOVE.CO.NZ

Outrageous claim. Outrageous house!
A Complete Guide to LACMA's First Piece of Architecture, the Most Spectacular House in Los Angeles – CURBED

Very, very, very, very sad.
Bruce Goff-designed landmark demolished – NORMAN TRANSCRIPT
'Bavinger House,' by Bruce Goff – NOT PC, 2006

“It is difficult to write about the centennial of Jane Jacobs. For one thing, her influence on urbanism is unsurpassed and difficult to understate…”
Jane Jacobs at 100 – URBAN LIBERTY

“’What would Jane Jacobs think?’ has been a question in urban planning and urbanist circles for years. That's no surprise—after reading her work, it's impossible to walk around a city without an internal Jacobs meter evaluating the lengths of blocks or the mix of old and new buildings. With this quiz, test the neighborhoods where you spend time on how well they meet Jacobs's criteria for a vibrant city..” [FWIW, mine is “great.” Yours?]
QUIZ: What Would Jane Jacobs Think of Your Neighbourhood? – CURBED

 

13062426_1063741757015492_8495987906351506547_n

 

“What is ideal art? How can it enrich our souls?”
The Ideal in Art and Life – Alexcandra York, NEWSMAX

“The Indian movie, Guru, was clearly inspired in part by The Fountainhead.”
Guru-the most important free market movie ever made? – Alex Tabarrok, MARGINAL REVOLUTION

“One of the most common criticisms of Ayn Rand that I hear from people (especially on the Left) is that she ‘loved the rich and hated the poor,’ or, in more recent terms, that she ‘was for the 1% at the expense of the 99%..
    “Yet Ayn Rand herself did not really think or judge people in those terms, as should be fairly obvious to anyone who has read her writing without prejudice…”
Ayn Rand and the Crude Materialism of the “Rich vs. Poor” Worldview – Louise LaMontagne, OBJECTIVISM FOR INTELLECTUALS

I’ll just leave these here for you.
20 Brilliant Ayn Rand Quotes on Capitalism and Human Rights – BANKABLE INSIGHT

Some fellow called Dave Rubin sits down with the president of the Ayn Rand Institute to better understand Ayn Rand's philosophy. Good radio results.
Ayn Rand's Philosophy and Objectivism – ORA TV

 

Beatles. Great to the very last arrest.

 

John Coltrane. Great to the very last blow.

 

 

Christa Ludwig and Mahler. Great to the very last solo.

 

And finally, Graham Brazier, who would have been 64 today. And who was great to the very last show. [Head here to help crowd-fund his final album !]

 

 

 

[Hat tips and quips to and due to Geek Press, Michael Strong, Bruce Dewar, Kyle Becker, Hamish McConnochie, Vinay Kolhatkar, Anoop Verma, Isaac M. Morehouse, Phil Oliver, Montessori Australia, Nelson Brackin, Peter Schiff, Stephen Bailey, George Evans Light, Unofficial AFP Patreon Patrons!, Andrew Sheldon, Joe Graves, Marsha Enright, Seti Afoa, Jim Rose, Nick Kearney, Australian Centre for Montessori Studies, Carbon Dioxide, Hello Sailor. Thank you all, and apologies for any omissions.]

.

.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

So it’s Trump v Clinton

 

Trump1

So it’s Trump and Clinton – an ideological blank slate offering trade wars and closed borders, and a corrupt collectivist with a Messiah complex. Two varieties of cronyists offering two different flavours of socialism: national socialism or international socialism1, xenophobic protectionism or identity policitics and class hatred.

Berzelius Windrip versus the Wicked Witch of the North-East.

Not much of a choice.

Today is Trump’s day. The Day of Drumpf. He’s earned it. His country has earned it. His supporters have given it to him, just as he will give it everyone – good and hard – if he becomes Leader of What Was Once the Free World. Says Victor David Hanson,

His supporters want a reckoning with a system that has not so much failed as infuriated them. What drives their loyalty to Trump — if not the person, at least the idea of Trump — is a sort of nihilism. As a close friend put it to me this week, “I don’t care whether Trump wins or not, I just want him to f— things up as long as he can.”
    [For these people] Trump is their megaphone, not their solution. The Trump supporters have seen plenty of politicians with important agendas, but few with the zeal to push them through; at this late date, they would apparently prefer zeal without agendas to agendas without zeal.

Not entirely without an agenda. The promise to build walls, start trade wars (or worse) and order manufacturing back to the fatherland2 are clear enough signs that if Trump hasn’t learned from reading about Mussolini it’s only because he doesn’t actually read. Not even enough to discover how the trade wars of the 1930s became the real wars of the 1940s—beggar-thy-neighbour policies that quickly became hate-thy-neighbour and then bomb-thy-neighbour.

Free trade on the other hand encourages true friendships. And despite what the xenophobes think about the low wages they allege are due to freer trade, it’s actually free trade that’s making all their wages go further—by connecting them peacefully with the wider world. Philosopher Stephen Hicks explains:

Earlier today I put on my made-in-Argentina jacket and my new made-in-India shoes and got into my made-in-Japan truck. I stopped for gas at a British Petroleum station and chatted with its franchise owner, a guy from Mexico. To help pay for it all, I taught my first class of the day — on a French philosopher, using a text translated into English by a Polish-American and printed in Canada — to a group of students, one-third of whom are from foreign countries.
    Then it was mid-morning and I needed a coffee break. Italian roast with Arabica beans from Rwanda, thank you very much.
    When economists talk of the benefits of trade they speak of division of labor and comparative advantage. Long ago
Adam Smith used the example of a pin factory to show that dividing a complex task into parts is much more efficient than doing everything oneself. David Ricardo used the example of Portuguese wine and English cloth. Because of climate and differences in their workforces’ skills, both nations would be better off if Portugal specialized in making wine and England specialized in making cloth and they then traded wine for cloth.
    Contrast this contemporary example — the guy who made a sandwich for himself from scratch — after spending
$1,500 and six months’ effort. My sandwich at lunch will cost me $5 and a five-minute wait.
    Trade enables us to be more efficient, and the more extensive our trading networks the more people’s talents we can each enjoy, and the more people we can reach with our own talents.
    Those economic consequences of trade are important.

But they’re possibly not even the biggest consequence of the free trade the xenophobes would ban.

Think of all the things that set people at each other’s throats — religious and political zealotry, tribalism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and the pig-headedness that humans are capable of for any number of reasons.

In other words, all the stuff you’ve already seen promised this American election season.

Those committed to the ethic of trade are committed to evaluating others in terms of their productive ability — not their skin color or political party. They are committed to respecting others as self-responsible agents — not to seeing them as the weaker sex or idolaters. They are committed to offering their personal best to the world and seeking the best that others have to offer — not to stubbornly ignoring or downplaying the achievements of individuals from other cultures.
    Trade is not a cure-all. But it does motivate civilised behavior, and it gives us all an incentive to overlook or unlearn any irrational prejudices we may have.

You begin to see why the supporters of tRump are so violently against it.

* * * *

1. I’m indebted to Keith Weiner for the indentification.
2. Trump: "We're going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries."


RELATED POSTS:

  • “Donald Trump crushed it in the Indiana GOP primary last night, winning more than 50 percent of the vote and causing Ted Cruz to drop out… That led to a surge tonight in searches for ‘Libertarian Party,’ as this chart from Google Trends showing searches for ‘Libertarian Party’ over the last 24 hour period:
                                                 Trends
    Google Searches for "Libertarian Party" Surge After Ted Cruz Drops Out – HIT & RUN BLOG
  • “Ironically, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the elimination of tariffs was a populist issue. A little more than a century later, the polls have reversed completely… So while the populist movement of the early 20th Century demanded the removal of tariffs, the populist movement of today wants to bring them back. But Trump is not talking about replacing income taxes with tariffs. He simply wants to add tariffs to the existing tax structure ..). This will only compound our problems and make our economy far less competitive. It will not bring back our jobs; it will only increase the tax burden on the American economy, destroying even more jobs…
        “Our trade deficits do not result from bad deals but bad laws. Put simply, the amount of taxation and regulation that have been layered on our business owners and their employees have made it impossible for American firms to compete with foreign rivals. Contrary to the currently popular talking points, low wages are not the only means to establish successful trade balances. America became the dominant exporter in the world in the 19th and 20th centuries while our currency was strengthening, we were paying the highest wages, and our workers enjoyed the world’s highest living standards.
        “Germany is doing so today. Strong economies compete with quality, innovation, efficiency, and flexibility. Those capacities have been stifled by government policies that have nothing to do with trade agreements and have everything to do with domestic policies. We need to repeal those laws. Trade deficits are not the problem. They are the consequence of the problem. The problem is big government, financed largely by the income tax, which has made America uncompetitive…
        “To make America great again, we need to recreate the free-market environment that made her great in the first place.”
    Make America Great Again – Peter Schiff, PETER SCHIFF SHOW
  • “It might be argued that Trump at least represents what Ayn Rand would have called "the American sense of life," which Hillary Clinton and the left despise and hate. Perhaps. But he has hitched that pro-American spirit to an ANTI-American policy agenda, foreign and domestic. He does not stand for constitutionally limited government, free markets, private property, or individual rights. He is trying to wed "Americanism" to populist statism, and call it "conservatism." That's bad enough on the level of political philosophy, and it would be disastrous on the policy level. But on the more-important level of personal character, Trump would bring into the Oval Office a gutter mentality and behavior, power-hungry narcissism, crude anti-intellectualism, and a mindless personality cult. Yes, America has elected and endured presidents who exhibited one or more of these various ugly traits; however, I cannot recall any single president who embodied them all.
        “Meanwhile, a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote for a pathological liar and crook, and a statist proponent of unlimited government power. And it would be a moral ratification of her despicable betrayal of four brave dead American patriots in Benghazi. That is intolerable.
        “Because of these considerations (and barring any last-minute, utterly unexpected, radical changes of circumstances in an already insane year), should the electoral alternatives sink to a choice between Trump or Clinton, I shall not vote for either.
        “I care too much for America's founders, for those who fought and bled and died for this special nation, to dishonor their memory and legacy with such a vote. If our nation has come to this, I believe the November 2016 election will be remembered as America's Jonestown -- and I for one shall refuse to participate in moral self-poisoning and political mass suicide.”
    Bidinotto on Trump & Hillary, & America – Robert Bidinotto, NOT PC
  • “In a beautiful historical irony, an authoritarian has just done something in less than 40 weeks that the libertarians have failed to do in 40 years - take down the old partisan paradigm of a huge swathe of the American electorate, who now can’t vote, or won’t vote, for the party they have always identified with. And it’s happening on both “ends” of the political spectrum - as anti-Trumpers and Bernie supporters feel that their political identity is no longer reflected by either of the two big political circus tents of elephants and donkeys.”
    The GOP Goes Full Authoritarian: Now the Real Libertarian Moment Can Begin – Robin Koerner, HUFFINGTON POST
  • “Trump has no loyalty to the Republican establishment or to the conservative movement. The apparent greatest attraction for his supporters is that he drives crazy those who worship Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And if the Republican establishment implodes with the Obamism it did not stop, well, so goes collateral damage — and in the process, woe to us all. Trump is for a brief season our long-haired Samson, and the two pillars of the temple he is yanking down are the Republicans to his right and the Democrats to his left — and it will all land on top of us, the Philistines beneath.:
    Donald Trump, Postmodern Nihilist – Victor Davis Hanson, NRO
  • “The alt-right originated by looking at the left’s caricature of the right as racists and pro-white tribalists and saying, in effect: sure, we’ll be that. …
        “The alt-right isn’t part of the intellectual traditions of the American right, nor is it an alternative to anything. It’s just the same old white-sheet set, repackaged with red ‘Make America Great Again’ golf caps. They’re serving as ignorant tools of the left, and they should be exposed as such.”
    “White Sheets and Red Golf Caps” – Robert Tracinski, THE FEDERALIST
  • “This is not politics as usual. Donald Trump is not a ‘pragmatist.’ This is a qualitatively different phenomenon from anything we've seen so far in American politics. This is an extinction level event for our republic…. This is a man who has praised Putin and the Chinese massacre on Tianamen Square, who said that Gorbachev didn't have a firm enough hand…”
    An “Extinction Level Event” – Paul Blair
  • Funny how people who live under socialism are among the few these days who appreciate capitalism.
    Vietnam, ruled by communists for 40 years, is now the No. 1 fan of capitalism on the planet - QUARTZ

RE

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What Jazz Music Can Do for your brain

 

This is what people need: more jazz!

In his new book Mental Biology, psychologist and jazz fan William Klemm cites “overwhelming scientific evidence” that the mental challenge of listening to jazz “develops new connections in the brain and with it, new biological capabilities.”

In jazz, such mental enrichment enhances the ability to memorise, not only directly in terms of having to learn a large musical vocabulary and the rules of jazz, but also in terms of basic mental biology…

How so?

First the listening: the most obvious effect is stress reduction. Stress …is the arch-enemy of memory ability…
    Listening is also fun, probably less so than playing jazz, but still a lot of fun…. Think about where jazz came from. It is uniquely an American
innovation, beginning as emotional relief for slaves who found comfort in the blues, which eventually spawned jazz in its happier forms. Wholesome fun promotes happiness. Happy brains learn better. They can also often live longer … many jazz artists are still performing sophisticated music in their 80s.
    As for mental biology, a jazz player experiences enormous mental stimulation, Even as a listener, after a concert my untrained brain churns out a continuous stream of improvisation in my mind's ear that can include multiple instruments that I have no idea how to play. A player has to engage the brain in multiple ways that classical musicians do not. First, there are added technical requirements, such as playing blue notes, swinging eighth notes, and unusual time signatures like 12/8 and 5/4 or complex African or Latin rhythms.  Then there is the huge challenge of improvisation, which is basically composing on the fly.
    When improvising, there is a safety net of knowing the proper chord structure and melody, but players have to have a huge musical vocabulary and realize in milliseconds what new notes will fit. They also have to listen hard so they can interact properly with what others in the band are playing. The "call and response" paradigm in jazz is actually musical conversation. I can't think of anything more mentally demanding….
    Learning jazz may be the ultimate in training young minds to think critically and creatively … [training] brains in invaluable learning capacities for hand-eye coordination, the ability to memorise,
discipline, patience, critical and creative thinking, high-speed intellectual engagement with the ideas of others, and self-actualisation and confidence.  

So, turns out a jazz album a day might keep the mental wolves at bay!

Here’s Dizzy Gilespie.

.And here’s a 70-year-old Duke Ellington and the older stars from his orchestra killing it in Berlin … and Sarah Vaughan …

… and more, all at a similar age, all still killing it!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Job Growth Doesn’t Mean We’re Getting Richer

 

Guest post by Ryan McMaken

worker2_0In response to recent claims by the Obama administration and others that “millions of jobs” have recently been created, I examined the data here to see if the claims were true. It turns out that job growth since the 2008 recession has actually been quite weak, and hardly something to boast about.

Nevertheless, our conclusions from these analyses tend to rest on the idea that job growth is synonymous with gains in wealth and economic prosperity.

But is that a good assumption?

In an unhampered market, the answer would be no, for several reasons.

First of all, as worker productivity increases, workers would need to work fewer hours to maintain their standard of living.

Second, as goods become less expensive (as a result of rising productivity) it would also be necessary to work fewer hours to maintain the same standard of living.

This need for fewer man-hours could translate into shorter work weeks and shorter days, but it could also manifest itself at the household level in the form of changes from two-income households to one-income households. Or, people may retire earlier, thus leaving the work force.

In other words, in a well-functioning economy over time, less human labour will be necessary to maintain standards of living, all things being equal. (If consumers wish to constantly increase their standard of living of course, they will choose more labour over more leisure for the sake of more consumption.)

Historical Trends in Work Hours

Even in our hampered and un-free economy, we can still see this basic trend at work. The number of work hours necessary to maintain the standard of living our grandparents enjoyed, for example, is less today than it was in 1950.

If middle-class consumers were satisfied with a two-bedroom residence in an unstylish neighborhood, one car, a single phone line, no air conditioning, and no internet access, many of them would require far fewer work hours than is necessary to maintain a common middle-class standard of living today. [Well, in some cities, anyway – Ed.]

In the 1950s for example, my mother shared a bedroom with three brothers in a two bedroom house in central Los Angeles. She went to a private Catholic school where there were 50 students to a classroom. For her family, there were certainly no European holidays or airline travel to seaside resorts.

And yet, no one then would have described this lifestyle as “impoverished” or “lower class.” It was a middle-class lifestyle, but this lifestyle could only be maintained by far more than 40 hours of work at the family business each week, where both parents laboured regularly.

This experience was not atypical.

In spite of increases in the standard of living since then, working hours have actually decreased. Indeed, according to Robert Fogel in The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism, from 1880 to 1995 the number of hours spent on work during an average day for a male head of household decreased from 8.5 hours to 4.7 hours. Meanwhile, leisure time increased from 1.8 hours to 5.8 hours.

In a separate study by Thomas Juster and Frank Stafford, it was found that from 1965 to 1981 in the United States, “market work” hours per week fell from 51.6 hours to 44 hours for men. For women, market work rose from 18.9 hours to 23.9 hours. We would expect an increase for women over this period as women began to take on “market work” at higher rates than before. This was for wage work only, though, and if we include “housework” we find that “total work” for women during this time period fell from 60.9 hours to 54.4 hours. Women exchanged some housework for market work over this period, but overall, the work hours decreased. Total work for men decreased also, from 63.1 hours to 57.8 hours. (Housework increased for men over this period.)

In yet another study by Mary Coleman and John Pencavel, average weekly hours worked fell for white men from 44.1 hours in 1940 to 42.9 hours in 1988. It fell for white women from 40.6 hours to 35.5 hours over the same period.

The typical standard of living increased over these periods, as the square footage of housing units increased, automobiles became more common, and amenities like telephones, washing machines, personal computers, and climate control became more common. The work itself also became less hazardous over this time period.

The Invention of “Retirement”

Even as work hours were falling, productivity was rising enough to allow large numbers of workers to leave the work force early in the form of a new-fangled concept known as “retirement.” As explained by W. Andrew Achenbaum in The Wilson Quarterly, working well into one’s so-called golden years was common in the 19th century and before. Prosperous farmers who owned land could afford to significantly cut back hours as they aged, but common labourers generally needed to work as long as possible or face penury.

It was only during the late 19th century, as worker productivity rapidly accelerated, that workers could withdraw from the workforce at an increasing rate. Many became obsolete whether they liked it or not, however. Achenbaum writes:

The obsolescence of the older worker is one reason the period around 1890 marks the beginning of the long-term trend toward the withdrawal of the elderly from the work force. In that year, about two-thirds of men aged 65 and older were still in the labor force — roughly the same proportion found today in developing countries such as Brazil and Mexico. By 1920, that number had dropped to 56 percent, and by 1940 it was down to 42 percent. Today it is 27 percent.

In the bad old days of subsistence wages, workers could labour for decades without many opportunities to accumulate capital, and thus “retirement” was just another word for poverty. As worker productivity and capital accumulation rose, however, private firms could afford to create a new thing called “pension funds” that accelerated the retirement trend.

The advent of government pensions accelerated the trend as well, with large transfers of wealth from current workers to past workers. The fact that these wealth transfers did not reduce the current workers to subsistence levels themselves was also due to the productivity gains of the new industrialised and mechanised workplace. Essentially, workers were now supporting both themselves and current pensioners, while still experiencing perceptible increases in the standard of living. Such a situation would never have been either economically or politically feasible in an earlier age when workers would likely have revolted against a new tax that would have impoverished them for the sake of retired workers. This new world in which workers could support their families, plus some strangers they never met, was a triumph of markets that ironically allowed governments to get away with higher taxes.

So, Is Job Growth Progress?

Once upon a time, we measured economic progress in terms of the ability of households to feed themselves and sleep in a warm bed. We still do this in the developing world where “extreme poverty” is a real problem.

In the industrialized world, however, “extreme poverty” does not exist, and 78 percent of “the poor” have air conditioning, and a majority have cell phones. The lifestyle enjoyed by my mother in the 1940s would today be deemed “overcrowded” and “substandard” by federal agencies. At the time, such conditions were considered to be quite middle class. But, as Ludwig von Mises once remarked, “the luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow.”

Apparently, if we were to measure necessary work in terms of the need to fund basic food and shelter, the number of work hours needed today would hardly constitute a full-time work schedule.

This is why over decades, we find that the amount of labour done by human beings has declined over time. Machines now do the work that many people once did, and more economically.

This is why the US now has more industrial production today than in the past, even though fewer people are employed in manufacturing. This is why our grandparents worked more hours than our parents, even though standards of living are higher now than they were in the 1960s.

So, over the long term, we cannot say that more jobs equals more prosperity. In fact, one could just as easily argue that fewer jobs, fewer work hours, and fewer workers illustrates gains in prosperity. Child labourers, for example, are no longer essential to maintaining a family’s standard of living—the need for child labour being driven out by increased prosperity. All those jobs are long gone.

So, how should we respond when politicians claim to have “created millions of jobs”? Should we assume this is a measure of economic improvement?

Over the short term, this may yet be a useful metric.

But we must still ask ourselves if the economy changed fundamentally over the past ten years that would lead far fewer people to need employment.

More importantly, we must consider if the price of goods and services has decreased significantly.

Are more people voluntarily electing to adopt a lower standard of living for the sake of more leisure? Or to pursue non-market work?

These are all questions that should be considered when we speak of jobs and economic improvements. Really, the only measure that matters is real household wages and wealth, and what can be acquired with it. Anything else is groping for answers with tangential data, and the whole endeavuor illustrates the limits of aggregated economic data.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with skeptically picking apart government claims about economic successes.


_RyanMcMakenRyan W. McMaken is the editor of Mises Daily and The Austrian.  He has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.
This article first appeared at the Mises Daily

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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Quote of the Day: How to study history

 

Today’s quote comes from a brilliant new novel just out this week by the author of The Frankenstein Candidate. I won’t spoil the story for you, but this astute observation on studying history comes near the climax (and gives you just a taste of the novel’s quality):

“History isn’t an Arts subject. It’s an analytical one.
    “History, said Aristotle, is less interesting than fiction, because fiction tells you what might be, what could be, while history tells us what was. Was he right? Maybe.
    “But we can ask why. And asking why makes history interesting. Why did it happen that way and not any other way? What might have been if only one thing had been different?
    “That paradigm changes history into one large experiment, as in physics. The history of the world is littered with airplane crashes, of an airborne society that suddenly loses perspective. It loses balance, because it has never been readied for the storm it encounters.
    “But the crashes were always preventable, with the benefit of hindsight. Whatever the cause—mechanical, weather, electrical problems, terrorism—no air crash has ever been inevitable….
    “You’re the aeronautical engineers appointed as the crash investigators. Clue by painstaking clue, you must understand every event, every little detail at a certain time in history, and from that infer a picture of humankind.
    “What makes some men leaders? Some men tyrants? Some of us, men and women … some of us follow leaders, some follow tyrants, some are their own people.
    “The epochal moments of a society’s history arise from a clash of values so intense that no politically correct dialogue can even begin to touch it, let alone resolve it…
    “In the long narrative of human history, these are the turning points, the twists and turns of the story as it unfolds. Identify these epochal moments … remember, they are always caused by an intense value clash … study these pivotal moments, and you understand humanity itself.
    “No society has ever not crashed. So it behooves us to understand, to comprehend fully, the bends in the time and space continuum of values. Western society has been airborne from the time of the Industrial Revolution, a time of more than two hundred years.
    “Two hundred years is a long time. We’re still flying, but flying blind. Flying on auto pilot. The faults are already there. The new instruction manuals are telling the auto pilots to put the nose down. Just slightly. But the gauges don’t give the right readings—the gauges have been tampered with. It takes a long time for an aircraft at thirty-five thousand feet on a half-a-degree tilt to come down to the ground, but physics tells us it eventually will.
    [….]
   
“Find the clues about how we lived and how we changed … by relentlessly asking why. That’s how to study history.” [Emphasis mine.]
~ from the brilliant new novel A Sharia London by Vinay Kolhatkar. Grab your copy now!

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Leicester must be everyone’s new second team

 

I don’t follow the no-hands game at all, but this story of one of sport’s greatest all-time upsets almost transcends sport: the story of one of soccer’s greatest-ever underdog clubs knocked off some of the highest-paid teams in the highest-paid league in the world – not just over one weekend, but 38!

The Guardian calls it “The feel good sports story of the millennium.” They could be right. A team from nowhere who started the season as 5000 to 1 outsiders –whose preferred starting line-up this season cost an estimated £22m, more than 10 times cheaper than Manchester City's starting XI -- winning what some call the hardest trophy in all sport!

Here’s the story for those who haven’t followed it up ‘til now:

 Leicester City and the greatest underdog story ever told: a primer for Americans

The story was written when “the little team from the East Midlands” had “found themselves” just “one win from the biggest miracle in sports history.”

This morning, they had that miracle.

Great to see that one of the most enjoyable things about sport, its unpredictability, is still alive.

Capitalism versus the Philosophers

 

Philosopher Stephen Hicks discusses how philosophers confront, or avoid, the issue of economic freedom.
    Stephen Hicks is a Canadian-American philosopher who teaches at Rockford University, Illinois, where he also directs the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship.
    Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, which argues that postmodernism is best understood as a rhetorical strategy of far-left intellectuals and academics in response to the failure of socialism and communism.
    French intellectual entrepreneur Grégoire Canlorbe sat down with Professor Hicks to talk.

* * * *

Grégoire Canlorbe: Following a certain interpretation of Marxian economics, postmodern intellectuals sometimes criticise “free-market doctrine” for relying on the law of supply and demand, which they claim is grossly unrealistic. How would you reply?

Stephen Hicks: Remember that the “law” of supply and demand is an aggregate of many individuals’ judgments and actions. It’s important not to reify it into some sort of Platonic or Hegelian abstract force that operates of generic necessity. The best way to model free markets is from the bottom up, by starting with real human beings, each of whom has individualised values, knowledge, and options.

Hicks01I agree with those who criticize the methodology of some versions of free-market economics that utilise only idealised and abstract models of markets in which everyone is perfectly rational and has instant access to all information. But I disagree with the standard postmodernist move of taking the failure of such idealised models to mean that only messy chaos and crisis rule the world. In philosopher’s labels, Nietzsche is not the only alternative to Plato.

Grégoire Canlorbe: Was Ayn Rand fundamentally in continuity or in a break with the classical liberal tradition — and authors such as David Hume, Adam Smith, or Jean-Baptiste Say?

Stephen Hicks: Rand’s distinctive thesis on political economy is her insistence that the best defense of liberalism is philosophical — that is, that it turns on getting the metaphysics, the epistemology, and especially the ethics right. Wrong views in ethics and epistemology undercut the case for a free society. And on those issues, her views frequently conflict with those of Smith, especially in moral psychology, and they consistently conflict with those of Hume, especially in epistemology.

Interestingly, Rand has less in common philosophically with the liberals of the Scottish Enlightenment, like Hume and Smith, and more in common with the liberals of the English Enlightenment, such as Locke and Mill. But even more forcefully than one finds in Locke and Mill, Rand’s liberalism is based on a rational egoism, and that is distinctive in the tradition of classical liberalism.

Grégoire Canlorbe: It is not uncommon to hear postmodernist scholars say that modern capitalism, with its impersonal marketplace, leads to a disenchantment and an impoverishment of human relations, contrasting with all the magic, moral, and sentimental resonance of “reciprocal gifts” among hunter-gatherer societies. What is your opinion on this commonly held view?

Stephen Hicks: Postmodernists share that sentiment with many conservatives, feudalists, and tribalists.

Of course, a huge amount of the elimination of magical and sentimentalist thinking has occurred due to modern science and engineering, which have arisen in symbiotic relation with modern liberal economics.

The significance of free market capitalism [in this context] is that it gives people a wider range of possible exchanges. One is still free to ritualise one’s shopping experience — as many people do, for example, by going to the local farmers market on Saturday mornings, where they socialise and sample and barter face-to-face and enjoy the particularities of one’s local people and their customs. And one is free to utilise an efficient and impersonal chain store. It’s your choice. But having that choice is empowering for two reasons.

If the wider range of options that free markets make possible are in fact efficient, then they save time and money. One can invest that time and money in other values that are to you more significant. Suppose the impersonal supermarket saves you an hour’s time and $30, and you use that time and money to experience a musical concert. Then your life is more enriched, not less.

It’s also empowering because if you choose instead the localised and personalised market, then it becomes more significant because you chose it. You didn’t just happen to be born into it or be conditioned to it by the happenstance of your upbringing.

I’ve long had a suspicion that the discomfort the critics have with classical liberalism is really a deep discomfort with the full responsibility for your life that liberalism requires. Tribal, feudal, and collectivised societies make your choices for you — sometimes by explicit conditioning and restrictions, and sometimes simply by not being able to generate the range of possibilities that liberal societies can.

Grégoire Canlorbe: According to French philosopher Michel Foucault, the rise of economic freedom after the 18th century coincides with the deployment of new techniques of control operating at local level through prisons, factories, schools, and hospitals. Economic policy, then, is the product of a new practice of power, present at all levels of society, whose aim is to “rationalise the problems posed to [society] by phenomena characteristic of a set of living beings forming a population: health, hygiene, birthrate, life expectancy, race.”
Hicks2    How would you sum up the main strengths and weaknesses of Foucault’s analysis?

Stephen Hicks: There’s a libertarian streak in Foucault that sometimes appeals to me, and of course he’s right that the rise of centralized and controlling bureaucracy is one feature of the modern world. I think Foucault can often be good psychologically and insightful philosophically, but ultimately he’s weak as a historian.

As a start on this huge topic, I’ll just say two things here. One is that the modern era is characterized by at least three types of social philosophy. The great debate between free-market liberalism and socialism highlights two of the three types. The third type is bureaucratic centralisation, and that social philosophy cuts across the free-market/socialist debate.

The idea that society can be organized centrally with concentrated power used in all of the ways that Foucault diagnoses — that paradigm of technocratic efficiency is often committed to neutrally and can then be applied in either market or governmental contexts. One can envision and find examples of private factories, corporations, and government bureaucracies applying those techniques.

So the question of both history and philosophy is whether the hegemonic-controlling-power model best fits with the theory and practice of modern free-market capitalism or with the theory and practice of modern collectivism-socialism.

Hicks3The other point I’ll make quickly is that Foucault consistently embraces a Nietzschean understanding of power as fixed and zero-sum. In that model, power may be constantly evolving, but it is also constantly agonistic and antagonistic. Hence the consistent undercurrent of cynicism in any Foucauldian discussion of power.

That contrasts to those understandings of power that recognize some forms of it — cognitive, economic, personal-relational, for example — as potentially generative and increasing, resulting in a net growth.

Grégoire Canlorbe: Finally, Professor Hicks, I’m wondering if you’d like to respond to something Christian Grey, the young business magnate in E.L. James’s bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey, has to say on the subject of economic power:

Business is all about people … and I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn’t, what inspires them, and how to incentivise them.… I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people.… I don’t subscribe to luck or chance. The harder I work the more luck I seem to have. It really is all about having the right people on your team and directing their energies accordingly. I think it was Harvey Firestone who said the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.

Stephen Hicks: I’m charmed that a character in an erotic novel can be such an articulate spokesman for entrepreneurism.

RELATED POSTS:

  • “What economics can teach philosophers is that other human beings need neither be a burden nor a threat, neither a hell nor a horror but a blessing.
        “This is the greatest lesson economics can teach: that in a society making peaceful cooperation possible we each gain from the existence of others.
        “What a great story to tell!”
    CUE CARD ECONOMICS: Economic Harmonies, and The Miracle of Breakfast – NOT PC
    • “Gitlin [says the reviewer] is surefooted in identifying the problem. The left, he argues, took a wrong turn when it abandoned knowledge as its guiding light on the grounds that knowledge, as argued by theorists like Michael Foucault and Edward Said, was merely a masked form of power...”
      How postmodermism gutted the left – NOT PC
    • “So how does something as intellectually lame as Keynesian apparatus get traction? Why were Keynes’s nonsensical nostrums accepted so readily in the mid-twentieth century by neoclassical economists when they’d been thoroughly exploded decades before by British classical economists?
          The answer given by Austroclassical economist George Reisman is: ‘intellectual decay.’ Not just in those (like Hayek and the ineffectual Pigou) who attempted to answer Keynes in the 1930s, or later on post-war when the Keynesian technocrats took control of the academies and their centres of economic ‘planning’ -- because the decay had started several generations earlier.”
      Greece, Keynes & intellectual decay: What made it possible? – NOT PC
    • “I remember as a kid growing up with liberal members of my family. I could tell even as a small child that I would grow up and probably not agree with them on many things. However their general advocacy for legitimate tolerance and a generally peaceniky disposition appealed to me on a basic level. Indeed these folks informed my political evolution in a large way and it is these relationships (with lefty family and friends) which gave me many of the the insights I needed to come to my small government philosophy.
          “Sadly this breed of lefty has been overwhelmed by what I consider a small minded and potentially dangerous political animal, the ‘progressive’.”
      A Very Important Distinction: The Trouble Isn’t Liberals. It’s Progressives. – Nick Sorrentino, NOT PC
    • “’What is missing in … Africa …  is “exchange and specialisation and the division of labour [that enables people to] get wealthy by figuring out ways to create products and services that have value to other people.’…
          “He’s certainly right that you can’t start from the top down, or by reversing cause and effect. And any prosperity at all is difficult when you have governments continually plundering both their people and each other, which describes so much of the African continent.
          “But it’s not true to say that people getting wealthy by creating products and services that have value to other people are totally absent. One inspiring story is Africa’s Export Trading Group, the winner of the 2013 African Agribusiness of the Year, and a company strongly focussed on growth from the bottom up. Tagline: ‘Linking Africa’s smallholder farmers to global consumers’…”
      How do you create lasting prosperity? – NOT PC
    • “The other day one of this blog’s regular trolls expressed amazement that I’d linked to a post on poverty in good faith. Surely, reasoned the troll, the only reason a blog promoting ‘capitalist acts’ would link to the story of a woman living in poverty would be to point and laugh.
          “The troll doesn’t get it.
          “Because it is capitalist acts that are lifting people out of poverty all the time. And that’s one of the things this blog was created to celebrate.
          “Consider this: capitalism inherited millennia of poverty, and (despite battling statism all the way) delivered two centuries of prosperity unimaginable  at any other time in history. That’s a great thing.”
      On poverty – NOT PC
    • “Capitalism and entrepreneurship make the difference in the world. Whether a country is rich or poor depends on both. The evidence is all around us, and the explanations are a click away.”
      When Trade is Not Enough – Jeffrey Tucker, NOT PC
    • .

Monday, 2 May 2016

“University students are struggling to read entire books”

 

George Reisman argues that to truly grasp their chosen discipline, by the time they graduate they should have read, mastered and integrated the context of at least one-hundred books representing the pith, core and related flora of their subject area.

Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organised and integrated, so that he can apply this internalised body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being “simple, uneducated men.”

Did he say one-hundred books? Students today are struggling to read even one book,  say the university academics who teach them.

University academics caused a furore this week by claiming many students found the thought of reading books all the way to the end “daunting”, due to shorter attention spans and an inability to focus on complex philosophies.
    Jenny Pickerill, a professor in environmental geography at the University of Sheffield, told Times Higher Education magazine: “Students struggle with set texts, saying the language or concepts are too hard.”
    "I recently had a student suggest an alternative book for a module I am teaching which they found easier to engage with. It was a good book, but it was not really academic enough and I am still unsure if that matters or whether I should be recommending more readable books. There is currently a disjuncture between the types of reading we want students to engage with and the types students feel able or willing to do.”
    Jo Brewis, professor of organisation and consumption at Leicester University, weighed in saying "graduates and postgraduate students seem mainly not to be avid readers”. Recommending whole books would overwhelm them, she added, and she tended not to do so.

The irony is that it is precisely what university acadeamics have been teaching themselves, filtered down to youngsters through the teachers colleges and curricula, that is them simple, uneducated and functionally illiterate.

Now, properly [outlines Reisman], education is a process by means of which students internalise knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student’s mind – to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student. Seen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain.
    Yet, under the influence of the philosophy of Romanticism, contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education...
     With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources – books and libraries – which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but “how to acquire knowledge” – not to teach them facts and principles, which, it holds, quickly become “obsolete,” but to teach them “how to learn.” Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach “Johnny” – to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.

No wonder so many students are unable, or unwilling, to read one. One student however had what she considered a telling rejoinder.

Lizzy Kelly, a history student at Sheffield added: “Students might be more inclined to read what academics want them to if our curricula weren’t overwhelmingly white, male and indicative of a society and structures we fundamentally disagree with because they don't work for us.”

Lizzy clearly hasn’t been encumbered with learning, She is right there with the programme.

In a few years time, she willl probably be an academic herslf.

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