Skip to content

Capitalism, socialism, and all that

April 18, 2019

East_India_House_by_Thomas_Malton_the_YoungerAdam Smith sometimes is called the “father of capitalism,” despite the fact that the East India Company had been in successful operation for almost two centuries by the time he published his famous Inquiry. Those who want to think about economics seriously need to keep two things in mind. First, human societies are complex things. Any attempt to plot them neatly on an linear axis between two poles is a vast simplification. Second, the claim to being a science comes not from having abstractions and models, but from attending to those complexities.

Scott Hendricks writes about what “socialism” means to Bernie Sanders. Those who want to criticize Sanders’s economic views need to begin with them, not just with a word.

There is an asymmetry in etymology, since capitalism was practiced before it was theorized, where the varieties of socialism all were theorized as reforms, prior to practice. Where capitalism was being practiced when early economists first thought to study it. The drawing shows East India House on Leadenhall Street, occupied by the company in 1648, and from which much of the world was ruled.



April 17, 2019

Nancy Rosenblum has written a book that again explores the rise of bullshitters and trolls. She claims that conspiracy theories today aren’t even what they once were, attempts to explain. Instead, they are just fantasy fit to a narrative:

Much of the conspiracism today spreads through innuendo. You’ll hear people say, “I just want to know more, I’m just asking questions.” Or, as President Trump likes to say, “A lot of people are saying…” This is conspiracy without any theory. It’s about validating preexisting beliefs by constantly repeating false claims that reinforce what you already believe. So it’s not merely that someone thinks Hillary Clinton is an unworthy candidate; we have to make up a story about her sex trafficking in children. And by repeating these things and assenting to them, you’re signaling a kind of group affinity. Conspiracy without the theory has become a form of political participation.

Perhaps related to that is propaganda like this one-minute video (Facebook) from The Blaze. The amazing thing about it is that it shows so little about Ilhan Omar. Not enough to nudge at all my opinion. (Which is neutral, I know little about her.) It certainly doesn’t show what it claims, only that Omar mocks how a college professor spoke. Yet on the basis of that nothing, it is generating unmitigated hate in its intended audience. (If you want the evidence of that, read the comments.) The modern right wing has perfected propaganda to the point where it doesn’t actually have to be about anything to do its job.

I hope Rosenblum is wrong about this:

I’ve learned something stunning while doing this work, which is that this conspiracism is destructive all the way down. It’s destabilizing, it’s degrading, and it’s destroying our democratic institutions without any countervailing constructive impulse. And what this tells me is that in this perilous time for democracy, it doesn’t take an alternative political ideology to degrade democracy — it doesn’t take communism, or authoritarianism, or fascism, or anything else. Conspiracism can demolish democracy on its own, and we ignore that at our peril.

Notre Dame

April 16, 2019

Today, I will defer to Greg Laden.

Next month, I will visit Paris.

I love NYC

April 15, 2019

It may be the most American of cities.

Ian Reifowitz writes about Ilhan Omar and conservative punditry around 9/11.

I thought the Swiss were smart

April 12, 2019

Screenshot from 2019-04-12 08-46-28Coffee may not be essential for life. But you still want to have some in an emergency. The hard part about stockpiling perishables, of course, is planning the rotation. Coffee beans age. So you want a large buffer, that would then supply someone downstream on a continuous basis.

Republicans vs. the environment

April 11, 2019

You can care about the natural environment. Or you can vote for Republicans. You cannot do both.

Brexit and medicine

April 9, 2019

45% of EU doctors working in Britain are thinking about leaving, with 18% having made definite plans. Those figures are months old — who knows now? For the obvious reason — Brexit.

What I could not easily find is how Brexit has changed the plans of British doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. Especially those young. Is it — will it — cause an uptick in emigration from Britain?