Interdisciplinary Query

by Kieran Healy on May 27, 2005

We’ve been talking a bit about interdisciplinary work at CT recently. My favorite observation about this comes from my colleague Ron Breiger, who said to me in passing once that the trouble with interdisciplinarity is that you need disciplines in order for it to happen. There are no borders without heartlands, so to speak. Anyway, I got an email this afternoon from a friend of mine who is searching for a speaker:

bq. We are trying to think of a keynote speaker who represents the idea of learning and scholarship across institutions. Someone who crosses borders and who combines disciplinary perspectives. It could be a novelist who writes about science; or someone like Stanley Fish or William Buckley Jr, or … Can you think of any compelling polymaths (famous or otherwise) that could represent the notion of cross-domain writing/thinking?

Well, CT smarties? Can you?

Faith and Works

by Henry Farrell on May 27, 2005

What PNH says on self-identified “‘liberal hawks'”:

bq. The reason so many in the Democratic “base” are infuriated over being lectured by the likes of Peter Beinart and Joe Biden about the need to “get serious about national security” is that the people delivering the lectures are precisely those who were wrong about one of the most important national security questions of our time. As a result we’ve spent $172 billion and 1600 American lives, damaged our military immeasurably, trashed America’s global reputation for justice and fair play, and given the bin Ladens of the world a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. The entire enterprise has made us profoundly less secure. … The fact of the matter is that the supposed distance between self-identified “national security Democrats” and the allegedly dovish party “base” is based on a self-serving slur promulgated by people with something to hide. … Liberal Democrats like Atrios, or me, aren’t remotely opposed to “national security.” We’re strongly in favor of it. Getting killed because I’m an American, at home or overseas: bad. Spending money and resources to protect me from getting killed: good. Maintaining a strong military, at least until planetary utopia breaks out and there are free Jill Johnston posters for everyone: really good. Making all of that far harder, and increasing my likelihood of getting killed, because some politicians and pundits needed to “look tough”: really, really bad. … At times it all seems like some sort of Bizarro World faith-versus-works argument. Liberals wind up being the ones pointing out, endlessly, that national security is provided by actual practices, not just by holding your face right.

Tumultuous combinations

by Henry Farrell on May 27, 2005

“Nathan Newman”: writes about union-busting cartels.

bq. For folks who remember the southern California grocery chain strike last year, a key to the grocers breaking the strike was a revenue sharing deal between the big chains– thereby preventing the unions from easily reaching settlement with any of the firms individually.

The L.A. Times “story”:,0,6124770.story?coll=la-home-business that he links to has more.

bq. The chains initially refused to disclose the pact’s details and sought to have them sealed after Lockyer sued. But King unsealed the documents in February. They showed that the companies used a formula based on their sales, before and during the dispute, and their regional market shares to figure out what Kroger should pay the others. Kroger later revealed in securities filings that it paid a combined $148 million to Safeway and Albertsons, and Albertsons said it received $63 million of that. That would have left $85 million for Safeway.

Those who have read Adam Smith will remember “his observations”: on the tendency of business owners to gang up together against workers.

bq. We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people.

(Funnily enough, Smith’s self-appointed intellectual heirs at the Adam Smith Institute don’t seem all that interested in his ideas on combinations of masters, despite their eagerness to “smash trade unions”: An oversight that I’m sure they’ll be rushing to rectify.)