“David Brooks”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/26/opinion/26brooks.html?ex=1277438400&en=52bbe1eeacc48d40&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss on the merits of Bush’s Africa policy.

bq. The Bush folks, at least when it comes to Africa policy, have learned from centuries of conservative teaching – from Burke to Oakeshott to Hayek – to be skeptical of Sachsian grand plans. Conservatives emphasize that it is a fatal conceit to think we can understand complex societies, or rescue them from above with technocratic planning. … The Bush folks, like most conservatives, tend to emphasize nonmaterial causes of poverty: corrupt governments, perverse incentives, institutions that crush freedom. Conservatives appreciate the crooked timber of humanity – that human beings are not simply organisms within systems, but have minds and inclinations of their own that usually defy planners. You can give people mosquito nets to prevent malaria, but they might use them instead to catch fish.

The crucial – and rather disingenuous – qualifier is “at least when it comes to Africa policy.” Even Brooks doesn’t have the chutzpah to defend Bush’s overall foreign policy approach as an exemplar of Burkean prudence and appreciation for the complexity of other societies. On which, see further a rather interesting article by leftwing rabblerouser “John Hulsman”:http://www.heritage.org/About/Staff/JohnHulsman.cfm and Anatol Lieven “forthcoming”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/05/12/cons-vs-neo-cons/ in the Summer 2005 issue of _The National Interest_. But even on Brooks’ chosen turf – the Bush administration’s Africa policy and the Millenium Challenge Account initiative – there’s little positive to be said from a principled conservative stance. Burke, Oakeshott and other traditional conservatives are notoriously hostile to grand abstractions and keen on practical results. Over the last four years, the Millennium Challenge Account has yielded plenty of airy rhetoric, but no practical results worth talking about. This is for the simple reason that it still scarcely exists. The problems of implementation that Brooks, in fairness, acknowledges in passing, stem from the fact that the Bush administration has “obligated only 2%”:http://www.democracyarsenal.org/2005/05/compassionate_c.html of the Millennium Challenge funds. Nor has the administration requested the $5 billion that Bush promised in any of the four budgets submitted to Congress after the initiative was announced. As of April 29 not “one dollar”:http://www.democrats.senate.gov/dpc/dpc-doc.cfm?doc_name=fs-109-1-24 of Millennium Challenge Account money had reached a developing nation. While an appreciation that complex societies can’t be “rescued from above by technocratic planning” is a fine and wonderful place to begin thinking about how to improve development aid, it can also be a highly convenient excuse for doing nothing. For all the bluster about Burke, Hayek and Oakeshott, the development-aid-as-vaporware approach seems at the moment to be well explained by a simpler theory of “conservatism as moral philosophy”:http://chatna.com/theme/conservatives.htm ; that its primary characteristic is “the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

(hat tip – “p o’neill”:http://bestofbothworlds.blogspot.com/ )

NYTimes promotes BugMeNot.. again

by Eszter Hargittai on June 26, 2005

I found it curious that in March of this year The New York Times mentioned the Web site BugMeNot.com in an article on sidestepping life’s little annoyances. Curiously, a new NYTimes article (scroll down to the bottom of the page) published this weekend repeats this recommendation.

For those not in the know, BugMeNot helps you find a username and password for sites that require registration. This means that you can proceed to viewing articles on, say, sites like nytimes.com without having to create an account for yourself on such sites.

Firefox users may be interested in this helpful extension that allows one-click use of BugMeNot. When you are on a page with a form for entering your username and password, place the cursor in the username or password box, right click on the mouse (or do the corresponding equivalent on a Mac) and you get a BugMeNot option in the menu. Select it and the form will be filled in automatically with registration information.

Life’s Devices

by Kieran Healy on June 26, 2005

“Teresa Nielsen Hayden”:http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/ links to a “terrific paper”:http://brodylab.eng.uci.edu/~jpbrody/reynolds/lowpurcell.html by E.M. Purcell called “Life at Low Reynolds Number.” The Reynolds Number is, roughly, the ratio of intertia to viscosity in fluids, and if you want to learn more about it I strongly urge you to read the rest of the talk for yourself. I learned about the Reynolds Number in graduate school. It’s not something they teach sociologists, as a rule, but I discovered during my first year that Princeton University Press often had sales at the University Store. Because I am in inveterate dilettante — er, I mean, polymath — I picked up a great book by “Steven Vogel”:http://fds.duke.edu/db/aas/Biology/faculty/svogel called “Life’s Devices”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691024189/kieranhealysw-20/ref=nosim/.

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by Kieran Healy on June 26, 2005

What with Tom Cruise and his Scientology-driven antipathy to psychiatric medicine “in the news”:http://msnbc.msn.com/id/8344309/ recently, it might be worth revisiting an old post about the claims that Scientology makes for its founder, the appalling L. Ron Hubbard.

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