Wango Tango

by Scott McLemee on May 16, 2007

Someone just asked if Phil Nugent — whose blog I have promoted at Crooked Timber pretty much since arriving here — is related to Ted Nugent, the guitarist best known for “Yank Me, Crank Me (But Don’t Wake Me to Thank Me)” and other tender ballads.

I am unable to answer that question. I don’t know anything about the man, or even remember how I came to read his blog. The last reference to The Phil Nugent Experience here was picked up by Kevin Drum and briefly propagated across the netrootsosphere. It seemed as if some glorious future beckoned.
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Surely in Need of Much More Argument

by Scott McLemee on May 16, 2007

Evaluating a recent book about Derrida at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Nancy J. Holland says:

One wonders, for instance, about the statement that philosophy in America “has the role of legitimating the US government and the scientific enterprise” leading to the suggestions that analytic philosophy “has as its telos the establishment of a universal culture for a static, totalitarian universal civilization” (pp. 124-125). Intriguing, and possibly even largely justified, but surely in need of much more argument.

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Tipping points

by Henry Farrell on May 16, 2007

Tyler Cowen provides a “sociological explanation of tipping norms”: in the US.

The real question is why America is structured so that waiters and waitresses can sell feel-good services (“you are a generous tipper and a fine man”) to strangers, in return for money. In other words, how did waiters end up as fundraisers …? Most cross-cultural explanations of tipping start with the agency problem between diners and servers (“can you bring my drink now?”), but I believe that is the wrong approach. I view tipping as correlated with effective fundraising in other areas, and Americans as being especially willing to set this additional fundraising arena in motion.

I think that he’s right not to focus on the agency problem, but I also suspect as a first approximation that any sociological explanation has to refer to different norms about equality and conspicuous consumption. Certainly, my personal experience of eating out in Germany during the couple of years that I lived there was that tipping beyond the nominal 50c to 1 euro that indicated you had enjoyed your meal was not only not obligatory, but actively frowned upon by the waitstaff. It suggested (or so my German friends told me) that you were trying to demonstrate your superiority to them by playing Lord/Lady Bountiful.

Are You Shakespearienced?

by John Holbo on May 16, 2007

My Valve colleague, Scott, has the actual ‘is anyone still being made to read Shakespeare?‘ thing covered. This is about something else.

Matthew Yglesias has a 90’s nostalgia post, dissing Semisonic for their 1998 earworm, “Closing Time”. Matt is not feeling strangely fine; rather, finding it ‘weirdly hilarious’ that anyone would write: they were “no longer upstarts, underdogs or indie rockers. Instead they had a hit song and sales of two million albums worldwide to follow up.”

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This “piece”: by Mark Levinson in _Dissent_ on Paul Krugman and John Kenneth Galbraith touches on something I “blogged about”: last year. When I read my way through Krugman’s early 1990s book, _Peddling Prosperity_, Galbraith came in for a surprising amount of flak. This gave me the impression that Krugman was being a little defensive, the _sotto voce_ measage being that yes, perhaps Krugman too was an economist who could write wittily and well for a popular audience, but unlike Galbraith, he was a _real_ economist, who had imbibed the lessons of Samuelson et al. and did equations and stuff. _Peddling Prosperity_ is as much as anything an effort to re-create the boundary between real economists and those whom Krugman perceived as populist hacks; Galbraith is awkward to fit into that classification, as he wasn’t a mathematically rigorous economist, but was a past-president of the American Economics Association.

The interesting bit of Levinson’s piece is his discussion of how Krugman has morphed over time into the kind of economist that JKG wanted to see.

Galbraith insisted that power—which he defined as “the ability of persons or institutions to bend others to their purposes”—is decisive in understanding what happens in the world. He went on: “If we accept the reality of power . . . we have years of useful professional work ahead of us. And since we will be in touch with real issues, and since issues that are real inspire passion, our life will again be pleasantly contentious, perhaps even usefully dangerous.” … It’s hard to think of a better description of Krugman. His discovery of the abuse of power now seems to influence not only his op-ed pieces for the Times but also his more serious economic writing. … In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Krugman spoke about causes [of inequality], he usually said something like this (from an interview in 1999): “Looking at the numbers makes it clear that this [inequality] is . . . [caused by] some combination of technological change and more complicated factors.” Now his explanation incorporates power and politics: “The government can tilt the balance of power between workers and bosses in many ways—and at every juncture this government has favored the bosses.”

Elsewhere on the Web

by Henry Farrell on May 16, 2007

Two developments worth blogging. First, the _Political Theory Daily Review_ is in the process of transplanting itself to “Bookforum”: This is a good thing; it gives the famously information-dense PTDR a new design which makes it a bit easier to read, while bringing a few more eyeballs to Bookforum, an estimable site in its own right.

Second, Rick Perlstein is now blogging regularly at the “Big Con”:, where he’s bringing his vast accumulated knowledge of the history of the conservative movement to bear on current politics. This “post”: on the American Legion’s guff about how Democrats are “politicizing” Memorial Day ought to be of particular interest to CT readers who remember the outrage among some of our commenters when Kieran “suggested”: a couple of years ago that they use Memorial Day to “reflect on what it means to serve and perhaps die for your country, and to think about the value of the cause, the power of the reasons, and the strength of the evidence you would need before asking someone—someone like your brother, or friend, or neighbor—to take on that burden.”