Troy Kennedy Martin is dead

by Chris Bertram on September 17, 2009

I see (via Tim Dunlop) that Troy Kennedy Martin is dead. There’s a lot to remember him for, but, like Tim, the work that will always stay with me is Edge of Darkness, one of the top six drama serials ever on TV. [fn1] Tim has a good clip and a link to a few more. The mid-1980s in Britain were a scary time, with Thatcher and the Tory party utterly and arrogantly dominant, the miners facing a brutally determined state, mass unemployment, nuclear standoff, vicious cuts in public spending, hmm, a bit like what we’re all in for soon. Bob Peck was terrific, but the real iconic figure was Joe Don Baker as Darius Jedburgh. Superb.

[1] The others being Heimat, Heimat 2, The Singing Detective, The Wire, and Our Friends in the North

A Citizen of Where, Exactly?

by John Holbo on September 17, 2009

I’m lecturing on cosmopolitanism tomorrow, so the mind turns to origins and starting points. Diogenes said he was a ‘citizen of the world’ – that is, kosmopolitês. But it occurred to me today that, actually, that’s not a good translation. Better: citizen of utopia. Or, a bit more modestly: citizen of the well-ordered state. Or: citizen of wherever they’ve actually got good government. I can’t get the Perseus Project to load right now, so I’ll settle for this. ‘Kosmos’ originally meant harmony, well-orderedness (in a military or ornamental sense). Pythagoras may (or may not!) have given the term its earliest astronomic usage, inspired by a sense of the gloriously ornamental orderliness of the heavens; it seems doubtful that Diogenes could have accessed that new sense sufficiently to extend it to mean ‘the world’, and, by further extension, ‘all of humanity’. He was just saying his allegiance was to the truly good and proper. This naturally goes together with cosmopolitanism, in our sense, because it’s a reproach to ‘my country, right or wrong’ sentiment. But ‘I’m a citizen of the best country’ just isn’t the same thought as ‘the best country would be a universal brotherhood of man’. Not that it’s exactly a burning issue, what this guy Diogenes thought. He’s dead (no, I don’t know where you can send flowers). Still, it’s kinda interesting. Am I missing something? Someone probably already wrote a paper about it anyway. That, or I’m missing something.

Bookblogging:Micro-based macro-introduction

by John Q on September 17, 2009

I’m starting now on what will I think be the hardest and most controversial chapter of my book – the argument that the search for a macroeconomic theory founded on (roughly) neoclassical micro, which has been the main direction of macro research for 40 years or so, was a wrong turning, forcing us to retrace our steps and look for another route. As always, comments and criticisms accepted with gratitude.

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“Fabio Rojas”: at Orgtheory.

In general, there seem to be to two mindsets in the social sciences. The first I call “precision modeling.” The attitude might be summarized this way:

Social science should focus on simple & clearly defined concepts. Real science is when you formalize these simple concepts into models. The height of empirical research is clear identification of cause and effect mechanisms implied by such models.

The second attitude I call “thick accounts.” Here’s my summary:

bq. Social science should be built around a tool box of flexible concepts. These flexible concepts can be juxtaposed, elaborated and rephrased. The height of empirical research is when researchers can use this tool box to interpret an otherwise opaque complex social domain. … these people can’t stand tool-centric theories that can’t accommodate meaning and eliminate complexity.

I’ve always thought that the loveliest expression of this dualism is set out in Italo Calvino’s _Invisible Cities_ (I’m relying here on William Weaver’s grave and lovely translation). [click to continue…]

The macroeconomics wars

by John Q on September 17, 2009

Paul Krugman’s piece on “Why did economists get it so wrong” has attracted a vitriolic response from John Cochrane, reproduced here. Krugman’s piece was strongly worded, but the reply ups the ante, and I expect further escalation. Economics conferences in the next few years are going to be interesting events.

Given that, as Krugman himself notes, disagreements between economists were notably mild until the crisis erupted, what is going on here?

I’m visiting Berkely at present and just had a chat with Brad DeLong. These are some of the thoughts I had about the great macroeconomics wars as a result.

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