On Tight Deadline

by Henry Farrell on June 29, 2010

trying to get a policy piece on the Europe mess finished, but if I was blogging, I’d be blogging on the following:

(1) Eric Rauchway’s ‘Tom Buchanan’s Schooldays’ follow-up, _Banana Republican_ is out ( “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/Banana-Republican-Buchanan-Eric-Rauchway/dp/0374298947/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277221259&sr=8-4, Powells). The publisher asked me to blurb it, but then never used the blurb (on account of I’s not famous, I suspect) – what I said was:

Harry Flashman VC – make room for Tom Buchanan. Eric Rauchway’s anti-hero is more caddish, more craven and more enjoyably despicable than his English predecessor as he swaggers and bluffs his way through the seedier parts of the American Imperium. Enormously entertaining.

(2) “A Fine Theory”:http://afinetheorem.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/economic-theory-in-the-mathematical-mode-g-debreu-1984/ on Debreu and how to think about economic models (via Cosma’s “delicious feed”:http://delicious.com/cshalizi ).

bq. The problem lies at the heart of the difference between social science and mathematics. In an axiomatic mathematical system, the axioms are by assumption true – there is no sense in which an axiom can be false, since it is merely an abstract statement used to derive implications. … Social science is not this way. We know, pace the arguments of Lionel Robbins, that our assumptions are false, though we hope that they are in some sense “good enough” to derive implications … If axioms are only approximate, though, as in the standard Humean problem of induction, we have no way of knowing whether conclusions will also be approximate; there is no “universal continuity”. I think economists would be better served to think of axiomatization as the formalization of analogies. That is, an axiomatic deduction when axioms are imprecise may tell us nothing about the real world, but it tells us as much as a qualitative analogy, and does so in a formal way that deemphasizes the rhetorical ability of the author.

(3) Dan Sperber “pwns”:http://www.cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=660:oy-vey-have-you-got-the-wrong-vampire-a-reply-to-frans-de-waal&catid=29:dan&Itemid=34 Frans de Waal.

(4) “Teresa Nielsen Hayden”:http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012461.html on Ireland’s economic problems. “If there’s anything I keep wishing the economic bloggers would explain in terms comprehensible to the general public, it’s that taxes are not the only way that government policies can cost them money. “



sg 06.29.10 at 11:23 pm

but is Banana Republican anywhere near as well-written as Flashman? And does he have his own specially-branded cross-grip?


P O'Neill 06.30.10 at 12:38 am

While endorsing (4), I’m not sure that even achieving that goal would make any difference in the country that was the subject of the post, since the government came closer to falling over a ban on hunting than it ever did over the tens of billions gone on bank bailouts while making cuts to essential services.


afinetheorem 06.30.10 at 12:59 am

Thanks for the shout-out, Henry. I’m always amazed by the power of the internet for academics. I think the paragraph you cited is the right way to think about axiomatization. 10 years ago, perhaps one could mention an idea like to this to friends, and that would be that. Today, there’s near-instantaneous feedback from people much better qualified than myself. That’s a powerful thing.

I think there’s also a huge demand for collation of new research, even among readers outside of academia. In mathematics, there are a number of such blogs. In economics, only a handful. In the related social sciences, essentially none. A young sociologist or philosopher, say, who is too young to be put in charge of a journal could still have a large impact driving debates in her profession by running such a blog.


Eric Rauchway 06.30.10 at 2:09 am

Yes, thank you for the shoutout, Henry. And sg, of course it’s exceptionally well written.


sg 06.30.10 at 2:34 am

haha, Eric, thanks for the objective endorsement!


Teresa Nielsen Hayden 06.30.10 at 1:30 pm

Oooh, you do blurbs?


Teresa Nielsen Hayden 06.30.10 at 1:30 pm

(Also, thanks for the shout-out.)


belle le triste 06.30.10 at 1:35 pm

“more caddish, more craven and more enjoyably despicable than his English predecessor”

This is quite a big claim!


Barry Rosh 06.30.10 at 2:18 pm

I want to say that Eric Rauchway is the best author I ever read! A group of us only read books by Eric, until he told us to read books by other authors, so that we could get other perspectives on the world.


Barry Rosh 06.30.10 at 2:20 pm

Also, this book is substantially larger than his book on the Great Depression (or should we start saying ‘Depression I’?), so by the basic $/lb criterion, it’s a better value.


Henry 06.30.10 at 4:20 pm

Yes! For good books (but I can’t imagine that you would send me anything other than …). Now back to my must-be-written-article.


Barry Rosh 06.30.10 at 4:25 pm

Henry, thanks for reviewing ‘Ship of Fools’!


John M. 07.01.10 at 9:56 am

Re:4. Read the link and comments, have been watching the last two years here in Ireland with increasing disbelief all round. So to add to a few things people just don’t seem to grasp:

1. There is no magic money bunny. It has to come from somewhere for real growth to happen. See current state of Ireland.

2. Deficits borrow from the future which is happily infinite but the magic bunny lives there.

3. Stimulus spending is as much as economic trope as deficit cutting.

4. Economists are only ever right by accident. Proof? If there was a clear, proven policy to fix the situation it would be applied. Or indeed if there was one to prevent all happening in the first place. If you draw this thought out, you can have great fun winding up economists.

5. Most politicians are frankly just not that smart. For all the blather about salary and expenses, what is overlooked is that it is a shit job – you’d have to be dumb to want to do it.


Barry 07.01.10 at 11:10 am

“Economists are only ever right by accident. Proof? If there was a clear, proven policy to fix the situation it would be applied. Or indeed if there was one to prevent all happening in the first place. If you draw this thought out, you can have great fun winding up economists.”

Perhaps you should run your ‘proof’ by somebody who actually knows what a proof is.


John M. 07.01.10 at 11:50 am

I’m guessing Barry is an economist. Sorry, more sarcasm. Barry – my comment is not meant to be taken seriously, so apologies. It can be hard to judge tone online.


Barry 07.01.10 at 9:22 pm

No, just pointing out that your comment was BS.


John M. 07.02.10 at 7:24 am

Definitely an economist.


richard rioux 07.08.10 at 6:05 pm

bad plus version clearly superior even to original

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