From the monthly archives:

February 2018

Economics in Two Lessons: Chapter 2

by John Q on February 27, 2018

Thanks to everyone who commented on Chapter 1 my book, Economics in Two Lessons. I’ve benefited a lot from the comments and implemented quite a few changes.

The book so far is available
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Feel free to make further comments on these chapters if you wish.

Moving along, here’s the draft of Chapter 2. Again, I welcome comments, criticism and encouragement.

Sunday photoblogging: Birds at Crosby

by Chris Bertram on February 25, 2018

Birds at Crosby

Famous Monsters of Plantland: The Green Thing!

by John Holbo on February 25, 2018

My Erasmus Darwin post got such a huge response that a follow-up is in order!

A Note About Responsibility

by John Holbo on February 25, 2018

Law-makers are responsible for the laws they make, and support, and do not repeal. They are responsible for the intended effects of their legislation, also for unintended but easily predicted effects. (They are even semi-responsible for less easily predicted bad effects – although the degree to which legislation should be a strict liability business is debatable.) None of this is mitigated if mediated through a causal chain that includes other actors besides the legislators.

If law-makers favor legislation that makes it easy for immigrants to enter the country illegally, they are faulted (or credited!) accordingly. It usually isn’t fair to say that legislators ‘favor’ or ‘like’ effects of legislation that are, most likely, regarded as costs, not benefits. But it’s fair to say that legislators are responsible for the costs. [click to continue…]

The Botanic Garden: Famous Monsters of Plantland

by John Holbo on February 24, 2018

A couple weeks ago I was, as one does, declaiming selections from Erasmus Darwin’s poetry around the table, for the moral edification of the females present. I was explaining to the young daughters, in particular, how and why people were upset that Darwin poetized plants having sex all the time in The Botanic Garden, volumes 1 and 2. Especially volume 2.

The younger daughter: Oooh, fifty shades of green!

They grow up so fast. [click to continue…]

The Hard Bigotry of Rock-Bottom Expectations

by John Holbo on February 23, 2018

1) Obviously this arm-the-teachers idea is going nowhere.
2) Obviously this arm-the-teachers idea is nothing but a ball of unintended, flagrantly terrible consequences waiting to happen. And it would be incredibly costly and legally and administratively challenging just to get to the point of all those bad consequences actually coming about (but see 1).

No one will be talking arming the teachers in two weeks. [click to continue…]

This Does Not Look Like You Care About These Adults

by John Holbo on February 22, 2018

A lot of conservatives are taking a ‘who will think of the children?’ approach to the aftermath of the most recent school shooting. As Erick Erickson writes: “I think putting them on television after a mass murder at their school is not caring about them. It is using them.” True, these kids have first-hand experience with guns that seems to qualify them to speak, but the truth is that they are too close to the issue. For them, this is their identity now. It’s existential. They aren’t prepared to debate policy, and the raw emotions behind their speech – even if they express themselves eloquently and apparently reasonably – are not conducive to level-headed policy debate. No one is allowed to question the authenticity of their experience with guns, so no one is allowed to suggest they are just wrong about policy.

Let it be so. In the aftermath of the next school shooting, no one for whom gun-ownership is a deeply-felt identity issue is allowed on TV. For their own good. [click to continue…]

Psychomyths and Thought Experiments

by John Holbo on February 22, 2018

I’m writing something about Ursula K. Le Guin’s most famous tale, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” (I’m sure you’ve read it.) I’m reading the author’s story notes, in The Wind’s Twelve Quarters [amazon]. She calls it a ‘psychomyth’. In her introduction she elucidates the neologism thusly: “more or less sur-realistic tales, which share with fantasy the quality of taking place outside any history, outside of time, in that region of the living mind which — without invoking any consideration of immortality — seems to be without spatial or temporal limits at all.”

So reads my Kindle edition. I suspect ‘sur-realistic’ is not what it says in the paper edition. But maybe Le Guin is literalizing the ‘beyond real’ sense, for some reason, by hyphenating, playfully? Will someone kindly walk over to their shelf, check the paper, and confirm or disconfirm the hyphen. Thank you. (Amazon ‘Look Inside’ is not settling it for me.)

While we are on the subject, and awaiting our test results, a few thoughts. [click to continue…]

Economics in Two Lessons: Draft Outline

by John Q on February 20, 2018

At the suggestion of a reader , I’m posting a draft Table of Contents for Economics in Two Lessonshere
[click to continue…]

Economics in Two Lessons: Chapter 1

by John Q on February 19, 2018

Thanks to everyone who commented on the draft introduction to my book, Economics in Two Lessons. The revised introduction is here. Feel free to make further comments on it if you wish.

Moving along, here’s the draft of Chapter 1. Again, I welcome comments, criticism and encouragement.

Panpsychism, Erewhon Edition

by John Holbo on February 19, 2018

A couple weeks back I posted about panpsychism. Is it as preposterous as all that? Opinions differ! Today I discovered that there are arguments for it, in effect, in Erewhon, by Samuel Butler (1872).

As you may know, the utopian Erewhonians, in Butler’s famous novel, are anti-machinist. But I hadn’t realized their attitude was grounded in explicit fear of the rise of conscious machines, rather than some other model of industrial catastrophe. The narrator himself has some trouble piecing it together: [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: pont naturel at Minerve

by Chris Bertram on February 18, 2018

Pont naturel at Minerve (tunnel cut by the Cesse river)

The father of consumer sovereignty

by Henry Farrell on February 16, 2018

I hope to have a lot more to say about Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism when it comes out next month. Short version: it’s a very important book that deserves to have a quite enormous impact. It does look at questions related to those of Nancy MacLean’s _Democracy in Chains_ (specifically – to what extent is the version of libertarianism that flowed from Hayek, Friedman and others explicitly anti-democratic). However, it doesn’t mention MacLean (whose book likely came out too recently to be considered), and deserves to be treated as a major achievement in its own right rather than as a further contribution to a semi-related spat. Hence, this preliminary post which is intended to get all that stuff out of the way before I write about Globalists proper. [click to continue…]

Economics in Two Lessons

by John Q on February 15, 2018

I’ve finally committed to delivering a manuscript of my long-overdue book Economics in Two Lessons. As part of the process, I’m going to post the chapters, one at a time, and ask for comments, criticism, encouragement and so on. To begin at the beginning, here’s the Introduction.

Food For Thought

by John Holbo on February 14, 2018

It was not until I had attended a few post‐mortems that I realized that even the ugliest human exteriors may contain the most beautiful viscera, and was able to console myself for the facial drabness of my neighbors in omnibuses by dissecting them in my imagination.

J. B. S. Haldane

I got that one from a book on thought-experiments [amazon]. How have I not come across it in a book about serial killers? I read both sorts of books, like any person with normal beliefs and desires, healthy impulses and interests.