Thursday, September 24, 2009

Links I find interesting

Munger on Franchising, Vertical Integration, and the Auto Industry

This podcast from Econ Talk  offers a fascinating look at the American auto industry.  The industry has been been politicized to such an extent by self-serving local politicians and unions that it deserved to go bankrupt.  But because it has been so politicized, the industry is being kept on life support by the government.  The industry has had true market competition eliminated from it.  It deserves to fail so that it could be born anew and have rid of its institutionalized stupidities.

These Expats are seeking to make their fortune in China by preserving an ancient village in Yunnan province.

Since seablogger doesn't blog full-time anymore, I have been looking for a replacement.  This blog at First Things Magazine seems a good candidate to fit my bill.  It is conservative and eclectic in nature.  Recent entries discussed The Sci Fi Dune and James Joyce's Ulysses, and not at all in a philistine manner as some would expect as First things is a religious magazine.  The First Things site also contains superb blogs by Spengler and the Anchoress.

I wish I had a Jewish upbringing.  Say what you like about them, but the Jews strike me as the wisest of people.  This article at Jewish World Review is a keeper.  Here are some quotes:
  • The prospect of being alone with our thoughts, without any outside stimulus, terrifies us. If we find ourselves in any of those places or situations where thinking was once possible, we immediately start casting about for people to call on our cell-phones.
  • The decline in our capacity for thinking in depth has been greatly accelerated by modern communications technologies.
  • I always feel something between awe and wonderment whenever I meet someone who doesn't have a cell-phone. I'm not prepared to go there yet. But I've noticed that such people are generally among the deepest and happiest that I know. 
Chesterton opens this essay by saying he thinks that travel narrows the mind.  A very counter-intuitive thought to us modern types but he backs up what he says with these gem quotes:
  • in international relations there is far too little laughing, and far too much sneering. But I believe that there is a better way which largely consists of laughter; a form of friendship between nations which is actually founded on differences.
  • GKC has two principles:  The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny.
Chesterton is defending a reaction that the Chinese have to Foreigners.  Nothing angers a foreigner more than to have the Chinese laugh at them.  "They treat us like monkeys!" many an Expat has complained.  I have always wandered what to think of stories of the Chinese laughing at black skin and stroking hairy arms.  Is this somehow racist?  It is a basic acknowledgement of differences.  We think it is racist because we see it as somehow meaning slavery and segregation which these acts certainly don't mean at all.

And the sneering!  I haven't meet an Expat, yet, that doesn't sneer at the Chinese people.  I am guilty myself.  But I have had this sneaking suspicion that the sneering I have seen other Expats do is a shameful act, and thanks to Chesterton I now know why.  Most Expats when they look at the Chinese violate the two principles that GKC elucidates in his fine essay.

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