Thursday, September 17, 2009

Links I found interesting.

There is so much Economic ignorance out there.  Politicians take advantage of it for their own ends.  People have devoted their lives to causes based on economic heresies.  So often, wrong-headed policy is enacted.  This essay by Frederic Bastiat is choked full of common sense that you won't see any Finance Ministers employ.  And Bastiat further discredits the sophisms they do employ.

In China, "the seen" is all the infrastructure the government is building.  However, the unseen is the neglect.  Kilometers from where I see workers manicure road-side shrubbery, I see ditches full of garbage.  These ditches are just meters from the front doors of peoples' homes.

I eagerly look forward to reading Camille Paglia's monthly column in Salon.  While she is a person of the Left, she has an ability to be above the fray.  Conservatives can respect her and at the same time disagree with her.  In her latest column, she talks about how the Obama Administration, the Democrats, and the Left have blown it on health care.  She talks about the logistical nightmare that Obama's speech to school children was.  She speaks such common sense, you think she may tipping away from being a Democrat and an Obama supporter.  But being a member of the Left still, she does say some curious things like the following:

How has "liberty" become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals? (A prominent example is radio host Mark Levin's book "Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto," which was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly three months without receiving major reviews, including in the Times.) I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party -- but I must be living in the nostalgic past. Remember Bob Dylan's 1964 song "Chimes of Freedom,"made famous by the Byrds? And here's Richie Havens electrifying the audience at Woodstock with "Freedom! Freedom!" Even Linda Ronstadt, in the 1967 song "A Different Drum," with the Stone Ponys, provided a soaring motto for that decade: "All I'm saying is I'm not ready/ For any person, place or thing/ To try and pull the reins in on me." 

I believe she has a warped idea of what freedom is.  Freedom, properly formulated, does mean having to take responsibility for your actions - having to accept the consequences of them.  The Democrats and the Left have for so long promulgated an idea of freedom where you don't have to take responsibility or accept the consequences of your actions.  The freedom, for instance, of the Woodstock festival is an abomination to people who had to work for what they got.  Woodstock was to see the fruits of your labour ridiculed by the people enjoying the fruits.  Freedom also means having to take the world as it is and acknowledging the efforts of others who have done you more good than you could ever know.  The Democrats don't believe in that aspect of freedom and hence don't believe in freedom (liberty) at all.  To be free of responsibility - is to give up freedom.

Orthodoxy by Gilbert Keith Chesterton is one of my top ten favorite reads of all time. And if you click on the links, it is readily available on the Internet.  I especially love the ending, and it has always served as my rationale for wanting to be Catholic:

Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.

Jesus was not cool, and I guess you can say he isn't cool now.  He could shed tears, and lose his temper.    These two things would render you unfit for public discourse in this day and age.  I "fancy" his mirth would strike the cool ones of today as corny.  Sounds like a guy I could get along with.  Sounds like a guy who doesn't speak gas. Doesn't sound like those too-cool-for-anything types, that the world is full of, and who are full of themselves.

Rare readers may know that I like to listen to podcasts on my MP3 player - a wonderful replacement for live talk radio.  You can go to Itunes to subscribe to pod casts on a myriad of subjects.  Currently, my favorite podcasts can be found at the link in the headline above.  One particular episode of Econtalk will be of great interest to Expats who may not give a hoot about economics.  In this episode Michael Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about cultural norms--the subtle signals we send to each other in our daily interactions. Munger went to Germany and talks about his experiences living in a different culture.  Are some of our reactions to behavior violating our norms hard-wired?
Making a list of the Canadian writers on the Web I like to follow, I think of Marc Steyn, David Warren, and George Jonas.  If you read only these three writers from Canada, you would think that on the whole, Canadians are a sensible bunch.  But, these writers are a minority.  Canada is a center-left country, as the governing Conservative Party, unable to garner a majority in the Federal parliament should know.
George Jonas writes columns, interesting and thoughtful, on the passing political scene and on everyday life.  He has this to say about reading:
  • Reading is enjoyable and useful for people whose mind is structured so that it's suited to reading.
  • The fact, seldom discussed, is that reading is an interactive occupation. A reader gets about as much out of a book as he or she puts into it. A good book gives its reader a decent return on the investment, but readers who bring little to the table will leave with little. At the risk of a warning from the discipline committee of the Writers' Union, I'll suggest that a book is only as good as its reader.

Am I a good reader?  I ask myself.  And how do you put something into a book you are reading?  Experience, I suppose.  I being a layabout, wonder what experience I do have.
Here is what he has to say about children (with comments by me in brackets):
  • I like some individual children, but I don't like children as a group. (I like my Tony.  I hate other people's kids, but  I like talking to their parents.)
  • When you have children, you may end up having something in common with them. Regard it as your bonus, not your due. The way you raise them does make a difference, but not as much as you think. Children are their own people, for better or worse. If you try to have them for joy, companionship or security for your old age, you're having them for the wrong reasons. They may give you all that and more, but you can't count on it. You can count on nothing, except on nature's imperative.  (Already, Tony has his own personality and his own tastes.  He exhibits barbaric and selfish behavior.  I hope I can change this.  He is what he is.  He is a handsome bugger, but I hope he has brains.  What do we have in common?  We like to travel together on a bike.  We like horseplay.  But the time Tony reaches adulthood, I will be old if not dead.)
  • Children put me off. I don't find them adorable or intriguing. I find them tedious. (Tony can be tedious.  He likes to do things for a longer time than I would.  Example:  ride escalators).

The Economic Organisation of a P.O.W. Camp

P.O.W. Camps can be excellent laboratories:   ...P.O.W. camp provides a living example of a simple economy which might be used as an alternative to the Robinson Crusoe economy beloved by the textbooks, and its simplicity renders the demonstration of certain economic hypotheses both amusing and instructive...  During WW II, prisoners each received a care package with which they traded the contents.  Among the care package were cigarettes which became the official currency of exchange.  


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