Monday, February 23, 2009

Notes and Links

* Stephen Kim Sou-hwan died, age 86, on February 16. Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan was Archbishop of Seoul, South Korea, from 1968-1998, and quite a formidable character known for his defense of labor unions and student protesters and his warm smile. He was a philosopher and the first South Korean to receive the red hat. It's a sad passing, but also a reminder that there are some amazingly impressive East Asian bishops out there.

* Leiter discusses the difficulties of the PGR. I think it has a much more limited actual value than Leiter does; but it always does amaze me how personally people take it, and criticism of it has occasioned a great deal of academic childishness.

* Krugman on Himmelfarb:

Or consider Gertrude Himmelfarb’s On Looking Into the Abyss, whose key argument was that soaring crime rates showed the need to return to Victorian values. (American society promptly paid a dirty trick on Ms. Himmelfarb, by delivering a dramatic drop in crime, somehow without bringing back the poorhouses.)

Setting aside the cogency of Himmelfarb's argument, I confess I'm a little worried when an economist shows himself unable to distinguish values from institutions; the two are as different as ends and means, and the latter may make a good or bad fit to the former. The irony is that much of the social justice side of Krugman's liberalism has a Victorian pedigree; national moral progress by economic policy is as Victorian as absolute idealism.

* is going open source. I think a lot of Keynesian economists have difficulty seeing why Austrian economics has a popular appeal so massive relative to its influence in the field of economics. One reason is that Austrian economists have taken the trouble to connect their economic views with a fairly developed theory of human action that will make sense to a wide range of people. Another is that when the Austrians act in conformity with their principles, they tend to do little good things like this. And the website is a very rich trove of things. Some excellent things that are available at the website:

The Bastiat Collection, Volume I & Volume II
Raymond De Roover, San Bernardino of Siena and Sant'Antonino of Florence
The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne de la Boetie
Isabel Paterson, The God of the Machine
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
Jean-Baptiste Say, Letters to Mr. Malthus
The De Moneta of Nicholas Oresme
The Wisdom of the Stoics

* Charles Dickens's refuge for prostitutes (ht)

* A good discussion at "The Splintered Mind" on armchair conceptual analysis in philosophy

* Flash Gordon radio serials. It's a crazy ride, perfect for people with short attention spans. I couldn't keep up; something insane happens every ten seconds. The first episode basically sums up what you get in the series: we start out with what sounds like it will be a leisurely story, being introduced to Flash and Dale and being casually informed that there is a planet on a collision course with Earth. Then suddenly the plane is falling out of the sky, Flash grabs Dale, they leap out (with a parachute, fortunately), meet Dr. Zarkov, who kidnaps them at gunpoint (Zarkov has some awesome lines, by the way) and takes them to the new planet in a rocket ship, deliberately crashing into it in order to move it. Then they are captured by soldiers with ray guns and taken to Ming. Then come the monkey-men, and then the beautiful Princess Aura (where we pause just for a moment for a chat in the elevator). Then Princess Aura says the class Space Princess line, "As for you, Earthman, you shall love me or die." Meanwhile Ming is taking the same tack with Dale. And then the lion-men under Prince Thun come and save Flash with their gyro-fleet. Using thought projectors they find a secret passage out of Ming's throne room, called the Tunnel of Terror. Then Thun and Flash crash Ming's wedding to Dale (with the clever use of some old-fashioned idol-toppling) and escape through the passage, where Dale is grabbed and dragged under water by something with tentacles. Flash follows, and so the episode ends, promising something stranger than anything Flash had encountered before....