A New Gold Standard?

This occurred to me last year, but I didn’t write anything about it because it’s the sort of thing about which I don’t know enough to have an intelligent opinion.  The question is this:  If people around the world buy and sell gold and quote its price in paper currency, how different is this from a de facto gold standard?  Now along comes Dr. Marc Faber and says,

“I think we already have now a gold standard . . . created by the market place.”

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Accidental Consolations

ConsolationsWe have previously lamented what we lose when we forsake the serendipity of browsing a newspaper or magazine for the stultifying predictability of those custom-tailored electronic round-ups that tell us only what we want to hear.  But I was reminded of this point in a somewhat surprising situation recently when I read a book by mistake, and found out I liked it.

How, exactly, does one read a book by mistake?  Read the rest of this entry »

Rival Histories of the Great Depression

Whatever one thinks about history repeating itself generally, the case for repetition is pretty strong in economics because economic activity is by its nature cyclical.  Yes, times change, and no two business cycles are ever exactly alike, but there are certainly recurring patterns and it makes great sense to try to understand what worked and what didn’t in past cycles.

Ever since late September, it has been difficult to discuss the economy in much depth without encountering simmering controversies about what did an did not work during the Great Depression.  But there is a problem.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Paul, “The Revolution: A Manifesto”

Last winter, when I donated to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, I made the mistake of buying a Ron Paul sweatshirt but no Ron Paul T-shirt. I do not remember whether that was simple inadvertence on my part or whether it reflected a conscious prediction that Dr. Paul would likely be irrelevant by the time it was too warm for the sweatshirt. Either way, it was a mistake, because Ron Paul’s role in the presidential election is today very much the same as it was back in January. He is a man who will not be president, but who will not stop asking some of the most important questions about the course our nation is on. It is perhaps no coincidence that he also provides the most philosophically coherent package of answers. Read the rest of this entry »

“The luck of the Remens.”

In case anyone is feeling disappointed about bets not made on Saturday, the following story may help. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Book Reviews, Failure of Imagination. Tags: , . Comments Off on “The luck of the Remens.”

On Liberty and Security

A great deal has been written in the last few years about the extent to which we can or should trade liberty for security. Precisely because so much has been written, it may seem unlikely that anything new can be said now. But in a recent book review, Jeremy Waldron describes the nature of the tradeoff with a clarity that struck me as unprecedented. Although his observations seem obvious in retrospect, I have not seen anyone make them before, which suggests to me that perhaps they only seem obvious because they are so keen. Read the rest of this entry »

Catching up with the New York Review of Books

I spent a lot of time on my back this week due to a freak dog-washing injury. But I’m a silver-lining kind of guy, so instead of writing about the stabbing pain I’m writing about the fact that I got to catch up — a bit — on a few unread issues of the New York Review of Books, which always seems to give me so much to think about.

From the September 27 issue, I enjoyed Christopher Jencks’s review of Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency, a book we also discussed on this blog a few months back, and also Janet Malcolm’s article “Pandora’s Click,” an uncharacteristically brief review that provides a timely reminder about the perils of e-mail and that medium’s own special contribution to our incivility. I also finally got around to reading the piece Jim Walsh recommended in the October 11 issue, Bill McKibben’s review of four books on climate change.  But what really held my attention in the October 11 issue was this fascinating excerpt from Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s journals of 1966 and 1967.

It’s called “The Turning Point,” and it’s all about LBJ’s fateful decision to escalate rather than withdraw from Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Book Reviews, Bush Presidency, Civility, Failure of Imagination, Foreign Policy, History, Iraq, Politics. Comments Off on Catching up with the New York Review of Books

The Cult of the Amateur

In a post a few weeks ago, I promised some thoughts about Andrew Keen’s polemic against “Web 2.0” culture, entitled, “The Cult of the Amateur.” Keen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has only recently become skeptical about the social impact of the Internet, takes as his jumping off point the famous T.H. Huxley image of an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters. Huxley says the monkeys would eventually produce Hamlet. Keen says the Internet as we know it today is putting that claim to the test. But the results, according to Keen, are not encouraging. Far from elevating our culture, we Internet monkeys seem to be telling lies to each other on blogs and posting videos of ourselves in various states of undress on Youtube. No sign of Hamlet yet. Read the rest of this entry »

The Meaning of Life, by Terry Eagleton

Eagleton Meaning of LifeReaders of this blog know life is about a dog, and that it’s important to leave room for the Holy Spirit and avoid making Movie-Indians. But since this blog has not exactly entered the mainstream of popular culture yet, other people are still busy writing books about The Meaning of Life, and I reviewed one in today’s Washington Times.

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Why Religion is Giving God a Bad Name

I read this review of Christopher Hitchen’s latest book in the Times Book Review this week and it got me thinking about how enlightenment style atheism is making a comeback in the popular press. Another book that has been on the best seller list in this vein is The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. To be fair to both of these authors, I haven’t read their books, only the reviews. As such, I am not qualified to and this post is not intended as a critique of their work.

However, one paragraph from the review of Hitchens’ book struck me as interesting:

“Hitchens is an old-fashioned village atheist, standing in the square trying to pick arguments with the good citizens on their way to church. The book is full of logical flourishes and conundrums, many of them entertaining to the nonbeliever. How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all? Did the Jews not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments, and if they did know, why was this such a wonderful gift? On a more somber note, how can the “argument from design” (that only some kind of “intelligence” could have designed anything as perfect as a human being) be reconciled with the religious practice of female genital mutilation, which posits that women, at least, as nature creates them, are not so perfect after all? Whether sallies like these give pause to the believer is a question I can’t answer.” Read the rest of this entry »