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History

April 21, 2014

"President Obama (And Others) Who Don't 'Get' Liberty Should Read This Book"

I haven't read it yet, but George Leef makes it sound very worthwhile:

In early America, people spoke about liberty a great deal. Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The preamble to the Constitution  speaks to the importance of securing “the blessings of liberty.”

These days, however, we hear or read the word much less often. It doesn’t seem to be in President Obama’s vocabulary at all. He has declared that inequality is the greatest problem we face, but can anyone remember his ever talking about the importance of liberty?

But while the president and all his minions toil away to subject us to an ever-increasing burden of mandates, prohibitions, and taxes, a few individuals are trying to convince people that we have already lost a great deal of liberty and should strive to get it back.

One of them is Tom Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Palmer has written and edited quite a few books, most recently Why Liberty: Your Life, Your Choices, Your Future.

George Will comments on another, related books that sounds worth reading: "Progressives are wrong about the essence of the Constitution".

And a current application of the argument: "In D.C., Republicans are the enablers, Democrats the mandators". (See also "Cataloging Washington’s Hidden Costs: Part 1: The Loss of Liberty".)

March 18, 2014

"What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline"

Young economist Noah Smith tells us the Ming dynasty collapsed because it "allow[ed] itself to become isolationist, stagnant, and backward-looking . . ." He thinks we're on the road to doing the same thing. Led by conservatives, we're becoming anti-science. And we manifest growing "anti-immigrant sentiment"--which side of the red/blue divide is responsible for that, I wonder?

But why did the Ming dynasty become stagnant? Here, Professor Smith cites two historians who argue that "when a country thinks it's in a golden age, it stops focusing on progress".

Sorry, but "a country" is too vague. Who, exactly, in Ming China thought it was in a "golden age"? I'm no specialist on Ming China, but I have read William Baumol's terrific article, "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive" (Journal of Political Economy, October 1990). Professor Baumol attributes the change in China's fortunes to a very tiny ruling class, supported by a tiny intelligensia, that put its narrow welfare above the economy of the larger nation. 

Now that has an important possible lesson for "American decline"!

March 15, 2014

"For Holocaust Escapee, a 'Fairy Tale' Come True"

Lovely story: at 11, Simon Gronowski escaped from a train taking him to Auschwitz.

This week, at 82, he got to play in Woody Allen's band

March 12, 2014

"17 Times Winston Churchill Proved He’s The Prime Minister Of Burns"

Sir Winnie was simply unmatched

On Conservative politician and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin: "He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried along as if nothing had happened."

On Prime Minister Clement Attlee: "A modest man, who has much to be modest about."

And 15 more winners.

March 11, 2014

"Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg"

New book argues that Pickett's Charge wasn't as stupid as it seems

Carhart makes a compelling case that Lee had planned a large scale three pronged and brilliant strategic attack that would ensure that his army was as successful the on the third day as it had been on July 1 and 2. The third day’s three pronged strategic and simultaneous assault would ensure the destruction of the Army of the Potomac and southern triumph. The singular disaster of Pickett’s unsupported charge was not to happen the way that it ultimately played out. Carhart makes the argument that Lee had focused his considerable and brilliant strategic efforts on a simultaneous operation where Pickett would hit the Union Center, Ewell would attack Culp’s Hill and turn the Union flank and Jeb Stuart, incommunicado until the end of the 2nd day with detrimental effect for his commander, would on the third day execute the coup d’grace with a attack on the Union rear in concert with Pickett and Ewell.

March 09, 2014

"Here's What 14 Major Cities Looked Like Then And Now"

Unsurprising but still interesting to see: a lot can change in 50 years

March 03, 2014

"Your Ancestors, Your Fate"

U. Cal., Davis economist Gregory Clark:

When you look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower than many of us believe, or want to believe. This is true in Sweden, a social welfare state; England, where industrial capitalism was born; the United States, one of the most heterogeneous societies in history; and India, a fairly new democracy hobbled by the legacy of caste. Capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution.

o a striking extent, your overall life chances can be predicted not just from your parents’ status but also from your great-great-great-grandparents’. The recent study suggests that 10 percent of variation in income can be predicted based on your parents’ earnings. In contrast, my colleagues and I estimate that 50 to 60 percent of variation in overall status is determined by your lineage. The fortunes of high-status families inexorably fall, and those of low-status families rise, toward the average — what social scientists call “regression to the mean” — but the process can take 10 to 15 generations (300 to 450 years), much longer than most social scientists have estimated in the past.

February 25, 2014

Two very different interpretations of one event

50 years later, two books reexamine the infamous murder of Kitty Genovese.

"New Details In One Of NYC's Most Infamous Murders Show The Scary Power Of 'The Bystander Effect'".

Kitty Genovese's neighbors — who did nothing to help her as she was brutally raped and murdered in Kew Gardens 50 years ago — were even more indifferent to the young victim's screams than has previously been reported, according to a new book.

"Debunking the myth of Kitty Genovese".

But as journalist Kevin Cook details in his new book, “Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America” (W.W. Nor­ton), some of the real thoughtlessness came from a police commissioner who lazily passed a falsehood to a journalist, and a media that fell so deeply in love with a story that it couldn’t be bothered to determine whether it was true.

The account of the murder at the top of this story is accurate, based on Cook’s reporting. Instead of a narrative of apathy, the media could have told instead of the people who tried to help, and of the complex circumstances — many boiling down to a lack not of compassion, but of information — that prevented some ­others from calling for aid.

"Obama Is The Latest To Fall For The Henry Ford Urban Myth"

George Leef destroys the dopey contention that "Henry Ford realized he could sell more cars if his workers made enough money to buy the cars."

February 18, 2014

"50 Reasons We're Living Through The Greatest Period In The History Of The World"

I think it's worthwhile for most people, every once in a while, to remember stuff like this

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