Friday, April 30, 2010

Zoning Laws Destroy Communities

I have an article at the Ludwig von Mises Institute: Zoning Laws Destroy Communities.

“I do think at a certain point you've made enough money."

In Quincy, Illinois yesterday President Obama told an audience, “I do think at a certain point you've made enough money." Really? And exactly how much would that be? And who is he to decide how much that is? And if we do learn what he thinks is "enough," why is it that amount and not some other? It's entirely arbitrary. If I have enough money to pay someone a million dollars a year, or two million, or 10 million, what business is it of his that I do so? And if I make a product that a lot of people want, and I am able to make millions or even billions of dollars, who is he to decide that I don't deserve what people have volunteered to pay me for what I made for them? I am so sick of this attitude from ignorant, selfish, power-hungry jerks like him. He and the other jerks we keep electing and re-electing need to keep their greedy hands out of everyone else's pockets. If these people weren't elected to office, we'd call them what they are: muggers! And we're idiots for thinking they are anything else, and for continuing to elect and re-elect such people.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Teach Students to Write

Today I asked some of my English composition students when was the last time they were taught grammar in school. The answer was that, other than spending a week to refresh, the last time they had grammar had been 6th grade.

6th grade.

I asked them, "What if the last time you learned anything about science had been in 6th grade?" Or math? Or, one could add, history, social studies, etc.? COuld you imagine? Based on what logic do we stop teaching grammar to students in 6th grade when we have enough sense not to stop teaching them science in 6th grade?

Grammar is no longer taught in high school, it seems. More, I know for a fact that colleges no longer require it. Somehow we are supposed to teach students how to write without teaching them any of the actual rules of sentence construction. And it shows.

There is little doubt that this state of affairs has come about because of the absurdly ridiculous notion that imposing rules somehow stifles creativity. What utter nonsense. I am so sick and tired of that lie. And yes, it's a lie. I'm also sick and tired of giving people the benefit of the doubt when they support policies that don't work and have been proven over and over not to work. But that's another issue for another time.

Here is what we need if we want to teach students how to write and think clearly.

First, students need to be taught grammar all the way through high school, and they need at least one semster of college grammar. Not a week of it every year, but the rules taught throughout the year. They should be able to construct any kind of sentence you can name to them on the spot by the end of high school. That's the level of mastery they should have of grammar.

Second, students need to be taught formal logic all the way through high school, and they need at least one semester of logic in college. This is not required at all now. Not surprisingly, most students cannot think. My experience is that most are overwhelmed by even the lightest hint of a logical argument -- and they don't know how to deal with illogical ones. This is an incredibly dangerous situation -- such a population is ripe for a cult of personality dictatorship.

Third, students need to be taught formal poetics/rhetoric throughout high school, and they need at least one semester of poetics in college. Every students should be able to write an iambic pentameter line, to understand metaphor, symbolism, imagery, the use of pathos and ethos (meaning, to have the last one, they also need ethics), syntax, style, etc.

For college students, once they have their semester of grammar, logic, and poetics, THEN they should be required to take a writing class where they are required to write a research paper. Only then will they actually be able to write a successful research paper. Teachers might even have time to actually teach students how to actually do research. (Along with this, how about we get rid of the collections of "topical" essays that in fact bore students out of their minds? -- I have far more engagement from the students on the readings in my literature-based composition class than I do in my composition classes that use the essays popular in most composition textbooks nowadays.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Decentralized Power of the Tea Party Movement

Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, said of the Tea Party movement, “It reflects what people feel, but the actual movement itself has no infrastructure, has no ability to bring a lot of people to key sites at key moments in time." This statement shows both why the Democrats as a whole don't understand the Tea Party movement, and why they don't understand economics. He is basically being dismissive because it wasn't organized from the top-down by some person or committee of people. He thinks that, in order to have a large number of people show up in one place at one time, you have to have some central organizer -- but what he doesn't seem to realize is that the internet has contributed to decentralized organization probably more than any one thing in history. All you have to do is have the Tea Party members connected to each other in a network, and they can self-organize and show up anywhere you want, whenever you want.

Of course, the reason why a Democrat cannot understand this is precisely because they don't understand how the economy works, either. The economy works as a self-organizing system, meaning it is decentralized and doesn't need anyone to control it. The Democrats tend to think that the economy requires control and, thus, controllers.

My hope, in the meantime, is that the Democrats don't come read this blog and learn the truth of how the Tea Party organizes and why it's in fact so powerful and efficient. They need to learn that only when it's too late.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

10 Important Writers Who Went to Jail for Their Work

Here is a nice reminder of the real courage of many writers:10 Important Writers Who Went to Jail for Their Work

The Imperialist, Expansionist Bureaucratic State

Here is an interesting piece about the relationship between government bureaucracy and imperialist expansion. It seems that, throughout history, regardless of culture, when a state reached a certain level of development, it developed a bureaucracy and, once that bureaucracy was created, the bureaucratic state became expansionist.

This raises some very interesting questions, which could make for an interesting research program for someone who studies institutions.

The most obvious question is, why does this happen? It may be that it is because bureaucracies are inherently expansionist. They expand to continue to justify their existence. When extended beyond the bureaucracy per se, we get expansionist policies. Those expansionist policies may be into the economy of the state itself, or it may be into other countries. It may also be due to the fact that when there is a bureaucracy, nobody is in charge, meaning nobody is responsible, meaning many more unethical actions may be undertaken.

Now, considering that government bureaucracies inevitably result in corporate bureaucracies -- mostly to deal with the government's rules -- the next question to ask is: do corporate bureaucracies cause corporations to act the same way? In other words, do corporations with large bureaucracies engage in things like corporate takeovers more often than those with small or no bureaucracies? Might this then be the main contributing factor to the creation of megacorporations -- including those that are infamously "too big to fail"?

Finally, as the U.S. government becomes ever more bureaucratic, does that mean the U.S. will become ever more prone to imperialistic expansion? Might imperialistic expansion be seen as a way to solve our debt problem? Such policies are not unprecidented in history.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Expanding on The Arts as Spontaneous Orders

The relationship between works of art and criticism evolved over time, eventually becoming a spontaneous order. In the oral tradition, the poet would have had immediate audience feedback, to which he would have adjusted his performance. The critic was the audience. IN many cased, they directly participated in the performance. When the arts became increasingly specialized, a full-fledged spontaneous order emerged. Outside of buying and selling, the readers/viewers/listeners ceased being critics -- precisely because there was little face-to-face feedback. The artists were freed to be more adventurous, and the professional critic arose to explain to everyone -- reader/viewer/listener and artist alike -- what it was they were encountering. In this way, criticism provides feedback -- but the question is if it acts within the spontaneous order, or if it acts as imminent criticism which arises out of the spontaneous order of the arts. For example, Reader Response criticism makes sense as being immanent criticism if the reader is included in the literary spontaneous order. Art criticism is imminent criticism if it address the complete order. Thus, reader response, canon criticism, cultural criticism, etc. that take on the system as a whole, or at least consider individual works as parts within that whole, represent imminent criticism, while critical stances that dealt with individual works might more aptly be included within the spontaneous order itself. If we were to place this kind of criticism within the spontaneous order, then metacriticism would be included in the realm of imminent criticism. For example, one might consider Frederick Turner's "The Culture of Hope," "Beauty," and "Natural Classicism" immanent criticism, but essays and collections that deal with specific works, like "Literature and the Economics of Liberty," Paul Cantor and Stephen Cox, eds. as being within the spontaneous order itself (although the introductory essay by Cantor would more properly be considered immanent criticism).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

FROM THE SENSORY ORDER TO THE MORAL ORDER: BRIDGING HAYEK TO HAYEK (PART I)

I have a new scholarly article published in Nomoi, "FROM THE SENSORY ORDER TO THE MORAL ORDER: BRIDGING
HAYEK TO HAYEK (PART I)" on pg. 3. The journal is in Spanish and English, but my article is in English.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cellular Networks Resemble Social Networks

Here is an interesting article that points out that the molecular biology of cells are structured similarly to societies, and that the least complex systems employ more top-down gene-regulatory structures, while the most complex systems employ decentralized, polycentric, democratic structures. I wonder if this sort of structure might mirror social structures as well. I wonder . . .

My Top 10 Most Influential Books

1. Nietzsche -- Thus Spoke Zarathustra
2. Ayn Rand -- Atlas Shrugged
3. Frederick Turner -- The Culture of Hope
4. Milan Kundera -- The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
5. Dostoevski -- Crime and Punishment
6. J. T. Fraser -- Time, Conflict, and Human Values
7. Don Beck and Christopher Cowan -- Spiral Dynamics
8. Sophocles -- Three Theban Plays
9. Walter Williams -- The State Against Blacks
10. Goethe -- The Sorrows of Young Werther

Friday, April 02, 2010

Evo Lit Theory in the NYT

Well, my field of research finally made it into the New York Times. Maybe some English departments will finally start to take us seriously. And take me seriously enough to give me a job.
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Steven Horowitz at Coordination Problem also talks about the NYT piece. Richard Ebling's comments are most interesting -- and important. Might be a good way to think about a more robust Austrian approach to literary analysis.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ph.D. in Night Auditing

I see somebody decided to be funny in my poll at the bottom of the page. Night auditor, indeed!