Cory Leonard

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Is There a Romney Doctrine? – NYTimes.com

In politics on May 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

Aptly articulates my major concern with Mitt Romney: What are we buying? His foreign policy is largely unknown and untested. Is he another Republican to be led astray by neo-con handlers? A pragmatist (looking too much like the current occupant of the WH)? Something new?

“There are two very different worldviews in this campaign,” said one adviser who aligns more often with Mr. Bolton. “But as in any campaign, there are outer circles, inner circles and inner-inner circles, and I’m not sure that anyone knows if the candidate has a strong view of his own on this.” Another adviser, saying he would be “cashiered” if the campaign caught him talking to a reporter without approval, said the real answer was that “Romney doesn’t want to really engage these issues until he is in office” and for now was “just happy to leave the impression that when Obama says he’ll stop an Iranian bomb he doesn’t mean it, and Mitt does.”

via Is There a Romney Doctrine? – NYTimes.com.

 

Behind Language = Assumptions

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2012 at 5:56 am

How we think about business and economics has implications for our tax and other policies. The language we use pretty much reveals what we think–including our (hidden) assumptions. Yale English prof and Jane Austen enthusiast William Deresiewicz churns up my own memories of a remarkable high school teacher named Mr. Jensen who not only schooled us in Mandeville but Adam Smith,Schumacher(“Small is Beautiful”) but introduced a series of very useful and seemingly missed ideas in current discourse.

Deresiewicz makes the point:

Enormous matters of policy depend on these perceptions: what we’re going to tax, and how much; what we’re going to spend, and on whom. But while “job creators” may be a new term, the adulation it expresses — and the contempt that it so clearly signals — are not. “Poor Americans are urged to hate themselves,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote in “Slaughterhouse-Five.” And so, “they mock themselves and glorify their betters.” Our most destructive lie, he added, “is that it is very easy for any American to make money.” The lie goes on. The poor are lazy, stupid and evil. The rich are brilliant, courageous and good. They shower their beneficence upon the rest of us.

Mandeville believed the individual pursuit of self-interest could redound to public benefit, but unlike Adam Smith, he didn’t think it did so on its own. Smith’s “hand” was “invisible” — the automatic operation of the market. Mandeville’s involved “the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician” — in modern terms, legislation, regulation and taxation. Or as he versified it, “Vice is beneficial found, / When it’s by Justice lopt, and bound.”

via Fables of Wealth – NYTimes.com.

As a slightly unrelated tangent, This American LifeNo 436 focused on the notion of business leaders as sociopaths–with great aplomb and, and as is usually their trope, unpredictably.

 

Great Books Summer Program

In career on May 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Call me a geek but this sounds like a lot of fun (as does the track on film).

Great Books offers membership in an international community of enthusiastic young learners and distinguished college faculty who read and discuss Great Books and Big Ideas. You will discuss the likes of Plato, Jefferson, Tolstoy, Borges and Vonnegut with other young people from around the globe who love literature just as much as you do!

via Great Books Summer Program – Reading Camp for Middle and High School Students.

The premise?  A middle-aged academic named Ilan Stavans at Amherst looks for a way to realize his dream teaching the “humanities whole–capable of expanding instead of narrowing the concept of who we are.”

The Social Sciences’ ‘Physics Envy’ – NYTimes.com

In career on May 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Insecurity abounds, even for the super-smart:

But we believe that this way of thinking is badly mistaken and detrimental to social research. For the sake of everyone who stands to gain from a better knowledge of politics, economics and society, the social sciences need to overcome their inferiority complex, reject hypothetico-deductivism and embrace the fact that they are mature disciplines with no need to emulate other sciences.

The ideal of hypothetico-deductivism is flawed for many reasons. For one thing, it’s not even a good description of how the “hard” sciences work. It’s a high school textbook version of science, with everything messy and chaotic about scientific inquiry safely ignored.

A more important criticism is that theoretical models can be of great value even if they are never supported by empirical testing. In the 1950s, for instance, the economist Anthony Downs offered an elegant explanation for why rival political parties might adopt identical platforms during an election campaign. His model relied on the same strategic logic that explains why two competing gas stations or fast-food restaurants locate across the street from each other — if you don’t move to a central location but your opponent does, your opponent will nab those voters (customers). The best move is for competitors to mimic each other.

via The Social Sciences’ ‘Physics Envy’ – NYTimes.com.

via The Social Sciences’ ‘Physics Envy’ – NYTimes.com.

Utah’s Bizarro Nominating Process

In politics on May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Rare. Subject to manipulation. Undemocratic.  Utah has a unique (read: outdated) nominating process that relies on a small number of delegate votes. Delegates are not transparently accountable to their precinct as votes are not publicly available.

The Utah Foundation provided a helpful overview in this research report, published in November 2011:

Utah is one of only a handful of states that still uses a convention, and the only one that allows political parties to preclude a primary election for statewide or congressional offices if candidates receive a high enough proportion of delegate votes. In most of the states that also use conventions, candidates must garner a certain amount of delegate votes to proceed to the primary election. However, they can also bypass this process and gain access to the primary ballot via petition. This system makes Utah unique among states and has been controversial in recent years, especially when delegates rejected Governor Olene Walker in 2004 and then-Senator Bob Bennett in 2010.

via » Nominating Candidates: The Politics and Process of Utah’s Unique Convention and Primary System | Utah Foundation Research.

Bob Bernick, writing in UtahPolicy.com explains the problem for independents (or what applies to moderate or even what used to be called “conservative” Republicans):

  • Utah is an overwhelmingly Republican state.
  • Many of the offices up for election this year hold no realistic chance that a Democrat can win. And it’s really only possible for either a GOP or Democratic candidate can win any of these offices.
  • Independent candidates routinely lose and Utah hasn’t elected a third-party candidate to the Legislature since the 1920s.

Tea Partiers have used this to their advantage, to the chagrin of former Governor Olene Walker and Senator Bob Bennett, and now Senator Orrin Hatch is facing a tough race.