Posts filed under ‘Cultural Conservatism’

In Defense of English

| Peter Klein |

Co-bloggers Nicolai and Lasse probably speak better English than I do, despite the handicap of Scandinavian birth, but I sure like it. So does Rishidev Chaudhuri:

To me, the most striking thing about English is its diversity of vowels, something I only noticed after many years of speaking the language. English, in many dialects, has about 15 vowels (not counting diphtongs). Listen to the vowels through these words: a, kit, dress, trap, lot, strut, foot, bath, nurse, fleece, thought, goose, goat, north. There are languages that have more (Germanic ones tend to be vowel rich), but there aren’t many of them, and none that I know well enough to frame a sentence in. And compare this vowel list to the relative paucity of vowels in so many other languages. Hindi really has only about 9 or 10 vowels; Bengali, which has lost several long-short distinctions has slightly fewer (though lots of diphtongs). Some languages (including these two) do include extra vowels formed by nasalizing existing ones; these nasalized vowels often sound lovely, but feel very similar to their base vowels. It’s more a flourish than a genuinely new creation. Japanese and Spanish have about 4 or 5 apiece, and I’m told that Mandarin and Arabic have about 6.

English, then, is capable of exceptionally rich assonance and exuberant plays on vowel sound.

I mean, savor the delights of “methodological individualism” or “apodictic certainty” or “heteroskedasticity consistent standard errors” and tell me it isn’t sheer poetry!

14 December 2010 at 10:54 am 3 comments

Most Courageous Person in Academia?

| Nicolai Foss |


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14 August 2010 at 9:44 am 33 comments

“De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum”?

| Nicolai Foss |

History of econ nerds (wonks?) will know that John Stuart Mill was trained by his father (James Mill) from the age of three in the Greek and Latin languages. Since Mill, economists’ Latin capabilities have deteriorated rather badly (a result of the dominance of Greek notation? ;-)). In fact, most economists only know two Latin sentences (or rather, dicta) that, however, they love to blurt out, often with a smug smile. One is a sound analytical principle, namely the ceteris paribus principle. The other is a much more problematic (if applied outside of economics) claim, made famous to economists by George Stigler and Gary Becker, namely “de gustibus non est disputandum.”

I have always been surprised by the readiness of many economists to endorse this claim as a general claim that goes beyond the simple implication that in economics we take preferences as given and applies on the aesthetic domain (perhaps this simply reflects the fact that many people nowadays subscribe to total or near-total relativism in aesthetics). However, understood as an aesthetic claim, “de gustibus non est disputandum” lies entirely outside of the orbit of economics (and economists-as-economists should shut up), and is emphatically not implied by subjective value theory, or any related branch of subjectivism in economics. (more…)

18 July 2010 at 5:07 am 2 comments

On Academic Writing

No comment necessary (via PLB).

31 March 2010 at 4:19 pm 4 comments

The Fate of Famous Economists

| Peter Klein |

Adam_Smith_GraveEven very famous ones. The Dundee Courier (what, you don’t read it?) reports that Adam Smith’s gravestone, in the courtyard of Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, is in bad shape: “Smith’s gravestone could be in danger of deterioration after years of exposure to the elements, vandalism and neglect” (HT: MGK). According to a spokesperson for the World Monument Fund, cemeteries in the central parts of cities like Edinburgh have become “unsafe environment[s] home to illicit activities.” Apparently David Hume’s grave, elsewhere in Edinburgh, is also threatened. How ironic that we put dead politicians in great cathedrals and mausoleums (and, while living, give them Nobel Prizes), while actual heroes are abandoned and forgotten.

9 October 2009 at 9:09 am 2 comments

An Obamanable Housing Plan

| Peter Klein |

So, let me get this straight. We’re in a major recession triggered by a collapse in the housing market, itself the inevitable result of government policies, led by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to get the wrong loans to the wrong people so they could buy the wrong houses. The Obama Administration’s remedy is not to let Fannie and Freddie die a long-overdue and merciful death, but to prop them up, to give them additional powers, and to subsidize private mortgage lenders who extend yet more credit to more borrowers who can’t pay it back, thus making what might have been a temporary misallocation of the housing stock into a permanent one. Brilliant!

I am bewildered. But, more than that, I am angry. I can’t count how many news accounts I’ve seen about the poor, struggling homeowners who can’t make the monthly mortgage payment, are about to be foreclosed, and risk losing the family home, yard, white picket fence, and piece of the American Dream. But I haven’t heard one word about the poor, struggling renters, the ones who scrimped and saved and put money away each month towards a down payment, who kept the credit cards paid off, stayed out of trouble, and lived modestly, and thought that maybe, just maybe, the fall in housing prices meant that they, finally, could afford a house — maybe one of those foreclosed units down the street. These people are Bastiat’s unseen. For them, Obama’s housing plan is a giant slap in the face. To hell with the prudent. Party on, profligate! Now that’s what I call moral hazard.

Update: Here it is in pictures (from EconomiPicData via Wayne Marr).

18 February 2009 at 10:10 pm 5 comments

Think Globally, Drink Locally

| Peter Klein |

Railing against corporate dictatorship, helps consumers find locally-owned cafes, bookstores, and movie theatres in their area — alternatives to the “invasion” of Starbucks, Borders, and their ilk. The site itself is actually quite an interesting capitalist idea in its freshness and creativity, and people certainly should eat or drink or shop where they are most comfortable. That’s the beauty of competition! And the kind of community-building that often takes place at familiar, time-tested, local shops is to be encouraged.

But to say local businesses possess some kind of moral magic simply by virtue of being family-owned and homey is preposterous.

That’s Brooke Levitske, writing on the Acton PowerBlog. Recently a friend asked what I thought of Wendell Berry and his agrarian, anti-industrial philosophy. My response was similar: If people wish to live according to these principles, more power to them. I object only when materialist urbanites are forbidden by law from pursuing their own path to enlightenment.

Incidentally, does anyone remember the WSJ article a few years back suggesting that local cafes benefit when Starbucks moves to town? The theory is that the presence of a Starbucks increases local demand for premium coffee, providing spillover benefits to local stores. I haven’t seen any systematic evidence on this, however.

25 August 2007 at 10:24 am 1 comment

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Our Recent Books

Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Peter G. Klein and Micheal E. Sykuta, eds., The Elgar Companion to Transaction Cost Economics (Edward Elgar, 2010).
Peter G. Klein, The Capitalist and the Entrepreneur: Essays on Organizations and Markets (Mises Institute, 2010).
Richard N. Langlois, The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism: Schumpeter, Chandler, and the New Economy (Routledge, 2007).
Nicolai J. Foss, Strategy, Economic Organization, and the Knowledge Economy: The Coordination of Firms and Resources (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy, and Richard N. Langlois, eds., Managing in the Modular Age: Architectures, Networks and Organizations (Blackwell, 2003).
Nicolai J. Foss and Peter G. Klein, eds., Entrepreneurship and the Firm: Austrian Perspectives on Economic Organization (Elgar, 2002).
Nicolai J. Foss and Volker Mahnke, eds., Competence, Governance, and Entrepreneurship: Advances in Economic Strategy Research (Oxford, 2000).
Nicolai J. Foss and Paul L. Robertson, eds., Resources, Technology, and Strategy: Explorations in the Resource-based Perspective (Routledge, 2000).