A Friday flash

Lynne Kiesling

I found a lot of interesting and insightful thoughts in my morning reading today; here’s a synopsis:

  • Election year linguistics 1: The New York Times has an analysis of the language used by Obama and the four presidential candidates; at Cato at Liberty, David Boaz points out how different Ron Paul’s emphasis is from all of the others. He speaks about the fundamentals of both economics and the American small-l-liberal political tradition, while the others focus on topics that are more matters of expediency.
  • Election year linguistics 2: Newt Gingrich is currently getting his panties in a twist about people calling his ideas and his rhetoric “grandiose”, claiming that grandiosity is a defining American characteristic. I encourage Mr. Gingrich to consult his dictionary. According to dictionary.com, the first two definitions of “grandiose” are (1) affectedly grand or important; pompous and (2) more complicated or elaborate than necessary; overblown. I submit that while these meanings fit Mr. Gingrich, they are not defining characteristics of American culture, historically or at present.
  • Speaking of rhetoric and meaning, the Wall Street Journal has an interview, The New Theories of Moral Sentiments, with Deirdre McCloskey. She is doing more than any one person I know to return the perspectives of political economy and economics as transcending “Max U” to the professional and policy conversations.
  • Adam Thierer has a review of Liars and Outliers, the new book from security expert Bruce Schneier. Schneier analyzes the social institutions and mechanisms that enable trust to evolve in societies, and it sounds like it will be a great read; I’ve been looking forward to it, and Adam’s review whets my appetite even further. Schneier is the preeminent voice of reason in the debate over the surveillance state, so this book is self-recommending.
  • Also in technology, Steven Titch unpacks Google’s consolidation of its privacy policies across its suite of applications, and discusses what information Google does and does not capture, and what they will and won’t do with it. Very useful corrective to some of the anti-Google hyperbole, although I have some remaining skepticism.

Happy Friday!

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One thought on “A Friday flash

  1. Regarding Deirdre McCloskey, I don’t know too much about her other writings, but I got the first two volumes of her series on Bourgeois values and the like for Christmas 2010 because I had heard so many good things about it. I reached page 130 before I gave up. I might go back some time, but…

    There are three appalling mistakes in the first 100 or so pages that really put me off reading the rest. The first one is about Steven Pinker and other evolutionary psychologists, based on a second-hand source, where she characterises the whole field as “screw you” philosophy. Maybe she should have read a bit more Hayek and von Mises that she claims she admires… Then she goes on to misunderstand Rousseau. Finally, she quotes Montesquieu who in this particular instance (recluse found in the forests outside of Hamburg) presents data that do not support neither his own (to some extent), nor McCloskey’s conclusions.

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