Mutual Forgiveness vs. The Merciful Padding of Blather

This page was created to make some sort of response to the reception of Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, enlarging and elaborating  mostly, annotating occasionally. To those who formed the expectation that its discourse would be incessant, or even regular, I apologize. I’ve have been traveling, visiting, working in other realms.

Mostly, however, I’ve been discovering how fundamentally antithetical is the world of the blog to the ethos of writing for publication. This disjunction was described supremely well by the novelist John Updike in a little essay that appeared yesterday in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, adapted from an earlier speech to booksellers.

The electronic marvels that abound around us serve, surprisingly, to inflame what is most informally and noncritically human about us — our computer screens stare back at us with a kind of giant, instant “Aw, shucks,” disarming in its modesty, disquieting in its diffidence.

The printed, bound and paid-for book was — still is, for the moment — more exacting, more demanding, of its producer and consumer both.  It is the site of an encounter, in silence, of two minds, one following in the other’s steps but invited to imagine, to argue, to concur on a level of reflection beyond that of personal encounter, with all its merely social conventions, its merciful padding of blather and mutual forgiveness.

Books have edges, Updike says. In the “electronic anthill,” there are no edges  That’s the problem, all right. Now that I have become clear about it in my own mind, perhaps I can return to writing periodically on this page, more in the spirit of mutual forgiveness, one hopes, than blather 

Comments (1)

1 Comment

  1. Karl Eschelbach Said,

    November 9, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    Having just finished Knowledge, I wonder whether all those “invisible hand” economists (Arrow, Solow, Tobin, Lucas, Becker), whose models perforce support Cato institute economics (limited government intervention, low taxes, unfettered property rights), neglected “increasing returns” for purely politcal reasons. Did the right-wing philosophy come first only to be follwed by the equations or was it the other way around? Note that no major economist has published a detailed study of the impact of the Bush tax cuts on the cost of capital. The reason is purely political. The invisible hand economists supported the tax cuts (pace Greenspan) not because of some duty to economic theory but becasue the tax cuts benefited a few wealthy Republicans. Any study would show that the owners of stocks are overwhelmingly tax indifferent (pension funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, mutual funds and 401ks) and therefore the reduction of the marginal tax on dividends and capital gains had little macro effect. Add the impact of the alternative minimum tax and you simply have a government subsidy for a few wealthy Republican donors. No wonder no one really wants to sudy tax policy using real data! It might lead to the “wrong” answer and Alan Meltzer would not want that to happen.

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