A Terrible Blogger is Born!

May 25, 2010

Theory and History

Filed under: Economics,Philosophy — rmangum @ 6:03 pm
Tags: ,

For whatever they’re worth, here are two completely unrelated comments I’ve made  recently. The first is from Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History forum:

Amor Patriae

I agree with some of the other comments that Dan failed to define what he meant by “toughness.” Is it callousness? bravery? some combination of the two? I can see how it takes toughness to be a soldier on a battlefield, or to volunteer to be one. I can also see how it takes an amoral psychopath to do the same. But I cannot see how it takes toughness to follow orders and kill people (hundreds of thousands at a time in the case of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings Dan discusses), or to give such orders. On the contrary, in a culture which demands such things, it takes bravery to refuse. The deserter may be a coward, but he may braver in a way, no? Most people do not have the courage to go AWOL or burn their draft card.

And contra the notion that we have not the willingness to do what is necessary the way our “greatest generation” grandfathers did, I find no shortage of Americans who (rather flippantly) would love to bomb the whole middle east (minus Israel, of course) into oblivion.The question is, are they “tough” or psychotic? Or perhaps both? And can technological civilization afford such attitudes?

Finally, while I think Dan’s notion of “toughness” is confused, he discusses the concept in a laudably value-free manner.

Second, a comment on a recent EconTalk podcast about the lamentable state of current econometrics:

I’ve been listening to EconTalk for more than a year now, and I’ve heard you become increasingly skeptical about empirical work in economics, leading you to proclaim that “economics is not a science.” The implicit assumption is that only natural sciences like physics, which work by inducting general laws from empirical data. As far as I know this is a very modern, 20th-century view of science, where social sciences such as economics (formerly “political economy”) suffer from “physics envy.” The older view of science denoted any systematic investigation of phenomena.

Not the way to learn about humans.

Thanks for the great work, and I look forward to more fascinating shows in the future.


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