I'm re-reading Tocqueville's classic because I'm teaching it in MC 271 this spring. Probably the first time I've read it all the way through cover toI'm re-reading Tocqueville's classic because I'm teaching it in MC 271 this spring. Probably the first time I've read it all the way through cover to cover.
Bevans' translation is easily the best on the market today....more
Given that Sehat follows in the same tradition of American intellectual historiography that I do, you will not be surprised to find that I found his aGiven that Sehat follows in the same tradition of American intellectual historiography that I do, you will not be surprised to find that I found his argument compelling, even if I would quibble over some things. A healthy civil society, he argues, "preserves a disorderly space that provides a buffer between the power of the state and the freedom of individuals and serves as a breeding ground for the contentious politics that are a healthy part of modern democracies" (p. 285, my emphasis). In this sense, his book is a defense of the notion that America has had a health civil society throughout its history.
But the notion that America's religious history has been a "breeding ground" for contentious politics undercuts both the myths about religious liberty held by conservatives and liberals. Sehat argues that American history has neither been a gradual decline away from a Christian nation (the myth of the Right) nor a nation that from the beginning protected politics from the incursion of religious controls (the myth of the Left). Sehat traces the tension and debate over what religious freedom means from Virginia to the Moral Majority (most of his emphasis, I might say, is on pre-20th century episodes).
I particularly enjoyed Sehat's account of colonial Virginia in the early chapters, and the debates among the abolitionists in the second part. His account of the creation of a "moral establishment" in the early 19th century is compelling: "Moral establishmentarians ... dismissed the assertion that religious liberty entailed freedom from religion in public life. They asserted instead that it required the freedom of believers to bring their religion into public life to establish an ordered society" (p. 155, emphasis in original). A common moral code escaped the constitutional constraint on religious activity in the public sphere, but simultaneously allowed coercion by the dominant religion; a point made well by Tocqueville and J.S. Mill. In a sense, that conundrum -- how could America be both free of religious involvement in political life and at the same time dominated by a particular religious perspective that ended up exercising moral and political control -- is the impetus behind Sehat's book.
I would encourage those who read Sehat's book to also read Hugh Heclo's Christianity and American Democracy. What Heclo's book lacks in historical detail, Sehat provides; and what Sehat lacks in philosophical nuance, Heclo provides! ...more
Fast paced introduction to Economics 2.0 -- the new economics of prosperity, rather than the old economics of scarcity. Not that economic rationalityFast paced introduction to Economics 2.0 -- the new economics of prosperity, rather than the old economics of scarcity. Not that economic rationality doesn't play a role (this is not the economics of wealth a la John Ruskin or other moral critics of capitalism), but institutions and innovation become central.
The authors' use of software and network metaphors for the economy was helpful: Douglass North's definition of institutions is ambiguous and does need differentiation, and the use of "protocols" for the rules of the game helps those who live in a software dominated world. Identifying institutional failure with "software bugs" is cute, also, although it may suggest that fixing the problem is easier than it really is.
The interviews included in the book were well-done and an excellent addition. I looked forward to each one.
So much of what the authors introduce us to needs to enter public discourse about the building of innovative, wealth-creating economies. The notion that we use markets to address market failure, that we can't structure incentives to produce a certain set of outcomes without running the risk of cutting off even better outcomes -- so you structure a society to create as many interactions as possible, knowing that many will produce real value to people that we can't predict ahead of time, etc., are things I have to argue with people about every day.
Bravo! I expect to use this book with my course on innovation and entrepreneurship next year....more
I was somewhat disappointed. While she challenged our policy regime's framework, she still operated in the context of mainstream economic thinking, whI was somewhat disappointed. While she challenged our policy regime's framework, she still operated in the context of mainstream economic thinking, which is part of the problem. So her solutions seemed problematic. Still, a useful read for some of her criticisms....more
As much as I love Wealth of Nations, I have come to realization that Smith's first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is not only a necessary compaAs much as I love Wealth of Nations, I have come to realization that Smith's first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is not only a necessary companion, but an even better book. The "Kirkaldy Smith," as opposed to the "Chicago Smith," comes through clearly here from the first page. I now include it in the syllabus for my course on Enlightenment era political philosophy (Locke to Tocqueville) and wish more economists would read it, for they, as much as anybody, are prone to become Smith's "man of system."...more
Vaynerchuk's message here is an extension of what he wrote in Crush It!. But we still need to hear it.
A friend of mine told me once that he wakes up eVaynerchuk's message here is an extension of what he wrote in Crush It!. But we still need to hear it.
A friend of mine told me once that he wakes up each morning and asks himself the following question: how can I add value to the life's of others today? He builds relationships and solves problems for others first, with the expectation that some value will return to him through the process. He is not profit-making driven, but rather value driven. He knows he's adding value when his enterprise produces a surplus; and that surplus enables him to create more value for others. Vaynerchuk's message is the social media equivalent of my friend's: don't see social media as the same as one-way traditional media relations. In social media, you build relationships, not exposure!
The message in the book that I appreciated most was Gary's comment that you should trust others. Not blindly. But he says, treat your employees like adults. He'd probably say the same about his customers. Reminded me of the point in Start-up Nation about how military experience built both comradarie and independent action.
Can social media work for you? It better, or else your company will not be around to compete in the future. But you don't win by trying to bring customers to you; you go to the customer. Read Vaynerchuk and start. ...more
Many will call this a moderate socialist criticism of laissez-faire capitalism. My own read of the book suggests that Chang is actually an mainstreamMany will call this a moderate socialist criticism of laissez-faire capitalism. My own read of the book suggests that Chang is actually an mainstream economist who is also an economic nationalist. That is, the operative criterion for welfare for him is not individualist, but national. What will make a nation better off?
All of his criticisms of capitalism can be understood from that question.
"Things" I liked: the one on Africa, esp.
His "thing" on "picking winners" is subtle, which makes it both a good challenge to my own arguments on the topic, but ultimately misleading (again, because his operative criterion is what is best for the nation, not what is best for consumers or for all humanity). ...more