Archive for January, 2009
The Keynesian theory of government stimulus rests on the idea that economies in recessions don’t suffer from a real loss of wealth (like a famine that wipes out your crop) but an excess of economic capacity (when your crop rots in the silo because you can’t get it to the market). Keynes contrasted the two ideas by referring to “a crisis of poverty” versus “a crisis of abundance.” Money spent by the government, in addition to creating new real wealth in the form of infrastructure or whatever, works by utilizing this unused capacity — especially the human capital, by putting people to work.
But underutilized capacity isn’t just people who are out of work — it’s the goods rotting in our warehouses. The recent GDP dip was saved from staggering free-fall only by a quirk in the way these goods are measured:
The actual decline in the gross domestic product — at a 3.8 percent annual rate — fell short of the 5 to 6 percent that most economists had expected for the fourth quarter. But that was because consumption collapsed so quickly that goods piled up in inventory, unsold but counted as part of the nation
Virginia Heffernan at NYT would totally be way up high in my bloggers’ fantasy draft, with Scott Horton, John Gruber, Carmen van Kerckhove, Jim Fallows, Daniel Larison, Ron Silliman, Ben Vershbow (ret.), Eileen Joy… anyways, you see where this is going.
Anyways, her new magazine essay on digital reading with her three-year-old son is eminently blogworthy, not least for the universal reference:
I’d like for Ben to sit with One More Story and come away with the impression that he’d been read beautiful books all afternoon. But Ben tends to ask for One More Story when he wants privacy, the same state of mind in which he likes videos. Books, by contrast, are for when he feels snuggly.
Which brings up something significant about books for a 3-year-old: whatever else preschool reading is, it’s intimate. Before you can read, you get to see books mostly when you’re cuddled up with an adult or jostling with other kids in a circle.
Heffernan goes on to say: “I’m not sure he’s developing an appreciation for books. But he is learning how to enrich his solitude, and that is one of the most intensely pleasurable aspects of literacy.” Other intriguing thoughts include the relationship between interactive digi-books and video games, TV, and movies, the Freakonomics thesis that having books in your house is more important than reading them to your children, and a reluctant skepticism towards viewing digital reading as “reading-plus.” I don’t agree with everything VH throws out there, but it’s all worthwhile.
Joshua Cohen — philosopher, thinker on global justice, occasional blogging head, and co-editor of the super-smart Boston Review — writes about the difference between liberals: the “classical liberals” that are now (more or less) called libertarians and the “egalitarian liberals” that are now (more or less) called progressives.
Mostly I link to it for his (almost snarky?) conclusion:
With respect, classical liberals were in the rearguard in every one of [the great achievements of democracy in the 20th century]. And for a simple reason: in each case, the struggle depended on a willingness to fight against inequality, subordination, exclusion through political means, through the dread state. And if you mix your classical liberal values with the classically conservative predisposition to think that politics is at best futile, at bad perverse, at worst risks what is most fundamental, then you will always celebrate these gains when the fight is over: always at the after party, inconspicuous at the main event, and never on the planning committee.
I love the jaunty stop-motion bed-walking.
This is great: a librarian identifies curiously common references to “cuddling” in newspaper discussions of print and electronic books. As in, nobody is ever going to use an e-book reader because you can’t “cuddle” (up with) it.
Preferably, it appears, by a fire. Because apparently everybody’s got a fireplace that they read in front of, and without a proper fire, chair, smoking jacket, and appropriate analog print media, there’s no reason to spend hard money on a book, magazine, or newspaper.
My favorite rejoinder is the one outlier: “Forget about the warmth a real book offers when you cuddle up with it by the fire. People spend so much time on buses and planes, in boring meetings, or at kids’ soccer practices or hockey games.”
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about sites of reading and the different physical relationships to text they require. It’s fascinating how particular sites and ways of reading crowd out others — often to make a new activity seem MUCH more new than it really is.
I love Ron Rosenbaum’s takedown of Billy Joel; you really have to dislike someone to go to the lengths taken by Rosenbaum to document, distill, and identify what makes them so bad.
My favorite part, though, is Rosenbaum’s side-snipe at Jeff Jarvis:
Besides, some people still take Billy seriously. Just the other day I was reading my old friend Jeff Jarvis’ BuzzMachine blog, and Jarvis (the Billy Joel of blog theorists) was attacking the Times’ David Carr. (Talk about an uneven fight.) Carr was speculating about whether newspapers could survive if they adopted the economic model of iTunes. Attempting a snotty put-down of this idea, Jarvis let slip that he’s a Joel fan: As an example somehow of his iTunes counter-theory, he wrote: “If I can’t get Allentown, the original, I’m not likely to settle for a cover.” Only the hard-core B.J. for Jeff! (“Allentown” is a particularly shameless selection on Jarvis’ part, since it’s one of B.J.‘s “concern” songs, featuring the plight of laid-off workers, and Jarvis virtually does a sack dance of self-congratulatory joy every time he reports on print-media workers getting the ax.)
See, this is the thing: there’s a weird way in which the entire attack on Billy Joel just allegorizes Rosenbaum’s frustration with Jarvis. Read RR’s December article, “Is Jeff Jarvis Gloating Too Much About the Death of Print?” if you’re not convinced.