Quotulatiousness

July 15, 2017

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

As a long-time admirer of H.L. Mencken (since discovering Prejudices: A Selection in a used book store on Queen Street in the mid-1980s), I’ve always had an interest in the skullduggery around the “Scopes Monkey Trial” … and apparently so has Colby Cosh:

H.L Mencken celebrates the repeal of Prohibition, December 1933.

In a merely procedural sense, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, ended on July 21, 1925 with the conviction of biology teacher John T. Scopes on the charge of instructing students that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” But of course the real Monkey Trial is eternal, winding its way anew through American life, decade after decade. The carefully staged publicity stunt in Tennessee was merely one occasion in a longer struggle over the nature of man and the limits of his knowledge. I know this is an old-fashioned romantic ACLU-liberal view of the matter, but I hold to it.

As I write this column, county officials in Dayton are unveiling a statute of Clarence Darrow, the garrulous, crooked lawyer who represented Team Enlightenment in the original 1925 contest between Darwinian evolution and the Scriptures. In 2005, the citizens of Dayton, where Monkey Trial tourism is now a crucial industry, erected a statue of William Jennings Bryan on the grounds of the immortal Rhea County courthouse. Bryan had been the chosen hero of evangelical Christianity in the trial, dying less than a week after its conclusion, and is the namesake of a local bible college, which paid for the statue.

[…]

I became a serious student of the Scopes Trial as an undergraduate. Like anybody else, I had seen the 1960 Hollywood rendering of the play about the trial, Inherit The Wind, which represents Bryan as an ignorant windbag, Darrow as a tired, patient figure of ostentatious nobility, and a thinly disguised H.L. Mencken as a cruel nihilist newspaperman. Today, I suppose I would regard Mencken as the real hero of the show. He was privy to the ACLU’s engineering of the trial as a publicity stunt, but he also always said that Tennessee was within its constitutional rights to forbid the teaching of evolution — to be, in his view, just as backward as its people wished.

Inherit The Wind makes its pseudo-Mencken a heartless guttersnipe mostly as a device for elevating a sympathetic Darrow even further. This is part of the movie’s major liberty with the events of the trial: it has Bryan drop dead in mid-rant at the moment of its culmination, instead of waiting a few days. What I discovered as a student was that, aside from this excusable concession to theatrical unity, the film probably deserves some kind of prize for general fidelity to historical events.

Another critique of Nancy MacLean’s book smearing economist James M. Buchanan

Filed under: Books, Economics, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the Washington Post, a fellow Duke professor airs some concerns over MacLean’s recent character assassination attempt, Democracy in Chains:

Professor Nancy MacLean’s book Democracy in Chains has received considerable attention since its release a few weeks ago. A recent Inside Higher Ed article reports on the critical reviews and Professor MacLean’s allegation that these critiques are part of a coordinated, “right-wing” attack on her work. The book’s central thesis — summarized elegantly in the Inside Higher Ed piece – is that Nobel Prize-winning economist James M. Buchanan “was the architect of a long-term plan to take libertarianism mainstream, raze democratic institutions and keep power in the hands of the wealthy, white few.” MacLean concludes that Buchanan’s academic research program — known as public choice theory — is a (thinly) disguised attempt to achieve this purpose, motivated by racial and class animus.

As president of the Public Choice Society (the academic organization founded by Buchanan and his colleague Gordon Tullock), I am writing to respond to Professor MacLean’s portrayal. Since she believes that critiques of the book are part of a coordinated attack funded by Koch money, let me begin with a disclosure. I have no relationship with the Kochs or the Koch organization. I have never received money from them or their organization, either personally or to support my research. I have not coordinated my response to the book with anyone. I do, however, have a personal connection to Buchanan. My father was a longtime colleague and co-author of Buchanan’s. I am also very familiar with Buchanan’s academic work, which relates directly to my own research interests. In short, I know Buchanan and his work well, but I am certainly not part of the “dark money” network Professor MacLean is concerned about.

There are many things to be said about Professor MacLean’s book. For an intellectual historian, the documentary record constitutes the primary source of evidence that can be offered in support of arguments or interpretations. For this reason, intellectual historians generally apply great care in sifting through this record and presenting it in a way that accurately reflects sources. As numerous scholars have by now shown (see here, and links therein, for an example), Professor MacLean’s book unfortunately falls short of these standards. In many instances, quotations are taken out of context or abbreviated in ways that suggest meanings radically at odds with the tenor of the passage or document from which they were taken. Critically, these misleading quotations are often central to establishing Professor MacLean’s argument.

[…]

What then, of “chains on democracy”? It is true that Buchanan did not think much of unfettered, majoritarian politics and favored constitutional rules that restrict majority rule. But the foregoing discussion should already make clear that this conclusion was not based on an anti-democratic instinct or a desire to preserve the privilege of a few. Instead, Buchanan’s careful analysis, originating in his seminal work with Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent, led him to the conclusion that in choosing a political framework (“constitution”), all individuals will typically have good reasons to favor some restrictions on majority rule in order to protect against the “tyranny of the majority.” As he argued, democracy understood simply as majority rule “may produce consequences desired by no one unless these procedures are limited by constitutional boundaries” (Buchanan 1997/2001: 226). In other words, what justifies “chains on democracy” for Buchanan are his commitment to individual autonomy and equality, and his emphasis on consent as a legitimating principle for political arrangements. To paint his endorsement of constitutional limits on the use of political power as motivated by an anti-democratic desire to institute oligarchical politics is to fundamentally misunderstand Buchanan’s sophisticated, subtle approach to democratic theory, which was committed above all to the idea that political arrangements should redound to the benefit of all members of a community.

Office Hours: The Solow Model: Investments vs. Ideas

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Jun 2016

Ideas are a major factor in economic growth. But so are saving and investing. If you were given the choice between living in an inventive (more ideas) or a thrifty (more savings) country, which would you choose?

The Solow model of economic growth, which we recently covered in Principles of Macroeconomics, can help you make the choice. In this Office Hours video, Mary Clare Peate will use our simplified version of the Solow model to show you an easy way to work out each country’s economic prospects, and then compare them to see where you’d rather be.

The Canadian Red Ensign

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Elizabeth mentioned to me the other day that some idiots in the Canadian alt-right movement are attempting to hijack the Canadian Red Ensign as their version of the Confederate battle flag. Given how historically illiterate reporters tend to be, it’s not surprising that they appear to be buying this line in their coverage of protest groups like the “Proud Boys”. In the Edmonton Journal, Paula Simons tries to put in a good word for the flag Canada used up until 1965:

Canadian Red Ensign 1921-1957 (this is the version I’ve been flying outside my house for over a decade)

First they came for Pepe the Frog. And I said nothing because, to be honest, I didn’t much care that alt-right trolls and white supremacists had co-opted an innocent cartoon frog meme for their own foul purposes.

But now they’ve come for the Red Ensign.

On Canada Day, a small group of alt-right agitators who called themselves the Proud Boys disrupted a First Nations ceremonial event in Halifax. They arrived carrying a Red Ensign flag.

While the Red Ensign was never Canada’s official flag, different variations of it served as Canada’s de facto symbol from 1868 until 1965, when we adopted the red-and-white Maple Leaf flag.

The Proud Boys aren’t alone.

All kinds of conservative fringe groups have adopted the Red Ensign as their standard in recent years. They range from the pseudo-intellectual Northern Dawn movement to the more overtly neo-Nazi Aryan Guard. The idea is to somehow turn the Red Ensign into the Canadian version of the Confederate flag, a symbol of white supremacy. The flag, they believe, hearkens back to some mythical era of when Canada was “pure” and “white.”

This ahistorical appropriation of the Red Ensign isn’t new. It goes back to the early 2000s. But the Proud Boys, the anti-feminist, pro-white group started by journalist turned shock comic turned activist Gavin McInnes, have been getting much more attention. That’s because McInnes is such a canny public provocateur and a master media manipulator.

His racism, sexism and anti-Semitism are supposedly ironic and performative — he’s made hate-mongering into a kind of performance art.

[…]

The Red Ensign has been part of Canadian history since 1682 when the Hudson’s Bay Company flew a variation of the pennant over its forts and on its canoes. It followed Canadians into battle at Vimy Ridge and at Dieppe and Hong Kong and Normandy and Ortona. That’s the flag Canadians flew when they liberated Holland from the Nazis. It’s the flag Canadians flew when they defended South Korea at the Battle of Kapyong, the flag they flew when they went to keep peace in Cyprus.

The MOST DANGEROUS and EXTREME RAILWAYS in the World!! Compilation of Incredible Train Journeys!!

Filed under: Americas, Asia, Europe, India, Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 31 Mar 2017

This list consists 12 of the most dangerous and extreme railways in the world!!From railways That deep gorges and near vertical descents, to a 100 year old railway bridge built on sea. These are some of the most amazing, unbelievable and incredible railway routes around the world. These Railways offer daring experience to those who ride them.The Trains needs to pass through the most dangerous railroads along their journey. However, one can enjoy the scenic beauty while travelling on them.
===================================================================

The Most Dangerous Railways featured in this list are :

Maeklong Railway, Thailand: This Railways passes through the congested maeklong market in Thailand.

Nariz del diablo, Ecuador : Considered most difficult train journey, the railway passed through tight cliffs and climbs steep altitudes.

Pamban Bridge, India : the trains has to pass through this breathtaking 100 year old sea bridge still operating.

Bangladesh Railways : Considered most overcrowded railways in the world where roof riding is a common sight.

Burma Railway : Constructed during world war II using forced labor, Many workers (prisoners of war) died due to rough conditions thus earning nickname ‘Death Railway’

Ferro carril Central Andino, Peru : Second Highest Railway in the World Running through the Andes.

Indian railways : World’s most busiest Railway, more than 25,000 people die annually on India’s railways

White pass & Yokon Route, Alaska : Built during Klondike Gold rush. This route boasts incredible sceneries.

Gokteik Viaduct, Myanmar : Highest railway trestle in the world.

Pilatus Railway, Switzerland : This Most steepest cogway railway offers incredible Sceneries.

Tren a las nubes, Argentina : The train Passes through dangerous curves and high bridges.

Gelmerbahn Funicular, Switzerland : Almost feels like a roller-coaster ride!

H/T to CT for the link.

QotD: Ancient beliefs and modern ones

It is, I suppose, very attractive to the modern mind, with its idea that every Jack and Jill (but mostly Jill) needs a role model that matches his or her external or cultural characteristics that they assume worship of any sort of fertility goddess would mean a great respect for women.

Do I need to tell you this is poppycock?

I shouldn’t need to. We know almost every ancient religion worshiped at least one (often more) female deities, and we know that compared to us in the present so called “patriarchy” women were not only not respected, but were often used in strictly utilitarian ways as in “Mother, caretaker, etc.”

I see absolutely no reason to imagine that primitive humans were better than that, particularly since we do have archaeological evidence (scant, so non-conclusive) to back up the sort of hard scrabble/winner take all existence the great apes bands have, where the word “family” and “harem” are basically equivalent and the alpha male takes all.

In fact the evidence from modern day primitives, whether or not the worship of a female goddess is present, often leads one to conclude that the presence of a female goddess implies stronger patriarchy.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “Inventing the Past — The Great Divorce”, According to Hoyt, 2015-09-23.

Powered by WordPress