Category Archives: Social values

Noam Chomsky: America’s Real Foreign Policy –  A Corporate Protection Racket

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.

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The Crapification of Biomedical Research

An urgent warning from PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

In the context of such progress, it is remarkable that even the most successful scientists and most promising trainees are increasingly pessimistic about the future of their chosen career. Based on extensive observations and discussions, we believe that these concerns are justified and that the biomedical research enterprise in the United States is on an unsustainable path.

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NY Fed’s Bogus Estimate of Return on College and the Neglect of the Intellectual Commons

Yesterday, the New York Fed released a new report by Jaison R. Abel and Richard Dietz, Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs? which is getting good coverage in the mainstream media. Its major finding is that despite the fall in wages to college graduates due to the crappy economy, a college degree is still worth the expense because wages of high-school graduates have fallen too, keeping the wage premium of a college education high while reducing the opportunity cost of staying in school.

But while the media is repeating the findings of this report uncritically, in fact it relies on a discredited methodology for calculating returns, and also promotes the view that the only reason to get a higher education is to get a better job.

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“Risky Business” Climate Report: Paulson, Bloomberg, Rubin, Schultz Late to Combat the Denialists

Those who have been involved in trying to raise awareness of the risks of global warming might have to repress a “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” response to a new, accessible, and well written report on the probable impact of climate change on the US. The effort, called “Risky Business” has Hank Paulson, Michael Bloomberg, and Thomas Steyer, retired chairman of Farallon Capital, as co-chairs, with its other committee members including Bob Rubin, George Schultz, Henry Cisneros, Gregory Page (the executive chairman of Cargill), Donna Shalala, and Olympia Snowe. In other words, when Hank Paulson looks like the best of a bunch, there’s reason to be cautious.

Nevertheless, the report is meant to demonstrate that the US is long past having the luxury of debating whether global warming is happening, and that a sober look at the seriousness of the outcomes says we need to do something, pronto. If nothing else, it presents some important new analysis and represents a split among the elites, always a welcome development.

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Culture: Persistence and Evolution

The persistence of cultural attitudes is an important determinant of the success of institutional reforms, and of the impact of immigration on a country’s culture. This column presents evidence from a study of European immigrants to the US. Some cultural traits – such as deep religious values – are highly persistent, whereas others – such as attitudes towards cooperation and redistribution – change more quickly. Many cultural attitudes evolve significantly between the second and fourth generations, and the persistence of different attitudes varies across countries of origin.

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Peter Van Buren: Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America

Van Buren continues his examination of what he calls the “post-Constitutional era”. He focuses on the steady erosion of freedom of speech, particularly in the media, including limits on the ability of journalists to protect sources to more self-censorship and increased antipathy towards reporting that involves the use of confidential material.

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Bill Black: How Hayek Helped the Worst Get to the Top in Economics and as CEOs

Libertarians are profoundly anti-democratic. The folks at Cato that I debate make no bones about their disdain for and fear of democracy. Friedrich von Hayek is so popular among libertarians because of his denial of the legitimacy of democratic government and his claims that it is inherently monstrous and murderous to its own citizens.

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