Links 10/29/09

New Name Floated In Geithner Replacement Talks Dealbreaker (What up, bankster? I said I wouldn’t be using that word but it’s in context and I had to say it. This will be the new Treasury lyrical theme – just replace the word gangsta with the other one.)

America’s Next President? YouTube (Oops. wrong link at first. In the same vein as the last link. Hat tip Andrew Sullivan)

Galleon paid banks millions for ‘edge’ FT (Proof the system is rigged)

How to avoid a repeat of the Great Crash FT

Struggling in a recovering economy BBC

Soros: General Theory of Reflexivity FT (Not much chatter on this yet. Hat tip reader Scott)

What if George W. Bush had done that? Politico

The Presidency and The Rise of the New Partisan Press Balkinization (Hat tip reader Scott)

North Carolina Sea Levels Rising Three Times Faster Than In Previous 500 Years, Study Finds Science Daily

US swine flu vaccine too late to beat autumn wave New Scientist (Let’s hope worst fears are not realized)

What Does a Smart Brain Look Like?: Inner Views Show How We Think Scientific American (Very cool science)

When Ants Attack: Chemicals That Trigger Aggression In Argentine Ants Synthesized Science Daily

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About Edward Harrison

I am a banking and finance specialist at the economic consultancy Global Macro Advisors. Previously, I worked at Deutsche Bank, Bain, the Corporate Executive Board and Yahoo. I have a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. As to ideology, I would call myself a libertarian realist - believer in the primacy of markets over a statist approach. However, I am no ideologue who believes that markets can solve all problems. Having lived in a lot of different places, I tend to take a global approach to economics and politics. I started my career as a diplomat in the foreign service and speak German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish and French as well as English and can read a number of other European languages. I enjoy a good debate on these issues and I hope you enjoy my blogs. Please do sign up for the Email and RSS feeds on my blog pages. Cheers. Edward


  1. Anonymous Jones

    Thanks for the Soros piece. I must confess to also being a devotee of (at least the core assertions of) Popper.

    Soros says, “The concept of fallibility is far less controversial. It is generally recognized that the complexity of the world in which we live exceeds our capacity to comprehend it. I have no great new insights to offer.”

    The concept may not be controversial in theory, but a very large number of people barrel forward with their own “unified theories” of life, morality, and economics without even a hint or whiff of the idea that there may be limits to their own knowledge (or their own ability for logical thinking).

    Their own limitations prevent them from recognizing their limitations…and great anger is often born of their inability to understand their own fallibility.

    Education should develop critical thinking skills, and it should begin with the ruthless search for one’s own fallibility.

    1. DownSouth

      Given Soros’ Jewishness and his early brush with the Nazis, it is quite understandable that he would embrace Popper’s skepticism towards science and his philosophy of an open society, which he describes as follows:

      Popper proposed a more attractive form of social organization: an open society in which people are free to hold divergent opinions and the rule of law allows people with different views and interests to live together in peace.

      Soros is undoubtedly cognizant of the “science” that was used to justify the Nazi Holocaust:

      What I find most surprising is that, as both Haas and the Holocaust Museum are quick to point out, the “science” that informed the Holocaust was “international,” as the Holocaust Museum explains:

      German proponents of eugenics were part of an international phenomenon. The English scientist Francis Galton coined the term eugenics, meaning “good birth,” in 1883. German biologist August Weissmann’s theory of “immutable germ plasm,” published in 1892, fostered growing international support for eugenics, as did the rediscovery in 1900 of Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel’s theory that the biological makeup of organisms was determined by certain “factors” that were later identified with genes. (The term gene was first used by a Danish scientist in 1909.)

      Reform-minded proponents of eugenics worldwide offered biological solutions to social problems common to societies experiencing urbanization and industrialization. After classifying individuals into labeled groups using the scientific methods of the day—observation, family genealogies, physical measurements, and intelligence tests—they ranked the groupings from “superior” to “inferior.” When perfected, surgical sterilization became the most common proposal for preventing unproductive “inferiors” from reproducing and for saving on costs of special care and education.

      Racial science, eugenics and the practice of forced sterilization of African Americans, Haas observes, were practiced in the United States up until 1981:

      Despite the outrage at Nazi racial policy, Allied authorities were unable to classify sterilizations as war crimes, because similar sterilization laws had been enforced in some states since 1907 and had been upheld by the Supreme Court. In Buck v. Bell (1927), the majority decision, written by Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., used modern opinions of science to support the Virginia sterilization law: “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from breeding their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting Fallopian tubes… Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Although compulsory sterilization ended after the war in Germany, in the US, 11 African-American girls were sterilized in 1972. The Oregon Board of Eugenics, which was renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983, the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981.

      What I found most intriguing is that it was the objections of the Catholic Church that kept a law from being passed in Great Britain that would have allowed such diabolical practices there. From the Holocaust Museum:

      Eugenicists more successfully promoted sterilization laws in individual provinces, cantons, or states in Canada, Switzerland, and the United States… In Great Britain, Catholic opposition blocked a proposed law.

      Imagine that! The Catholic Church, which has probably given moral and intellectual sanction to more genocidal behavior than any other institution in the history of mankind, as evidenced by documents such as the Requerimiento:

      So one can see why, given the shifting sands of human uncertainty and unpredictability, Soros would be an advocate of Popper’s open society.

  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Are the sea levels really rising? – I don’t think it’s nice to say that there are a lot of overweight people in North Carolina to cause it to sink.

    As for comprehending the world, well… because of the way our brain is, we can’t understand the real world, just as ants can’t comprehend our quantum world due to the way their brains are constructed.

    But when the next species comes along to replace us, the finest creation of our God, the Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens, their perceived world will be different than our perceived world, even though we will live in the same cosmos and their God will be different from our God, but they will still be the finest creation of their God, in their God’s image and they will have replaced us. There is nothing education can do about it.

  3. Dave Raithel

    “If you don’t lose money in this recession, it means you didn’t have enough to start off with….”

    My financial advisor is Bobby McGee, and he says that “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    Am I getting bad advice?

  4. click

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  5. Dave Raithel

    “One morning I could not understand what I had written the night before. At that point I decided to abandon my philosophical explorations and to focus on making money.”

    Doh! It’s the “making money” part I forgot!!!

    Look, Soros is probably a good guy – I have no concrete reason to think he is not (other than he makes lots of money in a scheme I believe fundamentally unjust.) Besides, all the people I hate hate him (and Johnny Cash did once say something like: It’s important to be hated by the right people….)

    And he’s probably smarter than me – nobody talking to Karl Popper on a regular basis could possibly be dumber than me. And since he remembered the “making money” part, he’s got to be smarter.

    But he’s wrestling with dualisms and there’s no winner in those fights – even though doing so displays an intellectual honesty that takes opposing theses, and constructs, seriously (e.g, falsification v. equilibrium models.) He’s got some good sociological insights on why economists did what they did (Hey, we got math models!!!). But I heard Paul Piccone say nearly 30 years ago almost these words (from the essay): “social theories are reflexive” .. and go on to say how that affected Marxism as praxis (the problem: The bourgeoisie learned the other team’s play book. Now what?) There’s a strain of “critical” philosophy and sociology that revels in the problem of identical-subject-objects-taking-themselves-into-cul-de-sacs from which they never emerge.

    …. I intend no disrespect: There’s no clear (to me) identification of what “reflexivity” is that is not some other version of uncertainty. So I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me.

    I could, I guess, ramble on about the coherency theory of truth (as opposed to the correspondence theory) or other matters, but philosophical texts are replete on the subjects. Two very good, very accessible texts that cover much of what Mr. Soros mentions are: Quine & Ullian’s “The Web of Belief” and P.F. Strawson’s “Naturalism and Skepticism: Some Varieties”.

    (Personally, I think the only way out of the cul-de-sac is to drive through somebody’s house, but that’s all very existential. Certainly, nothing philosophical ever interfered with Mr. Soros’ ability to negotiate the practical matters of life, quite successfully.)

    Or maybe I got him all wrong, and will realize that after the second (on “a mistaken interpretation of how financial markets work” being the cause of our problems today) and third installments (“the Enlightenment fallacy and the post-modern fallacy.)

    And after reading them, I’ll know if I could have made any money; or, there was no point in me trying to …..

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