August 31, 2007



Clark, Gregory, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007) (This is both a very good and a very informative read. "The Industrial Revolution in England--the seemingly abrupt escape of this tiny island nation, within less than a generation, from millennia of pitifully slow economic progress--is one of history's great mysteries. Its apparent suddenness, in a society that was (and still is) noted for the evolutionary nature of all social change, poses a baffling challenge to those who would supply an economic explanation." Id. at 230. "...I argue that, contrary to appearances, the Industrial Revolution actually stretched back hundreds of years to its origins, and that it was a gradual and evolutionary development that affected other European economies almost as much as England. It was the product of the gradual progress of settled agrarian societies toward a moral rational, economically oriented mindset...." Id. at 231. "Within societies the forces set in motion by the Industrial Revolution have moved toward equality and social harmony. But across societies ... the Industrial Revolution led to a marked increase in income differences. Before the Industrial Revolution the rich and the poor were close neighbors. Now they are but distant cousins, gazing at each other across national borders and widening income gaps." Id. at 299. "[A]t the most general level, differences in efficiency are the ultimate explanation for most of the gap in incomes between rich and poor countries in the modern economy. Just as with growth over time, ... the proximate cause of differences in income per person across countries is about one-quarter the stocks of physical capital per person and three-quarters the efficiency of utilization of all inputs. [] In a world where capital flowed easily between economies, capital itself responded to differences in country efficiency levels. Inefficient countries ended up with small capital stocks and efficient ones large amounts of capital. And efficiency differences explain almost all variations between countries in income levels." Id. at 329. "[E]conomics has become more professional. Graduate programs have expanded, pouring out a flood of talented economists armed with an ever more sophisticated array of formal models and statistical methods. But since the Industrial Revolution we have entered a strange new world in which the rococo embellishments of economic theory helps little in understanding the pressing questions that the ordinary person asks of economics: Why are some rich and some poor? In the future will we all be among the lucky? In this book I have suggested ways in which the Malthusian era, through differential survivial of individuals, can predict success or failure for modern societies, and also predict a continuing future of economic growth?" Id. at 372. "History shows ... that the West has no model of economic development to offer the still-poor countries of the world. There is no simple economic medicine that will guarantee growth, and even complicated economic surgery offers no clear prospect of relief for societies afflicted with poverty. Even direct gifts of aid have proved ineffective in stimulating growth. In this context the only policy the West could pursue that will ensure gains for at least some of the poor of the Third World is to liberalize immigration from these countries.... Aid to the Third World may disappear into the pockets of Western Consultants and the corrupt rulers of these societies. But each extra migrant admitted to the emerald cities of the advanced world is one more person guaranteed a better material lifestyle." Id. at 373. "The association of income with happiness observed within societies might lead us to believe naively that another profound effect of the Industrial Revolution was to spread happiness and good cheer around the globe. Unfortunately there is little evidence of gains in happiness from gains in income, life expectancy, or health by societies as a whole." Id. at 374. "World economic history is thus full of counterintuitive effects, surprises, and puzzles. It is intertwined with who we are and how our culture was formed. No one can claim to be truly intellectually alive without having understood and wrestled, at least a little, with these mysteries--of how we arrived at our present affluence only after millennia in the wilderness, and of why it is so hard for many societies to join us in the material Promised Land." Id. at 377 (italic added). READ THIS BOOK!).

Coleman, Jon T., Vicious: Wolves and Men in America (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2004) (This book is very interesting, and important, at a number of levels. "Whether shot by a 7mm Ruger or brained by a log, wolves not only perished in great numbers throughout American history, but they did in some of the most atrocious ways imaginable. EuroAmericans colonists trapped wolves to protect livestock, expand markets, combat evil, and collect bounties. Some of their motives were comprehensible. But once they caught their animals foes, why did they beat, bait, torture, and humiliate them? What explains the pleasure so many found in wolf abuse?" Id. at 228.).

Gissurarson, Hannes H., Hayek’s Conservative Liberalism (New York: Garland Publishing, 1987) (This a the author's doctoral dissertation. It concludes "that Hayek's political theory, despite some flaws, is coherent, because from the same premises, man's inevitable ignorance, and the existence of the extended society, social conservatism and economic liberalism can both be seen to follow. [Hayek's political theory] remains recognizably liberalism, not conservatism, because it retains a belief that progress is possible and that every human being is, in principle, fit for freedom." Id. at 2. Though interesting, I found this work problematic. In an earlier essay, 'On Why I Am Not a Conservative' (1960:), Hayek himself had explained (a) the difference between conservatism and (classical) liberalism (or what is call 'libertarianism' in the United States), (b) why he was a liberal and not a conservative, (c) why classical liberals/libertarians may find themselves aligned with conservatives on certain issues, and, importantly, why classical liberals/libertarians will find themselves at odds conservatives on others. Classical Liberals ( or libertarians) have very different views about the role of government than do conservatives. Gissurarson would negate/minimize those differences so as to make Hayek a 'conservative,' only to rediscover those difference so Hayek may remain a (classical) liberal. This is a valiant effort at an unnecessary task.).

Gordon, Robert W., ed., The Legacy of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. Press, , 1992) ("There has been only one great American Legal thinker and it was Holmes," id. at 31 (Morton J. Horwitz, "The Place of Justice Homes in American Legal Thought".)).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 1, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism edited by W. W. Bartley III (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1988) ("We have mentioned the capacity to learn by imitation as one of the prime benefits conferred during our long instinctual development. Indeed, perhaps the most important capacity with which the human individual is genetically endowed, beyond innate responses, is his ability to acquire skills by largely imitative learning. In view of this, it is important to avoid, right from the start, a notion that stems from what I call the 'fatal conceit': the idea that the ability to acquire skills stems from reason. For it is the other way around: our reason is as much the result of an evolutionary selection process as is our morality. It stems however from a somewhat separate development, so that one should never suppose that our reason is in the higher critical position and that only those moral rules are valid that reason endorses." Id. at 21 "The moment that barter is replaced by indirect exchange mediated by money, ready intelligibility ceases and abstract interpersonal processes begin that far transcend even the most enlightened individual perception." "Money, the very 'coin' of ordinary interaction, is hence of all things the least understood and--perhaps with sex--the object of greatest unreasoning fantasy; and like sex it simultaneously fascinates, puzzles and repels. The literature treating it is probably greater than that devoted to any other single subject; and browsing through it inclines one to sympathise with the writer who long ago declared that no other subject, not even love, has driven more men to madness. 'The love of money', the Bible declares, 'is the root of all evil' (I Timothy, 6:10). But ambivalence about it is perhaps even more common: money appears as at once the most powerful instrument of freedom and the most sinister tool of oppression. This most widely-accepted medium of exchange conjures up all the unease that people feel towards a process they cannot understand, that they both love and hate, and some of whose effects they desire passionately while detesting others that are inseparable from the first." Id. at 101-102.).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 2, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition edited by Bruce Caldwell (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 2007) (I try to read this every two years or so. It remains an important book ... and a even more important warning. "Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law. Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand--rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge. Though this ideal can never be perfectly achieved, since legislators as well as those to whom the administration of the law is entrusted are fallible men, the essential point, that the discretion left to the executive organs wielding coercive power should be reduced as much as possible, is clear enough. While every law restricts individual freedom to some extent by altering the means which people may use in the pursuit of their aims, under the Rule of Law the government is prevented from stultifying individual efforts by ad hoc action. Within the known rules of the game the individual is free to pursue his personal ends and desires, certain that the powers of government will not be used deliberately to frustrate his efforts." Id. at 112-113. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that, in America, the Rule of Law has been seriously compromised in recent years. Also, it is not even clear whether students at American law schools are even required to given serious thought to the concept, let alone the importance, of the Rule of Law. For most, it probably just a jingo.).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 3, The Trend of Economic Thinking: Essays on Political Economists and Economic History edited by W. W. Bartley III and Stephen Kresge (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1991) (Students of law--which is not the same as law students-- should take note of the following passage, substituting "legal thinker"(?) for "economist", "law" for "economics," etc. From 'On Being an Economist': Before I pursue this subject of the effect of public opinion and political bias on the work of the economist I must for a moment pause to consider the various reasons and purposes which make us study economics. It is probably still true of most of us ... that we did not turn to economics for the fascination of the subject as such. Whatever may guide us later, few do ... turn to economics for that reason--simply because we usually don't quite know what economics is. Indeed I remember that when I first borrowed ... a textbook on economics I was strongly repelled by the dreariness of what I found, and my social enthusiasm was hardly sufficient to make me plod through the tome in which I hoped to find--and needles to say, did not find--the answer to the burning problem of how to build a juster society for which I really cared. But while the motives which have led most of us--and I hope most of you--to the study of economics are highly commendable, they are not very conducive to real advance of insight. The fact which we must face is that nearly all of us come to the study of economics with very strong views on subjects which we do not understand. And even if we make a show of being detached and ready to learn, I am afraid it is almost always with a mental reservation, with an inward determination to prove that our instincts were right and that nothing we learn can change our basic convictions. Though I am verging dangerously on preaching, let me nevertheless implore you to make a determined effort to achieve that intellectual humility which alone helps one to learn. Nothing is more pernicious to intellectual honesty than pride in not having changed one's opinions--particularly if, as is usually the case in our field, these are opinions which in the circles in which we move are regarded as 'progressive' or 'advanced' or just modern. You will soon enough discover that what you regard as specially advanced opinions are just the opinions dominant in your particular generation and that it requires much greater strength and independence of mind to take a critical view of what you have been taught to be progressive than merely to accept them." Id. at 35, 40-41.).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 4, The Fortunes of Liberalism: Essays on Austrian Economics and the Ideals of Freedom edited by Peter G. Klein (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1992).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 5, Good Money: Part I, The New World edited by Stephen Kresge (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1999).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 6, Good Money: Part II, The Standard edited by Stephen Kresge (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1999).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 9, Contra Keynes and Cambridge: Essays & Correspondence edited by Bruce Caldwell (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1995).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 10, Socialism and War: Essays Documents Reviews edited by Bruce Caldwell (Routledge, England: U. Chicago Press, 1997) (From the essay 'Freedom and the Economic System': "Democratic government worked successfully as long as, by a widely accepted creed, the functions of the state were limited to fields where real agreement among a majority could be achieved. The price we have to pay for a democratic system is the restriction of state action to those fields where agreement can be obtained; and it is the great merit of the liberal creed [note: in American political jargon "libertarian creed" is the one most similar to the British "liberal creed"] that it reduces the necessity of agreement to a minimum compatible with the diversity of individual opinions which will exist in a free society. It is often said that democracy will not tolerate capitalism. If 'capitalism' here means a competitive society based on free disposal over private property, it is far more important to observe that only capitalism makes democracy possible. And if a democratic people comes under the sway of an anti-capitalistic creed. this means that democracy will inevitably destroy itself. Id. at 181, 205-206.).
Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek: Volume 12, The Pure Theory of Capital edited by Lawrence H. White (Chicago & London: U. Chicago Press, 2007) ("The Role of Foresight. The second point which now requires consideration is the significance attached to the foresight of the capitalist entrepreneurs in connection with the maintenance of capital. It will probably be obvious by now that the degree of mobility of capital, the extent to which it can be maintained in a changing world, will largely depend on the extent to which entrepreneurs correctly foresee impending changes. If we consider for a moment what would happen if entrepreneurs always acted as if things were going to remain forever as they are at present, and if they never altered their plains until after a change in final demand (or any other change) had actually occurred, we can easily see what would be the effect on general productivity. Every change would mean an enormous loss, or rather, the adoption of production to the change would be so expensive as to make it in many cases impossible. This is not because the loss on old investments would have to be regarded as a cost, but because the capital available for investment in new forms would be so scarce. How rich, on the other hand, should we now be if all past changes had been correctly foreseen from the beginning of things!" Id. at 305. In re-reading the preceding passage I found myself reading "capital" as "intellectual or human capital," and reading "entrepreneurs" and "intellectual entrepreneurs" or, more specifically, "education entrepreneurs." Academics, notwithstanding their press, are rather intellectually conservatives. They really are not much open to new ideas and new approaches to teaching. More importantly, collectively they are no very good at predicting future educational demands of students (and those students' potential employers). They are constantly 'innovating' to address a prior change, rather than innovating in anticipation of future change. The academic entrepreneurs with foresight are few and far between, and usually get silenced by the bureaucracy.).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1960).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, Economic Freedom (Cambridge: Basil, Blackwell, 1991).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue edited by Stephen Kresge & Leif Wenar (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1994).

Hayek, Friedrich A. von, Individuals and Economic Order (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1948).

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, The Collected Works of Justice Holmes: Complete Public Writings and Selected Judicial Opinions of Oliver Wendell Holmes: Volume I-III edited by Sheldon M. Novick (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1995) ("I said to a lady at dinner the other night that morals were a contrivance of man to take himself seriously, which means that the philosophers instead of making them merely one of the conveniences of living to be talked about no more than money, make them an end in themselves, an absolute matter, and so an excuse for their pretention to be on the ground floor and personal friends of God." Oliver Wendell Holmes to Alice Stopford Green, February 7, 1909, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Papers, Harvard Law School Library, B43 F12.).

Kellogg, Frederic R., Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Legal Theory, and Judicial Restraint (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2007) ("I have a learned friend ...who though active in supporting conservative judicial nominees confides deep misgivings about the philosophical basis of contemporary judicial conservatism. For my part I have long had misgivings about contemporary legal philosophy, which I find to be illuminating, if not parallel, in regard to my friend's central concern, the basis for judicial restraint. In part, this book is an attempt to place this issue in a broader historical and theoretical context, I hope neither innately liberal nor conservative, as those terms are popularly understood." "More important, this is a book about Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and his contribution to legal theory. These subjects converge because, even while Holmes was engaged in refining a concept of law grounded in the philosophy of the common law, the intellectual landscape in England and America was changing. Holmes's classic treatise, The Common Law, has never been adequately understood as a reconceptualization of common law opposing the legal positivism of John Austin and Thomas Hobbes.... [Legal positivism] has come to dominate theories of law, both liberal and conservative. Now, with legal positivism at an impasse, a reconsideration of Holmes may be welcome." Id. at ix. Very nicely done!).

Kingsolver, Barbara, Steven L. Hopp & Camille Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).

Legrain, Phillippe, Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2006, 2007) (From the Preface: "[I]f you want to understand why immigration to the US is rising, seemingly inexorably, you need to look at the bigger, global picture. Those who conceive of America as an isolated citadel that is being stormed by foreign invaders have blinders on. In fact, in a globalising world where communications and travel are ever cheaper, people everywhere are increasingly on the move, just as products, money and information are. And while America's wealthy baby-boom generation is starting to retire, many poor countries are bulging with youngsters desperately looking for jobs. What's more, if you think abut it, a Mexican waiter offering his services in the US is no different from an American banker offering his services in London or Mexico City." Id. at xiv. Or, for that matter, an American lawyer offering his services in Paris or Baghdad. Anyway, regardless of which side of the immigration debate you fall, this is a balanced, worthwhile and nontechnical read.).

Saks, Elyn R., The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness (New York: Hyperion, 2007)(Given its content, this was a difficult book for me to read because I know--or knew, or thought I knew--the author. This is an important book to read, not because it provides insights into the probably lives of those suffering from mental illness, but because it provide insights into one very unique, possible life.).

Singer, Peter, Animal Liberation (New York: Ecco, 2002) (You will never look at the food on your plate the same way again.... and rightly so.).

Strand, Mark, Man and Camel: Poems (New York: Knopf, 2006).

Sunstein, Cass R. & Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2004) (Interesting and worthwhile read, though some of the essays are better than others. Of note, James Rachels, 'Drawing Lines.').

Von Mises, Ludwig, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Volume 1-4 edited by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007) ("A critical examination of the philosophical systems constructed by mankind's great thinkers has very often revealed fissures and flaws in the impressive structure of those seemingly consistent and coherent bodies of comprehensive thought." "There is no other means of preventing social design integration and of safeguarding the steady improvement of human conditions than those provided by reason. Men must try to think though all the problems involved up to the point beyond which a human mind cannot proceed further. They must never acquiesce in any solutions conveyed by older generations, they must always question anew every theory and every theorem., they must never relax in their endeavors to brush away fallacies and to find the best possible cognition. They must fight error by unmasking spurious doctrines and by expounding truth." "Man has only one tool to fight error: reason." Id. at 184-187. “It is often asserted that the poor man’s failure in the competition of the market is caused by his lack of education. Equality of opportunity, it is said, could be provided only by making education at every level accessible to all. There prevails today the tendency to reduce all differences among various peoples to their education and to deny the existence of inborn inequalities in intellect, will power, and character. It is not generally realized that education can never be more than indoctrination with theories and idea already developed. Education, whatever benefits it may confer, is transmission of traditional doctrines and valuations; it is by necessity conservative. It produces imitation and routine, not improvement and progress. Innovators and creative geniuses cannot be reared in schools. They are precisely the men who defy what the school has taught them.” Id. at 314. "Various schools of thought parading under the pompous names of philosophy of law and political science indulge in futile and empty brooding over the delimitation of the function of government. Starting from purely arbitrary assumptions concerning allegedly eternal and absolute values and perennial justice, they arrogate to themselves the office of supreme judge of earthly affairs. They misconstrue their own arbitrary value judgments derived from intuition as the choice of the Almighty or of the nature of things." "There is, however, no such thing as a perennial standard of what is just and what is unjust. Nature is alien to the idea of right and wrong. 'Thou shalt not kill' is certainly not part of natural law. The characteristic feature of natural conditions is that one animal is intent upon liking other animals and that many species cannot preserve their own life except by killing others. The notion of right and wrong is a human device, a utilitarian precept designed to make social cooperation under the division of labor possible. All moral rules and human laws are means for the realization of definite ends. There is no method available for the appreciation of their goodness or badness other than to scrutinize their usefulness for the attainment of the ends chosen and aimed at." Id. at 720.).

Williams, Juan, Enough: The Phoney Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America–and What We Can Do About It (New York: Crown 2006) (Though offering few ideas and conclusions I had not already reach two dacedes ago, I found the book a worthwhile (summing up) read. I am with Bill Cosby, as they say, one hundred and ten percent.).

Note: By coincidence, when about quarter-way through the Hayek readings (see above) I came across the cover article in the August 11th-17th edition of The Economist. The article is titled 'Is America turning left?'