Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why have we stopped dreaming about giant vegetables?

Forty or fifty years ago the size of families tended to be a little larger. Sure, there was less birth control, but people also seemed to want to have more kids than they want today. Smaller families are a luxury good, like clean water and air.
Half a century ago futurists dreamed of agricultural methods that would produce huge vegetables, genetically modified, on minimal land capable of feeding multitudes. Today we eschew genetically modified foods, etc. in favor of organic foods, even when we have no naging reason for doing so. Organic foods, are indeed a luxury good, just check their prices.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to use graphs, ven diagrams, etc.

Indexed shows us all how it ought to be done, a must read for every into econ student.

Nod to Cafe Hayek.

Link to my new page

I'm now helping some Ap Micro students. This is our blog.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Authority vs. Revelation

My good friend Br. Chris Coucheron-Aamot has written a wonderful paper on Justin's Apology. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of it, but especially appreciated this paragraph.
Philosophers then contain some truth, but can't be wholly trusted. They are like witnesses who can be trusted in a few areas, but not in others. This is consistent with the paradigm of a legal defense: one doesn't ask an expert witness questions that are outside of his area of expertise because he is not authoritative outside of his area of expertise. Philosophers, then, are authorities on matters that can be deduced from the world by properly applied exercise of the intellect without the benefit of special inspiration. These matters can be surprising, such as the Stoic belief in the destruction of the world, or Menander's comedy against the worship of crafted idols. It seems like much of that truth which is learnable is accessible through Reason; the exception being truth that concerns the nature of God Himself. Reason has its limits, and revelation is what allows men to go beyond it. The measure of the worth of the philosophers is the Christian revelation: the fulfilled prophecies and the teachings of the apostles that were just starting to be codified into the New Testament. One cannot accept them wholesale, but must carefully sift through them to see what is true and what is false. Their authority is not absolute like the prophets, but neither do they intentionally deceive like the pagans.

And, in his conclusion:
Revelation may well stand on it own, as God chooses to make known the deep truths of the world in paradoxical ways. If God turns philosophy on its ear by confounding the wise with simple things, this must shape our hermeneutics in profound ways, as we are careful to understand authority within the grid of God's wider purposes. The simple or rough may contain truth that the eloquent miss for all their wisdom, and we must remain humble to perceive it.

In my opinion, appeals to worldly wisdom or the usefulness of our faith and the ethic incumbant upon disciples weakens our argument, and leaves us vulnerable to charges of manipulating the evidence in an effort to persuade.
It is not our place to attempt to persuade. We don't get any points for winning souls to Christ. It is our resonsibility to walk in the ethic provided to us in mere imitation of Christ. And thus, men, seeing your good works, will glorify God in heaven. Which is the ultimate goal. Let us be jealous for the glory of God.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You greedy little bugger!

Thomas Sowell provokes us to ask: are you greedy?
If I offered you $100 right now would you take it?
What if I offered you $200? Well, shucks, looks like you are greedy. Or maybe you just aren't stupid. What about me, the guy offering you the money, am I greedy? Am I stupid?
Which brings us to Sowell's point, "Why do other people choose to pay corporate executives so much?"
Because there's a competitive market out there for guys who can earn companies millions of dollars, and as long as the wage doesn't exceed diminishing marginal returns it will be paid.
He goes on to remind us how it is that we all got so wealthy, by specializing in those activities in which we enjoy a competitive advantage.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Some People Are Just Smarter Than Others

The Wall Street Journal has had a short series of op-ed pieces by CHarles Murray discussing education this past week here, here, and here.
Similarly, Newmark's Door linked us to a couple of essays by Arnold Kling.

One quote, "My recollection from my career in government and business is that written communication skills still matter. Out of over 100 students in my class at George Mason, no more than a handful could function in any capacity in a job that required writing a memorandum. Over half of the students are utterly incompetent when it comes to grammar and syntax."

This is why some of us will always be able to get a job.

Together these articles mean that some people are just smarter than others. I could never be a quantum physicist. Well, maybe I could. But there are lots of people I know who couldn't, and shouldn't even try.

All this struck terribly close to home at the beginning of the school year. The younger younger Snow (to borrow from Mungowitz) entered kindergarden this year. Before
classes actually started, however, she went to two days of evaluations. The purpose was to level out the classes, placing the students evenly across the eighteen or so kindergarden classes. I asked one of the teachers why they didn't place all of the smart kids in the same classroom? She thought it was a good question, but had no answer.

Collectivism and egalitarianism are in direct opposition with genetics and science here. While some ethicists are telling us that there is no meaning to life just, blind indifferent DNA and we are all dancing to its tune," the educators are trying hard to believe that every child is born with a blank slate and it is only the conditions in which a child grows up which shape their abilities. Steven Levitt has already disproved this to all of us in Freakonomics.

More conventionally, look at behavorial patterns:

Smart people wait to have kids until after they are married and have reliable incomes. They go to college, get good jobs, buy houses and cars, and settle down.

Dumb people get pregnant when they are in high school, drop out, go on welfare, and get pregnant again. Sometimes they get abortions, and other times they get jobs dancing for lacrosse players.

Why is it that the gap is widening between the haves and have-nots? Because the gap in posession of brains is widening.

What's scary is that the brains are reproducing less than the dolts. This concentrates intelligence in fewer and fewer individuals.

Perhaps the golden age of literacy was born, literally, out of the puritain age of prudence, whereby mate selection was considered more scrupulously and often deferred, allowing the dolts to fall out of contention.

Who knows?

I just know that my wife, my kids, and I will always have jobs if we want them.

Monday, January 08, 2007

How to make good rules

Walter Williams latest here.

My favorite part:

The kind of rules we should have are the kind that we'd make if our worst enemy were in charge. My mother created a mini-version of such a rule. Sometimes she would ask either me or my sister to evenly divide the last piece of cake or pie to share between us. More times than not, an argument ensued about the fairness of the division. Those arguments ended with Mom's rule: Whoever cuts the cake lets the other take the first piece. As if by magic or divine intervention, fairness emerged and arguments ended. No matter who did the cutting, there was an even division.

Friday, January 05, 2007

You need a good laugh

You may have seen this one already.

But now you need to see this.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

100


Tomorrow is the 100th day of school for my daughters. Teacher asked them to bring in 100 things to count. This was fun, and it gave me an idea for all you out there. Find 100 things in your house that you can do without. Stuff you don't want back. Put it in a bag. Then throw it in the trash. Repeat.
Variation: Trade bags with someone else. Throw it in the trash. Repeat.

Will I Get A Refund?

Banks, Libraries, Post Offices, and the Stock Markets were closed today. Federal employees had the day off in rememberance of President Ford.
Who gave them the day off? I suppose the Prsident did, but who do all these people work for? Supposedly you and me. Did you give them the day off? Did I? Did they get the day off with pay or without? If it was with pay, were they required to use one of their vacation days?
If not, will I get a refund for 1/365.25 on my tax bill?
I think not.