Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yergin & Stanislaw: The Commanding Heights

While I have the opppotunity, I've been watching a long nerd video from the local PL: The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (2002) by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw (2002), an almost six-hour history of 20th political economics. I'm 2/3 of the way through, but it's proven quite fascinating. The initial program focused on the rival theories and careers of John Maynard Keynes and Frederick A. Hayek; or between government regulation vs. the market. I think that dicotomy drawn between the two thinkers is too stark, in that I don't believe the Keynes wanted a command and control economy (a la the Soviet Union), but that Keynes saw government as an active player and not a docile watchman. Hayek, and his apostolic successor, Milton Friedman, wanted government to do very little. I'll comment more later (I hope), but I can't help wondering what these authors would be saying now. Keynes, with all of the economic stimulus, seems quite back in fashion. Markets? Maybe they're not so perfect. (I say perfect markets work perfectly--now go find me a perfect market.) The program is well-researched, and includes short interview segments with many of the players it discusses, like Friedman, other UC economists, Jeffrey Sachs, Margaret Thatcher, and so on. Very very interesting program--great background for all of the current economic hub-bub.

Montaigne: Words of Insight

I’m dipping back in a Montaigne again (much too large a body of work to cross in a single attempt), and because this sage can’t be improved upon by me, I’ll share a bit from his essay “Defense of Seneca and Plutarch” (Frame translation).

“For my part, I consider some men very far above me, especially among the ancients; and although I clearly recognize my inability to follow them with my steps, I do not fail to follow them with my eyes and judge the powers that raise them so high, of which I perceived in some degree the seeds in me, as I do also of the extreme baseness of some minds, which does not astonish me and which I do not disbelieve either. I well see the method which the great souls use to raise themselves, and I wonder at their greatness. And the flights that I find very beautiful, I embrace; and if my powers to no reach them, at last my judgment applies itself to them very gladly.” (Frame, Every Man Library Edition, p. 665-666.)

How magnificent! More to follow later, as I’ve embarked on “Of husbanding your will”.