Worth Reading for January 2009

1/31 Thomas Sowell on horses and buggies and the Big Three automakers — and notes: “While Detroit’s Big Three are laying off thousands of workers, Toyota is hiring thousands of workers right here in America, where a substantial share of all our Toyotas are manufactured.” Meanwhile, some refreshing news: Ford Has Worst Year Ever But Won’t Ask for Aid. Almost makes me want to go out and buy a Ford. (Thanks to Bob M. for the link.) And it surprises me to say, Vladimir Putin’s analysis of our woes is better than the average American politician’s.

1/30 In The New Republic Jerry Coyne has an extended essay on “the never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail”. (Thanks to Bob H. for the link.)

1/29 Louis Carabini’s Inclined to Liberty, published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, is a clearly-written series of meditations on classic free market themes with updated social science data. The New York Review of Books publishes China’s Charter 08, in Section II of which appears the following excellent quotation: “… Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China’s recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime’s disregard for human rights.” (Thanks to Tibor for the link.) Meanwhile, as we tilt sharply towards even more state power, Don Boudreaux updates P. J. O’Rourke’s classic title: Parliament of Pimps, not Parliament of Whores. And Robert Bradley, who also has a new book out (Capitalism at Work), reports on the World Economic Forum’s summit in Davos whose high-profile participants are looking for a new economic model.

1/28 Good news: approval for Rockford’s first charter school (PDF). Congratulations to Laurie Preece and the others spearheading this initiative. In Washington, D.C., a voice of experience: Mark Lerner has a new blog as the charter schools Examiner. And, courtesy of The Onion, a perfect partial diagnosis of what we’re trying to fix: Shitload of Math Due Monday. (Via EclectEcon.)

1/27 Rockford, Illinois in the national media: Friday’s Wall Street Journal Online focuses on mayor Larry Morrissey’s trip to Washington (thanks to Deshika for the link), and Donald Boudreaux follows up with this comment on rent seeking and the great Gordon Tullock.

1/26 Terry Paulson quotes a letter from “Martin Van Buren” on railroads’ threatening to supplant canals: free enterprise’s creative destruction at work. (Thanks to Gennady for the link.) And speaking of creative, more innovative billboard advertising.

1/23 A pair of questionable incidents invovling religion in higher education. (Thanks to Matt for the link.) And The New York Times reports on trials for parents who choose faith over medicine. So the question is: At what point does a parent’s intellectual irresponsibility become criminal negligence in caring for their children?

1/22 Peter Cresswell’s organic architecture tutorial. Brett Holverstott sketches the development of architectural height from the basilica to the skyscraper. And by contrast and after that history of achievement, here is a postmodern architecture project: crudely piled boxes.

1/21 Edward Hudgins on the new era of race in America. David Boaz offers these dissident notes on the “coronation.” And Johan Norberg chooses the three best excerpts from the inauguration.

1/20 It’s the twenty-first century, and take a guess what percentage of Americans are functionally illiterate: 13%. (Do I dare issue a sly humor alert for the preceding?) On the positive side of the ledger, the new College of the United States has put online its Mission and Curriculum Plan. And in commenting on the four Great Ideas that were first developed in the West — “1) scientific method, 2) multiparty democracy, 3) the rule of law, and 4) competitive markets” — Lester Hunt argues that the Great Ideas are not just a great idea.

1/19 After a malicious hack, the valuable philosophy resource site EpistemeLinks is back online. And Google Earth and Madrid’s Prado Museum have teamed up wonderfully.

1/14 A finance advisor answers the classic question: Why major in philosophy? (The best answer that question, though, is that you too could become a philosophy professor.) And while we’re patting ourselves on the back, here is some relevant data: average scores on the LSAT and the GRE by major.

1/13 Coming soon: the waistline police. And when they do arrive, the sheriff will immediately shut this place down: the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona. (Thanks to Eric for the link.)

1/12 For those of us who don’t have Ph.D. degrees in the relevant scientific disciplines, here is an important initiative: Global Warming Petition Project. (Thanks to Anja for the link.) And Charles Anderson, who does have a Ph.D. in a relevant scientific discipline, comments on the Earth’s cooling and warming trends over the last 3,000 years. Update: And what’s up recently with Arctic ice and polar bear populations?

1/10 In The Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore on Atlas Shrugged: From fiction to fact in 52 years. And a quirky conservative follow-up for The Spectator: Britain, by Ayn Rand.

1/9 Charter schools in New York reach the ten-year milestone, and for City Journal Thomas W. Carroll assesses the results. Meanwhile, Chicago schools are struggling as always – but school bureaucrats there spent $67,000 on espresso machines.

1/8 Is America the land of liberty — or the land of compulsory service? Is government the servant of the people — or are people servants of the government? Moving one step past “ask what you can do for your country,” Rahm Emanuel has a plan and is quite happy to give orders: universally required service for 18-25 year-olds. (But don’t call it a “draft” or “compulsory” or “slavery,” because that wouldn’t be nice.) (Thanks to Eileen for the link.) Meanwhile, in strong contrast to the call to communal servitude, here is a powerful call for never-give-up self-determination: Are you going to finish strong? (Thanks to Karen for the link.)

1/7 The latest issue of Social Epistemology is devoted to Evidence-Based Medicine, EBM being one of the battlegrounds between reason-based approaches to medicine and their competitor alternative and postmodernist approaches. (Thanks to Roy for the link.) Meanwhile, this medical researcher is still going strong at 95. (Thanks to Eric for the link.)

1/6 This year’s Economic Freedom of the World has been released, and the USA has slipped to eighth place in the rankings. Lots of reasons for that. Is one reason a cultural shift — Rich Karlgaard raises an excellent question (though he speaks of “jealousy” when he means “envy”): to what extent is politics driven by judgments of others’ achievements — those on the left leaning to envy while others leaning to respect and admiration?

1/4 Google and Life magazine have teamed up to present Life’s photo archive: “Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google.” (Via Grant McCracken.) And here are National Geographic‘s top ten photos of 2008. A fascinating “elbowed” and immensely long-legged squid is caught on video by a Shell Oil deep-water remotely operated vehicle. And a Guardian series on special places: writers’ and composers’ rooms.

1/2 Let’s also keep in mind all the positive indicators for the new year. Radley Balko rounds up some of the good news. On the medical front, pioneering efforts in cell regeneration. (Thanks to Karen for the link.) In surgery, the first face transplant in America. And even on the political-economic front, The New York Times reports on China’s slow evolution away from socialism: in the late 1970s, “after decades of isolation and outright hostility to capitalism, China suddenly began loosening state controls over the economy and encouraging its citizens to get rich. What followed was three decades of roaring growth and a export-oriented wealth boom that the World Bank says has lifted 400 million people out of poverty.” (Thanks to Bob M. for the link.)

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