A postmodern timepiece

Design idea for a watch:

It has no numbers or hands. It has only text saying Time has no meaning. It is sold in both jewel-encrusted and cheap knock-off versions.

I do not make them myself. I license manufacturers in Asia and distributors in Europe and North America.

Deconstructing my performance-art-as-text, you will discern my underlying jab at the crassness of capitalism.

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Individualism and economic growth — Gorodnichenko and Roland

yuriygorodnichenkoIn an NBER paper, “Culture, Institutions and the Wealth of Nations,” Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Gerard Roland compare the growth gains that individualist ethics generate compared to those of collectivist ethics. The first sentences of their abstract:

“We construct an endogenous growth model that includes a cultural variable along the dimension of individualism-collectivism. The model predicts that more individualism leads to more innovation because of the social rewards grolandassociated with innovation in an individualist culture. This cultural effect may offset the negative effects of bad institutions on growth. Collectivism leads to efficiency gains relative to individualism, but these gains are static, unlike the dynamic effect of individualism on growth through innovation. …”[1]

I came across their paper via David Rose’s The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior (Oxford, 2014), in the context of Rose’s arguing that culture matters more than hard-wiring and institutions to generating high-trust societies. Here is Rose’s summary:

“It is hard to think of a concept like individualism being a matter of institutions rather than culture. Therefore, perhaps the most remarkable evidence of the power of culture to affect economic performance comes from Yuriy the-moral-foundation-of-economic-behaviorGorodnichenko and Gerald Roland (2010). They presented a model showing that while an ethic of individualism produces dynamic effects on growth, an ethic of collectivism produces only static gains. They also found evidence that individualism significantly contributes to long-run growth. In a subsequent paper (Gorodnichenko and Roland, 2011) they explored the effect that other factors might have on long-run growth and found that individualism was the most important and robustly significant factor of all.”[2]


[1] Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Gerard Roland, “Culture, Institutions and the Wealth of Nations,” NBER Working Paper No. 16368, Issued in September 2010.

[2] David C. Rose, The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 15.

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Creative geniuses as selfish — Nietzsche version

From The Gay Science (1.3):

friedrich-wanderer-above-the-mists“What distinguishes the common nature is that it unflinchingly keeps sight of its advantage, and that this thought of purpose and advantage is even stronger than its strongest drives; not to allow these drives to lead it astray to perform inexpeditious acts — that is its wisdom and self-esteem. In comparison, the higher nature is more unreasonable — for the noble, magnanimous, and self-sacrificing person does in fact succumb to his drives; and in his best moments, his reason pauses.”

“Such persons have several feelings of pleasure and displeasure so strong that they reduce the intellect to silence or to servitude.”nietzsche_c1882

Also: the noble, higher nature “usually believes that the idiosyncrasy of its taste is not a singular value standard; rather it posits its values and disvalues as generally valid and so becomes incomprehensible and impractical. It is very rare that a higher nature has enough reason left over to understand and treat commonplace people as what they are; above all, it believes in its own passion as something that is present in everyone but concealed.”

Posts: Creative geniuses as selfish — Rachmaninoff version.
Creative geniuses as selfish — Richard Wagner version. Creative geniuses as selfish — Maria Callas version. Creative geniuses as selfish — Beethoven version.
Journal article: “Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand” [pdf].

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How artists work: Leonardo anecdote

self-portrait-leonardo“A contemporary who saw Leonardo working on the Last Supper describes how he stayed on the scaffolding from dawn to dusk without putting down his brush, forgetting to eat and drink, painting all the time. Then for two, three, or four days he would not touch his work and yet be staying there, sometimes an hour, sometimes two hours a day wrapped in contemplation. Similarly, Pontormo would set out to work and go away in the evening ‘without having done anything all day but standing lost in thought,’ as Vasari informs us.”

Source: Rudolf Wittkower, “Individualism in Art.” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (1961), p. 293.

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Chart images for “13 arguments for liberal capitalism in 13 minutes”

To accompany my short video-lecture clip “13 Arguments for Liberal Capitalism in 13 Minutes,” here are two versions of the embedded flowchart of the arguments. Click to enlarge.



(Thanks to Christopher Vaughan for his graphics work.)

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Timbro to publish Swedish translation of Explaining Postmodernism

I’m happy to announce that my Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault pomo-cover-swedish-fronthas been translated into Swedish and will published as Postmodernismens Förklaring: Skepticism och socialism från Rousseau till Foucault by Timbro and Stiftelsen Fritt Näringsliv in Stockholm.

Much thanks to Anders Johansson, who did the translation, and to Adam Cwejman, who initiated and oversaw the project.

When the book is released in April, I’ll post about its availability.

Information about other editions and translations is at the Explaining Postmodernism page.

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Was Kant an Enlightenment liberal?

kant-silhouetteA discussion question, after a series of linked-to posts on Immanuel Kant:

On women — e.g., “woman betrays her secrets even though she is unable to keep those of others (owing to her love of gossip). Man is fond of domestic peace and submits easily to its governance so as to be unmolested in his business. Woman has no dislike for domestic war for which she is armed with her tongue …”

On Jews — e.g., the Jews are “sharp dealers” who are “bound together by superstition.” Their “immoral and vile” behavior in commerce shows that they “do not aspire to civic virtue,” for “the spirit of usury holds sway amongst them.” They are “a nation of swindlers” who benefit only “from deceiving their host’s culture.”

On war (and more fully here) — e.g., “At the stage of culture at which the human race still stands, war is an indispensable means for bringing it to a still higher stage.”

On race — e.g., “The mingling of stocks (due to great conquests), little by little erodes the character and it is not good for the human race.”

On education (and here) — e.g., “Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child, especially of a school boy or girl.”

On reason (and more fully here [pdf]; HTML excerpt here) — e.g., “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith.”kant-portrait

The question is:

Should Kant really be categorized as an Enlightenment liberal, as many standard historical accounts do?


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Feminism: liberal versus postmodern

In my Free Speech & Censorship course this week, we are reading Catharine MacKinnon’s Only Words (Harvard, 1993), an influential postmodern feminist case for the censorship of pornography. We have already read Plato’s pre-modern case for censorship from Book 10 of Republic and John Stuart Mill‘s modern case for free speech in Chapter 2 of On Liberty. The contrasts between the three are strong.

Here’s a chart from the class, contrasting the liberal and postmodern positions on several sub-issues.


For a full treatment, my “Free Speech and Postmodernism” essay, adapted from the second of two lectures given in 2002. Also available at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education site.

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