“Adam Smith, Rationalized,” By David Conway

I’m no scholar of Adam Smith, as much as I admire his work. That’s true even though I’ve read both of the linked works several times, there is a fair amount of nuance in Smith, as well as some pretty dry going. I sometimes have trouble reconciling Wealth of Nations with Theory of Moral Sentiments, as well. I think, judging by David Conway’s report that Jack Russell Weinstein, of the University of North Dakota, does an admirable job.

Here’s a bit of it:

Most importantly, if it turns out that, as Weinstein rightly claims was Smith’s view, free societies depend for their viability on the rationality of their members, and their rationality depends on the preparedness of their societies to ensure that they become such through provision of suitable schooling for all, then those in favor of free societies must also be prepared to countenance, as indeed was Smith, the public provision of schooling to ensure all societal members can and do develop the requisite degree of rationality. As Weinstein carefully explains in what are, perhaps, the most original and valuable chapters of his book:

It is Smith’s argument that education . . . is the security that ensures that students remain virtuous: an inadequate education results in the deprivation of moral capabilities . . . Smith is making the point that a child’s education benefits everyone . . . that education is one of the preconditions for the successful functioning of the invisible hand . . . Thus, Smith argues, the sovereign must . . . subsidize public education to help those who . . . cannot help themselves . . . For him, education provides a benefit to the state for little cost and, therefore, funding of public educational institutions for the young is a well-regarded trade-off.

The sovereign must ensure that all people have access to at least a minimum schooling. Education, is, for Smith, a basic good—a necessity of human life . . . Differing classes are entitled to equal minimal education but not to identical experiences. In this respect Smith’s commitment . . . is like Rawls’ maximin principle: the goal is to raise the bottom rung, not to create an equality of result . . . . Smith’s philosophy of education is both a theory of pluralism and a means to cultivate rationality. It argues that the more one develops rational abilities, the more one can create unity in the face of difference.

To say that Smith favored public provision of education is not to say that he would have condoned, let alone applauded, the present systems of public provision in western liberal democracies where whole populations are subject to effective monopoly supply without any choice or benefits of competition that only effective consumer sovereignty brings.

Source: “Adam Smith, Rationalized,” By David Conway | Nomocracy In Politics

Left and Right May Not Be Happy with the New AP Standards. Here’s Why You Should Be.

160264-apushaYou remember the furor (yes, mostly on the right) over the 2014 APUSH? Apparently the College Board has done the much harder right, and done a class job of fixing them. YAY, for them, That’s unusual these dys, usually we all just get tigid and defensive and nothing is accomplished.

Jeremy Stern holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University; an independent historian and history education consultant. I think he might be an endangered creature, as well, a fair man. here’s his take

The AP US History framework (APUSH) that took effect in 2014 aroused a firestorm of controversy and criticism, chiefly from the right – quickly mounting to accusations of conspiracies to impose an unpatriotic, anti-American mindset in students; denunciations by state legislatures and the Republican National Committee; even Ben Carson’s declaration that the APUSH course would leave students ready to join ISIS.

Many such critics failed to grasp the actual purpose of the document: it is not a comprehensive curriculum for APUSH classrooms (let alone an imposed mandate for all high school students), but rather a guide to the content that would appear on the redesigned APUSH exam.1 Thus, accusations that X figure or Y event had been “erased” are nonsensical: AP teachers choose their own substantive details to illustrate the framework’s broader concepts.

Nonetheless, there were legitimate concerns. While the concept and many parts of the content were sound, the framework too often took a tendentious and judgmental approach to history, appearing to urge condemnation of the past for its failure to live up to present-day moral standards. Such an approach – ignoring historical context in favor of current ideological and political priorities – is presentism, not history.2

Most organizations respond to criticism by circling the wagons and preparing for battle. Instead, to its lasting credit, the College Board took substantive criticism seriously, both from analysts with an explicitly conservative outlook (such as Chester Finn and Rick Hess) and historians such as myself. Teacher feedback would normally lead to minor revisions, but the Board instead announced an open comment period, soliciting input from all interested parties.3 The result was an extensively revised 2015 version, which has commendably sought to strike an ideologically balanced middle ground, presenting the realities of the past – good, bad and ugly – in historical context and without presentistic judgment.

The 2014 version, for example, repeatedly singled out the British North American colonies as uniquely intolerant, violent and oppressive (unfavorably comparing them with the frequently brutal Spanish empire). In the 2015 version, slavery and violence against Native Americans are not “whitewashed,” but are put into wider historical context. The Atlantic slave trade, discussed in 2014 almost uniquely in terms of British North America, in fact predated those colonies by a century, and the vast majority of slaves actually went to the Caribbean and Brazil; also, powerful African states captured and sold virtually all the slaves bought by European traders on the African coast – all points the revision correctly notes, while still emphasizing the colonies’ extensive reliance on slavery. The complexities of inter-Indian warfare and native-colonial alliances are also acknowledged, without downplaying the tragic costs of European colonization for native peoples.

The historically crucial rise of relatively egalitarian societies and representative political institutions in the colonies – all but ignored in the 2014 version – is now given due weight. What was egalitarian by 17th century standards is of course absurdly limited to modern eyes, denying even basic rights to women and non-whites – but one must understand why and how such societies and institutions were exceptional for their time to understand the foundation on which later expansions of freedom were laboriously built. Likewise, the Jacksonian rise of near-universal white male suffrage, an extraordinarily radical concept in its day (barely mentioned in the 2014 version) is now properly described in the revision.

And this

Critics who sought a balanced document (such as Finn, Hess, myself and others) have celebrated the revisions (despite inevitable remaining quibbles) as a triumph for non-ideological history education. But some on the right are not satisfied. Stanley Kurtz, insisting the College Board remains “under the influence of leftist historians,” dismisses the changes as “superficial,” arguing that a new reference to the concept of American exceptionalism “isn’t enough” without “powerful examples.”

Yet, ironically, many critics on the left have branded the revision (often without reading it, let alone comparing the two versions) a right-wing paean to… American exceptionalism5 (as well as a shameful “cave” to right-wing pressure, and a tissue of white-male-only history suppressing the realities of slavery, oppression, and prejudice). Professor Williamjames Hull Hoffer, appearing opposite me on a CBS Evening News segment about the revisions, denounced any suggestion that western settlers displayed a “pioneering spirit” seeking “economic opportunity” as “not just a change in emphasis” but “a lie,” and any mention of liberty, citizenship, self-government and free enterprise as American ideals to be “Donald Trump talking points.”

Read more at History News Network | Left and Right May Not Be Happy with the New AP Standards. Here’s Why You Should Be..

Understand this: I agree with him. No matter how good the 2015 version is, this is the first I’ve read about it, and I’m unqualified anyway, every time anything is changed, somebody’s ox will get gored, and anything approximating history is going to displease the radicals on either side. And that’s the thing, none of us can use history if it’s too biased, or out of its time context.

So we’ll see, but I’m encouraged.

The Industrial Revolution: Why Britain Got There First

English: Watt's steam engine at the lobby of t...

English: Watt’s steam engine at the lobby of the Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineering of Madrid (part of the UPM). es:user:Ecemaml took it from Enciclopedia Libre Español: Máquina de vapor situada en el vestíbulo de la Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales de la UPM (Madrid) Obtenida de la Enciclopedia Libre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This has been lying around here for a while but, it’s pretty interesting material. Stephen Clarke writing in History today tells us there are three predominate theories as to why Britain was the first country to industrialize.

Underpinning my analysis is the recent work of Professor Nicholas Crafts, Professor of Economics and Economic History at the University of Warwick. In November the Legatum Institute welcomed Professor Crafts to explore the question: ‘why Britain got there first?’

What do we understand by ‘Britain was first to industrialise’? Professor Crafts is one of the leading scholars unpacking the Industrial Revolution and his work reveals a number of salient points. First, there was no great ‘take-off’ in industrialisation or productivity: in Britain industrial employment increased by just 12% between 1759 and 1851, similarly total factor productivity increased by just 0.4% a year until the 1830s. By 20th century standards such growth was underwhelming.

That is a lot slower than we  (or at least I) was led to believe. Although I would expect this type of expansion to approximate a logarithmic curve, as it builds on itself. He also notes that Britain, along with Italy and the Netherlands already was far richer than China. In fact, my impression is that Britain (specifically England) was quite prosperous even at the time of Magna Charta in the early 13th century.

He also notes that this growth was centered in manufacturing and very little changed in the service sector. I would expect this personally since neither steam or water power was very mobile at this point.

Most successful is Robert Allen who puts forth a compelling argument in The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. Britain’s success was the result of relative prices and market potential. Allen argues that in Britain wages were high, while capital and energy were cheap. Britain also provided a large market for manufactured products. The result was that it made sense to invest in the spinning jenny in England, while it did not in France.

However, this picture is too simplistic. While British workers were paid more than their French counterparts, even at lower French wages, adopting the jenny would still have been profitable (albeit less so). Similarly, American workers were paid more than their British counterparts, but industrialisation did not take off there.

It is too simplistic but it’s not all economics either. Britain had an established entrepreneurial class class and a rock solid rule of law, which in this context would mean that your investment (and profit) was safe, France did not.

America on the other hand shared Britain’s rule of law ethos, but was short of skilled craftsmen, engineers, transportation, and capital. When the Civil War really drove industrialization, much of it was financed by British firms looking for a higher return.

Joel Mokyr in The Enlightened Economy: an Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 posits that the Enlightenment meant that Britain was best positioned to take advantage of the ideas and equipment of the age.

There’s quite a bit more at the linked article but I think it important to emphasize that an “Enlightenment Education”, desirable as it might have been, wasn’t necessary to understand the relatively crude machinery in use. Practical engineering was the order of the day. It wasn’t nearly as academically oriented business community in those days, as it is now.

Least successful is Gregory Clark who moves further from the realm of inductive reasoning than Mokyr. Clark in A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World argues that Britain’s Industrial Revolution was a rapid transformation bought about by demographic and genetic changes

The Industrial Revolution: Why Britain Got There First | History Today.

While I see his point, I think this is more important than he does. With the upper classes passing their inheritances to the eldest son, and somewhat limited posts in both the army and the church, the rest of those surplus sons had to make a living, and I suspect many went into trade and quite a few into manufacturing, increasing the level of education amongst the middle class quite rapidly. And I think this (and the family and foreign contacts included) would have provided a springboard for the expansion of British industry and especially banking in the next few years.

In short, I think this is an immensely complicated story and no one theory is going to unpack it satisfactorily.

History and Milestones

Well, it’s 9 November and I’m reliably informed that we have a birthday to celebrate. I’m not supposed to tell you but it’s Jess’s birthday. How old she is, is protected by the Official Secrets Act, 😉 but my understanding is that it’s somewhere between 18 and 80, but if I knew more, I couldn’t tell you, since I don’t want her to kill me! She might show up here but why not jump over to AATW and wish her a happy birthday by giving her even more than her usual stupendous readership. I’ll see you there. [By the way, the link goes to a multi-part piece of fiction written by four of us over there, I’d say it’s not bad for amateurs.]

Happy Birthday, Dearest friend!!!

In full disclosure, Jess also aimed me towards the rest of the things we will talk about today.

In other news, lets talk about history and it’s place in the world a bit. The other day I showed you a link to John Donne’s Gunpowder Day sermon. It’s here, if you missed it. That work was done by NC State and it’s most impressive. But other universities are doing some great work along the same lines. One of them is the Virtual Past which is a University of East Anglia Enterprise. Their website has some samples of their work, which is quite impressive.

Do go and have a look around. I assume some US institutions other than UNC are doing this as well, if you know of some, showcase them or tell me in comments because in a good many ways, this is one of the best ways to teach history in the 21st century.

While we’re hanging about in Norwich and the UAE, there’s another program I want to highlight. It’s called the ThoughtOut Project, and I really like their objectives. Here, I’ll let them tell you:

As the editorial assistant for Historythe journal of the Historical Association, I get the opportunity to look at cutting-edge research almost every day.  Proof-reading articles just before we publish them, I always get a bit excited because I know I am one of the first people to get access to that new information. It’s one of the most exciting parts of my job. Working for History,I feel like I am always learning. I get sent stuff like this every day! It’s glorious! History is a funny subject, like that. Even though it’s ‘old news’ there’s always something new to learn; Something you can relate to, or a situation one can superimpose onto your own. Putting yourself in the shoes of a character from history can be delicious escapism, or a humbling, thought-provoking experience.

As the managing editor for the ThoughtOut Project, I do exactly the same thing, but the packaging in terms of how we share the information we find is very different. ThoughtOut is an organisation aimed at sharing cutting-edge humanities research with the general public. I tend to use the phrase “curated by clever people, for clever people” although I get told that this is a little too self-congratulatory! That’s not really what I’m getting at when I say it, though. The most important aspect of that phrase is the second half. I am a genuine believer in the power of humanities subjects to inform and educate, not in a superficial learning-by-rote talking at people way, but also a in terms of a deep, self-motivated thirst for personal development. And this is not learning for people who have £9,000 to spend each year, and 3 or 4 years spare to dedicate to a full-time degree. This is everyday learning for your average-Joe, your housewife, your teacher, your estate agent, or newsagent. This is also where the events that I run for ThoughtOut are especially interesting, […]

Continue reading History and the ThoughtOut Project

Obviously I, and you, are not going to agree with everything that British (mostly, anyway) academics write, but the articles I’ve read there I’ve found fascinating, and I think a good many of you will as well. And as an example, I have two years of college in Electrical Engineering Technology, and the humanities have made my life immeasurably richer. So what do they write about, you ask? Please do! Stuff like this By Heather Brooke


The humanities teach enlightenment; markets are blind.

In 1780, the American statesman John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.” A true student of the Enlightenment, Adams understood the difference between means and ends. Unfortunately for us, politicians, not statesmen, are determining current educational policy; with astonishing myopia they have decreed that the only subjects worth studying at university are those that can “forge links with business and industry.”

The study of the humanities in Britain today has lost a war that the people who teach humanities didn’t know they were fighting. Following the recommendations of the Browne report—overseen by a man whose career had nothing to do with education and everything to do with the corporate world of business and markets, commissioned by the Labour government and implemented by the Coalition—the funding of the teaching of the humanities in UK universities has been cut by 100%. The teaching of humanities will no longer be funded by the state at all: it will only be funded if students decide to pay to study the humanities, in a society urging them to think ever more instrumentally about education as a means to make money, rather than as a means to make better people.

According to the Browne report, “priority subjects” are science and technology courses, clinical medicine, nursing and other healthcare degrees, as well as “strategically important” language courses. Entitled “Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education,” the report made clear what the future of higher education would not include: the humanities were nowhere named in its 67 pages.

Continue reading THE CASE FOR THE HUMANITIES(A hint, all you have to do is scroll down for the article, at least in my browsers.) 🙂

OK, you all know that I’m a huge proponent of the so-called STEM curricula, nothing changes that, we desperately need engineers and math majors and such but, if we allow the humanities to languish we will lose so very much of our heritage, and our knowledge base. I’m sure you’ve noticed how nearly all of us quote our founding fathers at the drop of a hat, even as she quoted John Adams above. The heritage of the English-speaking world is a treasure that must not be wasted, whatever the needs (real or imagined) of trade. I would remind you all that Andrew Carnegie, himself, after he built the largest steel company in the world, after starting as a telegrapher on the Pennsylvania Railroad, devoted the rest of his life to founding libraries all over the United States.

As I said above, do tell me about other institutions doing these types of things.



Regroup, Reload, and Resume the Advance

Depiction by John Trumbull of Washington resig...

Depiction by John Trumbull of Washington resigning his commission and position as commander-in-chief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, my last post  Recessional was our time to cry in our beer. I needed it, and I suspect many of you did as well.

But, what’s different today, not much, really, except that Obama got reelected. But think about this a little. He got reelected by the thinnest of margins. He did this by trying to demonize a good man with the help of all the trappings of the Presidency, and with the nearly undivided and vocal support of the so-called news media. We fought that juggernaut to a standstill.

My favorite comment this morning came from Rebecca Hamilton. A staunch and Godly Woman of Valor, a State Legislator and a Democrat. “Don’t be defeated. The fight has just begun.” She’s right. In times like this, I like to turn to Tom Paine, especially this.

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. […]

I have as little superstition in me as any man living, but my secret opinion has ever been, and still is, that God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent. Neither have I so much of the infidel in me, as to suppose that He has relinquished the government of the world, and given us up to the care of devils; and as I do not, I cannot see on what grounds the king of Britain can look up to heaven for help against us: a common murderer, a highwayman, or a house-breaker, has as good a pretence as he.

I think you know that there have been two great conservative revolutions in world history, one is the American Revolution, which has transformed the world, including Great Britain who fought against their own principles in it. The other, of course, was the Reformation, which transformed the church, including the Roman church, into the great spiritual engine it is today. Both were forced on the rebels.

Both owed their existence to something else, the American Revolution was the final flowering of the Enlightenment as we have said but, the enlightenment itself, like the Reformation owed its existence to the Renaissance, that great out break of learning that ended the Middle Ages and so opened many roads.

And that my friends, is what we have to do. We must educate the young. We have become complacent and let the government take over education and as a result we are graduating people with BA degrees that would not have graduated eighth grade a century ago. We must fix education to ensure our legacy. In addition we have much work to do as Christians, we are the last country of the west with a real Christian heritage, and that is what has formed the backbone of the United States, again we must restore the Christianity of our forbearers, the stern Christianity of the God of Justice.

We tried the quick fix, changing it back in two election cycles, it didn’t work. In truth it was unlikely to. It was certainly worth a try, and we managed a drawn battle. Stasis continues in Washington. We are awake and aware and we shall return. Stasis will also continue in the economy, which will improve only slightly with the policies of the government, and that mediocre at best economy will help us. It is certainly not what we wished, for we wish all people to have good jobs with living wages but facts are facts.

So the short-term outlook is bleak but, if we do the necessary things, longer term we will perhaps triumph, if we keep the faith, both in America, and in God. And if we don’t, like King Arthur and Camelot, we will become the subject of legend, sagamen (and women) for the ages, for the dream of freedom never dies.

We have allies that we must reach out to. My friend Sherry, last night posted a video of the Broke party, in Chicago, here  is the link. They are our friends, make sure they know it, help them. So are the Hispanics, although they have been propagandized. If you get to know hem, you will find that they (for the most part, legal, and illegal) came here for the same reason our ancestors did, to make a better life for their families. Again for the most part, they are both conservative and Catholic, as well as good hard-working people, sure they speak Spanish, so what, a hundred years ago my people spoke Norwegian. Reach out to them.

We have fought a drawn battle, we have not lost the war. General Greene said it best in the Revolution, “We fight, get beat, retreat, rise, and fight again.” And remember General Washington, himself, won very few battles, and the Continental Army paraded naked through Philadelphia on their way to Yorktown.

What are we willing to do for freedom?


Regroup, reload, and resume the advance, of civilization, itself

Islamophobia Part 2

English: Medieval miniature painting of the Si...

We continue along with Dr. Delacroix of Islamophobia, Islam, and Terrorism. If you haven’t, I recommend that you read part 1 of this series here.

In Part 1 of this essay, Islamophobia, I recounted some facts about terrorism that seems linked to Islam and I made some hypotheses about how Muslims in general array themselves with respect to this terrorism. In this second and last part, I divulge some of the bases of my worst suspicions regarding moderate Muslims.

I wish someone with credentials would help me disentangle who is what and in what proportions among Muslims in connection with the varying degrees of rejection of violent jihad described above. In the meantime, I feel intellectually free to speculate within reason and on the basis of other information I have, factual information, that is, not hearsay.

The first helpful element in my speculation is that, of course, I understand violent Muslim fanatics well. Anyone reasonably well versed in European history would, My ancestors used to be just like them. I never tire of repeating on this blog and elsewhere that the First Crusade (1099) massacred everyone there after taking Jerusalem. That massacre followed acts of cannibalism during the siege. And more recently, it’s clear that tens of thousands of witches were burned at the stake in Europe. (Note: The figure of millions advanced by feminists is silly propaganda bullshit.) Violent jihadists and other fanatics hold not mystery to me because I used to be they.Used to be. Read more of this post

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