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Saturday, March 15, 2008
Fredette, Fairness, Fairlie, (Non)Fiction, and Further Thoughts

A miscellany of accumulated reading-induced thoughts, some about politics, some about sports, some about other things.

There hasn't been much time or energy for blogging lately among my coughs, sneezes, travels, and server repairs, but I never completely stop reading. Here are some recent readings of note.

Least but Not Last: BYU Basketball Fandom

On one of my week-long business trips to Glens Falls, New York, I learned that there is a new pocket of BYU basketball fans there. After all, local standout Jimmer Fredette hails from there, and he's been doing some good work on the hardwood here in Utah County. The local newspaper, The Post-Star, has a regular Jimmer Fredette Update, featuring his statistics for the season and a report on his latest exploits.

Technically, I Guess this Is Economic Analysis

Jeff Jacoby does the ethanol math and fingers the real culprit behind the subprime mortgage collapse in this excellent short study on unintended consequences.

Thomas Sowell applies a similar dose of reason to crime and education statistics.

As Usual, There Is Something Bigger than "Fair"

Was it fair? Was it not? Are some things bigger things than fairness? The Detroit Free Press reports on an unusual high school co-championship, complete with eight overtimes.

It's an Election Year, After All

Jonathan Chait is one worried Democrat who thinks it would be best if Hillary Clinton withdrew from the race already, for the good of the party. Speaking for myself, I don't think the good of the party is uppermost in her mind.

Reason Made Another Convert

Here is a great essay by playwright David Mamet, who thought so hard about life, in the process of writing a play, that he actually changed his mind in a fundamental way. Now he writes, "I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind." He calls the US Constitution "rather brilliant" and Thomas Sowell "our greatest contemporary philosopher." Here's an excerpt:

Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read "conservative"), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first -- that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so. And in doing so, I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other -- the world in which I actually functioned day to day -- was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

I'm not Saying There's No Such Thing as Truth

Tyler Cowen's essay contemplates a disquieting thought -- or at least it might be disquieting if one hadn't come to it a good long time ago.

The sad truth is that "non-fiction" has been unreliable from the beginning, no matter how finely grained a section of human knowledge we wish to consider.

How Many Are Too Many?

Is there such a thing as too many rules? (Hint: Yes. A thousand times, Yes!) Brad Rock illustrates.

What I'm Not Yet Ready to Write About

I'll write about the new "seven deadly sins" . . .

  • as soon as I figure out how to do so with all possible respect to the religious institution that just announced them;
  • when I have had a chance to look into such questions as, Do the new seven replace the old seven? Are the old seven still sins? Can I keep my treasured, well-marked Henry Fairlie volume, The Seven Deadly Sins Today? ("The Fourteen Deadly Sins Today" just wouldn't have the same . . . verve); and
  • when I can stop laughing at Daryl Cagle's biting piece, "The Seven Deadly Offset Credits."

It might be a few days.

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