by Tyler Cowen
on September 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm
1. The fate of the polymath, including a discussion of Richard Posner.
2. Does Germany have fun right-wingers?
3. David Cronenberg to remake "The Fly.
4. Markets in everything: Psycho donuts.
5. Will sanctions on Iran work?
As much as I doubt that lightning will strike twice for the Fly, and recalling how George Lucas pissed off everyone by monkeying around with the original Star Wars trilogy, I am intrigued by Cronenberg revisiting the Fly. Esp. given his current trend away from the mostly biological decay of his “Videodrome” period to more physchological decay of his current stuff like “A History of Violence.”
That article hinted at but understated that the forces that have undermined polymathy, particularly scientific specialization, are overwhelmingly positive for human development and the progress of knowledge. They easily outweigh whatever we lose by having fewer polymaths. I can believe that a lot of breakthroughs come from the importation of ideas from one discipline to another, but I also know that a lot of the time that importation is carried out by specialists who carefully monitor usable developments in other fields, not polymaths who seek to make contributions to multiple fields.
I agree with William.The FDP is much more like a libertarian or market-liberal party than a right-wing Euro party. European right-wingers are usually more economically populist and hyper-nationalistic, not libertarian/pro-business, like the FDP.
FDP are not right-wingers, just classical liberals: social liberals for civic rights and libertarians – for you NewWorlders, for us Europeans that word is linked to anarchists – for small government. Pretty a common party from an European perspective. And it stands on the left of the German Christian Democrats, geographically speaking.
And it stands on the left of the German Christian Democrats, geographically speaking.
Although one must note that the CDU called the FDP’s tax and spending cuts and labor deregulation policy proposals too extreme during the campaign. So I’m not sure that you can simply say that it “stands on the left.”
Despite the centuries of laments for the passing of the polymath, my strong impression after 76 years is that the number of people with the capacity and taste for cross discplinary thinking and working has been steadily rising. It is a supposition universally assented to that during this time we have become progressively more able to acquire more knowledge in less time. However the product of these two factors has been increasing much less fast than the body of knowledge that seems worth acquiring.By past standards we have legions of broadly learned and interested people, but the proportion of available knowledge that any one of them can cover has shrunk, is shrinking, and will shrink further. (Even at the speed that Tyler’s intellectual coverage expands, he is far outpaced by the growth of what remains to be covered.)
We commonplace modrn multimaths are not seen as such odd fish as our predecessors. By the same token, we have lost most of the scarcity premium they may have commanded.
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