Sunday assorted links


The really important thing is, what does Arnold Kling think of Tyler Cowen?

Click the link?

Lol clearly the only reason Tyler linked the Arnold Kling article is to signal his virtue by the little reference to Tyler at the end

5. I am a bit sceptical of calling cultures like Mayan and Aztec civilizations advanced.

Unlike Eurasian cultures these civilizations lacked the horse (and hence had limited locomotive power).

Secondly they lacked writing. Sure, Mayans had a script. Which is yet to be properly deciphered. But these cultures didn't leave behind copious literature unlike Eurasian civilizations.

Eurasian cultures like China, India, Middle East and Europe have left a continuous trail of their intellectual development from atleast as early as 1500 BCE, thanks to literature.

In an Indian context, we had the Indus valley civilization until 2000 BCE or so. BUt I don't regard it as advanced. Because like Mayan, the Indus valley culture lacked literature and didn't leave behind thoughts. Nor did it have horses.

The succeeding Vedic Indo Aryan civilization, though agrarian and pastoral, was far superior to Indus Valley because it started a great literary tradition which defines India to this day!

Independently discovering zero was a better indicator of advancement for Mayans than whether they used horses. Most of their literature was burned by the Spanish Taliban.

The Maya civilization/polity was extinct prior to Cortez and the imposition of Western Civilization.

Um, no.

It wasn't extinct, but Dick is probably referring to the end ("collapse") of the phase of Mayan civilisation in which the great monuments were constructed.

Some scholars dispute that there ever was such a thing as a collapse, but they're probably the same sort of scholars who would dispute that the fall of the Roman Empire in the West was catastrophic -- it feels like some scholars as so allergic to the idea of a cline between barbarism and civilisation that they'll deny any qualitative difference between stone-age hunter-gatherers and a modern bureaucratic state with advanced metallurgy and public sanitation. Not that the Maya had advanced metallurgy -- I don't think they develop metalworking until quite late in their history. Their monumental pyramids and stellae and their associate writing system are unusual in that they first emerged from what was basically a stone-age civilisation, at least as far as I understand.

You're too kind to Dick.

Some scholars dispute that there ever was such a thing as a collapse, but they’re probably the same sort of scholars who would dispute that the fall of the Roman Empire in the West was catastrophic

Collapse and catastrophe just don't explain anything, at least nowadays. The only scholars who argue there was a Roman collapse were ones who lived through the 19th century or earlier.

You note the unusual evolution of the Maya - paleolithic hunter-gatherers to administrative statehood practically overnight - but have you considered that this isn't the case? More here.

I 'm not sure I would call what was imposed "Civilisation".

In the Colonies, we spell it with a 'z.'

Are you outraged that a commenter libeled the Taliban by linking them with the Spanish?

Yeah, they'd all have been better off with human sacrifice and Inca totalitarianism.

You are capable of making better points than that, Art.

Ali, you are probably being charitable

Depends on what we mean by "literature". There is no indication there ever was a Summa or Elements or Quixote of the Mayans that could be burned... Let alone that the Spaniards would have burnt such a thing.

Not related to today's content, but as a throwback to previous discussion, somebody went there:

Exactly- it worked because it was skills-based. Otherwise it would have been bad.

Actually ..., no. One very important reason it works in professional families is because many Indian (and Pakistani and Chinese) families have grandparents at home who take care of kids. And one very important reason it works in business families is because extended family is involved in the businesses. (Next time you stay at a motel look to see if it is owned by a first-time Patel family. Next morning you will see at least 2 generations cleaning and scrubbing).

I'm guessing but I suspect that "advanced civilisation" is used nowadays to mean what used to be called "civilisation". That's because "civilisation" is now used to refer to uncivilised cultures - uncivilised in the literal sense i.e. without cities. If I'm right then the Aztecs and Maya were undoubtedly advanced.

There I guess we have to agree to disagree. It is the quality of life advancement that matters most; thus, scientific and technological progress matters as a means to this end.

Literature does not make any statistically significant difference in this respect. It is an exercise in narcissism, a fundamentally bourgeois pursuit. Literature is a bug, not a feature, in a civilization. Unsurprisingly, the English departments of the west are among ones with the highest SJW concentration.

In modern times too, if you observe anti-Hindu intellectuals closely and notice the manner in which they are inspired by literature, you can see in action how exactly literature ends up being a danger to the society: it deadens someone's ability to tell virtue apart from virtue-signalling. Well, let me link to someone who articulates these points far better than I ever can, namely Eric S Raymond: here and here.

P.S.: India's non-urdu non-Persian literature has been a historical burden: no one really finds it aesthetically appealing though they may claim otherwise, for else they would have tried to copy it/learn from it. It is another factor contributing to aesthetic incompatibility between India and the west, and thus indirectly also to the pariah status that India has in western analyses.

I should have been clearer: I have borrowed some of ESR's points, but he certainly wouldn't agree to my core thesis above.

By literature I didnt mean fiction and poems.

I meant general documentation of a civilization's thought. Could be history, scientific literature, anything. There is no feedback or transmission possible without writing. Mesoamerican civilizations lacked that.

And you are being harsh on Indian literature there. But we digress. So I'll let it be :)

You are right; I misinterpreted your use of the word literature to mean ficition and poems. I don't know what I was thinking while not paying attention to the context.

The Maya did keep a record of their literature - perhaps not to the extent of Eurasian equivalents. Most was burned by the Spanish with only a few codices left intact to this day. Another important point to note is that the climate in Central America is not conducive to the preservation of codices so unlike other civilisations, knowledge would have been more easily lost when empires collapsed.

Might civilization itself be considered a bourgeois pursuit?

Its true India badly bungled on languages. Its the worst of every possible worlds now. Indian English literature is pathetically substandard. Most popular English authors in India (and their editors) just don't know English. Try reading Amit Tripathi, Aswin Sanghi or Chetan Bhagat to get a sense of what I mean. And these are the people that the next generation of Indian English authors will take inspiration from.

The regional language literature is of considerably higher calibre. Nevertheless the synergies of the brightest minds writing in a single language is lost. So I think its fair to say Indian literature is a lost cause at this point.

As shrikanthk pointed out I was digressing but let me still respond since it is fun (to me at least).

Well I should qualify what I mean by bourgeois pursuit.

I take it as almost axiomatic that getting rid of the sufferings imposed by nature on life - disease/ill-health, bad weather etc. - is a worthy pursuit. And scientific/technological advancement accomplishes these for ever bigger chunks of human population, and not just the bourgeois. In contrast, literature caters mainly to the elite; whether it really improves even their well-being is unclear, and is of no consequence to the non-bourgeois. Nevertheless it does eat up tax payer money in the form of Government support.

Bourgeois attitudes are indirectly responsible for people like Norman Borlaug not being as celebrated as various celebrities, whose work can be designated by "art".

Yeah, classical peasants and aristocrats showed every indication that they would've worshipped Borlaug, not like those bourgeois sorts (those Bourgeois Dignity folk).

It's hard to tame horses that disappeared at the end of Pleistocene in America, 10+K years before Mayans.

Funniest quote from the article:

Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. “Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilization,” said Garrison. “It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.”

What kind of clowns are these universities employing?

Though it's not like this stuff is restricted to left wing idiots. The number of White, right wing dummies who you encounter online who claim that the Indo-Europeans overcame other societies ("Old Europe" / the Indus Valley Civilization) because those others were "peaceful" and less warlike than the Indo-Europeans they wish to claim as their ancestors...

Re: Secondly they lacked writing.

They lacked alphabetic writing-- but so did ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and early India. Heck, Chinese is still written in a largely non-alphabetic script. And yes,. we have largely deciphered Mayan writing, although the scripts of other Mesoamerican civilizations remain opaque.

I think they are implicitly defining "advanced civilization" as one able to support a large number of people. The whole article is about how there were more people there than anyone thought, or even thought possible.

From #1:

"... let me just list a few public intellectuals that I admire and trust ...: Tyler Cowen. Tyler has an unmatched ability to offer ideas that are surprising and original."

Shameless self-promotion? (although, admittedly, I mostly agree with Kling's evaluation)

I feel like I am moving to this place where I recognize my substantive agreements with Peterson, and should really let stylistic disagreement go. That leaves me neither a fan, nor a foe.

I agree with Cowen lots and lots, but obviously I diverge slightly on the .. nature of responsible citizenship.

Tyler pretty clearly has a Google News alert for his own name, and isn't shy about linking to what sets it off. I view that as a good thing, since I like Tyler's work and often enjoy what others have to say about him. Your mileage may vary, I guess.

If he has ideas that are surprising and original why on earth does he call himself an economist?

Ha ha! Burn!

I'm a Tyler fan, but he's a bit much with the cryptic and evasive and slippery and Straussian and peek-a-boo sometimes.

Peterson is not like that.

Self-recommending indeed. But he does hit on one of the reasons why I read MR so regularly: Tyler is uncommonly open-minded and willing to entertain new thoughts. Far more so than most of the commenters here.

Tyler's also uncommonly interested in and knowledgeable about a huge range of topics.

The third reason I read MR is, despite the many useless comments here, it actually has a higher percentage of good comments, with much higher quality, than most other websites. That's partly a sad commentary on other websites but I actually do read MR for the comments, though that's probably the 3rd most important reason.

6. Where is the category for individual rights to production?

6. Sure. It always seemed suspicious that "politics like ours" == "economic freedom." I think these authors are absolutely right that this only might be true. Sometimes, but not always.

We had plenty of strong-willed self-confident loner men in the 20th century. It ended badly. Peterson may be good advice for boys who will always prefer video games to work/girls, but not good for the majority who want to move toward love-one-another.

You're not reading or listening to Peterson very well if you think "loner men" is the product instead of the material.

Young men need something that handles the "failure state" of not being with a young woman, presents it as not even a failure and provides.

Society at large probably presents for a young man to have a permanent, enduring romantic relationship as an expected, typical thing. Society claims there's no hardship on a man that lacks one (a young man's being romantically ignored by all no hardship compared to women's suffering at the hands of excess sexual attention - the feminists are very, very insistent on this point). Society claims that a man who lacks a relationship has something wrong with him (he's a "creep", a "nice guy", a "neckbeard", he just "prefers video games to girls and work"), rather than perhaps an excess of something right with him, or its simply a matter of chance, luck and opportunity.

There are worse ways to refute these ideas and achieve a more fulfilling life than by rejecting a victimhood culture and embracing a stoic worldview and those ideas of dignity and honor in the face of an uncaring universe (and see the MRAs for the crowd who really do embrace a victim mentality).

Jordan Peterson is the Noam Chomsky of the right. And he certainly isn’t Christopher Hitchens.

Chomsky is too conspiracy minded, and Peterson is not accomplished enough for the comparison to be apt. E. O. Wilson, at best.

What on earth are you two talking about?

GJ: "A Reader" thinks Noam Chomsky traded a few easily obtained academic tributes (in Chomsky's case, an unusually popular sub-Kantian and even more sub-Curtiusiam view of 'linguistics', in Peterson's case an unusually popular reconciliation of the questions of Nietzsche and Jung with the answers that our latter days gave made plain, leaving out their stubbornness and lack of Dante-level or even Eliot-level understanding of the soul (just keeping this on the level of intellectuals who have 'come and gone', as Bob Dylan or the Monkees used to say, I forget which) for vast respect. "A Reader" thinks highly of Christopher Hitchens, without explaining why.

"Hazel Meade" thinks that Chomsky has little to say because, in a sad (particularly sad, as he is a rich old man who could be doing something better with his time) way, he is befuddled by his lack of understanding of humans, and believes in conspiracies, not only as explanations for preference cascades with which he sort of disagrees, but also as a method for making himself - his old, rich, unpleasant and bitter, self - less deplorable in the mirror. "Hazel Meade" has little interest in contemporary critiques of Nietzsche and Jung, and even less interest in what an accomplished, rather middle-aged, and well-spoken, albeit still just a doctor who talks instead of prescribes medicines, might have to say about the world, as opposed to what chain-smoking, degenerate rich kid hack Christopher Hitchens had to say, back in the day.

That is what those two were talking about.

I am a big fan of E.O. Wilson but let's remember that he was sort of a tenth-grade-biology-fan-boy all his life and never achieved, at least not yet, the triple goals of Schumpeter, and never tried: and, as sad as it might to be hear a Brigitte Bardot say that "the men in her life had her beauty, the animals had her wisdom 'sagesse'), well, at least she did not settle for being the sort of person who wins at the academic games and never writes a single beautiful line of poetry, either on the page or just upon the winds.

If I had commented before 'A Reader' or 'Hazel Meade' I would have made different remarks, probably with a quotation from Isaiah or Gamaliel's students, with the quotation chosen to resonate with some of the better poetical lines found in the Apocalypse of Saint John, as revealed on the Isle of Patmos. But that's just me.

You're reading far too much into this. I just like my analogies to be exact.

Hazel - no I am not. Thanks for reading.

No really, you are.
It's possible to think that Chomsky's political views are appalling and yet also think that he's made great contributions to linguistics, for instance. Simply stating that Peterson isn't Chomsky because he's not conspiracy minded does not pass judgement on Chomsky's scientific work, or Peterson's. Nor does placing Peterson and E.O. Wilson near each other on the scale of academic importance render absolute judgement about their work - comparisons are relative. Incidentally, I like Nietszche and Jung and would be interested in reading critiques of them. Hitchens is interesting, and admirable for turning away from the juvenile anti-Americanism of the left after 9/11, but he's just a writer, and has no scientific accomplishments. I was leaving him out of the comparison.

Interesting thoughts. Well, maybe I can still say that I was not reading too much into your comment, by adding this: maybe I was just reading it incorrectly.

Peterson's new book, which I have not bought but which I read a few dozen pages of while standing in a local bookstore (I was well dressed and the bookstore does not mind when well dressed people loiter there) has a few good pages on the shortfalls of Nietzsche - Peterson considers him sincere, but finds that his heart-felt criticisms fall short of fully grappling with Life (in case you have not noticed, Peterson is a big fan of saying what you mean, just as you mean it, and among intellectuals, that is what counts as heart-felt). Coppleston's long history of philosophy (available, believe it or not, in most brick and mortar Barnes and Noble's stores, even though Coppleston died half a century ago) is a little less in awe of Nietzsche's talents, and explains what Nietzsche was up to, in a world where Nietzsche was well educated, very intelligent, cultured, a near-genius of prose style, and yet simply did not understand the miracle of love (Coppleston did not have a Pinterest page but he could have put quite a few "Bible verses" - I put it in quotes because there is real power behind each of those quotable verses, power that has nothing to do with "quotes" and everything to do with reality - my take on Nietzsche is that he got inebriated by words before he was old enough to get inebriated by reality (the reality God created). Peterson explained a slightly different take slightly differently, I did not memorize his argument.

I don't care one way or another about Chomsky's academic reputation. I have heard he was not all that good at learning foreign languages, and I have also heard he was extremely good. I studied Saussure for awhile, and nobody says Chomsky is more insightful than Saussure, and I was not all that impressed with Saussure. I could be wrong.

My favorite criticisms of Jung are on Bruce Charlton's website (called "Bruce Charlton's Notions", I think). Like Peterson re Nietzsche, Charlton has a much higher opinion of Jung that I do. But he remains critical: Basically, Charlton seems to explain that there is power in understanding God, that all the power we ever have in understanding is a gift from God, but that such gifts were not given with any intention to make us feel small; rather, God gifts us with choices (in Jung's world, we creatively, at our best, imagine a place in the world that is better than we have known it, after all these millenia of interacting with nature and stories about nature): where Jung falls short is that he never clearly understood how much power there is in the truth (a truth that we can know is true because as we learn more about it we, as created individuals, love other created individuals more, leaving behind the excitement of myth and story for the greater excitement of communication with God and with those whom God has created). In Tolkien's world - and Tolkien understood Jung - the Jungian insights are deeply considered and fall short at the point, somewhere in time, where somebody - anybody - Tom Bombadil being the most frequently mocked example, but Aragorn staying single for more than a century, Sam joking in Mordor, or Gandalf refusing to criticize Radagast - say what needs to be said, in a world where there are, perhaps, categories of stories, but where not even God will ever decide to choose for us, in our place, how we live our life, how we make our choices, moral, artistic, never-to-be-repeated by anybody, because we are loved - thereby, the individual fact becomes more important than the Platonic form or the Jungian archetype, every single time.

Thanks for reading.

the triple goals of Schumpeter were not all that admirable, of course: if you had been at a party with him you would have immediately recognized that he was "that guy" who did not understand women and did not really act all that masculine, and whose conversation was just a little too arrogant - like our "late night hosts" with those phony skylines behind them, but with a slightly more vintage education ... (for the record, and so you do not have to look it up, his goals were to be the best economist, the best horseman, and the best (Casanova-type) flirtatious male of the Vienna of his day.)

Zero for three, but at least he tried. Maybe I have a friend with a couple of sons and daughters on the unwanted autism spectrum and maybe all he wants for his children is that "they try their best." Maybe I tell him, they need to do more, they need to live life in a human way : if they are living life as if they were some loser whose only ambition in life was to eventually get a laudatory obituary after teaching college for a few decades, regardless of all the human choices they might get wrong in the process ('the Browning Version', by the poet Terence Rattigan, sets forth some of the on/off choices I am visualizing), then they need to recalibrate what they think of as doing their best .

Just kidding. The best hope I have for my friends whose children want to grow up to be another Hitchens (sad) or another Chomsky (incredibly sad) or another E.O. Wilson is that there will be some miracle, somewhere, and they will learn to care for others in a completely human way. If you carefully read Finnegans Wake, or the last couple of long poems Wallace Stevens wrote, or better yet if you imagine that the Carmelite poets meant what they said, and if you also reflect on your own future, or on your past and on the near infinite moments and opportunities you have had to recompense the good that others have done for you or, also, the opportunities you have had to consciously recognize that only God can perfectly forgive the evil - and there is a lot of it, usually under the categories of laziness and selfishness, but under other even worse categories, too - that has been done to you: if you reflect on all that, you will understand that Schumpeter, whom nobody has read much since the end of the "Japanese decade", half a generation ago, would have been no more and no less happy with one of three, two of three, or three of three, than he would have been, at zero of three, knowing simply this: Somebody cared about him, and all his successes and all his failures, whatever they cost him, were, as Newman said, either signals that he wanted to be human - cor ad cor loquitur - or not: and if they were not, maybe, at some moment, Schumpeter saw what even Dante, another zero for three striver, saw, long after he wrote rhyming lines he should not have written (don't ever praise the tyrant Titus, in any register! - no, you did not earn the right to the "righteous anger" you pretended you had the right to - for the love of God, how can you not know that - your friends were ashamed to know you). Rejoicing in the suffering of others - whether you are a poet or not - it is wrong - just don't go there. Don't eat dodgy pushcart meals on hot days in Manhattan, don't eat them on pleasant days, don't eat them on cold days.

Thanks. Now I understand.

You're welcome! 'The Browning Version' has been adapted twice into very good movies, if you care about that sort of thing.

Dante was not a good horse rider, not a good economist, and did not try to be a Casanova. (Schumpeter was a good horse rider and a good economist, I have heard. He claimed once - in a private letter, maybe, I am not going to research it - that his three goals in life were to be the best horseman, the best economist, and the best 'lover' (I doubt he even knew the meaning of the word, but....) in Vienna.

Titus is what I call the wicked Roman emperor who ordered the destruction of Jerusalem: Dante wrote a historically absurd semi-defense of the person I call Titus - of course that is not what the Romans called him.

"Just kidding" meant I do not have any friends with more than one autistic child, not that, if I did have such a friend, I would not want him to have his children live life in a more human way than poor Chomsky and even poor Hitchens and the ant specialist Wilson.

The last sentence refers to the foolishness of Dante at bringing his uninformed historical theories (he had no understanding of the politics of the Roman Empire, trust me) into each of the three books of his so-called Divine Comedy. Trust me, he would have rewritten quite a few of the cantos if he were a better man and a better poet. Just like almost all of us would say things better if we were less ignorant and less surprised at how easy it is to mean what you way when you truly desire to say what you mean, with a heart that cares for others.

1. Of course, this all goes back to St. Paul: it's faith and faith alone that matters, not good intentions, not good deeds, for this world is a sinful world and cannot be saved no matter good intentions or good deeds, it's only the faith of the individual that can save him. Ah, yes, the individual. That St. Paul taught this isn't surprising: Judgment Day was imminent, and one better be prepared for it by faith for no amount of good intentions or good deeds will redeem the unfaithful on Judgment Day. Of course, Judgment Day keeps not happening, so there you go. This world is filled with suffering, do good intentions and good deeds to reduce suffering not matter? Should one's faith be measured by one's piety or by what one does to reduce suffering? Peterson emphasizes individualism and self improvement as the path to a fruitful and orderly life. Does that make him Christian or anti-Christian? I suppose the emphasis on individualism might appeal to Cowen. Indeed, one might make a case that good intentions and good works can go terribly awry, for imposing one's beliefs and goals on another is a form of oppression, which can lead to chaos or worse. Better to focus on oneself than on the sinners all around.


GJ: He means that, in his experience, and, as he believes, in the experience of most of us, people are generally not good, and not pleasant, and don't like other people unless the other people are doing things for them.

In such a world, Peterson's advice that you cannot be human unless you struggle against everything that belittles you, without losing energy to the temptation to hate the belittlers, is the type of advice that appeals to someone like Tyler Cowen, who is - like Peterson - extremely intelligent and interested in the motives people have, and not a bad person.

Rayward, of course, slipped up a little (we all know that) when he used the present tense for a lack of Judgement Day. Consider this: in the movie "A Night to Remember", the director made sure that all the actors did their best (whether they succeeded or not is not another question) to, at least for a moment, express their understanding that here, on a cold April day somewhere on the big cold water far from England and almost as far from Canada, with no islands anywhere in sight, here was Judgment Day. (Yes I know the big boat sunk at night, it was not day - in English, though, they died on a cold April day, That is the way the language works). In the later debacle that poor little James Cameron delivered to a waiting public, which he named not after the night that so many good people, rich and poor, bravely died but after one of the sons of Saturn, Titan, a disannuated idol, the theme was that "people like me" are better than other people, and the Judgment Day that actually occurred for thousands of souls on that cold North Atlantic night (cold and wet, if one tries to remember correctly) was not and could not have been in the past tense, as it was, in poor little James Cameron's view, substantially nothing more than a continuing advertisement for the goodness of those like James Cameron, who have goodviews on social questions, and who rejoice that they - had they been on the Titanic - would not have thoughtlessly enjoyed their champagne with the rich, but would have also taken a few moments to dance with the colorful poor folk in steerage: after Cameron finished the movie, he certainly felt happy that he had given us all a good moral lesson (if you remember the movie, Cameron slandered almost everyone who was in first class, and ignored the historical facts about who was brave and who was not - in his world, dying bravely, I guess, is meaningless as a protection from being slandered if he wants to make a point about the superiority of his political views. If you think about it, you can see why it is a movie that denies the Apocalypse, and Judgment Day, a day when none of us will be able to criticize others as 'rich' while we were 'poor', except, of course, if we actually know what we are talking about, and are able to judge the souls of others.

Alternatively, those of us who are ugly should just go on making movies criticizing the attractive, as if there will never be a Judgment Day, and those of us with small bank accounts should go on slandering those who have larger bank accounts. Those who had kind parents should never stop sneering at those who had the misfortune to choose lazy below-average parents, just because, and those of us who have not suffered much should thank God that those who deserved to suffer more than we did have, in fact, suffered more than us, and, I guess, should also thank God that those who deserved to suffer less than us deserved only a little less than us to suffer, so that our comfort was not too greatly impacted.

Or - let us think as kindly as we can about each other, let us never watch that totalitarian abomination of a movie (Titanic indeed) again, and let us toast all those who died on the Titanic, and let us hope that, whoever they were, they enjoyed their last glass of champagne, or their last enjoyment of the music they loved in steerage, or whatever it was they were enjoying before the following" the iceberg decided not to move out of the way, and their ship, an inanimate object, thereupon began a four or five hour series of watery lurches before going under the waves, no more and no less quickly (at the last moment) than the mergansers whom I watched, yesterday, bobbing around happily on the fake lake near my house where they dredged out dirt and sand for concrete, back in the 40s, and which has been a home, for almost 80 years now, for migrating waterfowl, slipped beneath the waves, in their case, to come back up again, in the case of the ocean liner, not so much. Let us not lead others into chaos, but let us try to understand each other!

Thanks. Now I understand.

For the record - if you are being sarcastic - that was not all that difficult a set of paragraphs to understand, with some effort; try again. For example, the second paragraph could not be clearer. I admit the last paragraph takes some effort - picture what is being described, though - there are no words that really need to be looked up (maybe merganser - it is like a little kind of duck that literally ducks under the water, up to 30 or 40 times an hour, to find vegetation to eat under the surface).

If you are not being sarcastic - I used to know the sort of person who served on submarines - the libraries on submarines were very very small (before Kindles and Nooks) (there were, of course, no libraries, you borrowed each other's books). Eventually they got tired of the simpler books. Of course there was never much free time, but every once in a while, there were hours and hours of it. It is amazing what you can learn when you try, once you know how to try.

and if you were not being sarcastic - you are welcome!

5. According to my wife, the academic economist, there are fewer women in economics because they aren't as interested in highly mathematical disciplines compared to law, medicine etc.

Bah, that should be 4.

Alex Tabarrok's post immediately below (How Do Beavers Make Steel) should really be linked as 4(b). If educated, professional women currently do economics research (and develop software) by practicing law and medicine, then why do we continue to tolerate anti-Iowa bias in car production? It's far too easy to find prejudiced comments about "Iowan farming hicks" to believe that the location of car production is driven by comparative advantage or other mythical "meritocracy" concepts rather than by persistent geography bias. The auto industry needs to start taking the issue of geographical diversity seriously.

By the way, if we were to erect more trade barriers between Michigan and Iowa, i.e., we were to introduce *more bias*, then geographical diversity in car production and farming across Michigan and Iowa would actually *increase*. Maybe, there is a lesson in there about looking at statistical outcomes rather than procedural neutrality.

#1 - Dr. Peterson would have no "traction" except that many abandoned religious faith, family, morality, culture, the gods of the copy book headings. Was it cowardice? Was it sloth? Parents refuse to parent ("Spare the rod, hate the child."). Churches refuse to preach the Truth. Educators refuse to educate.

Understatement of the Century: ". . . post-modernists who are intellectual (sic) weak . . . "

And Kling is correct, post-modern pseudo-intellectuals should be unworthy of comment, except that they somehow conquered the academy, the media, public schools, progressive cliques, . . ..

Sad but true. It’s incredible how quickly universities have transitioned from the origination of ideas to the imposition of ideas, the mainstream media from unearthing information to burying it, and our public schools from teaching kids how to engineer to making kids the things that are (socially) engineered.

The good news is that this shift toward controlling information within organizations is ultimately doomed because all three of these institutions are increasingly irrelevant to information. Kids can easily learn more outside class than in, and big media has decided to die quickly than just fade away, with a ludicrous and desperate attempt to justify Watergate 10x.

“And Kling is correct, post-modern pseudo-intellectuals should be unworthy of comment, except that they somehow conquered the academy, the media, public schools, progressive cliques, . . ..“

Unfortunately this (above) is true.

4. Men like precision, don't they. Thus, men in economics believe human economic behavior can be reduced to math. Women like behavior, don't they. Thus, women in economics believe human economic behavior can be reduced to emotions. People buy Bitcoin because of precision or because of emotions? The whole math thing in economics is actually recent. That human behavior can be reduced to math assumes that all the emotions that determine behavior can be put in a formula. Good luck with that. I'm reminded of those who worship at the altar of markets. Sure, they believe in markets, except when they don't. If I point out that markets are very good at fixing imbalances, true believers smile, but when I point out that markets are good at fixing the inequality imbalance, I'm accused of heresy. Such is the religion known as economics.

1. I've never read Peterson, but the description of him as a guy who analyzes the bible, offers self-help advice and writes "Rules for Life" doesn't sound like a terribly interesting thinker. It sounds like Oprah Winfrey for white men.

Or like Jesus.

I guess it's a valid point that people who are now considered great religious leaders are actually just the ancient equivalents of Oprah. They didn't have television or the internet back then so your chances of being exposed to someone's "deep thoughts" was miniscule and people latched onto what they could get. The sort of mass media we have today makes to easy to read and digest a thousand different thinkers and quickly discover the banality in the vast majority of what they have to offer.

I found Oprah's disquisitions on Jung and Nietzsche fascinating, don't you?

He'd be so much more interesting if he slathered himself with man-tan and ran for president of the local NAACP.

Although in the 16 minutes between this and a post above, Hazel seems to have read enough about Peterson to authoritatively compare him to Chomsky, Hitchens and Wilson. What a quick study.

I know enough about Chomsky to know that he would never write a book called "12 Rules for Life".

What were the Khmer Rouge rules for the revolution again?

I was just thinking that Chomsky's "12 Rule for Life" would be hilarious.

#1. Don't wear sunscreen. It's a conspiracy by evil corporations to give you caner.

Remember though, he is a clinical psychologist by trade and his academic discipline is the same. The whole point of his scientific work is to figure out how to help individuals with their lives. I assume "12 rules for life" is a work of popularisation or outreach rather than a serious academic tome but he is working in a field where the outreach is more important than the science.

What's wrong with a little self-help? There are lots of wayward young men who lack meaning. Most of self-help that has been given through school or academia has been feminine focused. I appreciate his book. I think it's wrong to compare JP to TC, because TC is a true public intellectual. Whereas JP is trying to procure meaning to young men.

IMO, reading self-help books is a kind of self-defeating exercise. It is a way of wallowing in one's personal failings, and is frequently more about commisserating with other people who have similar problems than about actually overcoming any of those problems. If you want to help yourself, don't read books about it, just do it. As Yoda would say: Do not try, do.

A ridiculous statement. You would have us discard Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius! Ethics and self-improvement are at least important enough to merit study as carpentry or computer programming. Only a fool would assume that he has nothing to learn from others about what a good life is and how to live it. The first thing I would assume about a person recommending this course of action is that they have little to no self-awareness or knowledge of their own shortcomings, and hence were awful at self-improvement.

I wouldn't really classify Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus as "self-help" writers. By this logic Buddha was a self-help writer. Can't we draw some sort of distinction between "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and the Tao Te Ching?

"Can’t we draw some sort of distinction between “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and the Tao Te Ching?"

Probably, but it is incumbent upon the critic to explain why Jordan Peterson is more like Oprah Winfrey and less like Marcus Aurelius, rather than dismissing him in a conclusory manner as a "self-help" writer.

Personally, I doubt that a meaningful distinction can be drawn along these lines. It's like T.S. Eliot's failed attempt to distinguish between poetry and verse, for the purpose of classifying Kipling a mere verse. It's more productive to describe poetry as good or bad, and explain why, than to attempt a categorical approach, and it's more productive to analyze the quality of writing and thought in books than classify some of them as "self-help" books and thereby dismiss them.

The distinction is one of effectiveness, not of type.

I'm not the one who originally described Peterson as a self-help writer. That's coming from his own fans.
Titling a book "12 Rules for Life" doesn't really help though.
Nor does websites like this:

More motivational posters, please!

If you've never read anything by him, how can you have an opinion of his value as a thinker?

I'm just saying you're not making him *sound* interesting.

Ben Franklin was one of the first to start the American genre of self-help advice and Rules for Life, so to dismiss Peterson mainly on that basis is more of a reflection of your superficial mind.

Many intellectuals aren't very effective at motivating people to alter their actions, and perhaps even look down on intellectuals who are. So there may be a bias in how other intellectuals judge Peterson since he is such an effective and motivating communicator. But how can someone be "influential" without influence?

If simply views = influence, then Bieber is most influential of all. Love yourself, explain what you mean, apologise: Bieber's rules of life.

1. Pretty good analysis, and I largely agree. I'm not sure what the intellectuals equivalent of five minutes of fame is, but he seems to be in it.

I'm not convinced that Friedman is one of our best public intellectuals, but like AK I rate Pinker very highly.

I've read this blog regularly for ten years now, and my primary response to AK's claim that TC is like a venture capitalist should allow readers to dismiss TC's contrarian conclusions more readily. Having said that, it is also possible that both the fun and the value of these contributions comes from their most likely being wrong -- but wrong in an interesting way.

I look forward eagerly to the NY Times piece on men being underrepresented in HR management

Why is it so puzzling that people love Jordan Peterson? People love Tony Robbins, people love Deepak Chopra for Christ's sake. What makes Peterson better than those folks is that Peterson says (a) controversial things about hot-button issues that (b) many people actually agree with, and that (c) his flavor of philosophy is tinged with stoicism rather than the "self-discovery"-style narcissism which plagues most self-help shlok. He also (d) is educated and learned enough to slip some interesting historical cultural tidbits into his sermons, which makes for a nice viewing experience.

You'd think someone with a message of individual responsibility as the path to prosperity would be taken more seriously around here. Especially if that someone is an academic who, unusually for academics, focuses on producing video and audio content for mass consumption instead of abstruse research articles targeted only to fellow academics.

It's certainly true that he's not the next Aristotle or anything. I guess my comparator is someone like Matt Yglesias. I'd rather watch another JP video than read another Yglesias blog post. Does that count as "influence"?

As the “whiteness is the biggest privilege” meme gathers pace Peterson at least has the courage to ask questions about its underpinnings.

Maybe the recent spate of "Rules for Life" lists made his work appear more trivial than it actually is.

I'm amazed by the number of smart people who read some second hand material on JP, or listen to a minute of him on YT, then come to wildly incorrect conclusions about him (to the point of sometimes imputing to him beliefs quite literally the exact opposite of what he argues). And proclaim him to be uninteresting and not worth understanding.

I'm not arguing that everyone should spend a lot of time on him. I'm just surprised that such a specific outcome path is so often repeated.

I'm amazed that none of his defenders think it important to summarise what he means, in words, with cites.

Does he merely justify pre-existing feels?

I honestly haven't seen anything from JP and don't care much about him, but there are enough videos by him that someone can watch if he wants to know what he's thinking. If someone is too lazy to do that, why should anyone expect he would bother to read a summary by a 'defender'?
It's not like people here demand from them to read Schopenhauer, or something that is for other reasons hard to come by.

There is little more that makes me angrier than people who don't even bother to try to understand something before dismissing it. That little more are people who then try to shift the blame to others who 'should have explained it to me'.

You do realize that Peterson's magnum opus, Maps of Meaning, is available for free as PDF from Peterson's website? That is to say, if his own fans wanted to read his work, they could do so for free, and yet it seems most choose not to read. Hence I think that the criticism of his followers (that they are mostly there because Peterson makes them feel like their pre-existing feels are justified) is warranted. However, that is a criticism of Peterson's fans, not Peterson himself. I have read a bit of Maps of Meaning, and I think Peterson is a little bit more substantial than he would appear from his videos and lectures. So far as I can tell, his thesis or project seems to be attempting to examine some psychological literature and do some comparative mythology to both find a good definition or conception of eudaimonia (he calls it meaning), but also in doing so to try and outline myths that have a kind of rational basis that people can actually believe in following the wake of the scientific revolution. Which is to say that his work is a footnote to Nietzsche (which Peterson does recognize). But that isn't really a bad or insubstantial place to be. The existentialists are just footnotes to Nietzsche and Hegel as well.

I have listened to the first 8 or so Jordan Peterson podcasts, which I find pretty interesting. It seems to me to be a pretty clear and provocative modern portrait of non-political conservatism. It favors an intellectual and moral disposition that the general intellectual community hasn't articulated well in the last several decades. For that reason alone I think it is worth listening to.

I haven't followed as much of the more recent stuff that appears to be more heavy-handed in finding a villain in post-modernism.

He should remove the word "presupposition" from his vocabulary.

His fans could do a better job explaining what is goo about him, something better than making up their own "12 Rules for Life" lists.

4. Tyler, it is time to tell us what *you* think rather than just linking to what other people have said about whether economists in the United States discriminate against women.

Alice Wu's study of Econ Job Rumors did not convince me of anything other than what I already knew the first time I ever saw the site years ago, that it's chock full of anonymous lunkheads who would not dare to write what they do under their true names.

For women, the conflict between the demands of tenure and the demands of having children is more acute because women on average have fewer years than men in which they can have children. That's not unique to economics, though. I favor some changes that would reduce the conflict, such as de-emphasizing sheer quantity of publications in making tenure decisions. But I'm not in academia, and my views will leave as much of a mark as 999 out of every 1,000 journal articles in economics, which is to say none.

Economics does not seem any less open a discipline than law, medicine, or others where women have increased their participation over the decades. I strongly suspect that women do not face systematic discrimination in academic economics and that they are being pulled into other careers rather than pushed away from economics. But if you discriminate against women, confess,and if you know others who do, name names.

Health care reform is not as challenging as it seems but providers do well in keeping the key issues off the table:

- certificate of need laws that prevent competition Between hospital complexes
- anti-trust exemptions that prevent competition within a hospital
- anti-trust exemptions that allow rampant price discrimation not tied to permissible factors
- cartel behavior in medical licensing: restricting the number of medical school seats by decertifying programs that don't stay in line; requiring a four undergraduate premed degree before starting medical school--rest of the developed world goes straight into medical school and cuts off four years of education that have no connection to outcomes.
- cartel behavior in licensure of immigrants: residency completed abroad does not count ; inadequate visas for foreign doctors

Fix these issues and watch our medical costs get cut in half back to developed world standards.

Re #4, Wolfers tweeted a pretty hilarious email he received from "Chad Chen Jr."

The first sentence: "Your wife must be beating you with a lead pipe once a month or so."

A lot of people seem to want Peterson's fans/admirers to provide them with a quick label that adequately captures his "gist." Unfortunately, the guy is too broad and layered to stick a label on.

To me, Peterson is many things.

1. A competent clinical psychologist with a comprehensive understanding of his field. I believe he's also worked as a business consultant and performance coach.
2. Amateur philosopher and generalist. Peterson dabbles in philosophy and mythology in an attempt to create coherence and meaning behind many disparate psychological theories. WRT his philosophical approach: It seems he's less interested in academic rigor than creating broad, compelling narratives designed to give his audience a general philosophy of life. His main stated goal is to strengthen the individual and help people justify life's suffering through character development and narrative-building.
3. Skilled, captivating, high-performance communicator.
4. Political and social critic. His anti-PC, anti-far-left, anti-totalitarian stance has gained him quite a bit of attention, but it's one of the least interesting aspects about him, IMO.
5. Competent online entrepreneur.
6. Self-help guru/role model to people (mainly men) who crave a revival of healthy masculinity and individualism.

Peterson's critics fall into 3 broad categories:
1. Critics who (often correctly) lambast Peterson for clumsily operating outside of his domain of expertise.
2. Critics who are somewhat familiar with Peterson's work, but hate the cult of personality developing around him. The don't believe his fame is justified, because as far as they can tell, he isn't doing anything particularly original or groundbreaking. And they're sort of right: If your metric for "groundbreaking" is producing paradigm-shifting academic literature, Peterson fails. But if your metric for "groundbreaking" is exposing the general public to classical existentialist philosophers/psychoanalysts and robust self-development frameworks (while simultaneously discrediting the more toxic pockets of American leftism), then he's breaking ground. No other public intellectual is doing as much work to encourage disillusioned pockets of society to pick themselves off the floor and contribute to society (and it's not just "losers" who enjoy Peterson's message; established professionals who feel their personal lives are in a downward trajectory also benefit).
3. Politically-motivated (mostly far-left) critics who are willfully ignorant what and who Peterson is. Their critiques are basically limited to character-assassination and ad homs.

I think some of Peterson's broad appeal comes from the fact that he earnestly explores the the darker parts of the human condition and seems to have a few remedies for the existential dread/confusion that "darkness" produces. I suspect A LOT of people (across many walks of life) silently struggle with nihilism and existential dread. When someone shows up and competently articulates and unpacks that dread, people shut up and listen.

+1. I agree with all your points. He does best when he is either (a) philosophizing (or speculatively trying to) during his lectures, or (b) fighting against his far left bogeymen. His appearances with folks like Ben Shapiro and Sam Harris aren't either of those and it shows.

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