Economics

Rethinking the Great Depression and the New Deal

I’ve become increasingly interested in the history of the 1930s, and I just finished Eric Rauchway’s The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction.  It has become increasingly clear to me that there are major holes in the dominant historical narrative about the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Roosevelt administration.  The standard, high-school-textbook version of the story goes something like this: “Greedy stock market speculators caused the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the worst depression in American history; President Herbert Hoover believed in an outdated laissez-faire economic philosophy, so he did nothing; thankfully, President Roosevelt was elected, and his New Deal policies saved capitalism and helped the common man survive the Great Depression; and finally, World War II was an enormous boon to the U.

A limited ecumenism

My latest op-ed, “A limited ecumenism,” appeared today in Sightings, the newsletter of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It discusses the Catholic Church’s recent outreach to traditionalist Anglicans. Sightings is a free online publication sent out twice a week to over 7,000 scholars, ministers, students, and others interested in the intersection of religion and public life; you can subscribe to it at the Sightings subscription page.

Empathy across neighborhood lines

My latest op-ed, “Love Thy Neighbor: In the wake of an attack on the Men’s Cross Country team, it’s time to rethink University-community relations,” appeared in the Chicago Weekly today. You can find the op-ed and add your comments here, and I’ve also pasted it below. Thanks, as always, for reading. —Love Thy Neighbor: In the wake of an attack on the Men’s Cross Country team, it’s time to rethink University-community relations

Should we finish the books we begin? It depends.

In an article published in Friday’s Washington Times, economist Tyler Cowen makes several interesting and provocative arguments about reading and books. 1. “What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?” Cowen says: “Give up.” 2. “We should treat books a little more like we treat TV channels,” (Cowen) argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring series.”

Recent posts on education at Wide Awake Minds

A few of my recent posts at Wide Awake Minds, in case you missed them: -A few of the things you can do in a great university, in which I argue that if students want to make the most of their school years in general and their college years in particular, they must take ownership of their education and elect to do what is difficult. I propose a few of the ways in which college students can do so.

Quotes from Czeslaw Milosz and Herman Melville

I finished “Moby-Dick” yesterday. It was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever read - but also incredibly beautiful and rewarding. — The past is inaccurate, because we cannot determine how it was in fact, no matter how hard we try. We must rely on people’s memory, which is treacherous, because memory is constantly juggling and revising the data of experience. …In telling about an event, we ourselves cannot avoid revising it, because our narrative simplifies and composes a whole out of selected components, while omitting others.

For many in Chicago, driving is a necessity, not a luxury

My most recent op-ed, “For us, Mr. Daley, driving to work is a necessity, not a vice” (registration required) was published today on Chicagobusiness.com and will appear in this week’s issue of Crain’s Chicago Business. You can find the article here as well as reprinted below: — For us, Mr. Daley, driving to work is a necessity, not a vice Ryan McCarl It is exceedingly difficult for many commuters living on the North Side to find free parking after they return from work.

Mark C. Taylor on 'reforming higher education'

Mark C. Taylor, contrarian philosopher and chair of Columbia University’s Department of Religion, caused a firestorm in the academic community with his op-ed, “End the University as We Know It,” in yesterday’s New York Times. The op-ed remains at the top of the NYT’s most-emailed list. There are few better places to have a debate about the philosophy of education than the University of Chicago, where the Core Curriculum and the school’s historical emphasis on liberal education and distaste for vocational education permeates everything.

Quotes from Kohak's 'The Embers and the Stars'

I recently discovered the work of Erazim Kohak, a Czech philosopher and Professor Emeritus at Boston University who has written extensively on environmental ethics. I am 30 pages into Kohak’s The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature, and it is incredible so far. A few excerpts below, with more to come. Reflection and speculation remain no more than cunningly devised fables if they are not grounded in what, paraphrasing Calvin Schrag, we could call the prephilosophical and prescientific matrix of self-understanding and world-comprehension.

Excerpts from Laxness' 'Independent People'

From Brad Leithauser’s introduction to Halldor Laxness’ novel Independent People: “There are good books and there are great books and there may be a book that is something still more: it is the book of your life. …One looks differently on the book of genius that, even in a long bookworm’s life, one might not have stumbled upon.” Excerpts: But higher than all dealers and societies stand the dreams of the heart, especially in the autumn when dusk is falling and the clouds of the world are full of marvellous pictures….