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Saturday, February 7, 2015
Monday, February 2, 2015
As difficult as it is to grasp the nature of a black hole and its all-consuming gravity, Interstellar (2014) also traces the powerful yet mysterious gravitational pull of human love, including that utterly unfathomable condition we know as “being in love.” We fall in love, which is an expression that presupposes gravity. Yet such all-consuming attachment may not even in principle have as its object our species itself. Even falling in love may be dangerous—just look at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The full essay is at “Interstellar.”
Sunday, February 1, 2015
According to Gunawardana (1979:170):"The Buddhist tradition placed great emphasis on the importance of the king as a leader of men. The stability of the social system as well as the proper functioning of the whole universe depend on the conduct of the king". This essay describes two ideal leadership types, the Cakkavatti and Bodhisattva kings, from the Buddhist literature. Each of these Buddhist kings will be shown to have unique ethical approaches to the issue of wealth. Following a general discussion of wealth from the Buddhist perspective, the Cakkavatti and Bodhisattva leadership types will be argued to capture the process of wealth generation and distribution, respectively, together providing a complete ethical approach to wealth. Thus, a particular leader may enact a particular mix of these two ideal leadership types to formulate a comprehensive ethical approach to wealth.
The full essay is at "Buddhist Ethical Leadership."
There is a transcendent quality to charisma which eludes those scholars, but can be incorporated in terms of Rudolf Otto's (1957) Idea of the Holy. In his inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the holy(the numen), Rudolf Otto (1957) characterizes several inter-related feeling-responses to its object, the numen. In basing these responses on the object of the holy rather than in the perceiver, Otto distinguishes these feeling responses from mere psychological and sociological occurrences, based in the subjective experience of the person rather than in the object itself. There is thus posited to be a non-rational quality to the holy transcending self and society yet applicable to the human realm. Charisma, too, has such a dimension, as evidenced by a residual of religiosity language even amid the modern behavioral studies which tend to assume that charisma is strictly a function of the follower's perception.
The full essay is at "Charismatic Leadership."
Saturday, January 31, 2015
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014, colleges and universities in the American States received a record $37.5 billion in donations, which represent a 10.8% increase from the prior year. Alumni giving increased 9.4% to $9.85 billion, with the average graduate gift up more than 25% to $1,535. The top ten universities by amounts raised snagged 18% of the total ($37.5 billion), thus doing disproportionately better than even the schools in the middle stratum. What is behind this growing economic inequality, and can anything be done to reverse the trend?
The full essay is at “Donations to Colleges”
 Melissa Korn, “Harvard Tops Record Year for College Gifts,” The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2015.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
The 2015 budget that Gov. Paul LePage proposed to the Maine legislature takes aim at the “sacred cow” of property-tax exemption for nonprofit organizations. Colleges and hospitals, for example, would be levied a property tax, with places of worship and government-owned entities remaining exempt. The rationale is that of fairness to home-owners, who must bear a disproportionate weight particularly in New England, where colleges and hospitals in particular are ubiquitous. However, I submit that a second justification exists—one based squarely on the colleges and hospitals themselves.
The full essay is at “Universities and Hospitals.”
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Clarion calls of confrontation roiled through the E.U. after the state election in Greece on January 25, 2015. Would the E.U., heavily dominated by its largest state, and the European Central Bank (ECB) accept a larger public deficit (i.e., more government spending to alleviate the austerity) and continue the cheap loans, or would Alexis Tsipras, the new Greek prime minister, have to choose between continued austerity and default?
The full essay is at “Governing in Greece.”
Saturday, January 24, 2015
After the financial crisis of 2008, rating agencies reassured the public that additional “internal safeguards” would prevent the sort of over-stated ratings that had contributed to the crisis. Congress did not deconstruct the structural conflict of interest wherein a rating agency is tempted to overstate the rating on financial security such as a corporate bond because the agency’s revenue would be higher if more of the bonds are sold. I contend that reliance on a company’s internal “fire walls” is naïve, given the strong, sustained temptation that exists as long as an institutional or structural conflict of interest is in place. To obviate the problem, the conflict itself must be deconstructed.
The full essay is at “Standard and Poors”
Friday, January 23, 2015
Even six years after the financial crisis of 2008, the limited scale of the E.U.’s capital markets relative to their American counterparts exacerbated the E.U.’s problems with state debt. Most directly, the lack of diversification on the types of capital markets meant that the focus on the bonds issued by state governments would continue. Having had years to develop alternative markets since the financial crisis, E.U. policy makers had no one to blame but themselves—it would seem. However, a bright spot in European culture may be responsible for the lack of development.
The full essay is at “Deficiencies in the E.U. Capital Markets.”
1. Simon Nixon, “A Continent in Need of Greater Capital Markets,” The Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2015.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The U.S. Justice Department halted its adopted-forfeitures program in early 2015 out of a sense that state and local law-enforcement agencies had been using the federal program to retain a greater portion of seized property, including cash, than state laws permit. Asset forfeiture had grown since the 1980s largely as a strategy in combatting drug traffickers, yet the agencies themselves benefited in being able to spend the cash. Besides this conflict of interest, the federal-state dynamic here demonstrates federalism in action, though perhaps not as strongly as the system of government allows.
The full essay is at “Police Snatching Property.”
Monday, January 19, 2015
What does it mean to understand something? Put another way, what counts as understanding? The film, The Imitation Game (2014), touches on the question of whether machines (i.e., computers) can think, but the film falls needlessly short in pursuing the question. My aim here is to show how film can be more substantive along philosophical lines without sacrificing on entertainment value.
The full essay is at “The Imitation Game.”
Sunday, January 18, 2015
The U.S. Government’s fiscal deficit of $483 billion for fiscal-year 2014 is the lowest since 2007. At a preliminary 3% of GDP, that deficit is much better than the 2010 deficit, which came in at 10% of the GDP. To be sure, the American economy was larger in 2014. Also, the federal government’s overall fiscal improvement masks changes “behind the curtain” that may not be so palatable.
The full essay is at “U.S. Federal Budget Deficit.”
 Josh Zumbrun, “Budget Deficit Reaches a Seven-Year Low,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015. The budget deficit for the calendar year came in at $488 billion.
As the World Bank came out with its revised prediction of 1.1 percent economic growth for the E.U. (“eurozone”) in 2015, down from the earlier estimate of 1.8%, the European Commission announced that it would allow states more leeway in meeting the federal requirement that state budget deficits be no more than 3 percent of their respective economic outputs. Lest this appear as a sign of political impotence, the “strings” demonstrate the opposite.
The full essay is at “EU Commission Power Grab.”
 Ian Talley, “World Bank Lowers Global Outlook,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015.
Between June 2014 and January 14, 2015, crude oil prices fell by 57 percent. Between November 1985 and March 1986, the prices had fallen by 67 percent. That time, it took nearly two decades for oil prices to rebound. Would it take that long again? The answer has implications for how efficient the market mechanism itself is, and in turn for public policy on energy and global warming.
The full essay is at “Oil Supply.”
 Russell Gold, “Back to the Future? Oil Replays 1980s,” The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2015.