Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I was listening to NPR this morning and Brian Lehrer (NY) was interviewing a couple of economists about varying inflation rates in different areas of the economy. In education, for example, tuition rates go up, faculty salaries don't. The description of "market forces" was grotesque.
I remember when there was a faculty strike at my father's school, which was famous at the time for an administration to faculty salary ratio that was one of the highest in the nation. The most hard-core of the strikers, to my father's unending amusement, were from the business school.
Again, the problem with economics as a subject, a problem it shares with the hard sciences that it pretends to emulate, is that too often it is transformed into an object; economic knowledge is a sub category of knowledge, not the other way round. An analysis of the nature of greed, even including its benefits, should not become a celebration if for no other reason than that it's so unscientific. To have a truly serious study of economics, you have to come to terms with the uneconomic aspects of the world, otherwise it becomes merely a gambler's philosophy of gambling: entertaining and even useful, but unreliable.

It should be obvious that the same is true for what is happening in Iraq. A technocratic theory of war is not valid as a moral philosophy, but that is what our soldiers have been trained in. Almost every report I read includes some observation about or by a soldier that makes me think he understands nothing about his job except how to do it. This is inexcusable in the representatives of a democracy. We are observing the transformation, or the attempted transformation, of whole sectors of our armed forces into stormtroopers. But outside of some coded language in the press or private conversation, no one talks about it.

If we've denied access to areas after requests by the UN to test for radiation exposure in the population, it should be actionable under international law.

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