Monthly Archives: December 2007

jeremiah varnson

This morning, for reasons that shall remain undetailed, Varnson reminded me of a maxim of the Crow tribe. Namely, that the greatness of a people is determined by that of its enemies.

[At least, I think it was a maxim of the Crow. As with the bulk of my historical knowledge, this factoid was gleaned from a Hollywood western. Mountain man Robert Redford is embroiled in a vendetta with the tribe, whose braves regularly attack him, singly or in small groups, in order to find honour battling a venerated adversary.]

This is a widely-held but seldom-acknowledged view. Consider those that cling to intellectual positions in the face of overwhelming opposition. It may be that they are courageous truth-tellers, each a Copernicus for our time. They are more likely to be the equivalent of Crow warriors rushing Jeremiah Johnson, axe against Winchester. For thereby is status acquired in certain milieux of civilised society. Without a great enemy, a worthy foe, one is nothing. And what worthier foe can one have but the fact? The fact is powerful, to be slain only by truly heroic assumption.

Enmity to the truth is insufficient. The brave must also speak of the strength of the opponent, lest we forget the magnitude of their task. John Edwards sings a song of corporations. The “market”, the great Jeremiah Johnson of the modern left, is deemed “all-powerful”. Not that the economically illiterate are alone in exaggerating the vigour of the enemy; consider the old racist fear of the virile black.

One must, of course, be even-handed and examine one’s own motivations in such matters. Am I vaguely sceptical of the anthropogenic global-warming hypothesis because the underlying scientific “consensus” smacks of the post-war Keynesian hegemony in macroeconomics? Or because it’s a mighty windmill at which to tilt?

In any intellectual dispute, then, the truly self-aware will allow for this quirk of psychology and ask:

Who has the bigger Johnson?


the funniest thing i’ve read today (so far)

Via MR comes the most hilarious ebay listing I’ve ever seen. It is just so brilliant. Here

(Of course, it is entirely possible, dear reader, that the funniest thing you’ve read this morning is this post. Of the three people (including the two owners) who read this blog, I suspect none of them is unaware of Marginal Revolution, so me linking to something there is, admittedly, pathetic and bordering on cheating in terms of bloggery.)

how to spend time

Yesterday I had one of those rare moments of efficiency. For some reason I woke up at 5am, rested, and managed to shovel the sidewalk after the near-record snowfall the night before, read the paper, finish a review of a paper for a journal, make pancakes, take the older miss varnson jr to school on her skis and walk in to work through the snow. All before 9.30am. And even the rest of the day was relatively productive. Ricardo was reminded of Eugene Fama’s use of time:

Region: I understand that you work every day, even holidays. Is that right?
Fama: Right.

Region: That’s an amazing work ethic.

Fama: Not really.

Region: I’ve also heard that you’re a dedicated athlete.

Fama: Right. I work every day, but I never work a full day. I get up at five o’clock in the morning and I work basically all morning until maybe one o’clock, two o’clock, and then I go play golf, I go windsurfing, I play tennis. And that’s it.       

This seems a very sensible way to work. If the junior varnsons would let me, I would make it a policy right away.