The Latest in Conspicuous Consumption

The October 1 & 8 combined issue of Newsweek included a page near the end headlined, “He’s So Vain.” It was a list of 10 assorted items, each with a comment by Schmidt (played by Max Greenfield) on the returning TV show, New Girl. The comments were pretty silly, but a few of the items were not, being the worst kind of examples of conspicuous, and mindless, consumption. The three that I found quite outrageous were: **1. Forbidden City H. R. H. Fountain Pen by Visconti** $44,950. Visconti Pens FORBBIDEN (sic) CITY HRH is a wonderful handcrafted pen created by the Italian artisans of a company known for its fine… Read More

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Yom Kippur Thoughts

Today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement for me. It is the most serious and spiritual of all the Jewish Holidays, at least, for me. I am not a particularly observant Jew and am relatively poorly versed in Judaism. I even consider myself an atheist, a belief or non-belief that one can get away with in Reform Judaism. But I do find meaning in the teachings and rituals of Judaism, especially on these Holy Days. Atonement means what it says. God (if you believe) forgives you for any transgressions against God, but one must ask forgiveness from all the human beings that you have treated badly. And so I… Read More

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Authenticity, Care, and Politics

We have a multiplicity of means to know exactly what we get in a box of cereal or the milk carton from which we add a bit to the cereal. There’s a long list of ingredients, maybe a label listing the ingredients, and more information attesting to the organic or natural quality, the calories and more. Market theory works best when the consumer has perfect information about what is being offered in the market. Of course it takes any number of agencies to make sure that the information is accurate and that the producers do not cheat or lie about the quality of the contents. We take this situation pretty… Read More

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Words, Words, Words

This current political campaign has produced more, “I didn’t mean that” or “That’s out of context” apologies or defenses than I recall for some time. The more I come an understanding of language and how we use it, the more I am skeptical about any such apologies or explanations. Speaking is exactly like walking. When the senses become aware (whether we are conscious or not), the cognitive system goes into action. When I become aware that I am some place other than I want to be, my muscles go into action, guided by structures already in my body, and I will thus walk from here to there. There is no… Read More

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Markets and Morality

> There are two reasons why economic driven behavior cannot become the order-generating force for any society to which the socialist** label could be properly attached. The first, often featured in critical literature, is that societies driven by the need to accumulate capital, and subjected to the pressures of the market, suffer from severe deformations, including the alienated consciousness induced by extensive commercialization, the deformation of individual character caused by the over-division of labor, and the socially harmful bias toward self-directed rather than other-directed values. A second, less familiar but no less serious objection is that a general subordination of action to market forces demotes progress itself from a consciously… Read More

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There’s More than One Way to the Truth

I am now back home in Lexington and prepared to be more regular with these posts. The summer in Maine was quite extraordinary this year. We got the benefit (?) of global warming and had the sunniest, most pleasant summer in memory. I have been distracted for a few weeks (trying to excuse my absence) getting the final manuscript of a new book to the publisher. Today, I pushed the send button and now have little to do but wait out the many months between my computer click and the production of the book. It is a collaboration between Andy Hoffman, one of my former graduate students, and me, in… Read More

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