“If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

This traditional southern put-down came to mind as a I read Matthew Yglesias’ posts (yesterday and today) on the presumed link between wealth, on the one hand, and competence and innovation, on the other. Exhibit A: Big Business may retard technological progress. Alexander J. Field argues that the 1930s were the “most technologically progressive” decade […]

My dumb generation

Neil Howe, writing in the Sunday Washington Post, makes the case that my 40-something generation is in no position to criticize the intellectual attainments of today’s youth; in fact, we qualify as the “dumbest generation” currently on offer. (Thanks to Mike O’Connor for mentioning the article.) Howe shows how the generation born in the years […]

Stumbling into Žižek

About a year ago I was browsing in a book completely unrelated to my Ph.D. research; it was about criticism of Shakespeare plays on film. I happened on a phrase that summed up an unexpressed insight I’d had about my research subject (a Swiss traveler in the U.S. in the 1820s). It was a well-turned […]