Traditionalism and the Ancestral Cult in Ancient Rome

January 29th, 2011 No comments

Traditionalism is a quality that can be found within every culture and civilization. Humankind’s obsession with historical convention spans beyond the limits of recorded history, but takes root at a time that has arguably been called the beginning of civilization. The people of Ancient Rome emphasized the importance of traditionalism to the extent of extreme fanaticism, which ultimately became the Roman Ancestral Cult. The Ancestral Cult is significant because it laid the foundation for Roman religion, which made vital use of ritualism, folklore, and ancestral praise. I contend that tradition and ritualism were two defining qualities of Roman culture, which thrived for thousands of years afterward.

Much of what we know about early Roman life comes from the Greek writer Polybius, who published the earliest preserved historical narrative about Roman life . Ploybius writes about Roman burial practices, which involved the practice of ancestor worship at the funeral and afterward at ritual sacrifices and holiday observances. It was customary for the eldest son to speak first at the funeral. He would begin by praising the virtues of the deceased, as if he were sizing up the shoes that he was expected (or perhaps destined) to fulfill. The Romans honored their dead with tenacity, casting masks of the deceased into household shrines along with other family heirlooms and paraphernalia . The masks would be carefully adorned only during special religious services. Men of the same physical likeness as the deceased would don themselves in clothing that was symbolic of the forebear’s rank, and arrive to the ritual in ceremonious chariots so that all would be reminded of their glorious deeds. This practice of reenactment helped to solidify feelings of pride and ambition in the younger generation, who also sought to bring honor and glory to their family.

Many Ancient Romans preserved a family member’s legacy just as we do, in the epitaph on a tombstone. A noteworthy difference is evident in the dialogue, which would often display an intense amount of grief for whomever was buried below. Basic knowledge regarding Roman history tells us that the Romans were lovers of drama, and this assertion is supported by the poetic nature of their epitaphs. An excellent example of this artistic grieving practice is evident on the gravestone of a Roman woman named Turia, who had been outlived by her dear husband . The kind words of her widower transcend the barrier of linguistic translation, which often taints the poetic nature of the original message. In the closing lines he writes: “Your last wishes I have regarded as law; what-ever it will be in my power to do in addition, I shall do.” Although such passionate words require a great amount of skill, as well as emotion to write, similar messages can be found on many other tombs .

These grieving practices can all be looped into the phenomenon of the Roman Ancestral Cult. This institution provided Romans with religious framework that lasted until the Emperor Constantine converted the empire to Christianity. Many of the customs that were established as a part of the cult survived the Christian conversion, and evolved into practices that can still be observed in Western civilization today. They evolved as parts of a greater phenomenon, which dictated many of the rules and customs in Ancient Roman Culture. Social conventions such as patriarchy and death rituals have roots deep within Roman history, and we continue to exercise them today.

Imagination and Evil Spirits in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Part 2)

January 20th, 2011 Comments off

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(I, iv., 30.) He not only listens to the ghost’s lengthy epilogues but also takes them up with fiery emotions. Mr. Eliot, a critic whose main goal was to show that Shakespeare took on a work too much for him, notes how “Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear.” (Eliot) After he sees the ghost, his emotions rise to overflowing and he acts very oddly with those he knows, making no sense at times. He is bold and brazen, unkind and uncouth; alternating between all at once. Some in King Claudius’ court interpret it as lovesickness for Ophelia, who eventually loses her own sanity and kills herself, and Hamlet is called insane. In his emotional state, Hamlet even doubts himself: “Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, And can say nothing.” (II, ii, 575.) “In effect Hamlet is creating a paronomasia of performance, moving from politeness to brutality; and it seems to come out almost unbidden.” (Brown) He comes to such a low point that he becomes suicidal, his warped mind eventually turning suicidal to solve his problems. “To die: to sleep; No more; and, by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish’d.” (III, i, 60.) Mrs. de Grazia, PhD in English, observes of Hamlet’s problem: “Hamlet falls short of dialectical self-realization,” and “advances against his own until in the final scenes, he is ‘bandied from pillar to post’ and ends up ‘sandbanked.’” (Grazia) He talks to himself constantly, fails to kill King Claudius at an opportune moment, kills another by mistake, and eventually dies from a poisoned stab wound in a duel fought with Ophelia’s brother, Laertes. In the end, the idea planted by the spirit in his already-suspicious mind influences him enough to cause the deaths of not just one, but several people.

The turning of Hamlet’s mind and heart to the surreal is the very work of an evil spirit, who works in men’s minds to cause evil. In the play, Hamlet ponders this very fact: “The spirit that I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy As he is very potent with such spirits—Abuses me to damn me.” (II, ii, 605.) But he did not take this thought to heart and try to rid himself of the Satanic overclouding from his soul. It eventually led him to do desperate actions, and his own sad death. “Through Hamlet, this tragedy affirms the world of the mind over against the world of matter, the unresolved and independent conscience over against the answers that can be provided by others or demanded by society in its political, religious or familial manifestations.” (Brown) With truly beautiful language and eloquent poetry, Hamlet is a fascinating read; but once read through in its entirety, it is depressing and dark as well. The reader is taken up in the downward path of Hamlet’s life, and into the very intricacies of his fertile, but infected, mind. Mr. Coleridge said that in the conversations found in this play is “a proof of Shakespeare’s minute knowledge of human nature.” (Coleridge)

References

Brown, John Russell. “Multiplicity of Meaning in the Last Moments of Hamlet.”

Connotations. http://www.uni-tuebingen.de/connotations/BROWN21.HTM

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare and Other English

Poets.” Shakespeare and His Critics. 2001. http://shakespearean.org.uk/ham1-col.htm

Eliot, T.S. “Hamlet and His Problems.” Bartleby Great Books Online. 2010.

http://www.bartleby.com/200/sw9.html

Grazia, Margreta de. “Hamlet’s Thoughts and Antics.” Early Modern Culture. 2001.

http://emc.eserver.org/1-2/degrazia.html

“Hamlet.” Wikipedia. May 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet

Shakespeare, William (2006). Hamlet. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing


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Imagination and Evil Spirits in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

January 20th, 2011 Comments off

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Around the late 1590s, Shakespeare penned the “most powerful and influential tragedy in the English language,” Hamlet. (“Hamlet”) Set in Denmark, this play tells the story of Prince Hamlet, who takes revenge on his uncle Claudius for murdering Hamlet’s father, taking over the throne, and marrying the Queen, Hamlet’s mother. But can it truly be summed up in one sentence? Throughout Hamlet, Shakespeare’s longest play, an intense, deep course is charted; with supernatural elements, treachery, revenge, insanity, moral corruption, death, and victory. Woven together in beautiful language, it is a fascinating read. Samuel Coleridge’s 1818 lecture on Hamlet is one that truly explores this deepness and explains it in equally deep fashion. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he says, the balance between real and imaginary is disturbed: “his thoughts, and the images of his fancy, are far more vivid than his actual perceptions, and his very perceptions, instantly passing through the medium of his contemplations, acquire, as they pass, a form and a colour not naturally their own. Hence we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities.” (Coleridge) In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, there is an overbalance between the real and imaginary, towards the imaginary. This overbalance of the imaginative power is specially seen in the person of Hamlet, when an already-suspicious mind is met at an opportune moment by a Satanic spirit; then when his mind becomes warped, shaken by the supernatural apparition of his murdered father, and constantly occupied with shadows; and his clouded brain throws a mist over everything common-place.

In Shakespeare’s play, Prince Hamlet first appears on the scene with skeptical doubts about his new stepfather and many suspicions. His already doubting mind becomes completely shattered when his dead father’s ghost appears and warps his view of reality. He remains home after the funeral of his father, and begins to suspect his stepfather, King Claudius, thinking that Claudius is treating him far too personally, calling Hamlet his own son. “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” (I, ii, 65.) He also suspects his mother for marrying Claudius so soon after her own husband’s funeral: “That it should come to this! But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: So excellent a king.” “Why, she would hang on him, As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on; and yet, within a month, Let me not think on’t: Frailty, thy name is woman! A little month…married with mine uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules.” He also notes the incestuous part of the marriage: Claudius married his sister-in-law, and the Queen, in marrying him, married her dead husband’s actual brother. (I, ii, 135-155) So far, we see that Hamlet has somewhat validated reasons for suspicion. Marriage of the dead King’s wife to the dead King’s brother not two months after the King’s death is indeed odd. However, objectively looking on things, this is no actual proof or reason for Hamlet’s final and ultimate belief, that King Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father. So, when Prince Hamlet is finally met by the spirit who puts on the form of his dead father, a mind brooding with suspicion is a perfect fertile setting for the words of the ghost to settle well in.

Hamlet’s mind becomes shaken upon seeing the ghost, so much so that he threatened his friends with death when they tried to stop him, warning him away from the ghost. (I, iv, 85.) He is desperate to hear the words of the ghost, his mind thirsting for what he already has suspicions for in his mind. Upon the word revenge, and murder, he is aroused; when the ghost declares, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder;” so much so, that he immediately replies upon the spot, “Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.”


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Muslim and Christian Interaction During the Crusades and its Lasting Effects (Part 3)

January 15th, 2011 Comments off

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He makes many observations of the customs of the Christian people, but above all, regardless of his judgments, he seems confused by them. In his view, honor and courage are the building blocks of a virtuous and godly man. He believes that without honor one cannot be brave and without bravery one cannot be honorable. In the Christians, however, he observes brave and courageous men, capable and successful in battle, but seemingly without honor. His solution is to conclude that they are mere brutes, not even men, and therefore cannot be held to the same standards: “Anyone who is acquainted with what concerns the Franks can only glorify and sanctify Allah the All-Powerful; for he has seen in them animals who are superior in courage and in zeal for fighting but in nothing else, just as beasts are superior in strength and aggressiveness.” It is evident that the mixing of these two cultures had a lasting effect on the views and judgments of all peoples involved.

By 1291, Christian control over the Holy Land had disintegrated, and was back in the hands of the Muslims. After nine crusades, the last of which were not supported by the Christian Church, the people of Europe had grown less interested in flying off to a far away land to risk their lives in the name of Christ. There were more pertinent issues to deal with at home, a massive population of people to support and waning resources. Pope Innocent III had stopped supporting the crusades to the east as they began to fail to secure The Holy Land. With popular support and Papal support gone, there was very little reason for the men to soldier on. The original intention had become a faded memory.

The overall impacts of these 200 years of war can still be seen to the present day. The most evident of the lasting effects are actually only the very worst. There remain Christian inhabitants in the Middle East, and of course the Christian and Muslim peoples of the world are aware of the history between them, as animosities between Christian and Muslim peoples in the world today remain. The persecution of the Jews which began in excess during the crusades in Europe set a standard for their treatment by Muslims and Christians alike as we have seen in the horrific attack of the Judaic faith over the last several hundred years. It isn’t shocking that religious wars only create more hostility between cultures of people. A religious war isn’t like a war over territory or property or even people- it is any attack on the very identity of the man himself. In this way, the most devout soldiers will always be those who go into battle for God and the most tragic and profitless wars will always be the ones that are fought over religion.


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Muslim and Christian Interaction During the Crusades and its Lasting Effects (Part 2)

January 15th, 2011 Comments off

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Capture of Jerusalem by the Franks went on for five weeks and resulted in the deaths of more than 70,000 of the inhabitants of the city, including innocent women and children. While the Frankish telling of this siege is one of glamour and glory, the Muslim and Byzantine perspectives of the Franks were not quite as complimentary. Fulcher of Chartres, who was present at the address by Pope Urban II in Clermont, followed the crusade to Jerusalem to document his people’s activities. His description of the Frankish soldiers was plainly sympathetic- as one would expect, while his opinion of the people of Jerusalem, the Saracens, was that they were the heathen, godless creatures whose final end was deserved, and even willed, by God himself. “Then the Franks entered the city magnificently at the noon-day hour on Friday, the day of the week when Christ redeemed the whole world on the cross. With trumpets sounding and with everything in an uproar, exclaiming: ‘Help, God!’ they vigorously pushed into the city and straight-way raised the banner on the top of the wall. All the heathen, completely terrified, changed their boldness to swift flight through the narrow streets of the quarters.”

Anna Comnena, the daughter of emperor Alexius, had an alternate opinion of the Frankish crusaders. When they arrived at Constantinople on their way to the Holy Land to be received as friends by the emperor, she had grave doubts as to whether they should be trusted. She understood them as uncivilized barbarians who had neither honor nor integrity. That only one year before the very same people had made war with her people, and won, certainly didn’t help matters. In this instance, the Byzantine Empire had been under the threat and attack of the Turks, and had asked the western nations to send mercenaries to aid in their fight. They sent the Frankish crusaders instead. In addition to the aforementioned, she describes them as cowardly: “Propontis put off the decision day to day; the crossing was deferred with a series of excuses. In fact, of course, he was waiting for Bohemond and the rest of the counts to arrive.” Later in the text she describes them as conceited and foolish: “Although for the day’s sake, he refrained from shooting straight at the Latins, yet whenever one of them in his foolhardiness and arrogance not only fired at the defenders … poured forth a volley of insults in his own language as well, the Caesar did bend his bow.” Comnena’s impression of these brutish crusaders is obviously not parallel to Chartres’ brave, noble knights who so deservingly took Jerusalem.

Ousama Ibn Mounkidh, an Arab author during the 12th century, had yet another opinion on the crusader’s demeanors and abilities. Even more importantly, however, he showed in his writings the contrasting religious and social views of the Muslim and Christian people. In one of his writings he sums up his overall feelings about the new Frankish transplants in Jerusalem: “It is always those who have recently come to live in Frankish territory who show themselves more inhuman than their predecessors who have been established among us and become familiarized with the Mohammedans” He goes on to describe an incident which occurred while he was praying in the mosque, which the Franks had converted into a church. A Christian Frank who had not yet been exposed to Muslim custom grabbed him by the face and turned him east, yelling at him to pray in the proper direction. He says “I went out and was astounded to see how put out this demon was, how he trembled and how deeply he had been affected by seeing anyone pray in the direction of the Kibla.”


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Muslim and Christian Interaction During the Crusades and its Lasting Effects

January 15th, 2011 Comments off

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The early 11th century was a time of tumult, growth and expansion in medieval Europe. The Christian church had become the most powerful influence in the lives of the people. It defined law, social expectation and intellectual pursuit and created perceptions about the meaning of life and death in the minds of nearly every person on the continent. The Church was intertwined with the legal and governing systems, and at the very least influenced, but normally had direct authority over who would be a lord, who would be nobility and who would be king. At the time of the first crusade in 1096, the only non-Christian religious sect which was tolerated in Europe was Judaism, but even they were daily being persecuted by the ruling Christian government. The first crusade took European knights (mainly French) all the way to Jerusalem, slaying anyone and everyone, including innocent women and children and capturing the Holy Land for The Christian Church. This set the tone for what would ultimately become 200 years of war and terror, mainly in the Middle East but technically all over the western region of the world. Fighting wars for the Christian God became a lifestyle and a mentality. It was around the end of the 13th century that the desire and vision of the crusades had finally played itself out. The ultimate goal of the crusades, to secure and maintain influence and control for the Christian Church in the Holy Land was a dismal failure and, in fact, the last four Crusades were fought without Papal support. While the Christian presence in the Holy Land did not hold for long, the crusades certainly had an effect on the perceptions of the people involved. These wars, while mainly destructive and ultimately non-productive, fostered an exchange between the west and east that clearly molded the world views and intellectual pursuits of the people of the east and west. The mixture of the Muslim and Christian cultures caused people of these backgrounds to investigate their counterpart ways of living and observing life. Language, foods, clothing and lifestyle were altered through this extended contact with the other.

The first crusade was instigated by Pope Urban II at the council in Clermont. He was addressing the nobility present, but expected that his message would be spread far and wide. He was calling to arms all of those devout in the Christian faith, decrying the Muslim expansion by the Turks, warning that if these good Christians did not fight they too would be condemned and promising the reward of forgiveness and eternal life to all of those who would obey. “Remission of sins will be granted for those going thither, if they end a shackled life either on land or in crossing the sea, or in struggling against the heathen. I, being vested with that gift from God, grant this to those who go.” While the pope’s speech eloquently outlined the pious reasons to fight this crusade, the realistic reasons for inciting and following such a movement were quite different. The crusades were mainly fought by medieval knights who for some time had been flooding the population of Europe and causing an undue amount of contention within society. The Church saw the crusade as a way to get these young nobles out of Europe and stop the infighting at once. From the soldier’s points of view, traveling to a far off land in the name of God was an amusing way to gain status, build their monetary worth or possibly be granted title- all with the promise of being forgiven any sin that they may be forced to commit in serving their God.

The


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John Maynard Keynes in Modern Macroeconomics Education (Part 3)

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

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Ohanian (2008, p10-11) notes that Keynes’s 100 year prediction was highly accurate despite the lack of empirical record and insufficient theory at the time he wrote the essay. Keynes wanted a society where production was no longer a problem and there was equal choice for everyone. To put it simply, all wants can be satisfied due to increasing productivity from constant technological progress. Keynes even forecasted that eventually society will reach a point where too much leisure becomes a problem. Ohanian states that Keynes’s forecast of dramatically decreasing work hours in the future was near to that predicted by a modern growth model, and this was a stunning achievement for his time period. However, his prediction of the future state of leisure is still very far off the mark and for the time being does not seem very likely.

Keynes was no doubt a brilliant contributor to economics, and one that was far ahead of his time. The oversimplification and exclusion of much of his work in textbooks could be seen as insulting by some scholars, but perhaps it is of necessity to the technocratic age that we live in. In an era where the focus on results and technology dominate the analytical process, it is most probably best if the neoclassical vision of textbooks remained for the time being. In conclusion, it can be said that the content of macroeconomics textbooks does leave a lot to be desired particularly when it comes to Keynes and in general, the political economy. By reducing macroeconomics to mainly calculations and forecasts to maximize wellbeing, the more thoughtful and challenging side of economics has been left out. If prior to Keynes textbooks were planned around Adam Smith’s teachings, it would be very interesting to know which economist would be the next to mark a revolution in macroeconomics education.

(approximately 1480 words)

References

Duhs, A. 2009. “Course Notes”, Political Economy and Comparative Systems, The University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia.

Garrison, R. W. 1994. “Keynes was a Keynesian”, The Review of Austrian Economics, Vol. 9 No.1, pp. 165-171.

Littleboy, B, Taylor, J. 2006. “Macroeconomics 3rd Edition”, John Wiley Sons Australia, Queensland.

Littleboy, B. 2009. “Commentary on Keynes”, The University of Queensland.

Ohanian, L. E. 2008. “Back to the Future with Keynes”, Federal Reserve Bank of

Minneapolis Quarterly Review, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 10–16.

Pearce, K. A, Hoover, K. D. 2005. “After The Revolution: Paul Samuelson and the Textbook

Keynesian Model”, History of Political Economy, Vol. 27, pp. 183-216.

Stewart, M. 1993. “Keynes in the 1990s”. Penguin Books, Middlesex, England.

Taylor, H. 1936. “Mr. Keynes’s General Theory”, New Republic 86 (April 29): 349


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John Maynard Keynes in Modern Macroeconomics Education (Part 2)

January 14th, 2011 Comments off

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According to Keynes, too often has Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” been let off with a slap on the wrist despite its ineffectiveness in keeping economies above water and this forms the basis as to why Keynes sees the need for some form of government intervention. Keynes’s pessimism regarding markets was never taken seriously by textbooks, with most writers attributing it to the turbulent period he lived in.

One particularly big predicament for Keynes was the development of the private corporation. A part which the standard macroeconomics textbook fails to give coverage on, the private corporation is to Keynes the cause of faults in the financial market. The distribution of shares as a method enabling individuals to hold wealth in a liquid form generated instability in the accumulation of wealth. Caporaso and Levine (1992, p110) observe that this makes long run commitment to a particular productive enterprise no longer compulsory and places a premium on short term capital gains. As Keynes (1936, p156) put it, those who profit from this are those who best forecast “what the average opinion expects the average opinion to be” a short time ahead of the general public. This in turn encourages speculative activities and in the end results in price instability. Keynes (1936, p159) likens these investors to gamblers, stating that “when the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done”. Keynes advocates share market transaction taxes in order to solve this problem. Simply put, the ultra-short term nature of financial market exchanges would be heavily dampened by a tax that is capable of raising transaction costs. This shifts investor perspectives away from the short run side of the spectrum and reigns in the pace of transactions. This reform along with Keynes’s proposal for an International Clearing Union was never mentioned in textbooks, possibly for their radical nature.

Taking things a little further, it is perhaps fair to say that Keynes would not agree to the content of today’s macroeconomics textbook even if they are based on derivations of his concept. Firstly, the way in which textbooks today present content can best be portrayed as being of mainly mathematical and diagrammatical manner. Today’s textbooks are neoclassical, combining Keynesian theory and classical theory. Macroeconomics textbooks take an engineering approach at seeing the world, resulting in society being projected as a highly mechanized structure to ruling technocrats. This is much in line with the Benthamite movement where society’s utility is given a value and governmental decisions are made to maximize collective utility. On the other hand, we have Keynes who was not just an economist, but was additionally a social reformer and a philosopher. He had a more earthly view of the world and concedes that uncertainty remains an integral part in everyday life. He took note of the way people discount what they don’t know from making future decisions, and how this posed a flaw in the decision-making process. Then there is also the concept of “animal spirits” where Keynes believed people are often governed by their whims and fancies rather than cost-benefit calculation. This is perhaps consistent with his personal life in which he was known to enjoy artwork, have affairs with men, and finally marry a famous ballerina. This quirky side of Keynes contrasts sharply from the rigid economics of textbooks.

In the end, Keynes’s writings and beliefs were to guide people towards what he thought would be an ideal state of society. Before The General Theory, he wrote Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren in 1930 which dealt with the potential of future living conditions and society.


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John Maynard Keynes in Modern Macroeconomics Education

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It is of interesting note that Paul Krugman and Paul Samuelson, in their dismissal of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The New Industrial State, mentioned that Galbraith was a talented writer (Duhs, 2009, p123). Perhaps it would not be too far-fetched to suggest that such a comment was motivated by the fact that both Krugman and Samuelson were Keynesians. John Maynard Keynes was not known for being an easy read, with scholars and economists alike criticizing The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money for its complex writing despite its largely practical nature. Keynes, whose fame peaked with the publication of The General Theory heralded some sort of revolution in the economics of the late 1930s. The General Theory created a change in the way governments handled the recessions of a post-Depression era. Once economies were lifted out of depressions, Keynesian policies gradually disappeared and in the 1970s were mostly displaced by Milton Friedman’s monetarism (Stewart, 1993). Keynes may have lost his popularity towards the end of the 20th century, but he returned to attention recently in light of the global financial crisis. Seeing as long after his death Keynes remains a big name in economics, it is only natural then to expect his teachings introduced in a standard macroeconomic course. Hence this essay will examine the content of textbook macroeconomics and how much of it agrees with the economics of Keynes, primarily through the analysis of introductory macroeconomics textbooks.

Looking at the history of Macroeconomics textbooks, we can see that Keynesian economics began to saturate economics textbooks since as early as the 1940s. A study of Paul Samuelson’s Economics shows that Keynesian economics was gradually assimilated into mainstream economics syllabus, starting with its first edition which was loosely structured around Keynes’s concepts. Samuelson’s text was the principle introductory economics textbook of the USA and today it is built around ideas from The General Theory alongside other relatively recent economic concepts such as the Phillip’s Curve. Pearce and Hoover (2005, p186) additionally notes that today’s macroeconomics textbooks are mostly Keynesian. However, it is worth mentioning that most textbook Keynesian economics are not necessarily teachings of Keynes but rather other economist’s interpretations or understanding of Keynes. There exists a difference between (as Alex Leojohnhufvud famously put it) “Keynesian Economics and the Economics of Keynes” (Garrison, 1994). Colander observes that textbook Keynesian policies were not exactly Keynes but rather Abba Lerner’s interpretation of Keynes while Caporaso and Levine (1992, p101) notes that economists such as textbook writer Samuelson placed Keynesian ideas into a neoclassically inspired framework. The latter supports the notion put forward by Littleboy that textbook writers merely picked up bits of Keynes that fit into its neoclassical vision.

Things take a fascinating turn when the discord between Keynes’s own teachings and textbook macroeconomics are made visible. A quick review of standard macroeconomics textbooks is sufficient to show that Keynes was not purely “watered down” or “bastardized” as claimed by some economists, but rather eliminated completely in certain crucial parts. The most obvious would be the lack of the political side of Keynes due to the textbook writer’s pursuit of the measurable and results-oriented components of Keynesian economics. Keynes did not trust the market system to perform satisfactorily on its own, and this forms a core section of Keynesian economics. Sharing a similar opinion with Karl Marx (who is completely absent from most modern macroeconomics textbooks), Keynes denied the ability of the market to keep a steady rate of employment and production. However, Marx went on to claim that the free market system is “violently unstable”, a thought that Keynes disagreed upon (Caporaso Levine, 1992, p101-2).


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Privacy and Government Surveillance in the Twenty-First Century (Part 3)

January 13th, 2011 Comments off

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The last two articles in this casebook argue the opposite view: that government surveillance needs careful oversight and should be more restricted and controlled. “Group Privacy and Government Surveillance of Religious Services” by Travis Dumsday appeared in the philosophical journal Monist, so he approaches the issue from an ethical perspective. Like Young, he agrees that government surveillance is necessary from a standpoint of security, but he emphasizes the moral aspect of surveillance: it involves a violation (loss of privacy) and may include deception and breach of trust (in the case of a federal agent pretending to be a member of a group). Because of these violations, surveillance requires a “fairly strong justification” if it is to be done without acting unethically (Dumsday 182). This justification must be in the form of a specific indication that a crime is occurring, like a tip from a member of the community. Blanket surveillance without probable cause, Dumsday states emphatically, is morally wrong.

The final article “The Snitch In Your Pocket – Law Enforcement is Tracking American’s Cell Phones in Real Time Without a Warrant” by Michael Isikoff, unlike the other three, is a news article and presents its argument for legal control of government surveillance in a very personal manner. He begins personalizing the issue by pointing out that most of America’s 277 million cell phone users are unaware that phone companies can track them. Newer phones contain a GPS (global positioning device), while the phone call itself is routed through towers that can be used to pinpoint the origin of the call. To show the extent of the problem, Isikoff quotes Al Gidari, a telecommunication lawyer for several wireless phone companies who says that his clients receive “thousands of requests per month” for cell phone data. The article concludes with a dialog between Justice Department lawyer Mike Eckenweiler and appeals-court judge Dolores Sloviter. The judge pointed out that some governments, like Iran, would use cell-phone data to track political protesters.

“Now, can the government assure us,” she pressed Eckenweiler, “that Justice would never use the provisions in the communications law to collect cell-phone data for such a purpose in the United States? ” […Eckenweiler] finally acknowledged, “Yes, your honor. It can be used constitutionally for that purpose. ” (Isiskoff 2).

That brief moment in court neatly makes Isikoff’s argument for him. The potential for abuse of this type of surveillance is great.

Looking toward the future, the issue of privacy and government surveillance will continue to grow in importance. New technologies will continue to present us with newer challenges. The Department of Defense is working to develop a Total Information Awareness Program which would use new surveillance and analysis systems to protect citizens from terrorism. When this system is completed, it will provide a computerized record of a person’s entire life, including vital statistics, medical, financial, email, Internet, phone and travel records (Fischer and Green 14). The implications of such a database and the potentials for crime prevention as well as abuse are enormous. While the articles in this casebook present different arguments from a variety of viewpoints, they all agree one point: the need for judicial oversight is imperative for balancing the right to privacy and government surveillance.


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