Back from C'ville

— Hi everybody! I'm back from Charlottesville. The Social Change Workshop was I think a big success. Great students. Great faculty. Great week. So many people I want to keep in touch with. And the Mercatus manuscript discussion of John Nye's forthcoming this past weekend was outstanding. Chilled by the pool and played tennis with Brian, Frederic Sautet (who should have a Mercatus bio page by now… cough) and Courtney. It was fun to hear about the Copenhagen Consensus from Doug North. And I had an especially nice conversation with Barry Weingast Saturday night about endogenous preferences.

Social Change Workshop for Graduate Students

— You'll have noticed that I've been rather lax with the blog. Well, I've been busy organizing this year's IHS Social Change Workshop for Graduate Students. I'll be driving down to Charlottesville tomorrow to set things up, and then running the Workshop all next week. Check out the list of lectures, and seminar and workshop sessions. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more intellectually stimulating week anywhere. This is where it's happenin', folks.

After that, I'll be sitting in on a Mercatus Center Social Change Project discussion of John Nye's long-awaited manuscript on the War, Wine, and Taxes and the emergence of free-trade in the 19th century (it turns out that France is a better than you think, and England is worse). It has been one of the great luxuries of my short intellectual life to have the opportunity to hang out with Doug North, Barry Weingast, Avner Greif, Joel Mokyr and their ilk at these Mercatus workshops. I'll return in a little over week exhausted, but very, very intellectually satisfied.

Alternative History

— Reading about the 10 plane al Qaeda plot, I wonder what would have happened had AQ had their shit together. Imagine if the dome of the US Capitol had been imploded by a jetliner! I think this would have been the single most rousing target. The Capitol represents the American democracy, and hence the American people, far more vividly than, say, the White House (or the Pentagon or the WTC). I shudder to think of the vengeance we might have blindly wrought had the terrorists struck such a main nerve. Can you IMAGINE the truculence of Congress? Can you imagine what would have got in to the Patriot Act? Would Aghanistan exist?

GPI Journalism Fellows

— The Mercatus Center's Global Prosperity Initiative Journalism Fellows are a great bunch. Matt Welch, Mark Hemingway, and Melinda Ammann are some of my favorite people. Somehow, I've never managed to meet Matt, but we emailed back and forth when this blogging thing was starting (his wife said I was cute!), and I can't imagine not actually liking him. Matt's off to Romania with Mercatus's Dragos Aligica (also one of my favorite people!) and some Mason grad students. Mark is headed back to the Philippines for a second summer with Steve Daley, an Australian number-crunching machine from Mason, to get the human angle on microfinance and entrepreneurhsip in the slums of Manila. Mark is a great writer, a great talker, and, well, a decent drinker. And I knew Melinda back before there was an internet. I remember her talking about becoming a journalist her freshman year at Iowa, and I'm happy she's doing it (philosophy detour notwithstanding), especially in league with a program I helped get going. She'll be great in Botswana.

Now that I've been away from Mercatus for half a year, and have a little more perspective, I find, rather modestly, that I'm pretty impressed with what we started and were doing with GPI. Read about this summer's field studies here. And check out GPI's public interest comment on the Millenium Challenge Account.

Reagan and Confirmation Bias

— I am fairly nauseated by the Reagan retrospectives, left and right. It's dispiriting to see that it apparently next-to-impossible for human beings to go beyond their ideological commitments and make a more or less objective assessment of a man's accomplishments. We see all the usual mechanisms of ideological insulation. Any good during Reagan's reign would have happened anyway. Reagan's scandals are justified by his larger visionary struggle against unfreedom. All our ills are directly traceable to Reagan's malign influence. All good is directly traceable to Reagan's forward-thinking moral clarity. It's really just too, too much. Why do we not see that there is no need to make devils or gods of men?