New articles links: Magna Carta, Adam Smith

Here are recent additions my Articles menu.  If you find my posts interesting, you probably will find these items equally interesting or more so.

Noam Chomsky and the endangered heritage of Magna CartaHat tip to Jack Clontz.

This is the text of a lecture given by Noam Chomsky, the distinguished linguist and radical political activist in June at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as part of its observance of its 600th anniversary.  The Great Charter issued unwillingly by King John in 1215 is the basis for the tradition of rule of law in the English-speaking world.  Chomsky noted that it has two parts: the Charter of Liberties, to protect the individual from the arbitrary power of the crown, and the Charter of the Forest, to protect the commons from the rapacious landed aristocracy.  He traced the history of the expansion and contraction of the basic principles of Magna Carta and concluded that these principles are in eclipse today.

Barack, Mitt and Adam Smith. Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker pointed out that Adam Smith, a classic defender of free enterprise and the founder of the modern discipline of economics, would not necessarily align with Mitt Romney or the Republican Party of today.  Smith was critical of corporations; he favored high wages, public works, public education and provision for the poor; and he believed in the moral sentiments that allow you to imagine yourself in somebody else’s place.  He did have more sympathy for enterprising merchants and manufacturers than for the landed aristocracy and chartered corporate monopolies. For him the free market was a means of limiting the power of businessmen and forcing them to serve the public interest.  It is a stretch, though, to say that Smith would have been more in sympathy with Barack Obama.  The issues of Smith’s day divided people along different lines than the issues of our day.

Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious I.R.A.

Vanity Fair ran this article in its August issue.  Nicolas Shaxon describes legal and ethical grey areas in Mitt Romney’s sources of wealth and evasion of U.S. taxes, and shows his financial operations are still largely hidden from public view.

Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil.

Andrew Levine in Counterpunch rebuts the argument that liberals should vote for Barack Obama, unsatisfactory as he is, because he is a lesser evil that Mitt Romney.  Both candidates serve the interests of what Franklin Roosevelt called the “economic royalists,” he said, but the great evil of the Obama administration is that President Obama has co-opted the liberal opposition.  Violations of basic human rights which would have outraged liberals under the Bush administration are accepted and even boasted about under Obama.

Academic Fraud: Does Anybody Care?

Diane Ravich, who writes for Education Week, tells public schools and private consultants boost student test scores through fraudulent methods.  Her article reminds me of what I read about the old Soviet Union.  Communist economic planners set high quotas which local managers could not realistically meet.  The result, which should have been predictable, was that some managers cheated, and some managers technically met their quotas in ways that were counter-productive for the overall economy.  I think the same dynamic is at work in the high-stakes testing in the federal No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top education programs.

Now They’re Even Outsourcing “Local” Journalism.

The hollowing out of the U.S. economy is not limited to manufacturing industry.  When I was a newspaper reporter, I used to console myself with the thought that I held a job that couldn’t be sent overseas.  That isn’t true of today’s reporters for local newspapers.

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