Thursday, March 08, 2007

The challenge:

If you were blogging in March 2003, what were you wrong about then?

This is meant to be a war question, and on the big question I was wrong to support the war, but in fact I didn't blog about it very much that month, and more generally restricted my blogging about it to questions about Kurds and federalism

March 2003 posts seem to have included praising the new aesthetics of Virginia Postrel's blog and congratulating Matt Yglesias on his Prospect gig. It included stuff I have no memory of writing, including several posts, starting with this one, on a puzzle Chris Bertram set about commodification. It also, in a bit of foreshadowing, included my complaint that the U.S. had been shockingly undiplomatic to Canada, part of my ongoing concern with the inability of the Bush administration to be a civil and friendly ally even to the United States' closest allies. (I included the deportation of Maher Arar to Syria on the list of unfriendly acts committed by the U.S., so that's something I was wrong about; that was done with the knowledge and agreement of the Canadian government, as far as I can now tell.) My March 2003 TNR column was certainly pro-war, but its question wasn't about the justifiability of the war or about its prospects for success. It was about the puzzle of how countries had lined up on the war-- why Britain and especially Australia had signed on for the fight, Canada and New Zealand not, etc.

Two real war posts that I could find, this, on Iraqi military casualties and whether the coalition had a duty to try to minimize them, which is fine, and this, on oil, federalism, and democracy, which is not. In the latter, I seem to have thought that the Kurds would rush for the secessionist exit faster than they in fact have. I said "In the first place, it will be a long time before Iraq is both a 'safe, pluralistic, federalist democracy' and a guaranteed bet to stay that way," which is all too true. But I also, crucially, said that "the concentration of oil in the south isn't a particular problem, since any even-loosely democratic Iraq will see Shiites in control of the central government," and therefore there'd be no conflict from a Shia perspective among federliam, democracy, and control of oil wealth. Kind of true as far as it goes, but it didn't take the Sunni minority seriously as a veto player; "no problem from a Shia perspective" =/= "no problem."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Adam Smith quote of the night

"Love is an agreeable; resentment, a disagreeable passion; and accordingly we are not half so anxious that our friends should adopt our friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments. We can forgive them though they seem to be little affected by the favours which we may have received, but lose all patience if they seem indifferent about the injuries which may have been done to us; nor are we half so angry with them for not entering into our gratitude, as for not sympathizing with our resentment."

TMS I.i.2.5

(My reading of Rousseau below has been inviting objections by e-mail; will try to respond tomorrow.)
Improve automatic translators...

with the wisdom of crowds. Worth a shot, anyways.
Right now in Montreal...

it's 11 below, Farenheit-- wind chill down to minus 36.

Puts me in the perfect mood to review the reading for today's class: Part Two of the Second Discourse, in which Rousseau bemoans humanity's foolish vanity in building houses. (Not exactly. But not exactly not, either.)