Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | September 29, 2013

Sunday Link Collection

New Mexico ("Land of Enchantment") welcome sign at the Colorado-New Mexico state line

While we wait for Breaking Bad

1. At Crooked Timber, John Holbo speaks heresy concerning Raiders of the Lost Ark.

2. Clarissa: “I just discovered Window 8 and now I need to know the name of the enemy of humanity who came up with this torture device.”

3. Dan Drezner on gold (emphasis added): “if you think about it, for gold to be a smart large-scale investment, you need a kinda sorta apocalyptic sweetspot. On the one hand, there has to be sufficient levels of discord and inflation fears for a non-interest bearing asset to look attractive. On the other hand, there has to be sufficient levels of stability such that the gold can still be protected and used as a medium of exchange and store of value.”

4. Eugene Volokh links to this website, which allows you to browse and compare all sorts of constitutions from different countries and different time periods. Cool.

5. Evan Schaeffer provides some examples of really long law firm website disclaimers.

6. Wired: “The Best in Absurd Stock Photography.”

7. David Gaughran: “The Hilarious Hypocrisy of Jonathan Franzen.”

8. Some thoughts on Seamus Heaney.

9. Umm, just following orders? Jacob Barcharach on administrative bloat in higher education:

Great gouts and floods of ink have already broken the dam and overrun the banks of the conversation about “the rising costs of higher education,” and I won’t bother repeating all the data that others have collected, collated, and explained better than I ever could. But I can’t help but share my anecdotal astonishment at the number of inessential administrators running around. Even the dean (especially the dean?) of the business school drifted from here to there on campus in a slightly overlarge suit that seemed expressly tailored to contain both a man and his aura of uselessness. …

One of the bad habits in the radical’s critique of any institution is to presume evil intentions on the parts of people who simply, unthinkingly serve. Most of the people involved in the spiraling scam of university administration are just doing their jobs, however hopelessly unnecessary they may be to the actual operation of an actual organization dedicated to the real teaching of students. Making some assistant director for recruitment the object of moral ire is like hating on some corporate spend analyst in the bowels of Enron. How many of us would give up our livelihood at the vague prospect that our employer might be causing an indefinable and distant harm? The assistant director of recruitment just wants to make his quota for the year, save enough money for a vacation, pay his rent, go to a nice restaurant from time to time. Does he realize, in some general way, that he’s implicated in the personal debt crisis, or the Taylorization of learning? Hey, he went to grad school, too. He’s no dummy. But you gotta feed the monkey.

This isn’t to say that there’s no moral blame; it is to say that you’ve gotta amortize that blame over an awful lot of associate deans and provosts and boards of trustees. We are uncomfortable with the idea of distributed guilt, but there it is. What makes the problem intractable is precisely its lack of some monstrous secret master, some center, not to mention the essential ordinariness of all the participation by all the beneficiaries of a rent-seeking education apparatus…

This is probably unfair to Mr. Barcharach, especially since he does specifically reference Arendt’s book and such (and since there’s an awfully big and important difference between what modern American colleges and grad schools are doing and the infamous events in Eastern Europe), but…the passage above made me think of this scene:


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Image Credit: Welcome sign at the Colorado-New Mexico state line. Photo by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney, June 2013, and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.

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