I love BIG MOVIES. You know, those with a cast of thousands (okay, maybe hundreds), elaborate sets, gorgeous historical costumes, great swooping vistas, and rollicking song and dance numbers. And the really BIG MOVIES of course have BIG themes like war, peace, love, hate, forgiveness, national greatness. BIG MOVIES have big budgets. BIG MOVIES are big productions. BIG MOVIES span. BIG MOVIES are epics. The Great Gatsby is a BIG MOVIE. So I loved it. And I loved it too because, based on the book to which it is surprisingly faithful, it is or at least should be a favorite of conservatives throughout the land.
A recent Op-Ed article in the New York Times asked the question, “Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?“ (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/teachers-will-we-ever-learn.html) The author, a prof at Harvard, summarized the dismal state of American education and argued for a much more robust approach to the teaching profession – higher entrance standards, tougher certification, continuing evaluation, and peer supervision and mentoring; all to be accompanied by higher salaries, better working conditions, and an understanding and appreciation of the teaching profession that would be similar to that accorded to the professions of medicine, engineering, law, or architecture.
As a former teacher I cheered on my earlier profession. But would it really make any difference? In the long-run, do teachers really matter?
While sitting somewhere outside Vienna and browsing through the digital versions of my home town newspapers I was delighted to see that the generally favourable review of a book was, briefly, the lead item on the home page of the National Post. Not only was it connected to my graduate alma mater (York U), but it dealt with a topic near and dear to me – humanitarian aid charity. And in the National Post, of all places! Not exactly known for being friendly to left of centre writers or even anything coming out of York University.
So I immediately bought a Kindle copy and read it over the past couple of days. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
The uproar connected with a cheesy movie called Innocence of Muslims has been heavily documented and commented on. I can’t add much to the debate, except to draw attention to some man much wiser than I who, about two thousand years ago, looked at the crowd and said, “Let he that is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Osama bin Laden is dead. Long live Osama bin Laden.
It is ironic that in the same week that a detailed first-hand account was published of the raid that killed the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, we are told that the attack on the US Consulate in Libya that resulted in the death of the American ambassador and three of his staff was carried out by Al-Qaeda. Which is not to say that the book, No Easy Day, by Matt Owen (pseudo. for Matt Bissonette. Dutton Penguin) is not a good read. It is. But the global growth of radical Islam appears to have been more or less unaffected by the removal of its titular head.
It calls itself a “newspaper” and as such is the best in the world. While other papers are dying it continues to grow in circulation and influence. Every major story that happens somewhere in the world is covered. The reporting and editorial positions are sensible, moderate and conservative. It’s reporters and editors do not get bylines and unlike the reporters of so many other news sources they do not appear to be so desperate for recognition that they will knowingly distort a story in order to get their name in print. In the world of media, being able to say that you worked for The Economist is more than enough to establish your bona fides. So it is with considerable hesitation that I would criticize something that was written therein. But a recent article on the Democratic Convention made it obvious that there are some things about American conservative politics that even The Economist just doesn’t get.
A review by Craig Copland of Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. (Profile Books / Random House. 2012)
James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu are serious guys. They are both distinguished professors at Harvard and M.I.T. respectively. Why Nations Fail is a serious book. A new BIG theory of development economics on a level to rival Marxism, or the Austrian School, or Keynesianism, or Toynbee’s Adversity Theory doesn’t come along very often. Those that do are mostly dismissed as inconsequential hobby horses. Why Nations Fail is being taken seriously. Its claim for the decisive role of institutions within a nation’s journey to either wealth or prosperity and its extensive evidence in support of its hypotheses have been seriously reviewed by both conservative and liberals alike.