This morning's musings are just a round-up, a muster of various matters. To begin with something that really made me laugh.
Here in Australia, the story of the possible Chinese hacking of the plans of the new ASIO building in Canberra has been in the news. This graphic represents the take on the matter by skepticslawyers' DeusExMacintosh.
Now I'm not sure about DExM's Australian connection, I think that she is British, but she sure captured the Australian view in this graphic. The thing that really made me laugh was the inserted comment bottom left.
By the way, assuming that my Latin hasn't completely escaped me, DeusExMacintosh means something like God out of the Macintosh. We don't use the word Macintosh much in Australia, raincoat is more common, but the name still makes me smile.
Complaints about spying also make me smile. All countries do it. The problem arises only when you get caught!
A perceptive friend wondered in an email to me, "I am getting impression that this (writing on Personal Reflections) is not that much fun lately?" That's partially true. I have been feeling a bit jaded. I write thousands of words a week across a number of platforms. I just get tired.
This chart shows page views as measure by Google on this blog. That looks very good, although my other stats packages don't show quite as pronounced upward trend.But what counts is not just raw traffic.
On Wednesday, I wrote The inhumanity of modern social policy. This addressed the question of the impact of bans in smoking in public hospitals. That led to a comment from a mental health nurse that I have now bought up in a postscript in the main post.
By the way, I don't just feature comments that I agree with. I feature comments that will add to discussion or, at least, make me laugh! The nurse's comment is a very real and serious one, Anybody can comment on this blog, it's public space. The comments I get may sometimes be uncomfortable, but they are very important in the dialogue that is the real strength of the blogosphere.
If you comment and make good points, I will try feature them in postscripts or later responses. In some ways I am coming to think of this blog as my commenter's' blog. It is a platform for discussion and dialogue.
In response to feedback on my post Cat Avenger at writing desk, I added a photo of Tiger, Avenger's mum. She does just the same to Clare as Avenger does to me! I also added a comment from kvd that really made me laugh:
"ps most cats have mental problems, induced by their sublime belief in their innate superiority over humans, balanced against their inability to open cans of cat food."
Those who have cats will join me in laughter.
Back in early May a very short post, The World is awash with money, provided a brief introduction to my concern about what is called QE or quantitative easing. In that post I said:
The thing that is making me increasingly uneasy is the feeling that the pre-conditions are being set for an economic crash. What makes perfect sense for one country, becomes a mess when multiple countries do it. What I'm trying to work out in my mind is a scenario that would allow multiple quantitative easing to be unwound without tipping the wheelbarrow over and us all onto the ground.
In the weeks since, this has continued to emerge as an issue and I still don't have an answer. I have also been interested in the varying responses by economists. In a funny way, economics has become a little like sociology once was, a battle ground of varying ideological positions. This is not always a bad thing, for it leads to different questions being asked. But it doesn't help me much in understanding practical realities, and that was something economics was once meant to do. Of course economists got it wrong, but the discipline did provide a structured way of asking questions. I wonder if that's still true?
When I was an undergraduate at the University of New England, the philosophy of history was a compulsory unit in the honours year, as was the history of economic thought in economics. The aim was to give students a solid grounding in the history and assumptions of their discipline. That provided bedrock because you could see how things changed over time, how assumptions and context affected thinking.
John Pullen's article on the history of the teaching of economic thought at UNE will provide you with a little of the story of what happened there, of the decline in HET. In history, the philosophy of history course was replaced by one on history methodology, a very different concept.
I accept that it is no longer possible for students to get the type of broad education that I did. I don't think that this is just nostalgia, although that's no doubt part. I also think it's an objective reality. We have formed the view that we can no longer afford it, nor is it appropriate when the purpose of higher education is so narrowly vocational. How can you justify courses that have no practical impact in a crowded course list?
But when I look at some of the current economic, policy or management debates, I do wonder about the long term costs. I actually use the knowledge and skills I gained in my undergraduate degree and in all the student activities that surrounded that degree all the time. I wonder if that is still true for more recent students?