Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lux Interior, 62, Dies; Lead Singer of the Punk Band the Cramps - Obituary (Obit)

Lux Interior, 62, Dies; Lead Singer of the Punk Band the Cramps - Obituary (Obit) -
The Cramps were founded in New York around 1976 by Lux Interior (born Erick Purkhiser in Stow, Ohio) and the guitarist Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) with a distinct musical and visual style. As connoisseurs of seemingly all forms of trashy pop culture from the 1950s and ’60s — ranging from ghoulish comic books to Z-grade horror films to the rawest garage rock — they developed a sound that mixed the menace of rockabilly’s primitivist fringe with dark psychedelia and the blunt simplicity of punk.

Cultivating a sense of sleazy kitsch, the band played songs with titles like “Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon,” and its members dressed like a rock ’n’ roll version of the Addams Family. Lux Interior, gaunt and dark, was fond of skintight rubber, although onstage he usually ended up in just his leopard-skin trunks, or less. Poison Ivy often performed in pin-up or bondage costumes, and others who passed through the band developed tawdry characters of their own.

I didn't catch this at the time. I was on Dischord Records website today and found an update on it.

Ahhh the Cramps. Never a huge fan, in the sense of knowing much of their music--I only had one album. But, I loved that album, and like much of my early days in the Punk scene I also knew how much they meant within its tainted walls.

Friday, March 27, 2009


update: had to take out the graphs... it didn't fit on page... it does on my posterous. Still working out the bugs in my new way of doing business...

The Debt to GDP Trajectory in Perspective

How many of the uninsured are U.S. citizens?

The "47 million uninsured" figure is from the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report. In 2007, the Census Bureau reported that the number actually declined somewhat, to 45.7 million people under 65 (the age of Medicare eligibility).

Ever since health coverage became a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, we've received periodic questions from readers who wonder whether a large percentage of the uninsured are non-citizens or illegal immigrants. They're not. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, 79 percent of the uninsured are native or naturalized U.S. citizens. The remaining 21 percent accounts for both legal and illegal immigrants.

Blame the unions!!!

Jason Pye is blaming the unions for the U.S. Automakers problems.

Only problem with that story is that its wrong...

Economist Dean Baker on foreign cars:

many of these cars were built in unionized factories in Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Unions didn't keep foreign manufacturers from producing high-quality popular cars in these countries. Even when these companies set up shop in the U.S. they have been able to work well with unions. Toyota operated a plant in California where the workers were represented by the UAW for decades (it may still be open).

And Christopher Martin reminds us that Detroit's Problem: It's Health Care, not the Union 

Two contentions - that foreign automakers in the U.S. have received no government help, and that union workers are grossly overpaid-are either misleading or completely untrue.

First, let's start with government assistance. It's easy to forget that there are government subsidies other than the ones asked for in Congressional hearings. For foreign automakers such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, and BMW, the better way of wringing out public subsidies is to get Southern states to battle for your plants by offering a bevy of tax abatements, infrastructure projects, and even employee recruitment, screening and training. According to the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Michigan, between 1998 and 2003, the Southern states paid out an average of $87,700 in "government help" per nonunion auto job created-an average of $143 million per facility-compared to $50,180 per job created in the haplessly unionized North.

The second contention - that the unionized autoworkers of the north are grossly overpaid - is misleading. In fact, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), one of the opponents of the bailout, encouraged the deception. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the Senator "said the automakers pay their rank-and-file employees an average of $70 to $74 an hour, including benefits, while foreign automakers pay an average of $42 to $44 an hour." The quote, repeated nearly everywhere in the news media over the past few weeks, obscures the situation.

Only a very few news organizations - Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic and David Leonhardt at the New York Times, among the few-bothered to break it down. As it turns out, the base wages are fairly close - about $29 an hour for Detroit's three automakers, and about $26 for the foreign automakers in the U.S. What nearly every Republican politician and news report fails to mention, though, is that wages in Detroit are already dropping. The UAW gave major concessions to GM, Ford, and Chrysler in 2005 and 2007, setting a new second tier starting wage at $14. This lower wage will continue to decrease the base wage cost going into the future.

Another difference in North vs. South autoworker wages is benefits. Adding in things like healthcare, training, vacation, and overtime, Big Three autoworkers make about $55 compared to about $46 for nonunion workers. True enough, unionized workers do better here. But a big part of this expense is healthcare.

Healthcare also is part of the largest difference between North and South: what the industry calls "legacy costs" - the pensions and health care of retirees. The foreign auto companies currently don't have these costs, since they've been operating in the U.S. for only about 25 years or less, and have few retirees. But, the Big Three have more than a million retirees and their families to cover. Corker and others unfairly lump this into average wage costs and arrive at something over $70 an hour.

There are many reasons to oppose unions.

For instance they raise wages for working people (union and nonunion) in this country: here, here, here

Creating a stronger middle class... a horrible thing to say the least...

If these companies made bad business decisions... (which wasn't helped by our country's health care crisis) why not blame management rather than the guy on the line? 



Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Colbert always does it best (when he's on that is... sometimes he's really off)

But this time he's on... and the topic is Ayn Rand. I loved her stuff when I was a teenager. If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead, you should.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Rand Illusion
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

O'Reilly at his best....

Over at think progress: O’Reilly Attacks Me As A ‘Villain’ For Highlighting His Rape Comments

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh I got that We the people youtube from...

Henry County Citizen newsletter

Sign up!

This is a riot... or at least a good chuckle.

The enjoyable thing about the internet is you can find some great stuff.  This was cute.

The idealism, youthfulness, and ambition of this reminds me of being on a bus to San Fran talking to this young marxists who talked about the Revolution of 92.  And my best friend and I looked at each other--I was thinking to myself, hmmm somewhere in South America?

I finally stopped them and asked---uh which revolution?

"Oh, the uprising in LA after the Rodney King verdict."

Oh, the riots.  Yeah.  That wasn't a revolution that was a riot.

This is a riot as well... or at least will give you a good chuckle.  Just skip some of the pre-industrial revolution folk-lore that many people have about how government could/would work in a modern complex society of biological entities whom come to the table with different capacities, capabilities, and skill sets.

But at least they are trying.


Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Friday, March 20, 2009

Headed out...

I'm on my way (kind of late out the door) to a meeting with the new chair of the Field Committee for Henry County Democrats.

My first words of advice: run for the hills....
If she sticks around i'm going to say: Thank you, you have my gratitude.
Field is the name of the game.  Elections are 50% + 1 of the vote.  Its not all neat and pretty like some of my Political Theorist/revolutionary/idealists/man on the street  friends like to believe it is.
This ain't a game... its a war of attrition.  Field is the chess board.

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Josh Marshall on AIG bonus bill


If you have a household income over $250,000, and you receive a bonus, 90% of that bonus would be taken back in taxes -- through a mix of income and excise taxes.

This strikes me as pretty ill-advised on a couple levels.

First, what's to stop the companies from just folding the 'bonuses' into straight salary income? In which case, the whole thing goes out the window?

Second, this cuts a pretty broad swathe. You don't want CEOs who drove their companies into the ground pulling down multi-million dollar bonuses from companies that wouldn't even exist any more without big taxpayer handouts. And the folks at AIGFP who played a big part in driving the whole economy into the ditch with their reckless and possibly criminal behavior shouldn't big reaping big rewards of taxpayer money.

But it's not clear to me why a couple, both of whom work in the financial services industry, and make $150,000 each should essentially have their entire bonuses taken back in taxes.

This seems like just another example of perverse outcomes from the 'worst of both worlds' approach we're taking to the whole finance industry bailout -- keep the same people in charge of the institutions, keep effectively insolvent institutions afloat, but throw a lot of federal dollars in their direction and put in place fairly draconian tax provisions for money that's spent in ways we find either wasteful or offensive.

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does the GOP lack economists right now?


I wonder if this country can handle the crisis we’re in. Remember, John Boehner is, in effect, the second-most influential member of the GOP (after Rush Limbaugh). And while Democrats hold a majority, it’s not enough of a majority to make the minority party irrelevant.

So the fact that Boehner’s idea of economics is completely insane matters.

What’s insane about Boehner’s remark? He’s talking about the current economic crisis as if it were a harvest failure — as if we faced a shortage of goods, so that the more you consume the less is left for me. In reality — even most conservatives understand this, when they think about it — we’re in a world desperately short of demand. If you consume more, that’s GOOD for me, because it helps create jobs and raise incomes. It’s in my personal disinterest to have you tighten your belt — and that’s just as true if you’re “the government” as if you’re my neighbor.

Plus, who is “the government”? It’s basically us, you know — the government spends money providing services to the public. Demanding that the government tighten its belt means demanding that we, the taxpayers, get less of those services. Why is this a good thing, even aside from the state of the economy?

Again, this is what the leaders of a powerful, if minority, party think. Can this country be saved?

Just as an aside... because i'm now playing so much catch up with my blog consumption I tend to go through one blogger at a time... which means my blogging goes in theme's.  Its as if i'm a Krugman drone... and then i'm a Dean Baker drone... and then I'm a brad delong drone... and then and then and then...

automaton bloggers unite!

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Political Structures question...


Let me also say that I think a blanket guarantee without some kind of seizures will just fuel a vast — and justified — populist rage.

I just realized one of the reasons you might want a Republic that is (ever so slightly) detached from the popular will--doing things that are necessary but unpopular and/or misunderstood by the general population who can't possibly be expected to become experts in all sorts of areas of expertise.

So the question is how detached?  And who are the experts? 

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Economists say its working, but may not be big enough... I second that....

Pelosi open to another stimulus if necessary  

Allen Sinai, chief global economist for Decision Economics, said the stimulus would probably create 2.5 million jobs in the first two years. "Initially, the jobs created may be a little disappointing, but over time, over a three-year period, I think 3 million new jobs is not unrealistic at all."
Despite that forecast, the stimulus is a good policy, Sinai and two other economists agreed.
It just may not be big enough.
"I think policymakers need to do more. I don't think we're done," said Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's who has advised both Republicans and Democrats. "You have to be extraordinarily bold. The big mistake here would to not be aggressive in responding to this crisis."
"Whether this is enough, I think, is still unknown, but it is the right set of actions to take," said Rebecca Blank, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "What is absolutely true right now is doing nothing is not an option; that the risks are all on the side of under-reacting, and not on the side of over-reacting."
We need another stimulus,because of the size of our economy compared to the size of the stimulus (from my understanding of the argument).  It was the massive (that word might be an understatement) world war II spending that got us out of the Great Depression doldrums, this stimulus package that passed wasn't even close to those percentages...
One of the drivers at UPS this morning was worried about the coming cuts.... are they on the way?  I don't think so--at least for my position, they'll get rid of middle management first I'd assume. 

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

two new reads and off the computer...

Headed upstairs with Capitalism Beyond the Crisis By Amartya Sen and What You Can Learn from Reinhold Niebuhr By Brian Urquhart.

Okay I'll probably make a short stop to the couch to watch this PBS show on Ireland... in honor of the day I suppose...

Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Trying out posterous...

Should one blog, tweet, and update ones facebook all in one post?  I don't know.  Should Jim... most definately not.  Thats why i'm going to try this for a bit.

I've been falling far behind the online world for the past week and it has been wonderful.  But I don't want to drop out of sight--just become more productive.

So for now i'm trying posterous...  if you like it or hate it email me ( and tell me why.  If you know of something better or more effective let me know.  If you just want to show me love by telling me all the reasons why i'm wrong, it really isn't necessary--i'm on the case on that one!


Posted via web from jimnichols's posterous

Healthcare and Competitiveness

Greg Mankiw's Blog: Healthcare and Competitiveness:
"Ultimately, what matters to firms is the compensation they pay workers. The composition of compensation between cash wages and fringe benefits like healthcare does not matter for the firms' costs of production. In short run when cash wages are sticky, the cost of healthcare may affect competitiveness: Lower costs of fringe benefits would reduce compensation and thus reduce firms' cost of production. But in the long run, compensation is set by supply and demand in labor markets. If more compensation is paid in the form of fringe benefits like healthcare, less is paid in the form of cash. And if less is paid in fringes, more is paid in wages.*

Let me put the point in the context of General Motors: If, for example, the U.S. taxpayer were to assume all the workers' healthcare costs through a policy of national health insurance, GM would immediately become more competitive. Because cash wages would not be immediately renegotiated, compensation paid by the firm would fall, so costs would fall. But in the longer run, the workers via their union would most likely not be satisfied seeing GM pay lower compensation, so cash wages would start rising. (Those higher wages would help workers pay the higher taxes that would be needed to finance the national health insurance). GM would lose the competitive advantage it temporarily enjoyed."

TPMtv: Lords of Finance

GOP PAC Director Tells Reporter: "Shut Up And Listen"

TPMDC | Talking Points Memo | GOP PAC Director Tells Reporter: "Shut Up And Listen"

Nice.... nice....

TPMDC | Talking Points Memo | Before Coming to the White House, Orszag Called For 'Clarity' on Insolvent Banks

Talking Points Memo | Before Coming to the White House, Orszag Called For "Clarity" on Insolvent Banks
Before he became White House budget director, Peter Orszag headed the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office -- and in a little-noticed blog post six months ago, he called for "more clarity" on the relative solvency of individual banks as a means to help heal the economic crisis.

Orszag's call for transparency about the financial health of banks came during the early days of the bailout debate, before the Bush Treasury Department abandoned its plan to purchase toxic assets from banks and decided to provide large-scale capital injections instead. The bulk of his blog post is dedicated to a defense of mark-to-market accounting standards, which government financial regulators are about to relax.

Yet Orszag's emphasis on clarifying the solvency question is worth heeding as the Obama Treasury sends mixed signals on whether the results of its coming bank "stress tests" will be made public. The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said last month that the administration would look to the banks themselves to reveal the outcome of the "stress tests" to the public, while the Times reported outright that not every bank's solvency information would be openly revealed.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reaction mixed on airport gun ruling

Reaction mixed on airport gun ruling:
"Bearden has introduced a sweeping gun proposal, House Bill 615, that he expects could come to a vote for next year's legislative session. The measure, among other things, would ban the seizure of firearms during official states of emergency. But Bearden said it could eventually specifically allow firearms in parts of the airport.

'We're looking at all our options at this time,' said Bearden."
Aside from a very small group of rightwing folks I know and/or read online nobody cares about bringing their gun to the airport. Then again, they don't own guns... if they do... they are hunting guns... not ones you shove down your pants so that your woman knows you can defend her from a band of chineses tourist gone amuck.

This is a very small group of folks... they just all live in GA? Okay not really its quite large and seems to say something more about the insecurity and lack of meaning in peoples lives. When you feel powerless you grab onto anything that will give you power.(And so it is true with bloggers and their words... no?)

Thats not dangerous per say. It just seems sad that so many have such a fixation/fear. Or maybe i'm the sad one because I lack it? What do I know...

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: New Republic Crashed-and-Burned Watch

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: New Republic Crashed-and-Burned Watch:
"You can describe what Jim Cramer does in many terms. But none of them are that he is 'trying to help... middle-class investors.'"

Brad Delong nails it....

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: The Appeal to "Undecidability" as Last Gasp
Friedman's argument against social democracy was that it would not do the job--that you would lose a lot of economic efficiency and some political liberty and in return get no equalization of economic power because the government would redistribute income and wealth the wrong way, and the beneficiaries would be the strong political claimants to governmental largess who would not be those with strong claims to more opportunity.

By the time you have resorted to arguing that "human existence in the shadow of a nanny state doesn't conduce to 'Aristotelian happiness'... because it strips human beings of the deeper sorts of agency and responsibility that ought to be involved in a life well lived..." you have lost the argument completely. And I have not even raised the point that Aristotle thought that Aristotelian happiness was possible only if you yourself owned lots of slaves:

There is in some cases a marked distinction between the two classes, rendering it expedient and right for the one to be slaves and the others to be masters.... The master is not called a master because he has science, but because he is of a certain character.... [T]here may be a science for the master and science for the slave. The science of the slave would be such as the man of Syracuse taught who made money by instructing slaves in their ordinary duties.... But all such branches of knowledge are servile. There is likewise a science of the master... not anything great or wonderful; for the master need only know how to order that which the slave must know how to execute. Hence those who are in a position which places them above toil have stewars who attend to their households while they occupy themselves with philosophy or with politics...

t r u t h o u t | Beyond Scarcity: Reinventing Wealth in a Progressive World

Beyond Scarcity: Reinventing Wealth in a Progressive World
We are bound to make the world in our own image. So, we had better be sure we have the right values in mind as we think about ourselves in this historic transition.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jon Stewart doing what he does best

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Modest Marxist

Il “marxista modesto”: Žižek sul Financial Times -
I ask him about the financial crisis, hoping for some political pyrotechnics about the death throes of capitalism. Does thecrisis herald revolution? “No, no, no. I am an extremely modest Marxist,” he replies, rather disappointingly. “I am not a catastrophic person. I am not saying that revolution is round the corner. I am fully aware that any old-style communist solution is out.”

However, he insists, the financial crisis has killed off the liberal utopianism that flourished after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and all the grand talk about the “end of history”. The terrorist attacks of September 2001 and the financial meltdown have exploded the myth that the market economy and liberal democracy have all the answers to all the questions. In the short term, at least, governments will introduce more state regulation and global co-ordination strengthening the capitalist system. In this sense, he suggests that the liberal Barack Obama may one day be counted as among the best conservative presidents in US history.

Friday, March 6, 2009

TPMCafe | Talking Points Memo | Rush Gets Played by Rahm

TPMCafe | TalkingPoints Memo | Rush Gets Played by Rahm
I had lunch with a very conservative friend today. We haven't seem eachother since early October of last year, before the Obama victory. The lunch was very civil and we found some common ground when my friend said upfront, he was glad Obama beat McCain and Palin. And then we found some more common ground on Health and Education Reform. So the meal was a lot less tempestuous than I expected. As we were getting in our cars, I asked him "How did Rush allow himself to get played like a stradavarius by Rahm Emanuel?".

It was at this point that my friend went ballistic on me and said "Obama was a chicken" not to debate Limbaugh one on one, like Rush has been asking on the air for weeks.

As I was driving away he was still ranting and I thought, only if Rush is the Republican Presidential candidate in four years, will he actually get a one on one debate with President Obama. Until then, he's just a bystander who helps the Democrats attract the 80% of the country who think El Rushbo is a drug addled loon.

Because he is becoming the Republican Brand, Limbaugh will find out just how small his "base" of white males really is. This is what I call the "Whig" strategy. Make your party's base so small that centrist's (like Abe Lincoln leaving the Whigs) break away and form a new party. Leaving you with just the dittoheads and the crackers.

I think its actually quite shocking how most conservatives I know in GA don't realize what a small group they are. I had great working relationships with Republicans in California... I have next to nothing in common with folks here. I'm not really sure why. One thing I noticed is that most "debates" on issues that I had with Republicans in Cali were productive and I learned a lot from. Most "debates" here are spent dwelling on basic facts, and acknowledgement of how government, markets, human beings exist.

Then again, notice I keep saying "Republicans in California." I guess the point is most Republicans here in GA are conservatives.

Keep on talking Rush... keep on talking. It only helps Barrack Hussein Obama, which will hopefully mean a new New Deal coalition of moderates, liberals, and the left.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

“It is easy to convince yourself that one-third of government spending is wasted. I, at least, also find it easy to convince myself that the other two-thirds of government spending buy capabilities and accomplishments that the private market--which, remember, could not exist at all without the institutional underpinnings provided by the government--could never provide at all." --Brad Delong
"Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, & county commissioners." — Edward Abbey
"The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations." --Noam Chomsky
"We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of few, but we can't have both."

--US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
"Instead of taxing rich people, governments borrow from them, and pay them interest for the privilege." --Doug Henwood, Wall Street

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Obamanomics

Marketplace: Introducing the era of Obamanomics

Robert Reich:
After more than a quarter century, the era of Reaganomics is over, replaced by Obamanomics.

The first principle of Reaganomics was that lower taxes on the wealthy made them work harder and invest more, and the benefits trickle down to everyone else. Rarely in economic history has a theory been more tested in the real world and proven so wrong. Nothing trickled down. After the Reagan tax cuts, the median wage slowed, adjusted for inflation. After George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, the median wage actually dropped.

Meanwhile, most of the income went to the top. In 1980, just before the Reagan revolution, the richest 1 percent took home 9 percent of total national income. But by 2007, the richest 1 percent was taking home 22 percent. Obamanomics, by contrast, will increase taxes on the top, and it will use these proceeds to raise the living standards of average Americans by giving them lower taxes, better schools, and more affordable health insurance.

Reaganomics' second principle was that deregulated markets function better. Well, energy markets were deregulated and we wound up with Enron. Carbon emissions weren't controlled, and now we face global warming. Financial markets were deregulated and we have a global meltdown. Obamanomics, by contrast, accepts important roles for government: Creating incentives for non-fossil based energy, setting an overall cap on carbon emissions, and ensuring the solvency and security of financial companies.

The third and least well-known principle of Reaganomics is that government can keep the economy moving full tilt by spending like crazy and not worrying too much about budget deficits. Reagan's big spending was on national defense. Some of us called it "military Keynesianism." Problem was, it didn't stop when the economy got to capacity, thereby threatening inflation. Obama's stimulus intends to avoid this by reducing deficits as the nation moves back toward full capacity.

Under Reaganomics, government is the problem. It can still be a problem. But Obanaomics at least recognizes there are even bigger problems out there that can't be solved without government.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Preface

J.P. Stern on Nietzsche

Epictetus --See things for what they are

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Economist Brad Delong on Karl Marx

PsyBlog: Leaders Emerge by Talking First and Most Often

PsyBlog: Leaders Emerge by Talking First and Most Often
This post made me think of how I got looped into being Chair of the Henry County Democrats... I opened my mouth too much!
In reality the leaders did not always make the best contribution to the task, but their voices were usually heard first and most often.

This study suggests leaders emerge through more subtle processes than the word 'dominance' might imply. Rather than brow-beating or bullying others into submission, leaders-in-waiting effectively signal their competence to the group by making greater verbal contributions to discussions. Others then assume that their greater contribution will mean their group will be more likely to succeed.

Ah shucks, democracy shemockracy...

District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 - Vote Passed (61-37, 1 Not Voting)

Ah yes, the citizens of D.C. want to be able to, you know, represent(yo!). And my Senators vote no.

Just a shout out to Chambliss and Isackson--I'm sure you had great reasons to vote against people having a voice in their government. Just not sure what those reasons might be.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jack Gilbert --A brief for the defense

possibly the greatest poem I have ever read...

The Residents -- Act of being polite

Jill Tracy --The Fine Art of Poisoning

Epictetus --Desire demands its own attainment

Features: 'Philosophy’s great experiment' by David Edmonds | Prospect Magazine March 2009 issue 156

Features: 'Philosophy’s great experiment' by David Edmonds
Situations have a bigger influence on how we behave than we think they do. Perhaps, then, rather than worrying so much about character building in an Aristotelian vein we should be making people more aware of how easily apparently irrelevant factors can shape what we do. As Appiah asks: “Would you rather have people be helpful or not? It turns out that having little nice things happen to them is a much better way of making them helpful than spending a huge amount of energy on improving their characters.”

Is this all a storm in a common room? The repercussions of the experiments cannot be so easily dismissed. Think of the impact on political liberalism. At the heart of liberalism is the idea that an educated adult is and should be capable of choosing how he or she lives. But if, for example, situations affect us more than the reasons we give for our actions, and we use those reasons to rationalise them retrospectively, this assumption may need revision. This branch of x-phi might be nudging us towards Nietzsche’s view that what we take to be the inexorable conclusions of clear rational thought are nothing but reformulations of our innermost desires—disguised as the products of logic. We are not as in control of our thoughts as we thought. Nietzsche fully grasped how profoundly unsettling this notion was.