The Republic of Letters

Tweet Of The Day

Ramesh Ponnuru, winner by a long shot.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Ousted By A Party Coup

Surprising news in Australian politics via John Fund. He reports:

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, has been swept from office in an internal party coup. She lost a snap leadership election of her Labor party caucus to Kevin Rudd, the man she ousted as prime minister in a similar vote just three years and two days ago.

Read the rest here.

The Insufferable Andrew Cuomo

See here and here.

Medieval Times: A Brilliant Age

Contrary to the propaganda of DawkinsAndrew Dickson White, and their ilk, the Middle Ages were neither dark, ignorant, nor backwards, but an astonishing era of achievement. Anthony Esolen, Providence College English professor and translator of both Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things and Dante’s Inferno, makes the case in a powerful new video from Prager University. It’s really quite excellent.

Purdue Conference on “Faith and Reason: Themes from Swinburne” Sept 25-27, 2014

Philosopher Michael Bergmann has the details here. A sharp thinker and a highly articulate  speaker and writer, Swinburne has over the course of his long career done enormously good work to improve the standing of philosophy of religion in general and Christianity in particular. To get but a small taste, vide:

(HT: Trent Dougherty)

Tuition Rates Increased Because of Excessive Spending, Not Loss of State Funding

Want of state funding is not the cause of increased tuition rates at our public universities; profligate spending is. In fact, if, per capita, universities spent on students what they spent on them in 2000, tuition rates could be cut, on average, by $1200 per year even without any increases in state funding. Shockingly, even after adjusting for inflation and despite budget cuts, colleges spend more on each student now, during our era of the Great Recession, than they did over a decade ago.  See this post from Yglesias and the underlying study on which it is based.

So on what have colleges been spending? Administrative bloat. Yglesias writes:

Top administrators get paid more than they used to and there are more of them. Schools have invested a lot in information technology, but that’s generally been layered on top of other pieces of infrastructure rather than replacing anything. Schools compete to attract the applicants with the highest SAT/ACT scores so they try to make nicer buildings.

Bottom line:

In the face of budget cuts, prestigious public colleges and universities have started spending more money in pursuit of fairly hazy goals.

This really gets under my craw and should get under yours too. For, by doing this, colleges are doing nothing but erecting barriers against strivers who want nothing more than what is quintessentially American, to move on up.

High Student Debt In Sweden, Even Though College Is Free

Even though college is totally free in Sweden, “…85% of Swedish students graduate with debt versus only 50% in the US.” Wait–what? Read on.

And the stats get even worse. Philips writes:

…new Swedish graduates have the highest debt-to-income ratios of any group of students in the developed world (according to estimates of what they’re expected to earn once they get out of school)—somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%. The US, where we’re constantly being told that student debt is hitting crisis proportions, the average is more like 60%.

So, what gives? According to Philips, Swedes take on massive amounts of debt to pay for rent and other living expenses, which are staggeringly high, since hardly any of them stay at their parental home.  Driving home this point–chuckle; did you get it: parental home and driving home? Yea, it’s dumb, I know, but that’s why I said “chuckle.” And for the record, it wasn’t even intended. Anyway.– Philips relates this interesting factoid:

Swedes, like other Nordic Europeans, have an independent streak. They leave their parental homes earlier than almost all their southern neighbors.

One study found that just 2% of Swedish men lived with their parents after the age of 30. In Spain, a quarter of 30-year-old men still are shacking up with mom and dad; in Italy it was around 32%.

Interesting, no? Well, read the whole thing.

(HT: Tyler Cowen)

Come Let Us Reason, Let Us Talk Of Many Things

Renoir14There is no point in denying it. Calling a blog “The Republic of Letters” is pretentious. I’m unmoved by that objection, however. For, I love the name and, even more so, I love what it betokens. Historian Robert Darnton explains:

The eighteenth century imagined the Republic of Letters as a realm with no police, no boundaries, and no inequalities other than those determined by talent. Anyone could join it by exercising the two main attributes of citizenship, writing and reading. Writers formulated ideas, and readers judged them. Thanks to the power of the printed word, the judgments spread in widening circles, and the strongest arguments won. (The Case for Books, p.4)

What’s not to love? A realm where no heed is paid to an argument’s pedigree or any other vain dint of contingency, but what carries the day are arguments which are cogent, sound, logical and sage. Such a realm should be prized and this blog exists to realize this ideal. Argument is relished on this blog, not for it’s own sake nor for the sake of any petite and pointless game of one-ups-man-ship, but–as quaint it may sound–for wisdom. So, as the title of this inaugural post, inspired by the prophet Isaiah, implores: Come let us reason, let us talk of many things.

( “Luncheon of The Boating Party” by Renoir/Wikimedia Commons)