Archive for November, 2012

Law’s Economic Dynamics

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Guest Author: David M. Driesen

What caused the financial crisis? Clearly massive financial deregulation played a key role. Without it, almost everything done to create the financial crisis would have been illegal  And a failure to establish adequate standards has begun to create a climate crisis as well, as evidenced most recently by the freak storm called Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the northeastern United States (traditionally not a hurricane-prone area) in late October (well past normal hurricane season).  But why have we engaged in deregulation when we face potential catastrophes that demand proactive government?

The Economic Dynamics of Law (Cambridge University Press 2012) shows that the conventional approach to law and economics, usually called neoclassical or Chicago-School law and economics, helped create the climate of ideas that made destructive deregulation possible. Prominent economists have made that point before me, but they have not explained how we should rethink law and economics to support a climate of ideas hospitable to sensible legal reform. The Economic Dynamics of Law fills the gap.

First, we need to change how we think about law’s goals. It may seem obvious that government’s most fundamental role involves helping us avoid what economists call “systemic risk,” risks of catastrophes that destroy economic, ecological, or social systems. We cannot expect government to ensure everybody’s happiness or to act in a perfectly efficient manner. But government must, at a bare minimum, secure its citizens against man-made catastrophes.

Oddly enough, neoclassical law and economics has turned its back and even undermined pursuit of this basic goal.  It demands an excessive preoccupation with making government action “allocatively efficient,” meaning that every step government takes should balance costs and benefits. Cost-benefit analysis however, does not work very well when it comes to difficult to predict phenomena like the extent of climate disruption damages or the precise GNP loss a financial crisis will create. And bean counting distracts us from understanding and responding efficaciously to dynamic problems like terrorism, climate disruption, and a potential financial crisis. Since cost-benefit analysis is often impossible and always very incomplete when focused on key government policies, practitioners of neoclassical law and economics have usually not even bothered. Instead, they often assume that market actors act rationally based on perfect information and therefore most government regulation is unnecessary. That kind of wishful thinking motivated the financial deregulation that started the financial crisis.

In addition to making avoiding systemic risk a major goal, we need to focus on the shape of change over time. Law’s proper focus is on countervailing important negative trends. We put laws in place when we see that a serious problem needs fixing and laws usually remain in place for a long time and therefore influence our future. Neoclassical law and economics, however, treats law as if it were a mere transaction, just like a market purchase. This is too narrow and short- sighted a focus and neglects law’s role as providing a framework for transactions, much as macroeconomic policies (like government set interest rates) do.

Finally, in order to avoid systemic risks effectively, we need to employ economic dynamic analysis to guide our actions. This form of institutional economic analysis involves systematic evaluation of economic incentives to detect brewing problems and design appropriate safeguards. Several economists and legal scholars used economic dynamic analysis to predict the financial crisis. And the policymakers who rescued the banks, thereby preventing an even worse crisis from occurring, did so because they understood that the crisis had unleashed an economic dynamic that could bring down the entire economy.

The Economic Dynamics of Law shows how the economic dynamic approach helps us to better understand and reform not just financial regulation, climate disruption law, and counterterrorism law, but also intellectual property, antitrust, contract, and property law. In all of these contexts the goal of avoiding systemic risk while keeping open a robust set of economic opportunities, a focus on the shape over time, and employment of economic dynamic analysis provide a means of sensibly addressing key policy issues.

David M. Driesen is a University Professor at Syracuse University and a member scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform. He is the author of The Economic Dynamics of Law (Cambridge University Press 2012).  He researches and has taught environmental law, law and economics, and constitutional law. Professor Driesen’s first book, The Economic Dynamics of Environmental Law, won the Lynton Keith Caldwell Award, a prize offered by The American Political Science Association annually for the best book published in science, technology and environmental studies.

William Blake: The Perfect Amalgamation of Literature and Art

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Author: Sherry Helms

To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.

–William Blake

Meet one of the most fascinating people in history, a dreamer, craftsman, poet, and genius — William Blake on his 254th birth anniversary. Born in 1757 on the same date as today, the November 28, in London, William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Though remained mostly unrecognized in his lifetime, Blake is now given consideration as a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Era. Blake lived during times of incredible change and upheaval, including the Gordon Riots and the French Revolution, and henceforth, his works –poetries and paintings– were driven by prophetic thoughts and realist yet critique approach.

The 19th-century scholar William Rossetti described this Renaissance man as a “glorious luminary“, and as “a man not forestalled by predecessors, nor to be classed with contemporaries, nor to be replaced by known or readily surmisable successors“.

As a boy William apprenticed as an engraver and began a career that would include masterpieces of art. One of Blake’s assignments as apprentice was to sketch the tombs at Westminster Abbey, exposing him to a variety of Gothic styles from which he would draw inspiration throughout his career.

Blake’s first printed work, Poetical Sketches (1783), is a collection of apprentice verse, mostly imitating classical models. The poems protest against war, tyranny, and King George III’s treatment of the American colonies. He published his most popular collection, Songs of Innocence, in 1789 and followed it, in 1794, with Songs of Experience.

Songs of Innocence is a poetry collection written from the child’s point of view, of innocent wonderment and spontaneity in natural settings which includes “Little Boy Lost”, “Little Boy Found” and “The Lamb”. Whereas, Songs of Experience contains many poems in response to ones from Innocence, suggesting ironic contrasts as the child matures and learns of such concepts as fear and envy. For example, to “The Lamb” comes the predatory “The Tyger”. Later come editions that would see Innocence and Experience as a whole and contained them in one volume — Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

Some readers interpret Songs of Innocence in a straightforward fashion, considering it primarily a children’s book, but others have found hints at parody or critique in its seemingly naive and simple lyrics. Both books of Songs were printed in an illustrated format reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts. The text and illustrations were printed from copper plates, and each picture was finished by hand in watercolors.

His other popular works such as The Book of Urizen (1794) is based on theological tyranny, and in the prose work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93), he mocked the oppressive authority in church and state, as well as the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish philosopher whose ideas once attracted his interest.

Blake believed that his poetry could be read and understood by the common people, and therefore was determined not to sacrifice his vision in order to gain vague popularity.

Blake’s final years, spent in great poverty, were cheered by the admiring friendship of a group of younger artists who consider Blake as an archetype. In later year, he worked as design illustrator for Dante’s Divine Comedy, the cycle of drawings that Blake kept on working till his sad demise in 1827.

William Blake’s poetry and artworks have been the subject of research and study since long times that led to the compilation of many books such as Poetry of William Blake by P.K. Roy;  Blake’s Water-Colours for the Poems of Thomas Gray: With Complete Texts; etc. If someone seeks all-in-one volume edition for  all the poetry & prose by William Blake, the book The Complete Poetry of William Blake is the best option.

To take a trip back to 1700s in the life of William Blake, one can go through the books: William Blake: The Gates of Paradise and William Blake: A Literary Life that follow the writer’s life, and combine biography and critical analysis, covering Blake’s early career, his major works, such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience, as well as his work as a visual artist.

To browse through more books by and on William Blake, click here.

5 Essential Books on Interior Designing to Make Your Home Chic

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Author: Sherry Helms

This festive season bring your home the most creative décor with the ideas from some highly imaginative minds of the world. Presented below 5 selected yet popular Books on Interior Designing that are compiled by some established interior designers of the world. With these books, you would no more need to hire a personal guru to enhance the interior of your place, rather you’d make your next big change on your own as the books offer enough of inspiration for it. Let’s glance through the titles:

Domino: The Book of Decorating - A room-by-room guide to create a home that makes you happy. This book cracks the code for creating a beautiful home, bringing together inspiring rooms, how-to advice and insiders’ secrets from today’s premier tastemakers in an indispensable style manual. The editors take readers room by room, tapping the best ideas from domino magazine and culling insights from their own experiences. With an eye on making designs accessible and exciting, this book demystifies the decorating process as well as provides the tools for making spaces that are personal, functional and fabulous.

The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate and Live Well – Over the years, founding editor in chief of domino magazine Deborah Needleman has seen all kinds of rooms, with all kinds of furnishings. Her conclusion: It’s not hard to create a relaxed, stylish, and comfortable home. Just a few well-considered items can completely change the feel of your space, and this is the book by her that reveals them all. Ranging from classics such as “A Really Good Sofa” and “Pretty Table Settings” to unusual surprises like “A Bit of Quirk” and “Cozifications,” this book will come out as an essential resource for all types of budget — limited to flexible.

Decorate: 1,000 Design Ideas for Every Room in Your HomeFor those looking to make the most of their home by creating stylish interiors, this is the start-to-finish resource to keep on the bookshelf for years to come. In this groundbreaking book, the world’s top designers and leading décor experts including Kelly Wearstler, Amy Butler, Jonathan Adler, and many others come together to share over 1,000 professional tips, ideas, and solutions for every room and every budget. Written and compiled by Holly Becker, founder of the highly popular design blog Decor8, and Joanna Copestick, an acclaimed lifestyle writer, this comprehensive home décor program combines beautiful inspiration with nuts-and-bolts how-to features in order to bring up the stunning results.

Design*Sponge at Home – Design*Sponge is one of the most popular design site on the web that attracts around 75,000 unique daily visitors on it. The site receives 250,000 page views every day and has 150,000 RSS subscribers and 280,000 followers on Twitter. For a long time, Design*Sponge fans have been yearning for the ultimate design manual from their guru, Grace, and now, she has finally rendered them with this definitive guide, which includes: home tours of 70 real-life interiors featuring artists and designers; fifty DIY projects, with detailed instructions for personalizing your space; step-by-step tutorials on everything from stripping and painting furniture to hanging wallpaper and doing your own upholstery; and some essential tips on modern flower arrangements with 20 styles.

Black and White (and a Bit in Between): Timeless Interiors, Dramatic Accents, and Stylish Collections – Black and white décor is at once dramatic and understated, modern and classic, as apparent in the work of iconic designers such as Dorothy Draper and Madeleine Castaing but just as present in design today. In this unique book, acclaimed interior designer Celerie Kemble trades in her signature vivid palette for this iconic aesthetic, highlighting the black and white work of design stars and peers, and welcoming you into more than 100 spaces in every imaginable aesthetic. Woven throughout are her witty observations and expert advice on choosing the best paints and finishes, adding patterns and accessories, building an entire room scheme based on inspiration found in nature, collecting black and white objects, and even choosing the perfect accent colors.

India in the World Economy from Antiquity to the Present

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Guest Author: Dr. Tirthankar Roy

For more than two thousand years, the Indian subcontinent was pivotal to world trade. A coastline 5,000 miles long, easy access from West Asia, Africa and East Asia, the presence of highly skilled artisans, a rich maritime tradition, and kings who protected merchants and formed partnerships with them, secured the strategic position of trade in Indian life and of Indians in trade. Classics of Indian literature describe the heroic undertakings of the seafaring merchant. Sanskrit and Persian works on statecraft set out kingly duties towards the merchant.

Notwithstanding the evidence on the antiquity of trade, most accounts of the business history of India begin from the coming of the Europeans in the Indian Ocean in the 1500s, as if this one turning point is the only one that really mattered. I wanted to write a book that would break the pattern, and tell a story of enterprise that is millennial in scope. By taking a sweeping view over two thousand years, we should be able to answer three big questions. Is there a long-term pattern in Indian capitalism? When did the big changes in that pattern occur? And does history shed light on economic change in the present? India in the World Economy is an outcome of the project.

The plot that holds this account together has, at its centre, the interplay between two distinct business-cum-political worlds that had taken shape from the earliest times. One of these was based in the cities of powerful empires that formed in the land-locked and agricultural interior, and another was based in the seaboard, ruled by weaker states. The former was dependent on grain trade and the fiscal system, the latter on foreign trade. The distance between them was bridged by the imperial ambition to control the seaboard.

That ambition was only limitedly and intermittently successful until the seventeenth century. But the game took a new turn in the wake of Indo-European trade (especially in the 1700s) when, for the first time in Indian history, a merchant-ruled seaboard state began to rule the interior. This was the territory controlled by the British East India Company. Indian capital migrated from the interior world to the port cities established by the Company, giving rise to a new cosmopolitan milieu based on Indo-European partnerships. There, then, began a slow conquest of the agricultural interior by coastal capitalists, who joined export trades in agricultural commodities in the 1800s, and reinvested some of the trading profits in textile mills.

Since that time, the different business worlds have come much closer, but the dialectic has not disappeared. The cleavage between the agricultural interior and the cosmopolitan and outward-looking commercial towns continues to be deep, and their politics remains divergent in present-day India.

The book is organized around this idea of diversity but not all of it is an illustration of the idea. The world economy foisted upon India unpredictable events, such as wars and depressions, which form part of the discussion. The book also pauses from time to time to consider major academic debates, such as the implications of Indo-European trade, link between colonialism and development, and the rejection of and return to liberal trade regime in the twentieth century.

This book is an interpretive work in economic history. The real challenge in writing the book was not gathering information, but to think about the ancient, the medieval, and the modern times in a connected way; to think about the elements of continuity in private enterprise, and therefore, identify the turning points better.

Dr. Tirthankar Roy is a Professor of Economic History at London School of Economics and Political Science. He has taught and researched in institutes in India for 15 years before the move to LSE in 2006. He started teaching in the early 1990s with courses on economics principles. But, since 2006, his teaching took a turn towards global and comparative history. He has written and edited a number of successful textbooks on economic development and economic history. Also, his well-researched articles have been published in many scholarly journals. For more information, browse

Teaching Politics and International Relations

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Guest Author: Dr. Simon Lightfoot

In the UK there is a joke about buses. You wait for ages and the three show up! Having waited ages for books on teaching and learning in Politics and IR to be published, two new volumes are published, both considering to what extent politics and IR are different from other academic subjects and also how to teach the subjects in an engaging way.

One key issue for politics and IR is that the subject matter is constantly changing as a result of events (wars, financial crisis, elections, change of leadership etc). How do we as teachers keep on top of these changes and perhaps more importantly how do we encourage our students? One way (as discussed by Stephen Thornton in the Gormley-Heenan and Lightfoot book and by Kohen in the Glover and Tagliarina book) is via new technologies. Twitter, RSS feeds and social media provide new ways for students to engage with an ever changing world. Our role as teachers is to ensure they use these resources in a critical manner. Other examples in the new book by Glover and Tagliarina show how films, graphic novels and cartoons can be used to engage students in political debates beyond the book. Given these technological developments, it is crucial that our practice in the classroom remains as engaging as possible, so thought needs to be given to how to teach small and large groups of students.

The other key issue in teaching politics and IR is the fact that we are dealing with opinions and values (both our own and the students). How should we as academics approach the issue of “bias”-declare our beliefs and values up front or aim for a pedagogic neutrality? Some beliefs or political positions may not be that straight forward –it might be easy to declare yourself as a democrat or a republican but what about when it comes to the issue of abortion? The use of language also becomes important –the famous adage about “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”. The current situation in Gaza (November 18th 2012) is clearly a topic that must be discussed in politics and IR courses but how do you approach the discussion if your class has divided opinions? These issues and more are discussed (along with some possible tips) in the Gormley-Heenan and Lightfoot book, Teaching Politics and International Relations“.

Both books contain helpful tips for colleagues to reflect upon and both complement each other very well in terms of their content.

Dr. Simon Lightfoot is a Senior Lecturer in European Politics and POLIS Director of Student Education, in the University of Leeds. Before he came to Leeds since 2005, Dr. Lightfoot worked at Liverpool John Moores University. He has been a visiting fellow at the National Europe Centre, Australian National University and the Corvinus University of Budapest. He is co-organiser of the UACES Research Network “The Governance of Sustainability: Multiple Dimensions, Multiple Approaches” and the EADI Working Group ‘Development Aid of the Non-DAC Donors’.

He has an interest in learning and teaching issues. In 2009 he won the Political Studies Association’s Bernard Crick Prize for Outstanding Teaching and was awarded a full University Teaching Fellowship.

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