fredag 8. august 2008

A golden myth

The story pops up again and again, especially among economists who want you to invest in gold:

The purchasing power of gold has not diminished since Biblical times. According to the Old Testament, during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, an ounce of gold bought 350 loaves of bread. Today, an ounce of gold still buys 350 loaves.
And of course it is a myth, one of those urban legends that has been debugged to death but still won't lay down.

However, as a Bible scholar, Claude Mariottini is not afraid of the truth:
To say, however, that one ounce of gold in the days of Nebuchadnezzar bought 350 loaves of bread, one must assume several things. First, one must assume that the ounce, a unit of weight in the avoirdupois system, once used in the United Kingdom and still used in the U.S. system of weights, was also used in Babylon. Since the Babylonians did not use imperial units, this statement is false.

Second, we must assume that the value of gold has remained stable in its relative value to the price of bread. If this assumption is correct, then we must also assume that the price of gold and the price of bread has remained relatively the same for the past 2,600 years. It is evident that no one can assume that this is true, therefore, the statement above also cannot be proved.
Read all about it here.

Tony talks

For my two readers who enjoy ELP, here is a great interview with Tony Ortiz. Who knows a thing or two.

onsdag 6. august 2008

Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn and Liberalism

What better way of returning from holliday than finding an illuminating article on two of my very fav authors? Even if there ideally could have been better occasions for media coverage than the recent passing away of one of them, death does have a knack for putting things in perspective.

Still, it is revealing that so many seem so clueless about Chesterton and Solzhenitsyn - including those who strive for an originality of their own (which in the post Mencken period seems more to be about a cynical than a thoughtfull style).

However, Dhoutat is very much on the right track:
But as with Chesterton, the two faces of Solzhenitsyn were really one face: His witness against Communism emerged from the same ground as his critique of Western liberalism. When Hitchens writes that the great dissident's "mixture of attitudes and prejudices puts one in mind more of Dostoyevsky than of Tolstoy," he's absolutely right. But it's not a coincidence that Russia's two most eloquent and prophetic critics of utopian radicalism - Dostoevsky who attacked it in its infancy, and Solzhenitsyn who helped usher it into extinction - were both standing outside Western liberalism, while so many people inside liberalism busied themselves making apologies for terror and mass murder. Which is why Solzhenitsyn, like Chesterton, isn't important despite his deviations from "the current consensus of liberal good will." He's important because of them - because his deviationism allowed him to see things that others were blind to, and because reading past giants who stand foursquare outside the current New York Times/New Yorker consensus provides an opportunity to interrogate one's own premises, and ponder the ways in which contemporary deviationists might be right, and the contemporary consensus wrong.
One does not need to be a prophet to know which face Dhoutat will be met with.