Can anybody point me to someplace where I can get information on the value of capital in the United States not including homeownership? As a start perhaps could anybody point me to a site that would tell me the dollar value of all publicly owned companies? Piketty is quite useful but he includes homeownership in his figures (because that is the way it is listed in the sites that he uses as sources for his information).
Sunday, February 11, 2024
It has been quite a while since I have posted on this blog, and I thought that as I wait for the Super Bowl to get started I ought to just say a few words about where I have been and what I have been doing.
I have been right here in Chapel Hill, of course, even more limited by my Parkinson's than previously, but I have been working very hard on my lectures at Harvard on volume 1 of Capital. This is for me an extremely exciting coda to my career, and I am putting everything I have into it. I only hope those who are attending and participating are enjoying it as well.
I am so appalled and distressed by the carnage in Gaza that I cannot speak about it rationally. I have no idea what it is going to happen and of course I have no influence on it at all so all I can do is anguish.
As for American politics, I am both optimistic about the election and terrified. I remain convinced that Biden will beat Trump more decisively this time than last, helped by the total dysfunction of the Republican Party and by the issue of abortion, which is our secret weapon.
Perhaps if I do a good enough job in my lectures, it will inspire one or two of those listening to take up the struggle as I pass from the scene.
Be well, all of you, and try to be nice to one another. In the larger scheme of things, we are all on the same side.
Thursday, January 25, 2024
I gather that the lectures will be recorded and that it is quite possible to remove from them any indications of the identities of the people listening to them. Let me emphasize that my concerns grew out of my anxieties, not out of theirs. For all I know, everyone planning to attend the study group would be happy to have his or her name published. I pursued my career during a time when it was almost impossible not to succeed. In the immortal words of Ann Richards, we were born on third and thought we had hit a triple. But these are times when grand jury members have their personal details posted online and members of the House Republican caucus who do not support Jiim Jordan for the speakership get death threat calls.
I will let you know whether I can make the lectures available, and if I can I will.
Tuesday, January 23, 2024
This morning I read through the enormously long series of comments you folks have posted to my last blog post. Hidden in that series were several requests, from Jerry Fresia and others, that I make my Marx lectures available to all. Let me explain why I have decided not to do that.
There are now 37 people signed up for the study group, including large numbers of undergraduates, several graduate students, and 10 or 11 members of the faculty. It is going to be hard enough to get the undergraduates to speak up in the presence of the faculty. I plan to make a little joke about it, suggesting that I am so old that they all look the same age to me, but I am sure we all know that the norm would be for the undergraduates to sit quietly and wait to hear what the faculty ask or comment.
I am genuinely fearful that if I make available on the Internet lectures on Karl Marx in which the faces of undergraduates are clearly visible and in which some of them actually ask questions or make objections, it is entirely possible that they will be identified, attacked, have their futures compromised professionally, and so forth. In light of what has been happening in this country lately, I do not think my fears are irrational. My primary commitment is to those students and I simply will not take the chance that some of them may be targeted or harmed, either professionally or personally, by their participation in the study group.
Monday, January 15, 2024
While you folks have been having all sort of interesting conversations in the comments section, I have been hard at work preparing for my Harvard study group on volume 1 of Capital. The enrollment is now up to 35, with nine faculty, 23 undergraduates, and three graduate students. As I am sure some of you can imagine, this study group is for me, at the age of 90, both a great challenge and a very exciting opportunity. I have been thinking about very little else, except for the unavoidable problems of my Parkinson's. I watch a good deal of television news and keep up with the ins and outs of the legal cases enveloping Trump, but although I have all sorts of expectations, I have little or no professional knowledge and experience that would make my speculations any more useful than those I see on television. The same is true for the events unfolding in the Middle East.
The more I think about volume 1 of Capital, the more persuaded I am that it is the most important work of social and economic theory ever written. It has all sorts of problems, God knows, and important parts that are clearly wrong but the core idea is so powerful, and so original, that the book stands head and shoulders above everything else written on the subject. I hope very much that I can communicate that to the participants in the study group.
Thursday, January 4, 2024
Turning 90 has had an unexpected effect on me. All my life, I have struggled against my limitations and against my tendency to veg out. I have not really worked very hard save for a few moments in my life, but I have done a lot of worrying about whether I am doing enough. I have been struggling with my Parkinson’s disease for several years now and as I grow steadily less able to move around or even to walk very well at all, I have fretted about it and struggled against it. Being 90 years old seems to have given me permission to relax and accept my limitations. In effect, I say to myself, “you are 90 years old, of course you cannot do as much as you used to, it is all right.”
Right now of course all my attention is focused on the study
group I will be starting to teach at the beginning of February. Since I will be
talking about things that I have been working on for 40 years, I do not really
need to do much planning but I lie in bed giving lectures in my head, sorting
out what I want to say and in what order, enjoying the fact that I am being
given this one last chance to teach, which is what I most love to do.
Meanwhile, I will take great enjoyment from watching the
so-called originalists and textualists on the Supreme Court struggle to find
ways to avoid applying the obvious meaning and intention of article 3 of the 14th
amendment. These days, you must take your pleasures where you find them.
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Well, I looked at some of former president Gay's supposed plagiarisms, and they were not very impressive. I would hardly call them plagiarism. But then, the essays in which they were to be found were not terribly interesting either. Out of curiosity, I did a little searching for information about the people who have been president of Harvard since I was an undergraduate there. James Conant was an impressive scientist. Nathan Marsh Pusey was not an impressive intellect at all, but he resisted McCarthy in his former position and that was a good thing. Derek Bok was a reasonably impressive legal scholar. Most of the presidents of Harvard in the past 70 years have been people one would not really be interested in talking to if one had a chance.
I actually met Conant when he was the head of the American portion of a divided Berlin. Since I was a traveling Sheldon fellow he agreed to see me. Not very exciting. I also had lunch once with a committee that was meeting with Pusey. He seemed to me very much like a retouched photograph of himself. Academic administrators by and large are people who do just enough to get tenure and then go into administration.
I should not imagine any of this will have an effect on my Marx study group, which starts February 2. Eight faculty and 25 students signed up for it and I am really excited to have a chance to teach again.
I do not know yet whether I will be permitted to record the sessions or whether that is a good thing. I will let you know. Meanwhile, I am safe and protected in my retirement community while all the rest of the world is going to hell. I gave another thousand to the DLCC. It is pretty much all I can do.