Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Graeme Maxton

Just reviewed Maxton’s “The End of Progress” at SBR

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Folks, if you haven’t read Graeme Maxton’s new book THE END OF PROGRESS: How Modern Economics Has Failed Us, you should.  While it’s one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read — and while I pointed out, a few days ago at this blog, that Maxton has a few beliefs of the odder sort regarding the Internet, blogs, and opinions — this is an important book that needs to be read and debated.

Put simply, one of Maxton’s most important premises is that the world’s finite resources (such as water, oil, and agricultural land) aren’t being husbanded well.  They also aren’t being valued properly on an economic level.  Worse yet, because of this undervaluing, there’s a real problem due to how quickly these resources are being used up.

Another of his important premises — that capitalism, per se, only works when ethics and restraint are involved, as Adam Smith pointed out back in 1776 in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS — needs to be pondered by many.  Because somewhere along the line, way too many of our business leaders and power brokers have completely lost our way.

Anyway, go read my review, then go read Maxton’s book.

Here’s the link:


Written by Barb Caffrey

June 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Obvious Takes, Pt. 1: Most Blogs are Opinions

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Folks, I never thought I’d have to write these words, but here they are: most blogs, believe it or not, are opinions.

This is such an obvious thing to talk about, but apparently there are people out there who don’t realize this simple fact.  For example, if you blog specifically about sports, most of what you’re talking about are your opinions about what’s going on in the world of sports.  Ditto for politics (except double that, and then some), current events, and just about everything else.

Yet some people are concerned that the quality of writing on the Internet is so low that it’s leading people to forget this.  Take economist Graeme Maxton, for example.  In his recent book THE END OF PROGRESS: How Modern Economics Has Failed Us, Maxton said on p. 76:

It is not just that much of the information on the Internet is of dubious provenance, it is that much of what is posted as “fact” is actually opinion.

Maxton also goes on to say on p. 77 that:

The Internet is a particular problem.  As well as offering a cozy home for factual mistakes or a platform for those with ill-thought-out opinions, there is the diversion it provides.  Studies’ show that people who read text that is scattered with hyperlinks understand less than those who read the old-fashioned printed word.

Note that Maxton does not directly reference these studies, as there is no endnote available.  He also does not discuss anything specific regarding any actual studies that have been done in this paragraph, though in the next paragraph down he references a book by Nicholas Carr called THE SHALLOWS: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains that discusses the problem of hyperlinks and Web pages.

And, if you read the above-referenced paragraph very carefully, you’ll note that Maxton doesn’t point out the excellent, fact-based and fact-checked blogs that do exist on the Internet; he instead seems to paint all blogs and everything on the ‘net with a broad brush.  While it’s possible Maxton was making the case that fact-based research should not begin and end on the Web due to these limitations (a completely inoffensive statement), he cheapened his argument when he didn’t admit that at least some good, hard-hitting, factually-based articles have been posted on the Web — and that some of these hard-hitting, factually-based articles have certainly been posted on blogs.

So these words by Maxton, while to a certain extent truthful, are also a way for Maxton to frame the narrative.  In this case, Maxton’s narrative is simple: “The Internet is creating a bunch of morons who can’t think for themselves.  Because of that, people who read blogs on the Internet may not realize they’re actually reading opinions, rather than facts.  We must fix this!”

Yet that narrative, while it does contain truth, is also an opinion, is it not?  (And in a hard-bound book, no less.  For shame!)

That said, Maxton’s words remain prescient because there unfortunately are people out there who will read just about anything, then parrot it back without much further thought.  And at least some of those will send material “viral” that may not deserve to be read by many people — or at least may not deserve to be thought of as factual rather than the opinions most blogs truly are (this blog included).

Mind you, most people who read blogs do seem to understand the difference between fact-based commentary (which can and usually does offer an opinion) and opinions.

But just in case you’re one of the people who haven’t figured that out as of yet, consider this lesson #1 in the importance of being overly obvious.  Because when it comes right down to it, most blogs are opinions, folks.  And it shouldn’t take an economist like Graeme Maxton to tell you so, either.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm