Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Pale Image

Don Luskin notes that Atrios seems to be "Duncan Black" -- another goddam economics professor - apparently one with much too much time on his hands (Don thanks his reader Larry Mitchell for the link).

The original Duncan Black was a first-rate Scottish economist - and an underappreciated genius. In fact, as noted in a prior post, that Duncan Black was not only an underappreciated genius but was also gifted at discovering and appreciating important work of other underappreciated geniuses - including that of Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), the author of the Alice books and other fanciful works, who made foundational contributions to the mathematics of voting that are perhaps as profound as those made by anyone, ever. Completed at a time when such matters were of urgent public interest and of paramount importance to the then rapidly evolving British political system – in the throes of a radical expansion of its voting franchise and rethinking the very basis of its democracy – Carroll’s work was, of course, entirely ignored except in the few instances in which it was dismissed with utter contempt of the kind commonly found today on the Atrios website (another remarkable coincidence!). It goes without saying that those involved in political matters in Carroll’s day did not understand the significance of even the most basic mathematical structures applicable to their field. On the other hand, the Alice books did pretty well.

As recounted in a marvelous book, Carroll’s profound work was rediscovered many years later by the original (one might say "real") Duncan Black , who explained and extended them with profundity. The "new" Duncan Black of course spends his time and effort in a different fashion.

Goes to show what's in a name.

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