The Element of Class
I remember my Dad telling me that time preference is the best measure of class. Class isn’t based on race, nationality, religion, or money. The single-best determining factor of class is the ability to forego short-term pleasure for the sake of long-term gain. He told me that a sociologist wrote a book outlining this simple fact, but I never caught the name.
Last weekend, I found it: Edward Banfield. He wrote about time preference and class in The Unheavenly City Revisited (1974). I read about it in Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God that Failed, page 5, fn 6: “Banfield identifies time preference as the underlying cause for the persistent distinction between social classes and cultures, in particular between the ‘upper class’ and the ‘lower class.’ Whereas members of the former are characterized by future-orientation, self-discipline, and a willingness to forgo present gratification in exchange for a better future, members of the ‘lower class’ are characterized by their present-orientation and hedonism.”
Galileo, We Hardly Know Thee!
NPR is fluttering with news that the Vatican is open to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It’s excited because the RCC used to be anti-science: “The Roman Catholic Church’s relationship with science has come a long way since Galileo was tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant his finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.”
Sigh. This crap just goes on and on. For an excellent corrective to this skewed view of Galileo, I highly recommend Arthur Koestler’s account of the Galileo situation in The Sleepwalkers. I read it over 15 years ago, so my memory isn’t perfect, but this is a fair summary: Galileo was a pompous jackass who went out of his way to offend people, and his astronomical theories were flat-out wrong and laughable. His conclusion (that the earth isn’t at the center of our solar system) was correct, but his methods of getting there were wrong. The Catholic Church had astronomers working toward the same conclusion as Galileo, but they knew Galileo’s formulas weren’t correct. They refused to endorse his theory on valid scientific grounds, not theological ones. Galileo was ultimately jailed more for his offensive behavior than his conclusion, and his house arrest at his country home was hardly difficult.
(Koestler, incidentally, wasn’t exactly Catholic: He was a secular Jew, short-term Communist, with an interest in drugs and the paranormal, who committed suicide.)Bookmark it: del.icio.us | Reddit | Slashdot | Digg | Facebook | Technorati | Google | StumbleUpon | Window Live | Tailrank | Furl | Netscape | Yahoo | BlinkList