Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Introduction and connection to education

Parallels between designing a city and a learning environment: cities are learning environments.

The problem in education, as well as in city planning is more complex than what is commonly understood by decision makers in both areas. In order to properly plan to permit diversity and wealth to emerge, the needs of the people in the environment need to be understood. General principles can be learned by observing different cities and by finding relevant lessons out of their own special cases.

The problem that cities pose is that of handling organized complexity (pg. 14).

Some examples of bad city planning theories and theorists:
-Howard: Garden City: “He conceived of good planning as a series of static acts, in each case the plan must anticipate all that is needed d be protected, after it is built, against any but the most minor subsequent changes. He conceived of planning also as essentiall paternalistic, if not authoritarian.” pg. 19
-Le Corbusier: Decentrist: Lonely and quiet life. Robinson Crusoe style. No diversity. Lots of control.
-Daniel Burnham: City Beautiful: “Sorting out certain cultural or public functions and decontaminating their relationship with the workaday city… bringing order by repression of all plans but the planner’s” pg. 15

Chapter 2: The uses of sidewalks: safety

When city streets are safe from barbarism and fear, the entire city is safe from barbarism and fear.
Cities are by definition full of strangers.
People must feel safe and secure among strangers.

Recursive problem: The less people use the streets, the more unsafe these become.
It doesn’t take many incidents of violence to get people out of the streets. (PG. 30)

How is safety and public peace kept in the side walks -and therefore- in a city?
It isn’t kept by the police.
“It is kept primarily by an intricate unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.” pg. 32
“A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street.” pg. 34

Places smaller than city streets keep safety by: “reputation, gossip, approval, disapproval and sanctions”, this works well when everyone knows each other.

3 qualities city streets need to be equipped with to handle strangers:
1. Clear demarcation of what is public and what is private space
2. There must be eyes upon the streets, the eyes of the proprietors.
3. Sidewalks must continually have people using them (supports 1 and 2).
-Give people reasons to use the streets.
-Give people reasons to crisscross paths.
-Store keepers and small business owners fix their surroundings to attract more people.
-Errands, food and drink make people walk from one place to another. Commerce attracts people.
-These people attract other people by the rule of: “the site of people attracts still other people (pg.37)”

*Turf system: A gang appropriates a certain are (parks, housing, streets) and other people that are not a part of the turf are not allowed to get in.

Pg. 46
How to live in places that are insecure?
1. Let the danger hold sway and let unfortunate people pay the consequences
2. Take refuge in vehicles. Never walk down the streets
3. Turf: Gangs owning certain spaces that other gangs cannot enter.

Chapter 3: The uses of sidewalks: contact

People hanging around at corners, bars, candy stores, etc: “The point of both the testimonial banquet and the social life of city sidewalks is precisely that they are public. They bring together people who do not know each other in an intimate, private social fashion and in most cases do not care to know each other in that fashion.” pg. 55

People caring for other people: feeling of public identity, public respect and trust. pg. 56

Privacy is precious and indispensable in cities: You decide what to share and with whom to share it.

SubmitPublic life and figures
SubmitInteraction in public spaces
Submitx – Togetherness or nothing

Authentically togetherness vs. planned togetherness. The first one is a spontaneous happening among people pursuing their individual interests, while the latter is about planning and forcing something to happen. Such forceful act, kills togetherness.

Chapter 4: The uses of sidewalks: Assimilating children

Many people hold the wrong belief that children playing in the streets is something dangerous that shou be replaced by children playing in playgrounds.

Children enjoy walking down the streets and the same rules of safety that apply to adults, apply to children too. Just that children are more vulnerable to danger than adults. That said, often when children go to playgrounds, they move from the streets where lots of people watch them and walk (the public eye), into playgrounds where fewer people go and where darker, lonelier and hiding spaces are more common. pg. 77

Having children walk and play out in the street is beneficiary to them not only for safety reasons. “they need an uspecialized outdoor home base from which to play, to hang around in, and to help form their notions of the world.” pg. 81
Modeling: Only people rear children and assimilate them into civilized society.
It is by being in the streets that children learn the fundamentals of successful city life: “People must take a modicrum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other. This is a lesson nobody learns by being told. It is learned from the experience fo having other people without ties of kinship or close friendship or formal responsibility to you take a modicum of responsibility for you.” In other words, by having strangers care for you, you learn to care for other strangers too. pg. 82
People learn how to live in society, by living in a society; by being a part of it, by taking part of it, by actively engaging in it.
Children are always more interested in real life stuff than in game play, an this is no exception to such rule. Children of all times are drawn and keep on being drawn into the streets.
Rachel in the dialogue: Real life vs. contrived acts and experiences.

Places that have a mixture of uses, public contact and cross-use of people, is desired if one aims for public safety.

Part II:
Chapter 7: The Generators of Diversity

To learn about the behavior and values of people, it is necessary to look at the relationships between groups of people or between one person and another person. Just by looking and separating one aspect of it, just by looking at people in isolation from other people, very little can be learned about behavior and values. That is, we will have little to no understanding of the phenomena that we were trying to observe and to learn from in the first place.

Chapter 11: The need for concentration

comment: To me, it makes perfect sense that a naturally developed/growth city will have variety in every sense. Why? Because it has naturally and in a process over the time, has been developed by individuals trying to satiety their needs and by entrepreneurs willing to satisfy the real need of others.

It seems a good ratio, to have most of the land in a neighborhood already build when people start to populate it. Why? Because if there are lots of land available for construction, the most probable thing to happen is that people will be building lots of similar tall apartments; whereas in the first case, people will have to adjust already existing buildings and maybe build one or two tall apartments.

Why is diversity something valuable?
Is diversity necessary, is it indispensable?


“The Clash of Economic Ideas” Lawrence H. White


Structure of intellectual production

1 Scholars-intellectuals: economist writing for economists

2. Intellectuals writing for laymen, historical and statistical data is provided

3. Journalists and economists: provide ideas to policy makers and the general public

The clash of economic ideas is one of what the role of government should be in the economy. It is a clash of markets owing and directing finance and production vs the government commanding or steering where investment funds go. Both theories (socialism and markets) propose more prosperity (“a blanket term from the abundance of means by which individuals can satisfy their preferences”).

Chapter 1: The Turn Away From Leissez-Faire

Keynes didn’t believe that the laizzes faire impersonal system would allocate resources and economize in the best way. More government intervention, “intelligent” intervention, is necessary to help people and boost the economy.

Keynes was not the first one to advocate for more government intervention. Before the 20th century in the US a period called the Progressive Era is one characterized by ideological changes towards a more “active government”

Leissez faire was never the most popular idea amongst economists or laymen. Marshall, Fisher and his student Pigou alleged that capitalism had certain fallacies, amongst them:

  1. Individuals acting separately are often too weak or too ignorant to do what is good for them. Therefore, society would be benefited with guidance from experts. E.g. restriction of sale and consumption of drugs. All of these for the betterment of society as a whole.
  2. Negative externalities: when the injury to society outweighs the benefits to the individual.
  3. A dollar matters less to an individual with higher income, than to one with a lower income. Therefore governments should use progressive taxation to help distribute wealth.

Before WWI, the economy was going great with new technologies such as the telephone and faster trains. During the war, governments like the US took a broader control of the fragile economy and after the war gave up a Little bit of the new power and size they had recently acquired. In 1917 the last tsar lived in Russia, followed by a socialist revolution led by Lenin with the Bolsheviks.  Marx and Engels never explained how to direct production under a socialist regime but merely claimed that it would be scientifically inevitable to go from capitalism to socialism. They didn’t discuss how to allocate resources or how a socialist economy would work, they only mentioned that private property shall be abolished to eliminate the exploitation of man by man. Once in power, after the revolution, what will Lenin do?

Chapter 2: The Bolshevik Revolution and the Socialists Calculation Debate

In less than four years (from 1917 to 1920) the Bolsheviks reached starvation and decreased production to only one third of what it was in 1916. Lenin ended up restating some market policies in 1921.

Socialist ideals were the fashion not only in Russia but also in Hungary, Vienna and Budapest. Ludwig von Mises enters the debate against socialism with an allegation on the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism. Mises defined socialism as any system were all of the mediums of productions are communal, where a market does not exist. This makes impossible for someone to allocate resources or to choose from different ways to produce and from different things to produce. What should the communist produce? How should they produce it? To what extent should they produce it? All of these question still remain unanswered.


Labor Theory of Value Marginal-utility theory of Value
Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx Carl Menger (father of the Austrian school of economics)
The value (price) of any product comes out of the amount of labor that was put into creating it. Things have no intrinsic value by themselves. Individuals prefer certain things above other and this is how prices are created. We are the meaning makers.
Flaws: How do you explain that the price of diamonds is higher than the price of water?


In response to Mises critique on socialism, Oskar Lange proposed that a socialist government could be able to set prices in order to make economic calculation. Lange proposed that the government should assign prices via a trial and error mode and experiment with them until they reached a point of general equilibrium.  Lange’s theory is named market-socialism. Oskar also argued that we don’t have competition, we have oligarchy and monopoly and that technological progress is much slower in this system because no one wants their capital to be worth nothing or replaced tomorrow as a result of a new and better discovery. Mises responded to Lange in Human Action by saying that entrepreneurial action, bidding for inputs only works when entrepreneurs are seeking for profit. “Completely taxing profits away would completely suppress entrepreneurial activity.”

Hayek joined the debate against Lange’s theories in two articles: “Socialist Calculation: The competitive Solution” where he argued that in a market, prices are low because of constant competition and that prices adjust fast and easily without intervention. His second article “The Use of Knowledge in Society” he explains that competition is what brings about the least-cost production functions via the learning and discovery of profit seeking entrepreneurs. There is no best way of knowing how to produce, it is rather something that is constantly discovered because it is constantly changing and learning. Central planning eliminates this learning process. It is not a question of whether it shall be planning or not, but rather a question that who shall do the planning? Prices in a market economy allocate resources to its best and most urgent needs. The Walrasian theory of general equilibrium does not account for the process of discovery that Hayek accounted for with the market.

*Entrepreneurs have the necessity to respond to the signals of prices.

What is the difference between a Rob Crusoe and an economy with more people? Why is it that in the former it is possible for Crusoe to calculate or to rationally choose between two options and in the latter it is not possible? Pg. 40. Why does one need more exact info while acting in a bigger scale? 41

What are the biggest problems with the theory of general equilibrium and with a computer owing all the answers to our questions?

Chapter 3: The Roaring Twenties and Austrian Business Cycle Theory

After the recession ended in 1921 until 1929, the economy of the US was roaring. The Fed had been experimenting with monetary policies since 1914 until finally they couldn’t hide their flaws and the economy crashed in 1929. Offering explanations to this crash came Keynes and Hayek: “Hayek’s account of what had gone wrong (in a nutshell: loose monetary policy had kept the interest rates too low and thereby distorted production into an unsustainably top-heavy structure) became the chief rival to Keynes’s account (in a nutshell: loss of nerve by investors meant that investment spending failed to make up for too little consumption spending).” According to Keynes, there should be more intervention to prevent a finish with a depression, easier monetary policy, increase in government spending financed by borrowing.

Mises, based on the earlier Austrian economists Bohm-Bawerk, created a theory of the boom-bust cycle. According to Mises, these cycles result in monetary malinvestment.  The boom begins with a banking system arbitrarily expanding the supple of loans beyond the supply of monetary savings. As a consequence of this policy, interest rates reduce to a rate below the natural equilibrium. With low interest rates, there is a big incentive for economic activity; new businesses start that would not make profits and that wouldn’t have excited under a normal or natural interest rate. At one moment, the expansion policy needs to be stopped because if it is not stopped, the currency collapses. “The longer the boom, the bigger the bust”: Hayek argued further that low interest send the wrong signals to everyone. “It signals that borrowing to finance lengthy invest projects has become less costly relative to the projects’ anticipated future revenues” (pg.80). Money is used to invest in the longer triangle but that doesn’t match the demands of the present consumption. The Austrian business cycle can be compared to a hangover with recessions following “prosperous” times. On the other side, Keynes argued that a hangover never comes when the drinker never stops drinking. Keynes argued that the policies executed during the roaring twenties were right until the depression began caused by a lack of nerves, a lack of animal spirits to stimulate investment and consumption.

Even amongst Mises and Hayek were some disagreements. Mises was closer to the Free Banking School on the source on the monetary expansion: central banking that couldn’t resist to cheap money based on their political pressures. While Hayek accepted more the Currency School position that overexpansion could come from the central bank but also from commercial banks. There was another school led by Thomas Tooke and John Fullarton called the Banking School. They believed that no bank can over issue, neither a central nor a commercial bank, of course that they argued that their notes should be backed up with gold.

*Real bills doctrine (RBD): short-term transferable IOUs (I owe you’s) issued by business firms to finance goods in the process of production.

*nominal spending: money stock times its velocity of circulation.

What is the Hayek triangle? What does it explains or shows? How is it important to the Austrian business cycle theory?

Which policies of the Fed led to the crash?

How does the Fed play around and control the value of the currency?

What was the critique against Hayek? Pg. 90-91

Under which grounds the RBD was critiqued?

Chapter 4: The New Deal and Institutional Economics

Simon Patten: Wanted an economy of abundance, he thought that scarcity was obsolete. He wanted work place regulations, free education and to restrain business speculation.

Tugwell thought that WWII showed us that competition among nations leads to war and therefore competition amongst the market was the same evil. Instead of insecurity we should have planning. According to him only planning could eliminate the three greatest evils of capitalism: 1. Violent contrasts of well being; 2. Irrational allotments of individual liberty; 3. Unconstrained exploitation of human and natural resources. Tugwell claimed that under Taylorism in a great scale, we would have greater efficiency in production. By using only one third of the resources used today we would achieve the same amount of products, he didn’t offer any explanation or evidence as how this could be the case. Tugwell also disliked the fact that profits direct production and the entire economy of today.

Chapter 5: The Great Depression and Keynes’s General Theory

According to Keynes the GD  was caused by the flaws inherent in any capitalist system. In the 1930s people were cough in a vicious cycle where the general public was not buying or investing but were just saving. This led to a lack of capital investment and enterprise.

Keynes thought that savings didn’t turn out in investments. The only thing that turns out into more investment is anticipated consumption. This leads him to say that government should incentivize full employment in order for investment to happen. If everyone has a job, everyone will be able to consume, there will be anticipated demand and therefore capital will be invested.

Income expenditure equilibrium: E + C + I + G = Y

E = current expenditure

C = sum of household purchases

I = business investment purchases

G = government purchases

Y = equilibrium current output of goods and services


“Paradox of Thrift”: an increased propensity to save (leaving all other things in the circular flow constant) results in a contract of incomes and outputs.

How are prices determined according to Keynes? *

What is the function of interest rates according to Keynes? *


Differences between Hayek and Keynes’s theories:

  1. Keynesians think of consumption and investment as moving in the same direction. Hayek acknowledge “opportunity costs” along with scarcity and so he says that we either use our resources on one thing or on other things. If we have a 100$ we can either save them in order to use them later, while someone else will invest them (loaning our money from the bank) or spend them. We can’t do both at the same time, there is always a trade off.
  1. According to Hayek, the interest rates coordinate the quantity available of loanable funds with the quantity demanded for investment. It is the same process as the automatic mechanism that adapts production to shifts in demand. Keynes said something about a liquidity preference and neglected automatic mechanisms in economics. Keynes wants to remove the price of interest rates and he is replacing them with the government controlling them.
  1. I am not that clear on the third major difference, but I think it is that Hayek takes into account the time needed to produce the goods, while Keynes treats production as instantaneous. What does this has to do with changes in the business cycle and labor markets? Pg 139 last paragraph before new subtitle. *

Keynes thought that the economy was below its potential because of too little aggregate demand. Not because there was too little consumption or because people were being underpaid.

Underconsumption: Malthus and Sismondi thought that more goods were being produced than what was demanded and therefore there was a surplus on certain goods and some people had a lot of goods without having the money to buy what they wanted. Ricardo and San answered by saying that whoever has commodities has the power to consume and that people produce with a view to purchase another thing.

Say’s law of markets claim that …

Back to Keynes: involuntary unemployment: when people are willing to work at less than the existing real wage.

Sticky wages: workers oppose to any lowering of their wages but they don’t do so when consumer prices go up. This equally lowers their real wage. Wages don’t change as fast as other prices in the economy.

Keynes’s theory didn’t offer an explanation for the boom, it didn’t offer an entire or complete explanation of the markets and of economics. He didn’t look at the causes of a depression but just at “solutions” for it. But how can you find a solution to a problem if you don’t understand the complexity of its cause? Still, Keynes’s theory caught on because it offered optimism by saying that something could be done to cure the economy. Unlike Hayek approach that said that a depression was the period of recovery of bad economic policies before the depression started.

IS (Investment-saving equilibrium) – LM (liquidity preference – money supply equilibrium) model.

Phillips Curve: you can either have high inflation or high unemployment, e.i. you can remove inflation and have a lot of unemployment or you can remove unemployment with lots of inflation. The problem with this theory was shown in the 1970s when rising inflation occurred with rising unemployment.

Chapter 6: WWII and Hayek’s Road to Serfdom

Why the worst get on top? The people that get un top of totalitarian regimes are the ones to love to plan, who dislike freedom and who left away their values in order to get where they are. That is why it isn’t by luck that the worst get on top.


How do you measure wealth?

What is the alternative of talking about nations?

How can we answer: are you wealthier? By referring to the macro

How is wealth measured? Can it be measured?

High interest rates: people are saving and not spending

How can we create institutions that substitute the government as in helping poor people.

Hayek’s Road to Serfdom was followed by Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. It was the right timing.

Chapter 7: Postwar British Socialism and the Fabian Society

General 1945 elections: Atlee won over Churchill and he wanted to solve “poverty” by taking ownership of the commanding heights. He didn’t want to have powerful business people therefore he wanted to replace them with government. Their argument for planning was that if they could plan during war time, they could also plan during peace. Price controls and rationing of consumer goods continued after the war.

The Labor Party nationalization of most of the commanding heights was inspired by the Fabian Socialist movement who proposed a slower step by step revolution towards socialization. The term Fabian, taken from a Roman general is reference to incremental rather than revolutionary.

Labor Party Manifesto’s 4 part plan:

  1. Minimum Wage, maximum 48 hour workweek. Fight of unemployment: public work and employment insurance.
  2. Common ownership of the means of production, managed by a scientific plan and not by profit seekers.
  3. Progressive taxation
  4. The state was to expropriate surplus wealth.

Famous Fabians:

The Webb Spouses (Sidney and Beatriz)

George Bernard Shaw

Harold J. Laski

William Beveridge

Differences between Marxism and Fabians

Since the Fabians observed the century after the French Revolution, they noticed and thought that the economic position of workers had improved and that it would keep on improving. The Fabians believe in legislation as a means to get to socialism, without the need to go through a revolution. Another difference is that they envisioned these changes being implemented by intellectuals or scientists and not by the proletariat. The Fabians didn’t advocate for an immediate abolition of private property, but for a gradual transformation into state ownership of the means of production.

What they got from David Ricardo’s rent theory (Ricardo + Fabians):

  1. You only get your rents by the position of the land that you inherited = undeserved luck
  2. The rent receiving landowner contributes nothing to production.

George Bernard inspired by Henry George (influenced by Malthus): the price we pay for land rises as the population grows, the more people there are the more demand of land would be and the supple obviously stays the same.

Fun fact! HENRY GEORGE: “Georgist theory was even the inspiration for the board game Monopoly. The game’s original creator called it ‘The Landlord Game’ and intended it to illustrate the unfairness of receiving rent based on the lucky ownership of advantageous plots.”

Jeremy Bentham:

  • Utilitarianism:
  • The greatest happiness for the greatest number. Everything should be judge under the stick of aggregate happiness.
  • Critiques: how are we to measure happiness? How are we to calculate based on happiness, e.g. subtracting happiness here, adding happiness there.

J.S. Mill


Dreamt of a socialist system with individual liberties

Wanted the state to redistribute wealth via education, control of the banks, taxation, etc.


Chapter 8: The Mont Pelerin Society and the Rebirth of Smithian Economics

The Mont Pelerin Society was founded in Switzerland by Hayek and was funded by Americans and Swiss who were impacted by his Road to Serfdom. 37 economist, historians, journalist and philosophers were invited. The main idea was to discuss how to spread the ideas of liberty. The main goal was not to get to a consensus or agreement, it was to discuss about ideas of freedom, to debate and to think.

It amazes me the power and influence ONE person can have on a lot of other things. Hayek surely was one of these people, and it surprises me how coherent what he did is with what he wrote in his “Kids of order in Society”, especially with the broad and simple grounds under which the MPS was built: affirming the principles of human dignity and freedom, freedom of thought and expression, rule of law, private property and the competitive market, diffused power, peace and liberty and harmonious international relations. It is amazing the complexity that emerges from simple rules and very few grounds. Surely the MPS is a Society in Hayek’s term and not an organization. It didn’t look for consensus; it looked for advancement of certain simple principles and from there on complexity emerges.

“The group does not aspire to conduct propaganda. It seeks to establish no meticulous and hampering orthodoxy. It aligns itself with no particular party (dynamists in Virginia Postrel’s terms). Its object is solely, by facilitating the exchange of views among minds inspired by certain ideals and broad conceptions held in common, to contribute to the preservation and improvement of the free society.”

Adam Smith:

  • Wealth of Nations, Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • We can create wealth, what matters is a nations annual output of goods and services
  • Prosperity: division of labor, specialization, free trade
  • People trade and specialize out of self-interest
  • Invisible hand: the spontaneous ordering process of a competitive market. The investor is led by market signals and incentives to coordinate his behavior with other market participants.
  • Influences:

o    Francis Hutcheson

o    Mandeville: “beneficial overall results may emerge unintentionally from individual self seeking.”

o    Scottish Influences: David Hume: saw trade as the source of economic development, and economic development as the source of civilization, peace, and happiness.

o    Physiocracy: French economist against merchantilism. According to them not industry but land and agriculture is what creates wealth.

“Economics in 1 Lesson” Henry Hazlitt

Preface: H.H. writes this book to explore the fallacies and consequences of them in economics. His book is written for non-economist or for a lay audience.

Part 1: The Lesson:

Some fallacies that H.H. mentions now and later on he will give examples illustrating them.

  • Taking from some to give to others
  • Looking only at the immediate effects of a policy while ignoring what it may cause in the long run. (Fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences).
  • Italics pg. 5: Art of the economist: 1 lesson

Part 2: The Lesson Applied

The Broken Window Fallacy: Fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences, of only seeing a small part of the picture: missing the forest for the tree.

A guy throws a rock at a bakery window, people think that this will create employment because now a glazier will have to be paid $250 for a new window. More production will be required, the glazier will spend the 250$ on something else, etc. But, hey! No wealth was created, it was destroyed. The baker probably was going to spend the $250 on something else without the need of destroying something. The suit that the baker was going to buy, the third party (the tailor) that didn’t have as good luck as the glazier is overlooked. His services are no longer going to be required.

Chapter 3: The blessings of Destruction

Following on the broken window fallacy, people think that war makes us richer than peace. Hazlitt explain a confusion between need and demand.

Need Demand
WWII just changed the demand on certain commodities to more demand in other industries. But this didn’t create wealth, it just moved money and demand from one place to another (fallacy). WWII “good economy” was inflation.
Opportunity cost of doing one thing rather than another is many times overlooked. Requires purchasing power, therefore everyone needs more money (fallacy). This fallacy leads us to bigger fallacies like “we just need to print out money”, but doing so makes the value of the currency fall and this leads to greater prizes.
No man burns his own house. War destroys accumulated capital. Something that was destroyed where we had invested is like bombing a city in a war.


Chapter 4: Public Works Means Taxes

“Government spending” fallacy: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Sooner or later someone has to pay the government’s debt. Even if this is done “indirectly” through taxes and inflation (another form of taxation) —-≥Plunder

The building of a bridge:

Public jobs were created, but private jobs were destroyed because everyone has to pay this money to the government. This same money would otherwise go to another private industry.

Chapter V: Taxes Discourage Production

What would be my incentive to produce a product that will add value to the life of its consumers if I have to pay 70 or 80% taxes. Why would I want be a government’s slave for 8 or 9 months so that I can then keep the money that I won with my effort for the next 3 or 4 months? Why would I dare to take risks if when I fail I lose the 100% of my investment, but when I profit I need to give the government 70%? Why would I hire more people to work at my business if that would make me pay more taxes?

Chapter VI: Credit Diverts Production

  • Government will tax the most successful to give the money to the less successful (the unseen).
  • Government places resources in places that no private bank would place, because the risk would be too big.
  • Government only worries about creating jobs, no matter if the product these people create is not even a desirable good or product and even if nobody wants it.
  • Government places the available real capital (farms, tractors, etc.) on the hands of the less efficient borrowers, rather than on the trustworthy and efficient that the private bank was going to lend to. The latter ended up without his farm, because the former got a loan from the government.

Two ways of diverting credit:

  1. Grants of government credit
  2. Guarantee of private loans: where the bank is risking its own funds.

We shall take into account that all credit is debt.

Chapter VII: The curse of Machinery

Fallacy that machines create unemployment: Then primitive men made themselves poorer by inventing tools that helped them work the soil?

  • Machines create more wealth by producing more to a faster rate.
  • Jobs did increase during the industrial revolution.
  • The manufacturers have profits that they didn’t have before and either they spent them or invested them.
  • Products become cheaper and so more people can afford them.
  • Machines and technology facilitate production and raise the standard of living.

Chapter 8: Spread-the-work Schemes

Fallacy that creating more efficient ways of doing things leads to poverty and unemployment. Fallacy that there is a fixed amount of work to be done in the world and that this number never changes.

Extra work by arbitrary subdivision of labor. Everything becomes more expensive for consumers and the consumer stops using his or her money in other things because it is so expensive to create something (stagnation). Policies: minimum wage, maximum work hours, price control.

Chapter 9: Disbanding Troops and Bureaucrats

Fallacy that after a war the ones who used to be soldiers will be unemployed for a long time. Nope! Civilians now retain more money because their country is not in war anymore, so they can spend it in industries that will employ these soldiers sooner rather than later.

Fallacy of keeping bureaucrats in power so that they don’t lose “purchasing power”: Again, the taxpayers could have more purchasing power and would spend it in other ways if they didn’t have to pay a lot on taxes.

Economics in 1 Lesson Part Two:

Chapter 10: The Fetish of Full Employment

Full employment doesn’t mean full production (end). The important question to ask in order

Many people think that a country where everyone is working is a rich country. This is another fallacy that is very easy to prove wrong if only we look at India and China were everyone is working but their levels, quantities and quality of their production is very low. Therefore they are poor countries. More things need to be produce if we want to become a wealthy country.

Chapter 11: Who’s protected by Tariffs?

We all want to buy what we want at the cheapest price and this happens whenever we exchange with other countries and produce what we are better at producing in exchange for what they produce more efficiently than us.

With tariffs, real wages are reduced because instead of paying less for what they want, people end up paying a higher price because of the protection of some jobs. This jobs would have been employed somewhere else when the factory A had gone out of business because of the cheaper prices that people were getting from exchanging with other country. Now our country needs to sell something to that country, employees are going to be needed in another industry.

*what now that we all use the dollar? The people from the U.S. don’t have the need to come and buy something from Guatemala

Chapter 12: The Drive for Exports

*what if we used the same currency in every country in the world?

In order to buy something we need to sell something.

Bad private loans are the same as bad public loans. In both, someone is losing something, in the first only the entrepreneur loses, while in the latter the entire country loses. Everyone loses because they are paying taxes to lend money to another country that is not buying anything back from their own country.

Chapter 13: “Parity” Prices

Taking a standard and artificially putting it at the same level as other prices. No selling is allowed in a price over or below the set standard.

Methods: A parity price can appear in the form of a subsidy, fixed price, or

Chapter 14: Saving the X Industry

People often argue that the state should “save” some business and not let them die because a lot of jobs would be lost. Industry X will only benefit at the expense of A, B and C industries. Taxpayers also lose what the X industry won.

Capital and labor are driven at industries in which they would be more efficient but the government moves some into the non-efficient industries. Less wealth is created and we all become poorer.

Chapter 15: How the Price System Works

No business exists in isolation. There are all connected and they affect each other.

“Production for use not for profit”

Prices are not determined by the costs of production: they are determined by supply and demand. Prices are defined by how many people want a product and how much they can and want to pay for it.

Everything is produced at the effect of something else —˃opportunity cost.

Prices show where resources should be allocated and where the production should focus: wherever more wealth can be created, wherever there is more demand.

Chapter 16: “Stabilizing” Commodities

Government keeping prices above their natural market levels.

Chapter 17: Government Price-Fixing

Government keeping prices below their natural market levels. This policies are generally utilized on certain basic necessities such as bread, eggs, water. The reason for doing this is to make sure that poor people get their basic needs satisfied. The consequences of these types of policies are:

a) Increase in the demand of the goods whose prices are artificially low. This leads to shortages on these products.

b) Businesses stop producing these products. Profit margins are reduced or eliminated and so entrepreneurs have no incentives to create the products.

Now, when there is a shortage on the “vital” products that governments wanted to regulate. They come up with other bright ideas on what to do to fill the shelves in the super markets. Among these devices are:

  • Rationing: each consumer can have only a certain maximum supply, no matter how much he is willing to pay for more. Couponing system.
  • Cost-control, subsidies and universal price-fixing: extending its control over the costs of production of a commodity, the government fixes prices for more things. For instance, if I want to control the price of milk, I will also need to fix the wages of the people working in the farms, the price of cows, the price of cow food, wages of the milk-wagon drivers and the wages of the distributers of the milk. The wage of the people who pack the milk, the ones who put it into containers. Fixing the price of the machines that pasteurize the milk. Fixing the price of the materials needed to build these machines and fixing wages to the people working to create these machines, etc. The list goes on and on and on. That’s why the term “Universal price-fixing” is applicable. The conclusions of such a thing will be the same that government were traing to abolish in the first place: shortages on commodities.
  •   Subsidies: subsidies are paid for by someone (the citizens) which are being “benefited” by the subsidies. So, I pay my taxes that are used to subsidy the milk industry which then I can buy cheaper on the super market. But this is just a crazy circle in which I get what I gave, or less.


  • “A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” Alexander Hamilton
  • The government or businesses turn out inferior or dishonest goods at higher production costs
  • The new firms owe their very existence or growth to the fact that they are willing to violate the law.
  • discriminatory price-fixing which gives most to those groups that are politically powerful and least to other groups.
  • Wagers are connected to living costs and people often miss this by “wages can easily be lifted without lifting prices” which is not true.
  • unemployment,
  • Shrinkage in production
  • Decline in living standards.

What causes prices to rise?

  • Scarcity of goods or a surplus of money.

Something that we shouldn’t forget:

“Each one of us, in brief, has a multiple economic personality. Each one of us is producer, taxpayer, consumer. The policies he advocates depend upon the particular aspect under which he thinks of himself at the moment.”

Chapter 18: What Rent Control Does

When people can no longer pay their rent, the government comes in again, this time subsidizing the yearly payment of their houses. After special treatment is given by the government to some people for a long time, they believe that they have a right to the taxes of everyone else.

Chapter 19: Minimum Wage Laws

Wage is price that we pay for someone’s services.

  • Minimum wage laws increase unemployment because anyone whom the employers don’t consider worth the minimum wage salary will be unemployed.
  • The prices of commodities go up.
  • The workers were working at the previous wage for a reason.

Offering reliefs won’t solve the problem because if the minimum wage is of $106 a week and the market was paying Juan 90$ a week at the most, Juan is unemployed and he si being paid 70$ of relief. Besides, if we pay a 106$ work relief “salary” to everyone unemployed and if many people on the labor force make 110$ a week, they work for 4$ extra. What is the workers incentive to work then?

Chapter 20:

“Work creates more work. What A produces constitutes the demand for what B produces.”

Unions don’t increase real wages because they don’t produce more, they don’t create more wealth and the employer won’t reduce his profits, so the price commodities go up and the employees have to pay more to get their goods.

Chapter 21:

Functional prices and functional wages

“Buy back the product”: workers in each industry receive enough to buy back the product they make.

Chapter 22: The function of profits.

Profits are good and claiming the opposite shows a poor understanding of the term. Any business that doesn’t make profits would cease to exist.

-risk of the entrepreneur

-more profits lead to more production. More jobs being created.

In a free market, profits decide where should people invest their time, effort and money.

-If no profits are been made it means that the labor being put into making the product is more valuable than the product itself.

Prices align resources into products that are demanded. Free prices maximize production.

“Greater profit goes, of course, to the man who makes a better mousetrap than his neighbor as well as to the man who makes one more efficiently. But the function of profit in rewarding and stimulating superior quality and innovation has always been recognized.”

3 Funciones de las ganancias: :

  1. Decidir que se produce y en qué cantidades
  2. Mandar maneras de producción de las maneras mas eficientes. Canalizar factores de producción de la mejor forma. Si tengo estos factores de producción, cómo los voy a alocar de la mejor manera para tener profits?
  3. Por la competencia, los productores tienen que ser más eficientes y dar precios más bajos, reducir costos y así aumentar su profit.

Chapter 23: The Mirage of Inflation

  1. Confusing money with wealth (what is produced and consumed).

Inflating the money will devaluate the currency so some people believe that doing this would be doing justice for the poor.

Collectively people cannot buy twice as much as long as commodities are not produced twice as much.

It may indeed bring benefits for a short time to favored groups, but only at the expense of others (D, *PREGUNTAR POR EL EJEMPLO A,B,C,D).

-The real purchasing power for goods, however, as we have seen, consists of other goods. Money is not wealth.

Chapter 24: The Assault on Saving

Saving is indirectly investing. Still, many perceive savers as being greedy, yet indirectly they are creating wealth, their money is being used by producers.

Interest rates work just like any other price. When there is a lot of supply and few demand, the banks set low interest rates and when there is a shortage in the supply and a lot of the demand, the price goes up. This is also a measure that helps the producers because if people in general have a shortage in money, they won’t invest in producing venues that people won’t have the capacity to buy.

Chapter 25: The Lesson Restated

To see the problem as a whole, and not in fragments: that is the goal of economic science.

“Persons, Rights and the Moral Community” Loren E. Lomasky

“I shall use the term individualism to denote the conviction that great value attaches to the ability of persons to lead their own lives, and that within a wide and durable  sphere of freedom from interference by others they ought to be able to develop and pursue their own ideas of the good.”

Chapter 1: The use and abuse of basic rights.

The Welter of Rights

Method and order: beliefs on rights, bases of reason.

Rights: We have them without giving anything in exchange without the need to negotiate them. We choose if we want to exercise it or not. Free to act according to our best lights.

Preferences are not the same as rights.

Are rights necessary?

Problem: On important issues people say that “everything” are rights, everyone takes advantage of the term “rights”.

What is morally right is not the same as moral rights.

Rights are crucial

Nozick: Treat people as an ends and not as means.

The Need for Rights:

  1. Value of the individual.  2. Basic rights.
    1. Who has sovereignty over his own life.

According to Lomasky, rights come from the moral principles of individuals. To Lomasky moral = individual. Everything comes from the value of the individual.

What characteristics do we need to have in order to possess rights?

Why we shouldn’t eliminate rights?

  • Even if rights are super supported by a complete moral theory, that doesn’t assure us that this theory is enough to defend rights and to leave them out of dispute.
  • A super complete moral theory does not yet exist and will probably never exist.

Costs of more “rights” claim:

  1. Disputes of one right against another right are unclear and tend to lead towards a decline of sociality.
  2. The increase on rights makes greater the constraints imposed upon Human Action.

Rights should be based in something stronger than morality, they should be based on something unobtrusive —-˃ Individualism.

Chapter 2: Persons and Projects

Basic rights express individualism

Right theorists need to explain how individualism constraints certain actions that comes from right violating means.

Another argument: utility: what optimizes the sum of expected utility. Act ot maximize the value of certain functions. Maximization model: sometimes sanctions violations only when the payoff is sufficiently great. Not necessarily what is right. Lomasky doesn’t like this model. He prefers a constraint account that sanctions violations all the time.

Prudential and Moral Reasons

Morals are not universal.

Moral rationality: rationality of prudence: Awareness of the opportunity cost. Maximization of one person’s good. Economizing.

Morality involves the good of many people. We could think of it as an extended prudence.

To solve the problem of impersonal morality, Lomasky calls for an impersonal standard of value: A standard that is on top of persons and their ends. He wants to put together reason and morality.


Central to the ends of individuals, to their future, provide structure stability.

Projects and Partiality.

We have partial and not impartial standards of value over which we have stands of value to choose our actions. We choose our projects for different reasons.

Projects and the coherence of persons:

The Foils is a standard impersonal and impartial set for rights that is compatible with individual project pursuit. “It will be recalled that the Foil forth an account of moral rationality such that an agent is bidden to choose between conflicting ends on the basis of their conformity with an acknowledged impersonal standard of value. From the point of view of this standard it is immaterial whether one, all, or none of the ends that conflict are those of the agent himself.”

Chapter 3: Projects and the Nature of Ethics

In the previous chapters it was discussed how people oftenly and commonly defend rights and he gave a critique of this.

Lomasky addresses his possible critiques:

  1. Not everyone has projects
  2. Morality needs to provide justifiable bases for conflict-resolution because if it doesn’t, the strong will inevitably always win over the weak.

Project Pursuers and other Persons:

Lomasky is not claiming that only project pursuers possess rights. His ethical theory is multivalent (encompassing more than one value to give people the title of right holders).

Importance of living an autonomous life: choosing. Pg. 43 J.S. Mill quote: difference between following our own values and other people’s values. There is something missing: autonomy: choosing to follow oneself, being obedient only to the self.

The Bounds of Conflict

  • Conflict: turning to ethics in order to resolve them
  • Aristotle: Value is prior to commitments (projects).
  • Liberal theory: man is the meaning maker. The individual has value because of his possibility to create value.
  • “Positing impersonally valuable ends doesn’t guarantee the existence of a rationally justifiable conflict – resolution device” —˃ Problem with Aristotle.
  • Plurality of values.

Project Pursuit and Liberal Theory

  • Value is posterior to commitment
  • Why is the individual valuable in the project theory? Pg. 54
  • Kingdom of ends
  • What does he mean with rights secured on the individual and not morality? Pg. 54 last paragraph
  • Autonomy Family: Happiness, individual and social progress. Happiness depends on individual progress. Not valuing the opinions of others over your own.


“The Lean Startup” Eric Ries


Being a successful entrepreneur is not as we often see on the media. It is not only the fun part of having an idea, a dream a vision and creating something new at the right time. The boring stuff also matters and it matters a lot and is the ultimate reason for success in startup stories, good management.

Eric Ries proposes the “lean startup method” based on trial and error to give people (consumers) what they want and not only what the founders of a company think is better or think people like the most. It’s all about the costumer and management, the process and discipline.


Chapter 3: 



-Feedback loop

-MVP: Minimum Viable Product: Test your hypothesis (assumptions) with an experiment.

System innovation accounting: Standards to measure if progress has been made. Validated learning. Ask the right questions.

–A/B experiments: get two groups of people and show one prototype to A and another to B and see how they react, what they like and dislike, etc.

-Pivot: It is a hard decision to take, but it is completely necessary if you want to stay “alive”:

Types of Pivots

  • Zoom out Pivot: What was the whole product becomes a single feature of a larger one
  • Customer Server Pivot: Changing Customers. There is a solution for a real problem but for other type of customers.
  • Customer Need Pivot: The customer has a problem that we can solve, but not the one we originally planned to solve.
  • Platform Pivot: Change from an App to a platform or vice-versa
  • Business Architecture Pivot: From high margin, low volume (complex system model) to low margin, high volume (volume operations model) or vice versa.


  • Innovate all the time, even when your company is already established.



“The Law” Frederic Bastiat

Law is justice. And it is under the law of justice – under the reign of right; under the influence of liberty, safety, stability, and responsibility – that every person will attain his real worth and the true dignity of his being. It is under this law of jusce that mankind will achieve – slowly, no doubt, but certainly – God’s design for the orderly and peaceful progress of humanity.

The law has been perverted. It has turned to do the things that it is supposed to punish.

Bastiat exposes the three basic requirements for life which are life, liberty and property. He redefines the law as the collective organization of individuals to defend their rights. The law comes from ever person’s natural right to defend his or her life, liberty and property. Therefore the reason of the collective is based on individualism and one can only do collectively what one has a right to do individually. This is synonym to justice.

“Nothing can be more evident than this: the law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces that have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.”

Why has the law been perverted?

  1. Stupid greed: some people want to live and prosper at the expense of others. Everyone wants to satisfy their desires with the least possible pain. That’s why some people live by seizing and consuming the products of the labour of others, when this is done by the government it is legal plunder. Still, it is plunder. Many people believe erroneously that things are just because the “law” makes them so. Therefore when the “law” is rooted in plunder, it is conflicting with morality. Whenever someone dares to defy this common thought, one is accused of being “a dangerous innovator, a utopian, a theorist, a subversive”, etc.
  • One example that comes to my mind is when one says that public education is not a right, or that  public education is legal plunder (stealing from some via taxation to give to others), one gets all of this crazy names.
  • Critique against universal suffrage: three persons out of four are excluded (in that time women, minors and other people). It is not the voter alone who suffers the consequences of his vote. After voting people return to passiveness, unconsciousness,  and ignorance because the legislator enters into omnipotence.
  • Legal plunder: taking the property from one person and giving it to another. Taking the wealth of all and giving it to few.
  • How do I know if something is legal plunder? If the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. If the law takes what belongs to people and gives it to other people.
  • Socialism which has to be refuted as a doctrine.
    1. No legal plunder: justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic. “Until the day of my death, I shall proclaim the principle with all the force of my lungs.” *This reminded me of Giancarlo Ibarguen and of so many people that live to teach and disseminate the principles of a society of free and responsible individuals.
    2. Systems of plunder: socialism, communism and protectionism.
    3. Slavery and tariffs are a violation, by law, of liberty and property.
  1. False philanthropy: we must choose between being free and living in a just society and not doing so. We must choose between justice and philanthropy. Legally enforced fraternity, when not voluntary, destroys liberty.  The law as Bastiat defines it is incompatible with welfare, public education and with imposing things upon people either by “organizing” them or by dictating them what to do in terms of industry, labour, religion, etc.
  • The law can only be an instrument of equalization if it takes from some persons and gives it to others.
  • Individualists repudiate forced and artificial organization, not natural organization.
  • The socialists want to play God, they want to mold people, dictate them what to do. They treat people as inert matter, as objects without motivation to action. They think they can organize everything to their will and whim into groups, centers, gilds, etc. A lot of these people think of social matters as they think of a potter (the governors) molding clay (governed).
  • The socialist are no philanthropists, they see mankind as merely inner matter: “receiving life, organization, morality, and prosperity from the power of the state.” The do this by claiming that by doing so rightly they will make mankind happier (Montesquieu). Governors wish to transform human nature to something greater (Rousseau). Other people see the legislators as a source of good and success in society (Raynal). Society needs a “law” so it is ok to temporally place a dictator to rule in order to restore peace (Mably).

o   Bastiat answers to these people: “Oh sublime writers! Please remember sometimes that this clay, this sand, this manure which you so arbitrarily dispose of are men! They are your equals! They are intelligent and free human beings like yourselves! As you have, they too have received from God the faculty to observe, to plan ahead, to think and to judge for themselves!” All people are rational and have values.

  • Socialist want equality of wealth: “impartiality in law consists of two things: the establishing of equality in wealth and equality in dignity among the citizens…(Condillac)” But equality in wealth and dignity can only be achieved artificially through force, through plunder.
  • Socialist do not understand that knowledge: “appears and grows with the passage of time; and that in proportion to this growth of knowledge, might takes the side of right , and society regains possession of itself.” Knowledge changes through time, we are constantly learning and improving.
  • Socialist want virtuosity but the only way of creating new people, the only way to artificially make people virtuous is, -regardless of any noble ends-, coercion and terror. Because legislators impose and force upon people prejudices, affections, morality and desires. If their ideas are so cool, why is it that they have to force these ideas into people’s heads? Why do they have to make people do things by force? Besides, if human nature is so rotten and incapable of achieving things, then how are legislator free from this “human nature”? Totalitarians believe that they are superior to everyone else.
  • The law has become an instrument to the reformers and legislators to achieve their ends.
  • It would be great if socialists wanted to implement their plans on their own risks but they what to impose them by law, by force to everyone and not only that, they want to make us pay them taxes.

What is liberty according to Bastiat? The freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so.

Free will, Science and Claude Bernard

Do we really have free will? Or are we determined to act in a specific way depending on specific and given circumstances, as the planets are determined to revolve in ellipses around the sun? What makes us different from a rock? To what extent are we a product of physico-chemical conditions? Is it just higher levels of complexity? How can we know? How can I tell? Could science answer these questions? What is science? What is a scientific law? According to Claude Bernard, science is mastering the knowledge of something so well that we are able to predict what is going to happen under certain situations or circumstances given that these circumstances are always the same. A scientific law gives us numerical relations of an effect to its cause, between two or more bodies.

“When we have the law of a phenomenon, we not only know absolutely the conditions determining its existence, but we also have the relations applying to all its variations, so that we can predict modifications of the phenomenon in any given circumstances… once the conditions of a phenomenon are known and fulfilled, the phenomenon must always and necessarily be reproduced at the will of the experimenter”

To read this quote from “An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine” after analyzing excerpts from “The Origin of The Species” made me wonder if it will ever be possible for us to achieve this sense of control and mastery of nature and the laws that govern it. I do not think that Darwin would have agreed with Bernard because, according to the former: our world, –and I would add to it-, our universe, is so complex and change occurs so slowly, that for us to be able to predict variations and what is going to occur for instance if we remove one species from the surface of the planet or trying to predict how we are going to evolve one million years from now becomes an impossible task. This is why I think Bernard’s views on science in this sense are very questionable, based on the limits of our very human sphere or cone of vision and on the complexity of the relationships between both organic and inorganic bodies in the whole universe. Bernard asserts that the scientific method closes the door to supernatural explanations believed by faith and leaves us with “fixed laws” that are based on a reliable criterion (if they are to be accepted). But, would we ever be able to fulfill Bernard’s outlooks on science? Can there be any exceptions to a scientific law? Claude Bernard claims that exceptions are unscientific, that an “exception” only means that we have not yet traced or determined every physico-chemical reaction acting upon a specific phenomenon. An exception in science means merely ignorance. But, can we trace every numerical relation between every cause and effect?

Bernard studies the field of biology which itself studies organic phenomena that is always doubly conditioned by its interior and by its outer environments. Since biology deals with living beings:  Should the laws of biology be different to the ones of the physico-chemical sciences? In what sense should they be equal? To what extent do they differ? Is determinism possible in the phenomena of life? Bernard claims that the main difference between physics and biology is that physics just ponders upon the external environment, while biology also needs to study the inner environment of very complex living beings. E.g. If I move my hand, a scientist should be able to trace this phenomena to its roots by finding the relations which produce it, the neurons firing from my brain and the nerves and chemicals pushing each other in a domino manner until they find my hand. This changes our focus from the big picture (me moving my hand) to the little things that take place in order to make me act in specific ways. If you also take into account my outer environment, where I am and what made me react in that certain way and if you find out all the stimuli that played a role in my action, then, according to Bernard you should be able to predict that if the conditions were to be exactly the same at any other moment, I would react in the exact same way.

Now it is my last turn to question what struck me the most about Bernard’s “An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine”: determinism in the phenomena of life. Are we determined by the lower levels of our body? Do we really act in the same way under identical conditions (internal and external)? Are we as humans capable of explaining everything under the same terms in which we explain Newton’s three laws of motion? Bernard’s argument seems to me very logical; at least it is valid, although I am not sure if it is sound. There is something within me that does not let me believe that this absoluteness is applicable to human beings. In my everyday experience I truly feel like I am making decisions and that I am the only one in charge and in control, and therefore I am the only one responsible for my actions. Bernard mentions that science replaces feelings with reasoning and, as Newton points out in his rules for philosophizing in the Principia, we should only consider the necessary conditions for the appearance of a phenomenon. Last year I read “Gödel, Escher, Bach” and writing this essay reminded me of the epiphenomena: From the given rules and lower levels acting without our control in our body, something else beyond and inexplicable by all these conditions emerges. Free will is a vital aspect of life. I would even say that Bernard feels uneasy about this idea because he literally expresses that “manifestations of life cannot be fully elucidated by physico-chemical phenomena known in inorganic nature.” So maybe, epiphenomena is the answer to our question of determinism in living beings, and the source of our decision making. If it is, our knowledge should not only be based on the material conditions that act within a phenomenon. Science could still study epiphenomena by looking at the lower levels within our bodies that permit for marvelous, creative and new actions to take place.

“The Joy of X” Steven Strogatz

Chapter 1: From Fish to Infinity

The author starts the book by saying that the best explanation of what numbers are is seen in Sesame Street with one of its characters saying: “fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish”. After this, the same character learns that instead of saying fish many times, he can save time by using a more general concept: a number, an abstraction that is applicable to not only fish, but to anything that we wish.

We don´t know if we discovered or invented numbers but what we do know is that we can’t control them. They already have certain laws and properties implied when we use them. Our invention of this concept brought consequences that we still are discovering and learning infinitely.

Chapter 2: Rock Groups:

We can see mathematics in two different lights. The first one is the serious side which we learned in school, the boring and practical one. The other side is that in which the author as well as the learners promote, enjoy and prefer over the other: the playful side of numbers. What makes numbers cool is what we ask from them, that is where we can get creative. Explaining numbers and exploring them with tangible things, e.g. rocks, allow us to interact with numbers, to ask questions about them and to play with them. One example that the author gives is the “Gauss” problem that Kyle Pasarelli showed to us last year: How can we sum all the numbers from 1 to 10 without adding them one by one. The problem can be solved using rocks too.

Chapter 3: The Enemy of My Enemy

The discovery of negative numbers: subtraction can generate negative numbers.

The pattern of multiplication and division of negatives and positives:

-1 * 3 = -3

-1 * 2 = -2

-1 * 1 = -1

-1 * 0 = 0

-1 * -1 = ?

capture11Chapter 4: Commuting

The educational methods in science are always changing. Our grandparents learned different techniques for multiplication and division. The commutative law of multiplication (a x b = b x a) is something that has been difficult for people to understand. Especially in real life calculating situations, e.g. taxes and sales. Maybe the reason for the difficulty with commutative law is that when we act it usually matters what we do first and what we do last. It matters if you go to MIT first and if then you kill yourself rather than the other way around.

Chapter 12: Square Dancing

We like more the geometrical proof of the Pythagorean theory than the algebraic proof. It makes more sense and it is more beautiful. This is one of the reasons why people often prefer geometry to algebra. It is less abstract, more logical and the steps are building one on top of another. That is the whole beauty of it. Besides, it is something that you can literally see, so through your senses you know that a theory is true. The etymology of geometry is: geo: earth and metry : measurement. Why this name? Well, geometry was invented to solve problems of land and measurement, real problems of areas, not just lengths.

Chapter 13: Shapes

The importance of Euclid’s Elements lies not only in his beautiful proofs, but mostly in the “axiomatic method, the process of building a rigorous argument, step by step, until a desired conclusion has been established.” Euclid teaches us and gives us an example on how to reason and organize our thoughts, in a logical and “building” like manner. Newton, Espinoza and Jefferson were inspired by this, and of course… the Liberal Arts.

“Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud” Peter Watson


Isaac Newton and his involvement with alchemy.

Development: modern science, business methods, intellectual life. How it happens? Why is it so easy to destroy or to waste?  Tripartite way of looking at history: Some of the ones that prevail and that people generally agree upon are: agriculture, weapons, science, industrialization and printing.

  • Oriental, Mediterranean and northern peoples
  • Printing, gunpowder and the magnet (F. Bacon)
  • Literature, warfare and navigation (F. Bacon)
  • Physics, psychology, politics (Hobbes)
  • Gods, heroic and human age (Vico)
  • Institutions of religion, family and sepulture.
  • Geographical, biological and psychological factors.
  • The destruction of inequality between nations, the progress of equality within one and the same nation, and the perfecting of mankind.
  • Literature, education and political justice.
  • Theological, metaphysical and scientific (August Comte)
  • Magic, religion, science
  • Savagery, barbarism, civilization
  • Government, family and property

Three realms of intellectual activity according to J. Bronowski:

  • Realm of truth: inquiry into religion and philosophy.
  • Search for what is right: law ethics and politics.
  • Realm of taste: the arts

3 most important ideas according to Watson:

  • The soul
  • Europe
  • The experiment

Most intellectually influential languages:

  • Chinese
  • Sanskrit
  • Arabic
  • Latin
  • French
  • English

9 core ideas to the history of ideas:

  1. External order of nature
  2. Human nature
  3. Literature and aesthetics
  4. History
  5. Economic, legal and political ideas
  6. Economic, legal and political institutions
  7. Religion
  8. Philosophy
  9. Formal logical mathematical and linguistic ideas

Prologue: The Discovery of Time

By the findings of stone tools, in the 1800s the scientific community accepted the antiquity of man as dating before what the Bible claims it to be. In geology, disagreement was also part of the history of this science. Some people claimed that the art’s surface matched perfectly the Genesis, while others claimed that no floods were important in the form of our planet. Finally, the eras of the earth were accepted and then came Darwin’s Origin which meant that for humanity to be where we are millions of years of little changes had to pass by. The last data of the oldest tools found date some 2.7 million years ago in Ethiopia and this is how the first chapter starts.

Chapter 1: ideas Before Language

-Many of this are theories, since the phenomena that is mentioned in this chapter occurred millions of years ago, we can only guess based on some findings what really happened, how and why they happened.- About 3.4 to 2.9 million years ago, our ancestors became bipedal. These brought many positive consequences such as: freeing our hands and allowing us to make tools which allowed us to eat meat, which allowed us to have a richer diet, which enabled our brain growth. When families started to evolve probably consciousness evolved because to live with others we had to predict the behavior of them and that gave us a sense of self. The difference between the hands of a monkey and ours is in our thumbs: ours let us grasp things like stones.

  • 700,000 years ago the standardization of the hand-axe began
  • 420,000 years ago the first hunting spears appeared
  • 60,000 years ago we find controlled fire
  • 60,000-40,000 years ago our ancestors had a limited capacity to plan ahead (future planning = language)
  • 40,000 years ago art in cave paintings and Venus figurines
  • 40,000-30,000 years ago: first production of items for personal decoration

First’s modes of thinking: episodic thinking with short term responses to the environment and with memory of specific events. Language probably evolved out of our need to cooperate and coordinate (division of labor).

First’s ideas on religion: Before the link was made between sexual intercourse and birth, women were seen as a mysterious and miraculous creature so there were praised and seen as goddesses sometimes. Religion shamans also evolved probably with the help of the discovery of drugs that made people hallucinate, feel and experience everything in new ways.

Chapter 2: The Emergence of Language and the Conquest of Cold

Successes of our ancestors:

Our ancestors that hunted big animals have in average a bigger brain volume.

Mongoloid people adapted to cold: with extra fat on their faces, upper eyelids and smaller noses.

There is a parallel between people from the Old and New world that we discovered with the finding of the New World. This works as a natural experiment to compare how and in what order different ideas developed. This separation throws vital light in the development of language. Some scientist and linguists, like Pinker, argue that language is very old, even chimpanzees have a means for communication. Something that really impressed me is that the words that are key to communicate (man, finger, one, water) are very alike in different cultures and places all over the world (Egyptian, Somali, Tama, Squamish, Wanana, Kaliana, Guahibo, Indo-European, Japanese, Korean, Mangue, Gur, etc.)

Origin of Sounds = language = consciousness = origins of civilization

  • 25,000 years ago: timbric or nasal sounds = u, I, a, j, w
  • 15,000 year ago: w, m, p, b
  • 12,000 year ago: t/d, k/g
  • 10,000 years ago: I/you, here/there, stay/go, good/bad
  • 9,000 years ago: Third person