I was playing Charade (?) with my friend when he made a fist and shook it then acted as if he were crazy. When I gave up, he said it was Democracy. Now, I think we ought to change the suffix ‘-ocracy’ with ‘-ocrazy’.
‘Two of America’s core values—democracy and meritocracy—seem increasingly conflicted and the way we talk about them isn’t helping:
1. “-ocracy” means “rule of.” Democracy is rule of the demos, the people; Meritocracy (minted only in 1958) means “rule of” high-merit folks (a variation on aristocracy, aristo = best).
2. But “rule of” isn’t specific enough, per Lincoln “of the people” must also be “for the people.” And since democracy is only ever as good as the ideas used in it me-centric, or merit-centric, or top-centric ideas can mislead it.
3. Economic merit and taxation are democracy’s toughest top vs. bottom test. Some top-folk understand their dependence on “the people” below. Others imagine they can isolate themselves, believing that whatever “trickles down” is enough for the masses. But every pyramid level needs stability below (see Good vs. Bad Rich)…’
How Rational Are You? Try This 3-Question Quiz
‘Irony lurks in the surge of interest in cognitive psychologists’ research on human reasoning: we seem to be desperately interested in reading about how poorly we think. If Descartes could behold the popularity of books by Daniel Kahneman and Leonard Mlodinow and the hundreds of articles and blog posts they and similar books have spawned, he might alter his pronouncement: I think about thinking, therefore I am. Metacognition rules.
‘I have a meta-meta-cognitive question or two about all this cerebrum gazing. But before I get to those, here’s a little quiz to get you thinking. The questions are my adaptations of items from research studies from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, two of them initiated by Kahneman and his late research partner, Amos Tversky. See how well you do…’
Neurons Offer Clues to Suicide
Since Robin Williams commited suicide, suicide became a viral issue. Here’s one for our enlightenment:
‘A certain type of brain cell may be linked with suicide, according to a recent investigation. People who take their own lives have more densely packed von Economo neurons, large spindle-shaped cells that have dramatically increased in density over the course of human evolution.
‘The team compared the density of von Economo neurons in nine patients who died from suicide and 30 who died of natural causes, such as heart failure. All subjects had been diagnosed clinically with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The researchers found the density of these neurons was significantly greater in those who died of suicide than in those who had not, regardless of what disorder they had. Evolutionary psychiatrist and neuroscientist Martin Brüne of University Hospital Bochum and his colleagues detailed these findings online June (2011) 22 in PLoS ONE…’