Author Archives: Randal Samstag

About Randal Samstag

Randal has an undergraduate degree in political philosophy, but has a graduate degree in engineering and has earned his bread for 30 years working on municipal and community water supply and wastewater collection and treatment systems in the US, Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.

Piketty’s Capital

  Thomas Piketty is a relatively young economist who has spent most of his professional career teaching at the Paris School of Economics and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales after brief stints at MIT. He has collaborated … Continue reading

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The Progress of Philosophy

Does philosophy progress? Of course it does! From the Greek founder Parmenides’s Way of Truth and Way of Opinion with no connection between the two (anticipating Descartes’s error) comes Plato’s masterful elaborations. Aristotle’s critique of his teacher’s Theory of Ideas … Continue reading

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Why Hegel?

When a discussion group decided to take up the subject of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, my friend Charlton asked the question “Why Hegel?” No one tried to respond directly to Charlton at the time, but now, having gone through the … Continue reading

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Falling Rate of Profit?

The April issue of Monthly Review contains an article by the contemporary German Marxist scholar Michael Heinrich titled “Failure of the Falling Rate of Profit Theory – Marx’s Studies in the 1970’s.” Marx had maintained in Volume Three of Capital … Continue reading

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Tibetan Prayer Flags and the Five Buddha Families

This post is for Clay. Prayer Flags are ever-present in the Tibetan landscape. Tibetans place them for protection over doorways or gates. They love to leave them on mountain tops and at mountain passes. The photo above shows prayer flags … Continue reading

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Plato’s Theory of Ideas (or Forms)

Plato’s Theory of Ideas (TOI) or Forms should surely be something that we understand pretty well, no? Many of us remember or have heard about the allegory of the cave: Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern with … Continue reading

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Odd Economics

Kenneth Arrow made his PhD thesis into a book in 1951 (Social Choice and Individual Values). It remains one of the most remarkable works in the strange field of economics in the twentieth century. This is the book that launched … Continue reading

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A Sceptical Defense of Rights

Amartya Sen’s 2009 book, The Idea of Justice, will, I think, come to be seen as summing up the intellectual legacy of this remarkable man. The book references hundreds of books, papers, and talks by this Nobel Prize-winning economist with … Continue reading

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The Republican’s “Big Idea” Is a Bald-faced and Cynical Lie

It is election season in the United States. The Republican Party’s “Big Idea” this year, as it has been since the 1980s, is that low top tax rates inspire the “job creators” to hire more workers and give them more … Continue reading

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Bad Samaritans

Ha-Joon Chang is not widely known, even among economists, in the United States, but he is a rock star in his native Korea. He is not mentioned in the index or the bibliography of the recent neo-liberal tract, Why Nations … Continue reading

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