View 742 Wednesday, September 19, 2012
A BELATED HAPPY TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY. Aaarrr! I be slow today me hearties.
My military science fiction stories, particularly the CoDominium series, postulated among other advances of the 21sr Century the routine use of “regeneration stimulation”. I was pretty careful not so be specific with details on how it might work.
Yesterday Roberta noted a report in a local newspaper of what amounts to regeneration stimulation therapy in the real world.
Human Muscle, Regrown on Animal Scaffolding
It is still an experimental technique, but then I remember the first heart transplant…
I was rereading L. Sprague de Camp’s Ancient Engineers (1960), and came across
“Although China has sometimes led the world in technology, she has usually lagged in pure science. One reason is that the two leading Chinese schools of philosophy have been anti-scientific.”
He names Confucianism of the 6th Century BC, and Taoism whose founder Lau-dz was a contemporary of Kung-Fu-dz known better as Confucius. This is doubtless important, and perhaps that realization was one inspiration for Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution: the emperor Qin Shi Huang (Tsin Shi Hwang-di in the older transliteration used by de Camp) caused a general burning of books and the banning of much of what was up to then revered scholarship. Qin Shi also built the Great Wall. All very interesting and I remember thinking of it at the time of the Great Cultural Revolution but alas I didn’t carry that thought far enough. On reflection the similarities ought to have been obvious.
Then de Camp says:
“Another handicap to science in China was the nature of the language. This tongue is very odd indeed. The classical or literary form of the language is made up of comparatively few sounds, and these may be combined in only a limited number of ways. Only 412 syllables are possible.
“Moreover, another rule of the language was: One syllable per word. This meant an absurdly small vocabulary. The use of different tones to distinguish words otherwise identical in sound enlarges the list [of] possible vocables to 1,280, but this is still a ridiculously small number for a civilized tongue.
“As a result, any one syllable may have scores of meanings. To distinguish these meanings, the Chinese use a system of compounding. It is somewhat as if we had only the one word ‘cat’ for all the members of the cat family and had to distinguish the lion, tiger, cheetah, and pussycat as king-cat, stripe-cat, dog-cat, and house-cat. All languages do this to some extent, but none to the degree that Chinese does. In the spoken language such compounds are tending to become permanent, forming polysyllabic words; but this is not so in the literary form. The language is therefore ill-adapted to scientific thought, which needs a large vocabulary capable of absolute distinctions.”
I must have read right past that in my previous readings of The Ancient Engineers, but for some reason this time it took root as a small worm of an idea. How do the modern Chinese get around these linguistic limits?
The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. And these figures don’t take account of entries with senses for different word classes (such as noun and adjective).
When I was in graduate school in psychology one of the things we were expected to know was The Whorfian Hypothesis, which postulated some links between culture and language. It was not particularly popular in the University of Washington psychology department, and we didn’t have to know much about it, although there was a question concerning the Whorfian Hypothesis on the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The primary adherents of the Whorfian Hypothesis were anthropology students, particularly those who followed the American anthropologist Franz Boas and his student Margaret Mead, who was considered to be the most influential anthropologist in the world. I don’t recall anything she wrote about the Great Cultural Revolution in China, and a quick search doesn’t show me anything.
Anyway, I have been wondering how the Chinese have solved the problem of their linguistic limits in developing science and engineering, and idly wondering if Mao’s Cultural Revolution had anything to do with them. Friends more acquainted with Chinese than I am tell me that Sprague is correct regarding classical Chinese. They also note that a great many Chinese have been educated in science and medicine in the United States and thus would be familiar with English.
I’ve even wondered idly if Mao had read Sprague’s book and gave it some thought before he began his 1966 Great Cultural Revolution, but that’s probably silly.
The Chinese have adopted a lot of Western words, and they increasingly use online shorthand symbology.
Also note that classical written Mandarin is on the decline in favor of simplified Chinese <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_chinese>. In fact, the only place you can really go these days to learn reading and writing in classical Mandarin is Taiwan.
I have been reading a recent Hoover Institution essay by Thomas Sowell on “trickle-down” economic theories. Sowell says there is no such theory and there never has been: it is a catch-phrase used by political writers, and a caricature of supply side economics. In a footnote Sowell says
Some years ago, in my syndicated column, I challenged anyone to name any economist, of any school of thought, who had actually advocated a “trickle down” theory. No one quoted any economist, politician or person in any other walk of life who had ever advocated such a theory, even though many readers named someone who claimed that someone else had advocated it, without being able to quote anything actually said by that someone else.
[All quotes are from Thomas Sowell, “Trickle Down Theory and Tax Cuts for the Rich”, Stanford University Press, 2012]
I have to get to work on something else, but I was wondering if anyone who reads here has ever found a genuine reference to a ‘trickle down theory’ other than attacks on what appears to be a non-existent theory advocated by no one but imputed to political opponents?
According to Sowell, the attacks on ‘trickle down’ theory have come whenever cuts on income tax rates have been proposed, beginning with the Mellon tax cuts of the 1920’s, but brought out ever since. The argument for tax rate cuts wase that they would produce increased revenue, thus giving the government more money to spend.
It was an argument that would be made
at various times over the years by others— and repeatedly evaded by
attacks on a “trickle-down” theory found only in the rhetoric of opponents.
What actually followed the cuts in tax rates in the 1920s were rising
output, rising employment to produce that output, rising incomes as a
result and rising tax revenues for the government because of the
rising incomes, even though the tax rates had been lowered. Another
consequence was that people in higher income brackets not only paid a
larger total amount of taxes, but a higher percentage of all taxes, after
what have been called “tax cuts for the rich.” There were somewhat
similar results in later years after high tax rates were cut during the John
F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.9 After
the 1920s tax cuts, it was not simply that investors’ incomes rose but that
this was now taxable income, since the lower tax rates made it profitable
for investors to get higher returns by investing outside of tax shelters.
As it happens I had some experience with the Reagan tax cuts, and it is easily ascertained that US revenues went up. Some attributed this to economic activities brought on by Mr. Reagan’s defense spending, but I do not believe that was ever well established.
As an aside, I have one disagreement with the way taxes are collected now: I would in fact raise taxes on the poor, in particular on those who pay nothing. I understand you can’t get blood out of a stone, but you can give them the money and tax it away again. The point is that everyone ought to pay some tax if only to raise awareness of how the government gets money. There is no magical government stash. Consider this a cocktail party theory, not something I am willing to defend against all comers with well thought out arguments.
The heart of Sowell’s essay is:
Repeatedly, over the years, the arguments of the proponents and
opponents of tax rate reductions have been arguments about two
fundamentally different things. Proponents of tax rate cuts base their
arguments on anticipated changes in behavior by investors in response
to reduced income tax rates. Opponents of tax cuts attribute to the
proponents a desire to see higher income taxpayers have more after-tax
income, so that their prosperity will somehow “trickle down” to others,
which opponents of tax cuts deny will happen. One side is talking about
behavioral changes that can change the total output of the economy, while
the other side is talking about changing the direction of existing after-tax
income flows among people of differing income levels at existing levels
of output. These have been arguments about very different things, and
the two arguments have largely gone past each other untouched.
I don’t seem to have a pointer to the essay itself. Doubtless someone will provide it.
And we have
I think that’s what you were quoting from
Thanks. I suspect I can find out anything from one or another of my readers. But then that was true back in BIX days. took a little longer but no less reliable.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.