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2005-10-21

Great quotes and a question of level of engagement 

Two quotes from unrelated articles in the Economist to make your day:

Regarding the increasing importance of intellectual property rights in the ICT industry [article]:
“Intellectual property has become more central to the industry,” says Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems. “I don't know if that is a function of a mature industry, or simply a confused one.”
And there is this in the obituary for Arthur Seldon [article]:
“The ideas of economists and political philosophers...are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.” So wrote John Maynard Keynes, the economic architect of the welfare state and the Great Society, and he should have known.
But consider this scenario: X believes his opinions on economic policy are valuable, even though they differ from those his favourite political party espouses. What is the best use he can make of his resources? Is it to engage in a think-tank like Seldon did-
Mr Seldon's target audience was what he called the “second-hand dealers in ideas”: journalists, teachers, academics, businessmen and city analysts who create the intellectual environment in which politicians have to work.
Even for someone as successful as Mr Seldon was in promoting his ideas, the results may be not as expected-
Much of his early life was devoted to trying to revive the Gladstonian roots of the Liberal Party, even as it succumbed to the influence of Keynes and others. He always regretted that it was the Conservative Party that took up the IEA's [Seldon's think-tank] agenda, not the Liberal Party, where his free-market ideas really belonged.
Or should someone like Mr Seldon have stuck with direct party politics, devoting all his resources to influencing the policies of one party? Obviously this is not a question about Arthur Seldon himself, who judging on the article may have had some inhibitions that would have prevented him from success in party politics - while his later work apparently became hugely influential. But let's assume someone was intellectually somewhat less resourceful than Seldon and at the same time without major inhibitions, wouldn't it then be more effective to do party work than to engage in the potentially more satisfying kind of work that Seldon did? Just wondering.


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