You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Our Epistemological Depression

David Brooks has an intriguing column in this morning's Times which I read on the veranda of the King David Hotel and looking at out at the walls of the Old City. Yes, Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt just in time to get my marching orders from Bibi Netanyahu. But, as of yet, he's been much too busy to see me. Maybe I can see Avigdor Lieberman.

I any case, Brooks' column was about the American economy which has even the Israelis spooked. On the other hand, Israel is doing better than we are. And the Governor of the Bank of Israel seems to think that the recession here will begin to peter out within two months. From his mouth to God's ears. Stanley Fisher is the head of the bank, brought here by Netanyahu who was then the finance minister in Ariel Sharon's government. Fisher was a professor of macroeconomics at MIT and served in very high positions at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund during other turbulent times. He was born and brought up as a Zionist in Northern Rhodesia. He is probably the most significant oleh (immigrant) to come on aliyah in the last 30 years, along probably some American and Russian scientists and mathematicians.

Back to Brooks.  His column mentions an essay by my good and much-missed friend Jerry Z. Muller, professor of history at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is much more than an intellectual and social historian but a wide-ranging scholar and highly provocative scholar.  His article, "Our Epistemological Depression," is aptly titled and is published in the current issue of The American, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, the weight of whose work is always challenging. (Which I surely can't say about The American Prospect.) 

Anyway, Muller's piece is about how we got into the intellectual traps in which we find ourselves and how we can try to get out of them. He also cites a very smart quip by Niall Ferguson, a wise and smart man: "Those whom the gods want to destroy they first teach math."