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« Smithian Political Economy | Main | The Deficit Problem is an Expenditure Problem »


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I have long thought that the photo you use--Ali lording over Liston, with the latter flat on his back--is the epitome of bad sportsmanship.


As Lombardi said, Winning is the only thing.

Not to mention that Ali and Liston were fighting - by which I mean working - for money.

What topcat said.
FC, it has been suggested that Lambardi was talking about the mind game that you play in your own head, to get the very best out of yourself. THAT is the game where winning is everyting, not just the main thing.

One of our best coaches over here, heavily influenced by Lambardi, used to say "winning starts on Monday" (the games were played on the weekend).

The downside of contact games is that you can win by disabling more skillful opponents, even if you agree with the general idea to "play the ball, not the man".

For academic stuff, it is good to be interested in games because all the fundamental problems in philosophy and political economy arise if you think hard enough about your favorite sport.

Wittgenstein's genius was wasted because he never got interested in cricket or football. Neither did Popper and that makes his contribution all the more impressive.

Hamming is good on the research game.

The ideas of devotion and competitiveness as keys to success in non-sports environments is well discussed by Geoff Colvin in his book "Talent is Overrated." If you haven't read it, it's likely a good complement to the Ballard book.

On boxing, we had a young champion named Les Darcy (1885-1916) who beat everyone who he met in Australia, including the best men from the US who were prepared to make the journey and stand in front of him. He would be on the short list of the best pound for pound boxers of all time. He never did more damage than required to win a bout and he became firm friends with many of his opponents. My mother in law recruited me to help her to write up his story because her husband did the basic research but did not live to write the book.


There was not enough room in the book for a lot of fight descriptions so I have put a heap of these on line.


His stamina was phenomenal, near the 20th round of his first major fight he said to a handler "I hope this keeps going". In another long bout a handler complained of getting tired with towelling Les between rounds and Les replied "you sit down and I will towel you".

Is not Kobe Bryant the same basketball celebrity who somehow evaded the legal consequences of allegedly raping a lowly hotel clerk? Or am I mistaken about this supposed paragon of virtue?

Here in Consensus Reality it's called acquittal. What do they call it in your world?

The picture is one of the all-time great sports pictures. At the APEE meetings in Las Vegas, I noted that a print was on sale in the gallery owned by the photographer who took it.


In my world, it is sometimes called 'money and influence talk'and 'transgressors oft-times walk'.


What about Nifonging prosecutors?

Herbert Spencer hated boxing. He included it as evidence of things going bad in his essay "Rebarbarization." Therefore, I hate it too.

It's Oscar Robertson----not Robinson!

I'm not sure you are right Peter. My own experience sadly did not really confirm much of your thesis, apart from possibly a prevailing attitude of invincibility. It is hard to separate whether the arrogance and swagger mostly is a feedback from outstanding physical prowess, or the physical prowess results from the swagger. In my own case, I think I possessed this swagger when I was playing inferior athletes and enjoying success, but seemed to be quickly humbled and depressed by better talent (nobody trained harder and was more fanatical!). At the higher levels, it quickly became clear to me that many of the elite athletes had poor training habits, were surprisingly undedicated to the game, yet still competed on a very high level, much to my bewilderment. I used to believe exactly like you (and trained and was dedicated like a maniac), and had a high school coach who indoctrinated me into this athletic philosophy. It was a hard pill to swallow to finally realize it may not be true.

great post! peter is a giant laudator with a lot of drive to excel.

1. Charles I am not holding up Kobe Bryant as a role model for virtue, I am point out characteristics with respect to work that are correlated with excellence. As pointed out by another reader, these characteristics are recognized across various recent studies, including Talent is Overrated, and Outliers.

2. Sorry for the spelling errors.

3. Having a great work ethic doesn't guarantee success, you have to have unique aptitudes as well. But the post (and the book) is talking about the elite of the elite, not just good athlets (musicians, scientists, businessmen, etc.)

The question is what does it take to excel in chosen endeavors. In our field of economics, it means you have to take a given endowment of mental abilities, combine it with a love of the discipline, obsessive work ethic, confidence that you can tackle difficult problems that other haven't been able to do, and be ruthlessly self-critical without losing that confidence, and finally, take advantage of the opportunties you are given. Those who do this rise to the top of the profession, win the awards such as the Clark Medal or the Nobel Prize.

I think we can learn a lot from these works such as Talent is Over-rated, or Outliers, and also this book which is more focused on excellence in the chosen endeavor of basketball.

In economics, in order to be the elite of the elite, it helps to first have a freakishly amazing math score on the GRE (*elite intellectual endowment). The somewhat above average scores go to second and third tier graduate schools where they are less likely to work in a mainstream area of econometrics research. To the contrary, the brainy mathematician/economist goes to Harvard where he derives a few abstract yet lauded macroeconometrics equations and completes a thesis/dissertation which has already spawned a dozen publications in the top economics journals. The papers are comprised of about 7-10 pages of intimidating-looking equations, augmented by a short, obscure text, that despite saying nothing interesting, leaves the average economist thinking that "this guy is really smart". The other admiring U Penn economist certainly cites the work of the smart guy in his own paper. In the meantime, his/her counterpart at GMU is doing grueling research under Boettke, reading like a maniac, writing like fool, delving into the historical thought and philosophical underpinnings leading up to the formation of one of Buchannan's more obscure yet profound concepts in political economy. Despite the herculean effort, the grad student struggles mightily to find top-notch publishing outlets. When he gains publication, his ideas are not broadly disseminated, and even if he finds work at a top tier research university, it will be an uphill battle for him/her to gain tenure in the "publish or perish" top-tier economics department. In the meantime, the Harvard product is quickly hired at Stanford or MIT, and despite personally loathing the economic field as understood by the neo-classicalist or Austrian school, he/she soon is compensated handsomely to write a much fawned-over weekly op ed national column espousing whatever wacko political idea is on his/her mind. The math endowed scholar is appointed to every economics advisory board known to man, and their every piece of garbage is sucked up and quickly passed through to admiring reviewers by the economics journals. His talks at meetings are standing room only, despite the fact that scarcely a soul had a clue what he was talking about. All the while, our math-endowed economist guru is secretly more interested in rent-seeking and the "high life" of fame and glory as opposed to the down and dirty hard-nosed economics research of the Boettke student.

So in the end, despite the decent aptitude, the love of the discipline, the obsessive work ethic, the secretly high internal confidence level, the ruthless self evaluation, and crazy ambition, the Boettke student of above average intellectual ability most often becomes respectable, but not an elite of the elite.

I am sorry to be so cynical (kind of like the sports talk guy), but this is the way the world usually seems to work. Call it spontaneous intellectual order, or survival of the smartest, the emergence of economic thought, or talent is under-rated. Then again, we all love a good David and Goliath story where the Boettke student slays Krugman, and wins the day. We hope against hope that David can find just one more smooth stone, and bam, game over.

I am fortunate to see this type of genius, and work ethic, on a daily basis. Thought I'd share a clip of a man (one of many) that I know who possesses this drive and capability. Just shows you another application of the insights from the post, in pursuit. Thanks Dr.Boettke.


Pete, you are ignoring that the fact that Kobe Bryant is a revolting human being and that he has this drive to "excel" are inseparable. He "excels" precisely by being an egocentric, one-sided freak, and the fact that we reward him for this is about as convincing a condemnation of our society as one could pen.

All human wisdom is summed up in two words ?There are wait and hope. You can go farther as long as your heart full of hope.

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I still have to pinch myself to realize I am not living a dream. And last weekend just made me realize once again how fortunate I am.

I personally support the right to same-sex marriage, but I'm a realist: I know that it will likely be a long, long time before the majority of states have decided to recognize same-sex marriages.

However, it would be in everybody's interest for all states to grant divorces to same-sex couples married in other states.

From a purely economic perspective, letting same-sex couples divorce and move on with their lives would allow the individuals involved to pursue their careers with fewer distractions, and it would allow them to split up any jointly-owned property in an orderly fashion, which would, in turn, lead to them making productive use of it, or sell it. That has to be more economically efficient than tying the property up in a few years of legal disputes.

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