Moneyballing a PhD wannabe vs The Great Courses

Moneyballingˈmənē/bôl/ing – to buy what is undervalued and sell what is overvalued.

In the introduction to his recent book, The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis admits that reviewers of his Moneyball book made an important observation about his book’s subject that he hadn’t even considered, Lewis explains;

… a review by a pair of academics, then both at the University of Chicago— an economist named Richard Thaler and a law professor named Cass Sunstein. Thaler and Sunstein’s piece, which appeared on August 31, 2003, in the New Republic, managed to be at once both generous and damning. The reviewers agreed that it was interesting that any market for professional athletes might be so screwed-up that a poor team like the Oakland A’s could beat most rich teams simply by exploiting the inefficiencies. But— they went on to say— the author of Moneyball did not seem to realize the deeper reason for the inefficiencies in the market for baseball players: They sprang directly from the inner workings of the human mind. The ways in which some baseball expert might misjudge baseball players— the ways in which any expert’s judgments might be warped by the expert’s own mind— had been described, years ago, by a pair of Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. My book wasn’t original. It was simply an illustration of ideas that had been floating around for decades and had yet to be fully appreciated by, among others, me.

That was an understatement. Until that moment I don’t believe I’d ever heard of either Kahneman or Tversky, even though one of them had somehow managed to win a Nobel Prize in economics….

The Atlantic magazine’s hatred of the eminently hateable Donald Trump has warped its own expert judgement such that it just published a hit piece on Trump which failed to mention Trump. Where are those proofreaders!

The writer, Edward Simon, a PhD candidate at Lehigh University, attempts to paint us a picture of a Trumpian character, without actually resorting to that Cheeto hue, let alone his name. Convincing readers that the Lucifer character in Paradise Lost is a classically American character, despite the fact that the epic poem was written about a century before the founding of the nation, might have given pause to a lessor academic. Not our Eddie.

He goes on [and on] to compare the Lucifer character with cable television characters [non-pay TV types just don’t resonate with the typical Atlantic reader, discerning and never ostentatious].  A sample of what Simon says:

… there is something revealing in how the triumphalist values of American individualism are also the values held dear by Lucifer. Like Walter [Breaking Bad] or Don [Mad Men], Milton’s character is ruthless, innovative, creative, and dangerous—and also in many ways as American as apple pie.

What no Tony Soprano? Patience my fellow troglodytes, he’s in there. You know the old saying, Milton’s hell hath no fury like a PhD candidate who voted for Hillary in a state Trump carried.  Unchained from The Atlantic’s too clever by half tactic, it wasn’t hard to find Mr Simon’s politics on display:

… I have in mind the anarcho-capitalist, the libertarian, those who idolize the myth of the “self-made man” when the only Man who can make Himself is not of this world. These ethical pip-squeaks have erroneously imagined that anyone can pull himself up by his bootstraps, or by his jackboots as the case increasingly seems to be. Let us not pretend that there is anything “Christian” in a worldview that lets children without insurance die or that is fine with men and women starving to death in the richest nation in history.

Wow, Lehigh sounds like a rough place. And yet … yearly undergrad tuition and costs are in the $60K range. Worth every federal student loan dollar no doubt.

For a much more balanced take on Milton and Paradise Lost, I’d recommend The Great Courses Plus. Why Evil Exists, all 36 lectures taught by the mesmerizing Charles Mathewes, a real PhD [jus sayin] whose excellence is par for the Courses. The description of Lecture 18, Milton – Epic Evil:

Milton’s Paradise Lost is another deeply influential literary meditation on evil. Here, travel deeply into the psychic agony of Satan, in Milton’s complex portrait of temptation, choice, rebellion, and futility. Conclude with reflections on the distinction between satanic and human sin, and the Fall’s significance in God’s plan….

I’m through Lecture #21 and not a Game of Thrones reference to be heard, as of yet. How does Dr. Mathewes manage it?

The cost? Purchasing access to thousands of Great Courses for 3,000 months, is the equivalent of 1 year at Lehigh.

To paraphrase the legendary scouting report first issued by Cuban Mike González, sell Phd wannabes, buy Great Courses Plus.

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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