Mark McHugh

To Harvard: (upon return from the Twilight Zone)

In Open Thread on Friday, February 27, 2009 at 8:26 pm

When I checked the blog late last night, I saw I was getting hits (a lot of hits) from something called Greg Mankiw’s Blog. I’d never heard of Greg, so I went to check out his site.  It turns out that Greg is a professor of economics at Harvard.  Harvard??? I suppose he got a chuckle out my adaptation of M. C. Escher’s art and thought it was worth sharing.  After playing it cool for about thirty seconds, I went and woke up my wife.  Honey, wake up! you gotta see this…….

I had to get up and out early this morning, so the buzz that I had gotten from knowing that some of the sharpest young minds in the world had paused for a second to see what I had wrought was gone.  It had been replaced by that familiar lower back pain I get from being stuck in traffic, and the simmering hostility I have for those responsible for the desperate state of our economy.  Supposedly well-educated men and women that blazed the trail to destruction, and want others to foot the bill.


Then the really dark clouds started rolling in.  Harvard, I thought, is an asshole factory.  That’s where these soulless bastards come from. And you’re proud of yourself ?  What’s next?  You gonna get all giddy when the KKK puts you on their blog roll,  Jackass?

Oh great, self-loathing….

So, I spent most of my day pondering a post that  would emotionally scar these snot-nosed genius pricks  (I tend to externalize self-loathing).  LESSON??? ….I’LL GIVE YOU A FUCKING LESSON !!!!! …. you greedy, little, masters of the universe wannabes…….I’ll teach them to look at the things I desperately wanted people to see….

…….Uh-oh……there’s that music again………..

My  journey to Psychotown triggered one of the most powerful memories I have of my own education.  It’s a lesson that I rarely recount because the circumstances never seem appropriate.  But if I can bore you just a little longer, here’s something that profoundly shaped my views of economics and society.  It’s probably far too simple to be taught at Harvard, so I’d like to pass it on:

I attended a Catholic High School and for the most part, hated it.  In 11th grade, my required religion course was simply entitled “Morality”.  Our instructor, Fr. Stephen Biscoe was a man way too cool to be a priest.

One Monday he informed our class that we would be playing a game all week long. The game was called Starpower. I won’t go into the details of the game ( but I found a good descrition here).  The important nuance is that after the initial rounds of the game, the leaders are allowed to start modifying the rules.  So guess what they do?  Stack the game in their favor.  And guess what  happens?  The game sucks so bad that no one else wants to play.

By Thursday, the classroom was total chaos and the game was stopped before blood was shed.  Fr. Biscoe told us that he’s been doing this for fifteen years, and not once did the game survive the week.

Smart kids don’t need  morals explained, so I’ll just say, thank you, Professor Mankiw.


Why Would Anyone Want to Play Starpower?

  1. I think Gouvernour Morris was talking about that kind of dynamic here: “But, after all, what does it signify that men should have a written constitution, containing unequivocal provisions and limitations? The legislative lion will not be entangled in the meshes of a logical net. The legislature will always make the power which it wishes to exercise, unless it be so organized as to contain within itself the sufficient check. Attempts to restrain it from outrage, by other means, will only render it more outrageous. The idea of binding legislators by oaths is puerile. Having sworn to exercise the powers granted, according to their true intent and meaning, they will, when they feel a desire to go farther, avoid the shame, if not the guilt, of perjury, by swearing the true intent and meaning to be, according to their comprehension, that which suits their purpose.” (Letter to Timothy Pickering, December 12, 1814)

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