Friday, April 11, 2014

The Moral Power of Curiosity.

I point out columns by David Brooks here from time to time, mostly because his column regularly
David Brooks
Photo by Allie Krause
Image available at
features in my weekly reading list, and his segment on the NewsHour with Mark Shields on PBS is a Friday night favorite at our house. According to Wikipedia, he's "the sort of conservative pundit that liberals like, someone who is 'sophisticated' and 'engages with' the liberal agenda[.]"

Today is one of the better examples of him doing so. His column is entitled "The Moral Power of Curiosity," which is particularly apt. The illustration in the column is about the discovery of flash trading in stock markets, which is a form of front-running. The specifics of the example are interesting, because Brooks' notes the limitations of the business metaphor for understanding human behavior:
"One lesson of this tale is that capitalism doesn’t really work when it relies on the profit motive alone. If everybody is just chasing material self-interest, the invisible hand won’t lead to well-functioning markets. It will just lead to arrangements in which market insiders take advantage of everybody else. Capitalism requires the full range of motivation, including the intrinsic drive for knowledge and fairness."
I could literally not agree more, and this phenomenon is especially crucial in education.  You can't just rely on individuals pursuing equilibrium strategies -- the effectiveness of democracy turns on motivated individuals driven by a desire for knowledge and fairness -- our government, and our civil society, is a product of the essence of education.