Thursday, September 22, 2005


To argue that Adam Smith was to previous concepts of distributive ethics what Darwin was to previous concepts of humanity's origin.

The offense of compound interest against a "conservation of matter" view of value distribution.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thomas Pynchon, call your office

An article in today's WSJ (sorry, paid subscribers only) calls out for the master of paranoia to revisit an old theme.

Spanish-born artist Remedios Varo was an important 20th-century surrealist painter and a cultural icon in her adopted Mexico. She painted vegetarian vampires and other strange inhabitants of a world where logic was turned inside out.

Now, four decades after Ms. Varo's death, 39 of her best works are on a journey through the surreal corridors of Mexican justice.

Although the Mexican government has declared the collection a "national treasure" in order to keep the paintings in Mexico, a court here recently ruled that a Mexican museum must hand over the works to the artist's Spanish niece, whom Ms. Varo barely knew. Why? The longtime owner of the collection, Walter Gruen, a 91-year-old Austrian émigré who was Ms. Varo's lover, is missing some sales receipts.

The fight over the paintings highlights an uncomfortable fact for Mexicans and foreigners who live and invest here: Anyone who steps inside a Mexican courtroom enters a world of unpredictable consequences. In the country's Napoleonic code, technicalities often override overwhelming evidence.

Mexican courts ruled that Mr. Gruen was not close enough to Ms. Varo to be considered her common-law husband, even though the two lived together for 11 years prior to her death. The courts have also dismissed some 2,500 pages of evidence that back up Mr. Gruen's ownership claim, including affidavits from prominent collectors who sold Varo works to him.