My new hero: Charles Kenny

I'm a contrarian, I admit it. But there are two kinds, and I think I'm one of the good ones.

Some people take delight in being contrary, and don't much care about being consistent. They just want to be on the "other" side.

Other folks, like me, also play the part of the loyal opposition, but I like to think that the search for truth comes first. If a particular truth is universally acknowledged, that's boring, but I won't change what I believe just to liven things up.

So it's always nice to discover a kindred spirit, someone who seems sensible, and also seems to like to tweak the noses of the complacent. A while back, I happened to stumble across two unrelated articles that are right up my contrarian alley, within a day of each other. As it turns out, they're both written by the same person, Charles Kenny.

I know what you're thinking: he's one of those guys with two first names. How prejudiced of you!  Try to ignore your philistine leanings and listen up.

The first is a brilliant piece subtitled "Why ditching your fancy, organic, locavore lifestyle is good for the world's poor" and that's exactly what it is. Kenny calmly and rationally explodes one after another myth about farming and food:
  • Genetically modified foods are good for you and a boon to the world's poor
  • It's not necessarily greener to eat locally
  • Organic farming uses scarce resources and raises all food prices
I like this article because it seems to pit two fine liberal values against each other: environmentalism and compassion. He ends the piece with a short direct summary of what you can do, food-wise, for a greener and more sustainable planet, and to help people in poor countries. Read the article here.

The other article is great, because it skewers one of the few things that both liberals and conservatives agree on: that small businesses are wonderful and we should promote them. Read it, it's great: Rethinking the Boosterism About Small Business.

I was so impressed by these short pieces, I wanted to see if Kenny has written a book. He has. It's called Getting Better - Why Global Development is Succeeding and How We Can Improve the World Even More. Sounds fascinating, I'll post a review here after I read it. In the meantime, if you click here, and buy it from Amazon, I'll get a tiny piece of the action.

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