Seventy years ago today, in the midst of World War II, St. Louis citizens and dignitaries gathered at Lambert Airport to watch a VIP demonstration flight of the CG-4A glider, which had recently entered service. Aboard the glider were William Becker, the Mayor of St. Louis, several other high-ranking city officials, the founder and the vice-president of Robertson Aircraft (a St. Louis company producing the glider for the war effort), as well as two pilots. Immediately after being released by the tow aircraft, the right wing of the glider sheared off, sending the glider plummeting to the ground and killing all ten aboard. [more inside]
Ernst Becker proposed terror management theory to explain toxic leaders (among other things.) The war on terror provides many examples of how fear-mongering enables the rise of authoritarian regimes. Some have even found that self-inflicted fear mongering can cause permanent cognitive and behavioral impairment. Does this mean that conservativism is actually a form of mental disability? Others disagree. (previously in comments here and here)
The Ernest Becker Foundation is "devoted to multidisciplinary inquiries into human behavior, with a particular focus on violence," based on the work of the titular academic iconoclast, "to support research and application at the interfaces of science, the humanities, social action and religion." Becker's Pulitzer-winning The Denial of Death (completed just before his own tragic demise at 49) viewed Kierkegaard's proto-existentialism through the lens of Otto Rank's psychology and concluded that "the root of humanly caused evil is not man's animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny our mortality and achieve a heroic self-image" (summary quoted from Sam Keen's excellent Foreword to the latest edition of the work). The book has now inspired an award-winning indie documentary that purports to be "the first documentary film ever [!] to examine the manifestations of death anxiety on spiritual, cultural, and psychological levels." (6.5 MB QT trailer)
Take a Nobel economist who has devoted his career to studying the effect of social and political change on microeconomic theory. Combine with the most prolific legal scholar of the past half-century and federal judge with immeasurable influence on American jurisprudence. Add Moveable Type and a bit of technical help from our fearless leader, and you've got the Becker-Posner Blog, which debuts today.