Tag: Progress

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Progress, Immigration, and the Question of Rule

 

One of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence addresses the king’s position on immigration. Let’s have a look, shall we?

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States, for that reason obstruction the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

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Right Angles, Old Lady

 

As some of you know, yesterday was my birthday (and Rush Limbaugh’s!). I spent part of the day in shock that I could be this old, but then realized I was grateful that I even got this far. And what have I learned in my long life? Not a damn thing, from all appearances at […]

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Columbus Day or Stay in Your Cave and Never Try Anything Day?

 

OK, I’m a day late (as a new retiree I’m probably a dollar short too), but I was just reading a Wall Street Journal Best of the Web column (possibly behind a paywall) on the trend of city and state governments to ditch Columbus Day and replace it with “Indigenous People’s Day.” Although the column […]

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News of the Future – The Shining City on the Hill (satire)

 

(August 10, 2026 – San Francisco) – United States Senator Sonia Cortez-Bolaño, a former sales clerk for a chain of marijuana stores in the Bay Area, and a relative newcomer to California and to California politics, and a prominent voice of the Communist Party USA who, a little more than two years ago, sent shockwaves […]

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Pencils Are Unsustainable

 

What goes into the making of a single pencil? In 1958, Leonard E. Read asked himself that very question — and wrote an elegant explication:

I, Pencil, simple though I appear to be, have a profound lesson to teach…. And I can teach this lesson better than can an automobile or an airplane or a mechanical dishwasher because — well, because I am seemingly so simple.

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Technology + Comedy = Machiavelli

 

In my other haunt, over at The Federalist, I’ve been writing about “Silicon Valley,” the laughingest comedy on TV. I’m talking about Mike Judge, the creator of “Silicon Valley,” and Peter Thiel, the mysterious prophet-billionaire. Well, I’ve got more things to say! I’m moving here from writing on spectacles in the direction of political philosophy–to put some suggestions to that secret teaching I have made into my title.

Everyone knows, the biggest new enterprises are in Silicon Valley. The names of America’s founder-CEOs, princes of our technological future, are household names. But who are these people? Almost nobody knows, although we all vaguely expect that, if there’s any future, that’s where it is going to be made. Views of the future abound at the movies, on TV, and in books, and they are almost always depressive, if not apocalyptic. How about the people by whom the future is supposed to come? Who will give us a good look at them? There’s hardly anything to mention on that subject, let alone something worth mentioning. There’s no Tom Wolfe novel about Silicon Valley.

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Left, Right, and Politics

 

Talking American sends me thinking now and again. All the questions about the left and the right came up again the other day, questions that come up more often than I think they should, and which I fear can never be articulated in a way that contains partisan passions. That’s how it is: The terms of political art are almost unique in how contentious and disputable they really are. But this sent me thinking, as I said, so I have some questions and remarks below, and a sketch for a crash course on the politics of left and right — I hope you’ll be interested in this enough to make it possible to have more conversations and, possibly, more clarity.

  1. Is it worth learning what left and right mean in politics? Where they come from? How we ended up talking this way?
  2. Do people who talk this way think of it as more than a mere expedient?
  3. Do people who insist on talking this way have any good faith that’s not limited to partisanship?
  4. Do people who want to go beyond left and right really get what’s in people’s hearts as per the previous two points?

I might write something serious and respectable about this, but is it worth the time? I do have some provisional remarks, meanwhile, about what seems to me to be at stake:

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Death of the Middle Class – Literally

 

“Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies.”

I was stunned when I read this article and others describing a study that was conducted in 2015 by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two celebrated economists, and then updated in a study just released. Our middle class is dying.

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Short Thought for the Day

 

Mr. Rand and I are watching the series “Victoria” on PBS and have reached the episode where the Queen is pregnant for the first time. She is terrified of dying in childbirth and is the recipient of a wealth of medical advice, most of it abysmal.

Mr. Rand, who’s now spent quite a few years around the baby birthing business in a variety of nursing capacities, most recently as a CRNA providing anesthesia care in a poor Catholic community hospital to, among others, laboring mothers, noticed and pointed out that our Medicaid patients on the South Side of Chicago now get vastly better medical care than Queen Victoria did in her day.

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Modernity as a Delaying Tactic

 

The moral realm can be defined as that area where we determine not only what is but what human action ought to be. It is also notable for being perhaps the only part of human life in which we are able to weigh the options and use our free will to make a decision. Aesthetics are more […]

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What a Time to Be Alive. Really. Why Don’t We Believe It?

 

twenty20_f3243af1-5703-4d84-b4cb-16583a79e80e_tunnel_light_optimism_pessimism-e1471985273737An excellent piece in the UK Spectator by Johan Norberg tackles one of my favorite issues: Why are we so pessimistic these days? After making the case that advanced economy citizens live in a veritable “golden age,” Norberg tries to explain why so many disagree:

In almost every way human beings today lead more prosperous, safer and longer lives – and we have all the data we need to prove it. So why does everybody remain convinced that the world is going to the dogs? Because that is what we pay attention to, as the thoroughbred fretters we are. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown that people do not base their assumptions on how frequently something happens, but on how easy it is to recall examples. This ‘availability heuristic’ means that the more memorable an incident is, the more probable we think it is. And what is more memorable than horror? What do you remember best – your neighbour’s story about a decent restaurant which serves excellent lamb stew, or his warning about the place where he was poisoned and threw up all over his boss’s wife?

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Justice for the planet shall be Meated out

 

In the same vein as Aaron Miller’s recent “Why so serious?” post, progressive elites – in this case at the United Nations, but I repeat myself – have found a new way to make us hate our lives by loving our planet: a meat tax. That’s the policy solution suggested by the U.N.’s International Resource Panel, […]

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Robert Frost & farming

 

Yesterday was the anniversary of Robert Frost’s birthday lo these many years ago in 1874. I wrote about The pasture, the opening poem of his first famous book. For those who care enough about this matter to wish for more thoughts, I would like to explain a few things I think I have learned about […]

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Akira Kurosawa–John Ford–Shakespeare

 

Akira Kurosawa is the most famous of the Japanese directors & one of the directors with an acknowledged, plausible claim to title, greatest director. This is a difficult thing to decide. We have to consider that & why he admired John Ford. If people who admire Kurosawa are right about him, that would suggest John Ford […]

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Ugly truths #1 The free market religion

 

So I turned to the members feed of Ricochet to feast my eyes. Yesterday was a good day for comedy, so why not push my luck? I see an article that starts with a startling claim. Progressivism is nailed to the cross of wealth inequality. This is the problem with Progressives! They don’t get that […]

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Concluding thoughts on fascism

 

I will end my attempt to correct an annoying new mistake concerning thinking about decent politics & terror. I have argued that this is inadequate theoretically & a liberal prejudice practically. Finally, I have some remarks on how Americans can understand what’s at stake & how the non-American additions to American government in the age […]

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Harvey Mansfield, The party of virtue

 

Here’s the second essay by Mr. Mansfield on the American parties–this time it’s the GOP. You have below my notes–everything italicized is a quote, but the structure I just improvised. I think Mr. Mansfield has a good grasp of American politics, but of course you’ll decide for yourself. So far as I understand the essay–he […]

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Harvey Mansfield, The party of progress

 

Here’s Mr. Mansfield’s recent work telling the story of American politics in the 20th century & the challenge facing conservatives now. This first part deals with the problems of the Democrats. I think it lays out well both the strengths & the weaknesses of modern liberalism, & therefore raises the question, why do not conservatives […]

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They Don’t Make Pessimists Like They Used To

 

The End Is Not For A WhileThe Cato Institute recently hosted a talk by Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker on “Pessimism & Human Progress.” Pinker covers a number of the biases that tip the scales in favor of pessimism: how false positives are perceived as less harmful than false negatives; how the burdens of parenthood make us more aware of risks as we age; how greater refinement and wisdom cause us to notice errors our younger selves would have been oblivious to; how we generally afford greater moral authority to critics than apologists; how we tend to remember drama-laden exceptions while forgetting mundane normalcy, etc. He further argues that, while these biases had and, to a lesser-degree, still have their value, they often lead us astray.

It is, indeed, hard to look at recent history without asking the pessimists for an accounting of themselves. As Pinker has argued at book-length, violence — both state-sanctioned and private — has been in decline for centuries; world poverty is shrinking; we’re still riding the crest of the greatest boon in heath and medicine the world has ever seen. Even problems strongly associated with modernity such as urban crime, abortion, and teen pregnancy are all down.

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