Tag: Progress

Quote of the Day: The Unreasonable Man

 

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

This quote has never been more appropriate. We are energy-independent due to George Mitchell, who unreasonably pushed fracking through until it became economically viable – often against the opposition of the “reasonable” among us, who said peak oil was simply a fact. There is no shortage of food due to Norm Borlaug, who unreasonably insisted we could increase food production despite the claims of “reasonable” people that we needed to end food shortages through population reduction. We are on the cusp of affordable space travel due to the insistence and efforts of unreasonable dreamers like Elon Musk, who found ways to dramatically cut launch costs, despite the claims of the reasonable that it could not be done.

QoTD: One Small Light

 

You can’t make progress until you let yourself sound like you. –Nathan Gunn, baritone singer

I first encountered Nathan Gunn right here on Ricochet, when @marcin posted a video of the musical, Carousel. Mr. Gunn played the lead role of Billy Bigelow. He performs opera and musicals, is a university professor in music and is very involved in promoting new programs. Besides having a beautiful baritone voice and his being handsome, I was curious to know more about him and found an interview of him on a program called, The Classical Life (video below). His story is in some ways typically mid-western American: 50 years old, born in Indiana, beautiful wife who is a pianist and five kids. But this quotation he made stopped me cold. It is something he tells his students.

Oh man, it’s media day in our year-end Three Martini Lunch awards and Jim and Greg are holding nothing back.  Specifically, they look at the stories the mainstream media covered far too much, the ones they conveniently ignored because they didn’t fit their narrative, and what they saw as the best stories of 2019.

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.

Member Post

 

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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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.

In his piece we’re taken step-by-step through the entire process of how a single pencil is produced.

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.

The best we have, and it’s nothing to sneeze at, is Mike Judge’s comedy show. This is cultural criticism of progress in the service of progress. That’s almost all-American. He deserves our attention, because he’s onto serious stuff about science, mystery, and comedy. He deserves our praise, too, because he does his job well–his comedy makes the dwellers of Silicon Valley seem at home there. He shows their strengths and weaknesses clearly enough for human types to emerge. You get a sense of what these people believe and, partly, how come. This is not merely a man good at telling stories laughing at the vanities and unwisdom of dudes who are too busy with technology to notice human beings. It’s a sustained attempt to show the obstacles faced by imprudent minds. Well, why are they imprudent? Because they believe in progress. Well, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me explain!

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:

  1. Recovering this language of left and right might bring back dispute as coming down on the yes and the no of serious questions. That’s surely needed!
  2. Another reason, related, is less about pugnacity and more about its ground. Deliberation implies a common ground, which surely is also needed now.
  3. Further, as with partisanship, there is more than mere denunciation–aspiration is part of it, too. Being on the left or the right seems to involve knowing some things and being serious about what you know.
  4. Contrariwise, there’s a danger of ending up not being for anything–not knowing even how to associate with like-minded people, for principle, or interest, or because circumstances require striving in common.

One way to think about this is the study proper to the liberal arts. That way of grasping the matter looks like this:

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.

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.

Member Post

 

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?

Bad news now travels a lot faster. Just a few decades ago, you would read that an Asian city with 100,000 people was wiped out in a cyclone on a small notice on page 17. We would never have heard about Burmese serial killers. Now we live in an era with global media and iPhone cameras every-where. Since there is always a natural disaster or a serial murderer somewhere in the world, it will always top the news cycle – giving us the mistaken impression that it is more common than before.

Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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Member Post

 

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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