John Gray At The New Statesman: ‘The Ghost At The Atheist Feast-Was Nietzsche Right About Religion?’
Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.
‘If we look at the middle three quintiles, very few of their worst problems come from the gap between their income and the incomes of some random Facebook squillionaire. Here, in a nutshell, are their biggest problems:
-Finding a job that allows them to work at least 40 hours a week on a relatively consistent schedule and will not abruptly terminate them.
-Finding a partner who is also able to work at least 40 hours a week on a relatively consistent schedule and will not be abruptly terminated.
-Maintaining a satisfying relationship with that partner over a period of years.
-Having children who are able to enjoy more stuff and economic security than they have.
-Finding a community of friends, family and activities that will provide enjoyment and support over the decades.
This is where things are breaking down — where things have actually, and fairly indisputably, gotten worse since the 1970s. Crime is better, lifespans are longer, our material conditions have greatly improved — yes, even among the lower middle class. What hasn’t improved is the sense that you can plan for a decent life filled with love and joy and friendship, then send your children on to a life at least as secure and well-provisioned as your own.’
There are serious forces at work in our society right now, from high-rates of technological change and many areas of rapid scientific advancement, to many political, social, and cultural effects as a result. Global market forces continue to apply downward pressure across many industries and sectors of our economy, as they have for many years, altering the kinds of decisions people must make in their daily lives.
Is inequality so bad that we need a ‘global wealth tax’?
I’m someone fairly convinced that American progressive politics and Left-liberalism, in the long-run, generally leads to less opportunity for greater numbers of people, less overall wealth, and more social stratification. It’s a fast-track to many of the problems that many European societies and their governments face: Sclerotic, slow-growth economies, deep structural debt and lower birth-rates.
In America, such an approach seems a sure way to grow a deeply wasteful, unresponsive, over-promising and under-delivering government which fails to protect and serve the kinds of everyday people that have made our country so remarkable. In practice, I imagine this looks more like De Blasio’s coalitions in New York City: Labor activists are quite good at moving tax-revenue and labor activists around, while searching for the right cronies and monied interests to help fund their efforts and realize their aims. This can burden our institutions with impossible demands and a narrow coalition of interests working under what is presumed to be a universal idealism, making our politics deeply contentious and bitter as we fight over scarce resources (including political power).
As McArdle points out, challenging and/or rewarding work and career opportunities, more money and perhaps a little time to maintain the love and family lives that are often at the heart of so much of what we do…this is a good place to focus the debate. In my opinion, this requires broad economic growth and a private sector outgrowing the public sector, and many other things besides.
I’m hardly encouraged by our politics right now, either side really, but I think we can do so much better than this.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome. Let me know what I’ve got wrong.
If you’re a non-economist like me, this can take more time to understand:
‘Overall, the main argument is based on two (false) claims. First, that capital returns will be high and non-diminishing, relative to other factors, and sufficiently certain to support the r > g story as a dominant account of economic history looking forward. Second, that this can happen without significant increases in real wages.’
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As played by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Nic Raine. From Basil Poledouris‘ original composition:
3:40 of inspiration:
Just as optics revolutionized the sciences and the boundaries of human knowledge, from Galileo to Newton and onwards, Tim Jenison wonders if optics may have revolutionized the arts as well.
‘But still, exactly how did Vermeer do it? One day, in the bathtub, Jenison had a eureka moment: a mirror. If the lens focused its image onto a small, angled mirror, and the mirror was placed just between the painter’s eye and the canvas, by glancing back and forth he could copy that bit of image until the color and tone precisely matched the reflected bit of reality.’
Good Vermeer page here for a refresher on the Dutch master.
Penn & Teller helped make a documentary which has gotten good reviews, entitled ‘Tim’s Vermeer.‘
They discuss the project and Tim’s theory below (perhaps only the Girl With The Pearl Earring knows for sure if the painter used such a technique):
Related On This Site: In The Mail: Vivian Maier
Goya, that modern, had to make a living from the royal family: Goya’s Colossus…Goya’s Fight With Cudgels…Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And Thinkers…NASA Composite Image Of The Earth At Night…Beauty?…Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?
‘Nevertheless, we cannot simply disregard the evidence, that there are Muslims among us who interpret their religion in another way. The liberal mind-set, which blames their crimes on ‘Islamophobia’, as though we, who threatened no one, were to blame for the attacks on us, shows a wilful disregard of the truth, and a crazy inversion of cause and effect. No doubt we should be careful not to be provoked. And the peaceful ceremonies with which the people of Boston have marked the anniversary of the bombings show that they have not been provoked, and that they continue to live in the open and charitable way for which the bombers chose, for reasons of their own, to punish them. But let’s face it, planted in the heart of Islam is the worm of contempt for the infidel, and this worm can lodge in the brains of otherwise reasonable people and gnaw away at their conscience until no conscience remains.’
I’m not sure the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in the months and years leading up to the Marathon Bombing, was always what we’d call ‘reasonable,’ but point taken. A siren song reaches some Muslim men, often younger and trying to forge identities of their own as they drift between civilizations. Charismatic Islamist Imams, often through online channels, urge rediscovery of Islamic roots and joining of the ‘front lines’ of a holy struggle. A few go in for it, sadly, usually over many months time and after a meeting or two, ending-up on a dangerously radical path.
Whatever their thinking, they pretty clearly had a plan:
Wherever the Tsarnaev clan started out back in Chechnya and Dagestan, and whatever experiences they had as immigrants to America, I think we can safely say they ended-up a disgrace. Through bad decisions, family failures, and what is likely religious ideology, the two sons chose to commit an act of murderous terrorism designed to take as many innocent lives as possible. They wanted to injure what matters most to Americans and then afterwards tried to make a cowardly, murderous escape. To top that off, Ma Tsarnaev scurried home without so much as an apology, thank-you or goodbye, perhaps either unable or unwilling to process the event and after years of collecting benefits.
I don’t begrudge the city of Boston its plain sense and Puritan work ethic, its civilized, educated roots and liberal, crusading bent along with waves of hardscrabble immigrants and many rough edges. Frankly, I don’t necessarily begrudge the secular humanist ideals that likely guide many of the people running institutions in Boston which provided shelter and opportunity to the Tsarnaevs.
But shouldn’t we be establishing and looking at facts in a cold, hard light?
The victims and families deserve that much.
Below, Scruton discusses Islam and the West and his views in general. He’s a conservative Briton.
Some of his essays here.
Interesting quote at min 6:35 of video 4/4:
‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”
Related On This Site: A Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key…
Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay: As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad
Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’…From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’…From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’…Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads
The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’…Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’Islamism, Immigration & Multiculturalism-Melanie Phillips Via Youtube
From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?…From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
“Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarcely any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science or manners, which it will not bear.”
“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute.”
Maybe wisdom can be spun out of quotation sites.
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‘JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is out with his annual shareholder letter, and, as usual, it is an interesting read. The section focused on broad public policy issues, while broadly optimistic, raised these concerns:
Something is holding back the strong recovery of the great American economic engine. It is not lack of access to capital or loans, but it might be a combination of some of the following factors:
• Concerns around excessive regulation and red tape – I travel around the U.S. all the time, and this is a loud and growing complaint that I hear from businesses, small to large, across virtually all industries.
• Whether you were for or against “Obamacare,” when massive changes to such an important part of the American economy are made, it does create uncertainty for many businesses.
• The inability to face our fiscal reality is a concern. I believe that if we had adopted some form of the Simpson-Bowles plan to fix the debt, it would have been extremely beneficial to the economy.
• Entitlement spending – which now is 60% of federal spending and is growing – is crowding out infrastructure spending and spending on initiatives like research and development and training.’