Do Not Despair

The Chimes tells the story of Trotty Veck, a street porter who scrapes together a poor-but-honest living delivering messages through the streets of London. Trotty is a small-business owner who “loved to earn his money. He delighted to believe … that he was worth his salt. With a … message or small parcel in hand, his courage, always high, rose higher.” On New Year’s Eve, Trotty is driven to despair by the evils of the world. That night, the ringing of the chimes in the church tower awakens him. Drawn to their sound, he finds himself called to account for his despair by the bells and their goblin attendants. They show him visions of a future that awaits if he gives in to his despair, and in the morning, he wakes to find himself at home, surrounded by family and good will.

The bells and the goblins accuse Trotty of falling into three specific errors in his moments of despair. First, he is guilty of dreaming of a romanticized past at the cost of neglecting the opportunity to improve the present. Second, he is guilty of assuming that the plans of the poor are of no importance to anyone. Third, he is guilty of a misanthropy that condemns humanity as evil and not worth saving.

I couldn’t help wondering, while reading The Chimes, whether Trotty’s errors were meant to replicate the errors often committed by readers of A Christmas Carol.
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Depriving the poor of their choices and invading their lives with paternalistic plans for improvement that destroy the fragile plans they have built themselves is no way to aid them.
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When we talk about A Christmas Carol, we fail to give Scrooge credit for transforming. We “abandon him as vile” and “turn our back upon the fallen.” The Chimes won’t let us do that. It is not enough to urge Scrooge to be good to others. We have to remember to be good to Scrooge. Otherwise, we haven’t learned a thing.

As a work of art, The Chimes will never replace A Christmas Carol. It’s simply not as memorable. But as a moral lesson, it is a fine corrective to some of the ways in which our dreams of the past, our desires to help in the present, and our fears about the future of humanity can lead us astray.

A Tale of Two Stories: It is not enough to urge Scrooge to be good to others, by Sarah Skwire

The Chimes (Wikipedia)

Despair

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“Pro-Business” is NOT Pro-Market

Instead of being “pro-business,” policy makers should aspire to be “pro-market,” eschewing both targeted punishment and targeted privilege.

‘Pro-Business’ Is Bad Business for the Middle Class, by Matthew Mitchell

Being “pro-business” is crony capitalism in disguise and rewards the Clerisy and the political class. Free markets are all about voluntary cooperation.

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Gaudete Sunday

Gaudete Carol

Gaudete Sunday

First, collect experiences, not things.
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Second, steer clear of excessive usefulness.
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And finally, get to the center of the wheel.
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But as the Catholic theologian Robert Barron writes, the early church answered this existential puzzle by placing Jesus at the center of the wheel. Worldly things occupy the wheel’s rim. These objects of attachment spin ceaselessly and mercilessly. Fixed at the center was the focal point of faith, the lodestar for transcending health, wealth, power, pleasure and fame — for moving beyond mortal abundance. The least practical thing in life was thus the most important and enduring.
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The frustration and emptiness so many people feel at this time of year is not an objection to the abundance per se, nor should it be. It is a healthy hunger for nonattachment. This season, don’t rail against the crowds of shoppers on Fifth Avenue or become some sort of anti-gift misanthrope. Celebrate the bounty that has pulled millions out of poverty worldwide. But then, ponder the three practices above. Move beyond attachment by collecting experiences, avoid excessive usefulness, and get to the center of your wheel. It might just turn out to be a happy holiday after all.

Abundance Without Attachment, by Arthur Brooks

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“A Light in the Darkness” Sunday, December 7, 2014, 7pm

“A Light in the Darkness” — an Ignatian meditation on Advent and Christmas, with the Ignatian Schola

Sunday, December 7, 2014, 7pm
Church of St. Francis Xavier
46 W 16th St, New York, NY

“Comfort, Comfort, O My People” by The Ignatian Schola

“Comfort, comfort O my people;
speak of peace!” Now says our God.
“Comfort those who sit in darkness
mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load.
Seek unto Jerusalem
of the peace that waits for them!
Tell of all the sins I cover,
and that warfare now is over.”

Hark the voice of one who’s crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all to full repentance,
since the Kingdom now is here.
O, that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way.
Let the valleys rise to meet Him
and the hills bow down to greet Him.

O make straight what long was crooked,
make the rougher places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble,
as befits His holy reign.
For the glory of the Lord
now o’er earth is shed abroad,
and the flesh shall see the token
that His word is never broken.

Ignatian Schola YouTube

“to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”

George Washington’s “Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport RI”

Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City

Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, from George Washington, August 18, 1790:

Gentlemen:

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Source: George Washington: A Collection, ed. W.B. Allen (Liberty Fund: Indianapolis, 1988)

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What Makes a Place Good for People?

I want to get back to the idea of human scale and how the best parts of Yucca are the little spaces between and around the buildings instead of the big parking lots and super wide street frontage. Everywhere I go in the world I find some of the best streets are barely wide enough for a car to pass through…

The Other Side of the Tracks, by John Sanphillippo

“Tribal and narrow minded” LOL!

In December, the Metropolitan Council of Minneapolis and St. Paul is scheduled to vote on a vision for the region’s housing and transportation future. “Thrive MSP 2040” is the council’s comprehensive development plan for the seven-county Twin Cities metro area for the next 30 years. It’s a regional growth plan that will result not in a cure for the area’s ills, though, but in a virus that will kill its vitality.

The Minneapolis/ St. Paul area is one of the most livable regions in the nation. That’s not because residents were forced onto transit and into high density housing, as ‘Thrive’ will do. Growth occurred in a natural manner, in an area with great schools, because people here had the freedom to choose the size of yard for their kids, and the ability to embrace the natural openness of the region. The vigorous suburban growth that resulted has helped our vitality, despite past decisions from the Met Council to neutralize it.

The Metropolitan Council isn’t alone in adopting New Urbanist plans on a wholesale basis. Their approach, and the problems that go with it, are being repeated by many planning boards nationwide. The 350-page ‘Detroit Future City’ plan is a tunnel-vision strategy based on the same New Urbanist thought. With the best of intentions — goals of avoiding pre-fabricated monotony and sprawl, and creating affordable, livable communities — municipalities are actually writing prescriptions that will do just the opposite.


Would the Twin Cities Survive New Urbanism?
by Rick Harrison

New Urbanists are just another kind of philosopher king.

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Public Choice and Rent Seeking

Yet the reality of voters’ rational ignorance is one of the chief reasons why public-choice scholars argue that political choices are often less prudent and less sensible than are choices made by people in private markets – and why special-interest groups have a much greater chance of co-opting political processes than they have of co-opting market processes.

Put differently, the reality of public choice is among the main reasons given by public-choice scholars for why political outcomes will often be less desirable than they are imagined to be by those who are enthusiastic about democratic politics. Even democratic political processes that are inclusive and non-corrupt feature inordinate amounts of free-riding and other ‘market-failure’ flaws that render such processes much less likely to work to promote the general welfare than the champions of politics suppose. Politics neither performs miracles nor is itself blessed by miracles.

So Jonathan Gruber simply admits that the very process that people on the left romanticize and celebrate – democratic politics – isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Of course, libertarians and public-choice scholars say the same. The difference between the Jonathan Grubers of the world and the Russ Robertses and Bryan Caplans of the world is that the former believe that politics is still commendable as long as good, smart people (such as Gruber) are performing deceptions necessary to trick voters into supporting policies that good, smart people somehow divine are best for the masses, while the latter believe that the very need to deceive rationally ignorant (indeed, rationally irrational) voters is itself a major flaw in politics – a flaw that makes politics far less reliable and admirable than competitive, private markets.

GruberGate, by Don Boudreaux

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It is the little things

[M]an is easily fooled, either by cleverly thought out manipulation of man, by circumstances occurring by accident, or by very effective manipulation practices that man has stumbled into during “practice evolution” and kept in place because they work so well. One such outcome is caused by a quantum effect in human perception. If stimulus is kept below a certain level, it does not get through.
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And even when perception does get through to man’s brain, it is often misweighted, because what is registered in perception is in shockingness of apparent contrast, not the standard scientific units that make possible science and good engineering against often-wrong effects from generally useful tendencies in his perception and cognition.
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Inadequacy of contrast-based perception (i.e. stick one hand in hot, one hand in cold, and now both in luke warm and they are both hot and cold respectively). One thus sees perception so easily fooled by mere contrast, where a simple temperature gauge would make no error, and realizes cognition mimics perception in being misled by mere contrast. Thus, one is the way to understanding how magicians, and life, fools one. This can occur, through deliberate human manipulation or otherwise, if one doesn’t take certain precautions against often-wrong effects from generally useful tendencies in his perception and cognition.

The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, by Charlie Munger (27-page PDF)

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Man of Constant Sorrow

Man of Constant Sorrow

Colorado


Bob Dylan – Man Of Constant Sorrow

History of this traditional American folk song. It was first recorded by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky. “Man of Constant Sorrow” is a traditional American Folk Song. Although he song was originally recorded by Burnett as “Farewell Song” printed in a Richard Burnett songbook, c. 1913. An early version was recorded by Emry Arthur in 1928 (Vocalion Vo 5208).

On October 13, 2009 on the Diane Rehm Show, Dr. Ralph Stanley of the Stanley Brothers, born in 1927, discussed the song, its origin, and his effort to revive it: “Man of Constant Sorrow” is probably two or three hundred years old. But the first time I heard it when I was y’know, like a small boy, my daddy — my father — he had some of the words to it, and I heard him sing it, and we — my brother and me — we put a few more words to it, and brought it back in existence. I guess if it hadn’t been for that it’d have been gone forever. I’m proud to be the one that brought that song back, because I think it’s wonderful.”

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Meet the New Serfs: You

In Habersham County, Ga., police looking for a drug dealer — at a home in which he did not reside — broke down the doors thinking they’d find drugs and guns, which of course they didn’t. But they did manage to toss a flash grenade into a baby’s playpen, burning part of the child’s face off. The family was left with nearly $1 million in medical bills, and the kid will need surgery every few years until he stops growing. The police insist they did nothing wrong. And as in New Haven, when they found the drug dealer for whom they were searching, the Georgia authorities brought him in without incident, without kicking down any doors or throwing any stun grenades.
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Even in medieval times, the distinction between lords and serfs was not so pronounced.

Meet the New Serfs: You

The Police State, cheered on by the Clerisy

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