Archive for the ‘History’ Category.

Things that can’t go forever, won’t.

How do bureaucracies get so big they can’t pay themselves? Assertions that it “can’t possible happen” are refuted by history in instances ranging from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, which turned thousands of clergy starving into the streets to recent examples like the collapse of Soviet pensions or the debasement of the Greek pension system.

In each of these cases the impossible happened, just as it’s happening in Venezuela, where Joel Hirst describes the collapse of a whole system. “I never expected to witness the slow suicide of a country, a civilization. I suppose nobody does.”

. . .

Unsustainable bureaucratic behemoths turn out to be what Churchill described: “a cut flower in a vase, fair to see yet bound to die.” They are not invincible, but quite the contrary have the distressing propensity to die. The irony is that the gigantism voters often associate with safety is in itself a risk factor. The bloat isn’t protection, but a heart attack waiting to happen. Economists have long known that being “too big to fail” is actually a source of moral hazard.

The Surprising Weakness of Invincible Institutions

Ozymandias

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Men of action!

These men were men of action; they were hustlers; they were full of vim and pep and snap and zip. In other words, they were deaf and blind and partly mad, and rather like American millionaires. And because they were men of action, and men of the moment, all that they did has vanished from the earth like a vapour; and nothing remains out of all that period but the little pictures and the little gardens made by the pottering little monks.

The New Dark Ages, by G.K. Chesterton

Continue reading ‘Men of action!’ »

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Stories to Live By

Besides having the narrative of our own lives to deal with, other narratives are constantly being urged upon us, begging for our notice – often with all kinds of tricks to demand our attention. Buy this new car, shown driving up a mountain (which few of us will ever do). Then there’s the Star Wars saga, sucking us into multiple sequels and prequels, and littering the house with “memorabilia” of things that never happened, that many, even so, reorganize their lives around. And there is Disney’s monetizing of childhood; the hours spent binge-watching Breaking Bad. Or buying something guaranteed to “change your whole life.” We add such things to our own life story sometimes reasonably, often enough not so much.

. . .

Followers of this story are the real heroes, not the fictional ones who in our jaded culture have to be upgraded to “superheroes” in order to make any impression. They are actual women, men and children, clergy and religious, who follow Christ.

This truth should lead you to ask yourself: Who are you surrounding yourself with? What are you reading today? What movies are you watching?

Stories to Live By

A good way to cultivate popularity, in politics or religion, is to preach constantly against the sins to which we are not tempted.

Amoris Laetitia

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Free Speech

The Founders knew that liberty is never really popular, and that it cannot be entrusted to elected officials who must answer in the end to the demos, which is why they put the first liberties first, right there in the First Amendment. If we are willing to let a low-rent carny like Harry Reid take those liberties away from us, or a sanctimonious old crook like Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren, the most wooden Indian of them all, then maybe we didn’t deserve those first liberties in the first place.

From Classroom to Courtroom

First Amendment, Liberty, Free Speech

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Statolatry and Eugenics

By the end of this morbid session, I thought I was in a eugenics court. Then it dawned on me, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the modern Progressive movement has been dominated by a self-anointed elite, like several of the justices, who had contempt for the common people. In the early 20th century, they even promoted social and economic policies driven by anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic impulses.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Read the excellent new book by Princeton’s Thomas Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Under the banner of a “New Nationalism,” progressives called for a centralized administrative state manned by expert managers and planners, who would use “scientific methods” to enhance human welfare.

Believing that social progress “required the individual to be controlled, liberated and expanded by collective actions,” progressive intellectuals perceived human persons as “lumps of human dough” to be formed on the “social kneading board.”

That molding, Leonard points out, was to be done “by the best and the brightest, those who, uniquely, ignored profit and power to serve the common good – which is to say, the progressives themselves.”

. . .

Today, however, the new “progressives” in the White House and on the presidential campaign trail are promoting an agenda, similar to their forbears, that includes ideological conformity, suppression of free speech and religious liberty, unlimited abortion, and euthanasia.

Progressivism’s Dark Side, by George J. Marlin

Statolatry and Eugenics, Ozymandias

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Tenderness, Compassion, And The End of History

Liberal pieties embrace the new age, fixate on a final transformative era of history at the hands of messiahs who promise hope and change, who will uplift us and inspire us to make the world into a better place. But history never ends. That is the lesson of the Holocaust, of Purim and of countless other horrifying intrusions of the old into the new. The shining new era that begins with grand public spectacles and displays of the power and might of an empire, ends with corpses and men and women fighting and running for their lives.

The Endless Ages of Purim

Flannery O’Connor wrote, “In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness. And tenderness leads to the gas chamber.”

Whaat?

Here’s what she’s getting at: People who have left the Christian faith wish to retain the remnants of the Christian faith. They want beauty without truth. They want spirituality without religion. They want forgiveness without sacrifice and they want a life that has tenderness without toughness. They want Christianity without a cross, compassion without control and charity without discipline.

The liberal West has been driving on the fumes of Christianity for about a century now and the car won’t go much further.

How Tenderness Leads to the Gas Chamber

Think about the greatest crimes against human life today. Aren’t they cloaked in the language of compassion? “Every child has a right to be loved.” “A woman has a right to control her own body.” “The terminally ill should be able to die with dignity.” And yet, where does all of this compassion lead? To an unborn child being ripped limb from limb in a suction machine. To a disabled baby being neglected and left to die. To an elderly, depressed person who feels obligated to die before medical expenses eat through the family inheritance.

There’s compassion for you.

Compassion Leads to the Gas Chamber?

Dr. More is the one who exposes Comeaux and eventually works to dismantle these projects. But the prophet who goads him to see the wider implications on the insidious activities is the eccentric Father Renaldo Smith, who lives as an ascetic, a modern-day Simeon the Stylite, high in a forestry watch tower. When he was a young man, he tells More, he traveled to Nazi Germany where he encountered physicians and scientists, cultured men dedicated to the betterment of humanity. It was these same men, he reflects, who gave medical sanction to the Holocaust.

The Thanatos Syndrome, by Walker Percy

We are after all, human, and when the State attempts to substitute artificial “tenderness” and “fairness” for humanity, well, “that way lie the tumbrels and the guillotine.”

What Spock didn’t understand

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Marriage and Children

The differences in life prospects between children brought up in married-parent households vs. those raised in the new ordinary chaos of American family life are pronounced, correlating with everything from income to felony convictions. In this age of “Do It For the Children” social posturing, the one thing we won’t do for the children is be decent parents, giving them the benefits of a stable, safe, nurturing home. A hashtag campaign is no substitute for that.

Of all the stupid and destructive products of 1960s-style liberation politics, the effective abolition of marriage (and hence of family, properly understood) will, in the end, turn out to be the worst. And spare me your banal self-justifications: “I divorced my child’s mother, but I’m a good father!” “I was never married to my child’s father, but I’m a good mother.” I’m sure you think you are.

You aren’t.

Statistically speaking, your domestic situation is about as healthy for your children as would be your picking up a drug habit. (Yes, yes, I’m sure that you are the special-snowflake exception to the rule. One of these days, a three-legged horse might win the Kentucky Derby, too.) The numbers are the numbers.

Strange thing: Wildly different philosophical and religious orientations all point to the same central fact of human life. In Genesis, it’s “male and female he created them.” In Plato, we spend our lives seeking the lost half of ourselves from which we were separated by the gods. In good ol’ Darwinian terms, the getting of healthy offspring is the very purpose of life itself. We parted ways with the chimps a few eons ago, and somewhere along the way we developed habits and institutions that helped us to connect our libidos with one of our most useful and uniquely human traits: the ability to engage in long-term planning, even beyond our own lives.

And then, around 1964, we said: “To Hell with it, let’s just be chimps.”

And here we are.

. . .

Social constructs? That’s a glib way of refusing to talk about reality. And the reality is that men and women are happier when they and their opposite numbers are given the opportunity to be what they are. You can do your damnedest to create an androgynous society, but little boys are still going to reach for the toy gun before they reach for Barbie.

Against Valentine’s Day

Religious affiliation is less important than regular religious attendance when it comes to predicting divorce.

. . .

Shared prayer is even more strongly associated with higher relationship quality, such that men and women who report praying together frequently (almost once a week or more often) are 17 percentage points more likely to say they are very happy together. Joint prayer is likely to engender a heightened sense of emotional intimacy, communication and reflection about relationship priorities and concerns, and a sense of divine involvement in one’s relationship. However it works, shared prayer is a stronger predictor of relationship quality than other religious factors in our statistical models.

Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality

Ozymandias

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We all stand on the shoulders of giants

Every normal person understands that every one of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Newton, Einstein, Aristotle, the inventors of the danish, and so on. And, though the West gave the East computers and plastic, and the East gave the West gunpowder and silk, undergraduates have given us nothing. But that’s not their fault — they’re young and innocent. They know nothing. You can’t blame an undergraduate for panicking about cultural appropriation any more than you can blame a puppy for chewing up your baseball mitt. That’s why these kids are in school — to learn things.

The spineless, weaselly deans and presidents of America’s universities should try to remember that.

The Liberal Fantasy of Cultural Appropriation, by Josh Gelernter

Moral preening. Ozymandias

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“Society’s Crisis in Masculinity”

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New York is Broke

Congressmen, presidents and bureaucrats from both political parties have generated an $18 trillion national debt and the most sluggish economy since the 1930s, but state officials across the country are no slouches in running up huge debts and hobbling their economic climates.

The result is some states are busted, with sluggish economies, while others are busting loose with growing economies and more opportunity. The reasons for both aren’t hard to find, they’re all in the numbers.

Take California and New York, for example, two states that have had big-spending governors and legislators for decades. Based on data compiled by statedatalab.org and Open The Books, residents of both states may want to prepare for hard times ahead.

California has $328 billion in debts, compared to only $94 billion in assets, for a deficit of $234 billion. If debt holders all tell state officials to pay up in 2016, every Californian will have to pay an additional $20,800 in taxes.

Similarly, New York has $257 billion in debt and $130 billion in assets. That makes the Empire State’s deficit $127 billion, or about half of California’s. Even so, if the debts all come due next year, it will mean another $20,700 in taxes for New Yorkers.

. . .

Ranked according to the difference between their assets and debts, California is at the bottom of the 50 states, while New York ranks 47th. But as the adjoining chart illustrates, other states are in bad shape, too. See how all 50 states rank here.

Is Your State Busted Or Busting Loose?

Statolatry

Ozymandias

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