Is taxation theft? (Aeon)
The Rule of Law, Firm Size, and Family Firms (FED St Luis)
Is taxation theft? (Aeon)
The Rule of Law, Firm Size, and Family Firms (FED St Luis)
An Address on Liberty (Deirdre McCloskey)
As usual, insightful and educational.
Much of our life is governed neither by the government’s laws or by solely individual fancies, but by
following or resisting or riding spontaneous orders.
The speech also references Harrison Bergeron, the short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (published in 1961), which NOL treated few years ago. I have to admit, I only knew the author’s name and no more. The opening is quite something:
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
This absurd world drips vitriol, though the target is debatable: Most see a parody of socialistic/ communistic principles, though others think that the irony was intended to the (Cold War) US perception of those principles. Also: What’s this thing with dystopias and April?
Vonnegut is the second-in-a-row author from that era that I added to my list, after the recent discovery of Frederik Pohl (just acquired The Space Merchants, written with Cyril M. Kornbluth, in a decadent 90s Greek version).
(H/T to Cafe Hayek for the McCloskey link, and Skyclad for the title word play).
2s rhyme nicely with 7s
Academic papers are a tough nut to crack. Apart from the prerequisite of expertise in the field (acquired or ongoing, real or imaginary), there is some ritualistic, innuendo stuff, like the author list. I always keep in mind this strip from PHD Comics:
It came handy when MR suggested this paper, A Golden Opportunity: The Gold Rush, Entrepreneurship and Culture.
Now, I cannot even pretend I read the thing. But eight listed authors popped-up to my eyes. And the subject is catchy enough in cementing the hard way what may seem as a pretty evident proposition
The term “Argonauts” (used for the gold rushers of 1849) irked me somewhat at first, since the crew of legendary, talking ship Argo was an all-star Fellowship of Justice Avengers team, featuring the baddest champions around (warfare, navigation, pugilism, wrestling, horse riding, music, to note the most renown, some of them later fathered other heroes), human or demi-god. But there is a sad story behind it, and also the Greek myth can be understood as a parable for ancient gold hunting, so I indeed learned something (on-top of quit charging to the void without good reason).
Argonautica notwithstanding, there is an even more telling reference for the theme of the paper. That would be no other than Scrooge McDuck, the creation of Carl Barks, the richest duck in the world. Per his biography, a gravely underappreciated
graphic nov comic book (originally a series of twelve stories, published thirty years ago, other stories were added as a Companion edition later) that frustratingly keeps falling off best-of lists (I mean, apparently there is So MucH DePtH in costumed clowns, but not in anthropomorphic animals without pants) he was a gold rusher AND and an entrepreneur extraordinaire. The book, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa, tells Scrooge’s life before his first official appearance as a depressed old recluse who meets his estranged nephews in Christmas 1947. The duck adventures we all are familiar with followed that meeting. Rosa collected all the smatterings of Scrooge’s past from these endeavors, memories, quotes, thoughts, and reconstructed a working timeline (with the inevitable and necessary artist’s liberty, of course). The resulting prequel is all the more impressive given the sheer volume of detail, the breezy rhythm and the context it gives to a deserving character.
According to the Life and Times, Scrooge struggled from child’s age. The Number One Dime was not “Lucky”, it was earned by polishing boots. It deliberately was a lowly US coin (instead of the expected Scottish one), by a well-meaning ploy to inform young Scrooge that there are cheaters about. It was this underwhelming payment for tough work that lead him to drop this signature line and decide on how to conduct his business:
Well, I’ll be tougher than the toughies and sharper than the sharpies — and I’ll make my money square!Scrooge McDuck, The Last of the Clan McDuck
This fist “fail” was followed by a series of entrepreneurial tries, each failing and each teaching our hero a lesson. Scrooge moved to the US to join as a deckhand, and then as a captain, a steamboat just as railroads were picking up. His cowboy and gun slinging chops went down the drain when the expansion to the West ended. He rose, fell, and still kept coming back. He became rich in the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897, 20 years after the Number One Dime affair (and a little late for the California Gold Rush, my bad).
As the paper technically puts it, the personality traits of those involved in gold prospecting associated with openness (resourceful, innovative, curious), conscientiousness (hardworking, persistent, cautious) and emotional stability (even-tempered, steady, confident), underpinned by low risk aversion, low fear of failure and self-efficacy. This constellation of traits, the authors note, is consistently associated with entrepreneurial activity. Indeed, from that point Scrooge demonstrated considerable acumen and expanded his business across industries and countries. A trait that serves him in building and maintaining his wealth (and seems lacking in his peers) is prudence (perceived as stinginess) and a very laconic lifestyle.
He casually brawled and stood his ground against scum. His undisputable morals lapsed only once, when ruthlessness briefly overtook decency. Though he made amends and corrected course, this failing, coupled with a hard demeanor, made his family distance themselves from him, adding a tragic – and very humane – edge to the duck mogul.
The hero, “born” 155 years ago (8 Jul 1867), stands as an underrated icon of individual effort and ethics.
The Wild West Outpost of Japan’s Isolationist Era (Narratively)
Vivid glimpses of life on an artificial island – called Dejima – in Nagasaki Bay. Dejima was a Dutch outpost and the sole trading route between an isolationist Japan and the rest of the world (meaning the Dutch, that had privileged access, and also the Chinese) from mid-17th to mid-19th century. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and its oriental, chauvinist Dunmer, obviously drew inspiration from the era.
Picked it form Marginal Revolution’s assorted links. Paywalled, but I somehow briefly skimmed it and sensed “post-Christian” world stuff, à la Jack Curtis.
Capitalism and autocracy (Critical Quarterly)
Undiminished by Decadence (Quillette)
Connected to the pop culture discussion here.
A history of punctuation (Aeon)
Why don’t nations buy more territories from each other? (Marginal Revolution)
The last link is from Ted Gioia, a – I understand – musician and author of note. Since my oldest one started a preliminary class in keys, I have tried some cursory delves in the music department, where I’m totally lacking. The particular blog offers insights from music history, culture and business.
Pop Culture Has Become an Oligopoly (Experimental History)
Linked to a relevant piece here some months ago. Still cannot decide if arguments like these are up to some serious insight, or they’re just glorified presentations of common sense (or both, or neither). Enjoyable, worth a look, nonetheless.
Devouring the Heart of Portugal (Damn Interesting)
A Return to Fundamentals (City Journal)
The Life of Democracy’s Interpreter (Law & Liberty)
Why Complex Systems Collapse Faster (Tablet)
Revolución on the cookie factory floor (Narratively)
This story reminded me of a film I want to properly watch again, Made in Dagenham (2010), a bittersweet, feel-good take of the 1968 machinists’ strike against sexual discrimination at workplace, in East London. The Equal Pay Act was enacted in May 1970.
Science fiction, cont.
Have yet to actually read a steampunk book, Mistborn notwithstanding. Was about to buy “The Difference Machine”, but last minute I opted for the history/ fiction hybrid of “Red Plenty” (one of the books I keep returning to, btw, very rewarding read).
Presidents as Economic Managers (National Affairs)
Cowboy progressives (Aeon)
Gramsci’s Gift (Boston Review)
A Country of Their Own (Foreign Affairs)
America has captured France (UnHerd)
Why 1980s Oxford holds the key to Britain’s ruling class (Financial Times)
A War of World-Building (City Journal)
Sciences of “Dune”: An Introduction (LA Review of Books)
A symposium on Dune’s medicine, ethnography, eugenics and others.
Have neither read ASoIaF nor watched GoT, but I will leave the root of word “grimdark” here: In the grim darkness of far future there is only war.
On Tolkien and Orwell (Darcy Moore)
More common points than just “being peculiarly English authors with evergreen book sales“.
Just finished The Dispossessed, the 1974 SF novel by Le Guin. A worthy, humane read, definitely. Apart from the beautiful prose, the setting is compelling. Two planets: Urras, complete with states, money and war, and Anarres, a former mining outpost turned to colony by settlers from Urras. Governments of Urras offered to people adhering to the teachings of a semi-legendary woman (“Laia Asieo Odo”) the colony, so that they could do their thing without disrupting “civil order”. Le Guin explains:
Odonianism is anarchism. Not the bomb-in-the-pocket stuff, which is terrorism, whatever name it tries to dignify itself with; not the social-Darwinist economic “libertarianism” of the far right; but anarchism as prefigured in early Taoist thought, and expounded by Shelley and Kropotkin, Goldman and Goodman. Anarchism’s principal target is the authoritarian State (capitalist or socialist); its principal moral-practical theme is cooperation (solidarity, mutual aid). It is the most idealistic, and to me the most interesting, of all political theories.Source
The book follows a scientist from the anarchist planet who travels to the old world. The chapters alternate between his interactions there and flashbacks from his homeland. The writer paints the capitalist state, that hosts the traveler, as funky, but sinister (she does not spare a neighboring socialist one, either), while she treats the anarchist world more generously. It even gives it some, let’s say, additional leeway, contrasting its arid, hostile landscape with the lush environment of Urras. The dichotomy is furthered by guarantees of isolation: The two worlds only do some limited communications and trade, no traveling in-between.
The outline of life in Anarres was the most interesting aspect, to me. Trust, mutuality and personal freedom are the basic elements in this anarchist society, which prides itself against those competitive, “archists”, “propertarians” of Urras. They also fear and loathe them (acknowledging that Anarres is practically defenseless at the face of tactical armies), and also need to trade with them ores for necessary goods.
The constructed language of Anarres expresses the core beliefs, for example, it uses “central” instead of “higher”, to denote significance in the absence of hierarchies. The word for “work” is the same as “play” (or was it “joy”?), and the really unpleasant tasks are shared on a rotating basis. This means that specialized and unspecialized individuals alike spend some considerable time laboring for society’s wellbeing. Professions are conducted through syndicates, which form and dissolve voluntarily. Individuals move freely across the planet’s communities. There is a unit that coordinates production, work postings and resources allocation (a Gosplan-lite, if you take away the imposing building and that 5-year fetish). It also has powers like emergency work postings in times of need (the closest thing to quasi-official “compulsion” in a society without the notion of it). Serial slackers deserve food and shelter, like anyone else, but at some point will probably get their asses kicked by their peers and/ or pressed to fuck-off to another location.
Each individual is responsible to the others. This simple standard of meeting social expectations, benevolent as it is at first, in the novel is seen as gradually taking the shape of an “orthodoxy” placed, and finally encroaching, upon individual freedom. The writer is also keen to pinpoint the effects of creeping hierarchies, even in organizations open to participation. For example, an anarchist argues that the coordination unit has assumed the bureaucratic attitude (“no to everything”). Other institutions, like research centers, are seen festering with dug-in cliques and “seniors”, that fend-off outsiders and boss around among supposedly equals. I think that anyone who has experienced office life can relate to this.
There is more, about self, relations, gender (not The Left Hand of Darkness – not read, or Tehanu – read, level), constraints and science (the last I cannot judge). A final note, the people of Anarres describe themselves as anarchists, Odonians and, of course, libertarians.
Famous Brand Logos Are Reimagined as Medieval Illustrations (My Modern MET)
The First Authoritarian (The Hedgehog Review)
The Korea Analogy (The Duck of Miverva)
Tale Spin (Real Life)
People, Not Science, Decide When a Pandemic Is Over (Scientific American)
Good Citizens (Orion)
I flee on sight.
Ivy League Justice (Law & Liberty)
Insularity issues have also been raised for the top EU Court: Political appointees and the dominance of French language.
The Political Economy of Classical Music (Jacobin)