URLs du Jour

2018-04-29

[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 13:7 breaks out of the usual Proverbial boilerplate.

    7 One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
        another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

    I see the premise here for a pretty good comedy movie. Could we get Steve Martin, in either role? That would be cool.

    Or the Proverbialist might have something more subtle in mind. The Message "translation" is: "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life." But I'm not sure if that's due to the "translator" stamping his own wishes onto the text.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File looks at The Great Divide.

    One of the great intellectual and philosophical divides — a chasm really — is between those who believe in the “perfectibility of man” and those who side with Kant’s observation that “out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” The perfectibility of man comes with a lot of associated intellectual baggage. It tends to rely on the idea that we are “blank slates.” How could it be otherwise? If we come preloaded with software that cannot be erased, we cannot be perfected. Rousseau, one of the great advocates of the perfectibility of man, got around this by arguing that, in our natural state, we were perfect: “noble savages,” as John Dryden put it. According to this theory, what makes us sinful isn’t our nature but the oppressiveness of our civilization. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains” is the way that Rousseau put it, arguing that civilization was unnatural and soul-warping.

    But, since we couldn’t go back to our blissful state of nature, the only choice was to go forward and create a new perfect society — an idea that is only possible if you believe that the crooked timber of the people can be shaped.

    [Amazon Link]

    This is not a new idea. I'm pretty sure it's the same one Thomas Sowell pointed out in A Conflict of Visions (originally published over 30 years ago in 1987). But it deserves repeating.


  • Similar ground is covered at Commentary by Noah Rothman: The Fatalist Conceit. Neither left nor right are immune.

    Unexciting governance is limited governance. And the fatalists are driven mad by the limits our system imposes on them because they don’t want governance to be limited. That is exactly why those limits are so necessary and why, rather than getting dirty fighting inch by inch for the things they believe in, fatalists write themselves out of our political life. The danger the fatalists pose is that they are convincing tens of millions more that our system doesn’t work when it most certainly does, just in a fashion they wish it wouldn’t. In doing so, they are encouraging mass despair—and that is an entirely self-imposed affliction.

    I may be a partial fatalist myself, given that the two-party system seems to supply us with a steady stream of dolts, demagogues, con men, and would-be messiahs.


  • AEI's Mark J. Perry publicizes the ideological purity test required for employment at a university out west: All applicants for faculty positions at UCSD now required to submit a ‘contribution to diversity statement’. Probably coming to a University Near Here, soon.

    All candidates applying for faculty appointments at UC San Diego are required to submit a personal statement on their contributions to diversity. The purpose of the statement is to identify candidates who have the professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that will advance our campus diversity and equity goals.

    Haven't done anything diverse? Well, if you want to work at UCSD, you better promise to do better:

    Some faculty candidates may not have substantial past activities. If such cases, we recommend focusing on future plans in your statement. However, please note that a demonstrated record of past effort is given greater weight than articulating awareness of barriers or stating future plans. A more developed and substantial plan is expected for senior candidates.

    Perry suggests that such "Contributions to Diversity Statements" might more accurately be called "Ideological Purity Statements".


  • I loved the book The Captured Economy by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles. At Reason, Gary Chartier is less enchanted: Getting Crony Capitalism Half Right. It's a real review, unlike my brief impressionistic reports. What's the problem, Gary?

    But in many cases there are good reasons to wonder whether their proposals would really reduce the risks of rent-seeking. Concentrated interests are quite capable of finding ways to navigate a reshuffled policy making system.

    Consider their call for fast-tracking domestic legislation. If Congress were required to vote up or down on policy proposals put forward by the president, dealmaking wouldn't be eliminated; it would be relocated from Capitol Hill to the White House. Instead of bringing rent-seeking to an end, they would concentrate it in a more powerful and less accountable arm of the government. Would that really be an improvement?

    Probably a good point.