URLs du Jour

2018-09-23

[Amazon Link]

  • The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy is a local think tank focusing on local issues. It believes in "individual freedom and responsibility, limited and accountable government, and an appreciation of the role of the free enterprise system." One minor irritant was its weekly mail, currently being written by Drew Cline. It was routinely informative and insightful and there was no good way to share it.

    Well, good news: they've started putting it on the web, too. (Welcome to 2001, guys!) There's too much to keep up with, but here's a sample, on current efforts to raise NH's minimum wage to $15/hr: The minimum wage is virtue signaling.

    Laws are expressions of moral values. Markets are expressions of economic values (mostly). Even when markets are pushing pay rates higher, people who view the world a certain way find this unacceptable precisely because it does not come from a moral directive.

    For the conspicuously virtuous, everything all the time has to be an expression of moral values. Markets don’t operate that way. They consider tradeoffs, which the conspicuously virtuous rarely do. Everything is black and white, good or bad.

    So even if markets are driving wages higher, society must act collectively to mandate that wages never fall below whatever the virtuous wage floor of the moment is. Refusal to pass such a mandate is considered a society-wide moral failure.

    Or to put it in the contemporary vernacular, minimum wages are virtue signaling.

    And advocates don't particularly care about the people who would lose their jobs (or never be hired in the first place) with an increased minimum wage.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week is relatively short but also (as usual) insightful: The Zero-Sum Thinking Behind Group Rights. Taking off on this tweet from a semi-famous "comedian":

    I think it's obvious that Whitney Cummings hasn't been scared for six thousand years. Take it, Jonah:

    I find the concept of historic grievances fascinating. There is something very “sticky,” in an evolutionary sense, to the idea of getting payback for the crimes committed against your ancestors. If you find this to be an astonishingly novel insight, here’s a list of history books you should read: all of them.

    The human — never mind the Hebrew — in me can relate to some of this (Damn Jebusites, you haven’t suffered nearly enough!). But a Jew born in, say, 1980 shouldn’t have any hate in his heart for a German born the same year, never mind an Egyptian. A German born four decades after the Holocaust isn’t responsible for the Holocaust any more than an Egyptian today is responsible for Hebrew bondage millennia ago.

    Bottom line: Group rights are dangerous garbage, justifying atrocious and unjust behavior. And for a specific example…


  • Andrew Klavan at the Daily Wire: Due Process Trumps #MeToo.

    So much is disturbing about the Brett Kavanaugh fracas. The cynical political use of a wholly unverifiable charge to tarnish the reputation of an admired and accomplished man is disgusting. The idea that the party that rallied around “Lion of the Senate” Ted Kennedy and alleged rapist Bill Clinton now has the authority to lecture us on how to treat women is galling in its hypocrisy. And, as always, the one-sided and unfair reporting by the mainstream media is not just infuriating but also crippling to our national conversation.

    But for all that, what strikes me as most dangerous about this Democrat-made fiasco is the phenomenon of leftist feminist women using their suddenly sacred feminine sensitivities to try to bully us out of our commitment to due process.

    Or…


  • As Michael Ramirez expresses it pictorially:

    Assault on Justice

    More, and almost certainly worse, tomorrow.

Leonardo da Vinci

[Amazon Link]

I got this book on the recommendation of none other than Bill Gates, who put it on his "5 books worth reading this summer". (And—ha—I finished it yesterday, just a few hours before the Autumnal Equinox.) It's one of those rare occasions where the University Near Here library owns it and it hadn't been checked out until April 2019 by some book-hoarding faculty member.

(Don't get me started… oh, wait, I guess I did start. I'll stop now.)

The book is by Walter Isaacson, previously the author of books on Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein. Isaacson is a polished writer of popular non-fiction, and this reads smoothly. Another factor was my near-total ignorance of the details of Leonardo's life. ("He was… Italian, right?") So just about everything was new and interesting to me. The book is lavishly illustrated with color reproductions of a number of Leonardo's paintings, drawings, and excerpts from his notebooks. There's a lot of analysis and interpretation of Leonardo's works. (And, since I'm totally ignorant about such things, they may even be insightful and correct, what do I know?)

What struck me most was the confluence of factors that made Leonardo into the figure we know today. Okay, fine, he was blessed with a high raw intelligence. But other features of his personality played a vital role as well: his curiosity was turned up to eleven; his powers of patient observation were unmatched; he was an utter perfectionist. (One of the things I didn't know: Mona Lisa is, technically, an unfinished painting; Leonardo worked on it for years, and it was in his possession when he died.)

Leonardo was also gay, people of his time were well aware. Also illegitimate, and who knows what role these factors played in his life trajectory?

Also vital were the time and place: Renaissance Italy. Full of prosperous merchants and rulers who had nothing better to do with their wealth than to patronize artistic and engineering genius. Portraits needed painting, churches needed decorating, armies needed innovative weaponry, … Outside of that environment, Leonardo would have become what? A notary, like his dad?

Also interesting was Leonardo's interactions with other famous folk. He had some dealings with Michaelangelo–they didn't get along. He spent some time in the employ of the notorious Cesare Borgia, a very nasty guy, but that didn't seem to scruple him much. While there, he hung around with Machiavelli, too.

Bottom line: interesting and readable. Somewhat distracting was Isaacson's occasional comparisons of Leonardo with Steve Jobs. (Page 353: "Innovation requires a reality distortion field." Really? I guess, maybe, I wouldn't know.)