URLs du Jour

2019-08-05

[Amazon Link]

  • At the (possibly paywalled) WSJ Peggy Noonan wonders: What Were Robespierre’s Pronouns?

    [The French Revolution was] largely run by sociopaths. One, Robespierre, the “messianic schoolmaster,” saw it as an opportunity for the moral instruction of the nation. Everything would be politicized, no part of the citizen’s life left untouched. As man was governed by an “empire of images,” in the words of a Jacobin intellectual, the new régime would provide new images to shape new thoughts. There would be pageants, and new names for things. They would change time itself! The first year of the new Republic was no longer 1792, it was Year One. To detach farmers from their superstitions, their Gregorian calendar and its saints’ days, they would rename the months. The first month would be in the fall, named for the harvest. There would be no more weeks, just three 10-day periods each month.

    So here is our parallel, our hiccup. I thought of all this this week because I’ve been thinking about the language and behavioral directives that have been coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America.

    There is the latest speech guide from the academy, the Inclusive Communications Task Force at Colorado State University. Don’t call people “American,” it directs: “This erases other cultures.” Don’t say a person is mad or a lunatic, call him “surprising/wild” or “sad.” “Eskimo,” “freshman” and “illegal alien” are out. “You guys” should be replaced by “all/folks.” Don’t say “male” or “female”; say “man,” “woman” or “gender non-binary.”

    More on CSU's Inclusive Speech Guide at the College Fix. I thought things were getting more sensible at the University level, and they may be, but I suspect we'll have to wait until the last Robespierre retires to be sure.


  • David L. Bahnsen, on the other hand, has an eminently sensible take at National Review. Sometimes Trump: Now More Than Ever.

    Few things have occupied more of my energy and frankly my anxiety over the last two and a half years than trying to see conservatism hold itself together through the Trump era. This transcends any impact of Trumpism on the ideology or movement of conservatism, and actually speaks to the personalities involved: the thought leaders, the people. It is inadequate to merely state that divisions have formed around the response of conservatism to Donald J. Trump. In some tragic cases friendships have been destroyed. Nastiness has frequently ruled the day. My dream a couple years ago of everyone taking a breath and finding it in themselves to understand where the other side was coming from was revealed to be naïve gibberish. And as we prepare for President Trump’s reelection effort, I suspect we are about to discover that these intra-squad disputes have only been in the early innings.

    I hold out no hope for persuading other leading advocates of a particular school of thought on Trump how they ought to think, how they ought to behave, or how they ought to be. I can only affirmatively suggest what my modus operandi will be for the next year and three months, and if it strikes a chord within any of you, so be it. My objectives at this point are not to be a grand mediator of divided forces, but rather to be a faithful witness and effective movement conservative in a time where it is desperately needed.

    I can't find a single thing about which to quibble in David's article.


  • [Amazon Link]
    An article on the "Bad News" side of Reason's latest issue by Katrina Gulliver: What If Man Is a Killer Ape Beset by Original Sin?.

    Today, self-help books and relationship gurus invoke evolution to explain everything from marital infidelity to the paleo diet. Our early ancestors' survival needs echo through our ideas today. But this is not the first time our hominid ancestry's role in our culture and character has played a major role in Western popular culture.

    Following the nightmare of the Second World War, the idea of a universal humanity had great appeal. The Holocaust and the atom bomb had proven that human beings have not only destructive impulses but a devastating ability to carry them out. But were these impulses something we were born with, or were they created by our culture? Answering this question became a driving focus of popular anthropology. With Creatures of Cain, the Princeton historian Erika Lorraine Milam explores this period of intellectual debate.

    Cool! Creatures of Cain has been plopped right onto the to-read list.


  • At Cato, Chris Edwards has a rundown on Elizabeth Warren's plan to extract more money from the "rich": Taxing Wealth and Capital Income. Let's skip down to the conclusions:

    Nations around the world have cut taxes on capital in recent decades, and most nations that had annual wealth taxes have repealed them. Recent U.S. proposals to increase taxes on wealth and capital income run counter to the lessons learned about efficient taxation in the global economy.

    The Europeans discovered that imposing punitive taxes on the wealthy undermined economic growth. They found that wealth taxes encouraged tax avoidance and generated capital flight. European wealth taxes raised little money and became riddled with exemptions.

    Wealth is accumulated savings, which is needed for investment. The fortunes of the richest Americans are mainly socially beneficial business assets that create jobs and income, not private consumption assets. Raising taxes on wealth would boomerang against average workers by undermining their productivity and wage growth.

    Senator Warren says that she wants rich people to “pay a fair share, so the next kid has a chance to build something great and the kid after that and the kid after that.” But encouraging the wealthy to invest in new and expanding businesses is what creates opportunities for those young people, not redistributing more income through the tax code.

    Creating a fair and efficient method of taxing capital is a challenge, but experts are widely agreed that wealth taxes are an inefficient way to do so. Rather than sin taxes, wealth taxes are virtue taxes that penalize the wealthy for being frugal and for reinvesting their earnings.

    Rather than imposing a wealth tax or raising tax rates on capital income, policymakers should rethink the overall federal approach to taxing capital. A better way is through consumption-based taxation, which would tax wealth but in a simpler way that does not stifle savings, investment, and growth.

    It must have been tempting for Chris to say: "Elizabeth Warren probably knows her proposal is garbage; her goal is simply to woo the left-wing bubbas that hate the rich."


  • Reader, you may be familiar with/amazed by Gmail's helpful guesswork on what you're going to type when composing your correspondence. And, for that subset of readers who are also current or ex-coders, you may have wondered whether this would happen: This AI-powered autocompletion software is Gmail’s Smart Compose for coders.

    Over the past year, AI has seriously improved its ability to generate the written word. By scanning huge datasets of text, machine learning software can produce convincing samples of everything from short stories to song lyrics. Now, those same techniques are being applied to the world of coding with a new program called Deep TabNine.

    Deep TabNine is what’s known as a coding autocompleter. Programmers can install it as an add-on in their editor of choice, and when they start writing, it’ll suggest how to continue each line, offering small chunks at a time. Think of it as Gmail’s Smart Compose feature but for code.

    Oooh, there's a version for vim, and it supports Perl! I may not be posting for a few weeks…