Archive for March 2007

Something For the Weekend: Thomas Woods on Culture and Enterprise

March 31, 2007

Last Thursday I attended the Culture of Enterprise event at the Cato Institute, “What Should Be a Culture of Enterprise in an Age of Globalization.” Thomas Woods gave a talk that was an absolute tour de force and, fortunately, it’s available on-line. Hear it here (MP3), or watch it here (Real video). Those links also inclue Olaf Gersemann’s talk following Tom’s; Gersemann was thought-provoking in his own right, though he acknowledged that coming after Tom’s talk put him at a tremendous disadvantage.

The later panel with Ed Stringham, Bryan Caplan, and the Acton Institute’s Kevin Schmiesing is also worth a viewing or a listen, particularly for Caplan’s discussion of “political culture” versus “personal culture” as factors in producing prosperity.


March 29, 2007

I’m in three cities over the next four days so posting will be brief. Two quick things tonight (or today, whichever it is) — here is the second part of Patrick Deneen’s talk from last weekend’s Charlottesville conference on Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition. Daniel Larison seemed a little surprised that I would not agree wholeheartedly with Deneen’s talk (the main decentralist thrust of which I do agree with). What would I object to? Well, I thought there was an undertone of something in that talk, and this later post by Professor Deneen makes it explicit. He detects “gauzy sentimentality” in the libertarian and generally anti-statist bent of some of the participants, as well as an overvaulting optimism about human nature. To me, it looks like the statists are the optimists about human nature: they believe that some people, given lordship over others, will not abuse their powers. I would contend that that view holds up neither in theory nor experience: with a very few exceptions, growth of state power comes at the expense of community and civil society. Taxes, wars, and red tape are not bulwarks of family and locality. But that’s something I’ll have to address at length later on. (My talk, or ramble as the case actually was, at Charlottesville centered on the anarchism and genuine conservatism of Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day, more topics to be addressed properly at a later date.)

The second subject for today is not very localist at all, except in that it’s about an American-made product: the Macbook. I bought one yesterday and it’s already exceeded my expectations. For one thing, the touchpad can be programmed to react to two-finger strokes differently from one-finger ones: moving your index and middle fingers over the pad will scroll on-screen menus. The screen is clearer than expected — it looks clearer than my desktop mac, actually, which makes me think that maybe the desktop is in need of a dusting. The CD/DVD drive, meanwhile, managed to import into iTunes a 20-year-old CD that desktop couldn’t read at all and that always skipped atrociously in the Sony. I’m uncommonly happy with this purchase. (Mine is the 2 gigahertz white model.)

Straussian Anti-Federalism?

March 27, 2007

Georgetown government professor Patrick Deneen was one of the speaker’s at last weekend’s “Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition” shindig in Charlottesville.  He made a very interesting case, drawing on Leo Strauss, for what he called America’s “alternative” tradition, of which the Anti-Federalists were the prophets.  Deneen has a blog and has posted the first segment of his remarks here. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t include the portion that cites the Anti-Federalists.)  Though I disagree with a great deal in the talk, it’s interesting enough to be worth flagging up for attention.

Power Plays

March 27, 2007

Stephen Greenblatt on “Shakespeare and the Uses of Power,” from the New York Review of Books. The best thing in the April 12 issue, though, is Hayden Pelliccia’s “Let Virgil Be Virgil,” which reviews the new Aeneid translations by Robert Fagles and Stanley Lombardo. (Maybe I should be more circumspect about claiming that the Pelliccia piece is the best thing, since there are a couple other promising essays in this issue that I haven’t read yet, such as Richard Holmes’s piece on Wordsworth and Coleridge.)

Jonathan Bate’s cover story on Shakespeare in the April Harper’s is also well worth picking up.

Apt Enough

March 23, 2007

The fortune cookie with my Chinese take-away yesterday (which was a very affordable $5 for white rice, pork fried rice, and an egg roll) informed me, “Your principles mean more to you than any money or success.” I prefer fortunes that actually make predictions, but I’ll settle for that.

My “daily numbers” were 007. I wonder whether that means I’ll soon run into fast women and a megalomaniac with a fluffy white cat…

No updates to the blog until Sunday or so — I’m off to Charlottesville.  Normally I’d have my laptop, but it expired, after five years’ service, last night.

Casualties in Iraq

March 22, 2007

The Onion has a rueful infographic; it’s no laughing matter when the satirical site notes, accurately, that zero percent of our casualties have come as a result of weapons of mass destruction — and 100 percent are a result of the executive decision to invade Iraq.

Recent Reading

March 19, 2007

Ahead of this weekend’s “Liberty, Community, and Place in the American Tradition” conference, I’m reading Thunder on the Right by Alan Crawford, who’ll be the lunchtime speaker. Thunder on the Right, published in 1980, is an anti-New Right book written by young conservative whose own sympathies lay somewhere between Bill Buckley and Peter Viereck. Crawford was critical of both the populist tilt of the New Right and the direct-mail methods by which Richard Viguerie raised money for the cause. As the back flap of the dust jacket puts it (in terms more overblown than anything in the book itself):

Discontent, anger, and insecurity fuel these efforts. The New Right has no positive program but flourishes on backlash politics, seeking to veto whatever threatens its way of life–busing, textbooks, women’s liberation, abolition of capital punishment, gay rights, gun control, loss of the Panama Canal. Not conservative, it feeds on social protest and encourages class hostility. Its heroes are rugged frontiersmen of the new Old West; its enemies are moderate, liberals, and true conservatives of whatever party.

That could just as well be ad copy for a book by Andrew Sullivan, but Thunder on the Right is better than all that makes it sound. The book has a point: often by their own admission, the New Rightists were “radicals” and “populists,” not traditional conservatives, and they did have a much tougher agenda (for good and ill) than Republican Party or the institutionalized conservative mainstream. The threat that Crawford envisioned from the New Right never materialized, though — partly because Ronald Reagan’s victory stole their thunder (and then sold them out to establishment Republicans and neoconservatives), partly because “white flight” from the cities dampened the outrage against busing, and partly because the New Right’s rhetoric and tactics were soon co-opted by the establishment. One could see in Bush’s myrmidon supporters in 2004 much of the spirit of the New Right — but in the service of a Bonesman. What little radicalism Middle Americans were capable of turned into so much fuel for the Bush machine.

I’m also reading Peter Viereck’s Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind, those roots being, in Viereck’s telling, Prussian militarism (“anti-democratic but not romantic nor racist”) and romantic nationalism. Richard Wagner, of course, emerges as a great villain. I’ll have more to say about Viereck, as I’ve long promised, in a month or so — I’m at work on a long-ish Viereck piece for a print outlet, about which I’ll say more when the time is ripe.