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.)


5 thoughts on “Traveling

  1. Jesse Walker March 29, 2007 / 4:50 pm

    Funny to read Deneen’s comments on his blog. I found more to disagree with in his talk than any other that day, in part because he seemed to be deducing a general cultural decline from, as far as I could tell, his observations of pop-culture images, and not from any observation of how actual people actually behave (including how they interact with pop culture). There’s a thin line between sentimentalizing ‘the people’ and condemning them, because both require you to treat them as an abstraction. Respecting the concrete should be more than a Kirkian slogan.

  2. Daniel McCarthy March 29, 2007 / 6:00 pm

    Along the lines of respecting the concrete being more than a slogan, I thought it was ironic that one speaker should cite T.S. Eliot’s remark that the world would be better if more people lived where they were born, considering that Eliot abandoned not only the place but the country where he was born and reinvented himself as an Englishman. (The English are less prone to idolizing Eliot than Americans are, interestingly enough.)

  3. Caleb Stegall March 29, 2007 / 6:08 pm

    I have always assumed that Eliot held that view specifically as a result of his place-hopping experience. He was forever haunted by his rootlessness which is what made him such a profound prophet of the 20C.

  4. Dain March 29, 2007 / 11:04 pm

    I’d love to read anything you come up with on Dwight MacDonald…

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