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Organize a strike in your school or workplace on the grounds that it does not satisfy your need for indolence & spiritual beauty.



Things that are connected

1. Everything you ever wanted to know about the development of surgical anaesthesia.

2. Prof. Edward Nelson believes he has a proof outline for the inconsistency of Peano arithmetic. You can read an early draft of his book here. And here is more analysis. Note that Nelson is a well-regarded mathematician, and not particularly prone to dramatic pronouncements.

My own work on consistency results went in the other direction — investigating large cardinal axioms whose provability from within ZFC would trigger Gödel’s second theorem with painful consequences, then trying to rank them by consistency strength, so I am not particularly qualified to comment on Prof. Nelson’s  work. But I’ll still be reading the book.

3. This article on mistreatment of Amazon workers has been sent around a lot, but a reader points out that it is actually an article about the Horrors of Taylorism. This reinforces my belief that the purpose of most management philosophies is not to improve productivity but rather to provide new and interesting ways of terrorizing employees into submission. The genius of scientific management is that it provides procedures and methods which allow one to devise rules of maximum arbitrariness while cloaking them with the all-important veneer of rational, utilitarian justification.

Liberal nationalism

A reader asks:

Why bother looking for ways ‘to control, channel, and liberalize our nationalisms’? Nationalism is bad! Far better and safer to eliminate it.

In ordinary times I’d probably use this as a jumping-off point to saying something snarky about Francis Fukuyama, or Esperanto, or the continent that could be filled with the ghosts of those who have died as a result of policies aimed at extinguishing various ‘nationalisms’, or the fact that getting rid of nationalism is usually code for getting rid of the distinct identity (and sometimes existence) of a particular disfavored ethnic group that just happens to be inconvenient to another, dominant group. But then I remembered that the mini-goal of this mini-project is somewhat related to ideological ecumenism, so I’ll just pretend to accept the premise that nationalisms can be safely eliminated.

In a similar vein, I’d normally base my defense of nationalism on a full-throated rejection of the liberated modern self, maybe even tossing in a little philosophy of mind; but again my goal is to win friends and influence people, so instead I’ll let Rebecca West do the talking.

Yes, that Rebecca West: liberal and feminist in the broadest and best senses, Victorian damsel par excellence, and author of the greatest travel memoir ever written. The same Rebecca West who, having stood upon the Field of Blackbirds and seen the Serbian youths recite the legend of St. Lazar Hrebeljanović was moved to write:

The little boys looked noble and devout as they recited. Here was the nationalism which the intellectuals of my age agreed to consider a vice and the origin of the world’s misfortunes. I cannot imagine why. Every human being is of sublime value, because his experience, which must be in some measure unique, gives him a unique view of reality, and the sum of such views should go far to giving us a complete picture of reality, which the human race must attain if it is ever to comprehend its destiny. Therefore every human being must be encouraged to cultivate his consciousness to the fullest degree. It follows that every nation, being an association of human beings who have been drawn together by common experience, has also its own unique view of reality, which must contribute to our deliverance … There is not the smallest reason for confounding nationalism, which is the desire of a people to be itself, with imperialism, which is the desire of a people to prevent other people from being themselves … Here certainly I could look without any reservation on the scene, on the two little boys darkening their brows in imitation of the heroes as they spoke the stern verse … This was as unlikely to beget an ill as the wild roses and meadowsweets we had gathered by the road. (1936)

There is a sad, sick irony in such a beautiful sentiment emerging from such an unfortunate example. Go to Kosovo Polje/Fushë Kosova today, as I did a couple of years ago, and you will find that those wild roses and meadowsweets seem altogether more threatening.

Things that are connected

1. Princeton stares down the dragon.

2. Bloomberg deescalates his war on minorities.

3. We are ruled by psychopaths. Some guy at the Economist thinks that’s a good thing.

4. My long-lost cousin Douglas has passed away. Here is his obituary.

It’s called thinking on the margin

via PEG2.0, this scary chart:

heyitsnoah writes:

Compare this chart on the rising cost of raising a child to the chart about stagnant incomes over the last 30 years – and you don’t get a pretty picture.

But read the actual article:

Although housing generally represents a family’s largest expense, putting more than one child in day care tips the scales.

In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.

“It defies logic,” said Linda Smith, NACCRRA’s executive director. As more families are priced out of licensed child care services, the health and safety of those children are put in jeopardy, she said.

For Stephanie Serafini, 38, licensed day care for her two children comprises about 30% of her $39,000 annual income. Serafini pays a particularly high rate for care because her oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD.

I don’t wish to sound insensitive, these folks and those in their situation are clearly having a very rough time, but what this immediately suggests to me is that the economics of the two-income family are becoming less and less rational.

My wife likes to joke that if you added up the market value of all the unpaid labour she does around our household, the result would easily exceed either of our salaries. If second-earner incomes continue to fall behind inflation in child care costs for long, I would expect more and more couples to do the calculation for real.

Or alternatively, you know, the state could stop cracking down on neighborhood babysitting cooperatives. That would work too.

Speaking of which

I don’t happen to be of the Latin persuasion, but you better believe I’ll be attending this one:

St. Mary, Mother of God Church in Washington, D.C. will celebrate the Feast Day of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria with a traditional Latin Solemn High Mass on Friday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m. After the Mass there will be a reception downstairs, with refreshments and a program about Blessed Karl. This is the fourth year in a row that Old St. Mary’s has offered a Feast Day Mass for Blessed Karl.

Since Blessed Karl has been beatified but not yet canonized, the Mass is offered under the auspices of the Emperor Karl League of Prayers, the ecclesiastical entity authorized by the Vatican to promote his Cause for Canonization. The head of this international League (the Kaiser-Karl Gebetsliga) in the United States, Brother Nathan Cochran, O.S.B., will be in attendance, and will bring books and materials about Blessed Karl.

The Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Gregory Pendergraft, F.S.S.P, assisted by two other members of the Fraternity of St. Peter as deacon and subdeacon. Representatives of the Knightly Orders of St. George, Malta, the Holy Sepulchre, and St. Gregory will participate.

The featured speaker of the program after Mass will be His Imperial and Royal Highness (H.I.R.H.) Archduke Christian of Austria, a grandson of Blessed Karl. Archduke Christian will be accompanied by his wife, Her Imperial and Royal Highness Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria. After the program, there will be ample opportunity to meet the honored guests and to mingle with other participants.

The next day, Saturday, October 22nd, Archduke Christian will give a talk about his uncle, H.I.R.H. Otto von Habsburg, the oldest son of Blessed Emperor Karl, who died this past July 4th at the age of 98. The talk will highlight the values and principles which guided Archduke Otto in his long career of service to people of Europe, and how he was inspired by his Father, Emperor Karl, and his mother, Empress Zita. The Archduke will again be accompanied by his wife, Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria. After the lecture and opportunity for questions, there will be a reception and opportunity to meet the Archduke and Archduchess.

What I’ll be writing about on and off for a while

I’ve received multiple requests that I write about multi-ethnic empires: both about their historical successes and failings and about the theoretical reasons why they might present solutions to some of our more intractable problems. But this is a big subject, so I’m going to broach it by talking about the other side — in particular about why the various doctrines of popular or democratic sovereignty are intrinsically dangerous.

The key word here is ‘intrinsic’. It doesn’t take a lot of insight to observe that nations are very old while nationalism is comparably recent, nor to observe that the idea of the state as nation and of the nation as state has always and everywhere followed on the heels of the idea of the sovereign people, and has never come before. But correlation is not causation, and a lot of other things have happened in the past four hundred years. My search is for fundamental reasons why this should be so, reasons internal to the very structure of the idea of governments being constituted via the legitimate delegation of the rights to self-rulership of a hypothesized prepolitical community. In this, I’ve been heavily influenced by the work of Bernard Yack, among others.

Full disclosure: I already despise popular sovereignty and social contract theories of legitimacy for mostly unrelated reasons. In particular, I tend to see them as the political analogues of what Marx described as “fairy tale legends about the origins of capitalism”. Both by obscuring the violence from which all political authority flows with a pleasant, plausible genealogy and by implicitly turning the citizens of a state into its accomplices, theories of popular sovereignty have the effect of increasing the threshold of brutality beyond which a regime begins to lose legitimacy.

But I’m grounded enough in reality to recognize that I won’t get very far on that reactionary attitude alone. My secret hope is that by demonstrating good reasons to expect illiberal consequences from popular and democratic rhetoric, I can broaden the group of people interested in moving beyond our global hangover from the French Revolution.

So that’s the project. Once I’ve either succeeded or failed at it, I’ll circle back around to the reasons why I tend to think that multi-ethnic empires, while vastly imperfect, nevertheless have the potential to control, channel, and liberalize our nationalisms in ways that democratic states never can.

As always, please punch back.