Robert Nisbet (1913-1996) was a conservative sociologist whose lifework resolved around one grand theme: the importance of communities, those “human groups that spring up to fill perennial human needs and solve problems,” such as families, voluntary associations, and churches.
People need community. Community, Nisbet once wrote, “springs from some of the powerful needs of human nature.” If communities are attacked or undermined, individuals will be harmed.
This firmly-held belief animated one of the main “sub-themes” of Nisbet’s work: To the extent the centralized state becomes more powerful, communities atrophy.
This, of course, makes sense, if we keep in mind Nisbet’s primary definition of “community” as groups that solve problems. To the extent the omnicompetent state attempts to solve our problems, the role of community diminishes, weakens and eventually disappears—to the detriment of individuals. This has been the readily-discernible path in America’s recent past, as the national government’s attempt to solve problems on a national scale has crippled families (e.g., by providing economic incentives for women not to marry) and charitable organizations (e.g., by national-scale welfare programs replacing the need for local organizations and churches to care for their poor).
The rise of the powerful state has resulted in harm to individuals, Nisbet believed. He said the contemporary individual is “metaphysically beleaguered.” He said modern man is alienated. Instead of being connected to others and higher realities through communities, he is tossed about in “vast institutions and organizations” that fragment him and leave him “existentially missing in action.”
Postmodernism: That’s a pretty big umbrella of thought. Please excuse my broad—sloppy—use of the term.
Standpoint Epistemology: You know why whites can’t think like blacks, and men like women, or cis like queers? Because a Soviet philosopher told them it’s so.
Act = Brahman: Think hard about the verb “act.” It might be a word that Derrida himself couldn’t deconstruct. I’m not sure it’s defined by reference to something else. It might stand on its own, like the Hindu/Buddhist Brahman. I flush it out here.
Praxeology: That Brahman stuff is my attempt to slip some von Misesian thought into the postmoderns.
Lightning Segments: Mindfulness, drinking cities, essential oils, more.
The Stylites: Living on pillars in the late Roman Empire.
I’ve been trying to read more lefty publications lately. Slate is one of my favorites. The prose is superb . . . and the ideas so firmly leftist, I find it enlightening. Exhibit A: “Joe Rogan’s Galaxy Brain: How the former Fear Factor host’s podcast became an essential platform for “freethinkers” who hate the left.” It’s a must-read if you like Joe Rogan (I kind of like him, but he’s increasingly a must-hear). The article notified me that Rogan interviewed “the ‘Sokal Squared’ academic hoaxsters Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.” I was like, “No way! I love that story,” so I listened to it this weekend. It’s episode 1191 (October 30, 2018). Highly recommended. I plan on incorporating it into my podcast, but I’m not sure how yet. I’ll probably use some script from the fat-shaming discussion that starts at 1:10:45.
"While World War II may have been necessary, it was not good. It was an epic tragedy from which Americans can learn much with relevance to the present day. But learning assumes a willingness to see beyond myths. Charles Beard shows us where to begin." https://t.co/TrYqwJfv6s
March isn’t good for losing weight. The weather isn’t warm enough to get a lot of movement outside, birthdays, and now March Madness. Tonight (actually, this afternoon) calls for my third day of drinking this week. I’ll be at a local sports bar with son Jack and maybe a few friends, watching the 3:00 games.
Brownson said, on a speaking tour on “The Church and the Republic” that every society is exposed to two opposite dangers: absolutism of the state and absolutism of the individual. In order to mediate between the two dangers, and give each, the state and the individual, their due, there must be a third party, and the only party capable of mediating is the Church.
“People who pride themselves on having ideas often fail to understand that only after ideas have been filtered through real-world experience do we know whether they are right or wrong. Most turn out to be wrong.”
It might seem curmudgeonly to take issue with what is mostly harmless fun, but Rue Crémieux is not the sort of place that can be all things to all people. Built in the late 19th century for construction workers, the houses are small and they open directly onto a narrow stretch of cobblestones. There’s nowhere to hide a cat, let alone a film crew. Residents say this doesn’t really matter on a normal day, as the average tourist is fairly calm and respectful. But on evenings and weekends, it can become unbearable. That is why they want gates installed at each end of the street, to stay firmly closed to non-residents when the interloping is at its worst.
Random Blurb from the Notebooks: Brownson said switching Protestant sects was like changing apartments in a house. You don’t leave the world you know. Friends, family, and business associates all remain the same and don’t look at you any differently whether you’re Presbyterian, Methodist, or Baptist. “But to pass from Protestantism to Catholicity is a very different thing. We break with the whole world in which we have hitherto lived; we enter into what is to us a new and untried region, and we fear the discoveries we may make there, when it is too late to draw back. To the Protestant mind the old Catholic Church is veiled in mystery, and leaves ample room to the imagination to people it with all manner of monsters, chimeras, and hydras dire. We enter it, and leave no bridge over which we may return. It is a committal for life, for eternity. To enter it seemed to me, at first, like taking a leap in the dark; and it is not strange that I recoiled, and set my wits to work to find out, if possible, some compromise, some middle ground on which I could be faithful to my Catholic tendencies without uniting myself with the present Catholic Church.”
Rough Sunday. My Wolverines couldn’t win their third straight conference tournament championship. Terrible reffing down the stretch, but I can’t say that because UM fans have a bad reputation for whining about the officiating. The turning point came when MSU’s McQuaid got “fouled” and three shots when (i) he initiated the contact, and (ii) he clearly wasn’t shooting. Oh well. I didn’t expect much from UM this year, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Now, it’s tournament time, which, for me, is the best time of the sporting year.
I have, however, started typing up my notes and outlines for the podcast itself. Instead of wholly shooting from the hip, I’m typing a bulk of the stuff up ahead of time. It seems to help me organize my thoughts, even if I scarcely reference it during the show itself. Sample:
One of the best tweets of the month came from John Zmirak.
Zmirak, btw, is great. Fiercely Catholic, but irreverent and brilliant. Yale grad. His prose is biting, often insulting, and rigorous. My limited correspondence with him left me with the opinion that he is something of an ass (he gratuitously insulted me . . . I probably had it coming, but he didn’t need to be a dick about it), to be honest, but great men often are.
Bad Catholic series highly recommended.
Anyway, his tweet: The free market and free society don’t pretend to solve all problems. They just prevent famine and tyranny.
I understand the sentiment, “But we can do better.” That’s highly doubtful. (Sowell: constrained versus unconstrained visions . . . A Conflict of Visions). If you attempt it, and you’re wrong, you throw your country toward famine and/or tyranny. Reckless brinkmanship. Or, more likely, you steer your country toward famine and/or tyranny, which is what we’re doing today in the West, including the United States.
Let’s break the notion down a bit, using prices since prices are what allows the free market to operate . . . it is the medium of communication and spreading knowledge. They play a crucial role in determining how much of each resource gets used where and how the resulting products get transferred to people. If you mess with prices, you get problems fast, so it’s easy to illustrate Zmirak’s position by referencing price examples.
Famine: Price gouging. Water after Hurricane Katrina.
No such thing as price gouging. All people see is the dude in the desert and an Aquifina salesman with a trunkful of full bottles. That’s not what happens. Products are the conclusion of a series of rational events.
Tyranny: This is simple: Every government interference with the free market creates consequences that has to be stomped out by further governmental action, which then creates further consequences, which require further governmental action, and on and on.
Price control on final product. Then you have to control the inputs. Then you have to control the labor. And on and on, until you’re controlling the entire economy.
Diocletion. Empire was falling apart. He socialized it. Tortured wives and children to find the wealth. Thousands actually migrated to barbarian lands (draw your own analogy to a Facebook founder and other millionaires renouncing their citizenship here). Diocletion bound workers to the land: giving us serfdom. But it didn’t start with serfdom and torture. It just got there as people, acting in their own self-interest and acting in economic common sense, didn’t do what Diocletion thought they would.
Picture the scene. An expectant audience, which includes the great Catholic writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, awaits the arrival of another great Catholic writer, Hilaire Belloc, the latter of whom has been invited by the University chaplain, Monsignor Ronald Knox, to give a talk to the Catholic chaplaincy at Oxford University. Seated just behind Tolkien as Belloc gives his talk is the celebrated Jesuit Fr. Martin D’Arcy, who records what subsequently transpired in his memoirs:
In his talk Belloc came out with one of his pet themes: that the Anglo-Saxons were utterly unimportant in the history of England. Now, there was present on this occasion a man who was probably the greatest authority in the world on Anglo-Saxon subjects and was the professor of Anglo-Saxon history [sic] at the time. He is presently professor of English Literature at Oxford. The man’s name is Tolkien, and he was a very good Catholic …. Well, Tolkien disagreed profoundly with Belloc on the question of the Anglo-Saxons. He was sitting just in front of me, and I saw him writhing as Belloc came out with some of his more extreme remarks. So during the interval, I said to him, ‘Oh, Tolkien, now you’ve got your chance. You’d better tackle him.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Gracious me! Do you think I would tackle Belloc unless I had my whole case very carefully prepared?’ He knew Belloc would always pull some fact out of his sleeve which would disconcert you! Now, that was a tremendous tribute from probably the greatest authority in the world at the time on that particular subject.
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