July 22, 2014
The horror, the horror

Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding:

When a man is perfectly content with the state he is in, which is, when he is perfectly without any uneasiness, what industry, what action, what will is there left, but to continue in it?

The horror, the horror.

July 16, 2014
Self-Interested People Are More Easily Governed

Sir James Steuart, An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy:

Were miracles wrought every day, the laws of nature would no longer be laws: and were every one to act for the public, and neglect himself, the statesman would be bewildered….


…were a people to become quite disinterested: there would be no possibility of governing them. Every one might consider the interest of his country in a different light, and many might join in the ruin of it, by endeavoring to promote its advantage.

July 10, 2014
Supply and Demand: The Source of Much Error

David Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation:

The opinion that the price of commodities depends solely on the proportion of supply to demand, or demand to supply, has become almost an axiom in political economy, and has been the source of much error in that science.

July 6, 2014
War and Commerce

John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy:

But the economical advantages of commerce are surpassed in importance by those of its effects which are intellectual and moral. It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Commerce is now what war once was, the principal source of this contact.

July 4, 2014
The Extreme Left of the Extreme Right

"He campaigned in that highly profitable grey area of ‘the extreme left of the extreme right,’ a magnificent springboard that was later to allow him to perform some admirable and much-admired acrobatics."

— from an unfinished chapter of The Leopard

July 3, 2014

"Experience, however, shews, that the fancied or real insecurity of capital, when not under the immediate control of its owner, together with the natural disinclination which every man has to quit the country of his birth and connexions, and intrust himself with all his habits fixed, to a strange government and new laws, check the emigration of capital. These feelings, which I should be sorry to see weakened, induce most men of property to be satisfied with a low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations."

Ricardo, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

June 25, 2014
From the Department of Didn’t Work Out As Planned

"automation…in a few decades probably will empty the factories and liberate mankind from its oldest and most natural burden, the burden of laboring and the bondage to necessity."

Hannah Arendt, 1958

June 17, 2014
Writer’s Block

David Ricardo to Thomas Malthus (February 7, 1816):

I make no progress in the difficult art of composition. I believe that ought to be my study.

That’s one way to deal with writer’s block.

June 11, 2014
A Reader’s Guide to Twitter’s Forever War

1. The Oresteia, especially The Eumenides
2. The Crucible
3. Richard Wright’s chapter in The God That Failed
4. Godard, La Chinoise
5. One stanza, out of context, from Auden’s “Under Which Lyre”:

Brutal like all Olympic games,

Though fought with smiles and Christian names

    And less dramatic,

This dialectic strife between

The civil gods is just as mean,

    And more fanatic.

6. Joseph de Maistre, Elucidation on Sacrifices, esp. chapter 2 (“Of Human Sacrifices”).

May 23, 2014
Entrepreneurs Loved the Fuehrer

"What was also clear was that many leaders of German business thrived in this authoritarian atmosphere [of the Third Reich]. In the sphere of their own firms they were now the undisputed leaders, empowered as such by the national labour law of 1934. Owners and managers alike bought enthusiastically into the rhetoric of Fuehrertum. It meshed all neatly with the concept of Unternehmertum (entrepreneurial leadership) that had become increasingly fashionable in business circles, as an ideological counterpoint to the interventionist tendencies of trade unions and the Weimar welfare state.”

—Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy, p. 102

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