Note to all writers/academics/journalists: Next time you set out to write about violence, terror, genocide, or some other bit of social nastiness, please check out Yehuda Bauer’s essay “Is the Holocaust explicable?” in Rethinking the Holocaust first. It provides some useful rules of the road, and will you save you—and us—from a lot of embarrassing and over-heated prose.
Or at least one of the several reasons they shouldn’t be supporting Tax Day. As I argued a few years back in the London Review of Books:
Liberals often have a difficult time making sense of these [anti-tax] movements – don’t taxes support good things? – because they don’t see how little the American state directly provides to its citizens, relative to their economic circumstances. Since the early 1970s, with a few brief exceptions, workers’ wages have stagnated. What has the state offered in response? Public transport is virtually non-existent. Even with Obama’s reforms, the state does not provide healthcare or insurance to most people. Outside wealthy communities, state schools often fail to deliver a real education. In such circumstances, is it any wonder ordinary citizens want their taxes cut? That at least is change they can believe in.
And here Democrats like Obama and his defenders, who bemoan the stranglehold of the Tea Party on American politics, have only themselves to blame.
Menger, Principles of Economics:
Utility is the capacity of a thing to serve for the satisfaction of human needs…Our needs, at any rate in part, at least as concerns their origins, depend upon our wills or on our habits. (119)
Nietzsche, The Gay Science:
Need.—Need is considered the cause why something came to be; but in truth it is often merely an effect of what has come to be. (§205, p. 207)
Reviewing his bitter and famous exchange with E.P. Thompson, Perry Anderson writes:
What had astonished me were the corners he cut in representing the arguments he wanted to refute, which I couldn’t match with anything he stood for as a historian. This was a generic mistake on my part. I didn’t understand the rules of polemic. This is a literary form whose history has yet to be written….Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative license. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.
From Letter to a Noble Lord (pp. 485-486):
I ever held a scanty and penurious justice to partake of the nature of a wrong. I held it to be, in its consequences, the worst economy in the world. In saving money, I soon can count up all the good I do; but when, by a cold penury, I blast the abilities of a nation, and stunt the growth of its active energies, the ill I may do is beyond all calculation….
Mere parsimony is not economy. It is separable in theory from it; and in fact it may, or it may not, be a part of economy, according to circumstances. Expense, and great expense, may be an essential part in true economy. If parsimony were to be considered as one of the kinds of that virtue, there is however another and a higher economy. Economy is a distributive virtue, and consists not in saving, but in selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment. Mere instinct, and that not an instinct of the noblest kind, may produce this false economy in perfection. The other economy has larger views.
For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage. The early difficulties in the way of spontaneous progress are so great, that there is seldom any choice of means for overcoming them…Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion. Until then, there is nothing for them but implicit obedience to an Akbar or a Charlemagne.
Perhaps in trying to evaluate the astonishing rule of Hugo Chávez the question to ask is this: whether the people he leaves behind regressed into a kind of childhood faith and dependency under his spell and what the price of such regression might be. Perhaps this is the state brought forth by those rulers we call caudillos—willful chieftans who rule by force of personality—of which Hugo Chávez Frías may have been the greatest of all. “There is no chavismo without Chavez,” he proclaimed repeatedly. Who now will dry Venezuela’s tears?
Last fall, Gary Orfield and his colleagues at UCLA documented how school segregation has been increasing dramatically among blacks and Latinos. Just the other day, Jamelle Bouie reported that the wealth gap between blacks and whites is one of the largest we’ve ever seen. And now comes Thomas Edsall to tell us that racism — understood as individual prejudice — is on the decline. All of which supports a critical point Freddie DeBoer made yesterday about the limits of racial discourse and racial politics in this country.
The structural economic conditions of our country have created a white-black wealth gap. Every American could be in possession of pure hearts and pure thoughts and that wouldn’t change. This is why I have so little use for the ritualistic purity displays like those we witness for the past few days. They aren’t just unable to contribute to positive change; they suck all of the energy and the attention into those issues which are least material and thus least useful.
Friedrich von Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty:
However important the independent owner of property may be for the economic order of a free society, his importance is perhaps even greater in the fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs. (p. 193)
Steven Spielberg is sending free copies of his historical drama “Lincoln” to schools across the country so students can learn about President Abraham Lincoln.
DVDs will be distributed to every public and private middle and high school in the country as part of an educational outreach campaign called “Stand Tall: Live Like Lincoln,” which urges youngsters to follow in the 16th president’s example. A statement from Spielberg reads, “As more and more people began to see the film, we received letters from teachers asking if it could be available in their classrooms. We realized that the educational value that ‘Lincoln’ could have was not only for the adult audiences — who have studied his life in history books — but for the young students in the classroom as well.”
Our true essence must remain concealed, just like the Jesuits who exercised dictatorship in conditions of general anarchy. (Cited in Don Dombowsky, Nietzsche’s Machiavellian Politics, 5)
Joseph Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development:
There is the dream and the will to found a private kingdom, usually, though not necessarily, also a dynasty. The modern world really does not know any such position, but what may be attained by industrial and commercial success is still the nearest approach to medieval lordship possible to modern man. (93)