Paramount thinking

HighlyIllogicalI’m listening to Paul Cantor’s lecture series Commerce and Culture while I bounce back and forth between a book he wrote (The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture: Liberty vs. Authority in American Film and TV) and a book he recommended to me (The Fourth Network: How FOX Broke the Rules and Reinvented Television).

So with my head in Hollywood, so to speak, my eye was drawn to this tidbit on the Wikipedia homepage this morning:

Did you know…

From Wikipedia’s newest content:

Never heard of it!

Here’s the last line of the summary: Read more of this post

prostitutes’ padre

Yesterday, Wikipedia featured their article on Harold Davidson, a Church of England priest from the early 20th century. Sounds like a very boring topic. But read on. Here’s the summary from the front page:

StJohnsChurchStiffkeyHarold Davidson (1875–1937), rector of the Norfolk parish of Stiffkey (church pictured), was a Church of England priest who was convicted in 1932 on charges of immorality and defrocked by the Church. Ordained in 1903, he worked among London’s poor and homeless. Styling himself the "Prostitutes’ Padre", his declared mission was to rescue young girls he considered in danger of falling into prostitution. In this role he approached and befriended hundreds of women, and although there was little evidence of improper behaviour, he was often found in compromising situations and his neglect of his parish and family caused difficulties. A formal complaint led to church disciplinary proceedings, in which his defence was damaged beyond repair by a photograph of him with a near-naked teenage girl. Davidson then pursued a career as a showman to raise funds for his reinstatement campaign, performing novelty acts such as exhibiting himself in a barrel on the Blackpool seafront. He died after being attacked by a lion in whose cage he was appearing. Later commentators have accepted that however inappropriate his behaviour, his motives were genuine and he did not deserve the humiliations he endured. (Full article …)

I had to read more.

Here’s the photograph that damaged his defense "beyond repair":

Read more of this post

Capitalism and Spirituality

DollarSunriseOne advantage a libertarian author has when working with Invisible Order is that we in the Order are well read in the relevant literature and have worked extensively with both scholarly and popular texts.

For example, one writer recently asked us what Ludwig von Mises would have to say about a passage he had found online:

Schelling recognized that genuine democracy is only possible given a citizenry aware of the cosmological, anthropological, and theological complexities of authentic freedom. Without a philosophical culture capable of sustaining inquiry into the cosmic and spiritual depths of human nature, the equality rightly demanded by democratic societies can only devolve into the leveling homogenization of consumer capitalism, where freedom is reduced to the ability to identify with the corporate brand of one’s choice. The trivialization and inversion of freedom inherent to “democratic” capitalism makes human beings forgetful of their divine-cosmic ground, functioning not only to alienate individuals from their communities, but humanity from earth.

Here is my reply:

Read more of this post

the power of habeas corpus

HabeasCorpusCoverMy friend and comrade Anthony Gregory, whom I blogged about here, has written a big, scholarly book: The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013). I’m sorry to say I have not read it yet. It lists for about a hundred bucks, but you can get a copy from the Independent Institute at a steep discount.

I knew that Anthony was writing it, and I knew the general topic, but it wasn’t until I read Allen Mendenhall’s review in the Freeman that I understood how radical, and how very Gregoryesque, the book turns out to be:

"Sometimes it takes a non-lawyer like Gregory to remind lawyers of the philosophical implications of the practical and everyday functions of the law. Likewise, it takes a philosopher, again like Gregory, to show that a series of small legal victories is really one big loss in a larger scheme."

The foundational legal principle of habeas corpus is really one big loss? Read more of this post

the age of innocence

LittleAdamAndEveInnocence is usually portrayed as a virtue, or at least as a good thing to have, a sad thing to lose.

But I think J.M. Barrie was on to something when he ended Peter Pan with these words: "and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless."

That chilled me the first time I read it, as did several scenes in the novel.

I think the authors of the book of Genesis had a similar ambivalence toward the prelapsarian ideal. What does the first man, so called, say when God confronts him with his newly acquired knowledge of good and evil? Does he take responsibility? Does he protect his woman?

Read more of this post

my hope for spring’s eternal

WindInTheWillowsI keep putting away my warm clothes with undue optimism, hoping we’ve seen the last of the cold, damp weather.

We have passed the vernal equinox — why am I still wearing a wool coat and scarf?

(Well, today was lovely, in fact, but yesterday was wintery, and I was having these thoughts yesterday.)

So Benjamin and I were tired of spending this nominal spring indoors. We put on our warm clothes and headed into the woods. It was windy and chilly, and I was feeling foolish, but by the time we got to the bend in the creek where Benjamin likes to look for interesting-looking rocks, the clouds had parted for a while, and we were able to sit in the sun by the "chatter and bubble," and I took out my Kindle and read to Benjamin from the The Wind in the Willows, which opens in spring, with Mole suddenly unable to remain indoors. He abandons his spring cleaning and heads up and out into an unfamiliar world:

Read more of this post

cultural habits changed forever

LFB_Nock_MemoirsApropos news versus history, I like Scott Lahti‘s review of Memoirs of a Superfluous Man:

Be warned, though: after reading his MEMOIRS, you may find your cultural habits changed forever. You will never again feel the need to acquire an opinion of Tom Friedman’s latest essay in best-selling globaloney so as not to be caught short at the next round of cocktail-party Book-of-the-Moment-Club “conversation.” You will never again think of an Ivy League graduate or a Ph.D. on the one hand, and an educated mind on the other, as being in any way synonymous – even in theory. And you will never, even for a moment, confuse your daily NEW YORK TIMES habit with an instrument of mental cultivation – if, in fact, you retain it at all. And you may find yourself doubled over in helpless laughter the next time some Volvo-driving professional describes the programming on NPR as “serious intellectual radio.” And you will leave your first astonished reading of Nock with a silent question, addressed to every teacher and writer to whom you have hitherto entrusted the fertilization of your mind: “Where (or why) have you been hiding Albert Jay Nock all my life?”

Judas Iscariot, revisionist hero

DoreJudasKissYesterday morning, Benjamin read us the Last Supper scene from his children’s bible, then I read the same scene from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is good when you want the shortest version of a story shared across the synoptic gospels. My wife and I wondered what to follow up with for our grown-up "bible study."

Because Judas plays such a pivotal role in the Last Supper, we decided on Bart D. Ehrman’s The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, which opens with a description of Ehrman’s time in Switzerland as part of the team assembled by National Geographic to assess the authenticity of the 1,700-year-old codex of this lost Gnostic gospel. That story is itself so interesting that we decided that for our weekly “Dinner and a Documentary” we’d watch the National Geographic special made about Judas and this long-lost document from early Christianity.

Read more of this post


stack of biblesI have several bibles next to my reading chair, piled one on top of another: a large KJV, The Dore Bible Illustrations, Children’s Stories of the Bible from the Old & New Testaments, The Children’s Bible, Read and Learn Bible, a medium-sized KJV, and a very small leather-bound KJV.

I keep them together and handy in case I ever feel the need to swear on a stack of bibles.

an Orwellian interpretation of Orwell

IngSoc, Reagan Bush '84

Despite being the 20th century’s greatest anti-socialist novelist, Orwell has found himself posthumously adopted by a wide variety of socialists.

His novels 1984 and Animal Farm, which attack English and Soviet socialism very directly, are taught instead as generic anti-"totalitarian" works.

As David Aaronovitch writes in BBC News Magazine,

[T]here has been a well-established and heartfelt desire on the more moderate left to claim that Orwell was indeed a genuine socialist whose warning was aimed at totalitarianism in general, not at the left per se.

I was reared and schooled by the kinds of leftists who embraced Orwell and taught me that 1984 was about totalitarianism in general, not socialism per se. I even thought of the book as an attack on the Reagan administration, and argued with my (neo)conservative girlfriend about it in high school. A few years later, I was very embarrassed by my easy acceptance of the interpretation I had been taught.

(h/t Wendy McElroy)

(Crossposted at