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Mike Rowe

“By and large, the workers I met on that show were happy and successful because they were willing to work harder than everyone else around them. And in doing so, they thrived. Not right away, perhaps, but over time, most of them prospered. They distinguished themselves on the job by outworking the competition. And they advanced.  In fact, many of the Dirty Jobbers we featured were millionaires. You just wouldn’t know it because they were usually covered in grime or sludge or shit or something worse”



“…a friend in power is a friend lost.” –Henry Adams


“Even after Berlin had become a nightmare, he still persuaded himself that his German education was a success. He loved, or thought he loved the people, but the Germany he loved was the eighteenth-century which the Germans were ashamed of, and were destroying as fast as they could. Of the Germany to come, he knew nothing. Military Germany was his abhorrence. What he liked was the simple character; the good-natured sentiment; the musical and metaphysical abstraction; the blundering incapacity of the German for practical affairs. At that time everyone looked on Germany as incapable of competing with France, England or America in any sort of organized energy. Germany had no confidence in herself, and no reason to feel it. She had no unity, and no reason to want it.” –The Education of Henry Adams

“the position of astrology”

“I have arrived at the conviction that the neglect by economists to discuss seriously what is really the crucial problem of our time is due to a certain timidity about soiling their hands by going from purely scientific questions into value questions. This is a belief deliberately maintained by the other side because if they admitted that the issue is not a scientific question, they would have to admit that their science is antiquated and that, in academic circles, it occupies the position of astrology and not one that has any justification for serious consideration in scientific discussion. It seems to me that socialists today can preserve their position in academic economics merely by the pretense that the differences are entirely moral questions about which science cannot decide.”

— Friedrich Hayek

Entitlement Problems

Richard Nixon, Official Presidential Photograph

Image via Wikipedia

The most embarrassing aspect of the current debt crisis is the fact these problems were well-known to both sides for a very long time; and the problem isn’t with the anti-poverty or anti-calamity programs. The problem is not the poor. The problem is everyone else: 

Many on the right like to bash “welfare queens,” suggesting that the entitlement mentality belongs exclusively to the poor. Although it is true that the Great Society programs of the 1960s fostered a lingering sense of dependency among millions of poor Americans, it is time to tear down the double standard that characterizes most debates about this issue. The poor make convenient targets. But if middle-class and even rich Americans want to find someone to blame for the burden the entitlement mentality puts on the federal budget, they should look in the mirror. Wealthy farmers say they cannot survive without price supports. Steel makers and their unions demand protection from foreign competitors. Bankers expect the federal government to cover their bad loans. Well-off retirees whose Social Security payments far exceed their contributions oppose any politician who suggests their benefits be limited. College students believe they are entitled to low-interest loans secured by taxpayers who could not afford to go to college themselves. Lawyers, doctors, and businesspeople all want their place at the federal trough.

[…] Only one dollar of every five on non-means tested entitlement goes to the poor. If our political leadership summoned the courage to cut these programs on a means-tested basis, we would achieve substantial savings and also more fairly distribute the burden of cutting costs to middle- and upper-income taxpayers.

That quote is lifted from Richard Nixon’sBeyond Peace“, a book written in 1994. And a book I suggest everyone read (at least sections I and III and the parts of section II that deal with Asia, the Muslim world and the developing world.

Nixon’s sentiments mirror those expressed by PJ O’Rourke in his “Parliament of Whores“, another book worth reading.

“Conservative Ideology”

“…the conservative abhors all forms of ideology. An abstract rigorous set of political dogmata: that is ideology, a “political religion,” promising the Terrestrial Paradise to the faithful; and ordinarily that paradise is to be taken by storm. Such a prioi designs for perfecting human nature and society are anathema to the conservative, who knows them for the tools and the weapons of coffeehouse fanatics.”

–Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind; Foreward to the Seventh Revised Edition

Ignorant Enthusiasm Cannot Remake the World

The Value of a Liberal Education:

The most important question of our era, as of every age, is not the political question; it is the personal and intellectual puzzle. Free minds are those elevated above the sordidness of everyday life. Everyday life will be sordid under any New Order, men being creatures of passion. Let the state of the nation be what it may, the man of liberal mind need not despair; he has his mem­ories, his books, his ideals. These elements are worth more than Utopia. But there is a worldly, utilitarian value in liberal learning, too. So long as we are bent upon Utopia, we must have minds that can conceive Utopia, that know Utopia has to be built of stone, not of air. A liberally educated man has a great store of general knowledge and common sense; ignorant enthusiasm cannot remake the world.

— Russell Kirk (“A Conscript on Education” South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 44 (1945), 82-99)

Held Hostage by The State.

Joe Soucheray:

Now that we’ve gotten to beer and cigarettes, everybody should pretty much have it figured out. We work for the government. There can be no disputing this sad and sobering realization. We not only work for it but we are also held hostage by it, nurses, teachers, barkeeps, resort owners, restaurateurs, car dealers and all the rest of the weary souls who need, in order to do business, a particular stamp, card, emblem, chalk mark or imprint issued only by the state.

And now that we’ve gotten to beer and cigarettes, we also must realize that the people we work for can be intractable, obtuse and inflexible

Ancient Debt

Bust of Herodotus. 2nd century AD. Roman copy ...

Image via Wikipedia

From Book I of Herodotus’ History:

139. They [The Persians] hold it unlawful to talk of anything which it is unlawful to do. The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think, is to tell a lie; the next worst, to owe a debt: because, among other reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies.

This bit of ancient wisdom creates so many interesting questions, both for the individual in debt, and The State in debt.

From the Notebook

Old blogs never fade away. They just die.
–Mitch Berg
(Maybe my blog needs to be murdered)

-It’s been a while since I wrote an actual post, so…quality not guaranteed.

-When an idea is adopted by one of the major parties, eventually it will get enacted. This is why platform debates are important.

-Read T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland, and some other of his classic poems. The Waste Land is on the second edition of the Great books of the Western World reading plan. It is a tremendous work, exactly what poetry is supposed to be.

-Aristotle’s Ethics (selection). Again, another GBWW 10-year Reading Plan thing. In the selection, Aristotle discusses virtue as being the mean between two extremes. It’s a very practical ethical guide, though it leaves plenty of metaphysical holes.

-Read Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. A fun short story, interesting to adults and kids. A real classic.

-The one problem with reading classic books, what are you supposed to say about them? They’re Classics.

-Saw “Kick Ass” at the theatre a few weeks ago. Some conservatives, and Roger Ebert, have raised questions about the morality of a movie that has a young girl working as an assassin. I guess I should agree, but the movie presents a moral dilemma that can’t be ignored: if violence against bad people is a moral act, why isn’t it a moral act for a young girl to do so? If not, then the act itself may be immoral. Most people, myself included, would conclude that many of the acts done against the antagonists in Kick Ass were moral and just (in a Biblical tooth for tooth sort of way). Thus, I can’t avoid the conclusion that having a young girl be the instrument of justice is not a wrong.

Kick Ass is uneven. It’s a little too long and the story convoluted and confused. “The Professional” is a better movie presenting the same questions of youth and violence, and it does so in a more entertaining fashion. But, I wouldn’t avoid seeing Kick Ass if you have yet to.

– Read a couple versions of the theoretical Q document, based mainly on the texts from Luke (linked to by the Wikipedia article on the topic). I don’t have the scholarly knowledge to analyze the two-document hypothesis re: the Synoptic Problem. But if Christian tradition is based only on Q, Mark and the Pauline Epistles, it’s still Christianity and these sources still provide strong evidence for an Historical and Divine Jesus.

-Finally, I finished “Men at Work; the Craft of Baseball” by George F. Will (and it was the old edition, not his recent upgrade). This is a great baseball book. Will does a better job putting to words what I feel about baseball than any other author I have ever read. I thought I kinda liked “Three Nights in August” by Bissinger. But this book puts that work to shame. If I had to put together a top-ten list of the greatest books on baseball I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of baseball books), this book would be among the top three.