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July 13, 2018

[From 2006.] Reading The Alchemist, the novel that has sold tens of millions of copies. “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation.” “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” “God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left for you.” “There is a force that wants you to realize...

June 18, 2018

[As an undergraduate at Wesleyan University I wrote hundreds of essays not all of which, I think, are worthless. Here's a short one on social democracy. Needless to say, the best form of 'government' is in fact socialism, in which workers democratically run the economy themselves. But in capitalist conditions, nothing beats social democracy.]  

Social Democracy Is the Best Fo...

March 31, 2018

A while ago I took some notes on Gabriel Kolko’s classic The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History 1900–1916 (1963). It's a far more profound book than the vast majority of scholarship on the Progressive Era. So here they are...

One point I have to quibble with in the beginning is that he does the typical historian thing of arguing that the triumph of con...

March 21, 2018

(Also see these notes.)

Reading Maurice Cornforth’s Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy (1965). A good book, not dogmatic or closed-minded in the old Marxist way. It starts off with a historical overview of philosophical empiricism (which, as you probably know, eventually led into the “linguistic philosophy” of the mid-twentieth century). Summaries of Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Lock...

September 25, 2016

Reading Elizabeth Tandy Shermer’s Sunbelt Capitalism: Phoenix and the Transformation of American Politics (2013). Excellent book, and very ambitious. Useful as, among other things, a reminder that the main reason the South and Southwest finally overcame their colonial status as little more than providers of raw materials to Northern industry was massive intervention by the federa...

July 9, 2016

The following is the beginning of an essay I wanted to write years ago on the concept of pretentiousness, a phenomenon the ubiquity of which stunned me. And it seemed to me that looking at the world through that lens could be pretty interesting, if the essay were done well. I quickly gave it up, though, in part because I knew no publisher would want anything to do with something...

June 30, 2016

[Old notes from my journal.] A lot of mainstream people would criticize me for immersing myself in leftist scholarship and journalism, which they would say is a closed-minded or partisan thing to do. They would say I should expose myself to all kinds of writing, not only the leftist variety. Actually, such a criticism is silly because I do read writings from a variety of viewpoin...

December 19, 2015

On neoclassical economics.— Milton Friedman wrote a famous article in 1953 called “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” in which he argued that in science, the less realistic or more idealizing the model, the better.[1] A typically simplistic argument. But for a neoclassicist it served the function of making a virtue of necessity, thus allowing him to continue to believe his t...

October 8, 2015

Reading The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011), by Corey Robin. An elegant and erudite elaboration of an obvious thesis, that the essence of conservatism, in all its seemingly contradictory permutations, has always been the impulse to defend power and privilege against movements demanding freedom and equality. Conservatism is “a meditation on—a...

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