The Principle of Laudatory Criticism

I’m told that the original expression is “critique élogieuse”: People say we can no longer write about our colleagues. Obviously it becomes difficult having a coffee with someone if that afternoon you have to write that he’s made a silly film. But the thing that has always distinguished Cahiers from the rest is our principle…

Political Leanings

A recent study suggests that leaning right might, well, make you lean right. I don’t see a copy of the study online, but here’s the abstract: A prominent metaphor in American politics associates left with liberals and right with conservatives. Three studies investigate the extent to which this metaphor not only shapes how people talk…

Finland is the New Sweden

It’s fairly common to hear praise for low birthrates. We associate low fertility with high prosperity, more choices for women, and fewer obligations for men. Jason makes the point in a comment on a recent post: Keep in mind, though, that countries with low birthrates tend strongly to be countries with high standards of living,…

Great Silence

Question: Was Albert Einstein really the first person to say, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”? Did he say it at all? We expect every great man to be a veritable squirrel stash of koans and kernels, instinctively prefer Churchill’s wit to Washington’s eloquent silence. J.L. Wall points out in an excellent post that…

Russell Moore on Glenn Beck

One of the best responses to Glenn Beck’s bizarre rally last week was an eloquent warning from Southern Baptist Russell Moore about the proper place of politics in the lives of Christians: Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry.…

Erotic Capital

Tell you what, refraining from blogging is a lot easier than abstaining from beer. I haven’t been around these parts much, but I have had a rich and varied summer: Discussions of aesthetics with John Haldane and Anthony O’Hear. A seminar on marriage and parenthood with W. Bradford Wilcox. Jousting with Timothy Jost on abortion…

Does Europe Need US Defense Spending?

E.D. has a fine piece in NRO today that lays out the conservative case for cutting defense spending. One thing that actually weakens his case is the claim that Europe depends on US defense spending. If Europe relied solely on American might, we would have very good reasons to continue our security subsidy. But is…

Christopher Hitchens, Bitter Brit

Centuries have passed since British kings claimed a divine right, but British subjects still seem unable to accept the fact that their nominal rulers are human. Such, at least, seems to be the case with Christopher Hitchens in his recent attack on Prince Charles. Britain’s sovereigns are scandal-prone and soft-headed, sure. But read about Britain’s…

Architecture & Innovation

I thought some of the more future-oriented and techno-optimistic of the League’s readers would be interested in this argument: A durable and beautiful built environment provides the best physical and spatial context for human life, and thereby supports the different kinds of inventiveness and daring that modern life demands. The rest is here.

Remembering The Pill

James Matthew Wilson takes a critical look at the anniversary of The Pill: [T]he only alternative to those technocratic solutions that, by definition, try to put decision outside the range of moral action and choice, is the alternative of cultivation: that tenuous self-government that requires a long memory, and an acceptance of our dependence on…

Learning from Poverty

Jason has helpfully reminded us why we should not romanticize locally grown, organic peasant food. But Design Observer has an excellent post on Indian craft that reminds us that we may have something to learn from the world’s poorest. Take, for example, the way India’s peasants — who have no time for idle leisure —…

The Parable of the Banana Leaf

Mark asks a question: Take, for instance, the concept of “peasant food.” Such food is indubitably the outcome of tradition, and there is certainly something special about making it and eating it as a result, especially because of the skills that were required to develop it in the first place. But was it more sentimentally…

Counterfeit Communities

Jason’s piece has already inspired a number of responses, but one element I wanted to point out was Jason’s rather unexpected agreement with Patrick Deneen. Here’s the quotation from Deneen’s Cato Unbound piece that Jason highlighted a few days ago: [L]iberal anthropology… underlies both the Left’s infatuation with the State as an agent of liberation,…

re: Liberaltarianism as a Disposition

On first glance, I see much less basic sympathy between liberals and libertarians than Jason does. American liberals — of the type embodied by Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama — tend to be more concerned about guaranteeing the health, wealth and rights of the most vulnerable in society. Diverse, discordant, and unpredictable lifeplans? Not so…

Doubts about Ed Phelps’ Cowboy Capitalism

Jay Richards at the AEI blog is doing a series of posts about Ed Phelps’ old First Things essay about the morality of capitalism. I’m broadly supportive of Phelps’ project, but I think Richards’ reading is rather too sympathetic. The first thing that confused me about Phelps’ piece was his eccentric take on St. Augustine’s…

Henry Adams’ Washington

Via Ross, Adam Irish argues for a vibrant and messy Washington DC. If only he had seen it in Henry Adams’ time: The want of barriers, of pavements, of forms; the looseness, the laziness; the indolent Southern drawl; the pigs in the streets… Needless to say, in post-9/11 DC there is no want of barriers,…

Kaus for the Court!

My extreme long-shot replacement idea for John Paul Stevens is … Mickey Kaus! In one surprise move, Obama would have saved Barbara Boxer from a dark-horse primary threat and confounded all the partisans lining up for the confirmation battle. Having a blogger on the court would bring some kind of diversity, I suppose, and Kaus’…

Who’s Afraid of a Populist Party?

Could a populist political party be good for America? Jon Chait points to some fascinating data that suggests it would appeal to the views of many Americans: The most thorough breakdown of the electorate is Pew’s voter typology survey, last conducted in 2005, which categorizes voters into nine basic groups. The overwhelming finding of this…

The Neoconservative Case for Porn

Boonton tells me that I have misread Bret Stephens: Matthew opens his attack on Stephens by making a red herring out of his argument. His argument is that America’s committment to freedom includes both the noble and ignoble. He mistranslates that as a claim that “porn is good because the hijackers hated it”. Actually, Stephens…

Pornography & Liberty

After several detours of bad logic around the most unmissable facts, Bret Stephens reaches this conclusion: If America wants to tilt the balance of Muslim sentiment in its favor, it needs to stand up for its principles, its liberties and its friends—Israel, Playboy and Lady Gaga included. Well, if Bret thinks his comfort with pornography…

In Praise of Finger-Wagging

Does Tiger Woods matter? Robert Wright, who is no social conservative, has a piece at the New York Times suggesting why the Tiger Woods story matters, and why moral rebukes of Woods (like this one from Augusta National Golf Club chairman Bill Payne) are a good thing: Monogamous marriage matters especially in parts of society…

Not too late!

My belated entry in the influential books game: Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language – There are people for whom this book is a Bible. Alexander’s “patterns” — normative statements about how we should build our houses, neighborhoods and world — vary between beguiling simplicity and baffling radicalism. The book is a reminder that along with…

A Better Plan for Energy Security?

A little-reported fact:  Obama’s recent announcement of expanded off-shore drilling was made at Andrews Air Force Base before a military audience with President Obama speaking not as a civilian leader, but as commander-in-chief. That’s because Obama’s speech was framed as a matter of energy security. The problem with the plan Obama outlined on Wednesday is…

My Problem with St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day is America’s favorite ethnic holiday. It is also the strangest. In a calendar crowded with Cinco de Mayo, Kwanzaa, and gay pride parades, St. Paddy’s is the one chance for the white, middle-class majority to dress garishly and get drunk while celebrating a history of suffering overcome. No doubt, most St. Pat’s…

Talking About Rohmer

Below I talk with Ordinary Gentleman David Schaengold about the remarkable work of the recently deceased director Eric Rohmer. MS: As I wrote in my recent First Things piece on Eric Rohmer, a lot of people think his films are boring. You won’t be surprised to hear that I strongly disagree: A character played by…

The Befuddling Wilson

Will has highlighted the growth of anti-Wilson sentiment on the left and the right. Writing in Democracy, Trygve Throntveit tries to counter the wave: True, Wilson sometimes described himself as conservative. But Wilson’s understanding of conservatism bears little relation to modern conceptions. To him, it meant eschewing theory and taking experience–past, present, and most important,…

Foreign Policy and Cultural Politics

Daniel Larison advises Republicans against attacking Obama on foreign-policy grounds: Despite the endless inane attacks from the GOP, most of the public approves of Obama’s handling of foreign policy and a plurality approves of his handling of various national security issues. This is the wrong place for Republicans attack him. It is clearly on fiscal…

The French: Dangerous or Merely Useless?

Jody Bottum’s provocative First Things piece on France put me in mind of this old but timeless piece by the late Porterfield Higgins-Jones Jr.: Why do we Anglo-Saxon nations, with our wise Moderation, reverence for the Rule of Law, and Protestant Work Ethic, pretend that these lazy, oversexed, violent hyenas are, like us, ‘fellow Westerners’?…

A Treatise on Dental Aesthetics

In addition to an art museum and a center for the arts, Princeton, New Jersey has a “Center for Dental Aesthetics.” These institutions are more common than one might think, and I’d like to ask what they say about art and dentistry. Dental Aesthetics, of course, is just a name for what some still call…