Category: General

Gettysburg AddressToday marks the 150 year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Here are five facts about one of history’s most famous — and famously brief — speeches:

1. The Gettysburg Address was not written on the back of an envelope. Despite the popular legend that Lincoln wrote the speech on the train while traveling to Pennsylvania, he probably wrote about half of it before leaving the White House on November 18.

2. Much of the language and thematic content of the speech had been used by Lincoln before. The radical aspect of the speech was Lincoln’s assertion that the Declaration of Independence — and not the Constitution — was the true expression of the founding fathers’ intentions for their new nation.

3. There are five different versions of the speech. The most widely quoted one is the oldest.

4. Now regarded as one of the great speeches of history, the address was initially greeted with criticism by many newspapers. The Democratic Chicago Times called the address “a perversion of history so flagrant that the extended charity cannot regard it as otherwise than willful.”

5. “God” is the only proper name mentioned in the speech. The name of the battle is not mentioned.

calhoun-heinleinJohn C. Calhoun was a 19th century American vice president who supported slavery and championed state’s rights. Robert A. Heinlein was a 20th century American science-fiction writer who opposed racism and championed space policy. The pair aren’t often mentioned together, but Breitbart’s pseudonymous “Hamilton” claims they represent two kinds of libertarianism.

Today in America, we see two kinds of libertarianism, which we might call “Calhounian” and “Heinleinian.” Both kinds believe in freedom, but they are very different in their emphasis—and in their politics.

I have a soft spot for brash, big-picture claims (like this one) even when they are probably mostly wrong (like this one). One aspect of the essay that is spot on, however, is the assessment of the “elite libertarian synthesis” in mainstream political culture:
(more…)

Untitled 3What’s the deal with actuaries?

Whenever a new list of the best jobs is compiled—like the rankings by Career Cast—they are always near the top of the list. What could really be so great about interpreting statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters?

And why have I never actually met an actuary? Are their jobs so exceedingly awesome that they don’t take time to associate with non-actuaries?

Anyway, here are the top ten jobs for 2013 according to Career Cast. Notice any patterns?
(more…)

BrendleIn his article today Anthony Bradley asks, “When Did College Education Reduce To Making Money?

Our country’s narcissistic materialism has created a neurotic obsession with disparities between the incomes of individuals resulting in an overall devaluing of the learning goals and outcomes of what colleges exist to accomplish. There is a major disconnect here. I wonder if this explains why many parents do not want their children studying the humanities in college.

While I completely agree with Anthony about what the purpose of college should be (“a place where men and women are educated and formed into more virtuous citizens”), I think he’s overlooking how we got into this situation: College is priced like a luxury good but treated as a prerequisite for most forms of employment.

Unfortunately, the types of degrees that best fulfill the primary function of a college (e.g., liberal arts) are also the most likely to lead to underemployment.

A couple of years ago, Andy Whitman wrote an article for Image, “Starbucks and the Liberal Arts Major”, that highlighted the problem:
(more…)

veterans-daySpend a day with your local military recruiter, and you’ll be encouraged by the number of people who go out of their way to say how much they support our troops and how much they appreciate the service of these young veterans. Then watch as the recruiters casually ask when they’ll be bringing their son or daughter to the recruiting station to learn more about serving their country.

Their spines stiffen, they smile blankly, and a coldness comes over them. If they are quick-witted, they will find a joking way to dismiss the question. More often, though, they will simply blurt out that there is no way they’d let their own child enlist. They’ll support someone else’s children being soldiers, but not their own.

Dealing with hostile parents is just one of the myriad reasons recruiting duty is considered second only to combat on the list of most stressful jobs in the military. Most of the Marines I have known, though, would rather do a tour fighting insurgents in Iraq than a tour recruiting teenagers in America.
(more…)

Russell_KirkAs noted earlier this week on the PowerBlog, 2013 marks the 60th publication anniversary of Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. This monumental work’s significance derives from its encapsulation of several centuries of conservative thought – fragments, to borrow liberally from T.S. Eliot, shored against the ruins of mid-20th century liberalism, relativism and other brickbats of modernity.

The importance of Kirk’s book (as well the remainder of his extensive body of work) should be obvious to those who share the Acton Institute’s Core Principles and possess a passing familiarity with Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles. For those new to principles espoused by Dr. Kirk, however, a brief and thoroughly incomplete overview of the latter is in order.

The Ten Conservative Principles began as Six Canons listed in the 1953 edition of The Conservative Mind. Kirk subsequently revised what began as his doctoral dissertation to add the poet and essayist T.S. Eliot to the list of preeminent Western conservative thinkers initially begun with Irish statesman Edmund Burke and originally ending with George Santayana. Similarly, he revised the Six Canons to what became a conservative’s Decalogue.

A conflation of Kirk’s principles for the sake of space limitations might read: There exists an enduring moral order; humankind is imperfectable; property rights are imperative for any free society; community is preferable to collectivism; personal passions abjured for prudence; political power restrained; and, finally, the need for reconciling permanence and change. This conflation hardly does justice to Kirk’s thought, but should serve as an entrée for those subsequently seeking the full 10-course intellectual banquet replete with Master Chef, sommelier and full orchestra. (more…)

Sid Meir's CivilizationMy wife despises Sid Meier. She’s never met him, nor would she even recognize his name. But she knows someone is responsible for creating the source of my addiction.

For over twenty years I’ve spent (or wasted, as my wife would say) countless hours playing Civilization, Meier’s award-winning strategy game. Every time I play the game I enter an almost trance-like state of complete immersion. According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, what I’m experiencing in that moment is known as “flow.” Csíkszentmihályi describes the mental state of flow as,

being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow:
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
By

GOTW.102913.Libertarian-320x414There was something wrong with Zhang’s dog. The Chinese man had bought the Pomeranian on a business trip, but after he brought it home he found the animal to be wild and difficult to train. The dog would bite his master, make strange noises, and had a tail that mysteriously continued to grow. And the smell. Even after giving the mutt a daily bath Zhang couldn’t bear the strong stink.

When he could take it no longer, Zhang sought help from his local zoo in Tunkou. They informed him that the dog was not a dog at all — it was an Arctic fox, a protected rare species.

The Tea Party movement is like Zhang’s dog. For the four years, pundits and politicians have been trying to identify this political animal. Almost everyone thinks they have political movement on their hands, but as many folks recognized years ago the Tea Party “movement” is not really a movement at all. It’s a new title for something old the Republicans have ignored for a long time. A number of astute observers recognized that fact soon after the “Tea Party” movement was born.

“Having looked at the swelling of the Tea Party,” Paul Gottfried wrote in The American Conservative in 2010, “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a uniform movement. There are at least three different movements trying to give the impression of being one.” And as Matthew Continetti of The Weekly Standard said that same year:
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By

Prohibition-Era-Cocktail-RecipesIn 1919 Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting, for almost all purposes, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. There are two erroneous things everybody has learned from Prohibition, says Anthony Esolen: “First, it is wrong to try to legislate morality. Second, you cannot do it, for Prohibition failed.”

The real lessons of Prohibition, though, go unheeded:
(more…)

Brand-Storyteller“The plural of anecdote is not data”, claimed toxicologist Frank Kotsonis, in an attempt to correct sloppy thinking. While Kotsonis has provided a useful aphorism, it can obscure the equally interesting fact that the singular of data is anecdote.

Consider, for example, the following two stories. The first is the shortest work of fiction ever written by Ernest Hemingway:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

This powerful story is a marvel of economy. In a mere six words and three punctuation marks, Hemingway is able to convey a sense of tragic loss without ever introducing a single character.

Compare to a story with a similar theme from an anonymous author:

Infant mortality rate: 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Although it lacks the emotional impact, this too is a model of brevity. Seven words, two numbers, a comma, colon, and two periods are used to express — albeit rather dryly — an important fact about the human condition. Indeed, if Hemingway’s story was not fictional, it could be considered a singular instance of the second story; a particular example of a more general phenomenon.

At this point, you may object to the use of the term “story” in reference to a statistic. You may be tempted to repeat back to me Kotsonis’ mantra: “The plural of anecdote is not data.” But if the singular of data is anecdote and anecdotes are a form of story, then why can’t data be a collection of tales, sifted down and pressed together, into a narrative?Transforming data back into narrative form can provide the oft-lamented missing link between the data and analysis produced by conservative think tanks and the storytelling that appeals to the general public.

Lack of storytelling ability is one of the reoccurring themes of modern conservatism. At National Review Online, Lee Habeeb is the most recent writer to point out that conservatives need to become better at getting our point across by the use of stories:
(more…)