Four weeks in, and I’ve got lots of appreciation for this new initiative including quite a few extra people signing up. So thanks and please send it onto others who might want to sign up by clicking the button below. And let me know in comments or by return email of any great stuff I’ve missed that could be shared next week.
Here’s yesterday’s ClubTroppo blog post on what I call ‘thermonuclear expressions’ — expressions of ideological warfare like ‘gaslighting’, ‘virtue signaling’, and ‘microaggressions’. I love some and hate others, but they’re all explosive and I comment on some in the post and in this recorded conversation below.
There’s also a substantial tweet thread here.
The women who challenged a stale, male philosophy
Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachael Wiseman describe how Iris Murdoch and her friends rejected logical positivism and brought philosophy back to life
I’ve corresponded with the authors of this new book in the process of writing this post on the Golden Age of female philosophy at Oxford. Judging from this review, the book will be worth the wait.
There’s no particular effort to make characters relatable, which makes them the more so. The payoff is four glorious heroines, confident and curious, focused on the world and not themselves. Reading this book was like a miraculous holiday from modern life.
And, here’s Thomas Nagel on the two new books on the Golden Age. As Nagel remarks, it’s odd and unfortunate that such a great story has received so little attention for so long and now two books within a year of each other. The whole thing is a thrilling story of rebels against intellectual authoritarianism. And here’s a great line from Philippa Foot describing Oxford philosophy professor Richard Hare.
Of course he’s up the wrong tree, but it’s wonderful to watch him swinging from branch to branch.
Was Keynes the architect of the 1943-4 Bengal famine which claimed 3 million lives?
I can’t vouch for the veracity of this, but it’s shocking if true — and it has the ring of truth.
Keynes … sought to devise a mechanism for shifting resources away from the local population in order to provision the military expansion. … Keynes knew that imposing any direct taxation on a population that was already immiserated would likely trigger riots. So he advocated for an indirect tax, through deliberate inflationary policy. Here’s how it worked. During the 1940s, the colonial government printed extraordinary amounts of money for military expenditure. All this new demand caused prices to soar, particularly for staple goods. The price of rice increased by 300 per cent. But because wages did not rise accordingly, ordinary people were pushed even deeper into poverty, forcing them to dramatically curtail their consumption of food and other goods. Meanwhile, any additional profits that fell into the laps of business owners as a result of the price inflation were taxed by the colonial state. … British policy was explicitly designed to ‘reduce the consumption of the poor’, as Keynes put it, in order to make resources available for British and American troops, through a ‘forced transfer of purchasing power’ from ordinary people to the military.
Christos Tsiolkas on Melbourne’s lockdown and love across the ideological aisle
In the middle of the last lockdown, I got a text from a cousin who had taken part in the protests. She’s a little bit older than I am, and she’s done it harder than I have. She’s a single mother, a worker in the service economy, and she’s raised three lovely boys who are now terrific men. She sent me a photo of herself atop the stairs of Parliament House, carrying a banner that read: FREEDOM.
It made me laugh. For the past 30 years, she has gently chided me for being part of what she calls the “rent-a-crowd leftie mob.” I have been protesting on Parliament steps from my teenage years, first as a young member of People for Nuclear Disarmament, then denouncing apartheid, and the inaction around Aids. I’ve protested black deaths in custody and the misery of our asylum-seeker policies. Attached to the photograph, my cousin had texted: Now it’s my turn to be an agitator, Christo! With three laughing emojis.
I texted back "Some of us lefties still believe in freedom. I wondered if it was true"
Sally McManus’ tweet thread makes some good points on wages growth
As Nostrodamus once said “London to a brick that in 2022 every self-respecting email newsletter will need a segment on The Beatles”. And so it came to pass. Here’s a spray of stuff brought on by the Re-Beatle mania of Get Back. I took in parts 1 and 3 of Get Back and even coughed up $10 to Disney Plus for a month to watch. But I didn’t fancy I needed more. Still, I did then go on to McCarney 3,2,1, which I strongly recommend — I watched the whole thing and in some ways found it more compelling than Get Back.
I even wrote a little myself on the Beatles on Troppo a decade and a half ago observing firstly how when I first heard “Your mother should know” in around 1966 I thought it was some ancient folk tune already lodged in my psyche (it was one of Paul’s originals) and secondly how bereft of adolescent strutting the Beatles were — unlike all the other rock or pop bands I can think of.
In any event, the initial provocation for this outburst was this piece by Ian Leslie which is a tad longish but also a tad terrificish.
And it brought back an email exchange with my friend Antonios Sarhanis (no — he isn’t a grand slam doubles tennis player but he may take it up).
As he enlightened me in the email
This is just an incredible analysis about classical music and the Beatles:
He even wrote an essay about it, the Beatles as Plato and the Rolling Stones as Aristotle.
And on it goes. Asking his permission to publish his email to me, Antonios (Adonis in Greek), tells me of a Melbourne based video blogger setting himself up making videos on his passion of 1960s popular music with a large Beatles shaped object at the centre of his interests. I watched a bit of it and enjoyed it.
The Rule of Midwits: A set of decentralized, ideologically driven selection mechanisms is propelling the decay and collapse of American institutions
I’m always rather affronted when someone reduces things to IQ points, but at least I was a bit mollified by this qualification. “IQ is … not an all-encompassing measure, but a reasonably predictive, best-for-now heuristic without many alternatives”.
In any event, the argument is that wokeism and the excesses of progressive groupthink are a product of cleaving to conformism and mediocrity. The author does a good job of making his case. And I do like the term ‘midwits’. Then again, when I look at the list of disciplines by average IQ, economics may be well above history, but economics is not a very thoughtful discipline while history is thoughtfulness itself — the only education I ever got.
Hat tip to James Button for alerting me to the piece.
Sean Connery dealing with Boris Johnson:
Worth the watch
I loved this story of British cooking celeb Jack Monroe. She publishes cooking books helping people eat well who are close to the breadline. She became incensed that the CPI seemed not to fully take into account large price rises in stable foods which she used to help her readers make ends meet. So she kicked up a ruckus and statistical agencies took notice. Then again, national statistical agencies often have very good people running them.
Tim Harford weighs in on the same subject, if you can get behind the FT paywall here. But the AFR story is not behind a paywall, or wasn’t for me.
Rebecca Giblin on ‘Fat horses & starving sparrows’
I was telling Rebecca Giblin, one of Australia’s indefatigable IP academics with whom I invariably see eye-to-eye on IP that I was making an explainer video on bullshit. (It’s a long story, but of course, she asked if I meant bullshit as in Harry Frankfurt’s 1985 essay “On Bullshit”, to which the answer was ‘yes’). Turns out it was at the centre of this excellent piece of hers on all those dodgy arguments the publishing industry uses to try to hold on to any bit of rent it can find, no matter what costs are imposed on anyone else. All the while tossing the actual creators tiny scraps. Creators get very little compared to the publishers in most markets, but I didn’t realise Australia was as bad as it was even compared with other countries. #HaveAGoGetScrewedOver.
Justin Murphy: Hell is high school but for eternity
A segment from Justin Murphy’s Other Life newsletter.
When I was in high school, I would occasionally go to someone’s house and sit on a couch, without really understanding why I was there, bored, mostly thinking about how the others were judging me and how great it will be when I get out of high school. It’s been many years since I can remember sitting on a couch in this way, where shared ennui and image-consciousness is stylized as an activity unto itself, but it’s such a distinct state of affairs that I know it when I see it. When I do see it, I'll either run for the door or, if there’s no door, reach for my gun.
I was therefore dumbfounded to encounter on social media, quite against my will, a nearly paradigmatic representation of this experience I had otherwise memory-holed. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw Kanye West and Floyd Mayweather sitting on a couch together just hanging out [Next to Madonna].
I never in all of my years—during high school or adulthood—would have imagined that, at the upper echelon of our great social pyramid, the grand reward for ultimate success would be to sit on a couch, for no reason one can fathom, not even talking, with people one hardly knows, bored stiff while a few zany chicks dance for a camera.
Much worldly success is achieved through Faustian bargains.
A Faustian bargain is the devil’s version of a smart contract. You think you're smart, but really you're on an irreversible gradient descent into Hell.
Hell is just high school, but for eternity.
Why Simple Is Smart
A brief, self-explanatory apologia for simple writing which I liked, and which, in a verbose response, Freddie deBoer didn’t.
Then again …
Short Freddie is often good Freddie.
As in this piece, the last third of which is.
21st century racial politics always takes place in the shadow of our inability to do anything about our racial problems. We are forever creating weird rituals to center and honor and elevate Black people, in lieu of feeding poor Black children or freeing Black prisoners. The deal we’ve made, essentially, is to say “Sorry about all the oppression, Black people. Can’t do anything about it! But tell you what, white liberals will be very weird around you for the rest of your lives, out of a very sincere desire not to offend or oppress you. We can’t do anything about Black poverty or violence against Black people, but we’ll act like racial injustice is, like, double plus bad in polite society. Also Wells Fargo will send out a very respectful Kwanzaa email every holiday season. So that’s nice.”
Personally, I would like better options.