PEG 2.0

Writer & entrepreneur. Bio.

This is my very, very personal blog.

All work that is my own is my copyright; rights reserved. Toutes mes oeuvres sont protégées par le droit d'auteur.

Bruenig/Bruenig

This is like a bizarre wonk’s version of screwball comedy. I got into a blog-fight with his wife, so the always-lovely Matt Bruenig, in between condescending to me and insulting me, writes the most banal thing ever: various economic institutions obtain at various times; some of them lead to more flourishing than others; so we (read: Bruenig) should choose the best ones.

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Of course, the problem there, the problem that has been my problem from the start, is that to pose the question this way is to skip a teeny tinsy step, which is the step I call attention to and the step that always, but always gets skipped by the Burenigs, which is that we should choose the best arrangement “what belongs to who” consistent with respect for the rights of actual existing humans. In many places, people have decided to rearrange “what belongs to who” based on grand designs for human flourishing while paying no attention to the small matter of the rights of the actual people owning the things, and as a result lots of suffering happened (no, Sweden doesn’t count). This is the problem from the start, and has always been the problem. If you do not have a step in there that says “…btw, people have human rights, lol" you are, by definition, inviting totalitarianism. And Bruenig keeps being invited to put that step somewhere, and he keeps declining. And he keeps saying the reason he declines is "legal realism"—even though it’s only a descriptive theory, you understand.

I don’t think Bruenig is quite that derpy. I think he is just dishonest and understands very well what’s up and is quite consciously laboring at the edge of the Overton window. But because he still has a (much) less subtle mind than his wife’s, it’s a lot easier to trace the steps. 

After explaining that legal realism is of course only descriptive, he writes:

All of these institutional sets involve the systematic allocation of pieces of the world to individuals and non-individual corporate entities. All of them successfully allocate out the stewardship of pieces of God’s creation, one way or another.

The normative question for us is: which stewardship institutions are the best ones? If we are going to allocate out the stewardship of creation (instead of allowing everyone to steward everything in common, as in Eden), then we have to decide which system we are going to use to do that. Of all the possible sets of economic institutions, which ones should we legally impose in order to govern the pieces of creation within our society?

So for Bruenig, there is clearly a straight line between the descriptive and the normative. The descriptive provides the premise that clearly animates the normative here, the one that I have been complaining about from the start, which is that because property is a creation of the start, no one has an inherent, natural, human right to their property, and the allocation of property is wholly at the discretion of the sovereign. 

"If we are to allocate out the stewardship of creation". Are we? Is there a "we" that just allocates property? Yes, because legal realism! And ergo, Bruenig clearly believes, “we” (meaning: him) are clearly entitled to rearrange the pieces just however we may feel like. 

Similarly, “of all the possible sets of economic institutions”, since all of them are “legally impose[d]” by the state, (IOW: none of them are natural or more consistent with human rights than others), “we” just decide among the various options what is “impose[d]” by the state. If it happens to respect people’s rights, good, if it doesn’t, oh well. Can’t make the omelette of the people’s paradise without breaking a few eggs. 

For Bruenig mâle there is absolutely no doubt that the “descriptive” legal realism has very explicit and direct normative consequences, which is the absence of any natural human right of property. Of course it is dementedly stupid to believe that just noting that property is shaped and enforced by legal institutions it means it is wholly a thing of the state and (therefore! because derp!) to be shaped according to the whims of the state. It is like saying that because many varieties of family law have obtained across history and family law is only enforced by the state, I cannot complain if a cop comes tomorrow to take my child and place him with another family. It is third-rate undergraduate Polanyi-ism. I’ve been there. Then I turned 17.

But what child belongs to who? ‘All of these institutional sets involve the systematic allocation of children…all of them successfully allocate out the stewardship of pieces of God’s creation, one way or another. The normative question for us is: which family institutions are the best ones? If we are going to allocate out the children…then we have to decide which system we are going to use to do that. Of all the possible sets of family institutions, which ones should we legally impose in order to govern the pieces of creation within our society?’

Applied to children, this kind of talk sounds demented, but there is no principle Bruenig has ever described that would prevent total property redistribution, and that what is true for him about property would not be true about anything else we typically feel we have a right to (since, after all, all those rights are mediated by the state).

This is the talk we’ve always heard, and this is the talk we still hear. That’s why I charged Bruenig with totalitarian tendencies then and why I still think I was right. He keeps being invited with putting a limiting principle on his designs, and he keeps declining. After a while, one must be forced to conclude that the reason is that he has none.

"They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

Very relaxing version of the Creed.

(Source: Spotify)

A smart young person in the Valley thinks being a reporter is basically being a PR person,” says one tech journalist. “Like, We have news to share, we’d like to come and tell you about it.” Reporters who write favorably about companies receive invitations to things; critics don’t. “They’re very thin-skinned,” says another reporter. “On Wall Street, if you call them a douchebag, they’ve already heard 17 worse things in the last hour. Here, if you criticize a company, you’re criticizing the spirit of innovation.
This has always been the fundamental greatness of sports, the reason they’re so enduring and powerful: They turn a world of grey into one of black and white. If my team wins, I am happy, and if they lose, I am sad. Nothing in life is that simple but sports. Now, obviously, the world of sports is not exempt from politics: The exact opposite, in fact. But for two hours, that can be stowed. It is important to remember more difficult things when those two hours are over. But putting all that away during the game isn’t just acceptable: It is the point. It is the only sane response to a world of chaos.

Will Leitch, in maybe my favorite World Cup coverage this summer. I brought this piece back in lieu of half-assing a #SoccerSunday post (I’m short on time because I am working on a World Cup piece for tomorrow at TAC) because this is a summary of so much of what I love about soccer. I obsess over each game as proxy, as metaphor, as societal force as much as any other fútbol nerd, but in the heat of the game, it’s a lot simpler. It keeps me sane by letting me go a little insane. The cruel call that opium. Bah, humbug. I call that making friends everywhere I go just by breaking the ice with a jersey, invented solidarity leading to real camaraderie.

A beautiful tournament, a beautiful game.

(via catherineaddington)

magictransistor:

Syd Mead (Conceptual illustrations), Blade Runner [And related earlier art), c. 1980.

(Source: sydmead.com, via etonnement)

I ask you, you as a Christian wrestling for the preservation of your greatest treasure, whether you hesitate, whether you incline toward intrigue, calculation, or procrastination in the hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defense? Has God not given you the strength, the will to fight?…Though we know that National Socialist power must be broken by military means, we are trying to achieve a renewal from within of the severely wounded German spirit.
St. Alexander Schmorell, whose feast day is today, writing in a pamphlet for the anti-Nazi activist group White Rose. (via catherineaddington)
iconoclassic:

(via Makoto Saito - Paul Kasmin Gallery)

gingerhaze:

Stuff I never posted: this Maleficent comic

(via sexartandpolitics)

I can attest from personal experience as a legislator that the practice of commercialized harvesting of young women’s bodies for eggs is protected with the full force of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, as well as the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. I can also attest that some pro life groups avoid the issue for fear of putting Republican legislators on the hot seat by forcing them to chose between their pro life commitments and these special interest groups.

In the course of this excellent Mark Shea post on opposing abortion and supporting a social safety net, he quotes GK Chesterton, and I quoted that:

I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization.

Amen!

The quote goes on:

Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.

Here’s another version I’d like to suggest:

Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a free market in housing so that supply is plentiful, prices are low and competition weeds away the bad landlords.

The point is that much of what appears as theological or philosophical or ideological disagreement, inside Catholic-world as well as outside is actually an empirical discussion about means rather than an abstract discussion about ends. (Take it away, Sane Paul Krugman)

Here’s another version: 

Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, all housing should be owned by the government and distributed to each according to their need.

(I am well aware that the “redistribution of property” that Chesterton talks about is a, well, distributist redistribution, which has nothing to do with either technocratic social-democratic or communist redistribution. This is just for the sake of argument.)

The problem with this version is that when the government does own the housing, everyone gets the most usurious of landlords, and the “homes” end up being very unclean on every possible dimension. (I write here as one who spent some time living in public housing as a child, btw. (I even once lived in public housing, literally, IN SOVIET RUSSIA.))

This is something that, in re: housing, almost everyone now agrees with, but this was not the case at all for many decades, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The problem that someone who opposes this version is often taken to oppose “a girl should have clean hair” rather than, you know, “totalitarianism.” (And in the American political context for decades, as well as in the French political context nowadays, opposition to public housing was written off as inherently racist.)

Again, Chesterton is right, and Shea is right. But I did want to make this point. 

I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization.

"I strike people as peculiar in some way, although I don’t quite understand why. Of course, I have an angular face, an angular body and, I suppose, an angular personality, which jabs into people.”
Katharine Hepburn

"I strike people as peculiar in some way, although I don’t quite understand why. Of course, I have an angular face, an angular body and, I suppose, an angular personality, which jabs into people.”

Katharine Hepburn

(Source: vistavisions, via parisiangentleman)

The U.S. government estimates 60,000 immigrant children this year. There are over 300,000 churches in America, most of them hewing to a mission of spreading some kind of good news. What good news? Salvation. The coming kingdom. A God whose will, we pray, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And what is his will? That’s not for me to say, but it is for me to ask, and for you to ask. It’s for us to ask, and then to listen. Are we listening, we who spend millions to travel overseas carrying the Gospel to the lost, now that God is sending tens of thousands of them our way?

I know there are geopolitical practicalities that transcend the priorities of my stupid bleeding heart, but 300,000 churches and 60,000 children.

What if, instead of greeting the federal agents with protest signs, we greeted them with petitions? Give us these children. We will feed them, we will clothe them, we will give them shelter. We will teach them and we will pray over them. Their parents, God help them, sent them away, and now here we stand to make good on the faith or hope or desperation in which those mothers and fathers sent them forth. Give us these children, and we will find a way. We will show mercy, because while we can scarcely agree between ourselves on anything else, we agree that the kingdom of heaven includes a hand stretched out in love.

It’s utterly impractical, I know. But how have we done so far, Christians, with practicality? For Christ’s sake, let’s not be known for our practicality

Sand in the Gears » Blog Archive » Thy kingdom come. Via Matt Milliner on Twitter. (via ayjay)

(via ayjay)

How this Declaration may strike others, I know not. To me, I own, it appears that it cannot fail — to use the words of a great Orator — “of doing us Knight’s service.” The mouth of faction, we may reasonably presume, will be closed; the eyes of those who saw not, or would not see, that the Americans were long since aspiring at independence, will be opened; the nation will unite as one man, and teach this rebellious people, that it is one thing for them to say, the connection, which bound them to us, is dissolved, another to dissolve it; that to accomplish their independence is not quite so easy as to declare it: that there is no peace with them, but the peace of the King: no war with them, but that war, which offended justice wages against criminals. — We too, I hope, shall acquiesce in the necessity of submitting to whatever burdens, of making whatever efforts may be necessary, to bring this ungrateful and rebellious people back to that allegiance they have long had it in contemplation to renounce, and have now at last so daringly renounced.
Jeremy Bentham responds to the Declaration of Independence. O utilitarian, where is thy vaunting now? I shall remove the wax head from thy stuffed body and hold it for ransom — oh wait, someone already did that. (via ayjay)

(via ayjay)