“Liberalism and the Invisible Hand.” Adrian Vermeule’s essay in American Affairs is worth printing and reading with care. He argues that “the key hallmarks or notes of liberalism’s invisible hand systems are these: (1) individual agents engage in decentralized interactions, often but not necessarily competitive, such that (2) ‘as a result of human action, not of human design’ (3) some system-level good or goods emerges.” And he concludes that “liberalism attempts to replace Providence with individualist, nonintentional accounts of the production of goods, yet this secularization chronically promises more than it can deliver.”
“Ethiopia’s ‘Church Forests’ are Incredible Oases of Green.” Alejandra Borunda writes for National Geographic about the ancient forests surrounding Ethiopian churches. The story is accompanied by remarkable photos by Kieran Dodds.
“The Sound of My Own Voice.” Antón Barba-Kay ruminates in The Point on the pluriform shifts in political and social discourse as mediated by the internet. By stripping away the social and physical contexts that give meaning to isolated facts, the internet erodes the coherence of the public sphere. Don’t miss the conclusion:
Just how consequential this form of presidency proves to be to the institution, just how much online speech is hollowing out our shared principles, will only become gradually clearer. However, that the form does not simply leave the content intact, that a national discourse that is at odds with its political reality may then corrode and eat into the latter, is the chief insight of media studies. With the invention of writing, empires replaced nomadic tribes all over the world. Two or three millennia later, those empires bit the dust when a German artisan figured out movable type: the birth of the nation-state. What now?
(Recommended by Eric Miller)
“The Limp Caudillo.” Ross Douthat responds to President Trump’s national emergency declaration: “If anything, precisely because his contempt for constitutional limits is so naked and his incompetence so stark, Trump has (modestly, modestly) weakened the imperial presidency by generating somewhat more pushback than his predecessors.”
“A Wendell Berry Solution to Cory Booker’s Problem.” Unlike Cory Booker, Marlo Safi doesn’t want to become a vegan, but she argues in National Review that conservatives should be leading the charge in dismantling industrial agriculture and supporting local farms.
“Farmworker vs Robot.” Writing for the Washington Post, Danielle Paquette describes a new strawberry-picking machine that may soon replace the human “labor force.” Industrialization operates by first making work so inhumane that only the dehumanized (and often racially-othered) will do it, and then it replaces those people with machines. It studiously avoids asking one of Wendell Berry’s questions: “what are people for?”
“Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers.” NPR’s Anna King reports on the colony deaths that many apiarians are dealing with this winter.
“Aristopopulism: A Political Proposal for America.” If you’ll be in Washington D.C. next month, listen to Patrick Deneen give the 2019 First Things Lecture, in which he will argue “that only a well-formed elite can support a humane condition of the populace, and only a well-formed populace can fruitfully restrain the hubris of a liberal elite and even orient them toward virtue.” It will also be live streamed.
“A Centuries-Old Idea Could Revolutionize Climate Policy.” Robinson Meyer, writing in The Atlantic, claims that “if you want to understand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s bid to remake the economy to fight climate change, you need to read Hamilton.”
Finally, if you’re interested in a couple of books about Wendell Berry, the University Press of Kentucky is running a 50% off sale on two of them: Virtues of Renewal: Wendell Berry’s Sustainable Forms and Wendell Berry and Higher Education: Cultivating Virtues of Place. I may be biased about their merits, but feel free to see for yourself. The discount code “FBILB” should be good through the end of March.