“Beyond Originalism.” Adrian Vermeule is causing a stir with his conservative critique of originalism in the Atlantic. In its place, he advocates ”common-good constitutionalism.” I’m not sure the courts are the best place to debate and enforce the common good; Vermeule doesn’t seem to consider the role that restraint and limits might have in furthering the common good, nor does he respect the role federalism plays in allowing different states to pursue different visions of the good. Indeed, like Boromir, Vermeule fails to recognize there are some powers that no one should wield because they can’t be wielded responsibly.
“Obituary: Tomie dePaola.” Shannon Maughan remembers the life and work of a remarkable artist and author.
“Effective Quarantines and Strong Towns.” Spencer Gardner distinguishes between sprawling growth and fractal growth (or growth via duplication). The latter is less centralized and more resilient, particularly in the face of a pandemic.
“Has the Coronavirus Crisis Proved the National-Populist Case?” Michael Brendan Dougherty says that it hasn’t yet, but it does provide an opportunity for nationalists to articulate their vision for a more local, resilient economic and political order.
“The Moment for Food Sovereignty is Now.” Katie Brimm reports on the rapid growth of home gardens as people around the country realize the importance of growing their own food. Let’s hope this trend continues even after the virus has abated.
“Fruit and Veg ‘will run out’ Unless Britain Charters Planes to Fly in Farm Workers from Eastern Europe.” Jamie Doward reports that British farms need 90,000 workers to harvest crops in the coming weeks. Usually, this work is done by Eastern Europeans, but travel restrictions now prevent these workers from coming. Maybe a farm system that didn’t depend on low-paid, migrant laborers would be both more resilient and more just.
“Why Doesn’t Britain Value its Farmers?” James Rebanks writes about the root problem that food hoarding has revealed: “But the unexpected demand isn’t the whole story. The whole story is the fragility of our just-in-time food system, which the crisis has exposed. It’s a logistically brilliant system — it has allowed us to shop whenever we want for whatever we want, regardless of season or whether harvests have been good or bad — but it isn’t nearly as robust as it might need to be. Like our banks, which we learnt in the 2007-8 banking crisis were ‘too big to fail’, we now have food systems that are so hyper-efficient that they have little slack capacity for a crisis.”
“A Place on Earth Discussion.” My colleagues and I are reading one of Wendell Berry’s novels over the next several weeks. You can sign up to receive discussion questions and to join us for a Zoom discussion of the book in May.
“Local Luminaries: Ed McClanahan.” Celeste Lewis interviews one of Kentucky’s most eccentric writers. McClanahan recounts many stories in their conversation, including how he ended up as the Berry’s next-door neighbor for a time.
“Quarantine Notebook – Part 1.” James Matthew Wilson is writing an ongoing poem about life—public and private—during the coronavirus.
“Live From Mako’s Studio.” Mako Fujimura recorded four brief videos of him observing and painting a daffodil. Along the way, he reflects on the role of art in times of turmoil and tragedy.
“How I Joined the Resistance.” J.D. Vance narrates his conversion to Catholicism. This is a long essay, but it’s worth reading in full; each turning point is articulated convincingly and with real psychological and moral insight.
“The End of New York.” Joel Kotkin considers why the virus may accelerate the decline of megalopolises like New York City.
“The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind.” Ross Douthat considers the various causes behind the partisan responses to the virus.
“On Tele-teaching.” Richard Gibson expresses gratitude for the remarkable online tools that allow him to continue teaching while he and his students are separated. Even so, he doesn’t think in-person teaching has become obsolete: “what these media offer cannot compare to the “phatic communion” that Malinowski witnessed around village fires in the south Pacific and European drawing rooms and that I now see as the classroom’s provision. Now more than ever I am convinced that real—three-dimensional—presences are what we are made to receive.”