“Why I Choose Rural.” Benya Kraus explains why she chose to move to rural Minnesota after graduating from college: “Though I spent my childhood summers and winters here on the family farm, my narrative about rural life was colored by the images that dominate our media channels: an homogenous political identity, the closures of traditional manufacturing, and the celebration, or mourning, of our bright, young talent ‘getting out’ for good.” What she discovered upended these stereotypes, and the work she does now with Lead for America aims to shift such misperceptions more broadly.
“Politics and Political Service.” Oliver O’Donovan proposes that political discourse begins with a fundamental question: “What should we do, in order to practice justice in our life together?” When such discourse breaks down, violence ensues. One way to begin restoring justice, he suggests, is to attend more locally: the “sense of focused, located responsibility is what is properly meant by “patriotism,” perennially an unpopular virtue. It is the virtue of recognizing our special duty to the health and justice of the discourse that constitutes our own political identity.” (For more on local politics, it’s worth reading O’Donovan’s essay “The Loss of a Sense of Place” collected in Bonds of Imperfection.)
“The Berry Center Newsletter.” The Berry Center newsletter has several good pieces, but don’t miss Mary Berry’s opening letter: “Maybe our current global emergency has shown us that we should not be destroying the land and the people of rural places for cheap resources but rather working toward viable local economies.”
“A History Lesson from Alexander Hamilton.” Richard Gibson considers what Hamilton might say about recent events in Washington D.C.: “During the last four years, I have repeatedly resisted the urge to name dire precedents to our own convulsed times. Bennet reminds us—indeed insists that we remember—that our times do have precedents, and that those precedents, as the Founders grasped, should move us to deliberate action to shore up our public institutions.”
“Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection.” David French considers how Christians should respond to blasphemous uses of Christian symbols and how to begin the work of political truth-telling: “We are, however, constantly in the business of taking exceptional behavior from our political opponents and trying to argue that the exceptional is emblematic. It proves what “they” are “really like.” It’s an extremely comfortable mode of thinking. It repeatedly reinforces our priors.”
“The Capitol Insurrection: Our Altamont Moment.” Andrew Bacevich warns that last week’s events are symptomatic of much deeper issues: “If you are looking for terms to describe America in our own age—not simply the age of Trump, but also of Iraq and Afghanistan, Amazon and Google, Fox News and Facebook, Antifa and Proud Boys, epic government dysfunction and the havoc wreaked by COVID–19—egotism, hype, ineptitude, and greed provide a good place to start.”
“Episode 67. The Mad Farmers Liberation with Nathan and Jessica Williams.” On the latest episode of Back to the Roots, Bryan Wood and Mike Kline talk with a young couple who moved back to the dairy farm and helped transition it to organic inspired, in part, by a Wendell Berry poem.
“Humane Economies.” Carlos Roa reviews Matt Stoller’s new book on monopolies: “Goliath, while primarily focused on matters of political economy, compels us to contemplate what sort of country we wish to live in. It is an invitation to reconsider some of the underpinnings of our current society and aspire to an economic policy that is more humane.”
“A Refreshed and Refreshing Federalist.” Michael Federici reviews a new edition of the Federalist Papers and notes that reading these essays offers “a reminder of what makes constitutional politics possible: liberal learning, republican virtue, and a willingness to see one’s political opponents as instrumental partners in the work of governing a republic.”
“Toward A Politics of Limits.” Emile Doak takes the reins as executive director of The American Conservative and outlines the politics of limits and humility that TAC will continue to pursue.
“A Hidden Life, Patriotism, and a Rightly Ordered Love for America.” K. B. Hoyle draws on the example of Franz and Fani Jägerstätter to outline a healthy love for our land and our neighbors.
“Technosolutionism Isn’t the Fix.” Christine Rosen acknowledges the value of some technological solutions, but she issues a warning against allowing them to coalesce into an ideology:
Technosolutionism is a way of understanding the world that assigns priority to engineered solutions to human problems. Its first principle is the notion that an app, a machine, a software program, or an algorithm offers the best solution to any complicated problem. Notably, the technosolutionist’s appeal to technical authority, even for the creation of public policy or public health measures, is often presented as apolitical, even if its consequences are often not. Technosolutionism speaks in the language of the future but acts in the short-term present. In the rush to embrace immediate technological fixes, its advocates often ignore likely long-term effects and unintended consequences.
“Slashing Big Tech’s Gordian Knot.” Matthew Walther offers one way of addressing the vast control private tech companies have over who can and cannot be heard: “Is social media really a Gordian Knot? It seems to me that the solution is perfectly straightforward: In addition to eliminating Section 230, which would force social media companies to follow the same rules as every other publisher, we should recognize that basic internet services — service, hosting, search, email — are public goods and nationalize them.”
“A Conspiracy Theory Worth Considering.” Michael Brendan Dougherty has a crazy idea: “The smartphone itself is physically causing us to be stressed out, emotionally dysregulated, anxious, and fearful. It therefore primes us for radicalism.” (Recommended by Matt Stewart.)
“Year Zero.” David Samuels ponders how we might live humane lives on the margins of a technocratic order and reminds readers that “systems that treat human beings in the aggregate are bound to fail.” (Recommended by Rob Grano.)
”Roger Scruton was No Atheist—Argues his Literary Executor.” A year after Scruton’s death, Mark Dooley takes stock of his religious beliefs: “His religious beliefs were complex and often perplexing. However, anyone even partially acquainted with his writings will know that, despite ‘serving a full apprenticeship in atheism’, Scruton devoted his life to proving that ‘freedom, love and duty come to us as a vision of eternity, and to know them is to know God.’”
“Union Without Unity.” Betsy Clarke reviews Richard Kreitner’s Break it Up and concludes, “there isn’t going to be a constitutional convention in America and there isn’t going to be a secession… . What might be desirable is more regional autonomy within the current constitutional system.”