Aesthetics, Infrastructure, and the Rule of St. Benedict

Photo by George W. Ackerman

A Common Good Conservatism for the Common Man.” Anthony Hennen reviews a new edition of The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge and praises Coolidge as “a standard-bearer for a certain strand of American conservatism: A belief in the importance of institutions, the value of free markets without an undying faith in them, and dignity for the common man to control his life rather than fund the excesses of his government.”

Becoming a Perennial: A Conversation with Grace Olmstead.” Tessa Carman talks with Gracy Olmstead about her new book, community life, and how to put down roots in a mobile society. In another week or so, FPR will be running a discussion between Gracy and another Idaho resident. Stay tuned.

From the Soil Up.” Beth Ward profiles two Georgia women who have been growing food, restoring land, and mending community.

Planting Hope.” In this video produced by FUNDAEC, farmers and others discuss how foreign capital and new technologies consolidated landownership in Colombia, but also how new efforts to restore local farming economies and communities are taking root. (Recommended by Niaz Khadem.)

As Regulations Vanish, One Missouri County is Ground Zero for Factory Farming Debate.” Mallory Daily reports on how locals are trying to stop a CAFO from moving into their neighborhood. County regulations that would have helped their efforts have recently been overruled by the state, however. 

Christianity and Culture in an Age of Crisis.” Myles Werntz reviews several recent books that “attempt to define both the meaning of the world, and the meaning of the Christian religion, in a moment of patent unclarity and uncertainty.” His discussion of various localist approaches may be of particular interest.

A Hebrew in Pharaoh’s Court: Industrial Policy as Statecraft.” Anthony Barr argues that in order for the US to become antifragile, it will need “an explicit industrial policy formulated as good domestic policy with foreign policy implications and goals.”

Empire Inc.” William Anthony Hay reviews Outsourcing Empire by Andrew Phillips and J. C. Sharman and notes that their historical account of company-states like the Dutch United East India Company has relevance for understanding the power wielded by today’s multinational corporations.

Does Biden Really Want to End the Forever Wars?” Jack Goldsmith and Samuel Moyn propose a way for congress to rein in the executive’s power to make and wage wars.

Toward an Incarnational Aesthetic.” In a perceptive essay, Ashley C. Barnes situates recent aesthetic debates in the long history of debates over biblical interpretation. She argues that “history does not have to be seen as an enemy to art, such that art must either be protected from it by a lover or reluctantly abandoned to it by a knower.” Rather, she concludes, “art’s life lives in human communities and therefore in history.”

Remembering the Green Corn Rebellion.” Bill Kauffman recalls a 1917 uprising in Oklahoma: “Are there lessons to be drawn? Maybe. Neighbors have claims upon our loyalty, so the state prefers uprooted mercenaries to do its dirty work. And powerless people, when pushed too far, respond desperately, violently, quixotically…humanly.”

Secretary Pete, Going ‘Big’ on Road Projects Won’t Fix America’s Cities. This is What Will.” Charles Marohn has three policy suggestions for Biden’s infrastructure bill. They aren’t big and flashy: “While the theme coming from Secretary Buttigieg seems to be ‘go big,’ the projects most likely to meet all of the administration’s goals will need to be small, incremental and city-focused. They would repair damage from past grand initiatives instead of launching new ones.”

The Suez Logjam Shows How Fragile our Global Trade System Is.” To borrow a distinction from Ursula Franklin, you can either seek to maximize efficiency or you can seek to minimize disaster. Our economy rewards those who do the former, hence we remain incredibly vulnerable to accidents. Salvatore R. Mercogliano explores the dynamics of global shipping and why the Suez Canal is such a crucial choke point.

“‘My force–if I have any–is different, it lives more in nuances, in tranquility of my voice.’ My Never-Before-Published Q&A with Adam Zagajewski.” The great Polish poet passed away this week (more about him here). Cynthia Haven published an interview she conducted with him a decade ago. At one point, Zagajewski remarks, “we live in a world where there’s irony on one side and fundamentalism (religious, political) on the other. Between them the space is rather small but it’s my space.”

Would St. Benedict Zoom? The Rule of St. Benedict as an Antidote to Technopoly.” If, as Peter Ramey and Jon D. Schaff argue, “the liturgies of technopoly encourage the vice of acedia,” perhaps the Rule of St. Benedict might inspire counter-disciplines that would form our souls in more healthy and virtuous ways.

The US Needs to Rediscover the Meaning of Investment.” Oren Cass points out that the relationship between the financial sector and the real economy is broken: “Great fortunes are made moving around these piles of money and extracting value from the assets of firms that underlie the financial instruments. But no innovation is spurred nor groundwork laid for prosperity.” He explores these themes further in a longer essay.

“‘Send Them Here!’” Andrew J. Bacevich rightly notes that the situation at the southern border of the U.S. is “one of baffling complexity.” 

A Victory for Scientific Pragmatism.” How should science work in the midst of an unfolding pandemic? Arturo Casadevall, Michael J. Joyner, and Nigel Paneth address this question by looking at the issue of convalescent plasma: “The convalescent plasma controversy highlights the need to better educate physicians on the knowledge problem in medicine: How do we know what we know, and how do we acquire new knowledge?”

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