Keep Your Money Close.” Jane Clark Scharl draws on the localist principle of subsidiarity to diagnose how online shopping leads to a scarcity of human interaction and to suggest some remedies:“I’ve talked with a number of people who admit to feeling anything from sheepish to downright ashamed about their reliance on Amazon. There’s a reason for that: this isn’t the way buying and selling is supposed to be. What have we lost?”

The Farmers Leaning On Each Other’s Tools.” Grey Moran describes various tool-sharing models that U.S. farmers are trying out: “As California has lost much of its grain to higher value crops, small flour mills and grain cleaning businesses have disappeared, too. It’s a symptom of what Gonzales-Siemens sees as a larger problem facing many farmers, awash in a marketplace dominated by highly concentrated operations as regional farm infrastructure atrophies.”

Free Trade’s Origin Myth.” Oren Cass lambasts the excesses of free trade ideology and charts its development and what might lie in its aftermath: “In the years ahead, America will continue to turn away from the excesses of globalization, as it should. Doing so effectively will require not only the understanding that something has gone wrong, but also an understanding of what went wrong and why. Ideally, economists might come to recognize their own mistakes and participate in this rebalancing. But to paraphrase Krugman, if careful explanation does not prompt a rethinking, then ridicule will be well deserved.” Donald J. Boudreaux responds with equal fervor.

He Joked that He had 13 Readers. He Deserves Millions.” Becca Rothfeld reviews Guy Davenport’s The Geography of the Imagination, noting that his quip about having only 13 readers speaks both to his uncategorizability and to his wry humor: “It is not hard to understand why Davenport has only 13 readers, but it is also not hard to understand why they are so ardent. He did not write to impress or intimidate — though he may have done both inadvertently — but rather to articulate his awe.” (John Jeremiah Sullivan’s introduction to the book is also very much worth reading.)

Pope Francis Offers the Most Powerful Critique of AI Yet.” Esmé Partridge distills Pope Francis’s theologically rooted argument about the needs to place limits on AI: “It is not enough to oppose AI out of a vague scepticism towards progress — those who do so are all too easily dismissed as ‘luddites’. Instead, those critical of AI need a vision that can properly account for human nature.”

AI and the Forces of Darkness.” Casey Shutt draws on Paul Kingsnorth to consider the spiritual dimensions of AI and its temptations: “Whether it’s misinformation, deepfakes, AI-generated work presented as one’s own, a faux romance with AI, deception is the common thread. The fingerprints of the ‘Father of Lies’ seem to be all over the technology. Seen from a spiritual frame, as Kingsnorth urges us to, it is not difficult to view the AI enterprise, with its Babel-like aspirations, as the latest attempt to usher a new iteration of the kingdom of man.”

The Profuse Power of Flowers.” Jessica Gigot reviews American Wildflowers: A Literary Field Guide and ponders the interplay of art and science in attending to the natural world: “The ability to be present in the natural world is a skill shared by poets and scientists. The products of this attention—poems, paintings, classification systems, plant names, population data—can lead us, if we let them, to a heightened sense of responsibility for our surrounding ecosystems as well as our own complicated internal landscape.”

Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts.” David Brooks bemoans the burdensome bureaucratization of American life: “Organizations are trying to protect themselves from lawsuits, but the whole administrative apparatus comes with an implied view of human nature. People are weak, fragile, vulnerable and kind of stupid. They need administrators to run their lives. They have to be trained never to take initiative, lest they wander off into activities that are deemed by the authorities to be out of bounds.” (Recommended by Adam Smith.)

The Culture War Tearing American Environmentalism Apart.” Jerusalem Demsas details the messy debates about zoning and housing development in Minneapolis: “On its face, the battle in Minneapolis is a fight over what types of housing should go where. But the debate is also revealing generational, ideological, and temperamental divides within the large umbrella of the environmental movement. And how these disputes are resolved will shape the future of cities, the politics of growth, and the contours of American liberalism.”

Who Needs a Christian Bubble?” Sarah Reardon, in an essay that recalls some of the debates around Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, considers how Christian schools can serve the broader community rather than being closed off to it: “when functioning properly, Christian schools should not close themselves off to the world, cloistering away teachers and students: though distinct from the surrounding culture, a healthy Christian school does indeed engage with the world from the perspective of the wisdom of the centuries and from the locus of a Christ-centered community.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
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Local Culture

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