Conservation, Inflation, and Boeing

Photo by George W. Ackerman

“‘This Will Finish Us.’” I finished reading Wendell Berry’s Unsettling of America this week with a group of students, so this heartbreaking essay by Stephanie McCrummen about how the Tanzanian government, oil money from the Gulf states, and “conservationists” are evicting Maasai from their homelands lands as the latest tragic episode in long history: “The new life: no cows, because the Tanzanian government had seized every single one of them. No compound, because the government had bulldozed it, along with hundreds of others. No land, because more and more of the finest, lushest land in northern Tanzania was being set aside for conservation, which turned out to mean for trophy hunters, and tourists on ‘bespoke expeditions,’ and cappuccino trucks in proximity to buffalo viewing—anything and anyone except the people who had lived there since the 17th century, the pastoralists known as the Maasai.”

The Rise of the Cyber City.” Walter Russell Mead describes how cultures and infrastructure built around a daily car commute are being upended by remote work. Mead is cautiously optimistic about the possibilities this new economic arrangement holds: “We are likely to see a return to stronger communities and a recentering of human life on neighborhoods and families. The era of the car city was an era of bedroom communities that emptied out during the working day, and an era of rapid mobility as workers followed their careers from city to city. Loosening the power of geography over our working lives will give us more freedom to live where we choose, enabling people to put down roots without giving up the opportunities that, in past decades, came only with mobility. The distributed city will allow human civilization to synthesize the blessings of rural and urban life, and allow the reintegration of school, work, and community life in ways that strengthen the bonds connecting relatives and neighbors.” (Recommended by Adam Smith.)

A Refuge from Liberalism?” Last week I linked to Bryan Garsten’s essay on liberalism as rooted in the provision of refuge. Patrick Deneen pens a response, pointing out that liberalism developed in a context where “vacant” lands seemed abundant and those who sought freedom could set out for the frontier: “As Turner’s own words intimate, with the closing of the frontier, there would be no ‘refuge’ from liberalism. Whether as an expanding progressive form of ‘social control’ or libertarian individualism, the liberal ideal of “refuge” from liberalism diminishes from view. In effect, liberalism launches an exodus without a destination. If a Whiggish, self-deceptive, and often cruel form of ‘refuge’ was available for some time, its duration was brief and singular. We are faced instead with the prospect of having to live together, a nation of refugees who must cease an exodus into our interior deserts and instead learn the art of making a common home.” Garsten responds to Deneen and his other interlocutors here. Stay tuned for a thoughtful response from Jon Schaff that we’ll be running this coming week.

Who Should Study Philosophy?” Ryan M. Brown reviews Why Teach Philosophy in Schools? The Case for Philosophy on the Curriculum by Jane Gatley and suggests she wrongly brackets questions about final goods: “Shouldn’t education also provide us with guidance on how to discern genuinely valuable ends, since there is a truth about what is genuinely desirable, a truth that philosophy is uniquely equipped to discover and articulate? An education directed solely to the cultivation of generally applicable conceptual skills may produce students better able to interact with the world according to their whims, but this is what ancient philosophers called a ‘powerless power.’”

What the Upper-Middle-Class Left Doesn’t Get About Inflation.” Writing for the Atlantic, Michael Powell suggests that Paul Krugman and others are missing the ways that many Americans are experiencing inflation: “The modern Democratic Party, and liberalism itself, is to a substantial extent a bastion of college-educated, upper-middle-class professionals, people for whom Biden-era inflation is unpleasant but rarely calamitous. Poor, working-class, and lower-middle-class people experience a different reality. . . . Tell these Americans that the economy is humming, that median wage growth has nudged ahead of the core inflation rate, and that everything’s grand, and you’re likely to see a roll of the eyes.”

You Can’t Trust Your Kids’ Schools, But You Can Help Change Them.” Ashley Colby describes how she wrestles with difficult questions about gender education in her daughters’ public school: “Part of my goal in moving back to Chicago is to not cede what could be thriving institutions like public schools to the most extreme and cynical actors. But I felt overwhelmed and scared. How many parents have the time and inclination to go through this curriculum in the way I just did? Do people even know what is being taught? And what about my daughters? What if I can’t do enough, quickly enough? What if our influence as a family isn’t strong enough to overcome social and peer pressure?

The Spiritual Terrain of David Middleton.” James Matthew Wilson is absolutely right when he calls David Middleton “one of the contemporary American South’s finest poets.” Wilson offers a fine introduction to Middleton’s poetry in this essay: “His work’s clear rootedness in place is joined with metaphysical and theological vision, one where piety before the hearth gods at home in Shreveport opens onto a more profound piety before the sacramental flesh of Christ the churches of South Louisiana.”

Central Planning Comes for Vacation Towns.” Samuel Wigutow and Nora Kenney raise important questions about the prudence of one-size-fits-all housing growth: “Top-down attempts to fundamentally re-engineer communities in the name of “housing justice” are particularly dangerous. Devolution and localism are important principles in housing policy; a neighborhood in the Bronx might look different from one in Palm Springs, and communities ought to build homes in ways that honor the best of their character and history.”

U.S. Support for Israel’s War Has Become Indefensible.” Phil Klay draws from his experience fighting in Iraq to issue cautions about the Gaza war: “A good pretext for a war does not make a war just. War needs to be carried out without brutality and drive at a just political end. Israel is failing on both counts. Hamas may be horrific, but just because you’ve diagnosed a malignant tumor doesn’t mean you hand a rusty scalpel to a drunk and tell him to cut away while the patient screams in terror.”

Boeing’s Problems were as Bad as you Thought.” Whizy Kim details the problems that appear to plague Boeing’s manufacturing process and corporate culture. Boeing’s example suggests that if something is too big to fail, its failure will have far-reaching, difficult-to-contain effects: “Boeing’s safety issues are especially unsettling because there isn’t a quick fix to untangling them. It’s been more than five years since the deadly 737 MAX disasters, and according to aviation experts and current and former employees, the company hasn’t managed to right the ship.”

Left Conservatism?” Russell Arben Fox reads George Scialabba’s essays “as small-c conservative, or at least as philosophically anti-progressive. [Their] implications include a preference for the local, a suspicion of intellectual abstractions, a discontent with the ennui that consumer wealth and technological ease have enabled, and a fear of a too-rapidly pursued future whose liberating possibilities will likely be lost unless they are approached incrementally (if at all).”


  1. In case readers are interested:

    There is one part of Garsten’s essay that I think especially deserves deeper investigation by those with a conservative (localist, communitarian) bent. Garsten doesn’t seem to believe that the mere availability of exit — of “refuge” — makes as much of a difference to the documented erosion of civil bonds as the conservative might think.

    William Galston directly addresses this aspect of Garsten’s argument in a response paper, “The Limits of Liberalism,” in a section titled “Exit or Escape.” See:

    (Thanks to Jeff for pointing out that Garsten’s paper led a special issue, full of interesting responses to Garsten’s argument.)


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