Refuge, Levitation, and Hospitality

Photo by George W. Ackerman

The Liberalism of Refuge.” I think that Bryan Garsten’s notion of “refuge” isn’t robust enough to do all the work he’s asking it to do in this account, but he poses important and nuanced challenges to some forms of localism in this essay: “Liberal societies, I want to suggest, are those that offer refuge from the very people they empower. The reach of this formulation will become evident when we allow ourselves to use “refuge” in both a literal and a metaphorical sense, so that institutions and practices can offer refuge from a powerful person as much as a fortress can.” He goes on to elaborate what such refuge might look like: “Ruling is done in a liberal way not when it is cloaked in the language of popular sovereignty but when it is offset by real offers of refuge. Those offers may be found in rival political parties, in separated powers such as courts and executive agencies, in a reasonable degree of autonomy for local communities, and in powerful civil society organizations such as churches, mosques, and synagogues, universities and media companies, labor unions and corporations.” (Recommended by Eric Dane Walker.)

The Economy is Strong. Why are our National Finances so Weak?” Megan McArdle warns that even while the US economy is doing quite well, the deficit continues to grow. She paints a grim picture: “We are fecklessly squandering what might be our last opportunity to get the government’s finances on a sustainable footing in an orderly manner that will minimize the pain.”

The Art of the Possible.” Christina Bieber Lake praises Tara Isabella Burton’s new novel, Here in Avalon and recommends gathering a group of friends to read it with: “If together you can figure out why Burton says it’s ultimately “a story about coming home,” you’ll be on your way to the richest of all delights. Because the novel’s tremendous power comes not from the seduction of escape, but from the truth that another life is possible—inside of this one. “

Stone Cold Love.” Brian Miller describes adopting a duck family and the unwise escapades of the father: “our wandering Lothario was nothing if not persistent.”

They Flew?: Making Sense of Levitating Saints.” Daniel K. Williams reviews a fascinating book that I’ve been reading, Carlos Eire’s They Flew: A History of the Impossible: “In an early modern European society on the cusp of the scientific revolution, there were plenty of skeptics who wanted to see such miracles with their own eyes before they would believe – and they did. Some of the human flights were conducted outdoors in front of numerous witnesses, a phenomenon that Eire says was probably impossible to fake with any of the technology available at the time.”

I’ve Been at NPR for 25 Years. Here’s How We Lost America’s Trust.” Uri Berliner shares his insider perspective at what’s changed during the past decade at NPR: “It’s true NPR has always had a liberal bent, but during most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding. In recent years, however, that has changed. Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population. If you are conservative, you will read this and say, duh, it’s always been this way. But it hasn’t.”

Are We Experiencing a Realignment?” Jon Schaff tries to make sense of the dysfunctional state of US politics: “we have a system where people are continually and increasingly frustrated with the two major political parties while having no realistic alternative.”

Hinges and a Lock.” Gregory Thompson describes his family’s efforts at hospitality over many years and how they responded when their welcome was abused: “It was a form of death—not only for the members of our family, but also for the life to which our family aspired, the life we spent all of those years fashioning: the life of the revolving door. And so we removed that door and replaced it with another, heavy on its hinges. We swung it shut and barred it with every lock within reach.”

Across the Country, Amish Populations Are on the Rise.” Sam Myers describes how Amish communities continue to grow and spread to new regions: “Even though farming is still a large part of Amish culture, it’s not the only reason they’re moving. As Nolt and other researchers point out, the Amish have pivoted to other professions like construction, woodworking, blacksmithing, and starting small businesses.”

Realism and Restraint, at Home and Abroad.” Casey Spinks defends the wisdom of Christian realism in foreign policy and agricultural practice: “A Christian realism worthy of Niebuhr’s legacy stresses restraint. And especially now, when various technocratic forces and organizations still claim to own the mantle of “realist” in the face of so many rebellions against their control, Bacevich and Mead have, each in his own way, shown how unrealistic these prevailing strategies are and why they have failed. Which brings me to Wendell Berry.”


  1. McArdle starts with “The economy is booming.” This is Baghdad Bob level delusional lying. It is important not to humor such nonsense or pretend someone who spews it is operating in good faith. For historical purposes it is important to note that she is lying.


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