Be Germanicus

From Eusebius’ The History of the Church:

Special mention is made of the noble Germanicus, who by divine grace overcame his natural physical fear of death. The proconsul tried to dissuade him, stressing his youth and begging him as one still in the very prime of life to spare himself, but without a moment’s hesitation he drew the savage beast towards him, wellnigh forcing and goading it on, the more quickly to escape from their wicked, lawless life. After his glorious death the whole crowd were so astounded by the heroism of God’s beloved martyr, and the courage of Christian people everywhere…

Cool interchanges and great movies

Here’s a cool Politico piece featuring aerial photos of some of the world’s largest highway interchanges. I hoped to find the Springfield Interchange on this list—one of the highlights of my otherwise-boring morning commute—but to no avail. It serves about 430,000 cars per day, which I guess isn’t enough to earn a spot on this list. I can’t find a list of the world’s largest highway interchanges. Can you?

The Springfield Interchange in Springfield, VA. I drive on this almost every day.

The Springfield Interchange in Springfield, VA. I drive on this almost every day.

On a totally unrelated note, here’s a cool list from someone on Reddit of the 250 Greatest Films of All Time. I’ve looked for a list like this before, but I never found anything definitive. Most of them seemed skewed toward modern movies. Some of them definitely over-weighted old movies. But this list seems pretty fair. It aggregates various reviews from IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd, accounts for the general population’s ignorance of older films, and even discounts reviews of brand new movies that always fall in ratings over the years.

I’ve seen exactly 36 of these movies (14.4%), a handful of which are animated movies I saw as a child. That should show you how little my adult self enjoys watching movies. I average about one per month, and I usually regret that one about halfway through.

Within limits

From Ludwig von Mises:

Science does not give us absolute and final certainty. It only gives us assurance within the limits of our mental abilities and the prevailing state of scientific thought. A scientific system is but one station in an endlessly progressing search for knowledge. It is necessarily affected by the insufficiency inherent in every human effort. But to acknowledge these facts does not mean the present-day economics is backward. It merely means that economics is a living thing–and to live implies both imperfection and change.

Can climate change be good?

Dr. Ivar Giaever has the same thought I’ve had for years.

What is the optimum temperature for the earth? Is that the temperature we have right now? That would be a miracle! Maybe it’s two degrees warmer. Two degrees colder. But no one has told me what the optimum temperature is for the whole earth.

Climate change poses a threat to some of our present-day lifestyle. But is it altogether bad, on net? Is it not even possible that climate change could make life easier for many humans?

As far as I understand, some climate change models have cities like New York and Miami underwater if warming continues its course for the next 100 years. That doesn’t sound good. But what happens to the rest of the earth? Do we gain billions of acres of arable land, once too cold to support life? Will droughts become less frequent and less severe?

I have no idea how to answer my question. But if we could derive an optimum temperature for the earth, based on maximizing the amount of arable land, minimizing drought and extreme weather activity in populated areas, etc., might that temperature be outside the range climate change alarmists believe we must maintain, even at the cost of expensive carbon taxes and slowed industrial development?

I’m not convinced. Any serious discussion of climate change ought to talk about why global warming is bad—not take that idea for granted. Maybe such talk is about there, but I don’t see it from popular commentators except insofar as they paint scary pictures of flooding coastal cities and stronger hurricanes. That doesn’t sound good, but what happens to the world on net? What happens, if you will, to the human race’s prospects for long-term survival (if you like thinking in such terms…I don’t)? Is it possible that things will improve in this regard?

Let’s first establish exactly why climate change is bad, then talk about whether it’s worth fighting. Because neither of those goes without saying.

Why Mises admired Freud

An interesting little note from Jeffrey Tucker in The Freeman:

It makes sense if you think about it. Mises was the great champion of subjectivist economic theory, with its radical observation that the whole shape of the world of economics is ultimately traceable to values residing in human minds. Freud did the same for the discipline of medicine and therapy. They both went beyond materialism to find explanatory power in how and what we think. Both highlighted the awesome power of the inner life of the individual mind.

Groupish, not selfish

From Jonathan Haidt (made known to me by a friend’s Facebook post):

Despite what you might have learned in Economics 101, people aren’t always strictly selfish. In politics, they’re more often groupish. When people feel that a group they value — be it racial, religious, regional or ideological — is under attack, they rally to its defense, even at some cost to themselves. We evolved to be tribal, and politics is a competition among coalitions of tribes.

The key to understanding tribal behavior is not money; it’s sacredness. The great trick that humans developed at some point in the last few hundred thousand years is the ability to circle around a tree, rock, ancestor, flag, book or god, and then treat that thing as sacred.

People who worship the same idol can trust one another, work as a team and prevail over less cohesive groups. So if you want to understand politics, and especially our divisive culture wars, you must follow the sacredness.

Trump’s secret plan

From the genius mind of Jeffrey Tucker:

Because Trump is the only one who speaks this way, he can count on support from the darkest elements of American life. He doesn’t need to actually advocate racial homogeneity, call for a whites-only sign to be hung at immigration control, or push for expulsion or extermination of undesirables. Because such views are verboten, he has the field alone, and he can count on the support of those who think that way by making the right noises.

What’s distinct about Trumpism, and the tradition of thought it represents, is that it is non-leftist in its cultural and political outlook and yet still totalitarian in the sense that it seeks total control of society and economy and places no limits on state power. The left has long waged war on bourgeois institutions like family, church, and property. In contrast, right fascism has made its peace with all three. It (very wisely) seeks political strategies that call on the organic matter of the social structure and inspire masses of people to rally around the nation as a personified ideal in history, under the leadership of a great and highly accomplished man.

Trump believes himself to be that man.

Musings on innovation

Musings on innovation from Mark P. Mills:

It’s not that disruption (possibly the second most over-used tech word, after “awesome”) isn’t wired into Silicon Valley’s ecosystem. But foundational economic and social transformations don’t come from making products to compete with cab or power companies; they come from basic research that radically advances our understanding of—and thus derivatively, our ability to manipulate and literally engineer—nature’s underlying laws and materials. The apotheosis of such progress is the domain of the Nobel Prizes.

It is time for today’s tech giants to expand their vision in a way that would win a few Nobels. They need to step up, be bold, and make history by launching a major initiative to invest in basic science. This is a critical time. America has exhausted the extant model, dating back to World War II, for funding basic research. Our overall spending on basic research has been declining, a fact highlighted by the broad coalition of universities and researchers that has launched The Innovation Deficit project.

Too much debt

From this great Blackstone piece:

The whole world is suffering from too much debt.  As a result, growth almost everywhere is going to be slow.  I know you believe the problem is insufficient demand, but the major industrialized countries already have considerable debt and do not want to add any more to it to stimulate the consumer.  Japan is an exception.  They already have the highest debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any major country and they are willing to add more.  China is an exception on the other side.  They are in a position to take on more debt because their debt to GDP ratio is low.  Without more fiscal stimulus, demand will be tepid and growth will be disappointing.  This is the state of the world now, and it is likely to endure for some time.  In the near term, I don’t see a calamity, just sluggish economies and many equity markets not doing much. 

Motivational Mises

From Human Action:

He who only wishes and hopes does not interfere actively with the course of events and with the shaping of his own destiny. But acting man chooses, determines, and tries to reach an end.

Are you an acting man?

(Yes, yes, I know Mises’ point is that we are all “acting men.” By our very nature, and the fact of our consciousness, we act. But I mean it in a less literal way: Are you a wisher or a doer?)