Victor Hugo: two faces of political violence

They wanted an end to oppression, an end to tyranny, an end to strife, work for men, education for children, social goodwill towards women, liberty, equality, fraternity, bread for all, an idea for all, a paradise made of this world, progress. And that good, sweet blessed thing, progress, they demanded fearsomely, driven to extremity, to utter distraction, half-naked, with bludgeon…

In search of nuance

In an age of polarisation, we need nuanced understanding of people and issues more than ever. What does nuance mean to you? To me it means things like: Knowing some of the shortcomings of your side of the debate; Seeing – and not excusing – the failings (and worse) of people on your side of the debate; Looking for reasons…

Freedom to the nose

Your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins. John B Finch (early version of a saying often attributed to John Stuart Mill, Lincoln and others) A fundamental principle of liberty and libertarianism is that people should be given as few limits as possible. John Stuart Mill argued for absolute freedom…

Knowing better (3): the best values

My values are the best that I know; I assume you feel the same. Changing them is hard – it takes some combination of (delete as appropriate)… experience / evidence / awareness / engagement with an argument / a strong feeling… …of / with / about … the flaws in our existing values / the way that something we think…

Not long ago, or Little by little (4): Dolly Parton on the scar on her toes

[For those who came in late… Start with Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening… Somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains c1950… Jad Abumrad: She told me one story about how one day, when she was about seven or eight, she…

Not long ago, or Little by little (3): scarcity and subsistence in rural Suffolk

[For those who came in late… Start with Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening… A village in Suffolk [in the east of England], circa 1900: There were seven children at home and father’s wages had been reduced to 10…

Not long ago, or Little by little (2): Indoor plumbing

[Not long ago, or Little by little (1)] Not long ago, in a place not far away and directly connected to you, something like this was happening, little by little: It’s the Chinese city of Kunming in 1980: Li Kunwa and Phillipe Ôtié’s A Chinese Life is an amazing memoir – a lens into sixty years of struggle and upheaval…

Deirdre McCloskey on liberty and human flourishing

The real ability of the poorest to buy goods and services rose, 1800 to the present, by 3,000 percent. Literally. A factor of thirty. … I take it you value human liberty and human flourishing. (If you do not, we have nothing to discuss, and can go straight to fighting it out in the streets.) You will know that the…

Gordon Brown: All for one

An ideology of “everyone for himself” will not work when the health of each of us depends so unavoidably on the health of all of us. Gordon Brown in The Guardian: In the coronavirus crisis, our leaders are failing us Gordon Brown’s timely reminder about health applies equally to… General economic prosperity; The quality of our education systems; The civility…

Penn Jillette on the politics of “us”

I’ve trying this thought experiment of trying not to use the words “us and them.” I’ve tried to say the sentence “those of us who voted for Trump,” which is a very difficult sentence to say, but if you say it, it’s very profound. Because it is “those of us” who voted for Trump. It’s not “them” who voted for…