Harvard Classics, Volume 21: I Promessi Sposi

The most recent volume of the Harvard Classics is the only modern fiction novel included in the set of 50 volumes. While there is a whole set of 20 volumes dubbed the “Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction”, I Promessi Sposi’s inclusion in the original set points to its significance and quality. Alessandro Mazoni’s 1827 work comes in second to Dante as the most important work in the Italian canon, and for good reason. I Promessi Sposi is a masterful historical fiction novel that blends the personal conflicts of lower class Milanese with the backdrop of war, pestilence and famine.

I Promessi Sposi starts with a simple personal conflict. Late at night, a local clergyman is accosted by ruffians, warning him of the dire consequences should he perform the wedding of the two protagonists. This conflict, however, eventually leads to a pageant of personal struggle for both protagonists as they separate and find themselves in a series of ever-escalating predicaments.

Continue reading “Harvard Classics, Volume 21: I Promessi Sposi”

Stochastic Democracy, An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Recently, a member of the Virginia house of delegates was chosen randomly after a tie vote. Commenters have generally taken different positions on this. The first is that its an amusing quirk of the American political system which shows the republican virtues we uphold. The second is that a country where the outcome of a minor election comes down to a coin flip isn’t a serious country.

I take a third approach: that this sort of thing is something we should see more of. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a crazy idea, flipping coins isn’t the basis for a legitimate government.” You’d be right in saying that, mostly because I’m skeptical of universal sufferage, but also because I think the system should be somewhat more sophisticated than mere coin flips.

I call my system “stochastic democracy”. Stochastic is a word used to describe something that is determined through randomness. This randomness, however, is a reflects the distribution of opinions within the electorate. Rather than a system where the person with 50%+1 votes automatically wins, or the person with a plurality of votes wins, I think that each vote should be an entry into a random lottery. When 60% of the voters support Candidate A, Candidate A has 60% of the opportunities in the lottery.

My big caveat is that I don’t think people should be voting directly on statewide or nationwide offices. Members of the House of Representatives should be the limit of electoral power under any voting scheme, majority-based or stochastic. The United States was founded with appointed Senators and an electoral college. As Americans, we should be voting on local government, state legislature, the House of Representatives and members of the Electoral College. State governors stand at an odd point that I don’t have a definite opinion on, but I just want to make it clear I’m not advocating for the President to be chosen randomly. I’m just advocating the people who choose him to be chosen randomly.

Another common complaint about stochastic democracy will ask about the possibility of electing fringe candidates. In a stochastic democracy, the Libertarians will probably win a few seats in the House of Representatives. Each representative probably won’t hold their seat for more than a term, but there will be a consistent libertarian group in Congress. That’s part of the beauty of a stochastic democracy. Each individual race has a high degree of randomness, but the representative body that results from that randomness will do a better job of representing the shape of the electorate.

As far as the problem of the Mickey Mouse voters, I would simply point you towards my previously mentioned skepticism of universal sufferage.

People who study group choice theory are quick to point out the problems with plurality or run-off voting. Many of these problems are solved with stochastic democracy.

The first problem stochastic democracy solves is tyranny of the majority. A party that holds a majority can no longer expect to consistently win elections. They have to share power with the minority on occasion, depending on the size of that majority. This conditions both people and politicians to treat turnover and seats changing between parties as natural and a part of the political system, rather than a horrible cataclysm.

Additionally, long-term incumbency would be impossible in stochastic democracy. If you get a 75% majority every election, you will still end up losing the election once every four times. That helps to make political office feel more like a transient state that one serves in for a few years, rather than a career destination.

Likewise, stochastic democracy encourages more potential candidates to run for office in districts that are solidly for one party or another. In a stochastic democracy, a candidate that can summon 30% support has a chance at winning the election. This encourages people to go out and compete for votes, even if they don’t think they can get a majority.

Similarly, stochastic democracy encourages a wide variety of candidates. A fringe party with 5% support is a long-shot in a stochastic democracy, but they have a shot at a term in office nevertheless. This encourages the proliferation of a large set of diverse candidates, all with a long shot at winning.

Stochastic democracy also eliminates the reasons for gerrymandering. Creating districts that have 60% party affiliation doesn’t guarantee seats the way it does in a majority system. In fact, mathematically, stochastic democracy makes district lines irrelevant to the party affiliation of the resulting candidates. Each voter has an equal chance of selecting the winning candidate no matter which district they are in. Taking someone from one district and putting them in another district balances out in probability terms.

Finally, stochastic democracy makes voter fraud much less effective. An additional 100,000 votes for one candidate could have swung many states in the 2016 elections, but in a stochastic democracy, these votes would have merely moved the resulting odds. While unacceptable in either context, stochastic democracy requires the manipulation of relatively large numbers of votes to influence the outcome of a tight race compared to a majority contest, and even then, they would only be changing the odds, not changing the outcome.

All of these reasons lay out a solid case for an impractical idea. Stochastic democracy is an idea that can only be accepted by someone who doesn’t believe in democratic civil myths, and those people ultimately care more about the makeup of the electorate, rather than the electoral system.

Harvard Classics, Volume 20: The Divine Comedy

Usually in these posts I talk about a work, and how it fits into the Western canon, but with Dante that is a little bit different. The Divine Comedy is doesn’t just fit into the Western canon, it defines a large portion of it. Compared to other volumes, I spent significantly more time working through Dante and getting everything I could out of it. A short blog post certainly does not suffice to do more than to hopefully encourage further study by the reader.

The Divine Comedy was written in the early 14th century, and is the most important literary work of a whole millennia of our civilization. The Divine Comedy marks the beginning of an explosion in literature. The world Dante describes is still the Medieval one, with a highly structured and hierarchical universe where things tie together in a way that seems almost allegorical today.

Unless you’re taking a dedicated course in the book, most college courses cover a selection of the 100 Cantos that make up the Divine Comedy. Even though I found the whole experience very valuable, I can understand why colleges run their courses this way. The moments when Dante is transcendent are truly something special. But those instances do not occur in every Canto and as far as I can tell, my own assessment of which Cantos were the most interesting agreed with collegiate opinion.

The Divine Comedy is split into three main components, the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. Inferno usually gets the most attention because it is the least interested in theology, and the descriptions of people who do not eventually make it to heaven, especially those near the boundary, are some of the most interesting parts of the book. The common thread that runs through all three books is Love. In Inferno we see the result of putting other emotions ahead of Love. In Purgatorio, people are struggling with misplaced love. At the end of the Paradiso, Dante sees that the source of energy behind the whole of creation is Love. The object of Dante’s love, driving him forward is Beatrice. Dante longs after Beatrice through most of the books until she arrives to help him ascend into heaven, where she is with him almost to Dante’s final meeting with the Trinity.

It really is a silly exercise to try and talk about the depth, beauty and poetry of the Divine Comedy in a limited post. All I can really do is agree with the consensus that it is a sublime work that can be appreciated by from a single reading, but can also occupy the careers of scholars.

But now, with the Divine Comedy finished, we’ve reached a turning point in the Harvard Classics. From here on out, most of the readings are more modern, and there are fewer epic tomes known to everyone who goes to college. The big exception is the Odyssey, which is Volume 22. Before we get there, I’ll be reading the Italian novel I promessi sposi (The Betrothed).

Sargon’s Sophomoric Principles

YouTuber Sargon of Akkad, a pseudonym for British man Carl Benjamin, has written a set of principles to describe the political philosophy he espouses, which so far can only be described by the adjective “liberalist”. Whether there is or will be a noun form for the set of liberalist ideas is unknown at this time. Unfortunately for linguists everywhere, liberalistism seems to the be most reasonable option to name the ideas with a noun. As such, I will do my best to torture my own prose in order to avoid ever typing the word liberalistism again.

The current set of liberalist principles are described here, which Sargon shared on Minds and are presumably written by him. I had to use an archive because they’ve changed since they were first published, and if they are to ever be worthwhile, they will change again. Sadly, these are not in a complete enough form to criticize in a meaningful sense. The lack of definitions, inconsistent language and terseness makes legitimate criticism impossible. Should my legitimate criticisms of what exists be heard, I am likely to find the sands of definition shifting so that no criticism needs to be addressed. The tools left to my disposal to examine this piece are therefore limited to pointing out structural problems and teasing.

Overall the set of liberalist principles as described here is consistent with my impression of Sargon and his followers: people whose opinion is that the status quo of 2018 is more or less optimal, and that the Wikiquote page of 17th century English philosopher John Locke in combination with their own conventional wisdom is all that is necessary to support that view. It is very fortunate for Sargon and his followers that they happened to be born into the moment when the optimal ideals for political organization are also the conventional civic virtues they were taught in middle school.

Individual Rights
All political rights must be universally shared by all adult citizens,  enforced by a state that is accountable to the people. Groups may not have rights that violate the rights of individuals.
Each person’s rights must remain sacrosanct. This is the primary protection all people in society must enjoy to ensure justice and there can be no extra-legal justification to violate an individual’s rights.

The first sentence of these principles already yields problems. “All political rights must be universally shared by all adult citizens,  enforced by a state that is accountable to the people.” Nowhere does Sargon care to tell us what a political right is. Is it different from the term natural right Locke uses? Are political rights the only kind of rights or are they part of a vast undefined tapestry of rights? The audience is left to guess what this means. Similarly, state, accountability and people are equally ill-defined terms. Unlike his favorite philosopher, Sargon seems to think that governments and states just fall out of the sky and have people assigned to them. Accountability is a strange term as well. Caligula was held accountable for his actions in government, but I don’t think that’s the sort of government Sargon had in mind. Of course, Sargon later goes on to say that only democratic governments are legitimate, so I think that overrides all sorts of accountability except for the ballot-box type of accountability.

Moving on from the first sentence doesn’t make things much better. Apparently groups have rights, whose source and function are left as an exercise to the reader, that may not interfere with individual rights. Why the rights of a group differ from the rights of an individuals acting in concert is kind of bizarre. In the next sentence Sargon describes individual rights as sacrosanct, which seems like an odd word choice in a document which excludes religion from the organization of government.

All legal adults must be franchised with the right to have a direct method of exerting influence over their government. This is usually a representative democracy with the state as the servant of the people, dedicated to protecting their property rights and interfering with their lives as little as possible.

In the second section, Sargon moves into sheer Jacobin territory by declaring democracy the only legitimate form of government. Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government, marks himself against the concept of divine right, but not against Kings who reign with the consent of the governed. The belief that democracy is the only possible legitimate form of government is either a Jacobin or Trotskyist concept, both of which encourage the revolution to be spread by force around the world.

That isn’t even the worst bit of the second section. Sargon says that all adults should be granted the vote. Does he mean naturalized citizens here? Does he include incarcerated felons? Is living within a state sufficient to be granted a vote for its government? It is hard to tell what are hidden extremist positions and what is simple intellectual laziness on Sargon’s part.

Economic Freedom
Property rights begin with personal self-ownership and extend to any property an individual has legally acquired. The individual must be, as much as possible, in control of their own economic destiny. This includes the right to own property, engage in trade, to sell one’s own labour or to engage in collective economic activities.

For once, Sargon writes too many words in the section on economic freedom. Rather than stick to broad platitudes, he adds in caveats to make sure he has room to justify encroachments by the status quo on his banal principles that come later in the short list.

Freedom of speech
All people should enjoy the right to voice political ideas, no matter how controversial, without suffering penalties via state imposed fines, exclusion from the political system, incarceration or any other form of punishment.
No political idea can ever be considered as incitement, abuse or harassment in and of itself.
No speech should be compelled.

His description of freedom of speech is typically short, so the fact it is missing necessary details shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point. I do find it interesting that like rights, he chooses the adjective political to describe speech. It raises the question if non-political ideas are subject to suppression and incarceration for a liberalist.

People should be judged by the content of their character. Promotion  should be on the basis of achievement and should not be unduly inhibited by innate characteristics.
Nobody is entitled to receive benefits they did not earn or to which they are not already entitled by being a citizen.
This is not to be misinterpreted as declaration against social safety nets or healthcare, but against individuals or groups claiming unearned benefits, whether social or material, that they otherwise do not deserve.

When it comes to meritocracy, the opening statement about people being judged by the “content of their character” seems out of place. While obviously an unattributed reference to Martin Luther King Jr., judging people by the content of their character isn’t meritocratic in the slightest under common definitions. An otherwise bad person who is an effective employee should be promoted according to Sargon’s achievement criterion in the second sentence, but not when the content of his character is used to judge. In just two sentences, Sargon manages to provide contradictory statements on how a meritocracy should operate.

Moving on in meritocracy we find more problems. The first is that I don’t know if the use of citizen is supposed to mean something different from the word adult used previously. Sargon then says that people aren’t entitled to benefits, except for the ones he thinks they are entitled to. The two statements here also contradict the earlier statement about people being in control of their own economic destiny. Of course, Sargon added a caveat to that statement, so he likewise doesn’t have to follow it when he doesn’t want to.

Blind Justice
Each individual will be governed by the same laws as their peers, whether applicable or not, without exception.
Each person will be presumed innocent until proven guilty and guaranteed the right to a fair trial.

Sargon has very little to say about justice, except that laws should be applied consistently, that innocence is presumed, and that there should be fair trials. This extreme terseness on such a vital subject, one much more important than freedom of speech or meritocracy is telling. The laziness displayed here just seems to be Sargon not particularly caring about the topic, but feeling like it needed to be included.

There must be a strict separation between religion and state. Religious institutions must not be able to exert political power on the state for the goal of promoting religious beliefs.
All people must be allowed to worship privately or publicly (or not at all) as long as their religious beliefs do not interfere with the rights of others. This includes the ability to establish religious institutions and proselytise their faith.
Nobody is free to impose their beliefs on others.

Finally we get to the last section of this silly set of principles, on the separation of religion and state. The word choice here is once again telling because he means something fundamentally different than the American church and state. Sargon wants worship of self to be enshrined in government, and for other modes of belief to be tossed aside. For someone who believes only in the self, this is a very good arrangement as it puts their religion that doesn’t seem like a religion in the position of a state church.

All and all, Sargon has laid out a set of principles so vague that at a passing glance, any American or Brit who doesn’t think much about politics, would not only have agreed with them, but probably wrote something similar and of similar quality in a high school civics course, even if they actually disagreed with the views Sargon promotes. Liberalistism, in this form, is indistinguishable from a dozen other dopey political brands like reformicons, or conservatarians. Nothing makes it stand out from boring consensus politics. At least consensus politics has the excuse of trying to find common ground between people without strict adherence to principle. Sargon is trying to make a statement about a coherent set of views, and fails at every conceivable level. As I’ve said, I didn’t even bother criticizing the actual ideas in this piece, just their poor construction, their contradictions, and the obvious caveats Sargon has to use as excuses for not following his stated principles. There is plenty to say about the ideas, and when the day comes that Sargon is able to articulate those ideas in a sufficient amount of explanation with a sufficient amount of specificity, I will be happy to engage with the ideas. Until then, this will have to suffice.

Harvard Classics, Volume 19: Goethe & Marlowe

This volume of the Harvard Classics was dedicated to Napoleonic-era German poet, dramatist, novelist, scientist, and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In addition to three works by Goethe, Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan drama “Dr. Faustus” is included as both reference and an important work of English drama.

Beginning with Marlowe, “Dr. Faustus” is the greatest play of its era not written by Shakespeare. “Dr. Faustus” tells the story of a German scholar who, seeking arcane knowledge, makes a pact with the devil for the services of Mephistopheles. The deal is Mephistopheles will serve Faustus throughout the remainder of his life, at which point Faustus’ soul will belong to the devil. The action of the play consists of Faustus’ search for knowledge, his pact with the devil, and his subsequent fall. In between are humorous scenes, possibly added after the fact, with the Pope and the Emperor. Marlowe’s “Dr. Faustus” is a great piece of drama, but Goethe surpasses it entirely.

Goethe’s take on the Faust legend is a bit different. In this one, Faust strikes a better bargain with the devil. In this case, the Faust’s soul is contingent on Mephistopheles being able to satisfy Faust’s quest for knowledge. The Harvard Classics only includes Part 1 of Faust, which is powerful enough on its own. While the devil brings Faust to a series of pleasurable encounters, the second half of the story is dominated by Faust and his lust for the maiden Gretchen. The main object of Goethe’s Faust is the depiction of the modern soul. Faust strives for knowledge and the sublime, but can never be satisfied in his quest for either of them. Spengler uses this characterization to describe modern society as a whole. This focus on the emerging modern man in the wake of the Enlightenment and the beginning of the Romantic era makes the verse relevant to today. The issues Goethe grapples with in Faust are issues we still have with us today.

In addition to Faust, another Goethe play, Egmont, was included in this collection. Count Egmont was a noble in the Spanish Netherlands whose execution was a flashpoint that started the Eighty Years War, which resulted in Dutch independence. The play outlines the last days of Egmont’s life, and the tumults going on in the Netherlands. Ultimately, this play casts Egmont as an early progenitor of Goethe’s ideal of national self-determination and liberty. The most famous part of Egmont however, is not the play itself. The score for the play was written by Beethoven, and the overture does a better job describing the play than my measly paragraph ever could.

The final work of Goethe in this volume was Hermann and Dorothea. A simple love story, beautifully written in verse, and set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars make it an engaging work of literature.

Next up on the docket is Dante’s Divine Comedy, followed by Il Promessi Sposi, The Odyssey, and Two Years Before the Mast to round up a long stretch of narrative-driven works.

Categorizing the Wealth of Nations

Sometimes on this site, I like to do some small analyses and modeling , and when I encountered this GDP Predictor, I wanted to play around with the data some and see what I could uncover. Unfortunately, the Excel spreadsheet doesn’t exist anymore, so I had to reconstruct the author’s dataset. I took this data and made a hierarchical categorization of nations based upon GDP per capita. These categories wound up having geographical and cultural meanings that went beyond the economic scope of the data.

While I used the link above for inspiration, I made some slight changes to the dataset. I included all of the sub-scores from the Fraser economic freedom index, which turned out to be very useful. I also used raw inputs, rather than converting everything to dollar values.  My data included national IQ, Economic Freedom Index and its subscores: Size of Government, Legal System & Property Rights, Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation. EU/NAFTA membership, and oil production per-capita rounded out the data used for each of the 185 countries I used.

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Harvard Classics, Volume 18: Modern English Drama

This volume of the Harvard Classics, focusing on the best drama from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, is both a collection of classics of the English language and a volume that highlights the limitations of something like the Harvard Classics. Since this volume was put together in 1909, it missed out on plays from the late 19th and 20th centuries which would have displaced some of the weaker plays in this volume. That’s no fault of the people putting the collection together, they took the relatively bare landscape of English-language drama from after the English Civil War through the Napoleonic wars and selected the six best representatives of that century and a half timespan. However, the difference in time between today and when the collection was assembled means that important contributions to the English dramatic canon by Shaw, Miller, Beckett and Stoppard aren’t in contention for spots in this volume.

The collection begins with Dryden’s All for Love. The preeminent poet in England after the death of Milton, Dryden has already been an important component of the Harvard Classics for his translations of Plutarch and Vergil. This play, however, is an original work that draws heavily from Shakespeare and Plutarch. All for Love tells the story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Alexandria after the Battle of Actium. Dryden takes the tense historical scene of the besieged lovers and adds a new element to the drama, Antony’s wife, and Octavian’s sister, Octavia. With Antony, his wife and his mistress all present, all set against each other and with the armies of Agrippa about to engulf them all, the personal drama stays at a fever pitch. Antony is portrayed as a man torn between despair, a desire to reconcile with his Roman roots and his love for Cleopatra. All for Love is distinctly different from the rest of the collection as it is more a hearkening back to the Greek and Elizabethan forms than a foreshadowing of things to come.

With that said the second play in the collection, A School for Scandal, by Richard Sheridan, could not be more diffierent from the high drama in the final days of Ptolemeic Egypt. A School for Scandal is a comedy of manners lampooning the British upper classes. The comedy relies on hidden identities, mistaken assumptions and secret machinations to weave its humor. The crux of the story leans on the perception and misperception of affection between husbands, wives, bachelors and maidens. It is a tough story to read through casually, as the intricacies of identity vary quickly and regularly throughout the play.

In my opinion, the other comedy in this collection, She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith told a simpler, better contained story that certainly did not lack in truly funny moments. The pretense of the story is two old friends are putting up their son and daughter as a prospective marriage, and the son is traveling to meet the daughter to see if romance takes off. In a story that could only take place in the pre-modern period, the son ends up at his intended’s home, thinking it was an inn instead of the home of a family friend. Hilarity ensues as it is unveiled that the son also is very nervous around women of high birth. This is where the “stooping to conquer” element comes in, as the host’s daughter plays a maid to win the love of the doubly-duped guest. All of these misconceptions lead to misunderstandings and weave with a secondary plot to come to a head at the end of the play. Ultimately, the play is a fine example of the 18th century romcom.

The next play in the collection, Shelley’s The Cenci, could not have a more opposite demeanor. Oedipus, Antigone, and King Lear are rolled into one drama that is seldom performed due to the darkness of the subject matter. The play is based on the true story of an Italian noblewoman who was raped by her father, conspired to murder him and then was found guilty of murder by the Pope. The main element of artistic power here is Shelley’s brilliant verse that is so compelling and captures the spirit of the characters involved in this unfolding tragedy. At every step of the way Shelley’s verse paints an emotional portrait of people under the worst stresses imaginable enduring different types of suffering.

The fifth play in the collection, Browning’s A Blot in the ‘Stucheon is one of the weaker members. The drama of the story is very reminiscent of Euripides in its simplicity and the role of chance in comparison with the other dramas of its age. The dramatic framework of a couple entering into an arranged marriage who were already secretly seeing each other clandestinely only turns into a drama when the woman’s desire to keep her guardian and brother from knowing about the pre-marital affair. Fate intervenes to turn a possibly comedy into a tragedy, resulting in the deaths of all three lead characters.

The final play, Lord Byron’s Manfred, stands out from the rest. Manfred tells the story of a superman who has, through intense study and training come to rise above the mortals around him. Searching for more, Manfred consults with demons and clergy to accumulate more strength, but in critical opposition to Faust, Manfred refuses to submit himself to any being, even God himself, in exchange for more. While not a triumph of storytelling, Manfred serves as a bridge between Milton’s Satan and Nietzsche’s ubermensch and represents an important development in the artistic expression of morality.

While Manfred was a response to Faust in many ways, the next volume of the Harvard Classics focuses on this story. Both Goethe’s and Marlowe’s version are presented against each other along with two other plays by Goethe. Once I’ve finished those four plays, I’ll be embarking on Dante, I Promessi Sposi, The OdysseyTwo Years Before the Mast, a collection of Burke’s writings, and a volume of JS Mill & Carlyle. Once I’ve finished all of those, I’ll officially be half-way through with the Harvard Classics.

Why the Conservative Movement is a Terminal Case

“The Conservative Movement” is a catch-all for the publicly acceptable, college-educated right in America. You can identify a member by their ability to say things like: “my principles kept me from fighting as hard as I could have” and “Ben Sasse, Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake are the direction this country is headed”. I come here today to declare the movement spawned in the post-war era as a terminal case. Conservatives today are not only detached from the founding values of the movement, they are widely uneducated in the history, philosophy and the theology of the worldview they purport to uphold. They will treat the phrase: “All men are created equal” as if it were scripture without a stray thought for Locke or Paul who laid the foundations for the founder’s vision.

The most damning thing of all for the conservative movement, is that they fail to come close to the principles outlined by Buckley when he founded the National Review, as good of a barometer as anything for what the conservative movement was supposed to be about. Principles are, by their very nature, things that should be just as true when Buckley wrote them 62 years ago as they are today. A movement that has given up on the principles that it was founded on only continues by sheer inertia. Without a motivating force to compel it forward, eventually the conservative movement will whither and die.

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What I Want The Doubters To Remember About Trump’s Election

We’re a year removed from the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. As such, many people are reflecting on the shockwave his campaign brought to the political landscape. This is an article for those who opposed and half-heartedly endorsed Trump assuming he’d lose.

The first thing I’d like you to ruminate on is how, despite being someone who works in politics, or spends hundreds of unpaid hours being an informed and engaged citizen, that you were completely wrong. Despite holding yourself up as a font of knowledge of political wisdom and common sense, you not only failed to see the seismic shifts in the electorate that led to Trump’s victory, you never thought there was a possibility of a Trump win. This should be a humbling experience where you realize that your so-called expertise doesn’t mean as much as you think it does, and in fact, it may have blinded you from understanding reality.

I know many of you weren’t willing to accept that your understanding of the world and reality didn’t match up in fundamental ways. Instead you opted to form conspiracy theories about Russian interference that explained how you could be so wrong. Until you can learn to accept that Trump won, and why he won, you’ll never understand the country well enough to win an election.

Let’s not forget the factors that led to Trump’s victory. It started with a growing tide of Americans are tired of political correctness being used, like 1984’s newspeak, as means to control the debate. Debate over issues of immigration, economics, foreign policy and culture are stifiled in America and dissent is shunned as impolite and unbecoming of a politician. Trump expressed something that none of the twenty other people running for president did, dissent from the bifactional ruling party on these issues.

Trump was the only candidate available to primary voters who opposed open borders. He was the only candidate who expressed skepticism of free trade and the economic policy that leads to the disparities Bernie and friends gripe about. He was the only candidate who said American foreign policy should be directed towards the best interest of American citizens. He was the only candidate to speak to growing atomization and the downsides of modern hedonistic materialism. If another candidate has spoken to these deep concerns, they would have won. But none of the other candidates had the vision to expose the divide between the positions of the Davosie and the citizens of the country. And you, who opposed Trump or supported Trump out of anti-Clinton sentiment didn’t see it either.

Now that Trump is in office, the dividing line between the few in power who support an agenda to change the direction of the ship of state facing off against an establishment united around open borders and corporate libertarianism.

What Trump is doing, or why he won isn’t my concern here. What is my concern is what you, the apphrensive supporter of Trump, or his opposition, should be feeling one year after the election. You should have done some serious reflection about how well you are able to understand what is going on in the world. You should have reflected on if Trump, who has managed to unite the worst elements of both parties, is on to something with his platform and framing of issues. Not only that, you should be asking yourself how you let the country get to the point where the electorate decided that their best chance at reasserting themselves as sovereign in America was by electing Donald Trump. Why was it that no one else spoke to the very real issues Trump tapped into? Why was Trump able to win on issues that opinion editors throughout the nation wouldn’t print?

If you haven’t given thought to these issues yet, you still haven’t processed Trump’s election, even a year later.

Harvard Classics, Volume 17: Fables

Volume Seventeen of the Harvard Classics covered the biggest names in Western storytelling. Beginning with Aesop and continuing through The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Pretty much every fairy tale you’ve heard of comes from one of these three sources. After reading these, its pretty easy to see why these are such important parts of the Western Canon, and why they are good for people of all ages to engage with.

Aesop’s Fables is a collection of short parables which were added to over the course of two millennia from a variety of sources. In Crito, Socrates makes reference to Aesop and his animal-based parables, but some of the parables are of biblical origin, like “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”, and some come from Indian stories as well. Together, these form a collection of stories that not only communicate the moral conclusions of western people over the course of its development and history, but have been etched into the minds of European & American children to this day. “The Tortoise and the Hare” is easily the most famous, but “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, “The Country Mouse and the City Mouse”, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, and plenty of others are instantly familiar parables that have been recycled, repackaged and reused in a variety of formats over the years. Aesop’s Fables represent the collective decision making of dozens of generations on what it means to be a moral and productive individual and is worth the read.

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