The End of History and The Last Man and Liberalism and Its Discontents (Pierre Lemieux, Fall 2022, Regulation)

[F]ukuyama realized that liberal democracy could meet obstacles on the path to the end of history. One danger would be a drift into extreme equality at the cost of freedom. The more equal society becomes, the more remaining small inequalities seem to stand out. As a result, society could splinter into closed identity groups. Trying to create an equal society could also result in building a new class of privileged rulers, as happened under communism. The equalizers tend to not be the equals of the equalized.

Fukuyama noted that the perils of liberal democracy are accentuated by a current philosophical crisis over the “nature of man.” For many environmentalists, man is just another organism, due no special respect. This view has not changed over the past three decades.

Another peril is the return of thymos from those affected by megalothymia, who want to be more recognized than others—as opposed to isothymia, the equal recognition of all in a democracy.

We know this as Identity politics.


The Recovery of Wonder in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (Steve Soldi, 11/24/23, Voegelin View)

For Socrates and Aristotle, being a philosopher does not mean reading philosophy books or pursuing a career as a professional philosopher. Rather, a philosopher is someone who wonders and pursues truth “in order to know, and not for a utilitarian end.” On this view, schools should aim to produce philosophers. For example, John Senior, the renowned educator, cultivated in his students the idea that being culminated in wonder. His entire educational philosophy can be understood in terms of wonder. The motto of his self-designed Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas in the 1970s speaks to this proposition: Nascantur in admiratione – “Let them be born in wonder.” Senior wanted his students to renew their gaze upon an enchanted reality and delight with young-eyed zeal in its mystery and intelligibility. For Senior, wonder is natural to everyone and calls us to pursue truth and wisdom. As we know, the word philosophy means “love of wisdom.”

Wisdom and knowledge are mutually supportive. If wisdom is the means by which we discern and acquire our highest good, knowledge of the true and the good in turn frees us to live well and lead a happy life. How, then, do we obtain knowledge that frees us? The answer is a liberal education. The liberal arts free us from thinking about knowledge in terms of mere utility or practice. In this way, they are superior. The humanities include the highest disciplines—philosophy, theology, history, literature, music, and art—because they are subordinated to nothing outside of themselves. They are endowed with intrinsic value and exist for their own sake. They are to be differentiated from the servile arts, which exist for the sake of something else, namely, to produce practical things.

We are now in a position to appreciate why Ray Bradbury advocates for liberal education in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451.


Are We the Reason Everything Exists? (Robert Lanza M.D., November 20, 2023, Psychology Today)

Although both pillars of modern physics—relativity and quantum mechanics—provide solid grounding for the primacy of the observer, most of us still believe that the universe was, until recently, a lifeless collection of particles bouncing off one another, existing and unfolding without us. It’s presented as a watch that somehow wound itself up, and that unwinds in a semi-predictable way.

But it’s we observers who create the arrow of time (see Annalen de Physik, which also published Einstein’s theories of relativity). As Stephen Hawking stated, “There is no way to remove the observer—us—from our perceptions of the world… In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a “spectrum of possibilities.”

If we, the observer, collapse these possibilities (the past and the future), then where does that leave evolutionary theory, as described in our schoolbooks? The fact is, the universe does not run mechanistically like a clock, independent of us, and it never has. The past begins with the observer, not the other way around.

You may wonder about all the fossil evidence. But fossils are no different than anything else in nature. The carbon atoms in our body, for instance, are “fossils” created in the heart of exploding supernova stars. As John Wheeler, the legendary physicist who coined the terms “black hole” and “wormhole,” once said, “We are participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past.”

We happen to find ourselves alive on a lush little planet with its warm sun and coconut trees. And at just the right time in the history of the universe. The surface of the molten earth has cooled, but it’s not too cold. And it’s not too hot; the sun hasn’t expanded enough to melt the Earth’s surface with its searing gas yet. Even setting aside the issue of being here and now, the probability of random physical laws and events leading to this point is less than 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, equivalent to winning every lottery there ever was.

We’re the missing piece. Although classical evolution does an excellent job of helping us understand the past, it fails to capture the driving force. Evolution needs to add the observer to the equation. Indeed, Niels Bohr, the great Nobel physicist, said, “When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.”


World’s 1st electric flying passenger ship could ‘revolutionize how we travel on water’: Candela’s 30-passenger P-12 will enter Stockholm’s public transport network in 2024, slashing a 55-minute commute to just 25 minutes. (Keumars Afifi-Sabet, 11/25/23, Live Science)

The world’s first electric flying passenger ship has completed test flights in Sweden and will now enter production ahead of its introduction into Stockholm’s public transport network in 2024.

The Candela P-12, designed by Swedish tech company Candela Technology AB, is 39 feet (12 meters) long,runs on a 252 kilowatt-hour battery and can carry up to 30 passengers.


This Gen Z Investigative Reporter Is Rocking Conservative Media: Aaron Sibarium says he’s providing Old School, shoe-leather reporting from a conservative point of view. Except he’s not conservative. (MARC NOVICOFF, 11/25/2023, Politico)

“It’s rare to see someone who will cover something like, say, race-based treatment of Covid drugs … who also is like not a crank and has an IQ above 120,” Sibarium says, cracking half a smile. 

This quip is effectively Sibarium’s Statement of Purpose. In the 2½ years since he became a reporter, he’s snared some major scoops: There was his piece exploring how states, advised by the FDA to do so, used racial preferences in rationing scarce Covid-19 drugs, giving preference to young people of color over older white people. (Some of the states stopped the practice soon after he reported on them.) He broke a story that exposed the Columbia Law School’s plans to require video statements from applicants, presumably to evade the Supreme Court decision banning the consideration of race in admissions. (Columbia abandoned that plan, insisting it was a mistake, when Sibarium asked them about it.) And he uncovered Yale administrators’ bullying of a non-Black student who called his apartment a “trap house” in a party invitation, a scandal that brought personnel changes to the school. 

Sibarium, a staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon, is 27, diminutive, nasally and “formerly autistic.” (More on that later.) He’s become a force on the right who’s drawn praise from conservatives as far apart as Tucker Carlson and David French, who called Sibarium “a rising star reporter.” Sibarium doesn’t see his project as wholly new, as there has been conservative reporting for decades, but he’s trying to do something a little different.

“What maybe is new-ish about my personal project,” Sibarium says, is that he is trying “to report on the culture war in a way that is fairly aggressive and combative.”

As Americans’ trust in media has cratered, driven almost entirely by independents and Republicans, Sibarium has hunkered down, abstained from flirtations with fascism and racism (in imagery, group chats or pseudonymous op-eds) and done what some people have long been begging conservatives to do more of: pure reporting, digging up and revealing new information. Sibarium has done that, quietly, without sting operations — and without the millions of eyeballs turned on pundits like Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino and Carlson.  


Ridley Scott’s Napoleon: Accidentally a Comedy?: It’s a portrayal so undignified that I almost expected ABBA’s “Waterloo” to play over the credits. (David Klion, November 20, 2023, New Republic)

But then there are the dialogue and the performances, above all Phoenix’s, which suggest a different genre altogether: high camp. At the critics’ screening I attended, there were regular snickers at a film that isn’t being marketed as a comedy—and yet I suspect that laughter is the reaction Scott is going for. Napoleon doesn’t make a lot of historical arguments, but it does have a perspective on its title character: It sees him not as a genius or a modernizer or a meritocrat, but as an arrogant, vain, bratty, ultimately pitiful little autocrat whose zeal for greatness cost far too many men their lives.

Perhaps this is the perspective that Scott, an 85-year-old Englishman, learned in school; certainly the script (written by David Scarpa, who previously collaborated with Scott on All the Money in the World) seems to have more respect for the Duke of Wellington, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat who handed Bonaparte his final defeat, than it does for Bonaparte himself. Wellington, played by Rupert Everett, describes Bonaparte as ill-mannered “vermin” ahead of the Battle of Waterloo, and by that point the audience has every reason to agree, having watched Phoenix bumble his way through dozens of awkward and embarrassing set pieces.

Much of the awkwardness centers around Bonaparte’s relationship to Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), which provides most of the script’s dramatic heft. It’s no exaggeration to say that the film presents Josephine’s genitalia as the driver of a whole era of world history (10 minutes in, Kirby channels Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and from then on Bonaparte is under her spell). Phoenix’s Bonaparte is motivated entirely by overcompensation for sexual inadequacy, which is neither creative nor persuasive, but at least it scans in the context of the film. It’s far less clear what motivates Josephine—status? love? lust? money?—but she does make for a plausible object of desire, a haughty dominatrix who cuckolds Bonaparte into invading most of Europe.

Rather than Abba, the soundtrack should be Benny Hill. But the big problem is that when Mr. Scott realized he’d accidentally made a comedy he didn’t go all in on the slapstick. Instead of snickering at what he’s put on the screen we could be guffawing along with him.


China Tried to Keep Kids Off Social Media. Now the Elderly Are Hooked (LAVENDER AU, NOV 25, 2023, Wired)

Gao is 69 years old, one of a growing cohort of elderly people who have moved away from television and gravitated to Douyin, China’s most popular short-form video app. There are 267 million people aged over 60 in China, according to official statistics, and while China’s government has tried to limit young people’s use of Douyin, worried about its addictive nature, many of the app’s habitual users are their parents, or even grandparents.

“Whenever he’s not cooking, swimming, or sleeping, he’s on Douyin,” his daughter Helen says. “It’s brainless entertainment. It’s better to be playing with a cat, it’s better to be doing anything else.” She’s not a Douyin user herself. “I already have attention problems,” she says. “Douyin would make that worse.”

A former soldier, Gao follows the Israel-Palestine crisis and the war between Ukraine and Russia through videos made by commentators. He shows me one where a political analyst translates headlines from English-language media outlets, such as The Times of Israel. He watches others for their analysis of military strategy.

While television broadcasts the official viewpoint, Gao says that on Douyin there are often videos from different camps putting their views across. The censors might get to them after a while, but it’s possible to witness a spectrum of opinions.


The appeal of Argentina’s radical libertarian Javier Milei (HARRIET MARSDEN, 11/21/23, THE WEEK)

Despite the “fervent” support for Milei, his success owes more to the failures of his opponent, said Sam Meadows in The Spectator. Sergio Massa took the lead in October’s first poll, with Milei coming second, but the finance minister’s “inability” to tackle the nation’s economic woes over the past year “ultimately proved an electoral millstone he was unable to shrug off”. Inflation is the fourth highest in the world, and the country owes “gargantuan” debts to the IMF. […]

After spending most of a century “in thrall to one self-destructive economic ideology”, said the Financial Times’ newsletter “Trade Secrets”, Argentina has “decided to have a shot at another” after Milei takes office in December. “How a country manages to hop straight from Peronism to reactionary anarcho-capitalism without ever having a go at boring old liberal social democracy is a wonder to behold.”


Poll: Gantz popularity increases, Religious Zionist Party falls below electoral threshold (MEMO, November 25, 2023)

A poll on Friday showed an increase in the popularity of the head of the National Camp bloc and member of the War Cabinet, Benny Gantz, highlighting that he has significantly surpassed the Likud Party led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the surprise in the poll was the fall under the threshold rate of the far-right and racist Religious Zionist Party, headed by the Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich.


‘Breakthrough battery’ from Sweden may cut dependency on China: Northvolt says new lithium-free sodium-ion battery is cheaper, more sustainable and doesn’t rely on scarce raw materials (Alex Lawson, 21 Nov 2023, The Guardian)

Europe’s energy and electric vehicle industries could reduce their dependency on scarce raw materials from China after the launch of a “breakthrough” sodium-ion battery, according to its Swedish developer.

Northvolt, Europe’s only large homegrown electric battery maker, has said it has made a lower cost, more sustainable battery designed to store electricity which does not use lithium, nickel, graphite and cobalt.