THE CAPACITY TO EXERCISE FREEDOM:

Does Money Make You Happy? The Latest Research Might Surprise You: Evidence that money does, in fact, buy happiness continues to surface (Emma Kerr and Jessica Walrack, 11/17/23, US News)


Another study released in January of 2022 and led by Jon M. Jachimowicz, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, explored the many ways money can be used as a problem-solving tool that results in more overall happiness.

In the study, 522 participants with incomes ranging from less than $10,000 to more than $150,000 tracked daily events and emotional responses for 30 days in a diary. The results showed that although there was no significant difference in the frequency of stressful events experienced by participants across income levels, money reduced the intensity of the emotional response to those events.


And on the whole, researchers determined that people with higher incomes report greater levels of life satisfaction.

“It’s not that rich people don’t have problems,” Jachimowicz told Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge publication, “but having money allows you to fix problems and resolve them more quickly.” He explains that income increases a sense of control which can mitigate the intensity of distress and lead to greater life satisfaction.

“Money provides people with a sense of autonomy and freedom to live the life they want to live,” Killingsworth says.

“It’s not necessarily because they’re buying fancier cars and having nicer meals, though they may be, but a lot of what money is doing is allowing them to carry out their intentions and desires as agents in the world as opposed to being overly constrained by resources,” he adds.

Thus, UBI.

TRUMPISM IS PERONISM:

What does Javier Milei’s win in Argentina mean to America? (Juan P. Villasmil, November 20, 2023, The Spectator)

Argentina’s major ill is inflation, not a shrinking manufacturing base or tremendous levels of immigration. He emerges as an antidote to a unique illness.

The US media has fixated on his opposition to state-funded sexual education and his pro-life position, but in reality, Milei’s election cannot be wholly understood through the lens of cultural preservation. He rose to prominence lambasting subsidies, taxes and tariffs. While a growing faction of the European and US right distances itself from the small-government-rocks consensus, Milei embraced it. He’s a self-described anarcho-capitalist who became a star for deriding statism. He’s more Ronald Reagan than Viktor Orbán, more Milton Friedman than Pat Buchanan.

For these reasons, it’s somewhat comical that many of the “let’s use state power to punish our enemies” folks in the US have celebrated Milei’s rise as if he were one of them.

THE rIGHT IS THE lEFT:

How a 1950s new left manifesto explains the 2020s new right (Jason Willick, September 5, 2022, Washington Post)

There are clear parallels between today’s populist right and the new left movement that exploded in the 1960s and 1970s.

C. Wright Mills, a sociologist at Columbia University, was that movement’s intellectual godfather. Consider a passage from his 1956 bestseller, “The Power Elite,” a polemical attack on the structure of America’s institutions that would inspire a generation of new left activists:


“[The power elite] are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They rule the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the effective means of the power and the wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy.”

Today, that passage could easily appear in a populist-right publication such as the Claremont Institute’s the American Mind, which denounces the liberal “regime.” If uttered on Fox News or Newsmax, it might be condemned as an example of conspiracism or misinformation that sows discord and undermines confidence in institutions.

Mills, who died in 1962, didn’t use the term “deep state,” but an unaccountable bureaucracy was a major concern of the new left philosopher. “It is in the executive chambers, and in the agencies and authorities and commissions and departments that stretch out beneath them” where much policy is made, he argued, “rather than in the open arena of politics.”

Those making decisions were not chosen by ordinary voters: “Once, most of the men who reached the political top got there because people elected them up the hierarchy of offices,” Mills observed. “But of late, in a more administrative age, men become big politically because small groups of men, themselves elected, appoint them.”

When the rest of society rejects your politics it’s always convenient to have a conspiracy to latch on to.

THE DUDE ABIDES:

The World Spins On: “The Value of Herman Melville” (Daniel Ross Goodman, November 13th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

The quest to write the Great American Novel has long been the American literary equivalent of the mythical and historical quest for the Holy Grail. Writers ranging from Mark Twain to John Updike to many in between (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Roth, Morrison) have all staked their claim to this elusive prize. Among the perennial roster of contenders for this legendary status, there is a strong case to be made for Moby-Dick. No other novel captures the massive scale of monomaniacal ambition—and the all-too-frequent futility and frustration with which our ambitions ultimately meet—than Melville’s masterpiece about futility and frustration. The hunt for the elusive, uncatchable great White Whale is as American as the pursuit of fame, wealth, and happiness—goals which we will probably never achieve, but which something about our indomitable American idealism never allows us to desist from pursuing. But if the never-ending pursuit of the great white whales of fame, wealth, and happiness is particularly American, so is the multiethnic, multiracial, and multinational nature of the cosmopolitan crew of the Pequod. And so is the camaraderie and close male friendship of Queequeg and Ishmael. And so too is the perennial hopefulness symbolized by Ishmael’s having survived the wreckage of the Pequod and being rescued by the providential arrival of the Rachel. Melville’s great fictional anti-hero Ahab may fail in his pursuit of his Holy Grail, but Melville himself may have ultimately—albeit twenty-five years after his death—succeeded in the pursuit of his: the writing of, if not the Great American novel, at the very least the creation of the King Lear of American literature: our existentially bleak, yet preternaturally hopeful, grand American masterwork. As Dr. Sanborn, regarding the meaning of Moby-Dick, so powerfully puts it, even though “the ongoingness of the world can seem terrifying in its stolidity, its unresponsiveness to human concerns,” Ishmael survives. “The whale swims away. The world—which is, as it turns out, capable of bearing our psychic investments in it—spins on.”

IT’LL NEVER FLY, ORVILLE:

Scientists 3D print a robotic hand with human-like bones and tendons (RUPENDRA BRAHAMBHATT, 11/18/2023, Ars Technica)


In a VCJ system, along with a 3D printer, there is a 3D laser scanner that visually inspects each layer for surface irregularities as it’s deposited. “This visual inspection makes the print process fully contactless, allowing for a wider range of possible polymers to be deposited. We, for example, printed with thiol-based polymers because it enabled us to create UV-light and humidity-resistant structures,” Katzschmann told Ars Technica.

After the scanning, there is no mechanical planarization of the deposited layer. Instead, the next layer is printed in such a way that it makes up for all the irregularities in the previous layer. “A feedback mechanism compensates for these irregularities when printing the next layer by calculating any necessary adjustments to the amount of material to be printed in real-time and with pinpoint accuracy,” said Wojciech Matusik, one of the study authors and a professor of computer science at MIT.

Moreover, the researchers claim that this closed-loop controlled system allows them to print the complete structure of a robot at once. “Our robotic hand can be printed in one go, no assembly is needed. This speeds up the engineering design process immensely—one can go directly from an idea to a functional and lasting prototype. You avoid expensive intermediate tooling and assembly,” Katzschmann added.

Using the VCJ technique, the researchers successfully printed a robotic hand that has internal structures similar to those of a human hand. Equipped with touch pads and pressure sensors, the robotic hand has 19 tendon-like structures (in humans, tendons are the fibrous connective tissues that connect bones and muscles) that allow it to move the wrist and fingers. The hand can sense touch, grab things, and stop fingers when they touch something. (The researchers used MRI data from a real human hand to model its construction.)


In addition to the hand, they also printed a robotic heart, a six-legged robot, and a metamaterial capable of absorbing vibrations in its surroundings.

THE ACTUAL METRIC SYSTEM:

Much as it galls the French, English has become Europe’s cultural lingua franca (Tomiwa Owolade, 18 Nov 2023, The Guardian)

In 1871, the German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, crushed France and annexed the territory of Alsace-Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian war. More than a decade later, Bismarck hosted the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, which carved up Africa into European colonies, and spoke to the other European delegates in French.

The role French played in the past as the lingua franca of Europe has been replaced today by English. If two Europeans meet each other in any part of the continent, and they don’t speak the same native language, they will probably speak to each other in English.

FREEDOM IS UNWORTHY OF MEN:

Gentlemen and Chivalry in the Age of Steel (SCOTT HOWARD, NOV 18, 2023, Freemen News-Letter)

Of all the great works of the Western literary canon, one that too often goes unknown or undiscussed is the Enseignements of Louis IX, a letter to his son. The letter modeled for his son what it meant to be a good Christian king in his time. The letter speaks of virtue and sacrifice. It implores the next king to be just to all his subjects and to remember that they are all brothers of his in the eyes of Christ. In short, the letter preaches the virtues of a good Christian statesman.

Though we live in an era where Christian monarchs are few and far between, the lessons of Saint Louis’ letter remain relevant. It is not merely a portrait of a good statesman. The letter describes, in part at least, what it means to be a good gentleman in the Western tradition. The virtues of the gentleman—to be just and kind to those around you and to strive to be a good man in the face of all challenges—are principles present throughout the Western canon. […]

I will leave off with another quote to ponder, this time from James Russell Lowell, related to the crisis of modern man:

“It is man who is sacred: it is his duties and opportunities, not his rights, that nowadays need reinforcing. It is honor, justice, culture that make liberty invaluable, else worse worthless if it means freedom to be base and brutal.”

-James Russell Lowell, Letter to Joel Benton, 1876

Reminding men of their duties and opportunities—reminding them that their liberty requires tempering—is the first step towards resurrecting the gentleman.

Liberty is a social virtue; freedom an anti-social vice.

TRANSITORY IS AS TRANSITORY DOES:

Pockets of price deflation might be around the corner — just ask Walmart (Neil Irwin & Courtenay Brown, 11/17/23, Axios)

The American Farm Bureau said in its annual tally that the average price of a Thanksgiving dinner meal with turkey and sides is down 4.5% from 2022’s record high.

The intrigue: For general merchandise — all items excluding groceries — Walmart is rolling back pricing, “which will help our customers during this holiday season,” McMillon said.

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE:

Trump’s Own Witness in Fraud Trial Admits He Knows Nothing About Finances (Tori Otten, November 17, 2023, New Republic)

Laposa said the attorney general’s approach to valuation was “flawed” because it relied on a market value analysis of Trump’s properties. He argued it should have been based on the investment value, which takes into account the owner’s investment requirements.

When Laposa returned to the stand Friday, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office asked him if he had any experience reviewing personal financial statements. Laposa said no.

The lawyer, Louis Solomon, then asked if Laposa is or has ever been a certified appraiser. Again, Laposa said no.

Solomon cited Laposa’s initial deposition from July, in which he said that when “disparate valuations exist, it is prudent and common practice to examine the underlying assumptions.” Laposa admitted he had not done so with Trump’s valuations.

Laposa also revealed he had never seen the financial statements for Trump’s property at 40 Wall Street, which might make it difficult to value the property accurately. (On the stand Thursday, Laposa said that 40 Wall Street in Manhattan was also undervalued.)

It’s unclear what Trump’s legal team sought to accomplish by bringing in Laposa as an expert witness. His disastrous testimony reflects how much of the trial has gone for Trump.

Pretty hilarious that Never Trumpers pretended this was a weak case to try to establish their bona fides.