Capitolism

Independent in All Things, Neutral in Nothing

Author Archive

Severing Community from Geography

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The traditional conception of democratic citizenship roots itself in a specific polity, and will for the foreseeable future.  Disparate political communities, each with their own form of governance and view of the human good, do not serve as a deterrent to virtuous citizenship, but in some cases serves as a boon for good citizenship.  Most people believe in national identity and attachment to it as both inevitable and desirable.  Few and far between are cosmopolitans—at least outside of the halls of liberal academia—who bemoan particularistic and provincial attachment to nation, state, or local space.  “For the vast majority of human beings,” Leon Kass writes, “life…is lived parochially and locally, embedded in a web of human relations, institutions, culture, and mores that define us and—whether we know it or not—give shape, character, and meaning to our lives.”  This idea of citizenship and its connection to community is alive and well. Read the rest of this entry »

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College Education: Combating Dementia and Adding Years to Your Brain?

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In a previous post, I discussed intellectual decline and Cato’s famous essay, “On Old Age,” in which he offers some remedies.  Recent findings by the World Health Organization, indicating that levels of dementia around the world will increase three-fold in the next forty years, especially in developed countries where detection is weak and life expectancy high, warrants a revisiting of this subject.  That is why this article in The New York Times caught my attention; psychologists for the Midlife in the United States project, or MIDUS for short, find that a rigorous college education may delay the brain’s aging by up to a decade.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Tony Judt and Timothy Snyder, Thinking the Twentieth Century

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After publishing Postwar in 2005, a tour de force of European history since World War II, winning the Arthur Ross Book Award for best book in international affairs and numerous other awards, Tony Judt prepared to write an ambitious intellectual and cultural history of Twentieth Century social thought. A professor of European History at New York University, founder and director of the Erich Maria Remarque Institute at NYU, frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, and public intellectual, Judt’s plan for his next book mothballed, as personal history intervened in the form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By late 2008, Judt no longer had use of his hands; two years later, he passed away. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Comeback Kid”: Review of PBS’ Clinton

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PBS’ new installment of The American Experience: the Presidents, a biography of 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, feels more like a drama than history.  Clinton paints a picture of a highly improbable president, born famously into impoverished circumstances in Hope, Arkansas, with a father who died before his birth and an alcoholic stepfather who beat his mother in front of the children.  Consequently, Clinton threw all of his efforts into his studies, laboring to redeem and rescue his family, and substituting a broken home life for an ersatz, popular persona at school.  Such a stratagem recurs throughout Clinton’s life: when situations become tough, Clinton pretends as though they are not happening.

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A Crisis of Male Ambition? Part II

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Yesterday, I posted on an article that I contend shows a disparity in mean male and female ambition.  I also noted one caveat using data from the Princeton University Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership.  Yet, spinning a convincing narrative of the ambitious male is as commensurately difficult as spinning an explicative narrative of the unambitious male—the male on the opposite end of the bell curve.  One take is that American society failed to spin a compelling and inspirational narrative for young men to follow.  Most importantly, we do not ask young men to think of their lives in terms of generational advancement (beyond increasingly vacuous narratives, such as the ubiquitous “American dream”).  Such a successful narrative may proceed as follows: “Your father worked as a small businessman in small town America.  However, you now have the opportunity to run a global firm out of that town, or a larger city if you prefer, except you will have manufacturing plants in India, China, and Brazil, too.  The great opportunities of this global and interconnected world mean that you can be more prosperous than your father was, or have a more diverse, cosmopolitan, and compelling lifestyle.  Yet, you will need to work and plan for it.  You will need to cultivate a global vision.  You will require greater education, for instance, a degree in Industrial or Mechanical Engineering, and perhaps an MBA.  And, by the way, there is a broad framework of federal and private student loans to allow you to achieve these goals and become an effective businessman.”  Lacking such a narrative, young men risk missing the context of generational advancement and progress within which they ought to position their educational and vocational goals/ambitions.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Crisis of Male Ambition? Part I

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This article in the New York Times caught my eye.  Shrinking unemployment numbers—now at 8.3% nationally—are a product of improved private sector hiring, but also of young people dropping out of the workforce in droves, some of them seeking refuge in graduate school.  Yet, women find themselves more likely to enroll in graduate school and certificate/training programs than are their male counterparts.  Are women more ambitious than their male counterparts of today? There exist now—for the first time in three decades—more young women in school than in the work force.  The article summarizes the trend as follows: “Though young women in their late teens and early 20’s view today’s economic lull as an opportunity to upgrade their skills, their male counterparts are more likely to take whatever job they can find.”  Read the rest of this entry »

On Personal Libraries and Book Collecting

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I visited a used bookstore in Oxford yesterday.  While I worked assiduously to fight off my desire to buy the whole shop, I came away with a nice collection of old, hardcover books: Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition; Walter Lippmann’s The Good Society; and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, to name a few.  Upon returning to my flat, I made room for these new purchases on my bookshelf and realized just how elated I was with them.  It is manifest that I love books; yet, this experience was different.  What was it about a used bookstore that augmented my experience of purchasing books for my personal library? Read the rest of this entry »