After the pagan fighters left their stronghold, a crowd of Christian Alexandrians and soldiers swarmed the hill. One of them took an axe and with all his strength struck the jaw of the monumental statue of Serapis…The crowd then hacked the rest of the statue into pieces and dragged the fragments off to each of the city’s regions to be burned.
…The destruction of the Serapeum [A.D. 392] was a momentous event, second perhaps only to the Gothic sack of Rome in 410 for the amount of attention it received from contemporary sources.
That is from the new and excellent book The Final Pagan Generation, by Edward J. Watts. Watts tries to reconstruct the worldviews and impressions of the pagans who witnessed the onset of Roman state-sanctioned Christianity; an underlying theme of the work is how weak a sense we have of what is truly significant in our time, or not. I often find Roman histories to be difficult to parse, but this one is a model of lucidity.
Here is Wikipedia on that temple and its destruction. Here is another discussion.
Fans of Game of Thrones know that “a Lannister always pays his debts.” So too do nearly all alumni from Notre Dame, Vassar, Harvey Mudd, and Brigham Young, at least when it comes to federal student loans.
There is more here, from Brookings, via Matthew C. Klein. Ahem…and for whatever reason, students from St. Johns do well too…
You will find it here. Here is one excerpt:
TYLER COWEN: New York City, overrated or underrated?
PETER THIEL: That’s massively overrated.
TYLER COWEN: Why?
PETER THIEL: We had a 25-year boom in finance, from ’82 to ’07. I think that’s slowly ebbing, slowly abating. It’s going to be increasingly regulated, and so if you want a long/short blue state trade, you want to be long California, short New York. The long/short red state trade, by the way, is you want to be long Texas, short Virginia.
If you ask, what do Virginia and New York have in common, and what do Texas and California have in common? Both Texas and California are very inward-focused places. California, both the Hollywood version and the Silicon Valley version, are very focused in on themselves. Texas is also a very inward-focused place.
What Virginia and New York, or let’s say DC and New York City, have in common is that they’re centers of globalization. Finance is an industry that’s fundamentally leveraged to globalization, and DC is fundamentally leveraged to international geopolitics.
I would bet on globalization slowly being in abeyance. I think with the benefit of hindsight, we will realize that 2007 was not just the peak year of the finance boom, but also the peak year of globalization, like maybe 1913. Happily, it hasn’t resulted in a world war, at least not yet, but I think we are in this period where globalization is steadily pulling back.
And so you want to be in places or industries that are levered to things other than globalization.
Self-recommending…The YouTube and podcast versions are here.
The YouTube version is here, the podcast version is here.
I was very happy with how it turned out, as I deliberately set out not to copy the content of any of Peter’s other dialogues. You can learn how he thinks we will leave the “great stagnation,” whether the AI hype is justified, how he would boil his thought down to the smallest number of dimensions, whether NYC is over- or underrated, why globalization is likely to decline and what that means for different regions, the parts of the Bible which have influenced him most, “the Straussian Jesus,” to what age he thinks he will live, why Japan is special, how his German background matters, his favorite opening chess move, how and why company names matter, and even his favorite TV show, which he calls “schlocky.”
And much, much more, with commentary and questions from me throughout. A transcript is being prepared as well.
Bank of Bird-in-Hand is the only new bank to open in the U.S. since 2010, when the Dodd-Frank law was passed
The WSJ story is here, via Binyamin Appelbaum.
I may not follow any of your suggestions, but just thought I should ask for advice, for my dialogue with Peter next week. I am the interviewer, he is the interviewee, more or less. #CowenThiel
The grand confluence of Protestantism has dwindled to a trickle over the past thirty years, and the Great Church of America has come to an end.
…The death of Mainline Protestantism is, as we’ve noted, the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history. Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: Mainline Protestantism has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.
That is from Joseph Bottum, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.
The Tea Party, the great stagnation, etc., maybe you can find it all right here.
Don’t worry people, just joking on that one…
This is from his Polemics book:
43. In point of truth, the headscarf law expresses only one thing: fear. Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are no more than a bunch of shivering cowards. What are they afraid of? Barbarians, as usual. Barbarians both at home, the ‘suburban youths’, and abroad the ‘Islamic terrorists’. Why are they afraid? Because they are guilty, but claim to be innocent. Guilty from the 1980s onward of having renounced and tried to dismantle every politics of emancipation, every revolutionary form of reason, every true assertion of something other than what is. Guilty of clinging to their miserable privileges. Guilty of being no more than grown-up kids who play with their many purchases. Yes, indeed, ‘after a long childhood, they have been made to grow up’. They are thus afraid of whatever is a little less old than they are, such as, for example, a stubborn young lady.
44. But most of all, Westerners in general, and the French in particular, are afraid of death. They can no longer even imagine that an idea is something worth taking risks for. ‘Zero deaths’ is their most important desire. Well, they see millions of people throughout the world who have no reason to be afraid of death. And among them, many die for an idea nearly every day. For the ‘civilized’, that is a source of intimate terror.
I’ve tried a few other Badiou books, but I find this to be the one easiest to make sense of. Here is Wikipedia on Badiou. Here is a Guardian article on him.
Our social and political life is awash in unconsciously held Christian ideas broken from the theology that gave them meaning, and it’s hungry for the identification of sinners—the better to prove the virtue of the accusers and, perhaps especially, to demonstrate the sociopolitical power of the accusers.
That is from Joseph Bottum, via PW.
In some recent talks I’ve argued that the future may be coming first to both Israel and Singapore. Today let’s consider Israel by listing a few features of that country:
1. The tech sector is important, and, partially as a result of that, income inequality is very high; see Paul Krugman’s post on the latter.
2. There is a large segment of lower middle class, intelligent bohemians, whose low incomes do not reflect their real standard of living and orderly lives. Many of them study Torah, and receive a kind of (selective) guaranteed annual income.
3. The rent is too damn high, and that won’t be changing anytime soon, due to building restrictions. The bohemian class generally chooses lower rent venues to pursue its preferred lifestyle.
4. Unlike most current North Americans, Israelis do not take geopolitical stability for granted.
5. There is intense and widespread concern with demographics and the economics of population.
There is a new version of the Mahabharata, in blank verse rather than prose, translated/created by Carole Satyamurti. I’ve only read an initial sliver of it, but dramatically and linguistically it is very effective. This is a beautiful edition, and deserves serious consideration as a purchase for just about every library. I have yet to see any significant reviews of the work.
The only version of the new Houllebecq novel I can read now is the one in German, Entwerfung., as the English edition does not come out until September. I am about halfway through and can report it is excellent and a fun read as well, most of all when it makes fun of the vulnerabilities and vacillations of the West.
Here is an Anthony Daniels review, with lots of plot summary (and spoilers), part of the last paragraph shows he understands the work:
This novel is far from a crude anti-Islamic polemic, however, as many might have supposed it to be from its pre-publication publicity (Houellebecq has expressed himself very unfavorably on Islam elsewhere). It is rather a meditation, admittedly using all the author’s habitual tropes which fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, are susceptible to an infinite number of bitterly amusing variations, on the state of Western civilization and what makes that civilization vulnerable to attack…In other words, it is an implicit invitation to us to look inwards, to think of what is wrong with us rather than with them. Whether we or they will read it like this, I rather doubt…
This is one of the novels of the year. Here is a good Adam Gopnik piece on Houllebecq and the book.
The first Sacred Introvert Retreat Tour will take place this coming May, led by founder Lisa Avebury. Over ten days, participants will visit Glastonbury and other sites in south east England. Travellers will each have their own room and every other day will be a ‘local’ day, when visitors can rest and recharge in the peaceful surroundings of Glastonbury Abbey Retreat. The tour includes visits to mystical, historical sights such as the stone circle and the Chalice Well — where the Holy Grail is supposedly hidden. There are relaxed day trips to medieval churches and roman baths, optional yoga sessions and evening activities such as torchlit walks and bonfires.
Lisa Avebury, a self-proclaimed introvert, founded the retreat company to give quieter individuals a group travel option which catered to their needs, where silences are comfortable and socializing is optional, not mandatory. The trips costs USD 3,795 excluding flights and Avebury hopes it will be the first of many.
There is more here, and for the pointer I thank Michael Rosenwald.
“Highly specific pools of reputation information will become more useful in aggregate,” said Mr. Fertik, co-author with David C. Thompson of “The Reputation Economy,” a guide to optimizing digital footprints. “If you’re a really good Uber passenger, that may be useful information for Amtrak or American Airlines. But if you add in your reputation from Airbnb plus OpenTable plus eBay, it starts to get useful globally.”
There is more here, interesting throughout. But will there be errors in these measurements? As I wrote to Ashok Rao, fresh regressions are a public good.