Results for “straussian”
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Straussian Beatles, Paul McCartney solo edition

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Paul is his willingness to be a plain, flat outright snot about other people.  Did you see lately when he called the Rolling Stones “a blues cover band”?  Not wrong!  Ever listen to the lyrics of “Another Girl“?

Anyway, if you paw through the Ram album you will find some real daggers.  “Dear Boy,” for instance, is Paul mocking Linda’s ex-husband, here are some lyrics:

I guess you never knew, dear boy, what you have found,
I guess you never knew, dear boy,
That she was just the cutest thing around,
I guess you never knew what you have found,
Dear boy.

I guess you never knew, dear boy,
That love was there.
And maybe when you look to hard, dear boy,
You never do become aware,
I guess you never did become aware,
Dear boy.

When i stepped in, my heart was down and out,
But her love came through and brought me ’round,
Got me up and about…

I hope you never know, dear boy,
How much you missed.
And even when you fall in love, dear boy,
It won’t be half as good as this.
I hope you never know how much you missed,
Dear boy, how much you missed

Maybe it’s OK to take public stabs at your new wife’s ex-husband (is it?), but keep in mind Paul was raising the guy’s daughter at the time.  What did she think?  Or maybe up in that Scottish farm she just never listened to Ram, or this song.  Paul himself has admitted the underlying meaning in radio interviews.  The guy, by the way, committed suicide — woe unto him who is attacked by Paul McCartney!

Brian Wilson, by the way, was a big admirer of the voices and harmonies on that one, here is the cut.

Gentler but still cutting is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey“.  It’s Paul’s account of why he has not been calling “the rellies” back home, namely because they are too boring and too removed from the reality of his life.  Paul is reporting (sarcastically) that his life is too boring to have anything to say to the guy:

We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
We’re so sorry if we caused you any pain
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But there’s no one left at home
And I believe I’m gonna rain

We’re so sorry, but we haven’t heard a thing all day
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But if anything should happen
We’ll be sure to give a ring

We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But we haven’t done a bloody thing all day
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But the kettle’s on the boil
And we’re so easily called away

Of course he really did have an Uncle Albert, and I bet he didn’t call much.  Can you blame him?  This interpretation, by the way, comes from Paul himself, many years later on satellite radio.

“Too Many People” — the paradigmatic Macca Straussian song deserves a post of its own.  It has more passive-aggressive references to John Lennon than are usually reported.

And that is all just on one album!  Here are previous installments of Straussian Beatles.  By the way, “Yesterday” may in part be about the early death of Paul’s mother.

Tyrone, your local Straussian, comments on “Trap House”

I took it to refer to a place where drugs are sold, but you might be trapped either by the police or by the attendant lifestyle and its appeals.  The Yale Federalist Society was proclaming itself comparable to such a trap house, and thus at the same time broadcasting both its appeal and its potential danger.

By calling itself such a trap house, in a funny self-referring way it became one.  A kind of opposite to the Liar’s Paradox.  How many other claims become true by the mere act of making them?  “I am making a claim now” would be one of them.

Tyler: So says Tyrone.  But he is very consistently wrong.  And if you don’t know what Tyrone is talking about in this incoherent, philosophically naive missive, it is not worth trying to find out.

Covid dispatch from a relatively non-Straussian country

Most people will end up contracting the coronavirus, the head of the Health Ministry’s advisory committee for infectious diseases predicted on Monday.

“The [real] question is whether the infected person is vaccinated or not. It’s unavoidable that the pandemic will infect the majority of the population. It won’t disappear in another half a year,” Dr. Tal Brosh told the Kan public broadcaster.

Brosh, who also heads the infectious disease department at Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, said he doesn’t see a reason to shutter Ben Gurion Airport, arguing that would distract “from the main problem — morbidity within in the country.”

WWAFS?  How many of our mainstream public health experts would even consider addressing such a question at this point?  Do you think they are telling you the truth?

p.s. Which again is the country with the best data?

Addended p.p.s.: “Between 90% and 94% of British adults have some degree of immunity to coronavirus from full or partial vaccination, or prior infection, the U.K. statistics office estimates, based on statistical analysis of blood samples.”

Here is the full story.  Via Rich B.

Straussian Beatles: Baby’s in Black

Here is the song, and yes I know all about Astrid Kirchherr (who often wore black) and the deceased Stu Sutcliffe.  The song has yet another meaning, related to the girl chasing of John and Paul, and Liverpool’s longstanding role as a center for English Catholicism, with about half of the population being Catholic in background.  Here are some of the lyrics, with commentary from me in brackets, and note I capitalized the “H” for my own purposes:

Oh dear, what can I do?
Baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue [she’s in line to become a nun, and won’t screw me]
Tell me, oh what can I do?

She thinks of Him [Jesus, God, etc.]
And so she dresses in black [garb of a nun]
And though he’ll never come back [no second coming!]
She’s dressed in black…[pretty futile this nun thing, isn’t it?]

I think of her
But she thinks only of Him
And though it’s only a whim [she doesn’t really believe all that stuff, does she?]
She thinks of Him

Oh how long will it take
‘Til she sees the mistake she has made?
Dear, what can I do?
Baby’s in black and I’m feeling blue [“blue balls”?]
Tell me, oh what can I do?

One interesting non-lyrical feature of the song is how it features dual melodic lines, one sung by Paul the other by John.  As this was 1965, Paul is singing the higher part, as was typically the case in those years.  Yet somehow by 1967, John ended up with the much higher vocal parts and Paul the lower.  It wasn’t just the helium.

Here is the previous edition of Straussian Beatles.

Straussian Beatles cofounders — We Can’t Work It Out

The Beatles 1965 song “We Can Work It Out” typically is taken as a tale of harmonious cooperation, a kind of precursor to “All You Need is Love,” but expressing the ability of the Beatles to work together toward productive outcomes and furthermore to stay united as friends.  (All before the bitter split of course.)  Well, if you know a bit about the Beatles (and Strauss) that isn’t exactly how it is presented in the actual tune.  There are plenty of esoteric references in Beatle songs and solo Beatle songs, and I don’t just mean drug lingo or “Paul is dead” clues.

As background, you do need to know that Paul was the group’s workaholic, and John, while an immense talent, was, um…not the group’s workaholic.  Paul also was renowned as a master of passive-aggressive threats, all the way keeping up the smile and charm and the perfect demeanor.  The song reflects this dynamic.  It is basically Paul singing that we really have to do things his way, and John singing back “complaints of surrender.”  Let’s now turn to the song, with my annotations throughout in brackets:

Paul singing cheerily:

Try to see it my way
Do I have to keep on talking ’til I can’t go on? [I’m going to keep on bugging you until you give in]
While you see it your way
Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone [Escalation: I am willing to threaten you over this one and go to the mat]
We can work it out [You’re going to give in to me]
We can work it out [You really are going to give in, believe me on this one]
Think of what you’re saying
You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s alright [You don’t know what you are doing in the studio the way I do]
Think of what I’m saying
We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night [we really do need to put more time in on this one]
We can work it out
We can work it out [my way]

John singing in plaintive minor key:

Life is very short, and there’s no time [Can we just go home now?]
For fussing and fighting, my friend [I’m tired of all this, aren’t you supposed to be on my side?]
I have always thought that it’s a crime [The bickering is mainly your fault, and yes it is really terrible]
So, I will ask you once again…

Paul interrupts, again singing cheerily:

Try to see it my way [I’m really not giving up on this one]
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong [Last time you did it my way the song was a big hit, in fact every time…]
While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long [more passive-aggressive threats]
We can work it out
We can work it out

An excellent song, both musically and lyrically, but not always appreciated for its full subtleties.  It is clear that Paul ends up getting his way, and that is how they “work it out.”  Paul increasingly exerted his will in the studio, leading the Beatles to produce such classics as Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, whereas John had been the more dominant influence on earlier albums such as Hard Day’s Night.  The Beatles, of course, split up five years later and were in tatters well before that.

China Straussian poem-sharing mistake of the day

Shares in Chinese food delivery giant Meituan have fallen sharply after its boss reportedly shared a 1,000-year-old poem on social media.

The Book Burning Pit by Zhang Jie was posted, then deleted, by the firm’s billionaire chief executive, Wang Xing.

The Tang dynasty poem was interpreted as a veiled criticism of President Xi Jinping’s government.

Meituan is currently under investigation over allegations of abusing its market dominance.

The company is one of China’s biggest takeaway food delivery and lifestyle services platforms and is backed by technology giant Tencent…

Despite the statement, Meituan’s Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen by around 14% since the market opened on Monday morning. Investors are jittery as Chinese business leaders who have been seen to criticise the government have found their companies come under intense scrutiny from authorities.

Here is the full story.  Via Rich D.

Dr. Fauci, Straussian

Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.

In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”

In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.

Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.

Asked about Dr. Fauci’s conclusions, prominent epidemiologists said that he might be proven right…

Dr. Fauci said that weeks ago, he had hesitated to publicly raise his estimate because many Americans seemed hesitant about vaccines, which they would need to accept almost universally in order for the country to achieve herd immunity.

Here is the full NYT story.  A few points:

1. Surely Straussianism by now should be persuasive as a general theory.

2. Fauci is idolized by many as a kind of anti-Trump, but he is a terrible risk communicator, as evidenced also by his recent attacks on some of the “lesser” vaccines (which still would work if applied collectively).  Not to mention his earlier remarks on masks, and also the mid-March safety of cruises.  How a person understands Fauci is in fact a pretty good litmus test.

3. Should you be trusting everything the insiders are telling you about FDA processes?

4. I genuinely do not know what the herd immunity threshold is, but I assure you I am trying to tell you the truth on this one (and other matters).  My Straussianism is not a normative theory of my own communication, but rather a positive theory of how the world works, and it has been vindicated once again.

Philosopher J. emails me about free speech and Straussianism

I won’t add extra formatting, here goes (and here is my original post):

“Nice point about a Straussian reading of the free speech letter, and the general constraints of working in groups…But I have this worry about your post. I am not myself a Straussian, but I will express the point as a way of taking further the Straussianism already in your post. Maybe this is what you intend, so that a post making a Straussian point explicit should have a kind of meta-Straussian point. But, here goes: Taking your point about working in groups, I’m worried about you saying:

  • we have a new bunch of “speech regulators” (not in the legal sense, not usually at least) who are especially humorless and obnoxious and I would say neurotic

I would think the Straussian position (in the fuller sense, not just the sense of covert or hidden) would be that working in a group, in a city (or state, country, etc.), always requires constraints — some way of encoding and reproducing enough of a common morality to make living together and coordination possible. From the position of “the philosophers” (as Straussians would say, but in this case I’m thinking of you) these may always be humorless, obnoxious, and maybe neurotic too. So why not think that the old speech regulators were equally so, just enforcing different rules? Why not think we’ve moved from rules of propriety (e.g. more censorship of sexual content, for example), to rules forbidding racism, etc.? You might then think that recent changes have broadened the openness for some kinds of speech. People I know who are interested in police violence, and remedies, report experiencing such a broadening.

An optional addition to this thought would be the idea that different sets of codes, equally and unfortunately all-too humorless, can still do better and worse judged with respect to the good, as Platonist-Straussians would say. In that sense, I would think the new humorless codes an improvement.

Granted, there is a strong strand in Straussianism that would think it just most important that there is some way for “the philosophers” to be able to have some space free of such codes to do the actually important stuff (as they see it) in ways that are not humorless, etc. But even that strand in no way holds the standard is that “the philosophers” should be freely expressing their views *publicly*! I would think that this is a pretty essential part of the point of Straussianism in the first place.

thanks as always for your work and the inspiration to think less about raising and lowering statuses, less from the perspective of Platonic thumos, as the Straussians would put it…”

TC again: More anonymity!  Hmm…

But *when* will you favor a shift in coronavirus strategy? (no Straussians in a pandemic)

I agree with the numerous sentiments, for instance as expressed here by Ezra Klein, that we are not facing a dollars vs. lives trade-off, rather the better solutions will improve both variables.  Also read this Tom Inglesby thread.  Furthermore there is a concrete path forward toward general improvement, for instance read Zeke Emanuel (NYT, I don’t agree with every detail but the overall direction yes).  And don’t forget these costs cited by Noah.

But we are economists, not mood affiliators, and so we must address the classic question of “at what margin?”  At what margin would you favor an actual shift in strategy because the virus already had reached so many people?  And yes, such a margin does exist.  At that margin we would continue some of our defensive responses, but the overall approach would have to change away from the above links.

Let’s say everyone had been exposed to the coronavirus except yours truly.  Should we shut all (non-take out) restaurants just to limit my personal risk?  Clearly not.  And likely I would end up getting exposed sooner or later in any case.  Then you should “let it rip,” and let Tyler decide when he wishes to go outside or not (but of course offer him health care).

So what is the margin of bad outcomes where, after that point, a major change in strategy should set in?  Has to set in?  That is the question we all need to answer.  And what should that strategy change be exactly?

We like to say “speed is of the essence,” but a less frequent spoken corollary of that is “at some point it is too late to stage the defense we had been hoping for.”

What if we made no further progress against Covid-19 after two more weeks?  Three more weeks?  How about a bit of progress on testing across the next month and a modest increase in mask capacity?  How much longer is the cut-off?  Given how rapidly the virus spreads, it can’t be that long from now.  It cannot honestly be “four months from now.”

(For the record, I am still optimistic, but not at p = 0.8, so this eventuality is by no means purely hypothetical.  And it is perfectly correct to note that Trump’s own incompetence is to some extent making the whole dilemma come true, and that itself is deeply unsettling.  Agree!  We should have “gone Singapore” months ago.  But the dilemma is now here nonetheless, noting that we are hardly the only country in this bucket.  You can’t just condemn Trump and stop thinking about it.)

Or what if New York and seven other regions are hopeless but the rest of the country is not?

I am fine if you agree with me, Ezra, Tom Inglesby, Zeke Emanuel, and many others, including most of the Democratic Party public health establishment.  We all favor “speed is of the essence.”

But the next part of the message never quite gets delivered.  And no one wants to talk about what the next strategic stage — if we fail — should look like.

It is imperative that you consider where your line lies — if only mentally — when you would jump ship and indeed…confess a significant degree of defeat and then formulate and push for a new strategy.

Addendum: Straussian Tyler is not entirely comfortable with this post, as he, like his brother Tyrone, prefers to tell the Noble Lie and maintain the illusion that the preexisting struggle must continue across all margins and at all times.  But perhaps, these days, there are no Straussians in foxholes.  So pick your “no return” point, write it down, and then get back to me.  The honesty of our policy response requires this, yes?  I’m not even making you say it out loud.

And don’t you find it strange that no one has been willing to raise this point before?  Could it be that we are not being told the entire truth?  Or are people not telling the entire truth to themselves?  Isn’t that the same mistake we’ve been making all along?

On Left Straussianism

We might therefore say that the left intellectual becomes the left Straussian when they decide that, in addition to sometimes filtering their own public speech to advance an ideological agenda, they’re additionally responsible for “protecting” the public from being exposed to conversations not disciplined by political strategy. To the extent that their own ideas are not already disciplined by such a strategy, they limit discussion of them to close friends and sympathetic colleagues.


In each case, thoughtful criticism of an author’s argument—for being confused, or incomplete—was overshadowed by the left-Straussian assertion that, regardless of whether the argument was true or reasonable, it was “irresponsible” for the author to make it in public.


Those who engage in such tactics would never endorse Strauss’s hard distinction between the elect few and the unthinking many—at least not explicitly. But the care they take to pre-screen intellectual material indicates that they share his dark foreboding about the “costs” of public intellectual conversations reflecting rather than repressing the complexities of private ones. Attempting to marginalize or disqualify intellectual arguments itself implies a gap between the commentator, who trusts themselves to evaluate the arguments in question, and their imagined audience, who is assumed to lack either the tools or the ability to do so unaided. Left Straussians may not believe that they are philosopher-kings but they repudiate, in practice and increasingly even in theory, the possibility of the philosopher-reader.

Here is the full piece by Anastasia Berg and John Baskin, via Agnes Callard.

Is Amharic the most Straussian language?

Amharic is susceptible of ambiguity to a remarkable degree, and Amharas have a tradition of writing clever, short poems, with an overt meaning and a hidden meaning, referred to as “wax and gold.”

That is from Sarah Howard’s Ethiopia: Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture.  An Ethiopian I had dinner with told me that Amharic is “eighty percent implication.”  Here is a research paper about ambiguity in Amharic.

*Blade Runner 2049* (some Straussian spoilers)

I hardly expected the movie to be so drenched in Tarkovsky (“The Zone” and Solaris, maybe a bit of The Sacrifice), and the now-famed sex scene draws from Bergman’s Persona.  Overall, the colors and palette were stunning, and the use of sound was as impressive as in any movie, do see this one in IMAX.  It hardly makes any concessions to the Hollywood vices of this millennium and indeed much of the Tysons Corner audience seemed to be baffled.

Think of the main plot line as showing a world where the Christ miracle is inverted and what that would have to mean for everything else.  Much of the plot is sprawling, some of the references are too heavy-handed or scattered (Moses and the Dalai Lama and Kafka and Star Wars 1-2 are thrown in for good measure, and few will grok the Galatians reference), and the whole thing could have been fifteen minutes shorter.  Still, this is a worthy sequel to one of the best movies of the 1980s or is that the 1990s?  Carla Juri steals the show, and furthermore it resolves the main plot puzzle of the original Blade Runner rather economically.

Also on the plus side, Adam Driver does not appear in this movie.

A Straussian neoreactionary review of *The Complacent Class*

The specific thinkers cited for ‘cyclical models of history’ are Vico, Spengler, and Toynbee, in that order.

With that triple-burst trigger pull, the race to a second, Straussian reading begins.

Taking a cue from those statements, consider that the book itself might be a cycle. Read forwards, it is a series of slightly overcooked thinkpieces that ends on a surprisingly bold note. Read backwards, one finds it hides a thrilling call to arms.

This is a contrarian reading; one I make no claim should actually be attributed to Cowen himself. Nonetheless, the coherences pile up too neatly to simply be ignored once seen.

There is much more of substance at the link.  That is from Thomas Barghest, via Justin.  By the way, someone else did a long “Alt Right” take on the book and emailed it to me, and I meant to link to it, but I misplaced the email somehow.  If you email it to me, or leave it in the comments, I’ll put it into Links tomorrow.  And here is just a wee bit more:

Cowen shows us that if we had the courage of immigrants and foreigners to ignore contemporary mores and treat our strengths as something to take pride in rather than something to hide, we might restore our culture to a dynamic greatness. Such honest pride in ourselves and our abilities was ours only a half-century ago, before the 60’s, he implies. It is not so long gone.

However, a proper neoreactionary, he doesn’t pretend we can simply wish ourselves there. Americans’ current complacency is not pure timidity. The transcendent is not something we’ve simply lost. It was crushed, stolen, and turned against us.

Overall, you guys crack me up, and I do mean “guys.”

Taylor Swift, Straussian?


The singer is launching her own Taylor Swift-branded clothing line next month, on the platforms of local e-commerce giants and the Alibaba group, with t-shirts, dresses and sweatshirts featuring the politically charged date 1989.

The date – as well as being Swift’s year of birth – refers to her album and live tour of the same name, which she will perform in Shanghai in November.

But the date – and the initials TS – are particularly sensitive in China, as they signify the Tiananmen Square massace in 1989, when hundreds of students were killed in pro-democracy protests.

There is more here.  Here is a story on the map of China accompanying Dwyane Wade.