Art is a convening point for many different avenues of pursuing beauty. It is the bridge between chemistry and history and between theology and engineering. Beauty is something every specialist cares about, even in the fields that seem most technical.
Month: March 2023
Do Goods Have an Inherently Just Price?
As economies developed, the idea that a commodity has an inherent just price faded away. We now think of the value of a thing as being a price on which a buyer and seller agree. But the legacy of this idea of a just price lingers in the popular imagination. It is an odd lingering notion, however. If asked, few people would be able to explain when a price is just.
America’s Commercial Republic, and Its Detractors: An Interview with Samuel Gregg
Key Founders believed that America’s future was to be a polity in which free and dynamic commerce would play a powerful role in defining society, as opposed to, say, the priorities of aristocratic or feudal societies. The “republic” side of this political economy equation is that this commercial society would operate within the context of institutions and sets of virtues that draw upon classical, religious, and moderate Enlightenment sources.
James Bradley Thayer, Legal Realist?
James Bradley Thayer sternly taught an iron discipline in constitutional judging of holding one’s own views—even one’s conviction that one understood the Constitution better than the legislature did—firmly in check. And he taught this because he believed it was the only approach consistent with the Constitution’s text, purposes, structure, and traditional interpretation.
On Abolishing the Death Penalty: A Response to Daryl Charles
Aquinas’s argument is not that killing an offender is always lawful, much less that it is mandatory. It is lawful upon a condition, namely, that it is necessary to protect the common good from a threat. Absent that condition, Aquinas does not argue or even suggest that killing a malefactor, including one who has committed murder, is lawful.
Capital Crimes and Capital Punishment
When it comes to premeditated murder, compensation is not available. As much of human history attests and as the biblical witness affirms, it is the one crime that carries a mandatory death sentence. To suggest or argue that the ultimate human crime should not be met with the ultimate punishment is a moral travesty because it fails to comprehend the nature and meaning of the imago Dei, and thereby undermines the common good.
Should Wealth Be Distributed Equally?
Aristophanes suggests that, like so many political matters, there are tradeoffs involved in the absolute versus relative wealth debate. There is no obvious, universally desirable solution: different societies will tolerate different levels of inequality and might be willing to sacrifice different levels of absolute wealth. Nonetheless, the warning from Aristophanes’ Poverty is clear: absolute equality means absolute destitution.
The Bookshelf: The Ministry of Inclusion
The attempt to control thought can do incalculable damage, however doomed it is ultimately. Just as Plato’s guardians are to be kept on the path to virtue by the elimination of all examples of vice, so the self-appointed guardians of contemporary culture have decided that “inclusion” is the virtue of our time, and all literature that might make the path to inclusion a bumpy one must be flattened, bulldozed, paved over.
Black Is Beautiful
All those we love, and we ourselves, will one day go through that great black door of death. We need to acknowledge that fact and not try to evade or soften it. Without God, life really is a tragedy, and our mourning is a meaningless biochemical reaction. But our story doesn’t end there. The door has another side: a side of light, with a waiting, loving God.
How the Government Is Buying Our Submission
Our Constitution’s carefully designed processes for democratic self-governance, and the means and mechanisms for ensuring accountability, are evaded and eroded. In his 2021 book Purchasing Submission, Philip Hamburger reveals the many hidden ways this evasion occurs—through spending conditions and contractual terms, yes; but also through “dangerously benevolent” nudges, incentives, intermediaries, accreditation, licensing, permits, and permissions.
Democracy Can Be Trusted Because Citizens Can Be Trusted
What you think about democracy probably comes down to what you think about the nature of your fellow citizens. What are they like? Are they children of God, made in the image of their Creator and thus in possession of common sense and common reason? Do they have enough sense to distinguish between truth and falsehood on the issues that drive our current political conflicts? Or are they ignorant bumpkins?
Augustine Isn’t the Political Pessimist You Think He Is
Michael Lamb’s A Commonwealth of Hope: Augustine’s Political Thought is an important intervention not only in Augustine studies, but also in our politics of stagnation and hopelessness. Lamb shows that if we hope rightly, we can work in and for the pilgrim city and for earthly cities. Augustine’s descriptions of life’s evils and turmoils should awaken us to life’s uncertainties, our lack of self-sufficiency, and our need for mercy.
Contempt, Inquiry, and Rational Disagreement: Learning from Aquinas in the Internet Age
Present-day Americans are a people consumed by anger—an anger that rests on deep pools of sadness, isolation, loss, and fear. In spite of his reputation for dry, unemotional logic, Thomas Aquinas has a great deal to say about the way in which disordered passions can undermine our capacity for getting at the truth. His work can teach us how to resist the vices encouraged by social media, pursue truth in concert with others, and achieve rational disagreement.
An American Tragedy: On the Suicide of Liberal Education
Life’s biggest questions are almost never resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and if we don’t study the differences between the Epicureans and the Stoics, between Locke and Rousseau, and between legal originalists and non-originalists, we are missing out on our own music: sometimes a battle of the bands, sometimes cacophony, always fascinating.