I’ve been laid up with a relapse of bronchitis (it’s a seasonal thing with me, so I should start giving them names, like hurricanes) … so … because bronchial infection Barry has laid me low for the last three days, I’ve been doing a lot more lollyblogging of late.

Here are some of the things that caught my attention …

I watched the documentary Camp 14: Total Control Zone the other night, about Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean who was actually born into a prison camp and therefore grew up there. Witnessed his first public execution at age four … it’s an appalling story, but one that more people around the world should know. Jay Nordlinger, of National Review, often writes about tyrannies around the world and the political prisoners who live there. Or just ordinary citizens … he has an article about Yeon-Mi Park, another North Korean defector. Her story is also, of course, appalling, but especially inspiring. She has adapted to life in South Korea very quickly, and extremely well, and she is now using her newfound celebrity status (she has a television show, a website, TED talks) to do what she can to take down the Kim regime back in her native country. Nordlinger’s article requires a subscription, but you can watch her tell her own story at the Oslo Freedom Forum, which is even better. I know I’ll never see the movie Titanic in the same light again. The whole story is pretty surreal, and the drama I see unfolding over the next few years could be amazing, like watching Sailor Moon take down the Dark Kingdom. I say that in awe of the young woman, by the way.

In talking about the black market in Korea, Park makes a pretty incredible statement, “Once you start trading for yourself, you start thinking for yourself.” I tend to focus on the dark side of desire, maybe even the seamy underbelly, but the statement harkens back to my Libertarian upbringing.

That got me thinking about Adam Smith and his metaphor about the Invisible Hand. That was the context in which I first read him—a high school economics class taught by Howard E. Schmidt. Schmidt had us reading von Mises, Rothbard, Hayek. I’ve forgotten most of it, but one thing that was drilled into me especially deep was the Adam Smith’s paradox of value, which led to the subjective theory of value (von Mises, I’m pretty sure). I say all this because I think it was that emphasis on subjectivity drew me just a little closer to the rabbit hole that is Kierkegaard, which is why writers such as Auden and of course Percy had so much appeal for me in college.

Thinking about the libertarians got me thinking about Charles Murray, most notorious for The Bell Curve, but also the author of Human Accomplishment, in which he uses statistical analysis to determine who were the most important people in the arts (which strikes me as laughable, but I haven’t read the book). Anyway, I saw him on a rerun of C-Span, talking about his book Coming Apart, which includes this analysis of “Belmont & Fishtown“, two real places that he uses as paradigms for upper middle class white folk and working class white folk, respectively. Fairly damning stuff, in what it says about the way we as a country are losing virtues that were once common to both classes.

Betcha knew that already, didn’t you?


  1. Broderick Barker says

    Pleasure to have you back, sir.

  2. Quin Finnegan says

    I’m just blessed to be here, BB, with much to be happy about. Thanks for reading.

    • Broderick Barker says

      I’m intrigued by one line in particular: do you find that your focus on the dark side of desire is in some way fundamentally at odds with your Libertarian upbringing? Totally innocent question; I’m an idiot.

      • Quin Finnegan says

        Yes. I think my tendency to focus on the seamy underbelly comes from personal experience—from being completely overwhelmed and undone by desire run amok in various arenas of my life. And then only reinforced by reading all that Girard.

        If I find many (if not most) libertarians naive, I also think many if not most of them more at peace with normal desires (i.e., levels in accordance with human flourishing, which for now I’ll define as not self-destructive, itself defined about as generally as you please) than I, more charitable, and most always pleasant to be around. Perhaps because I rely on my knowledge of libertarianism to engage with them. Although I don’t think so.

        And I should emphasize that I don’t think they’re nearly as naive as the average leftist ready to sacrifice any number of lives for the sake of laws used to justify their desires and even the wreckage submerged beneath the wake of their past life.

        But I’m being honest when I say I really don’t know this for certain … so much of this comes down to personal chemistry, and there are always first principles and assumptions that can be undone. Some days it feels like I could turn all these statements around and upside down … I don’t say that now to retain a certain vagueness or ambiguity. I often have the feeling that my deepest convictions ought to be maintained at a level “deeper” than articulation, because saying them leaves so much unsaid. The balance is upset, or something like that. But I’m not a Buddhist, doing the zazen thing in search of the ineffable. But the ineffable always remains, doesn’t it?

        Funny word, ineffable. Maybe I’m more wedded to the effable than I’d like to admit.

        It may be that a lot of politically aware folk ought to more carefully consider the philosophical assumptions and the religious roots of their politics, but it works the other way around, too. Even that gal going to mass three or four times a week and reading John Poinsot by night is in some way affected by the fog of politics around her.

        Why do you say you’re an idiot? So obviously not the case …

        And there’s a lot of pretension that sails under the flag of intelligence, anyway. Speaking for myself, of course.

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