Paul Elmer more on Oxford

Oxford is the creation of the Church, and her beauty witnesses to the excellence of religion.  The mark was put upon her once for all, wonderful city; and why should men seek to erase it?  There are other places aplenty where laboratories may be erected and secular science may flourish; why not leave this fair domicile amidst her wandering rivers and her girdle of hills, why not leave it as a home for those who choose to ‘flee for the presse’ and to set their hearts on God’s peace?  They should repay the world for all the world gave them.  The signature of the Church is legible enough on the houses and streets of Oxford, but when one turns to the men who dwell in them and walk among them, one feels something like a shock.  From the samec ause can effects so unequal flow?  Often I ask myself how it can be that dead stones and mortar should speak more eloquently of the divine presence that does the living face of man, made in the likeness of his Creator.  Pass by the secular scholars, the philologians [sic], scientists, historians, economists, and their kind.  But what of the men whose special calling it is to search out and proclaim the sacred revelation, whose profession is theChurch?  I should like to see Oxford still more under the domination of the priest.  He has made it; the city is his.  However it may be with the his own soul, he is the custodian of the ancient tradition of the spirit; he is the only security we have against the complete invasion of a devastating materialism.

–Paul Elmer More, PAGES FROM AN OXFORD DIARY, 1937

Best prog rock of 2018

Top albums of 2018

Well, stunningly, it’s that time of year—the time we begin to assess the best of that which came throughout the year.  At age 51, these years fly by, faster and faster.  Time devours, but individuals innovate.  2018 has been a rather spectacular year, at least on a personal level.  In very large part, the creative soundtrack behind the year’s events proved equally spectacular.

Here are my favorite albums of 2018.

10. Galahad, Seas of Change. Stu and company nail it with this album. At once deeply progressive musically and timely politically, Galahad strike the perfect balance of art and message on this wondrous 43-minute long album (and song!). The message never becomes oppressively preachy, itself being fully integrated with the music. 

9. Bjorn Riis, Coming Home. This is the only EP to make it to my top 10 of 2018. Only 27 minutes long, Riis’s Coming Home offers more depth in music and thought than most albums can at 50 to 70 minutes. A perfectionist and a minimalist, Riis offers just enough to keep us eager for me.  As with his work on Airbag, Riis provides a lush soundscape of tundra, doted here and there with evergreens.

8. Shineback, Dial. I don’t think it’s constitutionally possible for any of the Godfrey musicians to be uninteresting. Despite having moved from the U.K. to the Philadelphia, Simon Godfrey retains all of the romantic best of the motherland. Electronic flourishes, Thomas Dolby rhythms, pop melodies, progressive and extended passages, and Godfrey’s always anxious and surreal lyrics pull the listener in, from the opening minute to the closing minute—92 minutes later!  A feast of creepiness and introspection.  Every time I listen, I realize I’m only getting about 70% of what’s going on.  This is music for headphones, to be sure.

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Star Wars keyboard| SYFY WIRE

What’s next: Elvish or Klingon?

Alright, C-3PO, it’s time to break out those awesome translating skills you’re always humblebragging about — and while you’re at it, break out your wallet, too. Star Wars has just licensed its first-ever official computer keyboard replacement set, coded in Aurebesh, the written version of the official language spoken throughout the Galactic Empire.
— Read on

Submit Your Proposals: Fifth Annual Midwestern History Conference

The Midwestern History Association and the Hauenstein Center at Grand Valley State University invite proposals for papers to be delivered at the Fifth Annual Midwestern History Conference, to be held May 30-31, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This conference continues a discussion which has grown significantly over the last four years, at collaborative conferences designed to spark – and sustain – a revival of Midwestern studies in American historiography. Infused with varieties of original research pursued by scholars from many different career paths and stages, this annual gathering strives to cultivate rigorous historical understanding of a complex, dynamic, changing, and often misunderstood region.
— Read on

Sponsored and created by two great men: Gleaves Whitney and Jon Lauck.

Economics and the Good: Part II

Let’s briefly go over what we covered last time. When economists talk about ethical issues, they usually start with economic efficiency as a normative benchmark.  Efficiency means you can’t make someone better off without making someone worse off.  For any given distribution of income, if you reallocate resources from Al to Bob, you improve Bob’s welfare only by diminishing Al’s.  In competitive markets, efficiency has the interesting property of maximizing the dollar value of society’s resources.  If society’s resources did not command as high as a price as they could, it would mean there are unexploited gains from exchange. Those exchanges, once made, would make parties to the exchanges better off, and we could have additional winners without additional losers.


So far, so good.  But there are many unexamined assumptions behind economic efficiency and its desirability.  What are some of these assumptions?  To start, it’s important to remember that efficiency is defined with respect to people’s preferences.  Efficient situations entail people getting what they want.  This is why many economists don’t think efficiency advocacy is controversial.  After all, what could be wrong about people getting what they want?  Actually, it turns out a great deal could be wrong with it!  Imagine Al hates Bob and is willing to pay a million dollars to take out an assassination contract on him.  Bob likes being alive but is only able to pay half a million to bribe the assassin not to kill him.  While the assassination contract clearly fails the strict efficiency definition (nobody better off without somebody worse off), it fits the less stringent one (dollar maximization of goods/services).  But I would hope that no economists would reason from this that we ought to make assassination contracts legal on efficiency grounds!


More generally, we should be cautious in approving the lofty place efficiency has in most economists’ public policy recommendations.  Once we realize that there are plenty of situations where individuals ought not get what they want, efficiency becomes much less appealing as a policy goal.  Furthermore, efficient situations often entail distributional changes in resource allocations that can further burden those who are already struggling.  Economists tend to overlook this as long as the economic pie is getting bigger.  But surely it is reasonable to worry not just about the size of the pie, but who gets how big a slice.  This does not mean calls for distributive justice—many made by non-economists who do not have the training to recognize the disastrous probable consequences of their demands—ought to be acceded to unquestioningly.  But it does mean that there are valid ethical concerns that economists tend to ignore, because of what their analytical window allows them to see.


There is an entire world of ethical discourse outside of economists’ relatively narrow brand of consequentialism.  Economists are selling themselves short when they restrict themselves to the role of efficiency technocrats, rather than adapting their discipline’s invaluable tools towards the cultivation and preservation of a humane society.

Ad Fontes #3

From Lutheran Service Book’s Daily Lectionary for December 8:

For you [,O Lord,] have been a stronghold to the poor,

a stronghold to the needy in his distress,

a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. (Isaiah 25:4 ESV)

Which, as sung and reshaped in the African-American tradition of Christian spirituals, became:

And, as repurposed by Bob Dylan, also became:

— Rick Krueger

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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