The Catholic Worker on Leviathan

Dorothy Day (from CRISIS Magazine)

“People go to Washington asking the Federal Government to solve their economics problems.  But the Federal Government was never meant to solve men’s economic problems.  Thomas Jefferson says, ‘The less government there is the better it is.’  If the less government there is the better it is, the best kind of government is self-government.  If the best kind of government is self-government, then the best kind of organization is self-organization.  When the organizers try to organize the unorganized, they often do it for the benefit of the organizers.”

The Catholic Worker (Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin)  Quoted in Maisie Ward, Unfinished Business (Sheed and Ward, 1964), 176,

In Defense of Historical Complexity: A Meditation on the Old South

“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,” the Outlander theme song begins (“The Skye Boat Song”). The show, based on Diana Gabaldon’s romantic history novels, depicts a lost world of 18th century adventure, Scottish highland clans, and loyalty shaped around various allegiances. The protagonist, Claire, is a 20th century woman who has been cast back in time to the different world of 18th century Scotland; she is the “lass” of the title song. At the same time, “lass” symbolizes the whole world of excitement that Claire finds herself living. The world of the past “is gone,” and Outlander is a song contrasting modernity with a specific moment in the past.

In the midst of such a contrast, what is the person with an active historical imagination called to do? Does the past become an extended store of ethical examples demanding moral judgement? Or is there something more to developing an imaginative vision of an alternative time? I propose that there is something more, and that at a minimum an engagement in a formal study of the past should begin with understanding which moves to love. Rather than asking “Were X-group-of-people right or wrong to do Y-action?” the proper historical question is “Why did X believe they should do Y, and what can we find that is admirable in their choices or convictions?” Permit me to illustrate this approach to history using the antebellum and Civil War eras (roughly 1848-1865).

As a boy growing up in Virginia, I developed a love for the Old South. The remnants of the material culture of the South were all around me – historical signs, the iron factory in Richmond, VA., battlefields of minor victories and substantial losses. But perhaps the most formative encounter I had with a vision of southern culture came from the novel Gone with the Wind. One summer I set myself the goal of reading a novel of more than 1000 pages, and the romance of Scarlett and Rhett, the fate of Tara, and the fight to defend home and live in the aftermath of its loss captivated my imagination. Here was a different world, filled with different values, different reactions, different dreams than my own; here was a way of life people fought to protect.

As I grew older, I began formally studying the events of the Civil War. I learned about sectionalism, the economic systems which enabled both the high plantation lifestyle and the poor white farmer to coexist, the evils of slavery, and division which threatened to wreck the Union. I read sermons from pastors in the North who drew from their theological traditions a deep respect for the dignity of the human person to support the abolitionist cause; and then I read speeches from southerners who saw in their aristocratic hierarchical society the hand of God locating each person within a specific place for the good of the body politic. Reading first hand accounts and scholarly interpretations, I observed the complexities of the moment. Stalwart men of virtue (Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson) fought for their homes, their land, and their way of life. Northern generals (Tecumseh Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant) lacked virtue but delivered victories through their scorched earth, “rape of the south” give-no-quarter tactics. Not only did the North win the war, but in doing so the Union set southern economic activity backwards by over a century.

The complexities of this era fascinated me, and to this day I get passionate when confronted with simplistic understandings of the Civil War. This struggle was about slavery, but that issue represented a constitutional question. Could the states break the Union? Which was primary: the people, or the states? Secondarily, this war was also the struggle of two different economies: agrarianism vs. industrialism, and the life of the farm vs. the life of the city. Wrapped into these political and economic concerns were substantial philosophical questions: do all human beings have dignity? If so, how does that dignity work itself out in political life? What is the nature of governing authority? Is it bound by the Constitution? Can the highest authorities violate the source of their authority for a good purpose? What does it mean to be created “equal?” Paired with philosophy, politics, and economics were the rise of abolitionist rhetoric and the power dynamics of an entrenched 19th century racism. These complexities resist simple answers.

Between 1848 and 1865, the United States engaged in a trial by combat to answer fundamental questions. By the end of the Civil War, several questions received answers sealed in blood: the states were subordinate to the Union, the people were the primary political power in the United States, equality meant equal freedom and self-responsibility before the law, and the American economy was one of increased industrial, urbanized patterns of material production and consumption. The South lost, and in its loss passed a way of life. Rather than settling the conflicts once and for all, Northern victory only deepened the complexities which brought the United States to this point. Studying the Civil War era must be more than a formal engagement in condemning the practice of slavery; such a study should be an opportunity to grow in understanding and love.

Historical study begins with seeking understanding through primary text engagement. Reading the works of John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and the other men of the day emerses the student in the richness of that other moment. For good or ill, these were real men and women seeking to live life well, and in coming to understand their motivations we are moved not to agreement, but to love. It rather resembles a wayward brother – by understanding the choices my brother has made and the circumstances which motivated those choices, I develop a compassion, a desire to suffer alongside him. Were I to teach an American Civil War class, I would not expect students to agree with Southerners (or Northerners necessarily), but I would expect them to search out the motivations which caused hundreds of thousands on both sides to march against each other. And if we reach the level of understanding, a love for fellow human beings is the natural outgrowth of historical study.

Reading of the antebellum South is rather like reading Homer’s Iliad for the first time. One goes to it knowing the Greeks win, but the nobility and grace of Hektor in contrast to the puerile childishness of Achilles forces the reader to sympathize with the doomed city. The South fell, and, for many reasons, rightly so. It’s economic system was untenable: large parts of Southern life were based on a racist anthropology, and failed to align with reality; agrarian life could not keep pace with the technological productivity of an industrialized economy. At the same time, the cultural loss in the post-1865 South was real, and  the costs of that loss merit remembrance. The southern way of life, rooted in the seasons necessary for agriculture and bound up with values of honor, delicacy, and hierarchy contained goods no longer found in American patterns of living. It is only by appreciating the value in what was lost that we see the price of “progress,” and in that sense the history of this period is as tragic as it is victorious in terms of moral or political philosophy.

The tension in how we view the Civil War era and its aftermath came to light in recent years with the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Lee tells the story of an adult Scout who returns home to Atticus and learns that her father is more complex than she remembers. The book troubled many who read it, because they expected the simplistic dialectic of To Kill a Mockingbird to return; instead, Lee presents us with a realistic racially minded Atticus Finch, a man who is concerned that African-American progress is happening too fast and causing essential change to the civilization he loves. To Kill a Mockingbird is a beloved classic. Who does not find his heart soaring in Atticus’ defense of Tom Robinson? But when Lee forces us to see that Atticus is a more complex figure, it causes the reader to wrestle with the question of change. How should change occur? At what pace should things change? And when change become the new norm, can we not pause and remember what was?

There is also the opposite danger. The Southern Agrarians (including one of my intellectual heroes Richard Weaver) romanticized the South, and in doing so constructed their critique of modernity on shaky ground. This romanticization is also bad history. Here Aristotle provides sound advice: moderation in all things. We cannot glorify the South or embrace the Myth of the Lost Cause; neither can we reduce the Civil War to a triumphant crusade to liberate the slave. The truth of the period will be found in the heart of its complexities.

“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone” encapsulates the enduring attraction of the South. Indeed, the old South has died, and in its death a greater equality for all Americans has developed. It remains for the historian not to pass on a catechesis ensuring that all students understand that the abolitionists were right, but rather to cultivate a desire to understand why the Civil War occurred, and in that understanding that we might exercise “the love which moves the sun and other stars” towards our benighted past.

Burning Shed News (November 23, 2018)

Burning Shed

The Winter Sale

Yes Sirree, Winter is surely here and in our annual bid to help those suffering from seasonally affected misery (and those canny customers with an eye for a bargain), the latest Burning Shed sale includes items from across labels and some massive savings. 

Highlights include

Kscope label releases by Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Mansun and many more
A third off King Crimson’s wonderful Thrak box
£10 off the Japanese edition of Bruford’s Seems Like A Lifetime Ago and BB’s Gonzo back catalogue reduced in price
Yes 50th Anniversary tour posters
50% off Peter Blegvad and Andy Partridge’s Gonwards box
Rick Wakeman cardboard replica edition CDs
The final copies of the No-Man ‘EMI pressing’ of Love And Endings
Shriekback catalogue gems
Rupert Hine’s Thinkman trilogy 

Ends Monday November 26th. 

Les Penning & Robert Reed

In Dulci Jubilo (cd/vinyl pre-order)

Les Penning and Robert Reed‘s enchanting version of Christmas classic In Dulci Jubilo (featuring Tom Newman). 

Available as a 5 track maxi-single CD and a 7″ vinyl edition featuring Tom Newman and RR mixes. 

All orders of the vinyl include a free Signed Christmas Card. 

Pre-order for December 14th release. 

Wishbone Ash

Live at Glasgow Apollo 77 (cd/vinyl pre-order)

A live performance from the Front Page News tour of 1977 released for the first time

Strictly limited to 1000 copies on vinyl and 3000 on CD, Live at Glasgow Apollo 77 follows the success of the 30 CD deluxe box set Wishbone Ash The Vintage Years 1970-1991

Pre-order for January 11th release. 

Big Big Train

Back Catalogue Repressings (cds)

2018 repressing of three early BBT releases: Goodbye To The Age Of Steam (1994), English Boy Wonders(1997) and Gathering Speed (2004). 

A fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of one of the UK’s finest contemporary Progressive bands. 

Shipping now. 


Greetings Cards / Sorceress – 3D Lenticular Card (cards pre-order)

Pack of 6 blank greetings cards featuring classic Opeth album covers (dimensions: 16cm x 16cm) and a 3D lenticular card of the striking artwork for Sorceress (dimensions: 30cm x 30cm). 

Pre-order for December 7th shipping. 

Michael Clark

Something To Be Won EP (vinyl pre-order)

The debut EP from singer songwriter Michael Clark on 12″ Vinyl. 

Michael’s mesmerically haunting songs recall the simplicity of Elliot Smith, Pink Moon-era Nick Drake and elements of his father Gavin Clark’s (Clayhill, Uncle) work. 

Pre-order for January 25th release. 

Back in stockShipping now

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead -Tao of the Dead Part III (vinyl) 

David Byrne – True Stories, A Film By David Byrne: The Complete Soundtrack (cd) 

Cosmograf – When Age Has Done Its Duty (vinyl) 

Deep Purple – Fireball / In Rock (2018 remastered versions) (purple vinyl) 

Genesis – Classic Logo / Lamb Faces (t-shirts) 

Carl Glover – Ian Anderson (poster/print) 

Stephen Lambe – Carry On On Screen (book) 

John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest – The 50th Anniversary Concert (cd) 

Marillion – Clutching At Straws (boxsets) 

Rush – Hemispheres 40th Anniversary (Super Deluxe) 

Roine Stolt’s The Flower King Manifesto Of An Alchemist (signed) 

The Syn – Syndestructible (vinyl) 

Tiger Moth Tales – Story Tellers Parts One & Two (vinyl) 

Tom Sheehan – R.E.M: Athens GA – R.E.M In Photographs 1984-2005 (book) 

The Top Of The Poppers – Sing And Play The The Hits Of David Bowie (yellow vinyl) 

Andrew Wild – Queen On Track (book) 

Law and Purpose

Effort required to *enforce* a law is a reasonable indicator of its validity. If we need to go out of the way to enforce something, then it might just not be compatible with English conception of law.  Hayek says, law simply helps us coexist. Its function is not to achieve specific goals set by some authority.

“In the usual sense of purpose, namely the anticipation of a particular, foreseeable event, the law indeed does not serve any purpose but countless different purposes of different individuals. It provides only the means for a large number of different purposes that as a whole are not known to anybody. In the ordinary sense of purpose law is therefore not a means to any purpose, but merely a condition for successful pursuit of most purposes. Of all multi-purpose instruments it is probably the one after language which assists the greatest variety of human purposes. It certainly has not been made for any one known purpose but rather has developed because it made people who operated under it more effective in the pursuit of their purposes”
— Friedrich Hayek

Law is indeed a lot like language, its function is to help us transact. And when it’s not structured to help us achieve our goals optimally, then alternatives tends to emerge. Black market norms are a good example. In that sense, one of the differences between a failed and a stable nation is also the nature of laws. More the law deviates from individual needs, more the corruption, disorder etc. In other words, lawlessness might indicate a problem with the law, not the law breakers.


Yep, it’s Black Friday. And, for this deal, you not only DON’T have to leave your home, but you’ll ALSO get lots and lots of nutrition for the mind!  

Right now, Tom is offering a Master membership to Liberty Classroom for only $287.

If you use the link below and purchase a LC Master membership, I (Brad) will happily and eagerly and joyfully send you a signed copy of IN DEFENSE OF ANDREW JACKSON as well as RUSSELL KIRK: AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE as my gift.

After you’ve purchased your membership with the link, let me know, and I’ll send the books to you.  Make sure to let me how you want them inscribed.  

To Tom! To Liberty! To Classrooms of the mind!

The Rise of Viktor Orbán, Right-Wing Populist ~ The Imaginative Conservative

To secular and leftist Europeans, Hungary’s Fundamental Law came as a shock. The preamble set the tone—it is the opening line of the Hungarian National Hymn (anthem): “God, bless the Hungarians.” That was already too much for The Guardian. A writer for that left-wing British newspaper noted that the new constitution’s “preamble is heavily influenced by the Christian faith and commits Hungary to a whole new set of values, such as family, nation, fidelity, faith, love and labour.” It was enough to point this out: further criticism would apparently have been superfluous.
— Read on

I consider myself an anti nationalist, but I found this article absolutely fascinating–BB.

Ad Fontes

From Lutheran Service Book’s Daily Lectionary for November 22:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:6)

Or, to put it another way (especially if you’re George Frederic Handel (and his librettist Charles Jennens):

But wait, there’s more …

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” (Revelation 19:17-18)

Or, to put it another way, if you’re Genesis with Peter Gabriel:


— Rick Krueger

Harmony and Order: Giving Thanks ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Of course, I do not want or desire to conflate that which is sacred with that which is profane. The Sabbath does not exist for the right of association. Yet, as we pause and reflect on the many great and grand blessings bestowed upon us as Americans, we would be foolish to ignore the tradition of self-governance, of community building, and of the right to association. Once again, it is healthy to remember what we should cherish. Plato, after all, told us we must love what should be loved and hate what should be hated. In rough times, we too readily remember the hate part but forget the love part. As you celebrate your time with your family, eat turkey and mashed potatoes, and watch, for the 1000th time, Home Alone, don’t forget to give thanks—to all of those who came before us and, especially, to He who created us in His image to know, to serve, and to love Him.
— Read on

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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