Tag Archives: Western Civilization

Americana, the Reich and Motorcycle parts

Recently I had to replace motorcycle tire, it was simply well past its tread wear. These off road Duro tires are made in Taiwan, in fact they are commonly seen in that lesser known Russian Ural motorcycles. These tires are known to be puncture resistant, and more importantly they look pretty good on a Triumph. My side-mirrors are from CRG, handle bars from British Customs, and engine/crash guard from SW-MOTECH. This is not an advertisement, but just an illustration of my ability to make choices.

Making choices for customizing motorcycles is not so different from general life choices. We pick vendors, and parts which are most suitable to our purposes and palette. Just like how we pick our grocery stores, or movie place or restaurants or investment plans. We build life and systems around us based on our choices, those who make better choices build better systems. That freedom to make choices deserves a bit of an appreciation.

Last week I was watching this TV series called “The Man in the High Castle”. It details an alternate reality where Axis powers won the war. And the US is split in half between the Reich and Imperial Japan. The series also brings in the concept of multiverse, where there are parallel realities with different outcomes. In a certain universes Axis powers rule, in others it’s the Allied forces. So, in the story Nazis realized this and decided to build this machine to travel to alternate realities, obviously to conquer them! More than scary it sounded foolish.

Even if by some random stroke of luck Hitler wins the war, they can’t hold a candle to the Allied forces in the parallel universe. So, most likely outcome would be they lose their current reality to Americans from those alternate universes. Interestingly, even here successful outcome comes down to that simple ability to make productive choices.

German Reich is forced to make choices based on meaningless criteria, while Americans make choices to build efficient systems. While Reich has to pander, Americans make choices which can deliver results. Nazis artificially limit their resource pool, while Americans allow winners to emerge from anywhere. Americans simply produce exceptional results because of their ability to make rational choices while learning from their mistakes. Over a period of time it allows best of the ideas to emerge and artificial discriminatory practices to be discarded, this eventually benefits everyone. So, one criterion to measure a legislation would be its impact on broadening choices, seems like that’ll tell whether it’s taking us closer to the Reich or to Americana.

Cicero’s Decaying republic

Before our own time, the customs of our ancestors produced excellent men, and eminent men preserved our ancient customs and the institutions of their forefathers.  But though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colours, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colours, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines.  For what is now left of the ‘ancient customs’ one which he said ‘the commonwealth of Rome’ was ‘founded firm’?  They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown.  And what shall I say of the men? For the loss of our customs is due to our lack of men, and for this great evil we must not only give an account, but must even defend ourselves in every way possible, as if we were accused of capital crime.  For it is through our own faults, not by any accident, that we retain only the form of the commonwealth, but have long since lost its substance.

–Cicero, The Republic, Book 5, Section 1.

Pieper on the 7 Virtues

How the virtues all tie together:

“First, the Christian is one who, in faith, becomes aware of the reality of the triune God.  Second: the Christian strives, in hope, for the total fulfillment of his being in eternal life.  Third: the Christian directs himself, in the divine virtue of love, to an affirmation of God and neighbor that surpasses the power of any natural love.  Fourth: the Christian is prudent; namely, he does not allow his view on reality to be controlled by the Yes or No of his will, but rather he makes this Yes or No of the will dependent upon the truth of things.  Fifth: the Christian is just; that is, he is able to live “with the other” in truth; he sees himself as a member among members of the Church, of the people, and of any community.  Sixth: the Christian is brave, that is, he is prepared to suffer injury and, if need be, death for the truth and for the realization of justice.  Seventh: the Christian is temperate; namely, he does not permit his desire to possess and his desire for pleasure to become destructive and inimical to his being.”

–Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart (San Francisco, Calif.: Ignatius, 1991), 10-11.

Real Community: Hutchinson and Longmont

A years ago, while on a panel with that extraordinary radio personality, Mike Church, and a few folks from another website, I think I caused a bit of a stir by arguing that a real man’s existence was about protecting one’s family from the world, conserving what little order could be found in the family against the shattering disorders of the modern and post-modern abyss.  

While I’ve always favored a republic and have been a republican as far back as I can remember, my republic would be a Harringtonian one of extremely well-armed small families and associations of friends and like-minded persons.  In my Harringtonian vision, admittedly somewhat idyllic and medieval, communities would come together for cultural celebrations, book festivals, commerce, and a celebration of the sacraments.  

It would also, to my mind, uphold the essence of the American founding as understood through the Northwest Ordinance.  

And, in the just preservation of rights and property, it is understood and declared, that no law ought ever to be made, or have force in the said territory, that shall, in any manner whatever, interfere with or affect private contracts or engagements, bona fide, and without fraud, previously formed. 

While I very much agree with our own John Willson that no “founding” ever existed, only foundings, I would not look askance at any one who claimed the above, taken from Article III of the profound 1787 law, serves as the “mission statement” of the founding of this republic.  For those of us who love ordered liberty, we might speak in terms of commerce and business, but the right to associate applies as much to families, churches, and schools as it does businesses.  If we do not have the right to form a family as we chose, the right to open a business means nothing.  The right of association is all-encompassing.  We have the right to form families, businesses, universities, and, even, websites dedicated to Russell Kirk’s vision of the good, the true, and the beautiful.

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Batman at 75

[From 2014]

“Happy Birthday, Batman”

Just a little over a year ago, I came out of the closet.  I admitted it to the world and without reservations.  

I was and remain a Batman devotee.  Much to my surprise, a lot of The Imaginative Conservative readers are also rather fond of Batman.  So, in my weirdness (at least in this particular one), I’m not alone.


Even more, I’m a Batman snob.  No “pows”or “ka-pows,” no silly side kicks in Disney-lite costumes, no Bat dances, and no Bat “shark repellants.”  I don’t want Adam West, Michael Keaton, or George Clooney as Batman.  I don’t want the Batmobile driving up to the Burger King drive thru window to order something.

I want my Batman dark, serious, dedicated, persevering, swift, and, when necessary, brutal.  

Happy 75th Birthday, Batman!

As you might very well know, today is Batman’s 75th birthday.  On this day, three quarters of a century ago, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics 27 (cover date: May 1939).  Here’s the official write up from the company, DC (Time-Warner) that owns the Batman name:

In celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary, DC Entertainment is partnering with thousands of comic book retailers and bookstores across the nation to celebrate “Batman Day” on Wednesday, July 23. As part of the festivities, fans who visit participating retailers receive a free, special edition of DETECTIVE COMICS #27, featuring a reimagining of Batman’s 1939 comic book debut, designed by Chip Kidd with a script by The New York Times #1 bestselling author Brad Meltzer.

In addition to the comic book, DC Entertainment is providing retailers access to an assortment of other collectibles to help in the celebration of “Batman Day” including a Batman 75th anniversary cape, bookmarks featuring essential Batman graphic novels and four Batman masks designed by comic book artist Ryan Sook spotlighting a variety of the character’s iconic looks from his 75-year history.

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Why I Went to CU: An Interview

An interview with Clint Talbott, Summer 2014.

Why did you choose a life in academe?

Two of the finest persons I knew as a child were my maternal grandfather and mother, both teachers. One Saturday, my grandfather decided to take me to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in his hometown of Hays, Kansas.  He was always incredibly dignified.  As we drove onto the campus of Fort Hays State, he saw a parking spot reserved for “Professor” somebody.  He looked at me with his typical mischievous eye, and said, “Bradley, today, I think I’ll be a professor.”  Whatever reason, I knew that a professor was somebody of importance (who, after all, could be wiser than my grandfather?), and the idea stuck with me throughout all of my schooling.  I also had the great fortune of having a number of amazing teachers and professors, from grade-school Dominican nuns to some of the best lecturers and thinkers imaginable at the University of Notre Dame and Indiana University.

How would you characterize the state of political discourse in the United States today?

Terrible.  Absolutely terrible.  But I must admit, I write this as a 46-year old jaded romantic who once would have given much of his life to one of the two major political parties.  

Political discourse as of 2014 comes down to two things 1) loudness and 2) meaningless nothings.  Oration is a dead art, and the news from CNN, Fox, and other outlets is just superficial talking points with some anger and show.  Radio is just as bad, if not worse.  As one noted journalist, Virginia Postrel, has argued, we probably shouldn’t take anything that someone such as Ann Coulter says with any real concern, as she “a performance artist/comedian, not a serious commentator.”  

Two examples, I think, help illustrate this.  Look at any speech delivered by almost any prominent American from 1774 to 1870 or so.  The speeches are rhetorically complicated, the vocabulary immense, and the expectations of a well-informed audience high.  To compare the speech of a 1830s member of Congress with one—perhaps even the best—in 2014 is simply gut-wrenchingly embarrassing.

Another example.  The authors of the Constitution expected us to discuss the most serious matters with the utmost gravity.  Nothing should possess more gravitas in a republic than the issue of war.  Yet, as Americans, we have not engaged in a properly constitutional debate on the meaning of war since the close of World War II.  We’ve seen massive protests, some fine songs, and a lot of bumper stickers, but no meaningful dialogue.

As a humanist, I crave answers for this, and I desire a return to true—not ideological—debate and conversation.  Academia has much to offer the larger political world in this.

If you were asked to summarize what you hope to accomplish during your year as visiting scholar, what would you say?

I have dedicated my own academic career to the study of two things: 1) the human person as a unique manifestation of universal truths in a culturally- and temporally-specific setting; and 2) the humanities as best understood through the classics of western (and, at times, world) civilization.

CU is already rich in all of this, but I hope to add to that richness and to benefit from the same.  No community can survive without a conversation with those of the present, those of the past, and those who are to come. 

The Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at CU-Boulder was created because of a perceived imbalance of perspectives among faculty; do you see this as an issue that should be addressed, and, if so, how should it best be addressed?

Though I grew up (in Kansas) vacationing in Boulder and the Boulder area, I have only been a part of the campus community on the day I came for the interviews.  Of course, I had a brilliant time.  Regardless, I don’t really know what the state of discourse is on CU’s campus.  I plan on being involved in as many discussions as possible, and I also plan on sharing those discussions with non-Coloradans through the website, The Imaginative Conservative (imaginativeconservative.org).  

And, of course, it’s an absolute privilege to be invited to be an additional voice in such a vibrant intellectual community of scholars as that in Boulder.  My voice, I hope, though will be that of Brad Birzer who happens to have strong conservative and libertarian leanings rather than as a libertarian or conservative who happens to be named Brad Birzer.

And, as much as I appreciate a relatively recent historical figure such as Barry Goldwater, I still much prefer Cicero and Virgil.

How do you view the value of higher education today, particularly given its rising cost and rising student-loan burden?

This is a terribly difficult problem, and, from what little I know of economics, so much has changed over the past fifty years due to strange incentives in funding, etc.  But, we also continue to specialize and specialize in our professions and disciplines to the point we can no longer talk across the self-imposed barriers.  A person might gain from this, but a society and the persons that make up that society do not.

I’m rather a devoted patriot of and for liberal education.  From Socrates forward, the goal of a liberal education has been to “liberate” the human person from the everyday details of this world and the tyranny of the moment.  Our citizenship, as liberally-educated persons, belongs to the eternal Cosmopolis, not to D.C. or London or. . . .

College-level education must return to the fundamentals of the liberal tradition.  Interestingly, this is the least expensive way to teach and to be educated.  The best education involves a professor, a group of students, a primary text, and three hours a week in discussion.

Given how readily available the texts of the greats have become through the liberation and decentralization of publishing through the internet, the complete writings of Plato are within reach of anyone with access to the web.

Real education does not have to be expensive.

This is in no way meant to discount professional education.  Training for engineering, law, the sciences, etc. is vital for a functioning and healthy world and happy citizenry.  

But, in our own titillation with what we can create, we often forget what came before and what will need to be passed on in terms of ethics and wisdom.  The best lawyer, the best engineer, the best chemist, will be a better person for knowing the great ideas of the past: the ethics of Socrates; the sacrifice of Perpetua; and the genius of Augustine.

A Story of Friendship: Star Trek

As young children, my older brother and I watched the original Star Trek series on Saturday mornings.  We weren’t big TV watchers as a family, but Star Trek was special.  To make it even better, it was the local PBS that aired Star Trek, presenting it free of all commercials.  

Every Saturday, Todd and I awoke very early and watched the rerun for that week.  This would have been around 1975, almost a decade after the show first aired.  After each episode, Todd and I would talk, always mesmerized by the possibilities of space, life, and a billion other things.  How much of the galaxy had this crew explored?  Were they the modern Lewis & Clark?  What happened when someone transported from one place to another?  How smart were the computers?  Were the Klingons the Soviets and the Romulans the Chinese?  Or, maybe the other way around?  Why did we only see the military aspects of Starfleet?  What about the colonists, the pioneers?  How did time travel work?  If the Enterprise found itself sent back to Earth, why did it happen to arrive the same year the show was being filmed.

Pretty serious stuff for an eight year old sitting with his much admired thirteen year old brother.  

I had no idea at the time, but the show’s founder and creator, Gene Roddenberry had actually described Star Trek as a “wagon train to the stars” when he first shopped it to studios.  It would be set, though, on the space equivalent of an aircraft carrier, a mobile community as diverse as Gunsmoke’s Dodge City, he continued in his show treatment.  The crew, roughly 203 of them, would be as diverse as possible, asserting that racial prejudice and ethnic strife would be things of the past in the non-specified time of Star Trek.  Only later did the show writers decide it took place in the 2260s.  From its beginning, however, Roddenberry’s Star Trek represented a brash Kennedy-esque liberalism, a confidence that America could teach the world the principles of civilization, tolerance, and dignity.  [Sources: Whitfield and Roddenberry, THE MAKING OF STAR TREK (1968); and Paul Cantor, Gilligan Unbound (2003) and The Invisible Hand of Popular Culture (2012)]

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Liberty Classroom Black Friday

Tom Woods–the man behind so many great things in this crazy world–is holding a massive sale for his online college, Liberty Classroom. I’ve been privileged to be a part of this for the last several years, and I find it one of the most satisfying things I do.

Here’s hoping you’ll subscribe.


Beyond Tenebrae Now Available

My latest book, Beyond Tenebrae: Christianity Humanism in the Twilight of the West, is now out from Angelico Press. In it, I consider not the end of the West, but the twilight of the West and the individuals who have done so much to struggle against its demise.