July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

In 1776 a group of extraordinary men came together and declared that 13 British colonies could no longer stand the erosion of their liberties under color of authority and declared independence. Those independent colonies were soon to become the United States of America one war and 13 short years later.

Today, the US finds itself at war. Support or oppose the mission, even support or oppose the troops, their service, their blood demands that at least this one day we pay attention. Enjoy what so many generations before us have sacrificed to create but take a few minutes to be thankful over it all. If you haven't lately, read the Declaration of Independence. If you're already familiar with it, promise yourself to spend at least a little time furthering those founding principles enunciated in that document. And if you're one of the many foreign friends of freedom throughout the world, think a bit about how freedom's blessings can be extended to your own land, whether by protecting what you've already got or lighting a new lamp. It can be done. It must be done.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:54 AM

June 02, 2005

The Need for Roots

The Need for Roots is an important book for me. It's difficult for a libertarian to put aside economics but in this case it's absolutely essential as the economic analysis was way off. The importance of the book is that it seems very much to capture the sociological collapse of France that led to Vichy. It does so as a precondition for its true aim, the post WW II reconstruction of France and Europe in general (it was commissioned by the UK government for that purpose). After reading this book, I've come to believe that reconstruction failed and the France that collapsed so easily under German assault is still fundamentally with us in the behavior and beliefs of its elites.

Contrary to the mythology of the Resistance dominating French society, it seems to me that it is more the spirit of Vichy that animates today's French elite than that of the Resistance. We do not think much about Vichy in the US and thus misunderstand France at just about every turn because we do not recognize what is staring us in the face. We have a France that is unsure of itself, unsure that it deserves to remain on this planet. It loves the idea of Europe because it no longer truly loves its own identity with all its heart.

For a largely self-confident people like the US, such a country makes no sense. We have no idea how to deal with it. France certainly has no idea how to deal with us.

Thus we both move along in mutual incomprehension experimenting blindly in ways to reach a modus vivendi. When we reach temporary agreement, it is by accident and surprises both sides but because we do not understand why we agree we do not know how to preserve the peace we have accidentally found and we soon return to snarling and spitting at each other as the political stars go out of alignment and there is nobody at the controls who knows what can change and yet still preserve comity.

The most crucial battle of the just defeated EU Constitution is likely one of the ones that got the least serious attention by the US government, the fight by the christian churches of Europe to include a mention of the historic role of christianity in forming Europe. It was a struggle over roots and christianity lost.

The EU is rootless in its parliamentary voting majority and this is a danger that the US ill perceives because the nature of US roots is not unitary, but federal. The US concept of factions teaches americans to be rooted in a very unique way (so unique that the author of The Need for Roots skates right past the US model, probably because she couldn't grasp it). We are americans, members of a state, rooted in our own faiths, and these multiple sources of stability (along with others too numerous to mention) allow both for the stability and health that rootedness provides a nation and the simultaneous mobility that allows the mind numbing swirl of factions to adjust to each other peacefully instead of smashing into each other and warring.

The difference between the european and US models is the difference between a tree and a ground runner that periodically puts down roots along the the length of its runners. Neither is likely to understand the other without great effort. The difference in survival strategies is too great. As long as the tree and the ground runner both "work", are both self-sustaining, they don't have to understand the deep mysteries of the other's model. But the suicidal impulse of France in 1940 was not self-sustaining. Weimar was not self-sustaining. And I don't even have an idea of how many other EU nations today are in the same boat as Weimar Germany and Vichy France but it was enough that the nations of Christendom were unable to even mention Christianity in the preamble of their proposed constitution. A Europe that is not self-sustaining is a Europe that will cause trouble the world over.

This is not currently the sort of trouble that a Zimbabwe, North Korea, or Iran will cause. The present manifestations of rootlessness are largely benign but rootlessness will cause backsliding and growing dissatisfaction with current governments in Europe, leading to new parties, new leaders, and far less connectivity to Barnett's Functioning Core.

The unified impulse of all current mainstream political currents in the EU to further integrate make it incredibly likely that any new movement is likely to rise as a rejection. Integration will be perceived as a source of rootlessness and to become rooted, integration will be rejected as a necessary price. How far the backsliding goes is a great unknown but what is guaranteed is that it will be an unpleasant and likely dangerous development.

Understanding the need for roots in today's europe is the first step in lancing this boil on the global body politic before it becomes dangerous. You could do far worse than pick up Simone Weil's 1943 attempt at diagnosing an earlier manifestation of the same malady.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:20 AM

August 20, 2003

New Urbanism

I discovered new urbanism some time ago but just noted it as a welcome movement away from the really awful communities I saw being built up under the single use zoning ethos. Since I've recently tripped across the old and established fact that space matters, that development styles matter, I did a little more exploration of the subject. I found an interesting blog called City Comforts that covers the subject.

I had a great flashback reading it as it's quite critical of the right wing and libertarianism as having nothing original of import to say on the subject of creating livable urban spaces, a criticism that used to be very common about conservative urban policy. Well, conservatives, no doubt tiring of the constant ribbing, eventually did get an urban policy and lo and behold, they started getting elected in major cities as their ideas looked pretty good compared to the liberal ones that had failed so obviously in cities across the US.

Today, it's urban land use that's a blank hole in the conservative (and libertarian) ideology. Sure, you have throwaway lines about how there's no Republican or Democrat way to sweep the streets but when things aren't going right on a large scale, there should be party differences you can present to the voters on any issue, including space planning.

The bad planning decisions of previous generations have created developments that simply require automobiles to do even the most basic of tasks and encourage isolation. That's no way to run a community but the default planning structures almost everybody has positively encourage it.

There needs to be some sort of reform of these structures. As a matter of ideology, I think that the optimal solution will end up with either no government involvement or only minimal interference but right now the work to prove that is true simply hasn't been done.

As always, feel free to prove me woefully uninformed in flitters

Posted by TMLutas at 04:52 PM

August 19, 2003

Conceptions of space

America is a funny place. People immigrate to New York, never go beyond its suburbs and think that they've seen America. In fact, you can't even understand New York unless you've seen Dallas, Chicago, and a few other US cities for comparison. It's simply not possible to understand the scale of the place until you've done at least one major interstate drive (my first one was NY to Washington, DC, my wife's was NY to Chicago) to get a sense of scale.

Once you start looking around, you see more and more how differences in how people live, how much space they put between buildings, between each other, can affect the local culture and outlook. There's a great deal of stress in having people jammed next to each other cheek to jowl. Spreading things out changes the background noise of a place in a surprisingly pleasant way. No doubt architects and city planners have said this for centuries but as we gain more control over our surroundings and gain the ability to spread out or cluster by choice instead of need, it's something that we need to include into a new aesthetic, not that people aren't already trying.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:20 PM