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Category Archives: History

Sharia against success

When the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, part of his call is “come to success” (Hayya ʿala ‘l-falāḥ, literally “hasten to success”). The idea is that Islam leads to success in this world and the next. For the key problem in Islam is ignorance, and the answer to ignorance is guidance; specifically, the instructions given to […]

Austrians and Marxists are wrong about the state

In 1718, after admiring how orderly his recently conquered province of Livonia was, Peter the Great (r.1682-1725) commanded an enquiry into how this was so. The enquiry found that the Swedish crown had spent as much administering Livonia as Peter spent administering the entire rest of the Russian Empire. Peter promptly dismantled the provincial administration. In […]

That exporting revolution business

Afghanistan successfully held provincial and first-round presidential elections. Various folk are in the running for President. Part of building a viable democracy is building the habit of elections and change-through-elections. Since the incumbent is barred from running again (two-term limit), a new President must result. The high turnout is encouraging, especially as the Taliban threatened to disrupt the […]

First they came for the pagans and the queers

The upside of Mozilla’s purging of Brendan Eich is various folk are getting the point that penalising opinion and purging workplaces is so not a good idea. The downside is a lot of folk just don’t get the bigger issue. This piece, for example, First They Came For The Mormons, exemplifies the common notion that “this” started with […]

That honour thing

The last vestige in Anglosphere criminal law of the use of violence in defence of one’s honour is the provocation defence. It is only a defence in mitigation, not exculpation, but it harks back to the historical role of honour as a social control mechanism. The most recent controversy has been in NSW, where Yassir Hassan […]

The Russian conundrum

Bryan Caplan thinks there should be more analytical humility: in particular, that none of us know the best way to deal with Russia. Part of the difficulty is trying to work out Putin’s intentions. According to someone who spent some years as his major economic advisor, they are to take what he can get away with (via). (Which is not […]

The scope of moral concern

What Americans call “the culture wars” operate around different presumptions about human nature, social action and the scope of moral concern. Presumptions economist Thomas Sowell divided into conflicting visions; the constrained or tragic vision of human nature versus the unconstrained or utopian vision of human nature. The former sees human nature as a constraint, the latter […]

Built-in Imperialism: an era of farcical return

Alexis de Tocqueville and Friedrich Nietzsche both scored well in prognostication. De Tocqueville famously wrote in the 1830s: There are now two great nations in the world which, starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans. … The American fights against natural obstacles; the Russian is at grips […]

The joy of a peaceful society

On Wednesday evening, I was in the Melbourne CBD, coming from a regular (second Wednesday of the month) dinner-and-talk meeting. The talk had been on the Turks Head Club, a weekly dinner group that originally met at the Turks Head Tavern in Gertrude St, Soho, organised by friends of, and centred around, Dr Samuel Johnson. The dining […]

Constrained by God: an epistemic event horizon

Reading about inadvertent patterns created by Islam brings to mind how adaptability is an advantage in a civilisation. While it is true that religious belief can be something of a moveable feast, it is nevertheless true that religious doctrine–particularly text-based religious doctrine within monotheism–can be a powerful and continuing constraint. This is particularly obvious in Islam. In the […]