Intangible Assets

What is wealth?

At one time, the answer seemed perfectly clear to most people: ample food and large amounts of the tangible resources – often gold or silver – that enabled those who had them to acquire whatever goods or services were available. Power, too, could be a (very dangerous – I’ll come back to that) wealth-substitute, because with it a person could acquire control over the same kinds of goods without having to pay for them.

Nowadays for most people wealth is something quite different. The rich don’t hold piles of gold or silver, they own stocks, bonds, private companies and/or pieces of investment partnerships. Even fat bank accounts are usually an afterthought – a tiny (because unproductive) fraction of their aggregate wealth.

The most tangible assets that t...

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The Progressive Pravda

To my frequent sorrow, I still read The New York Times. It’s an old, old habit, and one I have tried to give up – but most mornings, after the Beloved Spouse has finished the crossword puzzle, the paper stares at me from across the breakfast table and I just can’t resist picking it up. Reading The Times, I tell myself, will give me a chance to understand the way the other side looks at the world.

My efforts bear only small amounts of fruit. The paper does provide me with daily doses of progressive invective, occasionally even bolstered by carefully curated facts, but in truth, I always pretty much know what their take will be on whatever happened yesterday before I begin perusing the paper’s printed rehashes...

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The Climate Crusade

Although I am a skeptic regarding the extent of mankind’s impact on global warming, I don’t particularly like it when people describe the scare as a hoax or as a fraud on the public. Hoaxes and frauds executed on a grand scale require a concerted intent to deceive, which I think very few, if any, climate alarmists have. There is no global conspiracy to pull the wool over our eyes – the very idea is ludicrous.

Given the usual run of human foibles, however, systematic errors need only attractive theories, dramatically skewed incentives and confirmation bias to present themselves as seemingly unchallengable truths.    

Incidentally, you’ve probably already noticed that in the first paragraph I referred to the focus of climate alarmism as global warming rather than with the more...

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Blurred Lines

A few years ago, while the Beloved Spouse and I were visiting friends in southwestern Texas, our host observed that the most fundamental distinction represented by the border is that on one side there are property rights and the rule of law, on the other, not. Other than that, he said, it’s the same land and people.

I found my friend’s comment memorable for its simplicity and for the clarity with which it illuminated two characteristics of American law and culture that are among the most essential building blocks of our society’s successes.

What attracted – and still attracts – millions to our shores? The chance to abandon the stations of their births and build new lives and identities based on their own efforts...

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A Memorable Morning

Last week, the Beloved Spouse and I were in Portugal on a bike trip organized by a company called Backroads. We have done such trips before.

Backroads trips are a nice way to get enough exercise while vacationing to feel good about enjoying the local foods and wines, in my case all in close proximity to the Beloved. Rounding out the experience, there’s always an optional and mercifully light daily lecture on some aspect of local history, culture or agronomy, so we can learn a bit about the lands we ride through. 

The groups of paying participants in such trips tend to consist of seven or eight middle aged or older couples and maybe a couple of strays – all are outdoorsy, almost by definition, and we have found most to be genuinely interesting people...

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A Dangerous Naïveté

There is a political naïveté on the part of the global business and entertainment elites that might be charming if it weren’t dangerous. Or maybe what passes for naïveté is actually a willful blindness on their parts or, worse, a rancid cynicism. In any event, too many titans of the business and entertainment worlds seem intent on fulfilling the prediction often mis-attributed to Lenin that “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.”

Many consumer-oriented Western companies now kowtow to the wishes of the Chinese government. With their eyes on a fast-growing market of 1...

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Carpe Diem

Over the last year, deaths, dooms and chronic, debilitating conditions have overtaken people close to me in unprecedented profusion. In previous decades such banes had come rarely and one at a time, this year in a flood. Some were the nearly inevitable results of age, others wholly shocking.

We spend most of our lives half-consciously averting our eyes from our eventual fates. Mortality is something we want to understand in only the driest, most intellectualized sense – we keep it at arm’s length. Internalization of its meaning comes later, if at all.

Men, in particular, tend to get into a groove in their twenties, then more or less ignore changes in their bodies for the next forty years or so...

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Trump-Hatred

I have spent a fair bit of time wondering what motivates the extreme Trump-hatred that I see daily in the press and among some of my nearest and dearest. Sure, many of the same people strongly disliked George W. Bush, or thought him an idiot, so in that sense the personalization of opposition to Trump seems almost normal; but there’s more to Trump-hatred than the now-customary anti-Republican disdain among the elites. Trump’s detractors hate him. Many have even convinced themselves, and seek to convince us, that he’s some sort of Nazi – a warmonger, a bigot and an authoritarian. Let’s look at Trump’s record as regards each of these alleged character flaws.

Ironically, the same people who, at first, were certain that Trump would prove to be a warmonger have nothing but contempt fo...

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Global Anti-Americanism, Considered

For one of my book clubs, I recently read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It’s the tale of a Princeton-educated Pakistani who both falls in love with an American woman (who is emotionally wounded, and thereby doomed), and comes to detest if not America per se, our nation’s global footprint. For reasons that will be obvious from this post, the novel was far closer to home for me than most.

Apart from that gut reaction on my part, the question of general interest that arose from my reading of Hamid’s book is whether the acid conclusion by the novel’s narrator that America has a consistently baleful role in the world is correct...

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Different Narratives

A recent poll of 1,000 American undergraduates found that of those who self-identified as Republicans, 74% were very proud to be American, as compared with only 8% of self-identified Democrats (https://www.thecollegefix.com/poll-8-of-democratic-college-students-74-of-republican-college-students-very-proud-to-be-american/). These results reflect profoundly different perspectives on our past.

One narrative, advanced by mainstream historians since the nation’s birth, casts American history as a story of the triumph of freedom over tyranny through the American Revolution, followed by a gradual dawning, punctuated by the Civil War and the Civil Rights Acts, of a shared understanding that all adult Americans must equally possess the same unalienable individual rights that the founders had...

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