Linked and Loaded Brunch

Links to what I’ve been reading.

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto raps your knuckles with the “knowledge stick:”

[…]To prevent the breakdown of industrial and commercial progress, hundreds of creative reformers concluded that the world needed a shared set of facts. Knowledge had to be gathered, organized, standardized, recorded, continually updated, and easily accessible—so that all players in the world’s widening markets could, in the words of France’s free-banking champion Charles Coquelin, “pick up the thousands of filaments that businesses are creating between themselves.”

The result was the invention of the first massive “public memory systems” to record and classify—in rule-bound, certified, and publicly accessible registries, titles, balance sheets, and statements of account—all the relevant knowledge available, whether intangible (stocks, commercial paper, deeds, ledgers, contracts, patents, companies, and promissory notes), or tangible (land, buildings, boats, machines, etc.). Knowing who owned and owed, and fixing that information in public records, made it possible for investors to infer value, take risks, and track results. The final product was a revolutionary form of knowledge: “economic facts.”

Jonathan Ree chronicles the change in atheism:

The idea of atheism has never been as clear as you might expect. Etymologically, it ought to refer to the idea that there is no such thing as God, or an attitude of indifference or defiance even if there is. In practice, however, it has usually been used by religious sectarians to hit out at anyone suspected of doctrinal deviancy, or – in one version of a message received by Moses – those who “go a-whoring after strange gods”. Socrates, for example, was denounced asatheos by his fellow Athenians, though they knew he was a believer in his way, and when he tried to defend himself he felt, according to Plato, as if he was “fighting with shadows.” When St Paul talked about “atheists” (“strangers … without God in the world”) he did not mean unbelievers, but traditionalists who had not heeded the gospel of Christ; and Christians got a dose of their own semantic medicine when they found themselves arraigned as “atheists” under the provisions of Roman law.

Kenan Malik turns a good post into a great essay, exploring the myths of a Christian Europe:

[…]Christianity has certainly been the crucible within which the intellectual and political cultures of Western Europe have developed over the past two millennia. But the claim that Christianity embodies the ‘bedrock values of Western civilization’ and that the weakening of Christianity inevitably means the weakening of liberal democratic values greatly simplifies both the history of Christianity and the roots of modern democratic values – not to mention underplays the tensions that often exist between ‘Christian’ and ‘liberal’ values.[…]

Vanessa Veselka marches to the beat of unionization at an Amazon storehouse:

I don’t know precisely what’s going to come out of the Occupy protests of the last few months. But I know what I did after the “Battle for Seattle.” I decided to get a job working in the Amazon warehouse solely for the purpose of unionizing it. No one asked me to do it. No one paid me. I took the task on out of a newfound zeal and a belief in what unionizing could do.

Up until then my ideas about unions were vague. I was pro-union in orientation, not experience. I had seen John Sayles’ Matewan and knew that “Solidarity Forever” was a song, but that was about it. What ideas I did have were steeped in nostalgia and rooted in a desire for working class authenticity.  I found ethical simplicity of a world in which the boss is the guy in the office, and the worker is the guy in the coal pit very appealing, but it wasn’t all that relevant.

I missed this post over Christmas, but David Frum lays down the real war for Christmas:

We hear a lot about “the war on Christmas.” But the true seasonal struggle is the war within Christmas, a single holiday shared by two deeply antagonistic religions.

Religion 1 is the religion of Jesus Christ, the figure whose birth the holiday commemorates. This religion emphasizes universal grace and forgiveness.

Religion 2 is the religion of Santa Claus, the holiday’s most visible representative. Santa upholds a much sterner creed: “You better watch out / You better not cry / Better not pout / I’m telling you why / Santa Claus is coming to town / He’s making a list / And checking it twice / Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice …”

While Santa is checking his list twice for naughty children to be denied gifts, Jesus rebuked a disciple who asked if he really was expected to forgive an offending brother over and over again. (“Then Peter came up and said to [Jesus], ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him: ‘I do not say to you seven times, but 70 times seven.’ ”)

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