Category Archives: Human nature

Today’s Quote: Orwell on Patriotism

“Patriotism has nothing to do with conservatism. It is devotion to something that is changing but is felt to be mystically the same … I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions.”
George Orwell, ‘My Country Left or Right’

If you’re interested in the power of the most ordinary emotions, you might like my book.

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Today’s Quote: Matthew Arnold on the human few

But in each class there are born a certain number of natures with a curiosity about their best self, with a bent for seeing things as they are, for disentangling themselves from machinery, for simply concerning themselves with reason and the will of God, and doing their best to make these prevail;—for the pursuit, in a word, of perfection. To certain manifestations of this love for perfection mankind have accustomed themselves to give the name of genius; implying by this name, something original and heaven-bestowed in the passion. But the passion is to be found far beyond those manifestations of it to which the world usually gives the name of genius, and in which there is, for the most part, a talent of some kind or other, a special and striking faculty of execution, informed by the heaven-bestowed ardour or genius. It is to be found in many manifestations besides these, and may best be called, as we have called it, the love and pursuit of perfection; culture being the true nurse of the pursuing love, and sweetness and light the true character of the pursued perfection. Natures with this bent, emerge in all classes,—among the Barbarians, among the Philistines, among the Populace. And this bent always tends to take them out of their class, and to make their distinguishing characteristic, not their Barbarianism or their Philistinism, but their humanity. They have, in general, a rough time of it in their lives; but they are sown more abundantly than one might think, they appear where and when one least expects it, they set up a fire which enfilades, so to speak, the class with which they are ranked; and, in general, by the extrication of their best self as the self to develop, and by the simplicity of the ends fixed by them as paramount, they hinder the unchecked predominance of that class life which is the affirmation of our ordinary self, and seasonably disconcert mankind in their worship of machinery.

Matthew Arnold

If you like thinking for yourself, you might like my book.

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Today’s Quote: 18 March 2017

Today’s quote is from from Michael Novak’s fantastic Free Persons and the Common Good, which I’m reading on a long weekend in Oslo in between watching the world biathlon championships. Someone really needs to issue a new edition of this book, and hopefully Novak’s recent passing into eternity will focus minds. This quote isn’t from him but de Tocqueville.

“If men are to remain civilised or to become civilised, the art of association must develop and improve among them at the same speed as equality of conditions spread.”

Books like this are hard work but worth it. If you’re in the mood for something funny, wise and short instead, why not try my latest book.

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Filed under Freedom, Human nature, Politics, Today's Quote, What I'm Reading

What I’m Reading: The Biology of Politics

I’m still making up my mind about this long, intriguing essay which seeks a high-level analysis of political dynamics via biological imperatives. It certainly explains the interest of a left-wing thinker like Cory Doctorow in the possibility of a post-scarcity economics in our technological future.

“To my eye, it is inherently clear that this r/K divergence is the origin of our political divide. Indeed, while policy proposals from Conservatives are predicated upon the premise that resources are inherently limited, and individuals should have to work and demonstrate merit to acquire them, Liberals advocate on behalf of policy proposals which seem to be predicated upon an assumption that there are always more than sufficient resources to let everyone live lives of equal leisure. To a Liberal, any scarcity must clearly arise due to some individual’s personal greed and evil altering a natural state of perpetual plenty.”

Read the whole thing.

If you’re interested in making sense of our strange new political world, you might like my book.

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Filed under Economics, Human nature, Politics

Today’s Quote: 17 February 2017

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own”

—Marcus Aurelius

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February 17, 2017 · 10:40 pm

Today’s Quote, 2 January 2017

“[O]ne of the greatest menaces… [is] people with intelligence deciding that the point is to become grimly grey and intense and unhappy, and tiresome because the world and many of its people are in a bad way.”

–James Thurber

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Today’s Quote, 27 December 2016

“People don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.”

– David Ogilvy

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Filed under Business, Human nature, Today's Quote