Review of “The Last Chronicle of Barset” by Anthony Trollope

October 25, 2010
And so ends the Chronicles of Barsetshire . . . I'm sad to say. Between this series and the Pallisers, I've read all twelves loosely-related books. I can't quite believe that I'm done and that there are no more.

I'm not sure I can sum up any better than Trollope himself, at the end:

But to me Barset has been a real county, and its city a real city, and the spires and towers have been before my eyes, and the voices of the people are known to my ears, and the pavement of the city ways are familiar to my footsteps. To them all I now say farewell.

Even for Trollope this book is long and, for long stretches, nothing of import seems to happen. Nevertheless, at this point in the series, if you've come this far, you don't care. You appreciate the series for what it is and enjoy.

No author I've ever read makes nothing seem so enjoyable. The speed of events work wonders in transporting the reader to the time and place of the books - everything is slow and relaxing the British countryside in the mid-1800s, and that's as it should be.

My little window of escape into times-gone-by is now closed. I'll have to seek out another one.

I can't resist passing on this piece of advice before I take my leave:

‘And now, Conway,’ she said, ‘I will give you some advice. And when in after-days you shall remember this interview, and reflect how that advice was given you–with what solemnity.’–here she clasped both her hands together–‘I think that you will follow it. Clara Van Siever will now become your wife.’ ‘I do not know that at all,’ said Dalrymple. ‘Clara Van Siever will now become your wife,’ repeated Mrs Broughton in a louder voice, impatient of opposition. ‘Love her. Cleave to her. Make her flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone. But rule her! Yes, rule her! Let her be your second self, but not your first self. Rule her! Love her. Cleave to her. Do not leave her alone, to feed on her own thoughts as I have done–as I have been forced to do. Now go.


Moral revolutions

October 25, 2010

From the New York Times:

In “The Honor Code,” we accompany Detective Appiah as he tries to figure out who killed three morally repugnant practices: dueling among British gentlemen, foot-binding among the Chinese elite and slavery in the British Empire. In each case he shows how notions of honor sustained the practice for centuries, and how (spoiler alert) it was honor that later killed the practice in just a few decades, making these cases the “moral revolutions” referred to in his subtitle.

I would argues that these "morally repugnant practices" have not necessarily been killed.

First, I would argue that morality is subject to fads, like fashion. Chinese foot-binders of yore, would be shocked and horrified by modern tattooing and piercing (and obesity!). No one expects tattooing, for example, to stay popular forever. Times change. Honor culture has changed as well, vestiges of the old system still survive in low class settings, but the upper classes still have their notions of honor. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking hard enough.

Second, I would argue that when something that has been with humans forever "goes away" you should be very skeptical. Slavery has been with human society since before there was human society. It would be truly astonishing if slavery disappeared. In most Western societies, I believe slavery still exists. What distinguishes modern slavery, from old-fashioned slavery is that modern slavery is administered by government (like many other things in modern times). Slaves are, by definition, dependent on their masters. Dependency and slavery are inseparable. It doesn’t take much looking these days to find people who are dependent on the government. If you are dependent, you are not free – you are a slave. We just choose not to call it that.


October 25, 2010

Audacious Epigone has a great post on immigration – read all the way to the end.

Women with careers

October 25, 2010

Sonic Charmer says that men don’t and shouldn’t want to be with women with high-powered careers:

This isn’t feminist, or enlightened of me, to put out there. But more importantly, I think it’s the truth: a woman’s high-status career is bringing nothing to the table that is of any use to a man. It’s not like he can think “well she’s making $X so I can slack off”. (Or, he can think that, but be beta.) So her career does not relieve him of any responsibilities. It doesn’t help him. All it does is take her attention and focus out of the home for extended periods of time. But his attention and focus has to be out of the home for extended periods of the time (because he’s a man – unless he wants to be thought of as not one).

In this way, a woman having a powered career is about as much use and appeal to a man as if she had a time-consuming hobby. For women, careers are options. For men, they are obligatory. If a woman with a JD or an M.D. had a family and decided to take time off for the career, absolutely no one would think twice about it. Good for her! But if a man were to do the equivalent – raised eyebrows. Oh, there might be a bunch of faux “I think that’s great!” comments from certain types, but they wouldn’t really mean it. Deep down.

I agree with what he says . . . but. My wife makes almost 33% more than I do and it definitely has some advantages (and disadvantages).

Advantages: The money is nice. Really nice. We don’t yet have kids, so a job that keeps my wife busy is nice. Also, did I mention that the money is nice? Lots of extra money and some additional time to myself everyday is worth a lot to me. I really can’t overstate this.

Disadvantages: You – as the man – need to be aware of the imbalance created by the situation and act accordingly. As kids come along, it’s going to be harder for your wife to work 60 hours a week.

I think the disadvantages are manageable if you know what you’re doing. We have organized our life such that we can live indefinitely on my salary alone. If my wife stops working, we’d have to make some adjustments to our living standards, but they’d be manageable. In other words, I would – like Sonic Charmer – recommend against relying heavily on your wife’s income. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a worthless consideration. Any beta-ization that occurs because you are the primary breadwinner is manageable with basic game. You let yourself turn into a beta, it’s not forced on you by economic circumstances.

The logical conclusion of feminism

October 24, 2010

Courtesy of a Taiwanese woman:

A Taiwanese woman left uninspired by the standard of men on offer in her city will finally tie the knot — with herself, Shanghai Daily reported early Saturday.

Chen Wei-yih has bought a flowing white bridal grown, planned a lavish reception and even hired a wedding photographer to mark her unusual matrimony, which takes place next month

“The paradox of non-punishment”

October 22, 2010

Here’s the question:

Suppose counterfeiting carried a mandatory life sentence. In the face of such a severe penalty, no one counterfeits, and thus the penalty is never imposed. This is a desirable outcome, and yet most of us would not wish to live in such a society. Why?

My answer is that I would like to live in such a society.

I would change the question only to say that this is not "a desirable outcome" – it is "the desirable outcome."

30% of flight attendants have at least a bachelor’s degree

October 22, 2010

And other educational absurdities.

The beatings will continue until morale improves

October 22, 2010

"The government will attempt successive modification plans until something works."

Be afraid.

Germany: a Keynesian burial ground

October 22, 2010

From the WSJ:

Germany’s economy is set to grow 3.4% this year as its recovery continues across almost all sectors, the government said Thursday in its updated forecast for this year. The growth forecast for 2011 is a more modest 1.8%.The government’s previous forecast in April predicted 1.4% growth this year, before Europe’s largest economy posted a blistering 9% annualized rate of growth in the second quarter and other indicators, such as unemployment rates and business confidence, continued to suggest a more rapid rate of recovery.

. . .

Germany is recovering from its worst recession since World War II—the economy contracted 5% last year. But as recovery has become more precarious in other developed nations hit by the financial crisis, including the U.S., Germany has soldiered on.

Germany’s stimulus measures were tiny compared to our own, yet it is recovering more quickly.

A bailout of California?

October 22, 2010

People are starting to wonder if the Fed will starting buying California’s debt.

I suspect that the Fed will begin to do so, if it has not done so already.

There will be no more large-scale, Congress-approved bailouts. At least for a couple years. However, that doesn’t there won’t be more bailouts. The Fed doesn’t need anyone’s approval to buy assets . . . and California is going to need a bailout.