Friday, August 29, 2014

What I Read This Summer

Finally got through a remarkable book on tolerance by A J Conyers.  It traces the history of the idea of tolerance, and its move from a definition grounded in Christianity to a state definition.  The shift is a fascinating read, and although I've never heard of Conyers, he is a heavyweight theologian.  The side exegesis on the Trinity and its role in modelling community is new.  The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit , by A J Conyers.

 I tried to blog as I read Tombstone, The Great Chinese Famine by Yang Ji Sheng, but the point came out relentlessly.  The human toll when too much power is concentrated in too few hands is staggering.  Thirty Six Million people starved to death, that is got to death, not to mention those who suffered up to death but survived.  Communists keep pretty good records at one level if not another, so the role of the players is clear.  The point that relentlessly came out to me was point by point, we have latent every weakness China exhibited as it experienced this colossal state failure.  That is to say, it can happen here.
Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi gave a few lectures on Judaism and Zakhor, the biblical imperative to remember.  Instructive.  The Jews wrote The History, and then stopped writing history, and after living under Moslem rules, picked up the sciences, including history writing, about 500 years ago. Is history linear or circular?  What if it is faith/infidelity?  A  mind-altering way of looking at life.  Zakhor, Jewish History and Jewish Memory, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi.
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (The Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies)

 Another great group for record keeping was renaissance Florence.  Orson Wells notes that the 400 years of the Italian renaissance were times of famine, plague, civil war, economic trials and what not, and at the same time it produced Dante, Michaelangelo, Bellini, Titian, DaVinci, Fibonacci only to name a few. The same 400 years the Swiss had peace and security and they produced the cuckoo clock.  May we live in interesting times...  Gene Brucker sifts through court records from Renaissance Florence and shows us what life was like then and there from the iaring of dirty laundry, The Society of Renaissance Florence.
The Society of Renaissance Florence: A Documentary Study (Harper Torchbooks, Tb 1607)

Uber-translator of Chinese lit, maven David Hinton hikes the Mountain behind his house and ruminates on the Chinese language.  I don't speak Chinese, I barely speak English, but his fluency in Chinese art and culture will improve any China Hand.  He takes 2 dozen Chinese characters back to the roots and forward and helps explicate the Chinese character.  (He adds some Darwinism in there that is oddly jarring, tossing the academy a bone?)  He uses the Wade-Giles system instead of pinyin, which is fairly old school, and the CE and BCE (Christian Era and Before Christian Era) instead of BC and AD.  Go figure.  But I jumped from my chair when he relates the image for friends come from an image for cowrie shells, which some archeologists mistake for money but are clearly tallies.  Tallies are of who owes whom what, that is to say credit, and that the image for friends would be the means for keeping tally would be telling etymology.  Hunger Mountain, David Hinton.Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape

 I wish I could say who turned me on to "Usury, The Destroyer of Nations" by S C Mooney, but at any rate, Mooney carefully and systematically takes on the pro-usury arguments of the Calvinists.  (Calvin is essentially the godfather of modern usury practice, although just as you cannot blame Hitler on Darwin, you can't blame the FED on Calvin.)  Mooney has read the classics and Rushdoony and North, and they get direct refutation.  Mooney is qualified to proceed from theological grounds, and his argument is based on the premise that usury is wrong because God forbid it.  My premise is more Catholic, it is wrong because it does harm, but so subtly that God was obliged to expressly forbid it, and expressly repeated by Jesus.  Of course we people learn the rules and then devote the rest of our lives searching for personal exemptions.  Mooney takes a twist that I cannot follow but it is astonishing.  one argument is usury is just rent of money, just like rent of say a horse.  Well, this can be refuted quite easily, but Mooney grants it as accurate, then goes on the say the bible forbids rentals as well as usury.  The bad guys try to make usury acceptable by analogizing it to rent, to which the repsonse is to deny the parity, easy enough.  But Mooney accepts their assertion of parity, and then says "rentals are forbidden too!  Mooney's argument I think fails on this point, but it is a remarkable bit of work to read.  This you can get free online....

I've read a lot of minor papers too, but this prolegomenous 30 pages on tontines by Kent McKeever is useful regarding non-predatory finance and insurance.  Reading the history of tontines it is at least one example of where a wicked government program was adapted by the populace and turned into a good things.  Usually policy is based on wicked public practice that is adopted by the state and made legal and far worse (ponzi scheme to social security.)  As our system comes down, we'll need to rediscover robust means of economic development.  Free, caution, opens as a .pdf.

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