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Lessons

Lessons of Demopolis by Josiah Ober.

Wisdom from classical Greece: democracy and liberalism are both better off if we understand the difference between them.

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Tolerance

A Catechesis for the Tolerant by Adam J. MacLeod.

By arguing that religion is intolerant and should not be tolerated, a new book inadvertently demonstrates that liberalism grounded in personal autonomy is the least tolerant religion of all.

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Nepal

Why Nepal Has One Of The World’s Fastest-Growing Christian Populations by Danielle Preiss.

Famous for its high peaks and wind-whipped prayer flags, Hindu-majority Nepal used to be a nation unreached by Christianity.

Now the country has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world, according to the World Christian Database, which tracks global trends in Christianity.

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Critique

Shakespeare’s Critique of the American Regime: A Response to John McGinnis by Josh Craddock.

In a recent debate between Professors Robert George and John McGinnis, the latter argued that our Constitution is adequate for the governance of an irreligious people. (Public Discourse published an essay from George, making the opposite argument, based on his opening statements, which you can read here.) “Instead of relying on religion . . . to elicit the virtues needed for civic life,” McGinnis said, “the Constitution creates a commercial republic to make sure the self-interest of man helps promote virtue.”

According to this line of reasoning, a commercial society fosters self-control, honest dealing, and self-reliance among its citizens. In turn, these values promote limited government and the growth of civic associations. But is commerce alone sufficient to promote civic virtue? More importantly, can a political community survive without widely shared beliefs about what constitutes civic virtue in the first place?

Shakespeare provides an answer in The Merchant of Venice. Just as Homer was a tutor for the ancient Greeks, shaping their notions of political community, courage, and the cosmos, Shakespeare has been and continues to be an essential teacher for English-speaking peoples. Since understanding political life is essential to understanding human nature, and revealing human nature is the mark of a masterful poet, great poetry necessarily reflects political principles. Indirectly, Shakespeare informs us about the qualities of good rulers, the fate of tyrants, the obligations of citizens, and even the nature of a just regime—insofar as one can be established given human frailty.

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Heirs

Who Are the True Heirs of Zionism? by Steven Erlanger.

Zionism was never the gentlest of ideologies. The return of the Jewish people to their biblical homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty there have always carried within them the displacement of those already living on the land.

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Reduce?

Raising the Minimum Wage Won’t Reduce Inequality by Christos Makridis.

Walmart is giving more than one million of its employees a raise later this month as part of a plan that will lift all but its newest hires to at least $10 an hour.

The move, first announced last year, follows an aggressive campaign to get the largest private employer in the U.S. to lift worker wages and coincides with a nationwide push to raise federal and state minimum wages and a prolonged period of little growth in pay.

While Walmart’s decision is at least in part a result of that pressure, it’s still the action of a private company to revamp its own wage policies, as opposed to the result of a government forcing it to lift worker pay. Proponents of requiring just that argue raising the minimum helps reduce inequality. Critics contend it can actually worsen it by driving up unemployment and weakening economy-wide labor market flexibility by raising the costs firms face.

So what does the economic research say about the impact of minimum wages on income inequality and is there a better way to reduce it?

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’Ndrangheta

Meet the ’Ndrangheta by Anna Sergi.

The global war against mafias has a new number one enemy: the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta. At the centre of drug busts and manhunts throughout Europe and around the world, this mafia group from the deepest south of Italy seems to be everywhere. The ’Ndrangheta dominates the drug trade and shares business with El Chapo, all the while maintaining a constant presence in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Although it was only recently categorised as a mafia in Italian law in 2010, the ’Ndrangheta has been around for as long as its well-known sister group, the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. The name first entered the public consciousness during the 1980s and 90s, when the ’Ndrangheta carried out a series of kidnappings across Italy, in what was one of the bloodiest chapters of Calabrian history.

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Camus

Neoplatonism, Christianity, and Camus by Graham McAleer.

Few Master of Arts theses enter the history of ideas. Indeed, seldom is it that anyone but the examiners read them. Designed to consolidate undergraduate learning, few such writings have intrinsic worth. That a publisher of authors like Pierre Manent, Roger Scruton, and René Girard should print a Master of Arts thesis is a rarity. Then again, the strangeness evaporates on learning that the student work is that of Albert Camus. But not entirely, for the title of this 1936 thesis is Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism.

Camus (1913-1960) is arguably the most famous of modern philosophers. He was closely involved in the development of existentialist philosophy. This (and his movie star good looks) placed him at the pinnacle of cool. Many are astonished upon learning Camus ever had such interests. Whether one thinks of Camus as a writer of dark philosophical novels—he won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1957—or as a man of the Left, or as a debonair philanderer, to learn that he studied and wrote about Christian metaphysics plays with our notions of the man.

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Expired

Expired: Meet Your Unauthorized Federal Governmentby Danny Vinik.

Amazingly, more than $300 billion of Washington programs are running on autopilot. Why is Congress ignoring its key oversight tool?

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Feud

Twitter Nerd-Fight Reveals a Long, Bizarre Scientific Feud by Matt Simon.

The editorial in the February issue of the scientific journal Cladistics didn’t exactly drop with a bang. Cladistics has around 600 subscribers—almost half of which are libraries or other institutions—and it’s aimed at “scientists working in the research fields of evolution, systematics and integrative biology,” as the journal’s summary says. It’s a journal about building evolutionary trees of life, basically. Important, but harmless, right?

This particular editorial was, on its surface, in keeping with that approach. Heavy on jargon, only two references—one of them from 50 years ago, the other from 30—it was close to a cri de coeur. “Phylogenetic data sets submitted to this journal should be analysed using parsimony,” the editorial reads.

In short, the editors of Cladistics were insisting that anyone trying to build those trees of life had to use a method called parsimony—that, in fact, anyone who didn’t use parsimony wasn’t doing real science.

Science Twitter caught fire pretty fast after that. Researchers in the field got mad; the society that publishes the journal got mad back, publicly. Things, as they say, escalated. Now, if this were just another slap-fight in the letters page of just another mid-tier journal, that probably wouldn’t matter. But the battle over parsimony is actually the story of a bizarre war between biologists and a scientific society with a reputation for bullying. And at stake is the way scientists make sense of the natural world.

More at Wired.

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Fantasy

Obama’s Mosque Speech Was A Dangerous Fantasy by David Harsanyi.

For eight years now, the president has reprimanded the American people for their attitudes about Islam. And Barack Obama’s big speech to the Islamic Society of Baltimore — granted, filled with many harmless platitudes — was no different, leaving little room for any honest dialogue about ideology or faith. Many of the president’s ideas about “tolerance,” in fact, are antithetical to the American experience, not something to celebrate.

Acceptance of outsiders is an American virtue, yes. Do we have to embrace all ideas, as well? Obama has conflated tolerance of individuals and groups with tolerance of a select belief system — one that he demands be immune from criticism.

We certainly don’t want people attacking peaceful Muslims, but it’s irresponsible and intellectually obtuse to act as if the pervasive violence, misogyny, homophobia, child abuse, tyranny, anti-Semitism, bigotry against Christians, etc. that exists in large parts of Islamic society abroad has absolutely nothing to do with faith.

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Bums

Who Needs These Bums, Anyway? by A. Barton Hinkle.

Iowans held their caucuses (cauci?) Monday. Not that it matters. Iowa does a lousy job of predicting final winners even in normal elections, which this isn’t. Besides, the results left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths—as, it seems likely, the rest of the election year will do

And well it should. Americans are looking over the sorriest bunch of candidates to run for president since, maybe, the 1856 three-way contest pitting James Buchanan against Millard Fillmore and . . . um, that other guy.

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Resistance

European Resistance to Cultural Suicide by Luca Volontè.

Across Europe citizens are fighting back to protect faith, family, and freedom.

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Stop

The West Must Stop Giving Turkey a Free Pass by Behlul Ozkan.

Last month, more than 1,200 Turkish and foreign academics signed a petition calling attention to the continuing humanitarian crisis in many Kurdish-majority towns in southeastern Turkey, which are the site of fighting between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. The petition decried the Army’s shelling of urban areas and the imposition of weekslong, 24-hour curfews, which have left many civilians unable to bury their dead or even obtain food. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly denounced the signers as “so-called intellectuals” and “traitors.” Within days, antiterror police had detained and harassed dozens of the signatories.

Mr. Erdogan’s actions shouldn’t have been surprising. The president has a history of jailing journalists and cracking down on media companies critical of his policies. And yet this time the response from his supporters was exceptionally chilling: A pro-Erdogan organized crime boss proclaimed, “We will take a shower in your blood,” while the office doors of some of the academics were ominously marked with red crosses.

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Socialist?

Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist? by Lawrence W. Reed. See here. (pdf)

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System

The Clinton System by Simon Head.

On January 17, in the final Democratic debate before the primary season begins, Bernie Sanders attacked Hillary Clinton for her close financial ties to Wall Street, something he had avoided in his campaigning up to that moment: “I don’t take money from big banks….You’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year,” he said. Sanders’s criticisms coincided with recent reports that the FBI might be expanding its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails to include her ties to big donors while serving as secretary of state. But a larger question concerns how Hillary and Bill Clinton have built their powerful donor machine, and what its existence might mean for Hillary Clinton’s future conduct as American president. The following investigation, drawing on many different sources, is intended to give a full sense of the facts about Clinton and not to endorse a particular candidate in the coming election.

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Heist

The Great Whiskey Heist by Reeves Wiedeman.

How one distillery worker enlisted friends, family, and a few fellow steroid enthusiasts to liberate hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of premium bourbon, one barrel at a time.

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Language

Deciphering the Language of the Brain by Simon Makin.

A new initiative gets us closer to understanding how our brain cells communicate.

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Collins

Charles Aaron profiles Phil Collins.

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Decline

What’s Wrong with the Humanities? by Bruce Cole.

The humanities are declining because too many humanities scholars are alienating students and the public with their opacity, triviality, and irrelevance.

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