Philosophical immortality

by Chris Bertram on September 14, 2003

Picking up on some remarks of mine, Brian Leiter is playing the “which contemporary philosophers will still be read in 100 years” game – which can be quite fun. My money is on Rawls and Parfit. Not that they are necessarily the best, but other contenders who have written less monumental works will have their thoughts incorporated into philosophical discourse in a way that floats free of the original form those thoughts were couched in.

Restoration and the urban environment

by Chris Bertram on September 14, 2003

In recent weeks the hit TV programme on British TV has been Restoration, which invites viewers to vote for the dilapidated country house, castle, factory or mausoleum they most want renovated. Patrick Wright has been a shrewd observer of the “heritage industry” since the publication of his landmark _On Living in an Old Country_ in the mid-1980s. He has a good essay in the Guardian on the ambivalence of restoration and on the often -attached social snobbery. He reveals, among other things, that it was veteran anarchist Colin Ward who coined the phrase “heritage industry” in the first place. I’ve been active in Bristol Civic Society for the past few years, and the tension Wright points to between a backward-looking conservationism and the desire to preserve and build a well-functioning urban environment is one that I see played out all the time. Read the whole thing.

Good Bye Lenin

by Chris Bertram on September 14, 2003

I blogged a while back about wanting to see Good Bye Lenin, and I finally managed to do so last night., so this is just a minor update. I’d recommend it: it is warm, funny, touching and humane and I managed the suspension of disbelief a lot better than I’d anticipated from contemplating the idea of the film. I was surprised to see that the auditorium was packed. I have the good fortune to have a small cinema at the end of my street (how long it will survive, I don’t know) and I’d been to see Veronica Guerin a couple of weeks earlier in the same place on the same night of the week and there had been just three of us watching. Odd that GBL should be so much more popular.

Over the weekend, the New York Times is publishing two longer pieces about the coming fiscal crisis in Washington. There’s the Paul Krugman piece previously noted by Henry, and “Dizzying Dive to Red Ink Poses Stark Choices for Washington” by David Firestone.

Both are detailed and well worth reading. My favorite succinct take on it, however, is a editorial by Matt Miller from August. Andrew Tobias has the whole thing, but I can’t help but quote:

Start with basic but poorly understood facts. Seven programs make up 75 percent of all federal spending: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military pensions, civil service pensions, defense and interest on the debt. That’s “big government.”

Republicans aren’t trying to cut a dime of it but are calling for big increases in every one of these programs. According to the White House, interest on the national debt alone will soar by 66 percent over the next five years, thanks to the red ink oozing from President Bush’s budget ….

Over the next five years, President Bush figures the “big 7” programs will cost, on average, about $1.8 trillion a year.

Over the same period, he says, the revenue the government will collect, not counting Social Security taxes (which both parties say shouldn’t be used for current spending, though it is), will average $1.35 trillion a year — $450 billion a year less than just the “big 7” on which Republicans want to spend more…

This, then, is today’s spectacle: “Family values” Republicans are sticking the kids with the bill for current spending while railing fraudulently against the “big government” they support.

Then they attack Democrats for offering the radical idea that we ought to pay for the spending we all agree we want (before we even begin fighting about other things — like covering uninsured, or helping poor children get better teachers).

[click to continue…]