I tend to regard myself as Crooked Timber’s online myrmidon of a number of rather unpopular views; among other things, as regular readers will have seen, I believe that the incitement to religious hatred legislation was a good idea (perhaps badly executed), that John Searle has it more or less correct on the subject of artificial intelligence, that Jacques Derrida deserves his high reputation and that George Orwell was not even in the top three essayists of the twentieth century[1]. I’m a fan of Welsh nationalism. Oh yes, the Kosovo intervention was a crock too. At some subconscious level I am aware that my ideas about education are both idiotic and unspeakable. But I think that all of these causes are regarded as at least borderline sane by at least one fellow CT contributor. There is only one major issue on which I stand completely alone, reviled by all. And it’s this; Budweiser (by which I mean the real Budweiser, the beer which has been sold under that brand by Anheuser-Busch since 1876) is really quite a good beer. I have been threatening this post in comments for a while now, and here it is:
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The nations, not so blest as thee

by Henry on May 10, 2007

I’ve recently been blogging about the inadequacy of cultural explanations of national differences, but was struck by this “aside”:http://blogs.ft.com/rachmanblog/2007/05/tony_blairs_far.html by Gideon Rachman on Tony Blair’s farewell speech.

I really hated the bit when he declared that Britain is “the greatest nation on earth.” This struck me as a very unBritish statement. My faith in my fellow countrymen was, however, restored by the fact that this declaration was greeted with lukewarm applause, rather than whoops and standing ovations.

It’s true as best as I can see it, and it does make Britain quite different from other countries. Try getting away with a major speech in the US that doesn’t have some bumptious language about national greatness. France is the same I believe (albeit with a different language of triumphalism). Even Ireland has its passive-aggressive equivalent of _gloire nationale_; I read somewhere or another that there was a myth that Ireland had a special dispensation from the times of tribulation preceding the Day of Judgement because of its unsullied guardianship of the Christian virtues – the entire country would slide under the waves before the Antichrist got up to speed. But not Britain. My vague memories of reading Linda Colley’s work a decade or more ago (it surely talks about this _in extenso_) is that this wasn’t always the case. However, it certainly is now. Anyone up to date with speculations as to the reason why British nationalism doesn’t trumpet its virtues? My working hypothesis, which is open to revision or refutation, is that it’s a subtle form of Bourdieuvian one-upmanship along the lines of the “ironic gnome rule”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/07/11/the-ironic-gnome-rule/, expressing the belief that anyone who has to proclaim their national greatness by definition doesn’t possess it.

Napoleons of crime

by Henry on May 10, 2007

Over at Eugene’s lair, “Ilya Somin”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_05_06-2007_05_12.shtml#1178681057 opines on Mario Puzo’s original novel of _The Godfather_, and the sociology of the Italian and American mafias.

Puzo recognized, as sociologist Diego Gambetta explained more systematically, that the Sicilian Mafia flourished because it provided better “protection” against crime and violations of property and contract rights than did the official authorities, who generally protected only the politically powerful elite.

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