Occasional Notes: Excesses and Deficiencies
Leitmotif: Any custom is better than no custom.—Nietzsche
Goodreads: Yesterday an acquaintance asked me to link to him on Goodreads. Yikes! I hadn’t updated my Goodreads profile in almost two years. It would appear that I’ve read a total of five books in that time. Or possibly in my life.
The truth is that I tend to avoid Goodreads. That way, I avoid tending to it. I feel this way about a lot of social media.
Not Goodreads, but Probably a Good Read: This series by Matt Zwolinski should be interesting to follow and comment on:
[O]ne of my plans for this blog is an occasional series on the history of libertarian thought. I’m working on the first post now – on John Locke – and expect to put it up within the next week. But before I get started with the series itself, I thought I’d say a few words about what I have in mind to do.
There are already plenty of good histories of the libertarian tradition out there, of course. And I’ll say a bit more at the end of this post about some of the ones I’ve found to be most helpful. But I hope my series will be useful and distinctive in a couple of ways.
Most significantly, this series will view the history of libertarian thought through the lens of “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism.” This means two things. First, it is going give special focus to its subjects’ views on the relationship between individual liberty, limited government, and social justice. Second, one of my goals in this series is to argue for a thesis, namely, that bleeding heart libertarianism is not new. More specifically, I’m going to be arguing that bleeding heart libertarianism is actually more consistent with the libertarian intellectual tradition than the variety of libertarianism that rejects social justice outright. It has already been suggested on this blog that several of the supposed exemplars of this latter version of libertarianism have views on social justice that are more nuanced than those imputed to them by popular interpretations. This series will develop this line of argument further, and show that those few libertarians who really did hold such views are relative outliers.
I look forward to his take on Hayek, who both (a) argued consistently throughout his life for a modest social safety net and (b) titled one of his books The Mirage of Social Justice. Clearly the term “social justice” isn’t doing the same work for Hayek as it is for Zwolinski!
One useful exercise might be to distinguish “social justice” from the idea of the social safety net, leaving — if possible — something reasonably non-strawmanish (strawmanly?) on both sides — that is, leaving something substantive both to “the social safety net” and to “social justice” that could plausibly have supporters, or not, each independently of the other. I think a lot of people already do this, in fact, but it seems important as a bit of deck-clearing in a revisionist libertarian history of the sort Zwolinski seems to have in mind.
What’s Holding Up 1015 K Street? I ask as someone who spends a lot of time in the neighborhood. This property and those adjoining it are serious eyesores. Why haven’t they been redeveloped, like everything else around them?
Here’s the report noting that the property has a pending historical landmark application. Hmm, that might just be it!
I admit, I’m making a provisional judgment here. I don’t know all the facts. I’d be delighted to learn more. But I have a hard time not seeing the connection between historical preservation bureaucracy and, well, the total lack of historical preservation. Or of any other use.
Now, 1015 and its adjacent buildings really are the last Victorian-era houses on K Street. Back then, it was one of the most sought-after residential neighborhoods in the city. Today it’s not residential at all, of course. Would we find some value in preserving a memento? Perhaps. Would we also find some value in razing these houses and putting in office buildings — a use to match the rest of the area? Perhaps! What about a compromise — low-density offices in a renovated residence-like structure? Hey, that might be good too!
I don’t know which use is best in the objective sense. I strongly suspect that market forces point toward high-density office buildings. That’s what the rest of the neighborhood already has, after all. But I could be wrong.
One thing I know for certain, though — nobody gets any value out of these buildings the way they look now. They are a filthy, decrepit eyesore in an otherwise rapidly revitalizing neighborhood. They’re very obviously falling apart. The windows are boarded and/or bricked over. The roof has gaping holes in it. They’re set off from the street by a barbed wire fence, which is probably the only thing stopping them from becoming crackhouses. To top it all off, they’re covered with a giant wraparound billboard. It’s not just lipstick on a pig. It’s high-gloss magenta lipstick. With sparkles. On a pig.
Worse, the buildings have been slowly deteriorating for years. I know. I work on the block, and I’ve watched them. If the aim of historical preservation policies is to preserve historical buildings, said policies are really, really failing here.
As I said, anyone who knows more is encouraged to comment.
Best (Run-on) Sentence I’ve Read Today Markets in Everything the Culture That Is Germany Arbitrage Edition: “Not long ago I saw Herzog’s early documentary How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck?, 44 minutes on Netflix streaming, highly recommended, mostly it is footage of auctioneers talking really really fast, and percussively, to a partly Amish audience.” (ht: Who else?)
I am at a loss to understand how this could be highly recommended. Which I guess means I need to watch it.