Warm Fuzzy Feelings. Or, The Point of That Dialogue.


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Louis was not only denied the benefits of anasthetic and anasepsis, he was also ignorant of them. A shot of brandy and a stick upon which to bite is as good as he expected it to get when he had surgery. He received state-of-the-art medical care, being King of France and all — what he got was as good as it got. Was he happy about his medical care? I’m willing to bet that he was. Was he grateful to his doctors? Being king might distort what it means to be ‘grateful’ but within that context, I’m willing to be that he was.

    A Veblenic observation: Louis was also a warrior king who spent some time out in the field. He would have seen the sorts of medical care ordinary soldiers got, which would not have been quite so good as what he got in Versailles. He was not ignorant of being better off than others, and so might have dervied at least part of his happiness from that.Report

  2. My feelings on the subject probably go without saying at this point, but I suppose I’ll say that anyway.

    Before I get to them, it definitely bears saying that your latest dialogue was delightful. Subtle and witty and erudite. I loved it.

    Anyhow, the wonders of our age have faded into the background noise of our existence. They no longer strike us as wondrous, and instead become mere expectations. Never mind that we no longer have to live with the stench of our own waste, or fear dying in the span of a few days because we were bitten by the wrong flea, or feel more than a needle prick of an IV before being wheeled off to have major surgery performed through small incisions. Hell, we barely notice the wonders of being able to communicate with loved ones instantaneously despite being separated by thousands of miles. We get pissed when we have to pay for WiFi.

    I agree that the secret to a better future is a moderate degree of dissatisfaction with the present. But nothing so corrodes our happiness like a sense of entitlement.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I’ve been thinking about something similar because my band’s been playing gigs with rockabilly bands recently (we’re not one) and some of those fans can be really intense in their identification with past aesthetics. I’ll chat with girls dressed like Betty Grable who use words like “gent” and drive old Fords and whatnot and I get a bit uncomfortable because I think of the advances we have now and wonder what they make of them. It’s just art and design, right?

    But, of course, there’s a difference between scientific knowledge, which really does advance progressively upon what came before, and cultural knowledge, which sometimes advances and more often just changes. I’d not want to live in the 18th century for the same reasons- my psoriasis is severe enough that it would have crippled me. Would I say we’re more advanced at loving each other? Well, maybe in some cases…

    I’ll give another example: my grandmother used to make social calls constantly. She’d show up at a friend’s house with cookies she’d bought and they’d chat for a while. Me? I just post something on their Facebook wall. Would I say one cultural norm is better than the other? No, just different. I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable saying my way is better. When it comes to being bled with leeches versus antibiotics, it’s a lot easier to say.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Maybe music is a better case study. In the 19th century, if I wanted to hear music, I would have likely had to play it myself or be wealthy enough to be a patron. Now, I listen to it constantly. Right now, the 70s Detroit band Death in playing on the turntable in the other room (the song, appropriately enough, is “rock’n’roll victim”). In fact, their rediscovery was partly fueled by the Internet, which has made them much better known than they were in 1974.

      Where was I going with that? Okay, the point is that technology has made it much easier to listen to music. Would I say that my life is objectively better because I can listen to a record (and, side note here, records do actually have a better audio quality than later technological advances, although they’re less convenient) instead of having to play music with my family and friends? Well, I don’t know. It’s not worse. But it’s again harder to quantify than something like leeches vs antibiotics.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:

        i’d go for better, but also a little worse in that you don’t have to really invest in an album if you don’t want to. but for the most part, far better. the fact that i can hear of a band on a blog, check them out, and then buy their album in flac format for a reasonable price direct from them via bandcamp, all in under 30 minutes, is nothing short of totally amazing.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to dhex says:

          It’s definitely more convenient and better for the bands in terms of exposure (although on somewhat of a downward slope in terms of making a living). What I mean though is, if I was living in 1812 and had to play music with friends and family in order to hear music, would that make the quality of my life objectively worse? I dunno. The distractions are a bit nicer now. But, it’s not as easy to say Yes, absolutely, as it is when I ask if the quality of my life is objectively better with modern medicine and food preservation.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Of course, I also forgot wandering minstrels. On the other hand, I’ve talked to plenty of musicians who think we’re returning to wandering minstreldom because you really make your money now by gigging and not by selling albums.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

              And, for most of us that means you make enough money to get to the next gig!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                Some food, some wine, some wenches… if you thought that you could easily be dead this time next year, that’s a pretty good return on your time investment.

                It’s only once you start having to worry about “retirement” that these things end up having a crappy opportunity cost.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to Rufus F. says:

                democratization definitely brings some downward income slopes with it in this case.

                [quote]What I mean though is, if I was living in 1812 and had to play music with friends and family in order to hear music, would that make the quality of my life objectively worse?[/quote]

                i would say yes, but my involvement in music is solo or with friends, and almost all of our materials and equipment are electronic in nature. so perhaps that colors it. maybe i’d feel different if played a mandolin, or could time travel with john fahey and keep him away from the donuts.

                i’d think you’d eventually miss music incredibly, though. there are a lot of problems with instant recall*, they’re problems in the sense that having too much food for the population to eat is a problem. embarrassment of riches and all that.

                * have you read simon reynold’s recent book “retromania”? it touches on this a lot.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to dhex says:

                I don’t really get what people mean by saying there’s been a “democratization” of music with things like bandcamp (a site that I fully support, for the record). I mean, those sites are nice and all, but it’s not like music needed to be democratized for me. I came up in the punk rock scene and, for us, the democratization of music- away from the big labels and radio stations and directly to the fans- happened in the late 70s when bands figured out they could do it all themselves and not get screwed over in the process. If you wanted to put out a record, you made up a label name and put it out. If the clubs sucked, you rented a generator and played in some parking lot. Somehow, even without the Internet, we knew about bands from all over the world and played with them too. I mean, I’m just as in touch with the same music scenes as I was then. Maybe it’s quicker and easier now, but that would really just mean that lazy people have been liberated by the net. Most of us just did the legwork and tracked down the good stuff. It was fun- you made friends that way. Actually, the thing that’s changed, as far as I can see, is that you used to have 300 people show up to see some little independent band that put out their own records play a show and that almost never happens now.

                As compared to the 1800s, now, I can’t say. It feels nice to have the Beach Boys playing on the turntable right now. Is my life objectively better? I really don’t know in the same way I know it’s better with a refrigerator full of healthy food.Report

  4. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    For the record, Jason, I loved the Leibniz reference. I still think he was right.Report