[cross-posted at facebook]

Today’s a fine day
an especially beautiful day
the kind of day when you know
just how you want to spend it
but the place you want to spend it
is a thousand miles away in one direction
and the person you want to spend it with
is a thousand miles away in another direction
and so in the end
is just another day

Frodo Shrugged

[cross-posted at facebook]

September 2nd is the day that Atlas Shrugged begins. (We’re shown Eddie Willers seeing the date on a gigantic calendar in the first chapter. Several other important events in the novel happen on that date as well.)

September 22nd is the day that Lord of the Rings “officially” begins. (In fact we’re shown a few scenes from the days of preparation leading up to Bilbo’s birthday party, but it’s become customary to say that LOTR begins on that date.)

LOTR and Atlas are similar in their subversion of expectations. [SPOILER ALERT for both books.] LOTR is about a quest concerning a magical object that brings the wearer great power; but the goal of the quest is not to obtain the object but to destroy it. The climax of Atlas involves the villains torturing their hero; but their goal is not to get him to submit to them, but rather to get him to agree to become their dictator.

In short, both books are about the refusal of power.

Both books also arguably owe a debt to Platos Republic. In both LOTR and the Republic, a ring that grants its wearer invisibility but tends to corrupt its wearer is used as a metaphor for political power. But Plato’s and Tolkien’s solutions are different; in Plato we’re told that only the wise, the philosopher-kings, can be trusted with the ring; but in Tolkien we’re told that no one can be trusted with it and that the best course is to destroy it – a much more anarchistic moral (appropriately enough for an author who wrote “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy …. the most improper job of any man, even saints … is bossing other men”). Moreover, for Tolkien, if someone has to be trusted with the ring temporarily, it is safer in the hands of hobbits (corresponding to the craftsmen, the lowest and least trusted class in the Republic) rather than in those of wizards or kings.

As for the connection between Atlas and Plato’s Republic, I’ve written about that in Ed Younkins’ anthology Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Here’s the piece.

Groundwork Books!

[cross-posted at POT and facebook]

Continuing the San Diego bookstores series, I chat with Jack Ran of the Groundwork Book Collective, a radical left-wing bookstore on the campus of UCSD. Topics include running a bookstore as an egalitarian collective; participating in wildcat strikes; surviving arson attacks; the dynamics of anarchist/Marxist cooperation; conflicts with the university administration; what campus leftists owe to Donald Trump; and the joys of reading Proudhon, Kevin Carson, and Shawn Wilbur.

If I seem a little sleepy during the video, it’s because I’d gotten very little sleep the night before. I blame capitalism.

The Long Arm of the Law Merchant

[cross-posted at POT and facebook]

In my latest Agoric Café video, I chat with economist Bruce L. Benson about polycentric mercantile law in medieval Europe and among the Plains Indians; whether private law can work outside of small homogeneous communities; causation vs. correlation in the gun control debate; the perils of scissors-and-paste history; the abolition of criminal law; the incentival perversities of the reservation system; the inevitability of the state; and what intellectual debt he owes to the u.s. military.

Ragnarok Lobster

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

What do Good Morning America, the Australian Outback, Mary Poppins, David Friedman, Lawrence of Arabia, and a balloon voyage to a lost colony of Vikings at the North Pole have in common? Get the answers in this video, as I take you on a journey BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION!!!

Free-Market Radical Leftism: Czech It Out

[cross-posted at POT]

The next best thing to giving a libertarian talk in Prague is giving a libertarian talk to Prague. Although if Aristotle is right about the locus of causal action being in the recipient rather than the agent, perhaps this counts as a talk in Prague after all.

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