Author Archive | Roderick

Please Help If You Can

I hate asking for financial assistance here – both because I know many others are struggling even more than usual, and because there are many friends whose previous generosity I still haven’t repaid (not for lack of intention!). But my situation is fairly desperate at this point so I don’t have much choice.

My mother’s final illness (2016-2017) was expensive (she didn’t have insurance); and even before that, our financial situation was tight; the blow to our finances two decades ago, from the two-year period between my losing tenure at Chapel Hill and my getting hired tenure-track at Auburn, when I was paying for both her housing back in Chapel Hill and my housing here as a temporary instructor, was one we never fully recovered from. And since her death, of course her Social Security isn’t coming in any more. Plus, although I have good insurance through my job, some of the co-pays for my own medical issues have still been unexpectedly high. (I don’t live extravagantly by any means; I live in a cramped apartment, surrounded by boxes I have no room to open, and my various trips are all conference travel, paid for either by my department or by the conference venue.)

So I had to take out high-interest loans to make ends meet; and although my (non-summer) salary is good, the majority of it now gets eaten up automatically every month with giant interest payments and tiny principal payments. Every time I start to get caught up financially, the summer comes with its reduced salary (more reduced than it used to be; and some of my other, former sources of summer funding have dried up) and I fall further behind than before.

I’m at a real nadir now, at the point where I can’t see how I’m going to pay basic expenses – rent, bills, groceries, etc. (plus I can’t afford to get my car fixed). So any help would be greatly appreciated!

Those able and willing can help via one of the means below. Let me know whether it’s a gift or a loan. Or if you can’t help financially, you can help by sharing this post. Thank you!



Roderick T. Long
402 Martin Ave.
Auburn AL 36830

Mysterious Galaxy!

First in a series on indie bookstores in the San Diego area (my hometown)! In this episode, I chat with Matthew Berger, new co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy (website; facebook page), a bookstore featuring titles in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc., as well as merchandise, podcasts, author events, etc.

Closely Watched Brains; or, Czech Your Premises: A Bohemian Rhapsody

[cross-posted at POT and RCL]

Czech out this exclusive! expanded! three-part version of my 2019 Prague lecture on “Austro-Libertarian Themes in Three Prague Authors: Čapek, Kafka, and Hašek.”

(See the descriptions on YouTube for links to various items mentioned in my three discussions.)

In Part 1, on Karel Čapek (1890-1938), I discuss: intelligent, morally ambiguous salamanders; rebellious, morally ambiguous robots; the effects on supply and demand of unleashing the Absolute; a critique of the labour theory of Labour Day; the geometrical logic of imperial expansion; why police detectives have no interest in mysteries; the merits and demerits of government theme parks devoted to the preservation of Czech folkways; the magic word by means of which the English protect their property; why God can only be a witness and never a judge; the role of clumsiness in advancing civilisation; the benefits and hazards of replacing feet with wheels; inspirational workplace posters suitable for shackled newts; how I ran into one of Čapek’s robots in the lounge of the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center; and the crucifixion of Christ as a sensible protectionist measure.

Note: contrary to what I say in the video, I believe that the R.U.R. cover designed by Čapek’s brother Josef is not the one I show there, but instead this (rather better) one:

Incidentally, Josef Čapek also designed this Kropotkin cover:

On the subject of corrections, I think it may actually have been Paul Cantor rather than Ralph Raico who was in the company of my old stage partner in the Mises conference anecdote I tell. I’m not sure. Jeez, my memory is crap these days. Um, what was I saying?

In Part 2, on Franz Kafka (1883-1924), I discuss: theological versus political readings of Kafka’s vision of elusive, perpetually deferred authority; bureaucracy as hopelessly incompetent and out-of-touch, versus bureaucracy as all-pervasive surveillance; the dependence of rulership on those who rule; Stoic versus anti-Stoic readings of Seneca’s Medea; discovering Kafka through Marvel Comics (or not); and remembering Kropotkin but forgetting Nietzsche’s umbrella.

On second thought I don’t think the April 1982 issue of Epic Illustrated can have been my introduction to Kafka after all, as Dartmouth was running an Orson Welles film festival which I attended while I was living in Hanover NH, 1977-1981, which certainly included The Trial.

Speaking of which, here are some clips from the Welles movie:

I also meant to include this passage from Kafka on his own bureaucratic career (oh well): “What a fine thing it is to be a clerk at a town hall! Little work, adequate salary, plenty of leisure, excessive respect everywhere in the town …. and if I only could, I should like to give this entire dignity to the office cat to eat ….” (Still, at least his office had a cat; that seems like some solace.)

In Part 3, on Jaroslav Hašek (1883-1923), I discuss: the perversities of bureaucratic incentives; the state as a parasite on private crime; the importance of providing every voter with a pocket aquarium; the dangers of displaying, or not displaying, portraits of the Emperor; access to one lavatory as a bribe for permission to reopen another lavatory; electoral campaigns as anarchist street theatre; justice in canine nomenclature; what happens when criminals go on strike; the forgotten economic costs of farting; the ethical, logistical, and grammatical aspects of assassinating Archduke Ferdinand; my success and the Soviets’ failure in deciphering Czech signage; and the economic transaction that I conducted with a nun in the men’s room of the Vatican.

And finally, here’s a clip from the movie version of Hašek’s novel The Good Soldier Švejk:

Double Double Toil and Trouble

[cross-posted at POT and facebook]

Future historians will look back at the history of the u.s. in the 20th (and early 21st) century with the gravest suspicion.

According to the received chronology, they’ll note:

  • From 1901 to 1909, a president named Roosevelt, formerly governor of New York, held office, promoting policies of corporate elitism in the guise of economic populism.
  • From 1933 to 1945, a supposedly different president named Roosevelt, likewise formerly governor of New York, held office, likewise promoting policies of corporate elitism in the guise of economic populism.
  • From 1914 to 1918, a worldwide war waged, pitting Germany on one side against France, Britain, Russia, and the u.s. on the other; Germany lost.
  • From 1939 to 1945, a supposedly different worldwide war waged, pitting Germany on one side against France, Britain, Russia, and the u.s. on the other; once again, Germany lost.
  • From 1950 to 1953, the u.s. was involved, on the southern side, in a war between northern (Communist) and southern (anti-Communist) divisions of a formerly unified country on an Asian peninsula bordering China, with China and Russia giving assistance to the northern side.
  • From 1961 (or so) to 1975, the u.s. was involved, on the southern side, in a supposedly different war between northern (Communist) and southern (anti-Communist) divisions of a formerly unified country on a supposedly different Asian peninsula bordering China, with China and Russia once again giving assistance to the northern side.
  • In 1988, a New England preppy turned Texas oilman named George Bush was elected president; shortly after being elected, he sent troops to invade Iraq in opposition to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
  • In 2000, a supposedly different New England preppy turned Texas oilman likewise named George Bush was elected president; shortly after being elected, he too sent troops to invade Iraq in opposition to (the same) Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The historians will say: it’s clear enough what’s happened here. Evidently two somewhat inconsistent chronologies have been overlaid on each other, creating a series of artificial doublets. Surely there was just one president Roosevelt, just one Germany-versus-u.s.-plus-everybody war, just one northern-Communists-versus-southern-u.s.-allies Asian peninsular war, just one president George Bush, and just one u.s.-versus-Iraq war.

After all, no one in their right mind would choose to live through any of those things twice.

If another member of the Trump family gets elected president in the next few years, the hypothesis will only be confirmed. (As it would likewise have been had a second president Clinton been elected in 2016.)

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