PEOPLE & OPINION

The Trouble with the Elites

C. P. Snow titled his last book, written shortly before he died, “A Coat of Varnish.” What he meant, as he put it, was that “Civilization is hideously fragile.” Civilization, that is to say, is like a thin coat of varnish spread on top of human savagery. The varnish looks…

Europe Fails to Build the New Man

Since human beings settled into communities — that is, since most of us stopped being hunter-​gatherers — a primary goal of mankind has been to improve how we are governed. We wanted governments that were more representative, fair, and efficient, governments that could improve our economic circumstances and defend themselves (and us) from outside…

Standing Tall

This fall’s NFL national anthem controversy was an opera whose bloated cast of characters would be hard to match — from President Donald Trump, to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to team owners across the country to rich NFL players professing social concern. And as many problems as the world seems to have,…

Sarah’s Wisdom Behind the Counter

“Okay, what’s today’s joke?” The guy at the counter orders his Americano, sits down, lets the anticipation build for a few seconds. His eyes are dancing behind thick black glasses, grinning like he’s about to bubble over into a thousand little joy bubbles, because he’s got a joke.

The Instability of Europe

Between the first and second world wars, most of the European governments — Britain and, to a lesser extent, France, being exceptions — lived lives that were, to paraphrase Hobbes, weak, unstable, and short.

On Populism

Civilization is like a very fine suit of clothes that is just slightly too small for us. The term “populism” derives from the Latin, populus, meaning “people.” It doesn’t mean “people” in the sense of “There are a lot of people who don’t read my blog.” It means “people” in…

Nailed It

I recently received a nail salon gift card, which I thought was a bit unusual, because I have short, raggedy nails and giant “Man-​Hands.” My “Man-​Hands” are definitely passed down from my father’s side — my Uncle Willis could bend bottle caps into little tacos just using his thumb and index finger — and…

Tommy the Unlikely Donut Man

Tommy Gozion had never made a donut in his entire life. Which was weird, given the fact that he tacked some neon to the storefront along Route 8 and announced to the world that Valencia Donut was open for business.

To Experts: a Few Words of Wisdom

“I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.” –William F. Buckley

Back to the Middle Ages: A Century of “Expertism” in America

The vast Federal regulatory apparatus that we know and love today got its start early in the 20th century under President Woodrow Wilson. Appropriately, Wilson was the only President in U.S. history to earn a PhD – he’d been president of Princeton University.

It was a Good Idea in Theory…

Back in 1986 I launched a wealth management firm I conceitedly called “Greycourt” — it’s an anagram for my name. The firm met with modest success and in 1988 I incorporated it. I was probably the most hopeless, bumbling entrepreneur in the history of private enterprise, but somehow I’ve been with Greycourt…

Don’t mess with Mel Messmer

My buddy Bill Downes and I were in good spirits. It was 1960, and after enjoying a light movie at the theater, we were strolling along California Avenue, the main street of Avalon, a small suburb north of Pittsburgh. It was a steamy, red-​sky summer evening. We were chattering away,…

All Quiet on the Ohio — Just the Way He Likes It

There’s a lot of sitting and waiting, on a day like this. The water in the Ohio is calm, running chocolate-​brown like something out of Willy Wonka’s Factory. Clear, blue sky. A handful of cottony clouds skirting by. Nothing like the winter, when the damned ice ensures you can barely…

Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part XI

As far as reigning in annoying experts is concerned, Congress and the judiciary are a bust, albeit with a few tiny bright spots on the distant horizon, twinkling away like dying lighthouses on a storm-​tossed sea. But what about the Presidency?

When Experts Judge the Experts

In my last post we examined the (pathetic) attempts of Congress to control the tyranny of the experts. Fortunately, Congress isn’t the only weapon in the battle against expert oppression, even at the Federal level. Let’s take a look at the judiciary.
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