Books, Uncategorized

I Am Free Of The Emancipatory Fire

Vladimir-NabokovIntellectuals and writers are, often, viciously uncreative. It is hard to write good books and make money in the market. What to do? They often find some cause or the other that stirs up the masses—and the other intellectuals. Now, what about the talented writers? I expect the extremely talented writers to send a counter-signal. 

As Tyler Cowen explains, “Consider that the most impressive Japanese business cards are those that list only the person’s name, and no title or affiliation. These are examples of counter-signaling. The Japanese business card doesn’t suggest the person does no business; on the contrary, he is so successful and important at his work that no introduction is needed. Counter-signaling is when the very rich dress like bums. A metrosexual is so sure of his sexual prowess that he can act, dress, and walk like a so-called girlie man. Does Bill Gates go home at night and tell his wife he earned a lot of money that day? I doubt it.” 

There is no reason to believe that intellectuals are an exception to this rule. Of course, they are sending out a signal that they are too good. Even without supporting fashionable causes, they will do just fine. Virtually all of my favorite intellectuals send such a counter-signal. I’ll quote some of these smarties:

“I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone. That is, I am nothing of the reformer, however much I may rant against this or that great curse or malaise. In that ranting there is usually far more delight than indignation. I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don’t want to meet them. “- H. L. Mencken

“All right. You’re beginning to understand. So whatever we do, don’t let’s talk about the poor people in the slums. They have nothing to do with it, though I wouldn’t envy anyone the job of trying to explain that to fools. You see, I’m never concerned with my clients, only with their architectural requirements. I consider these as part of my building’s theme and problem, as my building’s material–just as I consider bricks and steel. Bricks and steel are not my motive. Neither are the clients. Both are only the means of my work. Peter, before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences. The work, not the people. Your own action, not any possible object of your charity. I’ll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed. But that’s not the motive of my work. Nor my reason. Nor my reward. You said yesterday: What architect isn’t interested in housing projects? I hate the whole blasted idea of it. I don’t work with collectives. I don’t consult, I don’t cooperate, I don’t collaborate. “-Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

“Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I’ve no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions. I loathe such things as jazz, the white-hosed moron  torturing  a black   bull,   rayed   with   red,   abstractist  bric-a-brac, primitivist  folk  masks,   progressive   schools,   music   in supermarkets,  swimming  pools,  brutes, bores, class-conscious philistines,  Freud,  Marx,  fake  thinkers,  puffed-up  poets, frauds and sharks. I don’t belong to any club or group. I don’t fish, cook, dance,  endorse  books,  sign  books, co-sign declarations, eat oysters, get drunk, go to church, go to analysts, or take  part in demonstrations.”-Vladimir Nabokov

“Don’t feel that I want to reform the human race. I am free of the emancipatory fire.”-V. S. Naipual 

“Winter is here, and for the last few years this seasonal event has meant the sudden discovery of a brand-new category of the pitiable: the “homeless.” A vast propaganda effort has discovered the homeless and adjured us to do something about it—inevitably to pour millions of tax-dollars into the problem. There is now even a union of homeless lobbying for federal aid. Not so long ago there was another, apparently entirely different category: the “hungry,” for whom rock stars were making records and we were all clasping hands across America. And what has now happened to the Hungry? Have they all become well fed, and so rest content, while the Homeless are held up for our titillation? Or have they too organized a union of the Hungry? And what of next year? Are we to be confronted with a new category, the “unclothed,” or perhaps the “ill-shod”? And how about the “thirsty”? Or the candy-deprived? How many more millions are standing in line, waiting to be trotted out for consideration?”-Murray Rothbard

“Unjust treatment of the able may not be the greatest moral issue of our time. But unjust treatment of the able is a serious moral issue.  And it’s a serious moral issue that mainstream moral and political philosophy utterly ignores.  My question for bleeding-heart libertarians everywhere: Why don’t your hearts bleed for the able slave?”-Bryan Caplan

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