Write because there is nothing to read

Walter Benjamin, in an essay called “Unpacking My Library,” writes that “Writers are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.”

I spend a lot of time reading old books, and a few new ones. It seems to me that more books are like snack food than great meals, and it has always been so. But we live at a time when many great meals from the past are available to anyone who cares to read carefully and think. This, I think, bodes well for the future, when some of the great readers will get sick of the junk they are offered and reinvent the book, the magazine, fiction and non-fiction alike.

Call me an optimist, at last.

News doesn’t have to important

There’s a great quote by Ernie Pyle in the new Columbia Journalism Review, from his time as a managing editor at The Washington Daily News, that every writer, let alone every journalist, should read each morning:

“You can hardly walk down the street, or chat with a bunch of friends, without running into the germ of something that may turn up an interesting story if you’re on the lookout for it. News doesn’t have to be important, but it has to be interesting. You can’t find interesting things if you’re not interested.”

Words to live by.

Never count chickens before they are hatched (Obama Wins Iowa Republican Caucus)

That said, the Iowa Caucuses results to the moment suggests that 50% of the Republican electorate are casting their votes for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, two thoroughly un-electable candidates. This is not going to be a good year for Republican presidential aspiration. The ideological splits between Romney and these two are greater than those between Barak Obama’s centrist approach to the presidency and any Republican that could possibly be elected this year.

Iowa’s only marginally useful in predicting the ultimate nominee, as the Republican winner in the state caucus has gone on to win the nomination only five of the last eight times and fares about the same on the Democratic side, as well. Mike Huckabee won in 2008 and couldn’t surface a campaign this time around. But seriously, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum? Neither has a committed constituency that can pull more than 20 percent in a national election.

And some of those constituents could be committed for what they believe to be the state of the world. The debates between President Obama and either Paul or Santorum would be like shooting fish in a barrel for the President.

At a time when the nation needs a consensus, a serious collaboration that reaches across political boundaries, the Republicans are fielding symbolic protest candidates that represent fractions — and small ones — of their base. So, tonight’s winner is Barak Obama.

Born of blogging and the return of a blogger

I note in The Economist that there is a school of economic thought that was “born in the blogosphere,” neo-chartalism (represented by Mecpoc.org and TheMoneyIllusion.com), which is really only a way of saying that the ideas were not incubated in the mainstream media. See Heterodox economics: Marginal revolutionaries in The Economist.

A few years ago, in Extreme Democracy, I was fortunate to work with a group of authors who examined how the forging of political movements could be influenced by the Internet and agile programming concepts. The Economist’s unbilined column is generally positive on the phenomenon of economics concocted outside the mainstream, because, it concludes, economic theory is often distilled from the less refined ideas from the fringes. Okay, but is it not the case that all movements — well-thought through and those built on whack-o assumptions alike — are always talked up from oblivion to prominence?

For what it’s worth, Extreme Democracy can be sold back to Amazon for $0.54 after all these years, though it’ll still cost you $13.48 to buy it used (or $28 new). Consider this my $0.54 on the following….

“Forged in the Blogosphere” is only a way of saying that the ideas were developed through the most contemporary form of discussion available, just as Enlightment thinking grew on branches of the early mail networks that carried private letters to and fro across Europe, North America and Latin American, Asian and African colonies. It’s good to see ideas developing from the ferment of the blogosphere, but they also need to develop in academy, the “mainstream” (e.g., something still printed or delivered via television) press and elsewhere.

The challenge neo-Chartalists face is not so different from any prior school of economics or Web political campaign, to “cross the chasm” into widespread contemporary thought.

And that is hard.

But this is all a way of saying, by the by, that I am going to be participating in the blogosphere, again, after a break of a few years. Something about writing became very difficult for me during my neck problems — probably due to all the Percoset I was chowing down on — but it got no better in the first couple years that I’ve worked at Microsoft, either. So, it’s time that I just churn it out and see what happens. The worst that could happen is that I remain a movement of one, I guess, but that’s always been the way it is with writing.

I’ll be starting to chew on things here. Please stay tuned and give me your feedback.