Tuesday, 11/29/22

Sam Bankman-Fried

I stopped reading Sam Bankman-Fried (“SBF” — hereafter, “the guy”) stories a week or two ago, and I really didn’t read many before that.

But I did listen to a somewhat penitent podcast, one of Malcolm Gladwell’s Pushkin podcast offerings, revisiting an insufficiently critical and probing prior podcast interview with the guy.

What struck me in the initial interview was how insouciantly reckless the guy was as a business strategy. Essentially, if a business takes $20 million to launch, has a 99% chance of failure, but has a 1% chance of becoming worth $2 billion or more, it’s an okay business plan.

If it might hit $20 billion, it’s a great business plan because the guy will get stinkin’ rich and can pour some of his riches into transformative (i.e. hubristic) charitable projects. And because he promises transformative charitable donations, we’re supposed to admire him. The initial podcast was pretty admiring. And because he was a top-tier Democrat Party donor, he’s got substantial political cover.

If he was playing entirely with his own money, I could ignore him, but because he gets investors, and may even go public, I consider his gambling, as most or all gambling-as-livelihood, contemptible. His investors surely are not told they’re buying into a 100-to-1 shot, where the guy keeps most of the loot if the long-shot bet pays off.

I do not think he is alone. If I understand his thinking, it sounds to me pretty close to some of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s musings about unlikely but huge payoffs — only I don’t think Taleb has sucked investors into his risky, big-payoff plays.

That the guy’s plays are in crypto only raises my concerns exponentially, though it also tends to make me think of his investors as marks who were hoping to get something for nothing in an investment they don’t remotely understand.

“David Frenchism” Redux

It apparently is part of David French’s lot in life to become a walking, talking, breathing, living litmus test among “orthodox” Protestants: “What think ye of David French? Hath he sold out to secular elites?”

The latest entry (as of this writing and to the best of my knowledge) from a respectable source is Carl R. Trueman’s avid French and the Future of Orthodox Protestantism on the First Things website.

Trueman’s argument assumes, without discussing, the wrongness of French’s endorsement of the Senate version of the Respect for Marriage Act. As I have previously noted, French “showed his work,” walking any halfway attentive reader through the logic that led him to support the Act. Trueman, not a lawyer, does no such thing, but just assumes that French’s position is toxic because the Act accepts same-sex civil marriages, at least in the limited sense that he does not want to see existing same-sex headed families broken up should Obergefell be reversed.

Why would Trueman do such a thing? I have my suspicions, but do not want to add my ad hominem speculations to a discussion already too full of them. I invite you to critically read his piece and assess for yourself what it does, overall, besides slinging innuendo at French.


  • Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel pulls out all the stops, except for the “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” stop, in his opposition to the Act. Staver was an instructor at the ADF National Litigation Academy I attended 20 years ago, and he’s a journeyman religious freedom litigator. That makes the misleading hyperbole more lamentable.
  • My current take on RFMA: proponents of Religious Freedom give up almost nothing but also get very little in exchange. I think we get more than we give up, but this Bill is not a hill I’m willing to die on. And it’s mostly moot as long as SCOTUS says same-sex marriage and fairly robust religious liberty are both the law of the land.

Encounters with unlikeness

I believe that any significant increase in personal density is largely achieved through encounters with un-likeness.

Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead

Localism, f/k/a Distributism

In 1910, G. K. Chesterton wrote a book called What’s Wrong with the World. In it is found one of his most famous lines: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

But what did he say was wrong with the world? Four things: big government, big business, feminism, and public education. The first two, which he nicknamed Hudge and Gudge, were in cahoots with each other, and largely drove the other two. The feminists, while imagining themselves to be achieving freedom and independence, had merely abandoned their positions of power and influence in the most fundamental unit of society – the family – and become wage slaves in factories and offices. As Chesterton quipped, “Ten thousand women marched through the streets shouting ‘We will not be dictated to!’ and went off and became stenographers.” Gudge was only too happy to grant them their “liberation” from the home and use them for cheap labor.

… [T]]he state had less power over a man when it could send him to be burned at the stake than it does now when it sends him to public school.

While flirting with socialism as a young man (as so many young men do, being aghast at the inequity of wealth and the crassness of a commercially driven culture), Chesterton soon realized that capitalism and socialism were remarkably similar. Both involve the majority of people working as wage-earners and not owning their own land or source of living. There is little difference between a clerk sitting at a desk in a tall corporate building and a bureaucrat sitting at a desk in a tall government building.

The opposite of employment,” argues Chesterton, “is not unemployment. It is independence.

… Localism faces two major hurdles at present. First, people are not always allowed to do things for themselves. And second, people are not accustomed to doing things for themselves.

Dale Ahlquist, Distributism Needs a New Name

D.L. Schindler, RIP

  • [T]he judgments embedded in liberalism are lies about the human person—primarily because liberalism does not conceive of humans first as persons who receive their being from God but as individuals who are separated from the various relationships that are constitutive of the person.
  • [C]ontemplation and silence are not matters of inactivity. It is not as though contemplation signals a contrast with creative action, such that these are at root two different kinds of acts meant at best to alternate with one another. On the contrary, contemplative letting be is the inmost form of creaturely activity as such. Patience is not the absence of activity but, in the words of T.S. Eliot, the still point of the turning world, where the dance begins, and is.

D.L. Schindler, who died November 16, quoted by Conor B. Dugan.

Better late than never: I confirmed that there is a relationship between D.L. and D.C. Schindler, that of father and son. The legacy, or at least a part of it, lives on.


Displaying pronouns signals: I am part of the tribe and I know the rules.

Luke Burgis, Why Everyone Wants the Same Things.

This is a good reason for me to never display “my pronouns.” If people thought I was a member of the tribe, they’d be all the more furious when I expressed non-tribal thoughts.

[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

The Orthodox "phronema" [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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