Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lovecraft Links and one Tolkein Quote

Recently I started following Bob Higgs at the Liberty and Power blog, to get a better sense of the regime uncertainty argument. I'm sure I'll share thoughts on those posts as I go through them.

One poster there, Amy Sturgis, seems to work at the intersection of literature and libertarianism (at least here - her own blog seems more specifically dedicated to literature). She had an interesting post up this morning on J.R.R. Tolkien - an old, old favorite of mine - commemorating the anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. She has this Tolkien quote:

"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inaminate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people.… Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity." (Tolkien, 1943)

So an interesting piece here: anarchy or monarchy; execution for poor word usage; and the fiction of the state. The immediate reaction is of course "Tolkien is a libertarian", and there's previously been statements on to that effect. I think he's trying to make a somewhat deeper point than that - the first is sort of a public choice or political economy argument not to anthropomorphize the state. That seems to me the argument that comes out clearest. As for "the most improper job of any man... is bossing other men" is that libertarian or simply liberal or is it simply sentiment? I don't know - I can only study the political and economic philosophy of one literary figure at a time! And I know from studying that one that you have to be careful about assigning too much technical meaning to potentially uninformed sentiment.

Which brings me to a few other things: in addition to an interest in Tolkien, Sturgis also apparently has an interest in Lovecraft! Her own blog is actually called Redecorating Middle Earth in Early Lovecraft (and I thought "Facts and Other Stubborn Things" was clunky!). I'm following it now and will, of course, share interesting updates. Here are a few Lovecraft items to start with from Sturgis:

- First, this is the list of all her posts with a "Lovecraft" tag.

- This is an article she wrote in 2005 called "The New Shoggoth Chic: Why Lovecraft Now?"

- She links to this article in July's Publisher's Weekly on "the enduring popularity of Lovecraft"

I haven't read any of these posts or articles yet personally.

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