The Chains are Broken, the Knives are Sharpened, the Glock is Photographed

Morning roundup:

Interesting times in Tunisia.  Is it the Arab’s world Gdansk or is that too much to hope for?  We’ll see.  But it’s something.

I was heartened to see that Yglesias also excused himself from blogging extensively on Tunisia for much the same reason that I did: ignorance.  But he goes a bit further and discusses the incentive for high growth in the country,including a quote from Tyler Cowen as well.

On this side of the Mediterranean, the judiciary is coming out against Berlusconi with knives sharpened, talking about trying him as a sex offender.  I agree with Rodotà writing in the Observer back in November that it’s really tiresome how the man seems to dominate the headlines.  There’s just no escape, even when actual revolutions are happening in the next country over.  Annalis Piras, in London for L’Espresso, astutely points out that attempts to defeat Berlusconi legally just make him stronger during elections — which probably will get called early this year.  How to get out of this Chinese finger trap?

Up in Austria, Mr. Glock’s past tribulations seem like the sort of violent betrayal worthy of a Bernhard novel.  Across the waters in the US, our gun-obsessed culture futiley tries to understand madness, criminality and legislation by zooming in on the weapon itself.   I’m not sure why we have this misprision.  There are many reasons but the most overarching could have to do with David Reisman’s assertion that Americans tend to locate things outside themselves, which Margaret Mead also noticed.  While I dig around JSTOR for the original, here’s Todd Gitlin in his introduction to the 2001 edition of the Lonely Crowd:

Mead herself pointed to a passage noting that other-directed conformism predisposed Americans to project power centers outside the self — a reason the paranoid streak in American life loomed so large, and perhaps also a reason Americans were excessively afraid that the Russians would take them over.

What if we just substitute “immigrants” or “socialists” for Russians?  Does that make it clearer, and take some of the blame away from a pugnacious octogenarian Austrian engineer?  I’d hope so.  The Times piece shamefully ignores much of what is true about human society and economics of supply and demand.  Chekhov’s rule may be true in fiction but less so in real life: just because the gun is there, it doesn’t have to be fired.

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