This was a day of travel-related travails of many sorts. Had expected to be en route to Mississippi on an American Futures-related update trip. Instead (seemingly) unrelated but mounting mechanical and electrical problems in a small plane meant no-go tonight.
The silver lining was the excuse to try out a place I had heard about (and whose beer I’d bought) but not visited: one of Dogfish Head’s three DC-area outlets. The brewery and headquarters are nearby in Delaware. I say: even if you’re not reflecting on a cancelled trip, worth checking out.
Posters for their beers:
Since you asked, the tattoo on the right says 酒 , jiu, for liquor or spirits. As in 啤酒, pijiu, for beer or 葡萄酒, putaojiu, for wine. Pijiu was the specialty at Dogfish head.
Have been off the grid, mainly in Mississippi, so here is a good-news way to ease back in.
1) Ballast Point Bonanza. I’ve long enjoyed Ballast Point beers, from San Diego. Earlier this month I mentioned its lightish Longfin Lager. My favorites from its lineup are actually its Sculpin IPA, as shown at right, and the packs-a-punch, spicy-plus-bitter Habanero Sculpin. Also great: Ballast Point’s Fathom IPL (India Pale Lager), Big Eye IPA, and Dorado Double IPA.
In addition to liking the beer, I’ve liked the idea that Ballast Point was co-founded by fellow Cirrus airplane pilot (and skilled flight instructor) Bill Graham, whom I’ve come to know at a number of aviation gatherings over the years. When I saw him at a Cirrus convention in Dallas a few weeks ago, he didn’t mention that he was about to sell the craft brewery for … one billion dollars. That’s the news — sale of Ballast Point to Constellation Brands as a California-based non-tech billion-dollar “unicorn” — that was announced yesterday. Congratulations to the company, and to the Graham family.
Only little cloud on the horizon: some of Constellation’s other beer brands include Corona, Pacifico, and Tsingtao. Hmmm. Please keep your brewmasters, Bill!
2) Beer Road Trip. From Nathan Yau at FlowingData, a wonderful algorithmically generated map of how to visit the greatest number of the nation’s best craft breweries with the most efficient route. Not all of them are there — no Bent Paddle or Fitger’s of Duluth, Minnesota, no Yazoo of Nashville, no Victory Brewing (and its famous Hop Devil) of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, no DC Brau of DC, no Terrapin of Athens, Georgia, none of the Mississippi breweries I’ll be writing about shortly, of course no Hangar 24 or Escape or Ritual of Redlands, California — but, to be fair, it covers a lot. Nice job.
3) Know Your Craft Beers. The LA Times story on the Ballast Point sale also has a interesting / challenging test on “craft” vs. “crafty” beers — ones that are still independent, versus brands that are part (as Ballast Point is about to be) of larger chains. Many of the “crafty” beers are still very good! But see if you do better on this test than I did…
I have exactly two sources of recent interest in the fascinating-to-millions-of-people-but-previously-not-to-me world of SEC football.
One is the delightful recent book by Stuart Stevens — former Mitt Romney campaign strategist, book and TV writer, author for The Atlantic and other publications — called The Last Season. It’s the story of how, after the painful loss with Romney, Stevens spent a late summer and fall going with his 95-year-old father to every game of the football season for the University of Mississippi, his father’s alma mater. The book is about the modern role of football, especially the SEC variety. But it is also about the pre- and post- Civil Rights era deep south, about fathers and sons, about self-knowledge and self-delusion, about life’s losses and gains. I recommend it. It was 99% because of the book that I watched part of the game this afternoon in which Ole Miss steamrolled LSU.
The other is our series of visits in the past 18 months to the Golden Triangle of Mississippi, one of whose three component cities is Starkville, home of Mississippi State. One week ago I was flying over the Mississippi State campus with members of the Atlantic’s video crew, getting as close to the Alabama-Mississippi State showdown in Wade Davis Stadium as the gametime no-fly zone would allow.
A year ago at this time, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were just ending a multi-week run as the undefeated No. 1 team in the country. (They ended up with three losses, and a final ranking as #11.) In their game last weekend, the Bulldogs were crushed by the Crimson Tide. But as I type the Bulldogs are in an extremely high-scoring cliffhanger against the Arkansas Razorbacks. I will intentionally post this before I know the outcome.
Until three years ago, Mississippi had nothing like a craft brew industry. State law limited the alcohol content of beer to 5%, and most craft beers are above that. Since the law was changed in 2012, new breweries have sprung up. A week ago, at the indispensable Mississippi beer center known as the SmokeStack (in West Point), I loaded up on the Magnolia State products you see at top.
Very different styles, but I liked them all (and liked the two from Lazy Magnolia best). Keep an eye out for them; enjoy Stuart Stevens’s book; and now I’ll check to see how the Dogs-Hogs game turned out.
Update Very dramatic! The Dogs won in the final minute, 51-50, by blocking a Hogs chip-shot short-yardage field goal attempt with 40 seconds to go. I think I will now leave SEC football to its actual fans, going out on top after this exciting evening game.
When my wife and I lived in Austin long ago, while she was a UT graduate student and I was working for the then-new Texas Monthly (and then-State Senator, now Congressman, Lloyd Doggett), we spent what seemed like every evening with friends at the famous Scholz Garten open-air beer garden downtown. The range of regional beer choice in those days was Shiner, Pearl, or Lone Star from Texas, and Negro Modelo, Bohemia, Dos Equis, etc from further south.
The craft brew age has come to Texas as it has everywhere else. Continuing our saga of appreciation for the increasing range of American beer greatness, please consider the four offerings above. They are shown on a Dallas doorstep, protectively nestled on a blanket with Dress Mackenzie tartan. From left to right:
Deep Ellum IPA, again from Deep Ellum brewery. If forced to choose between this and Mosaic, I would choose both.
My main point with these updates is to add little chronicles of the ongoing golden age of beer. For academic substantiation on that point, check out the new Journal of Wine Economics for a history and analysis of the American craft brewing movement by three academic economists: Kenneth Elzinga, Carol Horton Tremblay, and Victor Tremblay. A PDF of their 33-page essay is here. (Thanks to Russ Mitchell for spotting it.) The report includes this map of craft brewing’s expansion, after Jimmy Carter took the historic step of legalizing home brewing in 1979.
A new entry on Amtrak’s cafe-car offerings: Victory Brewing Company’s Hop Devil IPA!
This is a step forward on an already progressive menu. For years Amtrak has offered Sam Adams Boston Lager on northeastern routes, plus Yuengling — and then Dogfish Head’s super-potent 90 Minute IPA, which at 9% alcohol is too much for me. [Update: and I hear from a reader that San Diego’s wonderful Stone beers have been available on the west coast Surfliner.]
Yesterday in this space I argued that Donald Trump should shut up. Amtrak’s recent decision to stock Victory Brewing Company’s Hop Devil IPA on some trains showed that America is already great again.
Today the evidence from the nation’s northeastern rail corridor is mixed. On the one hand,we have the livestock-pen-indignity of the Penn Station waiting area, in which people mill around waiting for the last-second announcement of which gate to rush toward. (Yes! I know about the secret lower-level workaround. I’m thinking of my fellow citizens.) This is better than most commercial airports, but just barely. Penn Station veterans will know that the miracle of the shot below is that you can see a little area of unoccupied linoleum. But after all, this was 3 pm.
If Trump would boil his platform down to, Making Penn Station Great Again, I might sign on.
On the other hand, I give you now the Zaro Family Bakery, a Penn Station vendor doing its part to make things great all around. In its cooler we find … cans of wonder! Sierra Nevada Torpedo, in the darker-green cans, plus its mainstay Pale Ale; Sam Adams Rebel IPA and (lower down) its mainstay Boston Lager; plus Brooklyn Lager and Magic Hat Not Quite Pale Ale, all at $5 per 16-ounce can. More than in a liquor store, less than on the train.
As always our world is complex. But I have a can of Torpedo with me, and the wifi is working on the train as it rolls along through the clear and icy landscape, so for now I’ll return to the can-is-half-full perspective on our land.
Last summer my wife Deb and I stopped through Chico, California, to hear the story of how Sierra Nevada, second-largest of America’s craft brewers, had ended up in this remote site in Butte County. More on that tale ahead.
For now, to catch up on our Cavalcade of Beers, a welcome harbinger of spring on the still-chilly Eastern seaboard. It’s a 2016 release from Sierra Nevada’s line of Beer Camp collaborative and experimental releases. This spring’s version, Tropical IPA, has been in ample stock at the neighborhood Safeway here in DC. (Sierra Nevada now serves the East Coast from a second brewery, in North Carolina.)
You can follow the whole discussion about this seasonal release on Beer Advocate here; most people who have weighed in like this Tropical IPA, as do I. Judge for yourself, if you still can find it in one of your stores — which is to say, if I haven’t been through your neighborhood.
Thanks to my Atlantic colleague Kathy Gilsinan for the reminder of why today is different from all other days: It’s National Beer Day! Congratulations to beer.
Last week I did an item about the reasons to believe that craft breweries can actually play a significant part in the economic revival of communities. Short version: because startup breweries need a lot of space but typically don’t have a lot of money, they usually set up show in low-rent, fringe, non-fashionable parts of town. The jobs and activity they create in those neighborhoods have their own effect — which is then magnified by the customers they draw to the area, particularly at night and weekends when warehouse districts would ordinarily be deserted. As Jeff Alworth wrote in an All About Beer item I mentioned:
They are people magnets, bringing folks in who are curious to try a pint of locally made IPA. In fairly short order, breweries can create little pockets of prosperity in cities that can (and often do) radiate out into the neighborhood.
Pretty soon, other businesses see the bustle and consider moving in, too. It doesn’t hurt that breweries often find run-down parts of towns that have great buildings. Once a brewery moves in and refurbishes an old building, it reveals the innate promise of adjacent buildings to prospective renters.
My wife Deb and I have seen dozens of startup craft breweries around the country in recent years, and I could have used a photo of some random one in Vermont or South Carolina or Pennsylvania or Mississippi or Southern California to make the case. Or for variety I might have used a photo like the one at the top of this post, from Flowers Craft Beer and Wine in the developing/local-arts-centric Roosevelt Row district of Phoenix, which we visited earlier this week. Flowers sells craft beers (including in growlers and bombers) rather than brewing them on-site but has brewpub-like spillover economic effects.
But the photo I happened to use was of the four young founders of Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth, Minnesota: Bryon and Karen Tonnis, and Colin and Laura Mullen, whom you see again below:
After using their photo, I heard from a number of people in Minnesota, all asking whether I was aware of the political controversy that Bent Paddle was in the middle of.
I wasn’t aware of it then, but I am now. And I think this dispute shows something interesting and potentially significant about the role of the young startup “makers” we’ve been reporting on around the country.
Bend Paddle and its founders have become members of a Duluth-area organization called the Downstream Business Coalition. In my March issue story, I quoted the Duluth entrepreneur Dave Benson as saying that the area had become a hotspot of startups and innovation. The kinds of companies he was talking about — including Loll furniture and Epicurean kitchenware, which he and his brother Greg founded — are very strongly represented in the Downstream membership. (You can see the full list here.) The organization has a strong environmental emphasis, directed especially to protecting Lake Superior and its watershed. These are as important to Duluth’s identity, and its emerging northern-paradise eco-tourism prospects, as the ocean is to Malibu or the mountains to Colorado. As the coalition’s manifesto says:
We are a growing group of nearly 80 small businesses in the North, representing a cross-section of industries including technology, manufacturing, service, entertainment, and the trades. We employ nearly 1000 people and we are continuing to succeed and invest, adding jobs and dollars to our economy. Our businesses depend on the health of the Lake Superior watershed.
For those of us in the over 17,000 job, $800 million annual tourist and outdoor industries of Northeast Minnesota, the water draws our customers. The St. Louis River, Boundary Waters and Lake Superior have become great attractions for our region, and others and we have built a foundation for an entire tourist economy. For all our regions businesses, healthy water and vibrant outdoor access have enabled us to recruit and retain skilled employees. The economy of the North overall depends in on the unparalleled quality of life the clean water provides. For several of our businesses, water is our raw material and our brand. Those of us in the beverage manufacturing industry have located our businesses in the watershed specifically for access to the pristine water of Lake Superior.
How could this outlook be controversial? Because it led the members of the coalition, to oppose a proposed new copper mine on the north shore of Lake Superior, near the town of Silver Bay. You can read the details of the dispute in the Duluth News Tribunehere and here, and the Downstream coalition’s warnings against the mine here. In essence they argue that even on purely economic grounds, a new mine would be a mistake, since in exchange for a relative handful of mining jobs the region would jeopardize its highest-value, fastest-growing industries.
Based on what I’ve seen across the country and around the world, I find this a compelling argument. But for understandable reasons, some residents of Silver Bay, which have lost old mining jobs and how for new ones with the proposed copper mine, see it differently. Thus one month ago the Silver Bay city council passed a resolution order the city-run Silver Bay Municipal Liquor Store and Lounge to take Bent Paddle products off its shelves. If city residents decided to express their disapproval by not buying Bent Paddle brews, that would be in the grand old tradition of people voting with their pocketbooks. The City Council move was in the cruder tradition of denying customers that choice.
Last week I called Laura Mullen, of Bent Paddle, to ask her how this appeared from the company’s point of view. She said that part of the tension was long-standing. The traditional mining communities of Minnesota’s Iron Range have felt themselves on the wrong side of history’s slope. (This is me talking, not Mullen.) Their populations have been shrinking, jobs and young people are going away, those who remain are older, and among their antagonists (as they see it) are the younger, environmentally active populations in the cities.
“As soon as we became part of the Downstream alliance, we knew we’d have trouble in the Range,” Laura Mullen told me. But she said that the company was expecting some customer resistance, not the council’s outright and heavy-handed ban. “The difference with Silver Bay is that it told the municipal liquor store what to do.”
“We’re not looking for a war with Silver Bay,” she said. “We actually feel kind of bad for all the negative publicity they’re getting.”
Based on what I’ve heard from friends in Duluth, the anti-Bent Paddle move is in fact backfiring. A move meant to punish the company in one small market for an environmental stand is winning it broader support elsewhere. (You can think of the obvious parallels with the national reaction against anti-LGBT measures in Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and elsewhere.)
“This dispute has been happening through the fall and winter,” Laura Mullen said. “But the summer tourism season is about to kick in again. People have heard about our beer, and will be asking for it. Summer tourism will change the game, because people who aren’t selling the beer will lose a lot.”
There’s a fascinating report here, in Growler magazine, of Laura Mullen’s statement to the Silver Bay city council, after it imposed the ban. Speaking for all four Bent Paddle founders, she emphasized that the company was pro-mining, pro-union, pro-livable wage, pro-Northland. She added:
When this controversy first began, our first action was to get into our car and drive to every store and bar struggling under pressure to drop our product on the Range. We drove. We listened. We explained. While these accounts don’t represent huge sales volumes, it’s the relationships that truly matter to us. We want to take this time to thank those business owners who did not succumb to the pressure of a few and who believe in the free market by keeping our Northland-made beer on their shelves and menus. We also want to do everything in our power to help the Range and this region with the job insecurity that has been so prevalent in the traditional mining communities of our state. Please know that Bent Paddle will be right beside you as we demand action from our Northeast Minnesota policymakers and seek real, long-lasting, sustainable economic diversification for our region so we can all continue to live, work, and play here without fear of what tomorrow will lend….
Hard as this is, we’re proud of our stance. In our backyard sits 10% of the world’s fresh water—fresh, clean water is becoming a more valuable asset globally each day, and to think we are all the stewards of 10% of it is a large undertaking that we believe our Northeast Minnesota community should be protecting wholeheartedly—in our case even if it means upsetting friends and losing sales.
That’s as far as I want to get into the specifics of this dispute now. My point in bringing it up, on National Beer Day, is to underscore the way this part of America’s entrepreneurial- and place-making revival is playing a part in shaping and improving our national future. One further thought from the Bent Paddle statement to the Silver Bay council, which is relevant for its economic, environmental, and civic overtones:
None of this has been easy. Beer is often celebratory, bringing people together. We take a lot of pride in being a part of this region so it has been incredibly difficult to think of this issue dividing us….
Our brewery is located in a neighborhood that has historically been unattractive to business development. We have joined and been active in several organizations to revitalize the neighborhood we operate in and are trying to find ways and reasons for other businesses to open and provide jobs for neighborhood residents. At the end of the day we feel it is better to be proactive and stand up for what you believe to be right.
Congratulations to beer! Congratulations to America’s start-up brewers.
I am in the middle of article-writing. Thus this amuse-bouche.
In this space I have from time to time unkindly disparaged the state of Florida. If you’re from California, you are supposed to. Also, I blame the @_FloridaMan Twitter account. Still, in atonement let me mention two nice beers I found during a trip to Miami last Friday. I was there for a National League of Cities conference to hear six mayors talk about how their cities had come back from hardships, and to talk with people at the Knight Foundation about the “City Challenge” program I wrote about last week.
Last week I mentioned that Salisbury, Maryland, was among the towns taking the craft-brewery route to success. A local newspaper article mentioned Evolution brewery. In a local DC Kwik-E-Mart I have just found and tried some of its No. 3 IPA, which you see in the center below, and which like the others here I recommend. On the flanks are two old-friends Centennial IPAs, from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The craftbrew revolution: it’s not just for America any more
I give you Wig and Pen, on the very campus of the Australian National University in Canberra. A wide range of beers made on site, and this in the land that barely a decade ago offered mainly the thin and depressing likes of Foster’s, Tooheys, Hahn, and VB.
If you would like to be astonished by a range of craft beers from around the world, try the Oak Barrel in Sydney. And if you’re in the Australian Capital Territory, check out Wig and Pen.
That is all. Thanks to Christopher Zinn and Sam Roggeveen.
Heady Topper is a beer from Vermont with three distinctive attributes. It is extremely good; it comes in large-sized cans; and it is available only in a very limited area around its brewing site, in Waterbury. You can read all about it starting here.
I’ve found the Australian counterpart. It’s from a brewery called Modus Operandi (which I have not yet visited), in the northern Sydney suburb of Mona Vale, and it is called “Former Tenant” Red IPA.
When I was in the very well-stocked Oak Barrel beer-and-wine store in Sydney last week, I asked one of the staffers for the best, canned, Aussie, IPA he could point me toward. Best for obvious reasons; canned so I could easily bring it back in a suitcase; Aussie as part of a buy-local, see-the-world policy; and IPA because that’s what I like.
“Well, it’s probably this one,” he said, pointing to “Former Tenant.” It is indeed excellent, and the harsh truth I have to convey is that you just aren’t going to find it any place other than greater Sydney. At least for now. Another reason to visit! Among many.
The can even looks like Heady Topper’s. If you have a chance, check it out.
Here’s something I hadn’t come across before: Not simply good local craft beer inside an airport, which is becoming more common (and which I first noticed a few years ago, with Heady Topper on tap at the excellent-in-all-ways BTV BVT airport in Burlington, Vermont). In this case the local supplier in question is Yazoo Brewing, of Nashville, and the airport is BNA, of Nashville.
(I wrote about Yazoo last summer, when I was in Nashville to interview Al Gore for this story. Alas, I couldn’t talk Gore into visiting the brewhouse with me, so I was there on my own.)
The news for me was craft beer to go inside the Nashville airport. Or beer “on the fly,” as the Yazoo banners put it. You can buy a pint from the Yazoo kiosk in Concourse C (as I did today) and then take it anyplace inside the “secured” (post-TSA) part of the airport, excepting only (a) into other bars and (b) actually onto the plane when you board.
Why does this matter? Obviously in any cosmic way it doesn’t, but it’s one more little ergonomic improvement. You don’t have to jam into one of the bars, elbowing for a seat and wondering if you’re already late for the plane. You can stroll with your plastic cup of craft brew to the gate, and then endure all the other minuses of airline travel with this slight positive counter-force.
Background on the policy behind “beer on the fly” here and here. Well done BNA and Yazoo. That is all.
Progressive communities have been home to some of the fiercest battles over COVID-19 policies, and some liberal policy makers have left scientific evidence behind.
Lurking among the jubilant Americans venturing back out to bars and planning their summer-wedding travel is a different group: liberals who aren’t quite ready to let go of pandemic restrictions. For this subset, diligence against COVID-19 remains an expression of political identity—even when that means overestimating the disease’s risks or setting limits far more strict than what public-health guidelines permit. In surveys, Democrats express more worry about the pandemic than Republicans do. People who describe themselves as “very liberal” are distinctly anxious. This spring, after the vaccine rollout had started, a third of very liberal people were “very concerned” about becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, compared with a quarter of both liberals and moderates, according to a study conducted by the University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington. And 43 percent of very liberal respondents believed that getting the coronavirus would have a “very bad” effect on their life, compared with a third of liberals and moderates.
When the richest of the rich split up, the usual dilemmas are mixed in with the fate of enormous charitable efforts and billion-dollar stock holdings.
When Bill and Melinda Gates announced on Monday that they would be ending their 27-year marriage, they tweeted intandem that they “no longer believe [they] can grow together as a couple.” The reasoning wasn’t unusual for a 21st-century divorce, but their private emotional journey has highly atypical financial implications: Between their personal holdings and the charitable foundation they started together, the amount of money they control—somewhere around$180 billion—is roughly equal to the annual GDP of Kazakhstan or Qatar.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which they launched 25 years after Bill co-founded Microsoft, is one of the biggest private charitable foundations in the world, with an endowment of about $50 billion. In a sense, the jobs of its 1,600 employees and its investments in malaria prevention and early-childhood education have rested on the bedrock of Bill and Melinda’s marriage.
The bacteria that live inside the insects can’t keep themselves together.
When the cicadas of Brood X start to swarm the United States in their billions, try to look beyond their overwhelming numbers. Instead, focus on just one of them. Despite appearances, that individual cicada will be a swarm unto itself—the insect and a community of organisms living inside it. Their lives have been so tightly entwined that they cannot survive alone. Their fates have been so precariously interlinked that their future is uncertain. And their relationship is so unusual that when John McCutcheon first stumbled upon it in 2008, he had no idea what he had found. Sitting in a basement laboratory and staring at the data, his reaction was less Eureka! he told me, and more How did I mess this up?
Most of the teachers and parents I talk with just want school to be school.
Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at email@example.com.
Dear Abby and Brian,
I write as a concerned parent of a fifth grader at a private school that appears to prioritize “social justice” over academic excellence. The school has brought in a consultant and now the kids are reading all this new woke literature, and at the expense of the classics we all grew up on, like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Most of the teachers and parents I talk with just want school to be school—not some kind of Maoist social reeducation. Who is this all for?
I’m a left-wing New York City Democrat. I believe strongly in equal rights for all people. And I think we’ve still got a ways to go when it comes to equality. But I don’t want school to make my son feel bad just because he’s white. It’s not like he owned slaves. His great-great-great-grandparents were starving in Ireland during the time of slavery.
Feelings about the vaccine are intertwined with feelings about the pandemic.
Updated at 10:07 a.m. ET on May 4, 2021.
Several days ago, the mega-popular podcast host Joe Rogan advised his young listeners to skip the COVID-19 vaccine. “I think you should get vaccinated if you’re vulnerable,” Rogan said. “But if you’re 21 years old, and you say to me, ‘Should I get vaccinated?’ I’ll go, ‘No.’”
Rogan’s comments drew widespread condemnation. But his view is surprisingly common. One in four Americans says they don’t plan to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and about half of Republicans under 50 say they won’t get a vaccine. This partisan vaccine gap is already playing out in the real world. The average number of daily shots has declined 20 percent in the past two weeks, largely because states with larger Trump vote shares are falling off the pace.
On a Friday afternoon in early March, I felt an urge I hadn’t experienced in more than a year: I wanted to buy new clothes. Outside clothes. Clothes in which I would be perceived, by others. Clothes to wear to a party. The late-winter sun had started to warm things up a bit, I was a week and a half removed from my first Pfizer shot, and those two facts combined to cause a flare of optimism so intense that I needed to express it in what has historically been my preferred manner of celebration: by buying some stuff on the internet.
The first order of business was remembering where I had bought my outside clothes before everything went to hell—ASOS? Madewell? Nordstrom? As I dug through my brain, past all the recipes and the opinions about lesser Netflix shows that I had accumulated in the past year, I opened browser tabs. I was ready to be sold on the possibilities of the year ahead, and I wanted them to include sweaty crowds and recreational drugs and other people’s hands. I wanted to take as many steps as I possibly could toward the person I might be by July.
Your time on Earth is precious and limited. Here’s how to waste it.
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
Arthur C. Brooks will discuss the science of happiness live at 11 a.m. ET on May 20. Register for In Pursuit of Happiness here.
The other afternoon, in an effort to avoid doing my work, I picked up Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. It turned out to be a fitting choice, as Thoreau has quite a bit to say about wasting time. “The cost of a thing,” he wrote in Walden, “is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
Thoreau’s point is not that we should be all work and no play—he was one of history’s most prominent critics of that way of living. Rather, he argued that we waste too much of our lives on things we don’t value. Without thinking about it, we are spectacularly failing some cosmic cost-benefit test, as measured not in money but in what matters most: time.
U.S. policy makers should look to the future with a little more confidence and a lot more trust in trade, markets, and the superior potential of a free people.
China was mentioned only four times in Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, but it shadowed almost every line of the speech. “We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century,” Biden said. His aides describe the president as preoccupied with the challenge from China. “It informs his approach to most major topics and the president regularly raises it in meetings, whether he is discussing foreign policy or electric bus batteries,” CNN’s Jeremy Diamond reported. “And aides say Biden believes it is a key test by which historians will judge his presidency.”
As Biden said to the nation from the well of the House of Representatives, the authoritarian President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest” about China “becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others—autocrats—think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies.”
Facebook’s “Supreme Court” might have upheld Donald Trump’s suspension, but that doesn’t make it a real court.
Back to you, Zuck. Facebook’s oversight board earlier today declined to act as a human shield for the social network. Asked to rule on the suspension of Donald Trump’s account in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot, it passed the ultimate decision back to Facebook.
For now, Trump’s suspension stays in place. But the board has given Facebook six months to “reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty.” No hiding behind the judgment of outsiders when Republican politicians complain about “anti-conservative bias,” or when other world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel worry about the precedent of a corporation pulling the plug on an elected politician—Facebook will have to tell us what its own red lines are.
Public policy should assist families—but not by helping adults spend more time on the job.
For thousands of years, people have understood the pervasive hold that work has on our lives. The author of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes argued that toil and labor are “meaningless.” The Romantic movement rejected the alienating wage labor of the Industrial Revolution. Just this year, Netflix’s The One explicitly dramatized how the pride and power of careerism compete with love, romance, and familial pursuits. This sentiment also undergirds a standard movie trope: the father who works so much that he never sees his kids. In some versions, including the Christmas favorite Elf, the dad comes to his senses, backs off from his work obsession, and becomes a better parent.
But while Hollywood knows that work—which is ultimately futile—is one of the chief threats to a meaningful life and a flourishing family, public policy in the United States treats both of those aspirations as irrelevant. In most advanced countries, birth rates are very low by both historical and contemporary global standards, and both ends of the political spectrum promote greater labor-force participation. Progressives focus on providing benefits explicitly aimed at supporting working parents, such as paid leave and public child care. Conservatives fixate on “welfare dependency,” and demand that the social safety net be structured to actively encourage work. From both sides, policies are being hawked to a credulous public as family-friendly, even though persuading people to focus even more on work is a terrible way to help family life.