My Top 5 Posts of the Year (and a little extra)

It’s that time of year, so I thought I’d do my own Top 5 posts of the year (my posts, that is). My criteria were various: posts I liked (even though they didn’t get much attention), posts that helped me think about new things in new ways, posts that I thought were important interventions in some larger debate.  Anyway, here they are. In no particular order.

1. When Hayek Met Pinochet: This series of posts captures what I love about blogging. One Sunday morning last summer, Greg Grandin emailed me an article in some obscure economics journal about Hayek’s involvement in Pinochet’s Chile. I printed it out, hopped on a train for a day trip to the Jersey Shore with my daughter, and read the piece. I was totally jazzed by it. I had thought I had read all there was to read on the topic, but this article by three economists contained many revelations and offered ways of thinking about the relationship between libertarianism and authoritarianism that I hadn’t considered. So when I got back that night, I wrote a post on Hayek von Pinochet. The post took off, doing one of the things I like for this blog to do: bring attention to excellent scholarship that many people might not otherwise read. In the post, I also made a stray comment that provoked the wrath of the pro-Hayek crowd. That reaction sent me down the rabbit hole of the Hayek archives at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. Five posts and two weeks later, I came out. I’m quite proud of the result: a combination of political theory, detective work, and OCD.

2. Let It Bleed: This was an epic post that I wrote with Chris Bertram and Alex Gourevitch about libertarianism and the workplace. Like the Hayek series, it began innocently enough. Julian Sanchez had written a post about his work at Cato, and picking upon a few threads in his post, I wrote a response. That response generated its own responses from a group of libertarians, and suddenly Chris, Alex, and I had a 6000-word post on a major topic of contemporary politics on our hands, a post that was also, if I say so myself, an important intervention in contemporary theory. It was a lot of fun working with Alex and Chris—despite our common convictions, each of us brings quite different approaches to the table—and I think the piece, which we posted over at Crooked Timber, stands as a good model of serious academic work that can be done in the blogosophere.

3. We’re Going to Tax Their Ass Off: Like my Hayek series, this post was kicked off by my reading an article. Bruce Bartlett had sent me a great piece he did on the history of taxes and the Republican Party. That piece was very much on my mind when I appeared on Chris Hayes’s show at the end of the summer. I mentioned its argument on the show, several folks asked me to expand on it, and I did. I also enjoyed working on the piece because I got to do a fair amount of research on taxes, which is not a topic I often write about (though it is a topic I often think about; a libertarian friend from grad school, Princeton politics professor Keith Whittington, and I have talked forever about writing a history/political theory of taxation, from the ancient Greeks to today). Again, the serendipity of the blog world.

4. Anti-Semite and Jew: This post never got any attention, but it’s a personal favorite. I don’t write much about Zionism or Judaism, but there was something so peculiar and irritating about what Jeffrey Goldberg had said on the topic that I couldn’t pass it by without saying something. One of the other things I love about blogging: it’s compulsiveness. Once I get seized on a topic for a post, I can’t let it go. Anyway, even though this post involved topics far afield of my scholarly expertise, it’s probably the most personal post I’ve done. I dug into the issues, and found out a bunch of stuff I didn’t know about.  And said something, I think, that no one else said. And hopefully made Goldberg think twice about his sloppy use of language.

5. Isn’t It Romantic?: Unlike the previous post, this one lay more in comfort zone, academically speaking. Sam Goldman, a young political theorist, had written a response to The Reactionary Mind in The American Conservative. Unlike much critical commentary on the book, Sam’s forced me to do some real work and think about my argument. Thanks to his provocation, I was able to articulate how different Burke’s theory of history is from what you find in conventional accounts of Burke, and how Maistre’s theory of sovereignty undermines traditional notions of monarchy. I can see why this post didn’t get much attention, but I hope folks will take a second look at it.

6. Forced to Choose: This is one of my shortest posts of the year (only one paragraph). But it gets at the core of what I’m thinking about these days in my new book project: “capitalism as existentialism.” I often feel that we on the left miss or misconstrue the moral underpinnings of the free market. I don’t subscribe to that theory nor am I compelled by it. But I can see why people would be, and I think it’s important for us to grapple with it. Anyway, it’s a short promissory note for the future, which I hope to be expanding on next year.

So that’s it: my top 5 and a little extra. I had a bunch others that I liked (a bunch more I didn’t like!) Am curious which posts you guys liked most, disliked most, etc. Let me know!

Happy New Year!

Update (3:30 pm)

I just wrote this on a FB post and thought I’d say it here:

This list is a testament to three of my favorite things about blogging: its serendipity, its compulsiveness, and its conversational nature. If you love talking to people, if you love the surprise of a conversation, its twists and turns, drilling down into a topic with friends and enemies—blogging can’t be beat.


  1. brahmsky December 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm | #

    I liked #6 “Forced to Choose” the best, so I’m glad to hear you’re expanding on that. I also thought the title of #4 was subtly amusing, if I read the implied italics right, “Anti-Semite *and* Jew.” But don’t be so surprised that Goldberg (like others…) thinks of some anti-Zionist Jews this way — as holier than thou separatists with a meshiach complex suffering from “East Jerusalem Syndrome.” There are certain types of Israeli Leftists like this, who can appear narcissistic in their bid to demonstrate individual purity by siding in the most Manichean ways with the Other. And I mean Other: did you ever hear of the Israeli ex-military who did some crazy stunt at of all places Auschwitz not so long ago? Well that might be a bit of an absurd example (the old “reductio ad hitlerum”), but Elhanan Yakira’s book, “Post-Zionism, Post-Holocaust” is about the serious/sophisticted intellectual ferment in Israel over the meaning(s) of post-Zionism there in terms of “theory” mostly, and was a cause celebre when it first came out in Hebrew (2006) although it didn’t get many reviews in English when it was translated a few years later (2009), Yakira may drive you up the wall but if you take a kind of personal satisfaction in addressing these issues, as you say, then you might find it “enjoyable” nonetheless. He debated Robert Meister on these matters a year or so ago at Brandeis on a panel arranged by somebody odd enough to read and admire both men, and foolish enough to bring them together in front of an audience as divided on these questions as they were/are.. Bob’s book is now in paperback, and so if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet it’s very much worth reading, I’d say, I liked #3 “Tax Their Ass Off” as well (and I hope we do), and all your posts about the economic crisis and the poor discussion of it that is allowed to count officially as the range of conceivable remedies. I know you like Livingston (you turned me for one onto his work: Meister too btw is a Bataillian and a trenchant, original commentator on libidinal-political economy, but you probably know that, so I state some of this not to be pedantic but in case it’s of interest to any of your readers), but what’s your view of Unger (or did I miss it)?

  2. Tim Lacy December 26, 2012 at 9:53 pm | #

    Corey: It was long I didn’t read every sentence at Crooked Timber (though I read a lot), but I enjoyed the Let it Bleed exchanges. That was edifying. I agree that it’s exemplary blogging: conversational, accessible, yet dealing with larger, relevant, and not thoroughly explored aspects of libertarianism. – TL

  3. jonnybutter December 27, 2012 at 7:28 am | #

    I love your blog and always look forward to new posts. One of my favorites this year was ‘Isn’t it Romantic?’. The long proto-post-modern quotation from Burke was just fascinating.

    Also, although I can’t remember which post this was in (it was recent), I was gratified to learn that H. Arendt was so clear in her awareness of the dangers of Zionism, and from the very beginning.

  4. LE December 27, 2012 at 10:34 am | #

    A little off-topic. I did not catch your piece Anti-Semite and Jew previously. As someone who grew up and still is an ardent Zionist I would love to know the texts upon which you base your opposition to Zionism. I have never read the relevant texts that describe the main problems with Zionism and I was wondering if you could recommend a book on the topic.

    I just recently discovered your blog (along with Crooked Timber) and I have enjoyed your writing a lot. Thanks for all your efforts and I hope you keep going strong in 2013.

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