Category Archives: Culture

The “Omicron Delta Epsilon” Conspiracy?

When I got my BA at New York University (in history, politics, and economics), I was inducted into the International Honor Society for Economics: Omicron Delta Epsilon.

I couldn’t help but notice that the “Delta” variant of COVID-19 has now been followed by the “Omicron” variant. And for those who have a short memory, the first strain that originated in the United States was called the “Epsilon” variant.

So there you have it! “Omicron”, “Delta”, and “Epsilon”—all variants of SARS-CoV-2 … not necessarily proof positive that this is all a conspiracy of the economists, but anecdotal evidence that economics remains the dismal science! (Oh take it easy, my economics colleagues! Ever hear of gallows humor?)

Song of the Day #1890

Song of the Day: Not a Day Goes, words and music by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the highlights from the 1981 Broadway musical, “Merrily We Roll Along.” Today, Sondheim died at the age of 91. He leaves behind a vast musical legacy. This is only one of so many Sondheim songs I’ve featured through the years. In the original Broadway production, it was performed by Jim Walton [YouTube link]. But the song was recorded subsequently by singers as diverse as Carly Simon, Patti LuPone, Barbra Streisand, and Bernadette Peters (below) [YouTube links]. RIP, Sondheim.

Song of the Day #1889

Song of the Day: Morning Delight, words and music by Nerio Poggi, is performed by Papik (featuring Frankie Lovecchio). Hopefully, after a day and night of excess eating, you’ve got a little ‘morning delight‘ rather than a need for TUMS! From the 2014 album, “Sounds for the Open Road” [YouTube link], this one has a jazzy, soulful midtempo groove. Perfect for The Day After Thanksgiving. Enjoy the studio version and a live performance as well [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #1888

Song of the Day: Thankful features the words and music of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Harvey Mason, Jr., Damon Thomas, and Kelly Clarkson, who sings this song with a jolt of soul. It is the title track from Clarkson’s 2003 debut album. This song expresses the kind of thanks you feel when you’re blessed enough to have special people in your life—those who bring you joy, visibility, support, and love. Check out the album version below. And a Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Hayek as Democratic Socialist?

Les Leopold has a Common Dreams essay entitled “Was Frederick [sic] Hayek a Bernie Sanders Socialist?” that checks off the many areas in which Friedrich A. Hayek favored social welfare “safety net” protections that are on a par with the policies advocated by many “progressives” today.

My friend Ryan Neugebauer shared the article on his Facebook Timeline (so a H/T to him!). And it prompted a productive exchange between us.

Ryan observes correctly that Hayek was “a strong proponent of governmental countervailing power within a capitalist economy,” much “closer in line with [Bernie] Sanders than … with Ayn Rand or [Ludwig von] Mises.” For Ryan, “as long as Statist Capitalism exists (the only form that has ever existed), some form of Social Democratic project is in order.” He therefore favors “a synthesis of libertarian and social democratic thought, … promoting bottom-up dual-power/mutual aid projects [that depend] on the state less and [that build] ‘an alternative society in the shell of the old.'” He argues, correctly in my view, that “it makes no sense to take away the crutches before you strengthen and heal the broken leg.”

Ryan points out further that it was the reactionary conservative “Otto von Bismarck who erected the modern welfare-regulatory state in response to Socialist revolutionaries agitating for change in Germany during 19th century Industrial Capitalism. When people are distressed by poor working conditions, poor pay, and see no end in sight, they agitate for radical change.” Though he embraces long-term anarchist goals, he argues that as long as you have “a situation where a nation state is … affected by crony interests and a distorted banking sector, having a form of social democracy is the preferable option in my eyes. … In contrast to many Progressives and State Socialists, I prefer polycentric systems and multiple option arrangements/escape potential.” He provides a key example:

I would prefer a situation where Trans individuals wouldn’t be dependent simply on the public system, which could restrict their options due to political control, and instead be able to access alternative private options if they should choose or are able to get support to access. I would prefer people being able to access different forms of schooling and not be forced to attend a public school system. Given that the political mechanism is often captured by right-wing interests, it does not make sense to crowd out alternatives, require “public only” arrangements, and simply count on always having “the right people in”, as many Progressives and State Socialists do. I gave a few examples, but I typically prefer having more options than less and power distributed as much as possible.

One can achieve that while maintaining a robust social insurance system. It just will likely always be up for grabs such as long as it is attached to a political system that is easily captured by nefarious interests.

In the Facebook discussion that followed, I wrote:

This is a very nice discussion about the kinds of alternatives that people—who favor freedom and flourishing—must face given the conditions that exist. While Hayek most assuredly was not a strict libertarian on matters of government “intervention”—and I put this in scare quotes because the state has always been intimately involved with all things economic—I think there are two important takeaways from The Road to Serfdom that advocates of more benign social-democratic measures forget at their peril.

The first is this: Politics in general and the state in particular have always been central to the constitution of class structures in society. The more political power comes to dominate social life, the more it becomes the only power worth having (which is why I applaud your support of bottom-up, polycentric, decentralized models of social decision-making). In Hayek’s view, however, the growth of political economy engenders a process in which “the worst get on top” necessarily. And “the worst” are, for Hayek, almost always those drawn from those predatory business-class interests within capitalism that had the most to gain from the regulatory, welfare-warfare state.


Given this reality, even the most benign of social-democratic “safety net” measures that Hayek favored could not escape a class character. Historically, as you suggest, “safety net” measures have often been enacted to not only benefit certain elements of the “ruling class”, but to undercut working class revolts (a la Bismark). (As an aside: I’d go so far as to say that historically, confrontational labor strikes and unrest have been intimately tied up with the depressionary phase of the boom-bust cycle, which both Marxists and Austrians root in the state-banking nexus. Pardon the plug, but on this, see my own undergraduate history honors thesis.


The second takeaway is Hayek’s view that extensive government control produces a socio-psychological alteration in the character of individuals within the larger culture. This social-psychological corruption is both a reciprocally related cause and effect of advancing political economy, a process of mutual reinforcement that undermines accountability, personal responsibility, and the autonomy of the individual’s moral conscience.

As a long-term alternative, Hayek advocated social change for sure, but with a dialectical sensibility; he believed that it could only occur through a slow and gradual change in cultural mores, traditions, and habits, which are often tacit. Like you, he argued that trying to impose such change “top-down,” without the requisite cultural foundations, is doomed to fail. And yet despite this almost Burkean emphasis on slow and gradual change, Hayek adamantly declared he was not a conservative. He embraced the essence of a radical approach. “We are bound all the time to question fundamentals,” he said; “it must be our privilege to be radical.”

I think this was a worthwhile discussion … and wanted to preserve it on my Notablog.

A New Translation of Zamyatin’s “We” …

There is an interesting review of a new Bela Shayevich translation of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, the Silver Age dystopian novel that is said to have influenced both George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ayn Rand‘s Anthem. (For a fine discussion of the possible impact of We on Anthem, see especially Peter Saint-Andre’s essay, “Zamyatin and Rand” (The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Spring 2003).

As Jennifer Wilson points out: “‘We’ has the distinction of being the first novel officially banned in the Soviet Union.” Check out the full review here.

Coronavirus (35): The ABCs — Authority, Boosters, and Caregiving

Since March 14, 2020, I have written 34 installments for my “Coronavirus” series. My last installment on August 21, 2021, “Coronavirus (34): ‘Virtue Signaling’ vs. Doing the Right Thing,” provoked over 200 reacts and nearly 100 comments, as people debated whether I was “virtue signaling” for having adopted a Facebook frame that said: “I Have a Healthy Distrust of Authority, and I’m Vaccinated.” I stated in that Notablog entry:

Let it be known far and wide that I am a libertarian who believes that it is indeed possible to be against the state and against coercion, and still voluntarily get myself vaccinated, despite the fact that the vaccine was developed by Big Pharma in league with Big Government. I believe in looking at the facts of reality as they are and making rational judgments based on the context of my own knowledge and experience. I’ve lived in a city that was, at one time, the epicenter of death and despair from this nightmarish virus. I’ve seen enough mass death for a lifetime and then some. I’ve lost family, friends, neighbors, and beloved neighborhood proprietors. And given my own medical preconditions and the health problems of my sister, for whom I am a primary caregiver, I made a reasonable decision to get vaccinated. My whole family is vaccinated. … We took the path of least risk, given that COVID could very well spell the difference between life and death for us.

Given that I have been publicly forthright and honest throughout my life about my own health problems, I wish to state, again, for the record, that today I received my third Moderna booster. And I am happy I got the booster, and have had no noticeable side effects. My sister is due to get her booster soon.

Now, I realize that I don’t need to justify my decisions publicly, but I’m doing so for one reason and one reason above all else, which was suggested in my last entry.

On November 13, 2020, I nearly lost my sister to a very serious illness; she subsequently underwent extensive back surgery on March 22, 2021. After four-and-a-half months in both the hospital and a subacute rehab facility, she returned home in July 2021, and I continued being her primary caregiver, as she has been mine through all the ups and downs I’ve faced over my entire life—the 60+ surgical procedures I’ve endured to keep me ticking. The stories I can—and eventually will—tell about the U.S. Healthcare System are not the subject of this post. Suffice it to say, the current system sucks for a variety of political, economic, and cultural reasons that I’ll address at a future date.

But the problems endemic to U.S. healthcare did not prevent us from taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves from a virus that, given our comorbidities, would most certainly have put our lives at risk. I have been confident in the guidance of my doctors who have kept me alive all these years and who have been at my sister’s side during what has been the most difficult year of her life. Every doctor bar none recommended that we get ourselves inoculated to protect against a potentially deadly COVID-19 infection. I am happy to report that whatever illnesses have plagued us, none of us has been infected by that coronavirus. We’ve got enough problems! Yes, breakthrough infections are possible, but they remain rare. We think we’ve done all that we can to fight off one more layer of catastrophic illness in the Sciabarra household.

In the end, I remain vigilant against Authority, even as I’ve taken a third Booster (and will take any additional boosters as might become necessary, even if they are among annual shots, like those for the flu). I do this because Self Care is as important as Caregiving. For unless I take care of myself, I will lose the capacity to take care of the people I love. I will not become a transmission belt for an infection that most assuredly could kill my own immuno-compromised sister.

I leave it to others to decide what path they will take. I only know that after my sister’s umpteen hospitalizations over the last year, I can look at this photo of her, taken on Halloween, and know in my heart that I’ve done everything I possibly can to keep her out of harm’s way. Her smile says it all.

Take What You Want and Move the F&*K On!

This is a Facebook post from my friend Ryan Neugebauer. I’m reposting it here because I’ve been thinking the same thing for a long time, given my experiences on social media. From Ryan:

I’ve noticed that there are trends for hating on certain thinkers/figures in different political spheres. People in both groups will chastise them and make them out to be valueless.”In left-wing spaces it will be Ayn Rand or some free-market economist (Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, or Friedman). In right-wing spaces it will be Karl Marx, Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky, or some self-described Socialist politician.

I have NO USE for this kind of tribalism. I take insights from thinkers across the political spectrum. I’ve read people like Edmund Burke, G.K. Chesterton, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Benjamin Tucker, Mikhail Bakunin, P.J. Proudhon, Kevin Carson, and numerous others. Some of those are Traditionalist Conservatives, Classical Liberals/Right-Libertarians, left-wing Anarchists, as well as State Socialists & Social Democrats.

I have disagreements with all of the thinkers I read. Some more than others for sure. But I won’t throw an entire person out just because of significant disagreements. I won’t pretend they don’t have insights just because I really hate something they say. I take the good, understand and reject the bad, and simply move on.

It’s important to learn to engage diverse thinkers and not close yourself out. It’s also important to be reasonably charitable and not write someone off entirely unnecessarily.

Though this approach will not help you with group membership in a political tribe, it will help you with being a better thinker and a better interlocutor. So please choose that over fitting in.

And let me just add: If you’re not capable of thinking outside the square of a stultifying ideology, you’re impoverishing your own critical thinking abilities. My own approach for every thinker I’ve ever read has always been the same: Take what gems you can find in each writer and/or school of thought you are exposed to; criticize that which you reject (but PLEASE, OH PLEASE understand what you’re accepting and what you’re rejecting!), and MOVE THE F&*K ON!*


* This is a play on the old Spanish proverb often quoted by Ayn Rand and her followers: “God said, take what you want and pay for it.”

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed, I made these additional points:

1. Evil may be real, and we can call it for what it is. But there are many insights that one can glean from thinkers that many libertarians and Objectivists might consider “evil”. Many of those on the left brand Rand and Hayek as evil, as apologists for a system of exploitation, but if left-winger Slavoj Zizek can find value in Ayn Rand, and “postmodernist” Michel Foucault can find value in F. A. Hayek, surely those on the other side of the divide can find something of value in the works of Hegel, Marx, Engels, and others.I, myself, give enormous credit to Marx for bringing a dialectical sensibility to the analysis of social relations. As I point out in my “Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy” (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism), it was Hegel who viewed Aristotle as the “fountainhead” of dialectical inquiry (and he used that word), which compelled the theorist to look at every issue, problem, or event by tracing its relations to other issues, problems or events within a wider system across time. Both Marx and Engels did enormously important work in applying these insights to the analysis of social systems, crediting Aristotle (in the words of Engels) as “the Hegel of the ancient world,” among “the old Greek philosophers [who] were all born natural dialecticians … the most encyclopaedic intellect of them, [who] had already analyzed the most essential forms of dialectic thought.”

Even Lenin (!) worked on a lengthy treatise dealing with dialectics, in which he praised Aristotle for providing theorists with “the living germs of dialectics and inquiries about it.”

One can reject so much in Hegel, Marx, Engels, and others, and still marvel at the ways in which they applied this essentially Aristotelian mode of inquiry to the analysis of social relations, systems, and dynamics. The whole point of my own trilogy was to reconstruct that mode of inquiry as a tool that could be used fruitfully by libertarian social theorists. And for this project, I had to face the wrath of scores of folks who labeled me a nutjob.

Well, I may still be a nutjob—but I stand by my conviction that dialectical inquiry is something of great value, and that there is much to be gained by studying the works of those on the left who have used it. I may disagree with many of their conclusions, but I can still give credit where credit is due and, as I said in my post, “move the f&*k on.”

2. As someone who embraces dialectical method (the art of context-keeping), it is context above all that matters here. Which is why we can take the gems from other thinkers and reinvent them, reconstruct them, invert them, and place them in a larger context that speaks to the real conditions that exist, in our attempts to change them fundamentally.