After the election, I decided to take some time off from up-to-the-minute news. I paused my New York Times delivery (yes, sonny, I do still read ink on paper, want to make something of it?), cut down on blog reading, and stuck to the Economist, The New York Review of Books, and a few other journals. And books. Remember those?
And, after a few weeks, there are a couple of weekly podcasts I have resumed.
So what's been going on? I know there have been tweets. One of the TVs by the squat racks at the gym is tuned to CNN when I go. The high-cheekboned Brooke Baldwin is always looking startled or appalled by something, but the sound is off, so I am never quite sure what it is. But it seems to often involve a tweet by the President Elect.
(The other TV, by the benches and dumbbell racks, is tuned to one of those sports shows where everyone does stylized commentary kabuki about what some sportsball player has just done or might soon do or should do and why everyone else on the show is utterly wrong about what this person did or might do or should do--they all seem to have an extraordinarily good time doing this, but I can't hear them either).
If someone had had the sense to choose the term burp rather than tweet, our lives would be much the better.
My vacation from the Gray Lady will end soon. I've finished Francis Fukuyama's The Origins of Political Order, and will take a break before attacking the second volume, about political order since the French Revolution. One big topic is the inevitable decay of political institutions, and how they often continue long after circumstances have changed and they are no longer useful, but are propped up from the groups that continue to benefit from them. Until there is a crisis and they fall over like a stage set.
Somber thoughts. But that is my topic for this winter: functional institutions, the nature of political legitimacy, and how we, as feeble individuals, should act in the long term to make this world a better rather than a worse place.