The University of Twitter: Alain de Botton’s Course in Political Philosophy

Today on Twitter, Alain de Botton sent eight tweets, in reverse chronological order. The topic? A short course in political philosophy. Here are the tweets:

The University of Twitter: a short course in Political Philosophy in 7 parts:

1: Plato: We should be ruled not by leaders chosen by a majority, but by those who are most intelligent.

2. St Augustine: We should not try to build paradise on earth. Aim for tolerable government, true government only possible in the next life.

3. Machiavelli: Politician must choose between serving the interests of country and the interests of Christian morality. Can’t have both.

4. Hobbes: Rulers not appointed by God, but by people and if they can’t guarantee their security, they can be legitimately kicked out.

5. Smith: The market cannot alone create a moral community. Civil society must nudge capitalists to be good through emulation and honours.

6. Karl Marx: The ‘profit’ of a capitalist is in essence theft, the stolen life and labour of the proletariat.

7. J.S. Mill: Governments should not tell people how to live, they should give them the preconditions to make their own choices.

So if you wanted to brush up on your political philosophy but didn’t want to read a textbook (or lengthy Wikipedia entries, for that matter), enjoy the above.

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You may also like the quotable Alain de Botton, from his The Art of Travel.

Readings: Goldman, Tweeting Library, Mona Lisa, Jefferson County, Billionaire’s Yacht

Here’s what caught my attention over the last few days…

(1) “S.E.C. Accuses Goldman of Fraud in Housing Deal” [New York Times] – this was the biggest bombshell of the day, and it sent the markets tumbling. GS stock finished $23.57 lower than it started at the beginning of the day, a drop of nearly 13%.

(2) “How Tweet It Is! Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive” [Library of Congress] – in what appears to be a belated April Fools’ joke, the blog of Library of Congress announced that every single public tweet since Twitter’s inception in 2006 will be archived. The announcement was posted on Twitter and the news spread like wildfire through the Twitterverse. I understand that there is a benefit to archiving public tweets, but it remains to be seen what the Library of Congress will do in order to allow filtering the tweets. Something else I’m curious about is how the Library of Congress (or whoever manages this overwhelming project) will differentiate the public vs. non-public tweets: Twitter users can set their accounts to public or private at will, so it’s unclear what will happen to those tweets which used to be private but are now public or vice versa.

(3) “Stealing Mona Lisa” [Vanity Fair] – a fascinating piece about the world’s most famous painting. Did you know that Pablo Picasso was brought in for questioning after the Mona Lisa was stolen in the early 1900s? It’s true! And in case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like seeing the world’s most famous painting, here’s what the scene looks like at the Louvre Museum.

(4) “Looting Main Street” [Rolling Stone] – a provocative piece by Matt Taibi, exploring the rise and fall of Jefferson County, Alabama. [via]

(5) “Baccarat Meets Bomb-Proof Glass on the High Seas” [Wall Street Journal] – it’s simply known as the “A,” but this $300 million yacht, owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko, defies definition. It’s extravagance unparalleled.

Links of the Day (02/05/10)

Here’s what I’ve been reading over the last few days:

(1) “Who Dat Owns ‘Who Dat’? Dat’s Us, Sez da NFL” [Wall Street Journal] – an interesting scenario is unfolding on the streets of New Orleans. The NFL is telling vendors that they can’t sell t-shirts with the words “Who Dat” printed on them, presumably because the NFL owns the trademark on the phrase. It sounds like the NFL is trying to seize as much profit as this surge by the Saints leads to Super Bowl Sunday. Is this a case of a monopoly or something else?

(2) “The State of Molecular Cuisine” [Wall Street Journal] – an interesting look into the world of molecular gastronomy.

(3) “Why Twitter Will Endure” [New York Times] – David Carr explains why Twitter is here to stay. It’s a very insightful piece which has gained more traction recently, as another columnist named George Packer wrote a column in The New Yorker opposing the use of Twitter:

The truth is, I feel like yelling Stop quite a bit these days. Every time I hear about Twitter I want to yell Stop. The notion of sending and getting brief updates to and from dozens or thousands of people every few minutes is an image from information hell.

What’s interesting to me is that Mr. Packer hasn’t actually created a Twitter account and discovered Twitter for himself. He’s relying on hearsay. If you’re on Twitter, what’s your opinion of its usefulness? If you aren’t on Twitter, why not?

(4) “Hi There” [The Economist] – a very interesting piece on how different cultures address and treat politeness and/or respect. Did you know that the reigning prince of Liechtenstein, Hans Adam II, is the only person in the world who can seriously be addressed as Serenity? Definitely worth reading.