Proof Of Concept

We’re still in Vienna; heading back to the States on Saturday.

What a calm and orderly place this is! It may be otherwise in corners of the city we haven’t visited, but so far as I can tell Vienna, and the other little Austrian towns we’ve been to, are everything you’d imagine: polite, law-abiding, efficient, and clean (not fussily so, but enough to make it clear to Entropy that he is not at all welcome here). The people are always friendly, without being intrusively familiar, and share a wry sense of humor that is in evidence all around.

Order matters here. Everyone understands intuitively that there are protocols in place that make things work smoothly and easily for everyone, and that such systems break down rapidly when sufficient numbers of defectors fail to honor them.

One example: I was driving on one of the highways the other day and noticed several times that when someone is driving too slowly in the left lane, other drivers will never pass him on the right, even if the right lane is wide open. Instead they will pull up uncomfortably close behind and flash their lights until the slow driver moves over. (If you relied on that in the U.S., you’d never get anywhere, and you might even get yourself a firsthand experience of “road rage”.)

Another example, and perhaps the most indicative of the difference between America and Austria, is the rail-system protocol. You buy a ticket for your train, or a weekly pass for the subways and trams, and then you just get on and go. I have never once seen anyone ask passengers to show their tickets; nor has my daughter, who lives here. This is a system ripe for abuse, and mass defection would doubtless be fatal to its economic survival — but it just hums along. Imagine trying such an arrangement in New York!

I think it’s safe to say that a major reason all of this is possible is that, despite the chaos afflicting other parts of the Continent, Vienna is still a very homogeneous, and very European, place: most of those living here who are not themselves Austrian are from other parts of eastern Europe (in particular, from other parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which Vienna was the capital). They have a great deal of culture and history in common, and assimilate easily. The place has all the ingredients for a high-trust, low-time-preference, safe and productive community. I can easily see why it is so often ranked the best city in the world to live in.

With that in mind — of course, readers, I won’t miss an opportunity to slip you a red pill whenever possible — I have for you an excellent essay on why high diversity destroys social capital. It starts with a quote from Robert Putnam’s now-famous 2007 paper “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century”:

…inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, to give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television…

The essay then builds an argument based on the philosopher Ruth Millikan’s work on the contextual and developmental foundations of meaning.

Read it in three parts, here, here, and here.


  1. Whitewall says

    Malcolm, your description of present day Vienna has provided a brief comfort for me today. Seems Vienna might just be a lot like I remember it. Hopefully its residents have what it takes to preserve it.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  2. Is the Danube still blue?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Rather a muddy brown, mostly.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  4. I wonder if it was ever blue, or just a figment of Strauss’s imagination.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  5. Essential Eugenia says

    Good morning, Gentlemen of Man Chat.

    The Ladies and I are so glad to hear Vienna is still beautiful.

    So, Gentlemen, whom among you is still planning to vote for Donald Trump?

    Show of hands, please.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  6. Whitewall says

    Eugenia, I am.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  7. Essential Eugenia says

    As always, dear Whitewall, the Ladies and I are pleasured to know you, sir, a soul of uncommon grace.

    Please, sir, if you would be so kind, would you give us your reasoning?

    And, as voting for Trump is such a difficult concept for some of the Ladies to wrap their minds around – I must confess, I am surely stymied! – would you please be definite and explicit?

    Thank you, sir.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  8. EE,

    Since you asked so politely, allow me to tell you my reason:

    The principal issue of the 2016 Presidential election is the future complement of the Supreme Court. From the time of the Constitution’s ratification, which created this Nation of laws (not men), the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government has gradually crept to supremacy by usurping the power of making the law (via proactive “interpretation”) from its presumed co-equal Legislative and Executive Branches.

    The future of the United States, and I venture to say the rest of the West, is very much in the hands of the Supremes. God help us all if we get another “wise Latina” and a facsimile for the expiring Ginsberg.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  9. Essential Eugenia says

    Thank you, The Big Henry.

    I thank you and the Ladies thank you.

    When the Ladies and I next meet to roll bandages for the many wounded in the culture wars, I propose (for those Ladies unwilling to venture themselves into the rough world of Man Chat), to summarize your thoughts just so: Donald Trump. Because the Supreme Court of the United States, Ladies.

    Again, our thanks.

    Donald Trump appears to the Ladies more than a trifle unhinged these days. Does he not appear so to you, Men of Man Chat?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  10. Incidentally, EE (I mean no disrespect in using your initials; it just helps me keep my commentary brief), if you don’t mind my asking, how many of you ladies do you represent? Or is that just your variation on the royal “we”?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  11. EE,

    The Donald may be many things, but I sincerely doubt that “unhinged” is one of them. Any man (or woman — I daren’t imply otherwise) who has been manipulating billion-dollar deals for as long as he has, and remained in such a rarefied business stratum is most definitely hinged.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink
  12. Whitewall says

    Eugenia, by all means, let me explain. As of now I have a choice between a totalitarian felon with blood on her hands-or-a bumbling fool with egg on his face. She can’t be washed clean with any known cleanser. He can be. She won’t be pried out of the WH by any power. He just might quit after a while and hand it over to the VP.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says


    So, Gentlemen, whom among you is still planning to vote for Donald Trump?

    That’s hardly “on topic”, my dear. Must this now be the only thing we ever talk about?

    And why “still”? Has something changed? Has that Clinton woman dropped out?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  14. Robert,

    The Don is nobody’s fool (see my preceding comment if you don’t understand why I think so). I know that this is how his political opponents choose to view him (and how they would like their low-information followers to proclaim him) but that is simply and transparently a false characterization.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm | Permalink
  15. Loki says

    “More than a trifle unhinged…”

    Puh-leeze. Are you referring to this?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  16. Essential Eugenia says

    Don’t mind at all, The Big Henry, happy to tell you about the Ladies.

    We are a Ladies’ Sewing Circle devoted to Good Works. Each month one of the founding mothers of the Ladies’ Sewing Circle opens her home to the Ladies and we gather over tea and cakes to discuss the Important Issues of the Day. Occasionally, we are treated to a musical interlude. Just last week one of our ukulele playing members favored us with her tender rendition of “Sweet Pea”.

    Although our membership nears four dozen Ladies, only a dozen or so of the Ladies attend any given meeting, so the mix of Ladies is always lively.

    The Ladies are blessed. We bring our sewing, take tea, roll bandages, knit socks, and prepare baskets to carry to the poor. The Ladies like to include the children too, especially during the Summer.

    This August, at our Lammas Eve Tea, our youngsters are reciting “pieces”. The children will give speeches nominating their candidate for President of the United States. So far, so the Ladies understand, six names will be entered into nomination!

    What can it mean?

    We just don’t know!

    Does that answer your question, the Big Henry?

    Yes, the Ladies are quite for real.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  17. Yes, thank you very much for that detailed explanation, EE. Which suggests (rather than begs) the question, “Are all of the children future ladies as well?”

    Just a teeny tiny correction — my nickname is TheBigHenry (the “The” being an integral part of the name and no spaces included). But not to burden you, please free to refer to me as TBH (as many of my colleagues do). I rather enjoy the notoriety that provides — TBH having become the ubiquitous online texting abbreviation for “to be honest”, which, as you presumably already know, I always am.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  18. Essential Eugenia says

    Thank you, Whitewall.

    You and The Big Henry have saved the day, and the Ladies are so grateful.

    You see, Gentlemen, one aspect of the Ladies’ Work with Children is to help our youngsters to craft their pieces. Just to make it truly challenging, in this little exercise in rhetoric, each Lady assigned to aid a child must help craft a powerful argument in favor of a candidate who is not in fact supported by the Lady!

    So, to aid the Lady assigned to help make the argument in favor of Donald Trump, the Ladies wondered if I wouldn’t to do a little inquiry among the learned Men of Man Chat.

    What I shall share with the Ladies: In Man Chat, the strongest argument in favor of Donald Trump is also a lesson in strategy and tactics. Elect Donald Trump, ease Donald Trump out, put the VP in place: He who will right the balance of powers through judicial nominations of strict constructionists.

    What else might the child add to his argument, Gentleman?

    Thanks again.

    No, TBH, the some of the children are Gentlemen too, even a couple of the little girls!

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  19. the one eyed man says

    If you’re not happy living under Hillary’s reign of tyranny: you have options! Why not Feel the Johnson and vote Libertarian?

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  20. Well, EE, since it is the children for whom this exercise in social studies has been arranged, I would strongly suggest that you explain carefully that one of the President’s most important duties is to nominate (just like the children are “nominating” for the consideration of their audience) individual’s of either gender for an empty seat on the Supreme Court (which has a total of only 9 seats, including that of Chief Justice). And most important of all — provided the President’s nomination is approved by the Senate, these individual Justices keep their appointments for the rest of their lives, which, in general, far exceeds the tenure of a two-term Presidency.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  21. Essential Eugenia says

    Because the Supreme Court, TBH.

    Will convey your message.

    The Ladies are all atwitter. We’ve never before hosted a Junior League quite so, well, junior.

    Thanks again, Gentlemen.

    Oh, the suspense! Will the children cover themselves in Glory?

    Fingers crossed!

    Vienna is a beautiful city, it’s true.

    Must get out my dancing slippers, for this Lady feels a waltz coming on!

    Good evening, Gentlemen.

    Night night.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  22. the one eyed man says

    Night night!

    In the CBS green room
    There was Donald with a red balloon
    And a picture of Vlad jumping over the moon
    And there were three Russian bears sitting on chairs
    And two little kittens
    And 2012’s Mittens
    And a big Trump house
    And its owner, a louse
    With a comb and a brush and a toupee full of mush
    And a network producer who was whispering “hush”
    Goodnight room
    Goodnight moon
    Goodnight Vlad jumping over the moon
    With the orange buffoon
    Goodnight Russian bears
    Goodnight chairs
    Goodnight Mittens
    Goodnight clocks
    And goodnight socks
    Goodnight Trump house
    And goodnight crab louse
    Goodnight comb
    And goodnight Rush
    Goodnight Sean
    Goodnight Trump’s mush
    And goodnight to his apologists whispering “hush”
    Goodnight stars
    Goodnight air
    Good night thinking people everywhere

    Donald Trump: just say nyet!

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  23. I am not inclined
    to taste the whine
    from the narrow of mind
    who would waste my time.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  24. Aw-shucks, maybe just this one time:

    I bet he feels the Johnson — as it plunges into his empty eye socket.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  25. EE,

    “Because the Supreme Court”, TBH, will convey your message.

    Forgive me, but unless your children are as sophisticated as your ladies are, I doubt they can make that sort of inference, which took a whole paragraph for me to summarize concisely, from just those quoted four words.

    Posted August 2, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Permalink
  26. Whitewall says

    It was amusing to hear Paul Ryan the other day talking about a “battle to reclaim the soul” of the Republican Party. Why now? The proper time for this battle was in 2009 and 2010 when the very middle America soul of the party was organized and in the streets, peacefully demonstrating as the TEA Party. But no, this populist uprising was a threat to the political order–controlled by Democrats and their media as well as inside the beltway Republicans. But that was too much untidiness, too plain and therefore had to be crushed. Now the party is getting a different message and messenger and the Vichy Republican types once again run for cover.

    What will come of all this is not yet clear, but a soul? Never mind that, the other party has no soul- only appetite. Appetite for total power. That won’t be stopped by a soul. It will take back bone. Enough of these crawl for cover Republicans. If not Trump now, there will come a day when a “Trump” rises from the masses with more skill and finesse. This future “Trump” will have no more use for crawling Republican types than he-or she-will have for “progressives”.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  27. Essential Eugenia says

    Good morning, TBH.

    Good point and well taken!

    Are the Ladies a sophisticated Circle? So a few of us might like to imagine!

    The little guy for Donald Trump is turning nine years old this summer, a bright enough little shaver, TBH, but as yet not tall enough to reach the high branches of the Gravensteins where the sweetest apples grow; at his tender age, the low hanging fruit may be all he can reach at next weekend’s Gravenstein Apple Festival in Sebastopol.

    The little guy enters fourth grade this Autumn, TBH, the year California schools begin to treat seriously of Civics generally, and the three branches of government, specifically. A sophisticated understanding – a concise explication! – of the balance of powers is probably beyond the child, but we shall see.

    The Ladies and I are now wondering what we have signed up for! Can we even get the children swabbed clean of Summer’s sticky grime and then buttoned into their proper clothing to say their pieces?

    Promises to be a lively Tea, if not terrifically sophisticated politically; but from little acorns do mighty oaks grow, yes?

    As conveyed to one of the Ladies by another nine year old, the argument for a Jill Stein presidency . . .

    “If you want a woman to be president, you should vote for Jill Stein because she is a girl too, but she is not Hillary Clinton.”

    Wishing all you Gentlemen of Man Chat a lovely day!

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  28. JK says

    Heh heh EE. That’s pretty good.

    That, “she is not Hillary.” Pat the child gently atop the noggin and whisper in the upturned ear “JK approves this message.”

    Still. JK got all that stuff outta his head wastin’ the votes for Perot. Though he was not a she. Ross, JK means to reference.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  29. Robert,

    Thank you for your well composed and heartfelt commentary about the ugly, entrenched and power-hungry political insiders. Your sentiments are righteous, bro.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  30. EE,

    Thank you for your response. I applaud your efforts on behalf of the children. It is a very good thing to familiarize them with the mechanisms of this, arguably, greatest (albeit far from perfect, as Churchill noted) government ever conceived by human intellect.

    We must do more to educate the new generations if we are to survive as the once-great nation the United States has been.

    If I may suggest it, it would be imperative to convey to the youngsters, even at this early stage of their education, that our national election is much too important to be treated as a popularity contest. For example, it may very well be that some woman could serve admirably as our Nation’s President. But it would be inadvisable to base one’s decision on the gender of the candidate.

    Gender itself is not a useful criterion in judging the appropriate capabilities of leadership, even for a commander-in-chief. We note Joan of Arc, Indira Gandhi, and Golda Meir just to name three.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  31. Corvinus says

    “I have for you an excellent essay on why high diversity destroys social capital.”

    The study consisted of a computer simulation of 20 million virtual “neighborhoods”, and its results SUGGESTS that the more “vibrant” a neighborhood, the less socially cohesion. Because “agent based modeling”!

    Except agent based modeling is uttering unable to offer causal explanations of social phenomena. A causal explanation must offer a complete account of all interactions leading to that social phenomenon. Please, anyone, provide the formal metrics to differentiate “bad partial causal explanations” from “good partial causal explanations”.

    Our identities, social relationships, and actual neighborhoods are extremely intricate and complex than any simulation can be generated. Diverse neighborhoods, believe it or not, actually exist, and thrive, in the real world–most people do not live in isolated neighborhoods of several hundred homes, and interpersonal relationships which involved a wide range of ethnic groups are phenomena that work at a far larger scale.

    Perhaps if we are unable to make neighborhoods simultaneously more diverse and cohesive, then an over-arching goal is to reinforce the bridging ties between them.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink
  32. JK says

    [A]n over-arching goal is to reinforce the bridging ties between them.

    Ought be easy enough.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  33. Essential Eugenia says

    From our hearts, TBH, the Ladies and I thank you for your own dedicated contribution to our Nation’s youth, so evident here in your warm essay.

    On behalf of the Ladies of the Ladies’ Sewing Circle, I tender you our deep thanks for taking the time to support us in our Good Works with Children. They are a batch of cute little tykes with good noggins, as JK might say.

    The Ladies imagine children everywhere might benefit by pondering these words, filled as they are with Love for our Country and its Duty to Citizenship.

    Now I really must leave you Gentlemen to it.

    Socks to darn, and such.

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink
  34. the one eyed man says

    There is a man from Queens
    Whose promises aren’t worth beans
    His speeches are a disgrace
    They completely lack grace
    That’s why he slimes and demeans

    He has a mate named Pence
    Who also wants a big fence
    His boss has no plan
    But he stands by his man
    Whenever the world takes offense

    And then there’s the RNC
    Run by the GOPe
    They got played like a chump
    By a con man named Trump
    Their shame is for all to see

    There is a lady named Hill
    Who baked cookies for husband Bill
    She tried to be homey
    And then came James Comey
    Said she: “Why can’t we all could just chill?”

    Posted August 3, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  35. Whitewall says

    When a candidate becomes the ‘Chosen’ heir to Obama, this is how they operate, from Instapundit page:

    “CINDY SHEEHAN: “The Khans’ Grief Is Being Used by a Party That Is Treacherous.”

    Slate asks, “Will the Democrats fail the Khan family the way they failed Cindy Sheehan?”

    Yes. That’s what happens when you become, as Thomas Sowell would say, mascots of the anointed.

    Related: Obeidallah Goes Berzerk As CNN Guest Recalls Khan Ties to Clintons.”

    It is into this obvious open DNC ‘kill box’ the thin skinned Trump walked.

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  36. Karl says

    You wrote:
    “Vienna is still a very homogeneous, and very European, place”

    This shows how American you are. I’m a European. Believe me, by the standards of Europeans Vienna is not homogeneous, although it is still European.

    Make a trip to Hungary or visit the Czech Republik. You’ll notice the difference.

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  37. hoberman says

    Corvinus, are you talking about this study? Who even mentioned it?

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  38. Malcolm says


    Har har. You’re a riot.

    Don’t you have anything more civil, or at least more grown-up, to do?

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  39. Malcolm says


    This shows how American you are. I’m a European. Believe me, by the standards of Europeans Vienna is not homogeneous, although it is still European.

    Well, perhaps, but it’s far more homogeneous than, say, Paris or London or Oslo. In particular, it’s still obviously very white.

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  40. the one eyed man says

    I’m so sorry! I just can’t help myself!

    Watching the Orange Crush get crushed (losing by fifteen points in today’s McClatchy poll, down from the ten point deficit in yesterday’s Fox News poll) is about as much fun as I have ever had with my clothes on. Who can turn their eyes away from a train wreck?

    There are certainly lots of people who earnestly believe in foundational conservative principles: small government, a maximalist interpretation of the Second Amendment, the criminalization of abortion, the legality of religious-based discrimination, and so forth. These views were repudiated by Republican voters, who picked a nominee who believes in none of these things. Right wing dogma was further repudiated yesterday in Kansas – the buckle on the Bible Belt – when Tim Huelskamp, leader of the House Tantrum Caucus, as well as state legislators supporting the Brownback/Kobach regime, went down to ignomimious defeats.

    Now we have a situation where those Republican leaders who timorously endorsed Trump – invariably using the most tepid language possible – are dropping him like a flaming porcupine, lest they be caught up in the stench of an ignorant, bellicose, and mentally unstable buffoon with the impulse control of a toddler.

    There are two kinds of people: those who can extrapolate from incomplete information. You don’t even have to extrapolate here to see what will happen down the road.

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  41. the one eyed man says

    Sadly, this has led to a humanitarian crisis:

    Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  42. “I just can’t help myself!”

    Various forms of learned helplessness can be primary characteristics of schizophrenia.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:06 am | Permalink
  43. Malcolm says


    I just can’t help myself!

    Yes, we can all see that, believe me. Given that, though it’s odd that’d you’d see fit to mock others for lacking “impulse control”.

    There are two kinds of people: those who can extrapolate from incomplete information. You don’t even have to extrapolate here to see what will happen down the road.

    Clearly, there are also those who do and don’t know what “extrapolate” means, as the election is still three months away, and your candidate is easily as repugnant and vulnerable as Mr. Trump.

    As Patrick Buchanan explains, it can still go either way.

    How nice it would be if commenters would refrain from hijacking threads to bray about their little hobby-horses, or whatever flits through their minds.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 4:08 am | Permalink
  44. Whitewall says

    Instapundit page last night:

    THE BIG DIFF BETWEEN HILLARY AND TRUMP: Her crimes damage US national security. Yes, Loose Lips Sink Ships. The Donald mouths off. Experts like Don Surber think Trump’ll learn. He’s a rookie candidate, Surber told me. Trump adapts. The Clinton Foundation? It sells off. It has sold off and sold out. And selling out America is dyed in its crooked wool.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink
  45. the one eyed man says

    My deepest apologies, Malcolm. Please forgive me for trying to liven up your website a little, by providing a departure from the tedious recitation of right wing talking points and the reflexive concurrence by the amen chorus. I know how important it is for conservatives to have a safe space, where they can discuss among themselves how the earth stopped warming back in the 1990’s, complain about media bias when journalists don’t tell them what they want to hear, and long for the halcyon days when white guys still ran everything. I’ll do my very best to restrain myself from intruding further.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink
  46. JK says

    I know how important it is for conservatives to have a safe space, and long for the halcyon days when white guys still ran everything.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  47. Whitewall says

    White democrats have always controlled black people and will never let them go. Another Clinton will only carry on using them like any Bolshevik movement rides its mules until the goal is reached. The mules are then expendable. If democrats go the “reparations” route, they will finally allow blacks to annihilate themselves thereby finishing the ticking time bomb of Great Society welfare state dependency and its accompanying dysfunction.

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  48. Malcolm says

    Peter, if I wanted to “depart” from the topic of a post, I would have written about something else, no?

    You may think of squatting in randomly chosen comment-threads on other people’s websites to deposit japery, insulting doggerel, left-wing cant, and Daily Kos talking points as “livening up” the place, but to the rest of us it merely seems childish and uncivil. Can’t you start your own blog, or something, if this is all you can manage?

    Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  49. Empedocles says

    Thanks for linking to my article!

    Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

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