After the rally, many traders considered Black Thursday a correction. We think they were wrong: the next week, Black Tuesday started the Great Depression. But was the Great Depression itself a correction?
Locke’s state of nature justifies modern society — discrete individuals who live with one another out of convenience, each maintaining her inalienable independence. Is tribalism a correction of our societal structure? When tribal thinking leads to reduced health care and fewer vaccinations, for instance, is the resulting lower life expectancy a correction?
What do we do when correction is coming? Jesus’ king sees another king coming to fight him with twice his force. He counts the cost and sues for peace. “In the same way,” Jesus concludes, “those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Did the king give up everything by suing for peace, or did he give up giving up everything by not fighting?
Perhaps the solar system is, in the long run, a correction of sorts, a short-term contraction between periods of heedless expansion.
Humans associate; it’s part of what makes us human. If we don’t, we’ll begin to see conspiracies, suggests Alexis de Tocqueville, a shrewd observer of not only American democracy but also of humanity:
In countries where associations are free, secret societies are unknown. In America there are numerous factions, but no conspiracies.
In our atomized society, the television, the Internet, and social media — screens — replace faces. Few of us exercise our right to associate for political and societal ends the way Tocqueville discovered us doing in the early nineteenth century, so we live with conspiracies and rumors of conspiracies. No longer practiced in associational life outside of religion (if that), we assume that when two or more are gathered together, either Jesus or Satan is in the midst.
I assign all Americans but a single book a year, and they must discuss it with their neighbors as part of an effort to reconstitute the local. I don’t think this is too much to ask. (Past assigned works have included Reinhold Niebuhr‘s The Irony of American History, James Baldwin‘s Notes of a Native Son, James Agee and Walker Evans‘s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Hannah Arendt‘s Between Past and Future.) This year’s book is the first new release ever assigned: Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America.