Thomas Hobbes

Before 2013 begins, catch up on the best of 2012. From now until the New Year, we will be re-posting some of The New Republic’s most thought-provoking pieces of the year.

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Rand Paul’s touching (and temporary) display of honesty on the Rachel Maddow show last week has triggered an enormous amount of criticism. Liberals and progressives have denounced as morally offensive Paul’s constitutional concerns about certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Conservatives, meanwhile, have taken to ridiculing Paul as a political novice who doesn’t know when to compromise his principles for the sake of expediency.

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Understanding the construct we call Nature.

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We are living in an extraordinary time. The world has been badly shaken. In the space of a few days a system that we thought was as secure and assured as the air we breathe lost all its landmarks, its clarity, and was seemingly swallowed up by a black hole. Money--essential to the spirit of peace--congealed, like blood in veins. Credit--this fine word is also expressive of people's faith in others--like a machine that jammed, and then stopped. Confidence--the famous "confidence" that is also integral to the pact among citizens and the reasons it must be perpetuated--like a spell that is evapor

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Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama (Knopf, 652 pp., $40) We rush across the gleaming surface of the ocean, moving rapidly but smoothly above the untroubled beauty of the dark waters. Jagged cliffs and wild surf, rugged hills and lush grass pass beneath us. Music plays. Finally we reach our destination, where the action begins. It may be a prison from which a psychopathic bomber prepares to break out, or a clearing where poor Scottish farmers will discover the hanged bodies of their chiefs, or a village where women will be impregnated by aliens.

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