Peter J. Leithart on the dark side of gratitude:
In The Gift, first published in the 1920s, the French ethnologist Marcel Mauss describes several Pacific Rim “gift economies.” Mauss argues that exchanges among these tribes are radically different from exchanges in money economies. In capitalism, trade is a utilitarian pursuit of self-interest; you don’t need to befriend the baker or butcher so long as he provides useful goods and services. Transactions in gift economies aim, by contrast, to forge and maintain personal bonds. A sale is finished when the buyer walks out of the shop, but among the Pacific tribes, a gift is the catalyst for a chain reaction, since the recipient must eventually make a return gift. Capitalists gain status by greedy acquisition; big men in gift cultures win honor by generous distribution.
Also today, Matthew Cantirino on Trinity monuments and totalitarianism:
Crossing the border from Austria into the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, one is immediately overwhelmed by the standardized high-rise apartment blocks, badly aging holdovers from the Communist era. They now seem like a postmodern punchline amid thickets of billboards on which scantily clad women push casinos, liquor, and cars. But as these monuments to Communism and capitalism jostle for space, they are both alike overshadowed by the medieval castles and churches and monuments to the Holy Trinity.