The cause is the cause

Kevin D. Williamson on President Trump’s decision to keep his promise about Jerusalem:

The Palestinian statelet is in no way viable, and the Palestinian cause is less and less useful to the Islamic powers with each passing year. The Arab–Israeli conflict was for a time another Cold War proxy, with the Palestinian cause serving as a cat’s-paw for the Soviet Union, which meant that it was a source of real money and real power. Those days are long gone, and the Palestinian cause has in no small part devolved from instrument of civilizational conflict to instrument of ordinary grift, a phony jihad used to fortify the alliance between fanatics and financial interests that is the default model of government throughout much of the Muslim Middle East.

To keep this particular grift going, it is necessary that there be no settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and no meaningful progress toward it. That means that every little step toward resolution must be met with murder and terrorism — terrorism is in fact the main Palestinian mode of negotiation. The capital of Israel is in Jerusalem, and there is no serious proposal under which it is going to move to Tel Aviv or elsewhere. Even should East Jerusalem come to be generally recognized as the capital of the Palestinian state, such as it is, that is not going to change the fact that the west of the city is and long has been Israeli territory, and it hosts the Israeli capital. President Trump’s announcement did not change any of that, but it did represent a baby step in the general direction of resolution — and that is why it has been met with such hysteria, at least in circles of power in the Islamic world.

That’s the Palestinian way: Every step toward resolution, even small and largely symbolic ones, must be met with maximal opposition, up to and including political violence and terrorism. Whatever sympathy one may feel for the Palestinian people themselves, their leaders and the leaders of their allies are not good-faith negotiating partners and are not likely to become good-faith negotiating partners. It is difficult to negotiate a lasting peace when one side does not want peace at all.

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You can’t prove our guy was a serial molester of adolescent girls!

Kevin D. Williamson writes, “Whatever Republicans think having Roy Moore in the Senate will accomplish, it isn’t worth it.

He takes this funny jab at Roy Moore:

Similarly, Republicans are at the moment lining up behind or at least making their peace with Roy Moore, the disgraced and disgraceful Alabama jurist who takes his dates the way he takes his Scotch: 14 years old and on the rocks. (Picking up underage girls is one thing, but at a custody hearing? That’s some next-level degeneracy.)

…and follows with a reminder to the GOP:

“You establishment lackeys would rather lose with dignity than do what it takes to win!” the familiar criticism goes. Politics ain’t beanbag, etc. Mitt Romney didn’t win, did he? Somewhere in Henderson, Nev., Harry Reid is snickering.

Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin, too. “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways,” Marx said, highlighting the inevitable rift between the intellectuals and the bomb-throwers. “The point, however, is to change it.” The Western world was at one point quite full of apologists for the purges and brutalities of Joseph Stalin, with our Communists and fellow-travelers — just “liberals in a hurry,” they said they were — justifying what ended up being 100 million deaths as the brush-clearing necessary before laying the foundations of utopia. The inevitable cliché, “You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” was answered with characteristic economy by George Orwell: “Where’s the omelet?”

Republicans ought to be asking themselves the same question.

My friend (and boss) Rich Lowry recently argued that the Trump administration has proved so far surprisingly successful from the point of view of conventional Republican priorities — there’s more to the Trump record, he said, than Neil Gorsuch. And that’s true enough: Scott Pruitt at the EPA has done useful and important things, as has Betsy DeVos at Education. But that’s a side of hash browns, not an omelet. Health care remains unreformed, the tax bill is an incoherent mess, the border remains unsecured, there has been no significant reform of economic policy, and we have in fact moved in the direction opposite from fiscal sanity, etc. President Trump announced that the U.S. embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem . . . and then immediately signed a waiver, as he predecessors had, adding an Augustinian “but not yet” to the end of his declaration. That was a classic Trump move: The Trump administration is a show about nothing.

That’s not a bargain at any price. But at the price of one’s honor? The Republican party took the lead in seeing off both American slavery and worldwide Communism under the leadership of men including Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. The most today’s Republican party can say for itself is: “You can’t prove our guy was a serial molester of adolescent girls! That’s up to the people of Alabama to decide.”

Some win. Some omelet.

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3 reasons to oppose net neutrality

Josh Steimle offers 3 compelling reasons to oppose net neutrality: competition, privacy, and freedom.

Competition

If the telecoms are forced to compete in a truly free market, Comcast and Time Warner won’t exist 10 years from now. They’ll be replaced by options that give us better service at a lower price. Some of these new options may depend on being able to take advantage of the very freedom to charge more for certain types of Internet traffic that Net Neutrality seeks to eliminate. If we want to break up the large telecoms through increased competition we need to eliminate regulations that act as barriers to entry in the space, rather than create more of them.

Privacy

The government will need to verify, at a technical level, whether the telecoms are treating data as they should. Don’t be surprised if that means the government says it needs to be able to install its own hardware and software at critical points to monitor Internet traffic. Once installed, can we trust this government, or any government, to use that access in a benign manner?

Freedom

Many of us see the U.S. government as a benevolent and all-knowing parent with the best interests of you and me, its children, at heart. I see the U.S. government as a dangerous tyrant, influenced by large corporate interests, seeking to control everyone and everything. Perhaps these diverging perspectives on the nature of the U.S. government are what account for a majority of the debate between proponents and opponents of Net Neutrality. If I believed the U.S. government was omniscient, had only good intentions, and that those intentions would never change, I would be in favor of Net Neutrality and more. But it wasn’t all that long ago that FDR was locking up U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps and Woodrow Wilson was outlawing political dissent. More recently we’ve seen the U.S. government fight unjust wars, topple elected democracies, and otherwise interfere in world affairs. We’ve seen the same government execute its own citizens in violation of Fifth Amendment rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Simply put–I don’t trust the U.S. government. Nor do I trust any other government, even if “my team” wins the election. I see any increase in regulation, however well-intentioned, however beneficial to me today, as leading to less freedom for me and society in the long term. For this reason those who rose up against SOPA and PIPA a few years ago should be equally opposed to Net Neutrality.

The author then provides an answer to “What Instead?”

Internet bandwidth is, at least currently, a finite resource and has to be allocated somehow. We can let politicians decide, or we can let you and me decide by leaving it up to the free market. If we choose politicians, we will see the Internet become another mismanaged public monopoly, subject to political whims and increased scrutiny from our friends at the NSA. If we leave it up to the free market we will, in time, receive more of what we want at a lower price. It may not be a perfect process, but it will be better than the alternative.

Free markets deal exceptionally well in the process of “creative destruction” economist Joseph Shumpeter championed as the mode by which society raises its standard of living. Although any progress is not without its impediments and free markets aren’t an instant panacea, even U2’s Bono embraced the fact entrepreneurial capitalism does more to eradicate poverty than foreign aid. Especially in the area of technology, government regulation has little, if any place. Governments cannot move fast enough to effectively regulate technology companies because by the time they move, the technology has changed and the debate is irrelevant. Does anyone remember the antitrust cases against Microsoft because of the Internet Explorer browser? The worse services provided by the large telecoms are, the more incentive there will be for entrepreneurs to create new technologies. Five years from now a new satellite technology may emerge that makes fiber obsolete, and we’ll all be getting wireless terabit downloads from space directly to our smartphones, anywhere in the world, for $5/month. Unrealistic? Just think what someone would have said in 1994 if you had tried to explain to them everything you can do today on an iPhone, and at what price.

The author also makes a great case, mid-stream, for small government in general:

Everyone seems to agree that monopolies are bad and competition is good, and just like you, I would like to see more competition. But if monopolies are bad, why should we trust the U.S. government, the largest, most powerful monopoly in the world? We’re talking about the same organization that spent an amount equal to Facebook’s first six years of operating costs to build a health care website that doesn’t work, the same organization that can’t keep the country’s bridges from falling down, and the same organization that spends 320 times what private industry spends to send a rocket into space. … Do you think we’d all be walking around with smartphones today if the government still ran the phone system?

The U.S. government has shown time after time that it is ineffective at managing much of anything. This is by design. The Founders intentionally created a government that was slow, inefficient, and plagued by gridlock, because they knew the greatest danger to individual freedom came from a government that could move quickly–too quickly for the people to react in time to protect themselves. If we value our freedom, we need government to be slow. But if government is slow, we shouldn’t rely on it to provide us with products and services we want in a timely manner at a high level of quality. The telecoms may be bad, but everything that makes them bad is what the government is by definition. Can we put “bad” and “worse” together and end up with “better”?

I don’t like how much power the telecoms have. But the reason they’re big and powerful isn’t because there is a lack of government regulation, but because of it. Government regulations are written by large corporate interests which collude with officials in government. The image of government being full of people on a mission to protect the little guy from predatory corporate behemoths is an illusion fostered by politicians and corporate interests alike. Many, if not most, government regulations are the product of crony capitalism designed to prevent small entrepreneurs from becoming real threats to large corporations. If Net Neutrality comes to pass how can we trust it will not be written in a way that will make it harder for new companies to offer Internet services? If anything, we’re likely to end up even more beholden to the large telecoms than before.

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The ends are ephemeral but the means live on

A wise man once wondered if the success of Alinskyite tactics, deployed at the national level, would be temporary or would breed imitation?   That’s the thing with tactics that coarsen the political process:  the ends are ephemeral but the means live on.

Kevin D. Williamson on the downward spiral of unseemly shenanigans in Congress:

That mandate is slated to be repealed as part of the Republican tax-cut bill. A little irony in that: The mandate was an unconstitutional misapplication of congressional powers under the commerce clause, but Chief Justice John Roberts and his Supreme Court colleagues went to extraordinary lengths to find that the mandate could be instead understood as a constitutional application of Congress’s taxing power, thus saving Obamacare’s constitutional bacon. If we are to take serious the risible fiction that the Affordable Care Act was really at its heart a tax bill, then repealing the mandate in another tax bill is appropriate.

But Republicans ought not spend too much time savoring that irony. In their tax bill, they have repeated virtually all of the major procedural sins of the Affordable Care Act: the lack of regular order, the reliance on ridiculous budgeting shenanigans, the “we have to pass the bill in order to find out what’s in it” approach to lining up votes behind legislation nobody had read, which was still being amended well into the evening — “under cover of darkness,” as they like to say in Washington — sometimes with notes scribbled in the margins. And, of course, the tax bill was passed on a party-line vote, or near to it: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee voted against the bill.

A lot of fun stuff was jammed in there at the end. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas put in a provision that would allow parents to use tax-advantaged college-savings accounts to pay for K–12 tuition at private schools and for some expenses related to home-schooling. That’s a good idea.

But I wonder how long any of this will last.

President Donald Trump desperately needed a win in his first year in office after having failed to deliver on such big-ticket campaign promises as repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a more consumer-oriented alternative, building a border wall and coercing the Mexicans into paying for it, and reordering our trade relations with the world. The Senate vote came on the day Michael Flynn, his former national-security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian authorities, a question that is likely to continue haunting the administration. The president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, is said to be the next target of the investigation.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, one of the sillier figures in American politics, said that the vote on the tax bill would constitute a “dramatic turning point in a downward spiral for the Republicans.” Well. Who knows what 2018 holds for the GOP, but the results of the last several elections — which have seen Democratic ranks decimated in Congress and in the states and the inevitable Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency derailed by a daft game-show host commanding his legions from his seat upon a gold-plated toilet — do not suggest that it is the Republican party that is moribund. If anything, Schumer should be sobered that his party has had its head handed to it by a bunch of yokels capable of nominating and electing Donald Trump.

Pendulums swing. But when and how fast, no one knows.

The downward spiral here isn’t tracing the decline of the Republican party but the descent of Congress, which, from the Affordable Care Act to the new tax-cut bill, has shown itself incapable of proceeding according to regular order, of conducting its business in a fashion befitting the legislature of the most powerful nation in the history of human affairs, and of forging bipartisan compromises — which are desirable not because bipartisanship and compromise are virtuous but because achieving broad political buy-in is the only way to produce stable and long-lasting policy settlements. The Affordable Care Act began coming undone the second it was signed; this tax plan, created in much the same way, may very well suffer the same fate.

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Tax reform and millennials

h/t Daniel Henninger writing in today’s WSJ

The swath of the electorate whose view of the Republican tax effort intrigues me the most is the group that has the least experience with the tax system but a lot to gain from a new one—millennials.

Wind the clock back to 2008, when Barack Obama was elected and when people now in their 20s were between 10 and 18 years old.

The only economy they’ve lived with is the weak one the Obama years produced. …  It is no surprise—though it is a stunning and pathetic indictment of the U.S. economy in our time—that so many of these millennials concluded that batty Bernie Sanders’s socialism made sense.

Why shouldn’t they? They’ve never lived inside the sort of exciting, upward-moving economy their elders enjoyed in the 1960s, ’80s or ’90s. Absent real economic opportunity for eight years, the default option has skipped past Democratic liberalism to socialism.

If it’s OK with six Republican senators, the tax bill would attempt an alternative to that. It will drop the corporate tax rate to 20% from 35%, allow immediate expensing for new capital investments, and return to the U.S. several trillion dollars in profits held overseas to avoid that 35% tax rate.

The purpose of these reductions in taxation is to create incentives for companies or individuals to invest in business expansions, which in time will require paying higher wages to attract workers.

 

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There are any number of definitions of conservatism out there

An attempt to define “conservatism” from Jonah Goldberg, back in 2015:

There are any number of definitions of conservatism out there on the Interwebs, though my sense from googling around is that at least half of them are invidious; caricatures plucked from the imaginations of anti-conservatives looking for convenient enemies, sort of like Apollo Creed handpicking Rocky Balboa out of obscurity because he thought Rocky fit a convenient, and easily defeatable, stereotype.

I like some definitions better than others. “What is conservatism?” Abraham Lincoln famously asked, “Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?” That’s pithy, but it’s less a definition than a rhetorical flourish.

Russell Kirk who, despite his brilliance and erudition, was never my cup of tea, offered “Six Canons of Conservatism.” (I’ve edited them down, but you can follow this link to read them in their entirety.)

1. Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. . . . True politics is the art of apprehending and applying the Justice which ought to prevail in a community of souls.

2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems; conservatives resist what Robert Graves calls “Logicalism” in society.

3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a “classless society.” With reason, conservatives have been called “the party of order.” If natural distinctions are effaced among men, oligarchs fill the vacuum.

4. Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and Leviathan becomes master of all. Economic levelling, they maintain, is not economic progress.

5. Faith in prescription and distrust of “sophisters, calculators, and economists” who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs. Custom, convention, and old prescription are checks both upon man’s anarchic impulse and upon the innovator’s lust for power.

6. Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress. Society must alter, for prudent change is the means of social preservation; but a statesman must take Providence into his calculations, and a statesman’s chief virtue, according to Plato and Burke, is prudence.

I agree with all of these in the context of the Anglo-American tradition. But that’s hardly pithy. One of the problems with the term “conservative” is that unlike, say “socialist” or even “progressive,” it can mean wildly different things in different cultures. Samuel Huntington made this point in his brilliant 1957 essay “Conservatism as an Ideology.” A conservative in America wants to conserve radically different things than a conservative in Saudi Arabia, Russia, or France does. Even British conservatives — our closest ideological cousins — want to preserve the monarchy, an institution we fought a revolution to get rid of. In the Soviet Union, the “conservatives” were the ones who wanted to preserve and defend the Bolshevik Revolution.

America’s founding doctrine is properly understood as classical liberalism — or until the progressives stole the label, simply “liberalism.” Until socialism burst on the scene in Europe, liberalism was universally understood as the opposite of conservatism. That’s because European conservatism sought to defend and maintain monarchy, aristocracy, and even feudalism. The American Founding, warts and all, was the apotheosis of classical liberalism, and conservatism here has always been about preserving it. That’s why Friedrich Hayek, in his fantastic — and fantastically misunderstood — essay “Why I am Not a Conservative” could say that America was the one polity where one could be a conservative and a defender of the liberal tradition.

It’s also why I have no problem with people who say that American conservatism is simply classical liberalism. As a shorthand, that’s fine by me.

But philosophically, I’m not sure this does the trick. There are many, many, rooms in the mansion of classical liberalism and not all of them are, properly speaking, conservative. Anarcho-capitalists are a blast at parties and Randians always make for an interesting conversation if you sit next to one on a flight, but they are the first people to tell you that they’re not conservatives. John Locke, Edmund Burke, and Adam Smith were among the founding fathers of classical liberalism, but there are plenty of libertarians who don’t share their piety or reverence for tradition.

Defining conservatism is actually very, very, hard. When Frank Meyer asked my old boss to define it for the seminal collection What Is Conservatism? Buckley submitted an essay titled “Notes towards an Empirical Definition of Conservatism; Reluctantly and Apologetically Given by William F. Buckley.”

Bill was no shrinking violet philosophically, so it says something that it was like pulling teeth to get him to offer a definition of the cause that animated his life’s work. And yet, at the end of the day, all he could muster were some “notes” towards one.

I think this is because conservatism isn’t a single thing. Indeed, as I have argued before, I think it’s a contradictory thing, a bundle of principles married to a prudential and humble appreciation of the complexity of life and the sanctity of successful human institutions.

This reminds me of one of my all-time favorite meditations on conservatism from my friend Yuval Levin:

To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.

Gratitude captures so much of what conservatism is about because it highlights the philosophical difference between (American) conservatism and its foes on the left (and some of its friends among the libertarian camp). The yardstick against which human progress is measured shouldn’t be the sentiments and yearnings that define some unattainable utopian future, but the knowable and real facts of our common past.

So-called liberals love to talk about how much they just want to do “what works,” but it’s amazing how often “what works” doesn’t. Even more remarkable is how the mantra of “what works” is almost always a license to empower the “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.”

In contrast, the conservative belief in “what works” is grounded in reality, not hope.

Gratitude is just one facet of love, which is why conservatism is so inextricably bound up in patriotism. To be patriotic, one must love one’s country for what it is, not what it can be if only the right people are put in charge and allowed to “fundamentally transform” it. We love people for what they are, not what they could be. If you think you love someone or something not for what it is but solely for what it could be, that’s not love, it’s lust.

COMFORT WITH CONTRADICTION

I’ve argued before that conservatism properly understood demands “comfort with contradiction.”

I mean this in the broadest metaphysical sense and the narrowest practical way. Think of any leftish ideology and at its core you will find a faith that circles can be closed, conflicts resolved. Marxism held that in a truly socialist society, contradictions would be destroyed. Freudianism led the Left to the idea that the conflicts between the inner and outer self were the cause of unnecessary repressions. Dewey believed that society could be made whole if we jettisoned dogma and embraced a natural, organic understanding of the society where everyone worked together. This was an Americanized version of a German idea, where concepts of the Volkgeist — spirit of the people — had been elevated to the point where society was seen to have its own separate spirit. All of this comes in big bunches from Hegel who, after all, had his conflicting thesis and antithesis merging into a glorious thesis. (It’s worth noting that Whittaker Chambers said he could not qualify as a conservative — he called himself a “man of the right” — because he could never jettison his faith in the dialectical nature of history.)

Man is flawed. This world is imperfect. Youth is fleeting. Life isn’t fair. Conservatives are comfortable acknowledging all of these things. That doesn’t mean we are complacent or opposed to change. But we are humble about the kinds of change that are possible and grateful for the progress we’ve already achieved.

Liberals love to talk about diversity, but they are constantly at war with any meaningful forms of diversity that conflict with their worldview. As I keep saying, “right-wing” has simply come to mean “non-compliant.”

EVERYONE MARCH IN STEP

Yuval Levin notes that all of Edmund Burke’s metaphors about politics are about space while Thomas Paine’s (the progenitor of American progressivism, according to Levin) are all about movement. This strikes me as a really brilliant insight into the philosophical differences between Left and Right generally. The Left wants us all to march together towards its collective understanding of happiness.

The defining rhetorical trope of Barack Obama’s presidency has been this ancient idea that “we’re all in it together.” This warmed-over moral equivalent of war talk is simply another way of saying that everybody needs to fall in line and follow him to the sunny uplands of History. Here’s Hillary Clinton in her do-over announcement speech last weekend: “President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and every American answered.”

No, they didn’t. And while some were no doubt reassured or inspired by FDR, most people showed up for work not for his benefit but for their own.

FREEDOM FOR ME & FREEDOM FOR THEE

Conservatives champion the idea enshrined in our founding document that we have an individual right to pursue happiness. This isn’t mere rhetoric. The pursuit of happiness isn’t possible collectively, because one man’s joy will always be another man’s misery. Similarly, one community’s definition of the good life will necessarily be another’s definition of tyranny. Conservatism — or at least my brand of it — is not only comfortable with this kind of contradiction, it celebrates it.

In my book, conservatism is simply a partial philosophy of life that describes how the system should be set up for humans to flourish within it. That flourishing requires freedom, including the freedom to be wrong. Which reminds me of this line from Michael Oakeshott in Rationalism in Politics:

But what I hope I have made clear is that it is not at all inconsistent to be conservative in respect of government and radical in respect of almost every other activity. And, in my opinion, there is more to be learnt about this disposition from Montaigne, Pascal, Hobbes, and Hume than from Burke or Bentham.

WHAT ABOUT THE MARKET?

This points to one of my greatest peeves with the liberal caricature of conservatism. We’re constantly told that conservatives are opposed to change. And, to be sure, we’re opposed to some changes. But conservatives embrace change more passionately and eagerly than liberals ever do in the realm of life that most directly touches the most people: the market. The free market is constantly transforming society in profound ways. And who stands athwart history yelling “Stop” at this unceasing tide of change? The Left. The entire left-wing economic agenda is geared towards slowing or stopping economic change. Just look at their opposition to free trade, Uber, GMOs, fracking, and now driverless cars.

No conservative worth the name would say that every product of the free market has been an advance for humanity, but we understand that a free society isn’t free without a fundamentally free market. Liberals resent the free market and are constantly trying to argue that free enterprise isn’t a freedom like, say, free speech (not that they’ve been too keen on free speech either of late). The reasons for this animosity could fill libraries, but among them is the fact that free markets must generate material inequalities and material egalitarians think that’s a crime. Conservatives are for the most part comfortable with material inequalities — so long as the system that produces them is fair and open — because we understand that’s how life works. Indeed, it’s how life should work. If you put in the work, if you have the great idea, you should do better than someone who doesn’t. We’re comfortable with this contradiction.

Philosophically and psychologically, this fact is offensive to the socialist mind. Philosophically, because it seems unfair. Psychologically, because it is un-fun. In a socialist economy, the socialist intellectuals and bureaucrats have the power (and, truth be told, the wealth). In a free economy, the socialist intellectual is a performance artist and the socialist bureaucrat has to work for a living.

“No political philosopher has ever described a conservative utopia,” Samuel Huntington writes. That’s because there is no such thing as a conservative utopia — because there’s no such thing as a utopia (the very word means “no place”). The socialist cannot accept this and he spends his days arguing that it is better to constantly try to kill the two birds in the bush with one stone than to be grateful for the one bird he already has in his hand.

 

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To rewrite the rules of courteous behavior

I can’t recall where/when I first heard said, of conservatism, that it “has a certain meanness of spirit – along with a superiority of fact.

Just came across a longer version of the same idea, from 10 yeas ago, pretty good stuff.  Writing in City Journal, Andrew Klavan in “The Big White Lie.”

The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed
or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

This is leftism’s great strength: it’s all white lies. … But because it depends on—indeed is defined by—describing the human condition inaccurately, leftism is nothing if not polite. With its tortuous attempts to rename unpleasant facts out of existence—he’s not crippled, dear, he’s handicapped; it’s not a slum, it’s an inner city; it’s not surrender, it’s redeployment—leftism has outlived its own failure by hiding itself within the most labyrinthine construct of social delicacy since Victoria was queen.

This is no small thing. To rewrite the rules of courteous behavior is to wield enormous power.

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