“Whatever the reason,” writes Prof. Deneen, clearly sporting for another round of epic battle, “it’s good news indeed. Score 1 for FPR, zero for the PoMoCons.” But Brooks’ defense of the suburbs was wrongly grounded. Here’s why we know better and shouldn’t waver.
I’ve had the opportunity recently to do some extra-careful thinking about Lincoln, the founding, and the Union. I’m pretty sure I’ve decided that many nettlesome and momentous theoretical issues came to a head in one relatively small practical question. What degree of peril did the secession of the Deep South expose to the existence of the Union that was embodied in the United States which remained? (Followup question: what degree of risk should have been tolerated in appraising that degree of peril? So, even if the existential peril was serious but unlikely, it might still be worth fighting against.)
It seems plausible that the peril grew by a very significant amount once the Upper South left the Union. But the Upper South, of course, only left the Union because the alternative was to invade the Deep South and/or become a bloody, Kansas-like battleground. So isn’t it possible to agree across the board with Lincoln’s most ardent defenders (practical and theoretical), yet decide that the civil war needn’t have happened — if it was unreasonable or unjustifiable to interpret the departure of only the Deep South as an existential threat to the Union? I’m still pondering this important question.
Let’s take the solemn dress code away from the Goths, the Rosaries away from the gangs, the blood & death fixation away from the scene-kids, the art away from the academics, the Latin away from the Harry Potter geeks, the bi-location away from Siegfried & Roy, the exorcisms away from Art Bell, the Angels away from Hollywood, the bling away from the players, the stigmatas away from the Arquettes, and the ghosts away from the new agers. In Denver there’s a beautiful downtown cathedral called the Church of the Holy Ghost. Who’s not curious about what goes on in there?
I find this Michael Chabon op-ed, written in the wake of Israel’s interception of the Gaza flotilla, to be remarkable, and not in a good way. A few extremely cleverly oblique references to God, while the figure who identifies that God rather than merely naming him — guess who? — is comprehensively repressed. Chabon apparently wants his fear to be taken seriously that inside any gentile who dares suggest Jews evolved themselves extra-big brains must be an anti-Semite. So fine: I don’t think Jews have been hated, or continue to be hated, because they’re crafty, Mr. Chabon. It’s not because they’re “the people of Maimonides, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Meyer Lansky.” It’s because they’re the people of Moses.
Yes, Virginia. Will Wilkinson does the world a service and gives Glen Whitman plenty of space to air his deep concerns with nudgetarianism. At a recent panel discussing prospects for libertarian/liberal relations, I asked whether the real trouble, as opposed to liberaltarianism, wasn’t actually progressivism. After all, small-l liberalism and small-l libertarianism have certain affinities that needn’t result in progressive outcomes, even smart paternalist ones of the sort touted by the Nudge brigades. When big-L liberals and libertarians get together, the danger, as I’m seeing it, is that the Liberals become less liberal and the libertarians become less libertarian. It’s nice to see even some liberal-friendly libertarians recognize how serious the consequences of such a wrong turn could be.
I’m up at Bloggingheads talking American “rustics” with Jim Pinkerton — folks I sometimes refer to, in a spirit akin to Hunter Thompson’s, as “rubes.” One big question is whether Mead’s much-discussed foursquare categorization of Americans — Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, and Wilsonian — is good enough today at capturing what’s going on in “rustic” America. Probably not, I think. I can’t be the only one who looks back on Thompson radicals of ’70s Colorado and sees an embryonic coalition: Freak Power and Rube Power. Echoes, perhaps, of what Reihan alludes to with the motto Keep America Weird — borrowed from a place where you can find rubes as well as freaks: Austin, TX.
And now, a bit of news I’m excited to share: I’ve signed on as Managing Editor at Ricochet, a new online political forum coming your way in a matter of weeks. Feast your pre-launch curiosity at Facebook and Twitter. There’ll be details to follow, of course. Meanwhile, life will go on according to custom and habit here at Pomocon. Cheers!
Russell Arben Fox is unhappy:
Poulos’s ridiculous, Tea-Partier rhetoric about a bill that has been sent back and forth through the legislative wringer more times over the past year that the great majority of bills ever experience (how does ten months of constant debate and scrutiny add up to governing by “fiat”?) simply reveals him, beneath his philosophy, to be Mansfieldian at heart: someone so disbelieving that any kind of collective action or positive reforms can contribute to political liberty as to lead him to assume that anything which smacks of “reform” is by definition the undemocratic work of a Lawgiver, and therefore sees the “process” behind such as invalidating any and all claims that might be made on behalf of, for instance, insuring people, and regulating insurers, and maybe even lowering costs.
Leaving Harvey Mansfield out of this, I am stumped as to where this ungenerous read came from. My post certainly did not claim that Obama was impatient or unwilling to tolerate nuts and bolts negotiations at the Congressional level. Indeed, Obama, as I pointed out, was quite willing to let things get positively “ugly” as the Congress wrestled with, and wrestled over, the monster bill. That’s because he seems not to care how ugly it gets because only the result counts, and the result that counts is the law he wants. Buyoffs, backroom deals, sops to the insurance companies he demonizes — whatever works.
I doubt any of my regular readers, right, left, or center, could possibly agree that I am the kind of conservative who stands reflexively against reform. Something — in what I took to be my obvious subtext — is occasionally better than nothing, and one of the purposes of a nondysfunctional politics is to adjudicate well when that’s so and when it isn’t. My point, which I believe stands, is that this bill is not something that is better than nothing, and that elevating the something-over-nothing idea to the level of a guiding legal philosophy is a triumph of dangerous abstraction over — yes — the viability of real, responsible reform.
As far as communitarian conservatism goes, I am one of the most sympathetic non-communitarian conservatives I know, so this dispute seems especially unfortunate. But the basis of my sympathy is rooted in my appreciation for the possibility of bottom-up change, on a micro, pluralistic level, in the way many Americans live their lives. Some top-down change is inevitable, and some is necessary and even good — I’m sympathetic to David Brooks, too, remember — but Obamacare is not change I can believe in, and it is not better than nothing. I say this, of course, as a person who shares the near-universal opinion of intelligent Americans everywhere, which is that we have to do something. I also share the opinion of the relatively few conservative commentators who rue the failure of Republicans in Congress, especially in the Bush Congress, to effectively tap into their own idea base and prioritize the promotion of a reform package of their own.
Apropos of my remarks below, a reader writes:
It seems to me that you’re taking his quote about the politicization out of context, first of all. He’s downright Aristotelian, it seems to me, in his conception of what politics is. What makes me say this is the role he sees marriage playing in the life of a community. It’s vital. It’s at the heart of it. And it forms the model, writ small, of what the polis ought to be, writ large. Only affection and love, mutual concern, generosity, forbearance: these alone can sustain politics. And, you’ll notice, these are vital for marriage. Now, Aristotle doesn’t say that. But he does talk about the relation of man and wife as a relation of equals, and as a kind of domestic polis.
So when he talks about marriage becoming political, he obviously does not mean political in this more edifying sense. He means it in the sense you indicate, that of competing rights claims, etc. He calls this kind of marriage “politics” in the lowest contemporary sense of the word. It’s about grasping, rather than giving. It’s about one-upsmanship rather than forgiveness. It’s about getting what I can, rather than giving all I can. And this is a picture, too, of the worst kind of politics.Now, this kind of politics is, perhaps, all that is possible on our current grand scale. It’s obvious that Berry’s — and Aristotle’s — preferred kind of politics is only possible on smaller scales. And this, even as he contemplates the nature of “a public” versus “a community” in “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community.” The rules governing each of these is different. And it’s not the simple public/private divide.