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Cronyism's Charms

From the May 2013 Print Edition

Against Fairness by Stephen T. Asma Chicago, 224 pages, $22.50 Stephen Asma buries in the endnotes of Against Fairness the information that he is from Chicago, but I think it ought to be mentioned up front. His book is a counterintuitive defense of favoritism, nepotism, tribalism, and patronage, . . . . Continue Reading »

The Language of Addiction Takes Over

From First Thoughts

There was a period, shortly before the Bolshevik Revolution, when the history of the Russian temperance movement became thoroughly intertwined with the history of Russian social reform in general. “The history of the Russian temperance movement” may sound like a world’s-shortest-book joke, . . . . Continue Reading »

Sex in the Meritocracy

From the February 2013 Print Edition

When Yale first bowed to the spirit of meritocracy and began admitting large numbers of students from outside the New England upper class, it set in motion a nationwide arms race among high-achieving high school students. After fifty years of escalating competition, it is no longer enough to have . . . . Continue Reading »

The Redemption of Nathan Leopold, Maybe

From First Thoughts

Everyone forgets that Nathan Leopold died a free man. The first part of his story is familiar enough: He and Richard Loeb were two intellectually precocious teenagers from Chicago’s wealthy German Jewish elite, and they read too much Nietzsche and started thinking they were supermen. Loeb, the . . . . Continue Reading »

In Like Flint

From First Thoughts

Australia is an English-speaking country, technically, but as an American immigrant here I sometimes have trouble understanding the locals. (What’s a “galah”? Can you eat it for brekkie?) They, on the other hand, have almost no trouble understanding me, with all the American . . . . Continue Reading »

Mandelstam in First Things

From First Thoughts

I don’t know much about the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, except that I read somewhere that he gave his wife Nadezhda a pacifier and persuaded her to wear it around her neck on a string of pearls so that he could stick the pacifier in her mouth whenever she interrupted him, which apparently . . . . Continue Reading »