Intellectual Scapegoats

William Voegeli wrote an important book, Never Enough which I highly recommend.

In National Review he writes Why the Liberal Elite Will Never Check Its Privilege

Speaking of Orwell, his observation that all leftist political parties are “at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something which they do not really wish to destroy,” holds up impressively after 75 years. An evil not really meant to be eradicated is, for instance, central to the global-warming crusade. Journalist Elizabeth Kolbert thinks the threat is grave, putting us in a “race toward planetary disaster,” but also considers the political effort against it thoroughly disingenuous. Most liberals, she argues, refuse to admit an inconvenient truth: The reduction in greenhouse gases necessary to reverse, halt, or even slow global warming will either prolong and worsen the misery of the planet’s poor countries or require Americans to reduce their energy consumption by more than 80 percent. Knowing that Americans have no interest in giving up “air travel or air conditioning or HDTV or trips to the mall or the family car,” environmentalists encourage the soothing fantasy that “climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to ‘the American way of life.’”


This need for a cause you despise is another form of scapegoating.  A scapegoat is needed to identify one’s virtue, if not their very purpose in life.  A populist needs a demon more than a deity.  For 2,000 years the Jews in Europe were demonized as scapegoats, but were never destroyed in spite of periods of great and horrible anti-antisemitism.  They were hated, but needed.

The Strategic Absence of Strategy

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review, Politics Enters the Fast Lane:

Everything we know about how Trump tweets, and talks, and acts, tells us that he lives in the moment. He even brags about it. His one concession to the future is his insatiable need to keep his options open, not in policy terms but in a personal one. I don’t want to waste everyone’s time by documenting the rich history of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, never mind his countless aphasic asides in interviews, but it seems obvious to me that whatever good the “tape” tweet did for Donald Trump, it was blind luck.

Conversely, just as Trump supporters should probably give up trying to connect the tweeted dots in order to paint a picture of some grand strategist, so should Trump’s critics on the left and, to some extent, on the right. Bannon may be a Cylon with a nefarious plan for world domination. Trump certainly doesn’t have one. For good or ill, the man is not a composer of multi-part symphonies, he’s improvisational jazz all the way down. Some love the tune. Some hate it. But no one should mistake it for something else.


The conservative anti- Trumpers  question how long this strategic absence of strategy will last. The quick answer is a) until the Democrats either offer something better,( or play the correct game which is the more cynical view,) or  b)until the consequences of Trumpism become more broadly unacceptable.  So far the Democrats seem to be betting the wad on option b).

They may want to consider a backup plan.


Economic Segregation

Kevin Williamson is one of the best economics writers around, especially for a non economist. His style follows in the tradition of Henry Hazlitt and his classic Economics In One Lesson, bringing economic theory into common experiences. This is from latest from National Review, How to Think about Low-Income Housing:

The only way to make housing more plentiful is to make housing more plentiful. What that implies, especially in the case of our big cities, is denser development. But our big-city governments — which are almost exclusively under Democratic control — will not allow that. New York City’s population density is less than half that of comparable European cities (and much less than many comparable Asian cities) and, in spite of its reputation as a city of skyscrapers, fewer than 2 percent of its residences are in buildings 20 stories or taller, much lower than the figure for comparable cities globally. In New York, the progressives aren’t working to allow denser development and, hence, cheaper housing: They’re doing the opposite, proposing to cap the number of tall buildings in the city. Forget New Jersey — there are a fair number of New Yorkers who commute from Pennsylvania. San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, the parts of Chicago or Philadelphia you might actually want to live in . . . similar story. They’ll call it historic preservation or “defending the character of the neighborhood” or whatever, but it’s basically economic segregation, which, it’s probably worth noting, is still a pretty good proxy for racial discrimination: San Francisco’s black population has decreased by one-third in recent years, and diversity-loving Portland saw its black population shrink by 11.5 percent in just four years.

A Dangerous Moment in History

from Kevin Williamson at National Review, From Americans to Americans 

This is a dangerous moment in our history, about which we ought to be honest. President Donald Trump is an irresponsible demagogue who ought never have been elected to the office he holds — but he was, legitimately, fair and square, your favorite Muscovite conspiracy theory notwithstanding. That being said, the actual immediate problem of political violence in the United States is overwhelmingly and particularly a problem belonging to the Left. This is not a “both sides do it” issue: Paul Krugman can speak on any college campus in this country without enduring mob violence and organized terrorism — Charles Murray cannot. There is not anything on the right like the mass terrorism behind the Seattle riots of 1999 or the black-bloc riots of the day before yesterday. The Democratic party, progressive organizations, and college administrations have some serious political and intellectual housekeeping to do here — but, instead, they are in the main refusing to acknowledge that they have a problem. The line between “Punch a Nazi!” and “Assassinate a Republican congressman!” is morally perforated.

The identification of the president with the nation itself is a particularly poisonous and idiotic form of power-worship, one that was a fairly common feature of progressive discourse when it was Barack Obama being “undermined.” But the president is not the country, and opposing the president — irrespective of his party or his agenda — is not treason. It is politics.

Laundering Privilege

William Voegeli wrote an important book, Never Enough which I highly recommend.

In National Review he writes Why the Liberal Elite Will Never Check Its Privilege

It turns out that “social justice” amounts to noblesse oblige, simultaneously strengthening the obligations and social status of our meritocracy’s credentialed gentry. Literary scholar William Deresiewicz, a self-described democratic socialist, says that the rise of political correctness means that privilege laundering pervades the entire college experience, not just the admissions process. The ultimate purpose of political correctness, he contends, is to “flatter” the elite rather than dismantle it. In effect, socioeconomically advantaged students, professors, and administrators use political correctness to “alibi or erase their privilege,” to “tell themselves that they are . . . part of the solution to our social ills, not an integral component of the problem.” The social-justice warriors’ stridency belies, even to themselves, the fact that their aims are so limited.

For Reeves and Halikias, the protests that drove Charles Murray from Middlebury College had less to do with alleging and then thwarting racism than with “rich, ‘progressive’ protestors refusing to hear a lecture on the roots of their own privilege.” (The topic of Murray’s speech was to have been the growing gulf between the upper class and the rest of America.) Tellingly, Middlebury is even more selective and affluent than Hamilton College. Tied with Swarthmore as the fourth-highest-rated liberal-arts college in the U.S., Middlebury rejected 83 percent of its applicants in 2015. Fifty-five percent of students received no need-based financial aid, not surprising given that the median family income of those students is $244,300. Only 2.7 percent of its students come from families in the bottom fifth of America’s income distribution, and 24 percent come from the bottom four-fifths. At the other end, 4.4 percent come from the top thousandth, and 23 percent from the top hundredth.

Conservatives are right to be appalled by vituperative social-justice warriors. It’s oddly reassuring, however, that the “No justice, no peace” shock troops are as fraudulent as they are insolent. People’s true beliefs can be revealed by their words or, far more reliably, by their actions. Until kabuki radicalism gets around to requiring privileged students, parents, and colleges to surrender some of their own advantages rather than denounce privilege in general, the social-justice crusade deserves to be regarded with more contempt than alarm.