Limits of Government Power

Mark Lilla is a committed  Democrat who admonishes his party for the its descent into Identity Politics in The Once and Future Liberal- After Identity Politics 

But every catechism tends over time to become rigid and formulaic, until it eventually becomes detached from social reality. Which is exactly what happened to American liberalism in the 1970s. To the principle that collective action to serve the public good was legitimate, it added the profession of faith that taxes, spending, regulations, and court decisions were always the best way to accomplish this. By the 1980s there were countless reasons to question the assumption that government knew what it was doing and could be trusted to do it—Vietnam, Watergate, impotence in the face of stagflation, and more. Too many programs were introduced in the Great Society, too quickly and with rhetoric so elevated that it created exaggerated expectations, which resulted in inevitable disappointment. Frustratingly, none of these programs seemed capable of reversing the decline of big cities and the expansion of the welfare rolls. And some programs clearly made matters worse. Compounding the problem was that liberals refused to speak about the new culture of dependency, or about the tremendous rise in violent crime in the 1960s, most of it having nothing to do with drug offenses.


Lilla refers to a moderation that is missing from the Democratic platform. while we can realize the limits of free markets we mist also realize the limits of government power

Power Assymetries

from Scientific American, The Unfortunate Fallout of Campus Postmodernism- The roots of the current campus madness, by Michael Shermer:

The intellectual battlefields today are on college campuses, where students’ deep convictions about race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation and their social justice antipathy toward capitalism, imperialism, racism, white privilege, misogyny and “cissexist heteropatriarchy” have bumped up against the reality of contradictory facts and opposing views, leading to campus chaos and even violence. Students at the University of California, Berkeley, and outside agitators, for example, rioted at the mere mention that conservative firebrands Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter had been invited to speak (in the end, they never did). Demonstrators at Middlebury College physically attacked libertarian author Charles Murray and his liberal host, professor Allison Stanger, pulling her hair, twisting her neck and sending her to the ER.

Students are being taught by these postmodern professors that there is no truth, that science and empirical facts are tools of oppression by the white patriarchy, and that nearly everyone in America is racist and bigoted, including their own professors, most of whom are liberals or progressives devoted to fighting these social ills. Of the 58 Evergreen faculty members who signed a statement “in solidarity with students” calling for disciplinary action against Weinstein for “endangering” the community by granting interviews in the national media, I tallied only seven from the sciences. Most specialize in English, literature, the arts, humanities, cultural studies, women’s studies, media studies, and “quotidian imperialisms, intermetropolitan geography [and] detournement.” A course called “Fantastic Resistances” was described as a “training dojo for aspiring ‘social justice warriors’” that focuses on “power asymmetries.”

If you teach students to be warriors against all power asymmetries, don’t be surprised when they turn on their professors and administrators. This is what happens when you separate facts from values, empiricism from morality, science from the humanities.

Evangelism and Politics

Mark Lilla is a committed  Democrat who admonishes his party for the its descent into Identity Politics in The Once and Future Liberal- After Identity Politics 

The paradox of identity liberalism is that it paralyzes the capacity to think and act in a way that would actually accomplish the things it professes to want. It is mesmerized by symbols: achieving superficial diversity in organizations, retelling history to focus on marginal and often minuscule groups, concocting inoffensive euphemisms to describe social reality, protecting young ears and eyes already accustomed to slasher films from any disturbing encounter with alternative viewpoints. Identity liberalism has ceased being a political project and has morphed into an evangelical one. The difference is this: evangelism is about speaking truth to power. Politics is about seizing power to defend the truth.


Lilla’s points are well made and likely to be ignored by his fellow Democrats until they experience further losses and realize that Trump’s election was not the result of Russian interference or other excuses. It was less about Trump’s win than the Democrats failure and loss.

The Soul of the Democrats Relocated

Mark Lilla is a committed  Democrat who admonishes his party for the its descent into Identity Politics in The Once and Future Liberal- After Identity Politics 

Up until the 1960s, those active in liberal and progressive politics were drawn largely from the working class or farm communities, and were formed in local political clubs or on shop floors. That world is gone. Today’s activists and leaders are formed almost exclusively in our colleges and universities, as are members of the mainly liberal professions of law, journalism, and education. Liberal political education now takes place, if it takes place at all, on campuses that are largely detached socially and geographically from the rest of the country—and in particular from the sorts of people who once were the foundation of the Democratic Party. This is not likely to change. Which means that liberalism’s prospects will depend in no small measure on what happens in our institutions of higher education.


An astute observation. The soul of the Democratic party shifted from the farms and factories of the Midwest to the college campuses. Ideas became isolated from practical application and the bubble was erected.

Targeted Resentment

How the Democrats Lost the White Working Class- Book review of White Working Class by Joan Williams- reviewed by Joe Queenan in Barron’s:

“The working class…has been asked to swallow a lot of economic pain, while elites have focused on noneconomic issues,” Williams writes. Elsewhere in the book, she adds, “During an era when wealthy white Americans have learned to sympathetically imagine the lives of the poor, people of color, and LGBTQ people, the white working class has been insulted or ignored during precisely the period when their economic fortunes tanked.”

Working-class people view work as a means to an end, not an end in itself. And working-class people do not think there’s anything heroic about making a living by designing apps or shorting Valeant. Heroism is what cops and firemen do.

“Daily life reinforces admiration of the rich but resentment of professionals,” she writes. “Most working-class people have little contact with the truly rich…but they suffer class affronts from professionals every day: the doctor who unthinkingly patronizes the medical technician, the harried office worker who treats the security guard as invisible, the overbooked business traveler who snaps at the TSA agent.”

At a certain point during the past half-century, it became acceptable to sneer at poor white people while expressing bottomless compassion for impoverished minorities. Williams believes this is because members of the elite, professional class do not have to compete with minorities for jobs or status or anything else, so it’s easy for them to be compassionate and understanding. Elites never say nasty things about minorities because they don’t know any.


The last paragraph strikes me a bit odd. I don’t think the elite compete with poor white people either. The last sentence insinuates that the elites would not like minorities if they knew any.  Seems a bit racist. I don’t know if that is an accurate conclusion until I read the book.  I find that the elites do spout off against minorities in the privacy of their country club but never in public or in the media.