Posts tagged "america"

[M]ost conservatives are not libertarians, even if they like to use libertarian rhetoric now and then.

Think about it: the modern Republican party may be the party of deregulation and low taxes, but it’s also the party of social illiberalism. Someone like Rick Santorum firmly believes that the government has no right to tell business owners what they can do in the workplace, but has every right to tell ordinary citizens what they can do in the bedroom. William Buckley’s God and Man at Yale was in large part a diatribe against the notion that colleges were teaching students about unemployment and how to fight it; but what Buckley wanted was, in effect, for those colleges to get back to their proper role, which was religious indoctrination. In its heyday National Review was a staunch supporter of free markets; but it was also a staunch supporter of Jim Crow — which wasn’t just about the right of white business owners to discriminate against blacks, it was about a system of laws designed to protect white privilege.

All of this makes no sense if you think of liberalism versus conservatism as a simple argument about the size and role of the state

Now, there are some real libertarians out there, particularly in the realm of economics bloggers, but they have no real power base. Even when politicians claim to be libertarian, there are telltale giveaways: the two R. Pauls, father and son, may be unusual in questioning the national security state, but they both have a remarkable tendency to cater to and/or employ white supremacists.

Paul Krugman, “Conservatives Are (Mostly) Not Libertarians,” The New York Times, August 17, 2013

This is really important in two ways. First, no, there are actually really very few libertarians in existence. They are entirely marginal to mainstream politics and very few people are interested in their ideas. The purest, most honest libertarians are fairly hostile to democracy, both because they recognize that democratic systems of governance are designed to act as a counterbalance to the power of the propertied (and therefore with the best opportunity to exploit property rights) and because the demos is actively hostile to their prescriptions, regardless of any conservative fantasies regarding “libertarian populism.” 

It’s no mistake that, of all the wacky ideological minorities out there — libertarians, communists, Five Percenters, LaRouchers — the only ones to get real play amongst the punditry are those who predominantly belong to the same social caste as political reporters: white, urbane, male, upper-middle class.

The other important point is that it’s easy to exaggerate the crossover between libertarianism and conservatism by pretending conservatism actually cares about the dorky philosophical arguments libertarians have regarding what freedom really means. It doesn’t. Our collective persuasion that it does is both a credit to conservative rhetoric and symptomatic of the way too many academics and political journalists think that just because they have libertarian friends, so does everyone else.


But there’s also the Madisonian version of this, which would stress that these majorities are almost always illusions. Returning to abortion: it’s true that pollsters can obtain answers from most people about the topic, but the truth is that many people (most people?) don’t actually care very much about abortion at all. That’s sometimes hard for those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about politics to understand, because we’re likely to care about plenty of issues as a function of caring about politics at all. But plenty of people only care about a handful of issues, or just one, or even none. They’ll vote (at least in most major elections), and pay some attention when elections get near, but they just aren’t engaged with “the issues” the way that those who really care about politics are. Among other things, that’s one of the reasons why changing polling questions in subtle ways can produce very different answers: Most respondents don’t have deep-seated opinions, and therefore will respond differently to slightly different versions of a question. You aren’t going to get a true pro-life or pro-choice believer to give the “wrong” answer by stacking a question, but you’ll get the people who don’t care much about the issue to flip, because for them there is no “right” answer that reveals what they “really” think. They don’t really think about it. (They might in the future if something happens to get them involved. That’s not their current position, however).

In this way of thinking about things, there’s really no “majority” on most issues. There are only pluralities (and multiple pluralities) of those who have real positions, and then lots of people who don’t care very much. As for Fiorina’s argument, the more attentive people are, the more likely they are to adhere to the party’s (relatively extreme) positions, which makes it even less likely that his “majority” of the middle is any more legitimate than the “majorities” created by either side.

Jonathan Bernstein, “In Politics, ‘Majority Is a Complicated Idea,” Bloomberg View, February 25, 2014

And here’s the problem with the quirk in the Australian electoral system that is mandatory voting: it puts decisive electoral questions in the hands of these voters who have few real opinions.

Add to that:

On the other hand, make it too easy for the parties to enact those constructed majorities and too many people and groups can no longer be “heard effectively.” Especially if the parties themselves aren’t sufficiently permeable. If those majorities were real, that wouldn’t be a problem, because as long as one of the parties faithfully represented that majority, then the parties would be doing their job. But since the majorities don’t precede the political system, it’s important that everyone have an opportunity to construct them. Even if, in the event, few do.

So not only do we ask people who have little interest to cast the deciding vote in choosing a government, we then create a government from parties that are composed exactly as Bernstein warns they should not be: impermeable, and acting upon policies a select group of insiders have decided represent majority opinion.


In New York, where thousands of bearded hipsters scamper around Williamsburg or Brooklyn reading Kerouac and drinking whisky, a new trend in facial hair has emerged.

Rachel Clun, “’Beard transplants’ are now a thing,” The Sydney Morning Herald, February 26, 2014

So, yeah, “Williamsburg or Brooklyn” is what happens when you start thinking of real places as trendpiece shorthand.


From the air, flying over Phoenix, you notice the nothingness first of all. It resembles a tan- and cocoa-colored moon, except that there are vast splotches of green-golf courses and the other pampered land where irrigation systems have been installed. From my Geology course, I knew that everything below me had once been a shallow ocean; and at dusk, when I flew into Phoenix, the shadows on the rocks were a tropical-sea purple, and the tumbleweeds were aquamarine — so that I could actually imagine the ocean that once was there. In truth, Phoenix still resembled a shallow sea, marred by the fake greens and blues of swimming pools. Some ten or twenty miles in the distance, a jagged ridge of reddish, tea-colored mountains were here and there capped with waxy deposits of limestone — to a New Englander, they looked like dirty snow. But it was far too hot for snow.

Although, at dusk, the sun had lost its intensity, the dry heat shimmered above the tarmac; despite a breeze, the heat persisted with furnacelike generation. After the heat, I noticed the palm trees — all the beautiful, towering palm trees.
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)

thesinglesjukebox:

MIRANDA LAMBERT - AUTOMATIC
[4.30]


"My Nokia 5150 didn’t have Flappy Bird but, by gum, that was a cell phone with heart…"

Jonathan Bradley: “Where the traditionalist takes the objects of his desire for granted, the conservative cannot. He seeks to enjoy them precisely as they are being — or have been — taken away,” Corey Robin wrote. “But as soon as those objects enter the medium of political speech, they cease to be items of lived experience and become incidents of an ideology.” I’m tempted to end my blurb there: return fire in a culture war against a singer who, if you’ve convinced yourself that all her words are polemic, prefers women to end marriages through murder rather than divorce. But though ideology and culture are intertwined, they’re not equivalent, and, truthfully, most Americans are simply not political. Lines on “Automatic” like “We drove all the way to Dallas just to buy an Easter dress/We’d take along a Rand McNally, stand in line to pay for gas” are about memory and the hazy process of constructing personal narrative, not literal Luddism. There are more moments in “Automatic” like this, but there are also list items, which are not particularly interesting, especially not over a guitar arrangement that remembers what it was like to wait for hours until that OneRepublic download had completed. “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation,” Tony Soprano once sniped, and even if he’s right, it’s one in which we are nonetheless all too likely to engage. That propensity crosses party lines.

[5]

[Read, comment and vote on The Singles Jukebox ]

What was I just saying b/w the footnote here b/w stop thinking like a campaign consultant. With bonus track: look, if Miranda Lambert’s obviously not interested in maintaining ideological consistency across her work, why should I go looking for it?

Maybe also check Soto on Eric Church.


So here is a story about friendship and Taylor Swift (but mostly about friendship)

I wrote a thing about felon disenfranchisement in America and how Eric Holder says it should stop, but then it became about how America and Australia actually have quite different understandings of the relationship between voting and democracy (that pic above is from the Australian Electoral Commission’s FAQ for people in prison). And then I quoted a bunch of stuff the Founding Fathers said at the Constitutional Convention because American history who can resist. And I could do it because I’m my own editor what do you mean I can’t ramble on about differing cultural approaches to government when I started out commenting on a speech by the US attorney general?
And now you can go read it.

I wrote a thing about felon disenfranchisement in America and how Eric Holder says it should stop, but then it became about how America and Australia actually have quite different understandings of the relationship between voting and democracy (that pic above is from the Australian Electoral Commission’s FAQ for people in prison). And then I quoted a bunch of stuff the Founding Fathers said at the Constitutional Convention because American history who can resist. And I could do it because I’m my own editor what do you mean I can’t ramble on about differing cultural approaches to government when I started out commenting on a speech by the US attorney general?

And now you can go read it.


Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have marched against their superiors. They have gathered under different banners—the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism—and shouted different slogans: freedom, equality, democracy, revolution. In virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them. That march and démarche of democracy is one of the main stories of modern politics. And it is the second half of that story, the démarche, that drives the development of ideas we call conservative. For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on, and theoretical rendition of, the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.

[…]

No simple defense of one’s own place and privileges, the conservative position stems from a genuine conviction that a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. This vision of the connection between excellence and rule is what brings together in postwar America that unlikely alliance of the capitalist, with his vision of the employer’s untrammeled power in the workplace; the traditionalist, with his vision of the father’s rule at home; and the statist, with his vision of a heroic leader pressing his hand upon the face of the earth. Each in his way subscribes to this statement, from the 19th century, of the conservative creed: “To obey a real superior … is one of the most important of all virtues—a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting.”

Corey Robin, “The Conservative Reaction,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 8, 2012

Jesus Christ you guys, have you seen these Ralph Lauren Team USA Olympics outfits? I need basically everything here. But especially that sweater.


“Just trying to be like George Washington" 
!!!!!!!
(Taylor “This morning I bought books about John Adams, Lincoln’s Cabinet, the Founding Fathers and Ellis Island" Swift aka epic history nerd.)


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