Leftism in a Nutshell

You’ve got to admire the balls of the Left.  Yes, their wild policy prescriptions come from a combination of ignorance, wickedness, and magical thinking, but that doesn’t stop them from putting out some crazy ideas.

Take this piece from Gavin McInnes’s former rag, Vice:  “The Radical Plan to Save the Planet by Working Less.”  The headline says it all:  let’s just not work so hard, gah!

Naturally, click-bait headlines like that don’t tell the full story.  The “degrowth” movement the piece discusses is classic progressivism:  we should support a robust public transportation system and give generous welfare benefits so people can spend less time working.

The “degrowth movement” is an inversion of Obama-era economic thinking.  Recall the sluggish recovery following the Great Recession, and how Obama informed us that low-growth was the “new normal” we’d all have to learn to love in America.  Now that the economy is roaring under President Trump, progressives are flipping the script:  “oh, wait, too much growth is a bad thing because climate change!”

Like most Leftist economic ideas, it’s premised on denying people choice and subsidizing loafing with generous bennies:

Degrowth would ultimately mean we’d have less stuff: not as many people working and producing materials, so not as many brands at the grocery store, less fast fashion, and fewer cheap and disposable goods. Families would perhaps have one car instead of three, you’d take a train instead of a plane on your vacation, and free time wouldn’t be filled with shopping trips but with non-money-spending activities with loved ones.

Practically, this would also require an increase in free public services; people won’t have to make as much money if they don’t have to spend on healthcare, housing, education, and transportation. Some degrowthers also call for a universal income to compensate for a shorter work week.

I’m all about saving money and avoiding empty consumerism.  I’ve written that there is more to an economy than faceless efficiency units slaving away for plastic crap from China.  I’m not unsympathetic to the idea of taking more time for family and personal edification (as a good deal of the workweek is wasted in meetings and busy work).

But this “degrowth movement” is absurd.  It’s all premised on a government somehow funding a massive welfare state as the citizenry becomes less productive.  Even the sympathetic economist they interview for this ideological puff piece argues that cutting growth to reduce carbon emissions would only have a marginal impact environmentally, but would be devastating socially and economically.

It just goes to show you that the Left hates the idea of hard work.  For them, work is an imposition, and we’d all be better off enjoying endless relaxation and luxury.  It’s the seduction of never-ending childhood: a paternalistic state provides all the goodies so we can watch TV and pursue pleasure all day.

Work is ennobling.  It’s important to earn a living wage for honest, valuable, productive work.  But beyond that, work provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment (I think this is particularly true for men, although women derive great satisfaction from work, too, especially the difficult, important work of raising children).  There is an identity to holding a job, and a sense of satisfaction from doing that job well.

Can one enjoy a good quality of life by pursuing a more minimalist approach?  Yes, of course:  if anything, Americans spend far too much money, a good deal of it on empty baubles.

There is a simple joy to minimalism, and I enjoy “spending” money on savings (it’s very satisfying to watch savings and investments grow).  But subsidizing lollygagging and calling it “investing in infrastructure” is not the sign of a great nation or civilization.

They Live: Analysis and Review

Last night I watched John Carpenter’s 1988 cult smash They Live, which explains (along with a couple of hours of Civilization VI) why today’s post is late.  I’ve been eager to catch this flick for awhile, and a fortuitous chain-combo of RedBox coupons and special promotions had me streaming it digitally.  What a glorious age for instant gratification.

The basic plot of the film is as follows:  out-of-work drifter Nada (played by wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper; the character is named only in the film’s credits) arrives in Los Angeles looking for work.  After landing a job on a construction site (the site manager says it’s a “union job,” but Nada lands the gig after asking if the Spanish-speaking crew is in the union, too), Nada meets Frank Armitage (Carpenter veteran Keith David), a black construction worker from Detroit, trying to earn a living for his wife and children back home.  Frank takes Nada under his wing, and they head to a soup kitchen shanty town.

While at the town, Nada notices suspicious activity in a nearby church; upon further investigation, he stumbles upon a box of sunglasses that allow him to see the world for how it really is:  a black-and-white world filled with subliminal messages like “OBEY” and “MARRY AND REPRODUCE,” as well as constant messages to “BUY” and “CONSUME.”  Money reads simply “THIS IS YOUR GOD.”

More shockingly, some humans appear to be fleshless, bulging-eyed aliens, akin to zombies.  Piper figures out quickly that the horrifying creatures are not friendly, and he embarks on a shooting spree—which, of course, appears like a random shooting to everyone else.

It unfolds from there:  Nada convinces Frank—after a nearly-six-minute alleyway brawl—to try the glasses on for himself.  Seeing the world for what it is, the two join up with the small resistance, which is quickly smashed by the fleshless invaders and their human collaborators (which enjoy support from the media and law enforcement).  The film ends with the disruption of the device that keeps everyone “asleep” regarding reality, with terrifying (and humorous) consequences.

Much has been written about this film, as its not-so-subtle message of anti-commercialism is low-hanging fruit.  No less a scholar than Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek cites They Live as an influence on his understanding of ideology.  The film inspired street artist Shepard Fairey‘s famous “OBEY” stickers (another fascinating bit of pop culture detritus).

As such, there’s not much I can add, but I have some general reflections.  In the age of attempted Deep State coups and a political and media establishment at odds with the common man, They Live contains a certain relevance to culture in 2019 (if there really are subliminal messages in advertising, I wish there were some encouraging people to “MARRY AND REPRODUCE”; the message today is exactly the opposite).

The alien invaders manage to take control because they cut a deal with America’s elites:  give us access to your resources and cheap labor, and we’ll make you fabulously wealthy.  At a swanky dinner near the end of the film, aliens and humans toast their 39% return-on-investment.  Frank Armitage, disgusted, tells one human collaborator that he “sold out his own kind”; the collaborator says, “What’s the threat? It’s just business.”

That scene seems particularly relevant to 2016:  globalist elites were eager to serve up a deeply corrupt Hillary Clinton to continue to advance their goals of cheap labor and monochromatic global conformity.

Piper’s character, on the other hand, states his optimism early in the film:  “I believe in America.”  Even as a homeless drifter, Piper believes he can succeed if he just keeps working hard.  But he’s a man of principle—once he realizes the rigged game that’s afoot, he decides to beat them rather than join them.

Consider:  the latter option would be so much easier.  Betray your own people—humans, or, in the context of the 2016 election, Americans—for a distant, indifferent, self-aggrandizing elite, and reap the rewards.  But Piper—a loud-mouthed wrestler—fights back.  He wants a fair shake for himself and his countrymen, not a rigged system at the expense of his fellow humans.

His methods are comedic and clumsy (a hallmark of another Carpenter classic, Big Trouble in Little China), but he manages—against all odds—to make it to the top of the alien-collaborator hierarchy, ultimately bringing the whole thing down.  One can be forgiven for seeing in Nada President Trump’s historic, unlikely rise to the presidency in 2016.

That said, I shouldn’t take that metaphor too far.  Carpenter had no inkling in 1988 that Donald Trump would become president amid the crushing dominance of a politically-correct, Davos Man elite (although Trump discussed the possibility of a run at the time).  Carpenter’s message is a more heavy-handed cautionary tale about excessive consumerism and materialism.

There, however, some compelling fruits that have come from ignoring those warnings.  While globalization and capitalism have reaped huge financial rewards, they’ve come at the expense of Americans.  Frank’s line about betraying “your own kind” resonated heavily with me:  just as the human collaborators sold out their people to the aliens, our elites have sold out their countrymen and culture for cheap labor and cheap plastic crap from China.

We will always engage with art and culture in terms of our own experiences, though I would caution against excessive “current year” interpretations.  The film is a product of the 1980s.  That its message still seems so fresh is, perhaps, an indication of our culture’s stagnation since that glorious decade.

Nevertheless, They Live presents a timeless warning against sacrificing our patrimony for wealth.  Judas betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver; was that “just business”?

***

So, is They Live worth watching?  Absolutely.  I had a blast even before Nada discovered the glasses (which is nearly half-an-hour into the film, or so it felt—it spends a lot of time showing his struggles to find a job).  The film contains the iconic line, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass—and I’ll all out of bubblegum.”

Roddy Piper acts the way wrestlers in 1980s films act, which is badly, but it’s perfect for his character, a man who is principled but driven by his id (and libido, with lethal consequences).  Keith David’s performance as Frank Armitage steals the show—he just wants to make money to support his family without any hassle, but is drawn into a fight he never wanted.

You’ll see some of the plot twists coming from a mile away, but the film is fun and thought-provoking.  I highly recommend you check it out.  Of course, I’m a big fan of John Carpenter (Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favorite movies), so your mileage may very.  For $2.99, though, it’s worth the rental.

The Decline of Religion in America

A frequent topic of this blog is religion, specifically Christianity, and its influence on American society and Western Civilization.  Many of the problems we face as a nation are the result not only of bad government policy or dangerous ideologies, but are metaphysical and spiritual in nature.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (KJV)

As such, two pieces caught my eye this week, both dealing with the decline of religion in the West generally and the United States specifically.  One is from Dissident Right blogger Z Man, “Religion Versus Capitalism“; the other is a syndicated column by Daniel Davis, “America is Still Highly Religious, So Why Do We Keep Liberalizing?”  Both offer different answers to the question posed by the latter question.

For Davis, the problem is that, while Americans are more religious than our European counterparts, and that we say we want a greater role for religion in society, our theology is bad—infected (my term) by the social justice and Cultural Marxist platitudes of our age.

Americans embrace “feel-good Christianity,” what I call the “Buddy Christ” version of our faith:  Jesus was just a cool hippie who wanted everybody to love each other, man.  In this distorted version of the Gospel, sin isn’t a grave threat, but simply “missing the mark”—you’ll do better next time, kiddo.  Keep practicing sinning and eventually you’ll hit that mark!

(I’ve actually heard this argument from some Evangelical preachers, mostly of the hip, non-denominational type.  They get so caught up in the root of the word “sin” as “missing the mark” in the context of target practice, they inadvertently give blanket license to sin, as grace is abundant, so God will forgive you—an early heresy that the Apostle Paul addressed directly.  “Missing the mark” trivializes the gravity of sin, making it sound like “oops! My bad!”  If the “mark” is righteousness, then missing the mark is pretty serious.)

Davis points out the pitfalls of this “feel-good Christianity,” and our propensity to make God fit our worldview, instead of us trying to accept and embrace His:

What we have in America is a radical separation of God from “reality”—the real world that we claim to live in. It’s not that we reject “God” per se, but we reject a God who comes with a certified worldview package—a God who orders the universe, sets moral norms, defines our being, and binds our consciences to a moral code in this world—today.

We’ve kept God, but jettisoned the traditional package.

The problem is, this is almost the same as rejecting God completely. If believing in God has no impact on the way we view realities in this world—whether they be gender, marriage, or who counts as a person worthy of dignity and respect—then what God are we even worshipping?

Could it be that the atheists are right when they accuse us of worshipping a God of our own making?

Davis also links to a website, The State of Theology, which highlights the disconnect between professions of faith and what Christians—including Evangelicals!—actually believe.  Part of the problem is “feel-good” theology, but a big part is simple biblical ignorance.  Americans pay lip service, according to The State of Theology, to core precepts of Christianity, but don’t seem to understand them at a deeper level or apply them to their daily lives.

Z Man—who I believe is Catholic and Catholic-educated, though he stated in one podcast that he hasn’t been to church in years—approaches the problem from a different angle.  He argues, essentially, that the proliferation of capitalist materialism is at odds, fundamentally, with Christianity and other religions, and the West has embraced materialism as its true faith.

He also links the decline of religion to a decline in fertility rates, and notes that as nations have become more integrated in the global economy, they’ve become less religious and less fertile.  There are myriad possible explanations for declining birthrates in developed societies, but Z Man’s theory is intriguing.  As material wealth increases and the profit motive becomes the “highest good,” religiosity declines.  With the decline of traditional religious values comes less of an emphasis on family formation.

For Z Man, the problem is that we worship materialism—he argues that libertarianism is the irrational, passionate “religion” of capitalistic materialism—in place of God.  To quote his piece at length:

In a system where the highest good is a profit, then all other considerations must be secondary. Lying, for example, is no longer strictly prohibited. The seller will no longer feel obligated to disclose everything to the buyer. The seller will exaggerate his claims about his product or service. Buyers, of course, will seek to lock in sellers into one way contracts based on information unknown the other seller. The marketplace, at its most basic level, is a game of liar’s poker, where all sides hope to fool the other.

Religion, in contrast, also assumes certain things about people, but seeks to mitigate and ameliorate them. Generally speaking, religion assumes the imperfection of man and sees that imperfection as the root cause of human suffering. While those imperfections cannot be eliminated, the negative effects can be reduced through moral codes, contemplation and the full understanding of one’s nature. Religions, outside of some extreme cults, are not about altering the nature of man, but rather the acceptance of it.

I would argue that capitalism does not necessarily lead to liars—how do you build business if you gain a reputation for dishonesty?—but capitalism definitely needs the traditionalism of orthodox religion to work for long.  In the absence of the moral framework that socially and religiously conservative values supply, capitalism can easily become an orgiastic free-for-all of mendacious exchanges and swindling.

Indeed, China’s autocratic capitalism is a prime example of a state using the mechanism of capitalism in a moral vacuum to aggrandize its own power.  Wags and particularists will argue that China’s system is not true capitalism, but rather a corporatist perversion, which is certainly accurate—but the United States has its share of cronyistic arrangements.  To be clear, there is a world of difference separating China’s increasingly totalitarian brand of corporatism and America’s more mundane system of well-heeled lobbyists, but the Chinese example clearly demonstrates what happens when you value pure materialism at the expense of everything else.

While I don’t completely accept Z Man’s analysis, I do think he makes a solid point.  Christians should never subvert true faith in Christ to the false god of capitalist materialism.  Indeed, such faith is merely the more benign face of a two-sided Marxist coin.

Both unbridled libertarianism and full-throated Communism are premised on a materialist worldview that discounts the metaphysical.  The former allows religion to exist as a largely private, subjective concern, so long as it doesn’t get too insistent about its truth claims.  The latter seeks to destroy any loyalty to anything other than the state—or the “Party,” or “Dear Leader,” etc.  The former is certainly preferable to the latter, but both ultimately will leave followers unfulfilled.

The Church—Orthodox, Catholic, High Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, etc.—needs to commit itself fully to foundational biblical Truth.  We should be reading and debating Augustus and Aquinas, not to mention the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles.  Preachers need to move beyond the mega-church formula of glossy advertising campaigns, Sunday morning rock concerts, and blandly inoffensive, pop-culture-laden sermons.

Instead, unabashedly proclaim the Gospel.  Denounce abortion from the pulpit.  Call out homosexuality.  Call out radical Islamism and progressivism as the existential threats they are to Western Civilization.  Deus Vult!

Lazy Sunday IX: Economics, Part I

I followed a fairly standard political-philosophical trajectory to where I am now. Back in my salad days, I was a big Milton Friedman fanboy (in many ways, I still am).  His works, particularly Capitalism and Freedom, compelling made the case for many things I already believed, and made me love liberty even more.

I skewed heavily into libertarian territory (without every fully becoming a capital-L Libertarian), and came to believe that, in most cases, free markets could (and, in some golden future, would) solve virtually all of humanity’s problems, as history Whiggishly improved more and more with each passing year.  Efficiency would free humanity from drudgery, and we’d all have plenty.

Indeed, that is, in many ways, the story of the modern West:  greater efficiency and economic fluidity has yielded material wealth unparalleled in human existence.  Capitalism works quite well at alleviating material misery.

But there’s the rub:  as I’ve grown older, gradually amassing a nest egg and hustling constantly, I’ve come to understand that, as nice as material abundance is, it is a false god (as is the neoliberals’ lust for ever-greater efficiency).  Despite our great wealth and our cheap, shiny, plastic baubles from China, America’s are culturally, morally, and philosophically miserable.

So, for the next two Sundays I’ll be featuring posts on economics, a topic I believe should be regarded as one of the humanities, rather than a social science.  I still believe capitalism is the best possible economic system ever devised, and does a great deal to secure liberty for individuals and nations (as Milton Friedman wrote, economic freedom is a necessary precursor to political freedom).  That said, I’ve adopted Tucker Carlson’s formulation that capitalism should work for us, not the other way around.

To that end, here are this week’s pieces on economics:

  • 4.8% Economic Growth?!” – this very short post relaunched this blog.  The TPP 3.0 Era, as I call it, kicked off with my move to WordPress.  It trumpets the incredible growth of the Trump Administration and its economic policies. After years of sluggish “recovery” under President Obama, the Trump Renaissance breathed fresh life into our moribund economy.
  • Q&A Wednesday – Tax Cuts, Trade Wars, Etc.” – I adapted this post from a response I wrote to some Facebook comments from two of my most loyal readers.  It details my evolving views on tariffs—essentially, that instead of opposing nearly completely, I now see their utility.Towards the end of this essay, I address an idea I’ve been kicking around:  that it’s better to subsidize workers through protective tariffs (thereby giving them work, and a sense of purpose) than simply to hand out money or administer costly welfare programs.

    I developed that idea more fully in the next essay on this list.  It goes to the idea that people—and, I would argue, specifically men—derive a great deal of their sense of self from their work.  This understanding is closer to the term vocation than it is merely to “work,” the distinction being that vocation is work that is both productive and fulfilling—it’s work in a higher sense, beyond merely providing for one’s basic needs.

  • The Human Toll of Globalization” – this post was inspired by a lengthy Breitbart piece about the costs of globalization, and is of a piece with the previous essay.  Therein I explored the idea, mentioned directly above, that work is ennobling, and its benefits go beyond a paycheck.  There is a quiet, affirmative satisfaction to doing something and doing it well.  Why else would I blog daily with zero revenue?
  • Global Poverty in Decline” – lest you think I’ve jettisoned the old Friedmanian views completely, this short post—based on a Rasmussen Number of the Day—deals with the decline in global poverty in the last few decades.  That decline is, truly, astonishing.  A good chunk of it came with economic liberalization in China, which has come, in part, at the expense of the United States, but it also reflects the benefits of economic liberty across the globe, particularly in the former Soviet bloc countries.For all the potential moral hazards of excessive material wealth, there’s no denying the inherent morality of a system that prevents starvation, malnutrition, and homelessness, all with only minimal government coercion and interference.  That’s pretty remarkable, and one reason we should be careful to protect capitalism, even as we seek to rein in its more destructive tendencies.

That’s it for this XXL (that’s “Extra-Extra-Large”) edition of Lazy Sunday.  Enjoy!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Symbolism and Trumpism

Blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire often links to noteworthy pieces on American Greatness, the premiere blog for the Trumpist Right.  American Greatness does real yeoman’s work to articulate what Trumpian conservatism is.

His American Greatness Post of the Day for this foggy Monday morning is Robin Burk’s “What Trump Understands that Kevin Williamson Doesn’t.”

Kevin Williamson, you’ll recall, is the house globalist/libertarian for National Review (despite a brief, one-article stint at The Atlantic).  In 2016, he infamously wrote that “dysfunctional, downscale communities… deserve to die.”  He argued that communities like Garbutt, New York—a gypsum boomtown in the nineteenth century that ran its course when the gypsum was gone—have outlived their economic usefulness, and its inhabitants should move elsewhere for opportunity.

There is something to this perspective, but, as Tucker Carlson eloquently noted in an exchange with Ben Shapiro, the neoliberal order and its notions of economic mobility are hugely disruptive to communities.  Families are told, essentially, to leave behind their grandparents’ graves, their Little League teams, their memories, in order to work in service to the gaping maw of some efficiency-maximizing corporate conglomerate.

What Trumpism understands is that, while economies are dynamic, they require strong communities and stable families to maintain.  So it is that Robin Burk argues that Williamson’s libertarian approach lacks any sense of a narrative or symbols.  Williamson is testy because Trump is planning a big military parade (and, presumably, because Trump has been a far more effective advocate for conservatism than Williamson’s angry brand of libertarian orthodoxy).  It seems like wasteful agitprop to him.

What Burk explains in her piece, however, is that a common people need some unifying symbols.  That’s why the NFL National Anthem controversy revealed such deep splits in our culture.  It’s why Americans don’t particularly like it when protesters burn the American Flag.  Yes, it’s constitutional, but that doesn’t mean it’s good—and it’s the literal destruction of one of the most unifying national symbols.

Burk’s focus is more on the local, though, and it’s what makes her piece so interesting.  Communities are built between friends and neighbors.  Yes, the mills shutdown, and some people have to move to look for opportunity.  The mills shutting down also mean some people lose their way, and resort to opiates to numb the pain.

But not everyone can or wants to become economic mercenaries, shifting about rootlessly in search of the highest bidder—or just a job, for that matter.  Some folks want to build a life and a community where their ancestors did.

The implication from neoliberal and libertarian types is that, at best, that desire is unrealistic; at worst, it’s bad:  your loyalty should only be to efficiency!  Efficiency is morality!  While I love efficiency as much as the next cog, efficiency-for-its-own-sake is not and should not be our god.

As Carlson puts it (to paraphrase), we shouldn’t work for capitalism; capitalism should work for us.  Burk adds that we need symbols, formed from and interpreted by our individual experiences and memories, to create a society that fosters the good life.

Global Poverty in Decline

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.

Banned! Techno-Elites Deplatform Alex Jones

The explosive news Monday was that tech giants Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, and Apple banned Alex Jones and Infowars from their respective platforms.  While Jones is a controversial figure who peddles in rumor, conspiracy, and innuendo, the concerted action from separately-owned and -managed Silicon Valley entities is unsettling.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson wrote a piece for National Review arguing that Silicon Valley giants should be regulated—or even busted up—to prevent monopolistic and anti-competitive practices, drawing parallels to the muckraking reformers of the early twentieth century who brought down Standard Oil.   I’m wary of such solutions-by-government, but Hanson was anticipating a problem that has become all-too familiar:  the massive social and cultural clout the unmoored tech giants wield.

Steven Crowder of online late-night show Louder with Crowder often pokes fun at—and complains loudly about—the various murky “terms and services” and “community guidelines” rules that are ever-shifting in continuously updated apps and platforms.  A slight change in a Facebook algorithm—or a Twitter employee having a bad day—can lead to massive reductions in traffic for a YouTuber or blogger.  Reduced—or eliminated—traffic means less revenue.  YouTubers like Crowder who helped build the platform now find their videos demonetized for the most mysterious of reasons.

Candace Owens was kicked from Twitter because she rewrote recent New York Times hire and anti-white racist Sarah Jeong’s tweets by replacing disparaging uses of “white” with “black” or “Jew.”  Razorfirst posted a video some months ago of him literally just talking about nonsense for five minutes… and it was immediately demonetized.

Now Alex Jones is banned across multiple platforms from multiple platforms—which is absolutely chilling.  Jones is certainly not without controversy, and I wouldn’t take his ramblings to heart without a heaping helping of salt, but just because he’s a kinda nutty conspiracy kook who enjoys ripping his shirt off doesn’t make his situation any less terrible.  If we write off Jones because he was “asking for it” by being kooky, then we’re missing the whole point of free speech.

And, yes, the usual objections are inevitable:  “but, TPP, the First Amendment speech protections only apply to the government!  Companies can set whatever guidelines they want!  You can use some other platform!  He still has his website.”  Yes, yes, yes, and yes—all true.  Nevertheless, the arbitrary power we’ve voluntarily—if unwittingly—yielded to these tech elites is staggering.  And this preponderance of power may be where Hanson has a point.

Is not the function of the government to protect the rights of its citizens from threats and violations, both foreign and domestic?  In this case, arbitrary bans—particularly these coordinated attacks on controversial figures—seem to be a powerful means of preventing an individual and/or entity from delivering his message in the public square.  Like the street corner doomsayer, Alex Jones has a right to be heard, even if he’s sometimes insane (for me, the jury is out on Jones; I enjoy the entertainment value of his commentary, and I think he’s probably right about 80% of the time, but then he veers off into crisis actors, etc.—the danger of a man who is charismatic and convincing).

Today, it’s a relatively buffoonish character like Jones.  Tomorrow—who knows?  Do we really want to find out?  “Hate speech” is a code word for silencing conservatives.  It’s better to publish one racist screed from a lonely nut (not referencing Jones here, to be clear) than to muzzle millions because their innocuous, mainstream conservative viewpoint might been interpreted as a “dog-whistle.”

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and it’s often better to give madmen the rope with which to hang themselves.  When we try to silence them, they only gain in credibility (indeed, when I read the news, I immediately went… to Infowars!).

Phone It in Friday – Musings & Reflections on NATO, Brexit, Etc.

Happy Friday, TPP loyalists!  Normally I’d offer up a well- (or hastily-)crafted essay for your enjoyment, but it’s been an unusually busy week here, so I thought I’d do something a bit different and offer some brief reflections on the week.  It’s been a late night a-rockin’, and I’ve got classroom walls to paint in the morning.

I was planning on writing a bit about socialist babe Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but I’ll have to hold off on that until next week (the gist of my analysis:  she’s a hot Millennial Latina in a congressional district with the demographics of downtown San Salvador; her primary victory isn’t that shocking in context).

A typical post takes about an hour to churn out, although it can be quicker.  Finding links to cite my sources typically takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on the complexity of the topic or what I need to cite (since, let’s be honest, a lot of this information is coming from years of reading and teaching history, and I have to fact-check myself or try to hunt down obscure snippets of old National Review articles I read eight years ago).

So, here are some of my quick takes on the news of the week, mostly on international events.  Just a warning—these are going to be delivered in a quick, jocular, talk-radio style.

NATO Summit

I know folks on the Left and Right are going to argue that President Trump’s remarks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s toady at that breakfast earlier this week were overly hostile, but, c’mon, the president is right—the United States has been shouldering Europe’s security for almost seventy years.  The least Germany can do is meet its 2% defense spending obligation.

European nations seem to be taking the not-so-subtle hint and doing just that.  I would argue we should probably stay with NATO, but Trump brought up a good point when he was still a candidate—what purpose does the alliance serve now?  Yes, it’s a bulwark against Vladimir Putin’s plodding expansionism, and it represents the ideal of multilateral, collective security, but it’s also a relic of the Cold War.  I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but the baby needs to grow up, get a job, and move out of Dad’s basement.  Europe has been suckling at our nuclear-armed teat (talk about mixing metaphors) for decades, and needs to take national defense seriously.

A proud moment, though:  one of my former students, who has now become an elite Washington insider (one of the good swamp creatures), has a much more thoughtful analysis of the NATO summit; read it:  https://americasfuture.org/what-to-watch-for-at-the-2018-nato-summit/

Turkey

Speaking of NATO, why is Turkey still in NATO?  It definitely should not enter the European Union, for it’s own sake, but for the EU’s as well.  It’s a nation that has slipped back into an aggressive form of Islamism under President Erdogan, and it mainly seems to be holding the European Union hostage over the migrant crisis issue.  Let ’em fight their shadow religious war with Iran and be done with it.

Brexit

What is Prime Minister Teresa May and the noodle-wristed PMs in the Conservative Party thinking?  Brexit should have taken a week, tops, to work out—after the vote in 2016, the Brits could literally have just left the European Union.  Oh, the EU still wants Brits to follow European Court rulings?  Tough—we’re independent now.  That should be the attitude and approach.  Then Britain could work out trade deals and other details on its terms.

Of course, that’s what you get when a former Remainer—who badly bungled snap elections that cost her party seats—is in charge of overseeing an exit from a quasi-tyrannical supranational entity.

Boris Johnson was right to jump ship.

Trump in England

Meanwhile, Trump is meeting with the beleaguered Prime Minister this week.  Some Lefties made a big baby balloon of the President, and a nation that regularly violates the free speech of its citizens is letting that fly in the name of—wait for it—free speech.  Where’s the consistency?

First Lady Melania Trump is charming as ever, and looks like a Disney princess.  I’ll be honest, one (small) reason I was hoping Trump would win in 2016 is because I loved the idea of having an Eastern European supermodel as our First Lady.

***

That’s all for this morning’s post, TPP fans.  We’ll get back to our regularly-scheduled standards of excellence Monday.  Enjoy a safe, fun weekend, and be careful on this Friday the 13th.  Don’t squander your liberty—use it well!