Category: Jeffrey Folks

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RIP, VS Naipaul: A Great Conservative Writer


V.S. Naipaul died on August 9 at his home in London.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, Naipaul was one of the great conservative writers of our time.  Among his best known novels are A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and The Enigma of Arrival.  He will be remembered not just for the superb skill as a novelist, but also for his acute analysis of society in Britain, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and India.

The guiding principle of Naipaul’s work was always his fierce artistic independence and honesty.  In an era of political correctness in which many writers succumbed to pressure to soften their opinions of political corruption in the postcolonial world, Naipaul brought clarity and understanding to what was happening in Trinidad, Argentina, the Congo, and other developing countries.  He was also one of the first major commentators to speak frankly about the dangers of Islamic extremism.

According to reports, the Nobel Committee was not eager to award its highest accolade to a writer who had fearlessly criticized the failed political culture of developing countries in Africa and Latin America and, at the same time, lauded the democratic capitalism of the West.  Were it not for the sheer scale of Naipaul’s achievement as a writer, the prize would never have been awarded to him.  Even so, his critics were quick to denigrate the awarding of the prize, dismissing it as an undeserved honor.

The fact is that the honor was long overdue.  Naipaul was not merely the most accomplished novelist of our time; he was also a social critic who brought common sense to a range of burning issues.  His works include the extraordinary account of his father’s life, A House for Mr. Biswas, and the compelling record of his own transplanted existence in Britain, The Enigma of Arrival.

In a dozen other novels, he portrayed the perilous condition of modern life in both the developed and the developing worlds, perilous especially for those who have forsaken their birthright of inherited values or who have never possessed such a birthright to begin with.  His journalistic writing on India and the Middle East changed the way many readers view these regions while his harsh criticism of African corruption, and by implication of the involvement of Western aid workers, intellectuals, and other facilitators, forced a reassessment of the entire postcolonial relationship.

It has not been sufficiently understood, I think, that the basis of Naipaul’s great success was his unflinching honesty.  A Bend in the River, his unsparing record of post-liberation tribalism and brutality in central Africa, and of the complicity of those Westerners who facilitated it, was a courageous book published at the height of the rule of political correctness, a period characterized by moral complacence and worse in the African writings of liberals such as Nadine Gordimer.

As Naipaul made clear in A Writer’s People, such honesty would not have been possible in the absence of a clear sense of self.  Unfortunately, an unequivocal sense of self is not something most of us are born with.  It must be earned by honest reflection – reflection that requires a great deal of courage in facing the truth of one’s own role in the scheme of things.

As Naipaul wrote in A Writer’s People, his origins were to be found among “a transplanted peasant India” among a people recruited to serve as indentured laborers in Trinidad.  It was not an easy thing, I suspect, for an ambitious young man to admit that his grandparents had been recruited to a squalid life of service halfway around the globe from their homeland or that his own parents had grown up as members of an impoverished, utterly provincial minority on an inconsequential speck of land in the Caribbean.  This, in any case, was Naipaul’s sense of his own background.  But by seeing and accepting it for what it was, a poor thing but his own, the writer gained “a base of feeling and cultural knowledge.”  That knowledge was the basis of many of his finest books.

Had Naipaul remained in Trinidad, he would have been a very different writer.  A large part of his “way of seeing,” an aspect of his life that made it possible for him to perceive the Caribbean and much else with such lucidity, was derived from a lifetime spent in Britain.  Though he has written of it often, few can really appreciate the author’s Herculean effort to establish himself as a writer.  It took decades before Naipaul’s writing afforded a comfortable living.  More than monetary success, however, was the enormous cultural reward of Naipaul’s labors after emigrating to Britain: the ability to view the moral condition of both Britain and the Caribbean, and beyond this of the West and the world as a whole, with unmatched clarity.

What Naipaul gained was an intense appreciation for the value of liberal democracy.  It is ironic that Naipaul, whose own heritage was quite distinct from that of Britain or America, should have become their foremost defender among contemporary intellectuals.  Within the Western democracies, for all of their moral confusion and waste, there still exists a legacy of tolerance, individual rights, and freedom.  As a cultural outsider, Naipaul was actually in a good position to estimate the value of this legacy and, after his arrival at Oxford as a scholarship student, to register the complacent disregard of many in the First World for these values.

Throughout his long career, Naipaul drew attention to what he termed the “universal civilization” of legal rights, rationality, and opportunity that, having spread from Western Europe to the Americas, Asia, Africa, and even the Middle East, is now the ideal of human beings around the globe.  Sadly, those residing within the cosmopolitan centers of Europe and America are now the least likely to appreciate that invaluable heritage of freedom.  In this respect, as Naipaul put it in A Writer’s People, “the people who wrote as though they were at the centre of things might be revealed as the provincials.”

Those who failed to appreciate Naipaul’s standard of honesty would do well to consider his understanding of the writer’s profession.  For Naipaul, this profession entailed a demand for accuracy, candor, and realism.  Now that he is gone, one can only express a great sense of admiration and gratitude.  As Naipaul once told me, he felt no connection whatsoever with the direction of contemporary culture and especially with the work of those writers who promoted themselves as victimized postcolonials.  V.S. Naipaul was far from being just another postcolonial or third-world writer.  He was a great writer working from within the grand tradition of Austen, Dickens, and Conrad, and he should be remembered as the supreme exponent in our time of the inherited values of Western civilization.  In a time when so many were bent on undermining that civilization, Naipaul was a heroic champion of its humane values and civilizing institutions.  He understood the dangers of moral anarchy as few in our time have, and he issued a warning that the loss of those values and institutions would be disastrous and irrevocable.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan.  He has published nine books and several hundred articles on American culture and politics in national journals and newspapers.

Image: Faizul Latif Chowdhury via Wikimedia Commons.

V.S. Naipaul died on August 9 at his home in London.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, Naipaul was one of the great conservative writers of our time.  Among his best known novels are A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and The Enigma of Arrival.  He will be remembered not just for the superb skill as a novelist, but also for his acute analysis of society in Britain, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and India.

The guiding principle of Naipaul’s work was always his fierce artistic independence and honesty.  In an era of political correctness in which many writers succumbed to pressure to soften their opinions of political corruption in the postcolonial world, Naipaul brought clarity and understanding to what was happening in Trinidad, Argentina, the Congo, and other developing countries.  He was also one of the first major commentators to speak frankly about the dangers of Islamic extremism.

According to reports, the Nobel Committee was not eager to award its highest accolade to a writer who had fearlessly criticized the failed political culture of developing countries in Africa and Latin America and, at the same time, lauded the democratic capitalism of the West.  Were it not for the sheer scale of Naipaul’s achievement as a writer, the prize would never have been awarded to him.  Even so, his critics were quick to denigrate the awarding of the prize, dismissing it as an undeserved honor.

The fact is that the honor was long overdue.  Naipaul was not merely the most accomplished novelist of our time; he was also a social critic who brought common sense to a range of burning issues.  His works include the extraordinary account of his father’s life, A House for Mr. Biswas, and the compelling record of his own transplanted existence in Britain, The Enigma of Arrival.

In a dozen other novels, he portrayed the perilous condition of modern life in both the developed and the developing worlds, perilous especially for those who have forsaken their birthright of inherited values or who have never possessed such a birthright to begin with.  His journalistic writing on India and the Middle East changed the way many readers view these regions while his harsh criticism of African corruption, and by implication of the involvement of Western aid workers, intellectuals, and other facilitators, forced a reassessment of the entire postcolonial relationship.

It has not been sufficiently understood, I think, that the basis of Naipaul’s great success was his unflinching honesty.  A Bend in the River, his unsparing record of post-liberation tribalism and brutality in central Africa, and of the complicity of those Westerners who facilitated it, was a courageous book published at the height of the rule of political correctness, a period characterized by moral complacence and worse in the African writings of liberals such as Nadine Gordimer.

As Naipaul made clear in A Writer’s People, such honesty would not have been possible in the absence of a clear sense of self.  Unfortunately, an unequivocal sense of self is not something most of us are born with.  It must be earned by honest reflection – reflection that requires a great deal of courage in facing the truth of one’s own role in the scheme of things.

As Naipaul wrote in A Writer’s People, his origins were to be found among “a transplanted peasant India” among a people recruited to serve as indentured laborers in Trinidad.  It was not an easy thing, I suspect, for an ambitious young man to admit that his grandparents had been recruited to a squalid life of service halfway around the globe from their homeland or that his own parents had grown up as members of an impoverished, utterly provincial minority on an inconsequential speck of land in the Caribbean.  This, in any case, was Naipaul’s sense of his own background.  But by seeing and accepting it for what it was, a poor thing but his own, the writer gained “a base of feeling and cultural knowledge.”  That knowledge was the basis of many of his finest books.

Had Naipaul remained in Trinidad, he would have been a very different writer.  A large part of his “way of seeing,” an aspect of his life that made it possible for him to perceive the Caribbean and much else with such lucidity, was derived from a lifetime spent in Britain.  Though he has written of it often, few can really appreciate the author’s Herculean effort to establish himself as a writer.  It took decades before Naipaul’s writing afforded a comfortable living.  More than monetary success, however, was the enormous cultural reward of Naipaul’s labors after emigrating to Britain: the ability to view the moral condition of both Britain and the Caribbean, and beyond this of the West and the world as a whole, with unmatched clarity.

What Naipaul gained was an intense appreciation for the value of liberal democracy.  It is ironic that Naipaul, whose own heritage was quite distinct from that of Britain or America, should have become their foremost defender among contemporary intellectuals.  Within the Western democracies, for all of their moral confusion and waste, there still exists a legacy of tolerance, individual rights, and freedom.  As a cultural outsider, Naipaul was actually in a good position to estimate the value of this legacy and, after his arrival at Oxford as a scholarship student, to register the complacent disregard of many in the First World for these values.

Throughout his long career, Naipaul drew attention to what he termed the “universal civilization” of legal rights, rationality, and opportunity that, having spread from Western Europe to the Americas, Asia, Africa, and even the Middle East, is now the ideal of human beings around the globe.  Sadly, those residing within the cosmopolitan centers of Europe and America are now the least likely to appreciate that invaluable heritage of freedom.  In this respect, as Naipaul put it in A Writer’s People, “the people who wrote as though they were at the centre of things might be revealed as the provincials.”

Those who failed to appreciate Naipaul’s standard of honesty would do well to consider his understanding of the writer’s profession.  For Naipaul, this profession entailed a demand for accuracy, candor, and realism.  Now that he is gone, one can only express a great sense of admiration and gratitude.  As Naipaul once told me, he felt no connection whatsoever with the direction of contemporary culture and especially with the work of those writers who promoted themselves as victimized postcolonials.  V.S. Naipaul was far from being just another postcolonial or third-world writer.  He was a great writer working from within the grand tradition of Austen, Dickens, and Conrad, and he should be remembered as the supreme exponent in our time of the inherited values of Western civilization.  In a time when so many were bent on undermining that civilization, Naipaul was a heroic champion of its humane values and civilizing institutions.  He understood the dangers of moral anarchy as few in our time have, and he issued a warning that the loss of those values and institutions would be disastrous and irrevocable.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan.  He has published nine books and several hundred articles on American culture and politics in national journals and newspapers.

Image: Faizul Latif Chowdhury via Wikimedia Commons.



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Let the Bad Times Roll


Conservatives did not go around praying for a market crash during the Obama years, but a lot of liberal commentators seem to be doing just that today.  The August issue of Fortune (a member of the liberal Time, Inc. group of publications) has red ink splattered across its cover proclaiming, “The End Is Near.”

Interesting timing, just three months from the November election.  Inside, there was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews arguing that Wall Street has “fallen out of love with Trump.”  The thesis of Matthews’s piece is that the president has done everything wrong and nothing right.  He has enacted tariffs, lowered taxes and regulations, spurred growth, and put Americans back to work.  Bad?  Yes, bad for Wall Street.

Not to be outdone, a longer piece by Fortune editor Geoff Colvin purports to demonstrate, in nine pages of small print with eight detailed graphs, that the bull market of the last nine years is ending and that the reason is partly, or largely, Trump.  It should be obvious that this bull market, like every other, will end at some point.  It is not so obvious that it will end soon, though it may.  To me, it is not obvious that it is “Trump’s fault.”  Indeed, the fact that it has not ended is “Trump’s fault.”

Yes, the economy is heating up, typical of late-stage bull markets.  As Colvin admits, “the timing of the business cycle is never easy to predict.”  But somehow Colvin suggests that a great economy is bad news, and, again, it’s “Trump’s fault.”  So Trump has created millions of jobs and raised wages significantly for the first time since the Bush years, which has driven the market to new highs – but that’s a bad thing.  Huh?

Then there’s the familiar matter of the yield curve.  It’s true that inversion, when short-term rates rise above long-term rates, has always preceded recession, but, as Colvin again admits, we’re not there yet.  In fact, since 1980, current levels of tightening have never signaled a recession.  We would have to tighten further for the “always” to be true, and even then, tightening normally occurs months if not years before the recession begins.

This time is different, says Fortune.  Trump is waging a trade war and an immigrant-hostile policy (really? I thought he favored legal immigration) and causing oil prices to rise.  (Haven’t his policies expanded American oil production to record levels?  Doesn’t that lower what prices would otherwise have been?)

What’s obvious is that Trump’s policies are driving growth and that growth may continue for years.  That, by the way, is the prediction of the World Bank, which Fortune fails to cite.  According to the World Bank Global Forecast, global economic growth will reach 3.1% in 2018 and “ease slightly in 2019-2020.”  The End Is Near?

The liberal elite hate Trump’s notion that America’s best days are still ahead.  They would have you believe that the days of 3% growth ended in 1970, and nothing can bring them back, especially Donald Trump.  The “new normal,” as they used to say in the slow-growth Obama era, is 2%.  America is not what it used to be, and nothing can change that, even Trump’s tax cuts and increased military spending, whose economic effect “could be ‘as small as zero.'”  When the stimulus no longer works, “you run out of gas…or crash.”

The left has been throwing that word around a lot lately.  A “crash” ahead, just ahead of this year’s congressional elections or the presidential election in 2020.  Oh, how wonderful, even though it would harm nearly every American.  What counts is restoring the left’s control over ordinary Americans, taking away their rights, destroying their liberty.

Bad times ahead.  The end is near.  Take the federal deficit and the high debt load of corporations.  Admittedly, both are excessive, but the way out is growth, not socialism.

And the low unemployment rate.  Yes, for the left, low unemployment, which would seem to be good, is actually bad.  Anything to deny Trump a victory.

Fortune pulls out all the usual suspects to bolster its case of doom and gloom.  There’s Ben Bernanke, Robert Schiller, Jeremy Grantham, and Robert Gordon, a Northwestern University economist.  (According to Schiller, “[i]t’s kind of like we’re in 1928 at the moment.”)  The problem with this lineup of all-star economists, as Colvin admits, is that economists as a class have been wrong every time since 1970 if not forever – wrong predicting the beginning of recessions and wrong predicting the end.  So why quote them, especially those who may not exactly be Trump fans, in the article?

This is not to say that Fortune is wrong.  Eventually, a bear market will occur, probably sooner rather than later.  We just don’t know when.  The current bull market, if it continues, will soon be the longest in history, and this in itself is reason to be cautious.  Bull markets end with a 20-percent-plus correction.  This bull market will end, probably before the end of Trump’s second term.  The problem is that too many liberal economists seem to be wishing it will end sooner.

Wishing for a bear market and an economic recession that puts millions of Americans out of work does not seem like a good thing to me.  To wish for a recession, war, or cataclysm of some kind just to get Trump out of office is a callous and cynical thing to do, but it’s now standard practice on the left.  Why not hope for the best, instead, and then judge the president on his merits?

The reason is that getting rid of Trump and what he stands for – the restoration of democracy in America – is now the overriding goal of the left.  Anything that will bring Trump down, from Stormy Daniels to global war, is good news to the left, even if millions suffer or millions die.  That is how far they have gone in the interest of restoring the authoritarian power of the Deep State.  That is how much they despise the deplorables.

It goes way beyond Fortune magazine.  Every liberal venue, from CNN to the Huffington Post, is stocked with arguments as to why the end is near, and they seem to be licking their chops over it.

The media are bad, but Democrat politicians are worse.  Within seconds of any positive news on the economy, Cheerless Chuck is out with reasons why it’s not true or won’t last.  Hillary Clinton (still on her worldwide “bash Trump” tour), wacky Nancy, fibbing Pocahontas, and Red Alexandria – the message is the same.  Trump is ignorant, incompetent, racist, sexist, and a bully – how could you expect anything he does to work?

The truth is that wishing for your opponent to fail, albeit at terrible harm to the American people, won’t contribute anything to the possibility of its happening.  The market is driven by forces so complex that no one, not even Warren Buffett, has been able to predict its movements.  But predicting a crash, a terrorist attack, or another calamity is not just impossible; it is despicable.

Have we gone so far that the left would now sacrifice the lives of millions just to regain political power?  I fear that we have.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination and In a Time of Disorder.

The left is hoping for bad times, and soon.

If not this fall, then before the 2020 presidential election.  They would rather see harm done to America than see Trump succeed.  A market crash, a war in Asia or the Middle East, another terrorist attack – it doesn’t matter.  Just something to deny conservatives a victory.  That’s how warped the left has become.

Conservatives did not go around praying for a market crash during the Obama years, but a lot of liberal commentators seem to be doing just that today.  The August issue of Fortune (a member of the liberal Time, Inc. group of publications) has red ink splattered across its cover proclaiming, “The End Is Near.”

Interesting timing, just three months from the November election.  Inside, there was MSNBC’s Chris Matthews arguing that Wall Street has “fallen out of love with Trump.”  The thesis of Matthews’s piece is that the president has done everything wrong and nothing right.  He has enacted tariffs, lowered taxes and regulations, spurred growth, and put Americans back to work.  Bad?  Yes, bad for Wall Street.

Not to be outdone, a longer piece by Fortune editor Geoff Colvin purports to demonstrate, in nine pages of small print with eight detailed graphs, that the bull market of the last nine years is ending and that the reason is partly, or largely, Trump.  It should be obvious that this bull market, like every other, will end at some point.  It is not so obvious that it will end soon, though it may.  To me, it is not obvious that it is “Trump’s fault.”  Indeed, the fact that it has not ended is “Trump’s fault.”

Yes, the economy is heating up, typical of late-stage bull markets.  As Colvin admits, “the timing of the business cycle is never easy to predict.”  But somehow Colvin suggests that a great economy is bad news, and, again, it’s “Trump’s fault.”  So Trump has created millions of jobs and raised wages significantly for the first time since the Bush years, which has driven the market to new highs – but that’s a bad thing.  Huh?

Then there’s the familiar matter of the yield curve.  It’s true that inversion, when short-term rates rise above long-term rates, has always preceded recession, but, as Colvin again admits, we’re not there yet.  In fact, since 1980, current levels of tightening have never signaled a recession.  We would have to tighten further for the “always” to be true, and even then, tightening normally occurs months if not years before the recession begins.

This time is different, says Fortune.  Trump is waging a trade war and an immigrant-hostile policy (really? I thought he favored legal immigration) and causing oil prices to rise.  (Haven’t his policies expanded American oil production to record levels?  Doesn’t that lower what prices would otherwise have been?)

What’s obvious is that Trump’s policies are driving growth and that growth may continue for years.  That, by the way, is the prediction of the World Bank, which Fortune fails to cite.  According to the World Bank Global Forecast, global economic growth will reach 3.1% in 2018 and “ease slightly in 2019-2020.”  The End Is Near?

The liberal elite hate Trump’s notion that America’s best days are still ahead.  They would have you believe that the days of 3% growth ended in 1970, and nothing can bring them back, especially Donald Trump.  The “new normal,” as they used to say in the slow-growth Obama era, is 2%.  America is not what it used to be, and nothing can change that, even Trump’s tax cuts and increased military spending, whose economic effect “could be ‘as small as zero.'”  When the stimulus no longer works, “you run out of gas…or crash.”

The left has been throwing that word around a lot lately.  A “crash” ahead, just ahead of this year’s congressional elections or the presidential election in 2020.  Oh, how wonderful, even though it would harm nearly every American.  What counts is restoring the left’s control over ordinary Americans, taking away their rights, destroying their liberty.

Bad times ahead.  The end is near.  Take the federal deficit and the high debt load of corporations.  Admittedly, both are excessive, but the way out is growth, not socialism.

And the low unemployment rate.  Yes, for the left, low unemployment, which would seem to be good, is actually bad.  Anything to deny Trump a victory.

Fortune pulls out all the usual suspects to bolster its case of doom and gloom.  There’s Ben Bernanke, Robert Schiller, Jeremy Grantham, and Robert Gordon, a Northwestern University economist.  (According to Schiller, “[i]t’s kind of like we’re in 1928 at the moment.”)  The problem with this lineup of all-star economists, as Colvin admits, is that economists as a class have been wrong every time since 1970 if not forever – wrong predicting the beginning of recessions and wrong predicting the end.  So why quote them, especially those who may not exactly be Trump fans, in the article?

This is not to say that Fortune is wrong.  Eventually, a bear market will occur, probably sooner rather than later.  We just don’t know when.  The current bull market, if it continues, will soon be the longest in history, and this in itself is reason to be cautious.  Bull markets end with a 20-percent-plus correction.  This bull market will end, probably before the end of Trump’s second term.  The problem is that too many liberal economists seem to be wishing it will end sooner.

Wishing for a bear market and an economic recession that puts millions of Americans out of work does not seem like a good thing to me.  To wish for a recession, war, or cataclysm of some kind just to get Trump out of office is a callous and cynical thing to do, but it’s now standard practice on the left.  Why not hope for the best, instead, and then judge the president on his merits?

The reason is that getting rid of Trump and what he stands for – the restoration of democracy in America – is now the overriding goal of the left.  Anything that will bring Trump down, from Stormy Daniels to global war, is good news to the left, even if millions suffer or millions die.  That is how far they have gone in the interest of restoring the authoritarian power of the Deep State.  That is how much they despise the deplorables.

It goes way beyond Fortune magazine.  Every liberal venue, from CNN to the Huffington Post, is stocked with arguments as to why the end is near, and they seem to be licking their chops over it.

The media are bad, but Democrat politicians are worse.  Within seconds of any positive news on the economy, Cheerless Chuck is out with reasons why it’s not true or won’t last.  Hillary Clinton (still on her worldwide “bash Trump” tour), wacky Nancy, fibbing Pocahontas, and Red Alexandria – the message is the same.  Trump is ignorant, incompetent, racist, sexist, and a bully – how could you expect anything he does to work?

The truth is that wishing for your opponent to fail, albeit at terrible harm to the American people, won’t contribute anything to the possibility of its happening.  The market is driven by forces so complex that no one, not even Warren Buffett, has been able to predict its movements.  But predicting a crash, a terrorist attack, or another calamity is not just impossible; it is despicable.

Have we gone so far that the left would now sacrifice the lives of millions just to regain political power?  I fear that we have.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination and In a Time of Disorder.



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Facebook on Trial


In addition to their liberal tilt, Millennials are the first generation to be brought up on social media.  Mark Zuckerberg, himself a Millennial, was born in 1984, and his “genius,” if you call it that, created the platform for much of Millennial culture.  Launched in 2004, Facebook quickly became the favorite site for Millennials as well as others.

During congressional testimony Tuesday, Zuckerberg began his prepared remarks by stressing that “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company.”  Indeed it is, and in this it reflects the values of its users.  In what follows, although he acknowledged its failure to restrain Cambridge Analytica and other bad actors, Zuckerberg portrayed the company as primarily a “tool for good.”

Strictly speaking, one could say Facebook is not primarily a tool for good: it is a capitalistic enterprise, and a successful one.  Zuckerberg claims that his top priority has been “connecting people,” not profit.  I would admire him more if he had frankly stated that he is a businessman who has found a way to make a great deal of money off the site’s users.

Facebook reflects, and to an extent creates, Millennial values.  It operates not just as a “neutral platform,” but as an instigator of Millennial culture.  That culture is intensely progressive, naïvely idealistic, and thoroughly nonjudgmental.  (“It’s all good,” as Millennials like to say.)  Trusting, openness, and “liking” (on and off Facebook) are values engrained in Millennial thinking.  Skepticism and critical thinking are less common.

Millennial culture is distinctive in that it is the product of a remarkable period of global affluence and security beginning with the fall of Soviet communism in 1991.  Unlike previous generations – the Silent Generation growing up in the shadow of WWII and the Great Depression and the Boomers with their Depression-era parents and the challenge of the Vietnam War, the Millennial generation is the product of a remarkable period of global peace and prosperity.

In this they may seem fortunate, but they are not.  As Milton put it in his verse play Comus, “A virtue untested is no virtue at all.”  Except for 9/11, which many Millennials barely remember, and the financial crisis of 2008-2009, also a fading memory, the Millennials have seen little of war or economic challenges.  They have grown up in a bubble believing, as apparently does the leading Millennial historian Yuval Noah Harari, that the bubble will never burst.  (Harari, author of the best-selling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of the Future, asserts in the latter book that wars, plagues, and economic depressions are a thing of the past.)      

Mark Zuckerberg, one of the pied pipers of this coddled generation, was pressed hard in Tuesday’s congressional hearings.  Deflecting questions as to whether he would support regulation, he remained composed while insisting that Facebook will do better at self-regulation in the future.  The most important point of his defense, however, had nothing to do with Facebook privacy policies.  It was Zuckerberg’s insistence that the fundamental nature of Facebook is a platform for maximum “sharing” of personal information and that it is for this very reason that two billion users have signed up.  Facebook, in effect, was created by its users.  That point seems incontrovertible.

What’s remarkable is not Facebook’s behavior, which, despite its smiley-face persona of serving the greater good, is actually engaged in making money; it’s a generation of users intent on unzipping their private lives to a world of “friends,” many of whom they have never met.  This narcissistic behavior is not restricted to Facebook.  “Selfie” and “tweet” are Millennial creations as well.

To me, that behavior seems embarrassing and silly (self-important and exhibitionist are other terms that come to mind), but for those who have known nothing but affluence and security, the self-assurance of Facebook users may seem quite normal.

I am not defending Facebook.  In his testimony, Zuckerberg often insisted that Facebook does not sell user data.  Instead, it uses data to “improve user experience” by targeting ads to users.  OK, Facebook does not sell data, but it certainly monetizes data.  That may be viewed as improving user experience.  Or it may be seen as pressuring consumers to buy based on personal information.  To me, Zuckerberg’s repeated insistence that he is not primarily interested in profit is unconvincing.

The most incisive questioning of the day was that of Sen. Ted Cruz, who grilled Zuckerberg on reported Facebook censorship of conservative opinions.  Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook operates out of the “leftwing” culture of Silicon Valley, implying that at least some of his 14,000 content-reviewers may hold bias against conservative views.  I would go much farther.  The question is not whether there are a few rogue employees censoring conservatives; it is whether a systemic culture of political bias exists not just at Facebook, but at Google, Yahoo, and other Silicon Valley companies.   

In the end, Facebook is a private company devoted to profit-making, but it is also a company with enormous political and cultural influence.  Privacy concerns and concerns about other forms of user abuse are legitimate, but the “solution” is not regulation.  It is, quite simply, don’t use Facebook.

To my way of thinking, most of what transpires on Facebook is a waste of time anyway.  Why would any rational person spend hours perusing a “friend’s” photos of a humdrum luncheon – if that’s the sort of thing Facebook users do all day – when he could be reading books like Mario Livio’s Is God a Mathematician?, T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, or the Library of America edition of Poe’s poetry and tales, some of the books now on my desk?

That leads to another point about the Millennial generation: they don’t read in a serious way.  Madeline Hill, a Millennial herself, points out that Millennials have plenty of time to read, but they’re just too absorbed by social media, or too lazy, to do so.  According to one source, Millennials spend 18 hours a day consuming social media, with 5.4 hours of it devoted to user-created content.  That doesn’t leave much time for War and Peace.

Not to be too hard on Millennials, they are the product of their times, as were the Boomers and the generations before.  The Boomers had their own issues with “untested virtue” and lack of application, yet most of them grew up, as I’m sure most Millennials will.  The Boomers “grew up” not just with Vietnam and Watergate, but after they married, entered the workforce, and underwent years of responsibility as breadwinners and homemakers.  The Millennial generation, already the largest component of the U. S. workforce, will do so as well.

The greater testing may still lie ahead.  The Millennial values – essentially nonjudgmental, atheistic, socialistic, and self-absorbed – are not the sort that sustain a person through hard times.  Their Facebook culture won’t be altered in any significant way by congressional hearings or media exposure.  It can only change as a result of testing.

For many years to come, the Millennial generation will continue to frequent Facebook and other social media sites, disclose their personal information online, and fawn over socialists like Bernie Sanders who promise to postpone their day of reckoning by canceling student loans, offering “free” health care for all, and providing guaranteed employment with a “living wage” regardless of ability or application.

The underlying cultural values that pervade Facebook won’t change any time soon.  America’s Millennials are the product of unprecedented affluence and security.  Over time, they will change – they may even become conservatives – but only when affluence and security are threatened.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

In addition to their liberal tilt, Millennials are the first generation to be brought up on social media.  Mark Zuckerberg, himself a Millennial, was born in 1984, and his “genius,” if you call it that, created the platform for much of Millennial culture.  Launched in 2004, Facebook quickly became the favorite site for Millennials as well as others.

During congressional testimony Tuesday, Zuckerberg began his prepared remarks by stressing that “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company.”  Indeed it is, and in this it reflects the values of its users.  In what follows, although he acknowledged its failure to restrain Cambridge Analytica and other bad actors, Zuckerberg portrayed the company as primarily a “tool for good.”

Strictly speaking, one could say Facebook is not primarily a tool for good: it is a capitalistic enterprise, and a successful one.  Zuckerberg claims that his top priority has been “connecting people,” not profit.  I would admire him more if he had frankly stated that he is a businessman who has found a way to make a great deal of money off the site’s users.

Facebook reflects, and to an extent creates, Millennial values.  It operates not just as a “neutral platform,” but as an instigator of Millennial culture.  That culture is intensely progressive, naïvely idealistic, and thoroughly nonjudgmental.  (“It’s all good,” as Millennials like to say.)  Trusting, openness, and “liking” (on and off Facebook) are values engrained in Millennial thinking.  Skepticism and critical thinking are less common.

Millennial culture is distinctive in that it is the product of a remarkable period of global affluence and security beginning with the fall of Soviet communism in 1991.  Unlike previous generations – the Silent Generation growing up in the shadow of WWII and the Great Depression and the Boomers with their Depression-era parents and the challenge of the Vietnam War, the Millennial generation is the product of a remarkable period of global peace and prosperity.

In this they may seem fortunate, but they are not.  As Milton put it in his verse play Comus, “A virtue untested is no virtue at all.”  Except for 9/11, which many Millennials barely remember, and the financial crisis of 2008-2009, also a fading memory, the Millennials have seen little of war or economic challenges.  They have grown up in a bubble believing, as apparently does the leading Millennial historian Yuval Noah Harari, that the bubble will never burst.  (Harari, author of the best-selling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of the Future, asserts in the latter book that wars, plagues, and economic depressions are a thing of the past.)      

Mark Zuckerberg, one of the pied pipers of this coddled generation, was pressed hard in Tuesday’s congressional hearings.  Deflecting questions as to whether he would support regulation, he remained composed while insisting that Facebook will do better at self-regulation in the future.  The most important point of his defense, however, had nothing to do with Facebook privacy policies.  It was Zuckerberg’s insistence that the fundamental nature of Facebook is a platform for maximum “sharing” of personal information and that it is for this very reason that two billion users have signed up.  Facebook, in effect, was created by its users.  That point seems incontrovertible.

What’s remarkable is not Facebook’s behavior, which, despite its smiley-face persona of serving the greater good, is actually engaged in making money; it’s a generation of users intent on unzipping their private lives to a world of “friends,” many of whom they have never met.  This narcissistic behavior is not restricted to Facebook.  “Selfie” and “tweet” are Millennial creations as well.

To me, that behavior seems embarrassing and silly (self-important and exhibitionist are other terms that come to mind), but for those who have known nothing but affluence and security, the self-assurance of Facebook users may seem quite normal.

I am not defending Facebook.  In his testimony, Zuckerberg often insisted that Facebook does not sell user data.  Instead, it uses data to “improve user experience” by targeting ads to users.  OK, Facebook does not sell data, but it certainly monetizes data.  That may be viewed as improving user experience.  Or it may be seen as pressuring consumers to buy based on personal information.  To me, Zuckerberg’s repeated insistence that he is not primarily interested in profit is unconvincing.

The most incisive questioning of the day was that of Sen. Ted Cruz, who grilled Zuckerberg on reported Facebook censorship of conservative opinions.  Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook operates out of the “leftwing” culture of Silicon Valley, implying that at least some of his 14,000 content-reviewers may hold bias against conservative views.  I would go much farther.  The question is not whether there are a few rogue employees censoring conservatives; it is whether a systemic culture of political bias exists not just at Facebook, but at Google, Yahoo, and other Silicon Valley companies.   

In the end, Facebook is a private company devoted to profit-making, but it is also a company with enormous political and cultural influence.  Privacy concerns and concerns about other forms of user abuse are legitimate, but the “solution” is not regulation.  It is, quite simply, don’t use Facebook.

To my way of thinking, most of what transpires on Facebook is a waste of time anyway.  Why would any rational person spend hours perusing a “friend’s” photos of a humdrum luncheon – if that’s the sort of thing Facebook users do all day – when he could be reading books like Mario Livio’s Is God a Mathematician?, T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, or the Library of America edition of Poe’s poetry and tales, some of the books now on my desk?

That leads to another point about the Millennial generation: they don’t read in a serious way.  Madeline Hill, a Millennial herself, points out that Millennials have plenty of time to read, but they’re just too absorbed by social media, or too lazy, to do so.  According to one source, Millennials spend 18 hours a day consuming social media, with 5.4 hours of it devoted to user-created content.  That doesn’t leave much time for War and Peace.

Not to be too hard on Millennials, they are the product of their times, as were the Boomers and the generations before.  The Boomers had their own issues with “untested virtue” and lack of application, yet most of them grew up, as I’m sure most Millennials will.  The Boomers “grew up” not just with Vietnam and Watergate, but after they married, entered the workforce, and underwent years of responsibility as breadwinners and homemakers.  The Millennial generation, already the largest component of the U. S. workforce, will do so as well.

The greater testing may still lie ahead.  The Millennial values – essentially nonjudgmental, atheistic, socialistic, and self-absorbed – are not the sort that sustain a person through hard times.  Their Facebook culture won’t be altered in any significant way by congressional hearings or media exposure.  It can only change as a result of testing.

For many years to come, the Millennial generation will continue to frequent Facebook and other social media sites, disclose their personal information online, and fawn over socialists like Bernie Sanders who promise to postpone their day of reckoning by canceling student loans, offering “free” health care for all, and providing guaranteed employment with a “living wage” regardless of ability or application.

The underlying cultural values that pervade Facebook won’t change any time soon.  America’s Millennials are the product of unprecedented affluence and security.  Over time, they will change – they may even become conservatives – but only when affluence and security are threatened.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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Hillary Clinton and Sclerotic Radicalism


Last week in Mumbai, Hillary Clinton declared that the 2016 Trump campaign was “looking backwards.”  The message that followed was utterly predictable.  “I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, looking forward,” she said, once again dividing up the country into deplorables and acceptables – except now one would have to throw Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin into the deplorable column.  Hillary’s universe of potential votes is shrinking fast.

What stands out is Madame Secretary’s suggestion that she is “dynamic” and forward-looking while conservatives like President Trump are relics of the past.  This is a remarkable and preposterous claim.  In fact, Hillary’s thinking hasn’t changed since the sixties, and the radicalism of the sixties was itself grounded in ideas that were familiar in the 18th century.    

The sight of a defeated presidential candidate trooping – or stumbling – around the world attempting to undermine a lawfully elected U.S. president was bad enough, but to see this former candidate doing so was especially nauseating.  What right has Hillary Clinton, whose political opinions haven’t changed since she was a toddler, to lecture Donald Trump on looking backward?

What’s wrong with the minds of liberals, anyway, and why can’t they change?

After all, a lot has changed since the 1960s.  The crucial moment was when Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968 by running against the sixties.  His brilliant campaign recognized that there existed a Silent Majority that loathed the love-ins, drugs, social experimentation, and violent protests of that era.  Leftists detested Richard Nixon, and they could never forgive him for running against their ideas and winning.  Like Hillary-supporters of our time (many of them the same people, just older), they could never accept the fact that the left had lost the battle of ideas.

Through Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, and Trump, and even with Bill Clinton’s triangulation toward the center (and away from Hillary), America has moved forward, doubling down on its core identity of democratic capitalism.  Nothing summed it up better than Ronald Reagan’s brilliant re-election campaign ad of 1984 – “it’s morning again in America.”  That ad was a checklist of everything the American people cherished and that radicals hated.

Today’s Dems lack new ideas because they are still defending the indefensible.  Is it wise to confiscate all that our most talented individuals earn and distribute it to those who refuse to work?  Is it just to attack police officers in protest against perceived injustices?  Is it right to malign your own country, weaken its defenses, and flit around the world declaring that it is morally at fault while defending regimes like those of communist Cuba, Venezuela, and the Palestinian Authority?

Leftists are not just opposed to free enterprise, freedom of thought, and fundamental liberties – because they have had so little success, they are now frenzied in their opposition.  They wish to tear down America as it has been for centuries and replace it with something resembling what Stalin, Castro, and Chávez “achieved” in their respective countries.

It’s not that the Democratic leadership is old, biologically speaking.  It’s that their ideas are old.  Today’s progressive platform of income equality, suppression of religious expression, and state control is so familiar as to be trite – the kind of stuff one expects from a crazy aunt like Nancy Pelosi.  These core beliefs have been restated verbatim by Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Frantz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Huey Newton, and thousands of others – by every leftist from Rousseau to Mark Rudd.  And that’s where Hillary got them. 

Leftists like Hillary have been reduced to name-calling because they have nothing to offer in the way of ideas.  With nothing to offer, they keep tossing out the race card, the gender card, and the class card and hope one of them sticks.  That is not the sign of a viable political party.  I keep expecting the Democratic Party to implode and be replaced by something new – perhaps a more libertarian-oriented and mainstream party of the people – but it never happens.  Democrats like Hillary and Pelosi are so stuck in the heady days of the sixties that they seem incapable of entertaining fresh ideas.

Could it be that a major tax reform bill – one that leaves more money in the hands of individuals and businesses – would benefit ordinary Americans?  The Democratic leadership refused even to entertain the thought because it would transfer funds from government back to the people who actually earned it.  That sort of reflexive statist thinking is now mandatory for every Democrat in office.  Back in December, Chuck Schumer declared that Republicans would “rue the day” they passed tax reform, and he has made it clear that a second tax cut bill would be DOA in the Senate.  But according to Axios, most Americans don’t see it that way.  They favor the GOP tax reform passed in December and presumably would favor a second tax reform bill.

The fact is that the American people don’t want revolution – they want smaller government and protection of individual liberties.  That’s what President Trump is providing.  In one year Trump has done more to move our economy forward than any president since Ronald Reagan.  That can hardly be called “looking backwards.”

If you think the message of sixties radicalism still works, go back to Mumbai – though even there it has been repudiated along with Flower Power and groovy dances like the frug.  While the left keeps yapping away about racism, sexism, and income inequality, conservatives are returning this country to greatness.  Every week is a step forward.

Watching Trump in action is breathtaking. Watching Hillary in Mumbai is just sad.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: edlf345 via Flickr.

Last week in Mumbai, Hillary Clinton declared that the 2016 Trump campaign was “looking backwards.”  The message that followed was utterly predictable.  “I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, looking forward,” she said, once again dividing up the country into deplorables and acceptables – except now one would have to throw Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin into the deplorable column.  Hillary’s universe of potential votes is shrinking fast.

What stands out is Madame Secretary’s suggestion that she is “dynamic” and forward-looking while conservatives like President Trump are relics of the past.  This is a remarkable and preposterous claim.  In fact, Hillary’s thinking hasn’t changed since the sixties, and the radicalism of the sixties was itself grounded in ideas that were familiar in the 18th century.    

The sight of a defeated presidential candidate trooping – or stumbling – around the world attempting to undermine a lawfully elected U.S. president was bad enough, but to see this former candidate doing so was especially nauseating.  What right has Hillary Clinton, whose political opinions haven’t changed since she was a toddler, to lecture Donald Trump on looking backward?

What’s wrong with the minds of liberals, anyway, and why can’t they change?

After all, a lot has changed since the 1960s.  The crucial moment was when Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968 by running against the sixties.  His brilliant campaign recognized that there existed a Silent Majority that loathed the love-ins, drugs, social experimentation, and violent protests of that era.  Leftists detested Richard Nixon, and they could never forgive him for running against their ideas and winning.  Like Hillary-supporters of our time (many of them the same people, just older), they could never accept the fact that the left had lost the battle of ideas.

Through Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, and Trump, and even with Bill Clinton’s triangulation toward the center (and away from Hillary), America has moved forward, doubling down on its core identity of democratic capitalism.  Nothing summed it up better than Ronald Reagan’s brilliant re-election campaign ad of 1984 – “it’s morning again in America.”  That ad was a checklist of everything the American people cherished and that radicals hated.

Today’s Dems lack new ideas because they are still defending the indefensible.  Is it wise to confiscate all that our most talented individuals earn and distribute it to those who refuse to work?  Is it just to attack police officers in protest against perceived injustices?  Is it right to malign your own country, weaken its defenses, and flit around the world declaring that it is morally at fault while defending regimes like those of communist Cuba, Venezuela, and the Palestinian Authority?

Leftists are not just opposed to free enterprise, freedom of thought, and fundamental liberties – because they have had so little success, they are now frenzied in their opposition.  They wish to tear down America as it has been for centuries and replace it with something resembling what Stalin, Castro, and Chávez “achieved” in their respective countries.

It’s not that the Democratic leadership is old, biologically speaking.  It’s that their ideas are old.  Today’s progressive platform of income equality, suppression of religious expression, and state control is so familiar as to be trite – the kind of stuff one expects from a crazy aunt like Nancy Pelosi.  These core beliefs have been restated verbatim by Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Fidel Castro, Frantz Fanon, Herbert Marcuse, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Huey Newton, and thousands of others – by every leftist from Rousseau to Mark Rudd.  And that’s where Hillary got them. 

Leftists like Hillary have been reduced to name-calling because they have nothing to offer in the way of ideas.  With nothing to offer, they keep tossing out the race card, the gender card, and the class card and hope one of them sticks.  That is not the sign of a viable political party.  I keep expecting the Democratic Party to implode and be replaced by something new – perhaps a more libertarian-oriented and mainstream party of the people – but it never happens.  Democrats like Hillary and Pelosi are so stuck in the heady days of the sixties that they seem incapable of entertaining fresh ideas.

Could it be that a major tax reform bill – one that leaves more money in the hands of individuals and businesses – would benefit ordinary Americans?  The Democratic leadership refused even to entertain the thought because it would transfer funds from government back to the people who actually earned it.  That sort of reflexive statist thinking is now mandatory for every Democrat in office.  Back in December, Chuck Schumer declared that Republicans would “rue the day” they passed tax reform, and he has made it clear that a second tax cut bill would be DOA in the Senate.  But according to Axios, most Americans don’t see it that way.  They favor the GOP tax reform passed in December and presumably would favor a second tax reform bill.

The fact is that the American people don’t want revolution – they want smaller government and protection of individual liberties.  That’s what President Trump is providing.  In one year Trump has done more to move our economy forward than any president since Ronald Reagan.  That can hardly be called “looking backwards.”

If you think the message of sixties radicalism still works, go back to Mumbai – though even there it has been repudiated along with Flower Power and groovy dances like the frug.  While the left keeps yapping away about racism, sexism, and income inequality, conservatives are returning this country to greatness.  Every week is a step forward.

Watching Trump in action is breathtaking. Watching Hillary in Mumbai is just sad.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: edlf345 via Flickr.



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Leftists versus the People


At its heart, liberalism is a gnostic religion, and the essence of that religion is the believer’s faith that he possesses the means of changing the world for the better.  The belief that the world must be changed requires there to be a mass of individuals whose lives are in need of change.  Following this logic, it is the liberal, not those deplorables in need of change, who knows what must be changed.  For liberals, there must be a mass of people in need of this knowledge for life to make sense.

Above all, liberalism is a hubristic faith.  Its followers share the fatal flaw of pride in their own intellectual capacity.  This is why liberalism appeals so strongly to those in the knowledge trades: teachers, journalists, writers, psychologists, and social workers. The sense of “knowing more than others” is its strongest attraction – particularly to the young, who otherwise know so little.  Liberalism confers, or seems to confer, almost immediate power and authority to those who embrace it.

The left’s obsession with superior knowledge runs through its entire history.  As Woodrow Wilson remarked, the “instrument” of political science “is insight.  A nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.”  Lyndon B. Johnson thought “a president’s hardest task” is “to know what is right.”  And the most hubristic of all is Obama’s “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”  Yes, we are wonderfully bright, and we’ve been waiting eons for ourselves to appear.

The problem for the liberal is that most people do not want to be transformed.  They want life to be better but not qualitatively different.  It is only the liberal, or the “progressive,” as he prefers to be called today, who welcomes revolution and relishes the violent tactics necessary to bring it about.  For the progressive, it is an article of faith that the masses will resist change and must be forced to swallow it. 

This is a crucial difficulty, and it gives rise to all sorts of persuasion, nudging, compulsion, and outright violence.  If the masses don’t know what’s good for them, they must be made to change.  Every liberal in history, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Barack Obama, has adopted this course of action.  The current liberal lions, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and their lion cubs – New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker and California’s Sen. Kamala Harris – appear to be even more radical.

Booker speaks repeatedly in favor of what he calls “the collective good.”  Apparently, he knows what that good is, and others do not.  And he seems willing to use uncivil means to achieve that collectivist end, such as lashing out at DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  His humiliation of Nielsen was not just embarrassing.  As I saw it, it revealed a cold, vicious, Leninist temperament, a willingness to sacrifice individuals in the service of the collective and of his own political ambition. 

Then there is Harris.  “Loose regulations and lax enforcement … That’s abandoning the middle class,” she says.  What she seeks, apparently, is more government control with herself in charge.

Both of these über-liberals claim to know more than the rest of us, but what is it they know?

In a truth worthy of Wittgenstein, one could say that what they “know” is that they know, and nothing else.  And what they oppose is any suggestion that they do not know.

In other words, liberalism is a temper, not a philosophy.  It has no fixed content – it can be either communistic or fascistic, racially “progressive” or virulently anti-Semitic, pacifistic or militaristic – but in one respect, it never changes.  It exerts control and demands obedience.

At its core, liberalism can be defined in gnostic terms as the human mind’s idolizing of itself.  In this sense, Obama’s famous aphorism is spot on.  The liberal mind really is what the liberal mind has been waiting for.

What it seeks is not, however, goodness, or security, or higher living standards, or even better health care.  What it seeks is the celebration of its own brilliance.  “Smug” is a small word that perfectly captures the nature of the progressive mind.

This gnostic trait is the source of all of the damage liberalism has wrought for more than 300 years.  From the French Revolution to the Third Reich, from Stalinism to North Korea, liberalism has brought with it repression of liberty, death camps, and executions on a mass scale.  What’s often not well understood is the fact that violence and repression are inevitable because liberalism seeks to change what does not wish to change – and it does so not for the purpose of making things better, but as an attempt to confirm the superiority of the liberal mind and its ability to manage society.

Most Americans find this conception of existence repulsive.  They follow the true path of love, marriage, childbirth, hard work, and faith in God and country.  Liberals actively seek to destroy this conception of existence because it rejects their mission of transforming society.  It’s either the true path or liberalism.  Both cannot be true.

To succeed, liberalism must acquire and retain clients in need of change.  It is not in the interest of the liberal to solve problems.  What the liberal needs is continually to discover new problems and hold them up as in need of solution.  The fate of the “DREAMers,” held in limbo by generations of liberals, is one example.  The “downtrodden,” as they were once called, are indeed the pawns of liberal politicians.

There are fewer pawns lately, what with President Trump’s determination to actually solve problems rather than exploit them.  But as the 2018 and 2020 elections draw nearer, there will be an explosion of media accounts of victimization.  It will be theater nonstop, and it will express perfectly the liberal’s need to transform the world whether it wishes to be transformed or not.

There is a point at which liberalism’s hubris turns into bloodlust.  The act of exerting force becomes reflexive and then pleasurable.  It is not likely that Stalin suffered any remorse on March 5, 1940 after signing the order for the Katyn massacre.  Every smug theorist of liberalism has morphed into a vicious mass murderer – or, like Jean-Paul Sartre, an apologist for such.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung – they were all brilliant theorists who grew to savor violence.

It is chilling to realize how imperiled we are in the USA.  No country is now at greater risk than America, where the young have been warped by state education and the nation intentionally divided along lines of race, class, and sex.

Our task as conservatives is to speak out against liberalism, with its inevitable tendency toward compulsion and violence.  It is to offer an alternative that is truer and more generous.  The alternative of liberty and freedom is not the construct of the human mind, but the natural condition of mankind wrought by our Creator.            

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Do they really hate ordinary people that much?

Yes, they do.  For liberals, the distinction between the “dumb masses” and their enlightened selves renders life meaningful.  Disdain for ordinary folks is not just an ancillary trait of liberalism.  It is fundamental to the its nature.

At its heart, liberalism is a gnostic religion, and the essence of that religion is the believer’s faith that he possesses the means of changing the world for the better.  The belief that the world must be changed requires there to be a mass of individuals whose lives are in need of change.  Following this logic, it is the liberal, not those deplorables in need of change, who knows what must be changed.  For liberals, there must be a mass of people in need of this knowledge for life to make sense.

Above all, liberalism is a hubristic faith.  Its followers share the fatal flaw of pride in their own intellectual capacity.  This is why liberalism appeals so strongly to those in the knowledge trades: teachers, journalists, writers, psychologists, and social workers. The sense of “knowing more than others” is its strongest attraction – particularly to the young, who otherwise know so little.  Liberalism confers, or seems to confer, almost immediate power and authority to those who embrace it.

The left’s obsession with superior knowledge runs through its entire history.  As Woodrow Wilson remarked, the “instrument” of political science “is insight.  A nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.”  Lyndon B. Johnson thought “a president’s hardest task” is “to know what is right.”  And the most hubristic of all is Obama’s “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”  Yes, we are wonderfully bright, and we’ve been waiting eons for ourselves to appear.

The problem for the liberal is that most people do not want to be transformed.  They want life to be better but not qualitatively different.  It is only the liberal, or the “progressive,” as he prefers to be called today, who welcomes revolution and relishes the violent tactics necessary to bring it about.  For the progressive, it is an article of faith that the masses will resist change and must be forced to swallow it. 

This is a crucial difficulty, and it gives rise to all sorts of persuasion, nudging, compulsion, and outright violence.  If the masses don’t know what’s good for them, they must be made to change.  Every liberal in history, from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Barack Obama, has adopted this course of action.  The current liberal lions, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and their lion cubs – New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker and California’s Sen. Kamala Harris – appear to be even more radical.

Booker speaks repeatedly in favor of what he calls “the collective good.”  Apparently, he knows what that good is, and others do not.  And he seems willing to use uncivil means to achieve that collectivist end, such as lashing out at DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  His humiliation of Nielsen was not just embarrassing.  As I saw it, it revealed a cold, vicious, Leninist temperament, a willingness to sacrifice individuals in the service of the collective and of his own political ambition. 

Then there is Harris.  “Loose regulations and lax enforcement … That’s abandoning the middle class,” she says.  What she seeks, apparently, is more government control with herself in charge.

Both of these über-liberals claim to know more than the rest of us, but what is it they know?

In a truth worthy of Wittgenstein, one could say that what they “know” is that they know, and nothing else.  And what they oppose is any suggestion that they do not know.

In other words, liberalism is a temper, not a philosophy.  It has no fixed content – it can be either communistic or fascistic, racially “progressive” or virulently anti-Semitic, pacifistic or militaristic – but in one respect, it never changes.  It exerts control and demands obedience.

At its core, liberalism can be defined in gnostic terms as the human mind’s idolizing of itself.  In this sense, Obama’s famous aphorism is spot on.  The liberal mind really is what the liberal mind has been waiting for.

What it seeks is not, however, goodness, or security, or higher living standards, or even better health care.  What it seeks is the celebration of its own brilliance.  “Smug” is a small word that perfectly captures the nature of the progressive mind.

This gnostic trait is the source of all of the damage liberalism has wrought for more than 300 years.  From the French Revolution to the Third Reich, from Stalinism to North Korea, liberalism has brought with it repression of liberty, death camps, and executions on a mass scale.  What’s often not well understood is the fact that violence and repression are inevitable because liberalism seeks to change what does not wish to change – and it does so not for the purpose of making things better, but as an attempt to confirm the superiority of the liberal mind and its ability to manage society.

Most Americans find this conception of existence repulsive.  They follow the true path of love, marriage, childbirth, hard work, and faith in God and country.  Liberals actively seek to destroy this conception of existence because it rejects their mission of transforming society.  It’s either the true path or liberalism.  Both cannot be true.

To succeed, liberalism must acquire and retain clients in need of change.  It is not in the interest of the liberal to solve problems.  What the liberal needs is continually to discover new problems and hold them up as in need of solution.  The fate of the “DREAMers,” held in limbo by generations of liberals, is one example.  The “downtrodden,” as they were once called, are indeed the pawns of liberal politicians.

There are fewer pawns lately, what with President Trump’s determination to actually solve problems rather than exploit them.  But as the 2018 and 2020 elections draw nearer, there will be an explosion of media accounts of victimization.  It will be theater nonstop, and it will express perfectly the liberal’s need to transform the world whether it wishes to be transformed or not.

There is a point at which liberalism’s hubris turns into bloodlust.  The act of exerting force becomes reflexive and then pleasurable.  It is not likely that Stalin suffered any remorse on March 5, 1940 after signing the order for the Katyn massacre.  Every smug theorist of liberalism has morphed into a vicious mass murderer – or, like Jean-Paul Sartre, an apologist for such.  Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, Kim Il-sung – they were all brilliant theorists who grew to savor violence.

It is chilling to realize how imperiled we are in the USA.  No country is now at greater risk than America, where the young have been warped by state education and the nation intentionally divided along lines of race, class, and sex.

Our task as conservatives is to speak out against liberalism, with its inevitable tendency toward compulsion and violence.  It is to offer an alternative that is truer and more generous.  The alternative of liberty and freedom is not the construct of the human mind, but the natural condition of mankind wrought by our Creator.            

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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Our Less than Eminent Victorians


Lytton Strachey, author of Eminent Victorians, once quipped that “[t]he history of the Victorian Age will never be written.  We know too much about it.”  Strachey was writing back in 1918, and Victorianism is still with us.  What we know today is that men and women can’t spend much time together without one or the other feeling harassed, violated, suppressed, or intimidated.  

The Victorians had the daft idea that women are “angels of the house,” cherubic creatures to be everlastingly worshiped and adored but never approached in physical terms.  That sort of prudery resurfaced during the Prohibition era and again in the straight-laced 1950s and in the grim 1970s with the advent of Women’s Liberation.  Now it’s back with a vengeance.

In many ways, Women’s Liberation was the worst Victorianism of all.  It did a great deal of damage, not least of it contributing to the skyrocketing divorce rates of that decade.  The annual U.S. divorce rate, which had hovered around 2.5 per 1,000 people for at least a half-century (with the exception of the anomaly of “wartime marriages” quickly dissolved after WWII), rocketed to over five per thousand during the 1970s.  (The steep decline of the 1990s was not the result of less dysfunction; it stemmed from an even larger decline in the marriage rate.)

The seventies were the decade in which the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir (author of The Second Sex), Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique and founder of the National Organization of Women), and Gloria Steinem (along with the myth of female victimhood associated with Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963) went mainstream and wrecked the traditional conceit of sex relationships.  That conceit was based on the assumption that romantic love and male gallantry are wholesome expressions of affection and that marriage and monogamy are the norm for adults. 

Women’s Liberation spawned unhappiness not just for the unfortunate “male chauvinist pigs,” as males were labeled, but for the “liberated” women themselves.  These women grew up to be aging radicals; miserable loners; and, in their later years, Hillary supporters.  They seem to have spent their lives balancing a large chip on their shoulders.  Whatever went wrong, it was always the fault of the “patriarchy” – a nebulous force of repression somewhat akin to Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Like the bra-burners of the ’70s, this social history is so bizarre that it now seems funny, or it would if it had not caused so much damage.  What is less a source of humor is the fact that Victorianism is back in the homes and workplaces of America.  Society has again decided that women must not be touched, gazed upon, assisted, or even complimented.  Women are to be unisex co-workers, classmates, and housemates – not the object of love and affection they were for ages.

Any violation of the no-touch, no-look, no-say policy is punished with the loss of employment, reputation, and standing on the part of the male.  Even the unsupported allegation of impropriety is enough to sink a career.  Public figures like Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby have been caught up in this mentality, but millions of others, many of them entirely innocent (and how does one define or determine guilt or innocence when a single word or gesture can be interpreted as a crime?) have been sacrificed on the altar of prudery.  It is a harsh new world we have entered, or re-entered.

The rules of that brave new world have been codified in nearly every school, workplace, and public institution.  At Brown University, the rules are spelled out in an extensive document detailing not just truly criminal offenses such as rape and sexual assault, but more subjective matters such as “gender [sic]-based harassment.”  Subjective or not, violation of campus rules can result in suspension or expulsion.

While many of these rules are obvious, several rules seem hazy, indeed.  For example, Brown’s rules of conduct specify that “stalking” can be defined by as few as two instances in which the purported stalker “observes” or “surveils” another person, causing “substantial emotional distress.”  How is it that the mere act of being observed twice can cause substantial emotional distress, and can a purported stalker know that observing another individual is causing distress?  Keep your eyes to yourself at Brown.

With such rules in place, we are well on our way to the hijab and the burqa.  Ironically, that sort of outfit is the logical outcome of a feminist mentality that criminalizes traditional sex relationships, thereby transforming all men into sexual aggressors and women into “objects” (and, in fact, vice versa).  The only way to ensure not being observed and objectified is for women, and men, to cover up.

I am not singling out Brown, whose rules of conduct seem generally well intentioned.  The problem is that society as a whole has succumbed to a conceit of the sexes that is not merely unworkable, but inhuman.  If the “rules of conduct” in nearly every school and workplace prohibit “unwelcome sexual advances,” including words, deeds, and looks, and the punishment for such advances include expulsion or firing, one wonders how any man or woman can ever get a date.  Who knows what “observing” might take place in the course of a romantic evening?  A goodnight kiss or attempted kiss can most certainly be branded an assault.

How does one define the “traditional” male-female relationship that has been around for ages?  It is the natural impulse, driven largely by hormones, for young men to look upon women with love and desire and for young women to welcome such attention.  Tempered by courtesy and goodwill, such impulses go a long way toward rendering life agreeable and happy.  They are the basis of what in the past was termed “male gallantry” and “female pride,” terms that may seem outdated but are far from being so.  Without such ideals and the graceful demeanor that goes with them, life is bitter, indeed.

Unfortunately, none of the institutional “rules of conduct” credits such impulses or the unwritten social contract that defined relations between men and women in the past.  That contract, the basis of a vast literature stretching from Homer to the present, has been systematically discredited by generations of feminists.

Every revival of Victorianism is followed by an equally excessive period of permissiveness as the pendulum swings back toward sexual license.  In their way, those decades of license are no better than the prudery they replace, just less mean.  What both the wild 1960s and the prudish 1970s overlooked was the deep need for loving kindness that is the basis of sex relations in the lives of most human beings.  While de Beauvoir and Friedan write of males as pigs and patriarchs, most women see them as somewhere between knights and dears.

Every generation or so, society decides that sex is a bad thing.  The “rules of conduct” under which we must live at present are painful, but life goes on.  Victorianism always causes a great deal of damage to individuals, ruining many lives, but society as a whole survives.  Soon it will be the swinging sixties all over again, and the neo-feminists will be out of luck.

Checking Amazon, I see that Our Bodies Our Selves (the 2011 revision of the feminist classic) is selling at #13,526.  There don’t seem to be many buyers for this bible of women’s liberation.  The 50th-anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique isn’t doing much better.  It’s selling at #11,818.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Lytton Strachey, author of Eminent Victorians, once quipped that “[t]he history of the Victorian Age will never be written.  We know too much about it.”  Strachey was writing back in 1918, and Victorianism is still with us.  What we know today is that men and women can’t spend much time together without one or the other feeling harassed, violated, suppressed, or intimidated.  

The Victorians had the daft idea that women are “angels of the house,” cherubic creatures to be everlastingly worshiped and adored but never approached in physical terms.  That sort of prudery resurfaced during the Prohibition era and again in the straight-laced 1950s and in the grim 1970s with the advent of Women’s Liberation.  Now it’s back with a vengeance.

In many ways, Women’s Liberation was the worst Victorianism of all.  It did a great deal of damage, not least of it contributing to the skyrocketing divorce rates of that decade.  The annual U.S. divorce rate, which had hovered around 2.5 per 1,000 people for at least a half-century (with the exception of the anomaly of “wartime marriages” quickly dissolved after WWII), rocketed to over five per thousand during the 1970s.  (The steep decline of the 1990s was not the result of less dysfunction; it stemmed from an even larger decline in the marriage rate.)

The seventies were the decade in which the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir (author of The Second Sex), Betty Friedan (author of The Feminine Mystique and founder of the National Organization of Women), and Gloria Steinem (along with the myth of female victimhood associated with Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide in 1963) went mainstream and wrecked the traditional conceit of sex relationships.  That conceit was based on the assumption that romantic love and male gallantry are wholesome expressions of affection and that marriage and monogamy are the norm for adults. 

Women’s Liberation spawned unhappiness not just for the unfortunate “male chauvinist pigs,” as males were labeled, but for the “liberated” women themselves.  These women grew up to be aging radicals; miserable loners; and, in their later years, Hillary supporters.  They seem to have spent their lives balancing a large chip on their shoulders.  Whatever went wrong, it was always the fault of the “patriarchy” – a nebulous force of repression somewhat akin to Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

Like the bra-burners of the ’70s, this social history is so bizarre that it now seems funny, or it would if it had not caused so much damage.  What is less a source of humor is the fact that Victorianism is back in the homes and workplaces of America.  Society has again decided that women must not be touched, gazed upon, assisted, or even complimented.  Women are to be unisex co-workers, classmates, and housemates – not the object of love and affection they were for ages.

Any violation of the no-touch, no-look, no-say policy is punished with the loss of employment, reputation, and standing on the part of the male.  Even the unsupported allegation of impropriety is enough to sink a career.  Public figures like Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby have been caught up in this mentality, but millions of others, many of them entirely innocent (and how does one define or determine guilt or innocence when a single word or gesture can be interpreted as a crime?) have been sacrificed on the altar of prudery.  It is a harsh new world we have entered, or re-entered.

The rules of that brave new world have been codified in nearly every school, workplace, and public institution.  At Brown University, the rules are spelled out in an extensive document detailing not just truly criminal offenses such as rape and sexual assault, but more subjective matters such as “gender [sic]-based harassment.”  Subjective or not, violation of campus rules can result in suspension or expulsion.

While many of these rules are obvious, several rules seem hazy, indeed.  For example, Brown’s rules of conduct specify that “stalking” can be defined by as few as two instances in which the purported stalker “observes” or “surveils” another person, causing “substantial emotional distress.”  How is it that the mere act of being observed twice can cause substantial emotional distress, and can a purported stalker know that observing another individual is causing distress?  Keep your eyes to yourself at Brown.

With such rules in place, we are well on our way to the hijab and the burqa.  Ironically, that sort of outfit is the logical outcome of a feminist mentality that criminalizes traditional sex relationships, thereby transforming all men into sexual aggressors and women into “objects” (and, in fact, vice versa).  The only way to ensure not being observed and objectified is for women, and men, to cover up.

I am not singling out Brown, whose rules of conduct seem generally well intentioned.  The problem is that society as a whole has succumbed to a conceit of the sexes that is not merely unworkable, but inhuman.  If the “rules of conduct” in nearly every school and workplace prohibit “unwelcome sexual advances,” including words, deeds, and looks, and the punishment for such advances include expulsion or firing, one wonders how any man or woman can ever get a date.  Who knows what “observing” might take place in the course of a romantic evening?  A goodnight kiss or attempted kiss can most certainly be branded an assault.

How does one define the “traditional” male-female relationship that has been around for ages?  It is the natural impulse, driven largely by hormones, for young men to look upon women with love and desire and for young women to welcome such attention.  Tempered by courtesy and goodwill, such impulses go a long way toward rendering life agreeable and happy.  They are the basis of what in the past was termed “male gallantry” and “female pride,” terms that may seem outdated but are far from being so.  Without such ideals and the graceful demeanor that goes with them, life is bitter, indeed.

Unfortunately, none of the institutional “rules of conduct” credits such impulses or the unwritten social contract that defined relations between men and women in the past.  That contract, the basis of a vast literature stretching from Homer to the present, has been systematically discredited by generations of feminists.

Every revival of Victorianism is followed by an equally excessive period of permissiveness as the pendulum swings back toward sexual license.  In their way, those decades of license are no better than the prudery they replace, just less mean.  What both the wild 1960s and the prudish 1970s overlooked was the deep need for loving kindness that is the basis of sex relations in the lives of most human beings.  While de Beauvoir and Friedan write of males as pigs and patriarchs, most women see them as somewhere between knights and dears.

Every generation or so, society decides that sex is a bad thing.  The “rules of conduct” under which we must live at present are painful, but life goes on.  Victorianism always causes a great deal of damage to individuals, ruining many lives, but society as a whole survives.  Soon it will be the swinging sixties all over again, and the neo-feminists will be out of luck.

Checking Amazon, I see that Our Bodies Our Selves (the 2011 revision of the feminist classic) is selling at #13,526.  There don’t seem to be many buyers for this bible of women’s liberation.  The 50th-anniversary edition of The Feminine Mystique isn’t doing much better.  It’s selling at #11,818.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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Trump's Energy Success


Just six months ago, the Trump administration was attacked for its “slow start.”  It was said to be “in disarray,” in “chaos,” “at war” with itself, and incapable of governing.  Now the list of successes has piled up, making it clear that, if the trend continues, President Trump will become one of our more important presidents.  Far from being a do-nothing administration, the Trump team is a White House on steroids.

One of the president’s major successes is in the area of energy policy.  Along with energy secretary Rick Perry, the president is overseeing the recovery of the American energy sector from the low point it hit under the Obama administration.  By a combination of executive orders totally restrictiong drilling on federal lands and EPA assaults on fracking and coal-mining, including a total ban on mountaintop-mining, Obama prosecuted a “war” not just on coal, but on fossil fuels generally.

Now America has become the largest producer of oil and gas and a major exporter of natural gas.  The U.S. now produces significantly more hydrocarbons than second-place Russia and twice as much as Saudi Arabia.  As coal-mining is restored, pipelines are laid, and new wells are drilled, hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created across the economy, not just in drilling and mining, but in support services.

The effect on the economy is already being felt.  According to Monster.com, a leading employment recruitment site, oil jobs are making a “huge comeback,” with “100,000 new jobs by 2018.”  And these are high paying jobs: “the average pay of the oil and gas industry is 85% higher than the national average.”  Each new job in the energy field creates others in areas like steel production, rig technology, transportation, and general services.  And the money earned in these high paying fields circulates through the economy.

With the passage of a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowing oil exploration in ANWR, the president has another success.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains vast reserves of recoverable oil currently estimated at 10.4 billion barrels.  Development has been blocked by misguided and ill informed opposition from environmental groups.  Now, with great care for the environment, oil companies will have the opportunity to produce vast amounts of energy while drilling only 3% of ANWR.

According to a report from the House Committee on Natural Resources, “total governmental revenue” from ANWR drilling will run $440 billion.  ANWR alone will create between 55,000 and 130,000 new high paying jobs.

It is not just ANWR.  By removing unnecessary restrictions on fracking and by opening other federal lands to drilling, President Trump is promoting energy independence rather than standing in its way.  He has opened federal lands for drilling, including land in two national monuments in southern Utah.  Vast federal lands in the Western U.S. offer other opportunities.

In April, the president signed an executive order reversing Obama’s ban on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.  Current estimates show that almost 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.  Those estimates have a way of being revised upward, especially for regions such as these that have not been explored with modern technology due to past restrictions.  Offshore drilling has the potential to produce ten times the number of jobs and government revenue projected for ANWR.  At the high end, that would be 1,300,000 high paying jobs and $4.4 trillion in state and federal revenue.

Under President Obama, American coal-mining suffered a near-death experience.  Now, under EPA director Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration is taking steps to restore coal to its rightful place in America’s energy supply mix.  Though it will take years to complete, the reversal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan that began back in October will take government out of the frame of “picking winners and losers.”  Coal will still have to compete with natural gas, but at least it will be allowed to compete.

The president’s accomplishments in the field of energy policy are not limited to fossil fuels.  His Energy Department recently committed $100 million to promoting Transformative Energy Projects intended to spur early-stage innovators.  The department continues to promote alternative energy sources and energy conservation, important contributors to energy independence.  Energy conservation in particular can go a long way toward making America energy-independent.

With the opening of new lands to fracking and conventional drilling and the restoration of mining in the Appalachian region, the energy sector has gone from moribund to robust practically overnight.  One of the president’s first actions was the elimination of the Steam Protection Rule, which imposed crippling burdens of regulation on the industry.  As a result, production has begun to increase.  

As the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s annual “Outlook” makes clear, the future for American energy production is bright.  The Outlook models future production across a wide range of different scenarios, and it concludes that the U.S. “is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2026” in its Reference Case projections but that it may do so earlier under three side cases.  After 2026, the scale of exports expands rapidly in all cases.

Perhaps the most consequential of the president’s actions in the field of energy is his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  While withdrawal from the accord does not have significant immediate consequences, its long-term effect is great.  Its most important effect will be to reduce the possibility of a deluge of environmental lawsuits based largely on the agreement signed by President Obama.  These lawsuits would have blocked American energy production to gratify a self-appointed global environmental elite – at the expense of the American people.    

The president’s accomplishments are many, but energy stands out.  America is now the world’s premiere producer of fossil fuels.  In just one year, we have gone from a dismal future, in which the government planned to shut down fossil fuels almost entirely by mid-century, to a nation on the cusp of total energy independence.  “Make America Great Again” was not just a clever campaign slogan; it is a reality in the field of energy production, as in so many other areas under President Trump.        

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Just six months ago, the Trump administration was attacked for its “slow start.”  It was said to be “in disarray,” in “chaos,” “at war” with itself, and incapable of governing.  Now the list of successes has piled up, making it clear that, if the trend continues, President Trump will become one of our more important presidents.  Far from being a do-nothing administration, the Trump team is a White House on steroids.

One of the president’s major successes is in the area of energy policy.  Along with energy secretary Rick Perry, the president is overseeing the recovery of the American energy sector from the low point it hit under the Obama administration.  By a combination of executive orders totally restrictiong drilling on federal lands and EPA assaults on fracking and coal-mining, including a total ban on mountaintop-mining, Obama prosecuted a “war” not just on coal, but on fossil fuels generally.

Now America has become the largest producer of oil and gas and a major exporter of natural gas.  The U.S. now produces significantly more hydrocarbons than second-place Russia and twice as much as Saudi Arabia.  As coal-mining is restored, pipelines are laid, and new wells are drilled, hundreds of thousands of jobs are being created across the economy, not just in drilling and mining, but in support services.

The effect on the economy is already being felt.  According to Monster.com, a leading employment recruitment site, oil jobs are making a “huge comeback,” with “100,000 new jobs by 2018.”  And these are high paying jobs: “the average pay of the oil and gas industry is 85% higher than the national average.”  Each new job in the energy field creates others in areas like steel production, rig technology, transportation, and general services.  And the money earned in these high paying fields circulates through the economy.

With the passage of a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allowing oil exploration in ANWR, the president has another success.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains vast reserves of recoverable oil currently estimated at 10.4 billion barrels.  Development has been blocked by misguided and ill informed opposition from environmental groups.  Now, with great care for the environment, oil companies will have the opportunity to produce vast amounts of energy while drilling only 3% of ANWR.

According to a report from the House Committee on Natural Resources, “total governmental revenue” from ANWR drilling will run $440 billion.  ANWR alone will create between 55,000 and 130,000 new high paying jobs.

It is not just ANWR.  By removing unnecessary restrictions on fracking and by opening other federal lands to drilling, President Trump is promoting energy independence rather than standing in its way.  He has opened federal lands for drilling, including land in two national monuments in southern Utah.  Vast federal lands in the Western U.S. offer other opportunities.

In April, the president signed an executive order reversing Obama’s ban on new offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic.  Current estimates show that almost 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie under the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.  Those estimates have a way of being revised upward, especially for regions such as these that have not been explored with modern technology due to past restrictions.  Offshore drilling has the potential to produce ten times the number of jobs and government revenue projected for ANWR.  At the high end, that would be 1,300,000 high paying jobs and $4.4 trillion in state and federal revenue.

Under President Obama, American coal-mining suffered a near-death experience.  Now, under EPA director Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration is taking steps to restore coal to its rightful place in America’s energy supply mix.  Though it will take years to complete, the reversal of Obama’s Clean Power Plan that began back in October will take government out of the frame of “picking winners and losers.”  Coal will still have to compete with natural gas, but at least it will be allowed to compete.

The president’s accomplishments in the field of energy policy are not limited to fossil fuels.  His Energy Department recently committed $100 million to promoting Transformative Energy Projects intended to spur early-stage innovators.  The department continues to promote alternative energy sources and energy conservation, important contributors to energy independence.  Energy conservation in particular can go a long way toward making America energy-independent.

With the opening of new lands to fracking and conventional drilling and the restoration of mining in the Appalachian region, the energy sector has gone from moribund to robust practically overnight.  One of the president’s first actions was the elimination of the Steam Protection Rule, which imposed crippling burdens of regulation on the industry.  As a result, production has begun to increase.  

As the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s annual “Outlook” makes clear, the future for American energy production is bright.  The Outlook models future production across a wide range of different scenarios, and it concludes that the U.S. “is projected to become a net energy exporter by 2026” in its Reference Case projections but that it may do so earlier under three side cases.  After 2026, the scale of exports expands rapidly in all cases.

Perhaps the most consequential of the president’s actions in the field of energy is his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.  While withdrawal from the accord does not have significant immediate consequences, its long-term effect is great.  Its most important effect will be to reduce the possibility of a deluge of environmental lawsuits based largely on the agreement signed by President Obama.  These lawsuits would have blocked American energy production to gratify a self-appointed global environmental elite – at the expense of the American people.    

The president’s accomplishments are many, but energy stands out.  America is now the world’s premiere producer of fossil fuels.  In just one year, we have gone from a dismal future, in which the government planned to shut down fossil fuels almost entirely by mid-century, to a nation on the cusp of total energy independence.  “Make America Great Again” was not just a clever campaign slogan; it is a reality in the field of energy production, as in so many other areas under President Trump.        

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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Fasting for Christmas


This Christmas, I’ll be fasting.

There is, of course, a long tradition of religious fasting, including the Nativity Fast celebrated in both the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity.  Fasting is also an important part of the Mormon faith, as it is among Buddhists and Muslims at other times of the year.  In every case, fasting is considered a means of drawing closer to God and gaining self-discipline and control. 

Among the many advocates of fasting have been Benjamin Franklin, Hermann Hesse, and Mohandas Gandhi.  Not all of these were political conservatives, but I believe there is an important connection between fasting and conservative thinking.

For me, fasting is a time of reflection, reading, walks, and beautiful music.  It is a time to withdraw and reflect, a state of mind that is inherently “conservative.”

Contrary to popular myth, fasting is not particularly difficult.  Whether it’s an “intermittent” fast of 14 to 24 hours or an “extended” fast of more than one day, in my experience, fasting is actually quite pleasant once the initial cravings are overcome.  This is the point: cravings are overcome by mental discipline.

It is the same mental discipline that distinguishes conservatives from liberals.  When a difficulty arises, liberals always resort to the easy and undisciplined “solution” of writing checks on someone else’s account.  Just this past week, they’ve tried to preserve higher taxes by opposing the GOP tax bill.  For true conservatives, limited government is an article of faith.  They recognize that life cannot be “saved” in the absence of individual responsibility.

Aside from its many other benefits, fasting is a wonderful exercise in mental discipline.  It’s true that the “water only” four-day fast that I recently completed involved some “hunger pangs” during which the body was sending out strong signals, urging me to relent – and the fridge was only steps away at the time.  But the mind can control the appetites of the body – another connection between conservatism and fasting.  At its core, conservatism always involves a denial of excess.

Perhaps the greatest attribute of conservatism is prudence – the care one takes with others and with the world in which one lives.  Prudence also applies to fasting, which has traditionally been regarded as a powerful exercise in self-control and healing.   

In my case, I overcame hunger pangs by focusing my mind on the known benefits of fasting.  I knew that even as a vegan, my body was feeling heavy and bloated.  I needed to escape from the routine of consuming and digesting food.

And I did.  I was energized.  I slept less, felt less tired, and experienced a higher metabolism and a clearer mind.  Like Kafka’s Hunger Artist, I was reluctant to end my fast, which became easier the longer it continued.  Several of my friends were incredulous.  How could fasting get easier the longer it went on?  I felt, as Kafka put it, that I “alone knew … how easy it was to fast.” 

Among classic writers, by the way, Kafka was the most incisive in what he said about Big Government.  In The Metamorphosis, he wrote, “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”  Aptly put.

Was Kafka a conservative?  I believe he was.  His writing is filled with a defense of the individual and with fearful intimations of the rise of totalitarianism.  His novels and stories constitute a monumental plea for the freedom of the individual from authoritarianism of all kinds.  The Castle is the most compelling anti-authoritarian book of its time.  And yes, Kafka was a vegetarian.

Like Kafka, I don’t fast for weight loss.  (Kafka, “possibly an anorexic,” did not need to lose weight.)  Nor do I fast for ethical reasons.  Peter Singer may believe that turkeys have the same rights as humans, but I don’t share that belief.  There is nothing particularly sinful about roasting a turkey or cooking a ham.  I just don’t think meat and other animal products are healthy in my particular case.

For me, fasting is a time to surrender and simplify.  A time for rest and contemplation.  And what better time than during the holidays?

Lately, I’ve been re-reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, a book that means much more to me now than it did in my twenties.  And yes, Merton was a vegetarian and an advocate of fasting.  Merton was a natural conservative who wished to discover the “permanent things” and to discard what was ephemeral and distracting.  Like all conservatives, he was committed to the pursuit of truth, and he understood that truth pointed back to the inherited traditions of his civilization. As a Trappist monk, he devoted himself to the uninterrupted celebration of those traditions, including the celebration of Christ’s birth.  That, as he describes it in The Seven Storey Mountain, is what led him to the monastic life of the Trappists to begin with.    

This brings us back to Christmas.  I’ll be fasting during the holidays, in part because it seems appropriate as a counterbalance to the excess that always accompanies the season.  There was a time when Christmas was simpler.  It heralded the arrival of a fruitcake from my aunt in Michigan or a Swiss Colony box from one of dad’s colleagues at work.  Now the only way to enjoy that simplicity is to make Christmas simple.  There are many ways to do that.  Fasting is one of them.

What I want for Christmas is a peaceful time of reflection and rest accompanied by fasting, but as a conservative, I believe in self-responsibility and individual choice.  I don’t presume to influence others.  It doesn’t work, anyway.  Tell someone else what to do, and he will do the opposite.  Ban pizza, and he’ll be texting Papa John’s in minutes.    

To be clear, I’m not fasting on Christmas Day.  That would be a bit much, and it would hurt the feelings of those who work to put together the Christmas dinner.  I’ll save the fasting for before and after.

And I hope that this Christmas, for you and for me, will be blessed with joy, peace, and well-being.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

This Christmas, I’ll be fasting.

There is, of course, a long tradition of religious fasting, including the Nativity Fast celebrated in both the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity.  Fasting is also an important part of the Mormon faith, as it is among Buddhists and Muslims at other times of the year.  In every case, fasting is considered a means of drawing closer to God and gaining self-discipline and control. 

Among the many advocates of fasting have been Benjamin Franklin, Hermann Hesse, and Mohandas Gandhi.  Not all of these were political conservatives, but I believe there is an important connection between fasting and conservative thinking.

For me, fasting is a time of reflection, reading, walks, and beautiful music.  It is a time to withdraw and reflect, a state of mind that is inherently “conservative.”

Contrary to popular myth, fasting is not particularly difficult.  Whether it’s an “intermittent” fast of 14 to 24 hours or an “extended” fast of more than one day, in my experience, fasting is actually quite pleasant once the initial cravings are overcome.  This is the point: cravings are overcome by mental discipline.

It is the same mental discipline that distinguishes conservatives from liberals.  When a difficulty arises, liberals always resort to the easy and undisciplined “solution” of writing checks on someone else’s account.  Just this past week, they’ve tried to preserve higher taxes by opposing the GOP tax bill.  For true conservatives, limited government is an article of faith.  They recognize that life cannot be “saved” in the absence of individual responsibility.

Aside from its many other benefits, fasting is a wonderful exercise in mental discipline.  It’s true that the “water only” four-day fast that I recently completed involved some “hunger pangs” during which the body was sending out strong signals, urging me to relent – and the fridge was only steps away at the time.  But the mind can control the appetites of the body – another connection between conservatism and fasting.  At its core, conservatism always involves a denial of excess.

Perhaps the greatest attribute of conservatism is prudence – the care one takes with others and with the world in which one lives.  Prudence also applies to fasting, which has traditionally been regarded as a powerful exercise in self-control and healing.   

In my case, I overcame hunger pangs by focusing my mind on the known benefits of fasting.  I knew that even as a vegan, my body was feeling heavy and bloated.  I needed to escape from the routine of consuming and digesting food.

And I did.  I was energized.  I slept less, felt less tired, and experienced a higher metabolism and a clearer mind.  Like Kafka’s Hunger Artist, I was reluctant to end my fast, which became easier the longer it continued.  Several of my friends were incredulous.  How could fasting get easier the longer it went on?  I felt, as Kafka put it, that I “alone knew … how easy it was to fast.” 

Among classic writers, by the way, Kafka was the most incisive in what he said about Big Government.  In The Metamorphosis, he wrote, “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.”  Aptly put.

Was Kafka a conservative?  I believe he was.  His writing is filled with a defense of the individual and with fearful intimations of the rise of totalitarianism.  His novels and stories constitute a monumental plea for the freedom of the individual from authoritarianism of all kinds.  The Castle is the most compelling anti-authoritarian book of its time.  And yes, Kafka was a vegetarian.

Like Kafka, I don’t fast for weight loss.  (Kafka, “possibly an anorexic,” did not need to lose weight.)  Nor do I fast for ethical reasons.  Peter Singer may believe that turkeys have the same rights as humans, but I don’t share that belief.  There is nothing particularly sinful about roasting a turkey or cooking a ham.  I just don’t think meat and other animal products are healthy in my particular case.

For me, fasting is a time to surrender and simplify.  A time for rest and contemplation.  And what better time than during the holidays?

Lately, I’ve been re-reading Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, a book that means much more to me now than it did in my twenties.  And yes, Merton was a vegetarian and an advocate of fasting.  Merton was a natural conservative who wished to discover the “permanent things” and to discard what was ephemeral and distracting.  Like all conservatives, he was committed to the pursuit of truth, and he understood that truth pointed back to the inherited traditions of his civilization. As a Trappist monk, he devoted himself to the uninterrupted celebration of those traditions, including the celebration of Christ’s birth.  That, as he describes it in The Seven Storey Mountain, is what led him to the monastic life of the Trappists to begin with.    

This brings us back to Christmas.  I’ll be fasting during the holidays, in part because it seems appropriate as a counterbalance to the excess that always accompanies the season.  There was a time when Christmas was simpler.  It heralded the arrival of a fruitcake from my aunt in Michigan or a Swiss Colony box from one of dad’s colleagues at work.  Now the only way to enjoy that simplicity is to make Christmas simple.  There are many ways to do that.  Fasting is one of them.

What I want for Christmas is a peaceful time of reflection and rest accompanied by fasting, but as a conservative, I believe in self-responsibility and individual choice.  I don’t presume to influence others.  It doesn’t work, anyway.  Tell someone else what to do, and he will do the opposite.  Ban pizza, and he’ll be texting Papa John’s in minutes.    

To be clear, I’m not fasting on Christmas Day.  That would be a bit much, and it would hurt the feelings of those who work to put together the Christmas dinner.  I’ll save the fasting for before and after.

And I hope that this Christmas, for you and for me, will be blessed with joy, peace, and well-being.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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Our Reps Are (Still) Idiots


OK, so they finally passed it.  The Senate tax reform bill, however imperfect, will return money to taxpayers, spur business, and increase jobs.  Significantly, the bill repeals the Obamacare mandate and provides other benefits, such as opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.  These are major accomplishments.  Yet nearly half of our representatives in the Senate voted no, and what with Sen. Corker’s obstruction, Republicans came close to stumbling once again.

The great historian Robert Conquest once pointed out that the Soviet system fell not just because of flawed ideology or Western opposition, but because its leaders were “stupid.”  They murdered, imprisoned, or exiled most of their greatest scientists; they ran the economy into the ground with inefficient state-run industries; they engaged in corruption at every level of society.  No wonder they failed.

Much the same can be said for our representatives in Congress.  Why would the people’s representatives, all of them, not rush to pass a major reform that would bring such good to ordinary Americans?  Obviously, because they are idiots.

In the course of the debate, one senator after another revealed himself as such.  The dunce hat passed from John McCain to Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Ron Johnson before ending up on Bob Corker’s head.  There’s also every Democratic member of the Senate, but they’ve voted that way for decades.  It would appear that these esteemed representatives don’t have the sense of the common people, who can tell at a glance that less tax is better than more.

Along with opposing tax reform, the entire Congress has once again failed to consider spending cuts of any sort.  In a federal budget totaling $3.54 trillion in 2016, Congress can’t find a dime that needs cutting.  Even a trained monkey could open the books and finger thousands of programs that deserve the axe, starting with Job Corps (saving $19 billion over ten years) and Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act (saving $25 billion over ten years).  Congress lacks the sense of a monkey, trained or otherwise.

Of course, one would expect the left to stand together in opposition to any reduction in the size or funding of government.  Cutting taxes for the middle class is, they say, a giveaway to the rich.  It is bad for the economy.  It will add to the national debt.  “A class war of the super-rich against the merely affluent,” the Washington Post calls it.  The tax cut plan would “destroy Medicare and Medicaid,” according to the Huffington Post.  Or as the N.Y. Times put it, with its usual classiness, “The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.”     

What about Bob Corker?  He excused himself on grounds that he is a “dinosaur” who fears future deficits.  If that’s the case, what’s he been doing for the past ten years as the federal deficit more than doubled?  Or was his real motive testiness over Trump’s snubbing him for secretary of state?  Is that a good reason to sabotage the entire country?

Corker’s action was bad, but it was not uncharacteristic for a U.S. senator.  That title used to carry with it immense respect.  Now it just suggests a person of a high degree of pique and vindictiveness.  A person who allows his thinking to be ruled by pique and vindictiveness is, by definition, an idiot.

Ironically, the word “idiot” is derived from the Greek word “idiōtēs,” referring to a private citizen, not a public official.  A private person was assumed to lack the skill to participate in public life.  But it is now almost exclusively those participating in public life who lack the requisite skill to do so, and it is the private citizen who possesses it.  That’s confirmed by the Fox News poll showing that only 16% don’t find it important to pass tax reform this year – while 86% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  Just so.

Among our modern-day idiōtēs, there is a special class who combine a lack of skill with seemingly unlimited quantities of duplicity.  Several Democrats in the Senate come to mind.  The liberal lions of the past were bad enough – now we have progressive punks like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.  How can one with a straight face maintain that trillions in corporate and individual tax cuts for the middle class will harm the American people?  But that is what the Democrats have maintained from the start.  You’d think they would get tired of so much pretense.  But then Al Franken can get up and assert that “it won’t happen again” and think that acting sheepish will make it right.     

Another mark of the idiot is a lack of imagination.  Those who oppose tax reform lack the imagination of supply-siders like Art Laffer, who see that tax cuts always spur economic growth.  Laffer is correct in saying a vote against the tax bill is “a vote against America.”  The left is glued to its foundational idea that the welfare state is the solution, not the problem.  Leftists don’t have the imagination to conceive of a future in which they or their children can participate in a thriving economy, earn a good income, and sever their dependence on government.  In other words, they are idiōtēs.

Likewise, plenty of reps don’t understand how a booming economy is essential to the future of America, and especially to its senior citizens.  It is generally understood, by nearly all except our representatives in Congress, that economic growth is the only way that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid can even begin to remain solvent.  If our reps understood this, presumably they would take action.  

There’s also the not insignificant matter of the future of American security.  Our nation remains secure because of the strength of our military, but that strength has been eroded by our inability or unwillingness to pay for it.  A strong economy produces the wealth to ensure a strong military.

 

In sum, the current tax reform bill, while it doesn’t go far enough, benefits nearly all Americans, including those not receiving an immediate tax cut (those in the highest brackets and those not paying taxes to begin with).  Just one group will really be hurt.  That would be the Washington elite, whose dream of complete control of the economy would be stymied.

The political elite and their allies in the media have feverishly lobbied against tax reform because cutting taxes slashes their power over ordinary Americans.  Edward McCaffery’s CNN opinion piece is typical.  Entitled “Trump’s Massive Tax Cut – for the Rich,” the article focuses on aspects of tax reform that might benefit the rich, such as elimination of the “death tax,” while it dismisses widespread tax cuts for the middle class and the benefits of economic growth for the population as a whole.

It was inevitable that the left would rush to label tax reform, no matter how modest, as a giveaway for the rich.  Clearly, the House and Senate bills are not that.  It was heartening to see Sen. Orrin Hatch finally explode when badgered by Sherrod Brown over “working for the rich.”  Sen. Hatch was actually quite restrained: the Left’s line on taxes, he said, was “bullcrap.”  Actually, it goes way beyond bullcrap.

The fact that class warfare is “getting old,” as Sen. Hatch put it, does not mean that the left won’t continue to use the line.  That line, along with race and gender, will be the basis of leftists’ 2018 congressional campaigns.

As for idiots on the right, they have less of an excuse.  One expects Chuck Schumer to be Chuck Schumer, but what about Bob Corker?  How could a rational man who purports to faithfully represent constituents, 70% of whom voted for President Trump, oppose a measure as important as the Senate tax reform bill?

As I said, our reps are idiots.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

OK, so they finally passed it.  The Senate tax reform bill, however imperfect, will return money to taxpayers, spur business, and increase jobs.  Significantly, the bill repeals the Obamacare mandate and provides other benefits, such as opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.  These are major accomplishments.  Yet nearly half of our representatives in the Senate voted no, and what with Sen. Corker’s obstruction, Republicans came close to stumbling once again.

The great historian Robert Conquest once pointed out that the Soviet system fell not just because of flawed ideology or Western opposition, but because its leaders were “stupid.”  They murdered, imprisoned, or exiled most of their greatest scientists; they ran the economy into the ground with inefficient state-run industries; they engaged in corruption at every level of society.  No wonder they failed.

Much the same can be said for our representatives in Congress.  Why would the people’s representatives, all of them, not rush to pass a major reform that would bring such good to ordinary Americans?  Obviously, because they are idiots.

In the course of the debate, one senator after another revealed himself as such.  The dunce hat passed from John McCain to Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Ron Johnson before ending up on Bob Corker’s head.  There’s also every Democratic member of the Senate, but they’ve voted that way for decades.  It would appear that these esteemed representatives don’t have the sense of the common people, who can tell at a glance that less tax is better than more.

Along with opposing tax reform, the entire Congress has once again failed to consider spending cuts of any sort.  In a federal budget totaling $3.54 trillion in 2016, Congress can’t find a dime that needs cutting.  Even a trained monkey could open the books and finger thousands of programs that deserve the axe, starting with Job Corps (saving $19 billion over ten years) and Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act (saving $25 billion over ten years).  Congress lacks the sense of a monkey, trained or otherwise.

Of course, one would expect the left to stand together in opposition to any reduction in the size or funding of government.  Cutting taxes for the middle class is, they say, a giveaway to the rich.  It is bad for the economy.  It will add to the national debt.  “A class war of the super-rich against the merely affluent,” the Washington Post calls it.  The tax cut plan would “destroy Medicare and Medicaid,” according to the Huffington Post.  Or as the N.Y. Times put it, with its usual classiness, “The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks.”     

What about Bob Corker?  He excused himself on grounds that he is a “dinosaur” who fears future deficits.  If that’s the case, what’s he been doing for the past ten years as the federal deficit more than doubled?  Or was his real motive testiness over Trump’s snubbing him for secretary of state?  Is that a good reason to sabotage the entire country?

Corker’s action was bad, but it was not uncharacteristic for a U.S. senator.  That title used to carry with it immense respect.  Now it just suggests a person of a high degree of pique and vindictiveness.  A person who allows his thinking to be ruled by pique and vindictiveness is, by definition, an idiot.

Ironically, the word “idiot” is derived from the Greek word “idiōtēs,” referring to a private citizen, not a public official.  A private person was assumed to lack the skill to participate in public life.  But it is now almost exclusively those participating in public life who lack the requisite skill to do so, and it is the private citizen who possesses it.  That’s confirmed by the Fox News poll showing that only 16% don’t find it important to pass tax reform this year – while 86% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.  Just so.

Among our modern-day idiōtēs, there is a special class who combine a lack of skill with seemingly unlimited quantities of duplicity.  Several Democrats in the Senate come to mind.  The liberal lions of the past were bad enough – now we have progressive punks like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.  How can one with a straight face maintain that trillions in corporate and individual tax cuts for the middle class will harm the American people?  But that is what the Democrats have maintained from the start.  You’d think they would get tired of so much pretense.  But then Al Franken can get up and assert that “it won’t happen again” and think that acting sheepish will make it right.     

Another mark of the idiot is a lack of imagination.  Those who oppose tax reform lack the imagination of supply-siders like Art Laffer, who see that tax cuts always spur economic growth.  Laffer is correct in saying a vote against the tax bill is “a vote against America.”  The left is glued to its foundational idea that the welfare state is the solution, not the problem.  Leftists don’t have the imagination to conceive of a future in which they or their children can participate in a thriving economy, earn a good income, and sever their dependence on government.  In other words, they are idiōtēs.

Likewise, plenty of reps don’t understand how a booming economy is essential to the future of America, and especially to its senior citizens.  It is generally understood, by nearly all except our representatives in Congress, that economic growth is the only way that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid can even begin to remain solvent.  If our reps understood this, presumably they would take action.  

There’s also the not insignificant matter of the future of American security.  Our nation remains secure because of the strength of our military, but that strength has been eroded by our inability or unwillingness to pay for it.  A strong economy produces the wealth to ensure a strong military.

 

In sum, the current tax reform bill, while it doesn’t go far enough, benefits nearly all Americans, including those not receiving an immediate tax cut (those in the highest brackets and those not paying taxes to begin with).  Just one group will really be hurt.  That would be the Washington elite, whose dream of complete control of the economy would be stymied.

The political elite and their allies in the media have feverishly lobbied against tax reform because cutting taxes slashes their power over ordinary Americans.  Edward McCaffery’s CNN opinion piece is typical.  Entitled “Trump’s Massive Tax Cut – for the Rich,” the article focuses on aspects of tax reform that might benefit the rich, such as elimination of the “death tax,” while it dismisses widespread tax cuts for the middle class and the benefits of economic growth for the population as a whole.

It was inevitable that the left would rush to label tax reform, no matter how modest, as a giveaway for the rich.  Clearly, the House and Senate bills are not that.  It was heartening to see Sen. Orrin Hatch finally explode when badgered by Sherrod Brown over “working for the rich.”  Sen. Hatch was actually quite restrained: the Left’s line on taxes, he said, was “bullcrap.”  Actually, it goes way beyond bullcrap.

The fact that class warfare is “getting old,” as Sen. Hatch put it, does not mean that the left won’t continue to use the line.  That line, along with race and gender, will be the basis of leftists’ 2018 congressional campaigns.

As for idiots on the right, they have less of an excuse.  One expects Chuck Schumer to be Chuck Schumer, but what about Bob Corker?  How could a rational man who purports to faithfully represent constituents, 70% of whom voted for President Trump, oppose a measure as important as the Senate tax reform bill?

As I said, our reps are idiots.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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The Illogical Attacks on Judge Moore


They play the race card.  If that doesn’t stick, they toss out the gender card, as they have with Judge Moore.  If the opponent survives these attacks, then it’s the class card, as it was with Mitt Romney.  If none of this works, it’s the LGBT card.  Then there’s the “E” card – just “too extreme,” as with Barry Goldwater and Judge Bork.  When all of these fail, as they did against candidate Donald Trump – and all of them were played – the left freaks out and starts throwing things.

All of these attacks are versions of the same logical fallacy: the ad hominem argument.  Ad hominem attacks are called “fallacies” because they have nothing to do with logic per se.  They intentionally deflect the discussion from ideas to personal issues instead of policy ideas or questions about one’s ability to perform the job.  The fact that Mitt Romney’s wife owned two Cadillacs, something clueless Romney cited as evidence of her unpretentiousness (Cadillac, not Mercedes – get it?), was held up as damning evidence that the candidate was out of touch.  In one poll, two thirds of respondents stated their opinion that Romney “doesn’t care about people like me.”  It was over after that, all without discussion of a single idea.

By its very nature, ad hominem is an “impure” form of debate.  It shifts the argument to the level of schoolyard accusations: “I don’t like you because you’re not nice.”  “No, you’re the one who’s not nice.”  That pretty much sums up the Democratic Party’s line, especially since the 2000 election.  (Don’t vote for Bush – he’s a “cowboy,” and his supporters are “bushies.”  Does that make sense?)

Actually, in the case of Judge Moore, as it was with Clarence Thomas, “I don’t like you because you’re not nice” presupposes that one’s opponent actually, in some respect, is not nice.  In the case of Judge Moore, it’s “I don’t like you because you may have made advances to young women 38 years ago, although no compelling evidence of such exists.”  In other words, it’s not just ad hominem, but ad hominem based on a personal failing that may or may not exist.

The clincher in the Moore case is the accusation, first published in the Washington Post, that he once made advances on a fourteen-year-old girl.  The idea of an adult male molesting a fourteen-year-old girl touches a primal nerve.  It violates a sacred taboo and evokes a primitive response.  It is all too easy to jump from accusation to condemnation without considering the facts or applying logic.

Several facts in the Moore case need to be considered.  The charges of sexual misconduct relate to events that supposedly took place 38 years ago.  Why were no charges made public until now, just weeks before a critical U.S. Senate race?  How is it that a man charged by four accusers with making advances on them, all but one of legal age at the time, has maintained his reputation and his marriage for so many years without scandal?  Why is it that only at this moment have several women have come forward claiming sexual impropriety?

Logic would tell us that the charges against Judge Moore are not just “related” to the Senate race – they are the result of his candidacy in a race that may decide control of the Senate in 2018.  Unless more convincing evidence can be produced of criminal activity or of a serious moral offense – and the only accusation of this so far comes from one woman relating two incidents – Moore must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

There is also the question of the reliability of witnesses.  One of Moore’s accusers has links to the Hillary Clinton campaign.  What about the others?  The chief accuser in this case says she “thought about” coming forward years ago but chose not to.  Why has she chosen to come forward now, only after being contacted and repeatedly interviewed by investigative journalists from the Washington Post?

The charges against Moore stand in stark contrast to those against Al Franken.  Everyone has seen the photograph of a smirking Franken fondling the sleeping Leeann Tweeden.  One photograph may or may not be grounds for expulsion from the Senate, but is there other incontrovertible evidence of sexual misconduct of a criminal nature?  In fact, there are other accusers coming forward, one of them claiming she possesses evidence of stalking and harassment.  In Moore’s case, it is one person’s word, corroborated by hearsay, against another.  In Franken’s, it is right before your eyes.

Liberals are masters at using ad hominem and other cheap forms of attack.  In their book, every conservative is automatically a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or a madman ready to unleash a nuclear war until proven otherwise.  Conservatives are by nature hesitant to use this kind of tactics, partly, I suppose, because they are too proud to stoop that low.

For the record, I believe that if the allegation of sexual conduct with a fourteen-year-old girl is proven, Moore should step down immediately – just as I believe that there may also be a good case for expelling Al Franken from the Senate.

Hopefully, the people of Alabama will stand up and reject the left’s ad hominem attacks on Judge Moore.  Perhaps the guilty party in the Alabama Senate race is not Judge Moore, but those who have drummed up the charges against him.  Until proven otherwise, Judge Moore must be presumed innocent.

If the left is successful in defeating Judge Moore, this will usher in a new phase of debasement in American politics.  From that moment on, it won’t be necessary to bring charges and prove them.  All that will be required is to concoct the most salacious account of personal misconduct and find those willing to repeat the tale.

If we enter this new phase of politics, Judge Moore and Al Franken won’t be the last of it.  Every candidate for public office will put his reputation at risk.  Elections will be fought on the basis of who can concoct the most sensational story.  We will have moved so far beyond logic that ideas will become irrelevant and character a mere figment of the imagination.     

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

They play the race card.  If that doesn’t stick, they toss out the gender card, as they have with Judge Moore.  If the opponent survives these attacks, then it’s the class card, as it was with Mitt Romney.  If none of this works, it’s the LGBT card.  Then there’s the “E” card – just “too extreme,” as with Barry Goldwater and Judge Bork.  When all of these fail, as they did against candidate Donald Trump – and all of them were played – the left freaks out and starts throwing things.

All of these attacks are versions of the same logical fallacy: the ad hominem argument.  Ad hominem attacks are called “fallacies” because they have nothing to do with logic per se.  They intentionally deflect the discussion from ideas to personal issues instead of policy ideas or questions about one’s ability to perform the job.  The fact that Mitt Romney’s wife owned two Cadillacs, something clueless Romney cited as evidence of her unpretentiousness (Cadillac, not Mercedes – get it?), was held up as damning evidence that the candidate was out of touch.  In one poll, two thirds of respondents stated their opinion that Romney “doesn’t care about people like me.”  It was over after that, all without discussion of a single idea.

By its very nature, ad hominem is an “impure” form of debate.  It shifts the argument to the level of schoolyard accusations: “I don’t like you because you’re not nice.”  “No, you’re the one who’s not nice.”  That pretty much sums up the Democratic Party’s line, especially since the 2000 election.  (Don’t vote for Bush – he’s a “cowboy,” and his supporters are “bushies.”  Does that make sense?)

Actually, in the case of Judge Moore, as it was with Clarence Thomas, “I don’t like you because you’re not nice” presupposes that one’s opponent actually, in some respect, is not nice.  In the case of Judge Moore, it’s “I don’t like you because you may have made advances to young women 38 years ago, although no compelling evidence of such exists.”  In other words, it’s not just ad hominem, but ad hominem based on a personal failing that may or may not exist.

The clincher in the Moore case is the accusation, first published in the Washington Post, that he once made advances on a fourteen-year-old girl.  The idea of an adult male molesting a fourteen-year-old girl touches a primal nerve.  It violates a sacred taboo and evokes a primitive response.  It is all too easy to jump from accusation to condemnation without considering the facts or applying logic.

Several facts in the Moore case need to be considered.  The charges of sexual misconduct relate to events that supposedly took place 38 years ago.  Why were no charges made public until now, just weeks before a critical U.S. Senate race?  How is it that a man charged by four accusers with making advances on them, all but one of legal age at the time, has maintained his reputation and his marriage for so many years without scandal?  Why is it that only at this moment have several women have come forward claiming sexual impropriety?

Logic would tell us that the charges against Judge Moore are not just “related” to the Senate race – they are the result of his candidacy in a race that may decide control of the Senate in 2018.  Unless more convincing evidence can be produced of criminal activity or of a serious moral offense – and the only accusation of this so far comes from one woman relating two incidents – Moore must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

There is also the question of the reliability of witnesses.  One of Moore’s accusers has links to the Hillary Clinton campaign.  What about the others?  The chief accuser in this case says she “thought about” coming forward years ago but chose not to.  Why has she chosen to come forward now, only after being contacted and repeatedly interviewed by investigative journalists from the Washington Post?

The charges against Moore stand in stark contrast to those against Al Franken.  Everyone has seen the photograph of a smirking Franken fondling the sleeping Leeann Tweeden.  One photograph may or may not be grounds for expulsion from the Senate, but is there other incontrovertible evidence of sexual misconduct of a criminal nature?  In fact, there are other accusers coming forward, one of them claiming she possesses evidence of stalking and harassment.  In Moore’s case, it is one person’s word, corroborated by hearsay, against another.  In Franken’s, it is right before your eyes.

Liberals are masters at using ad hominem and other cheap forms of attack.  In their book, every conservative is automatically a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or a madman ready to unleash a nuclear war until proven otherwise.  Conservatives are by nature hesitant to use this kind of tactics, partly, I suppose, because they are too proud to stoop that low.

For the record, I believe that if the allegation of sexual conduct with a fourteen-year-old girl is proven, Moore should step down immediately – just as I believe that there may also be a good case for expelling Al Franken from the Senate.

Hopefully, the people of Alabama will stand up and reject the left’s ad hominem attacks on Judge Moore.  Perhaps the guilty party in the Alabama Senate race is not Judge Moore, but those who have drummed up the charges against him.  Until proven otherwise, Judge Moore must be presumed innocent.

If the left is successful in defeating Judge Moore, this will usher in a new phase of debasement in American politics.  From that moment on, it won’t be necessary to bring charges and prove them.  All that will be required is to concoct the most salacious account of personal misconduct and find those willing to repeat the tale.

If we enter this new phase of politics, Judge Moore and Al Franken won’t be the last of it.  Every candidate for public office will put his reputation at risk.  Elections will be fought on the basis of who can concoct the most sensational story.  We will have moved so far beyond logic that ideas will become irrelevant and character a mere figment of the imagination.     

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).



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