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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The nastiest thing I've read in some time.

And it's from a writer whose work I've uniformly enjoyed, Kevin Williamson. 

It's one thing to regard Trump as a fraud spouting whatever it is he'll think will get him elected--that's my view, and of course I'm not wrong. :)

No, really--Trump is a salesman, and he's signaling that someone is going to get screwed if he gets elected. Given the rapturous and unswerving support he's getting from his voters, it's safe to say that he thinks he can screw them without serious blowback. And he's probably right. 

But even if you don't agree with my diagnosis, I think we can agree that it's another thing to want entire segments of his voters to die off

That there are self-inflicted pathologies within the white working and middle classes is beyond dispute. The nation is aswarm with numerous such problems affecting different groups in different ways. 

But to say that the challenges and struggles of these communities are entirely self-inflicted is no more than a Randian lullaby, an objectivist parable. It's a moralistic fable--substituting Ayn for Aesop--which serves to deflect from an honest examination of the hollowing-out of what were once prosperous, healthy communities. 

The fact is, the invisible hand has been a fist in the solar plexi of millions, and the response of starry-eyed free marketeers has been to offer up another pot of message.

I can't imagine a more effective bit of pro-Trump propaganda than Williamson's horrific essay.


41 comments:

  1. I was talking to my wife about Williamson's article this morning. It's a shame: he used to be one of the few NR writers who were worth reading, but he's completely gone off the deep end on the Trump issue.

    This article can be read as part of an extended back-and-forth between Williamson and Michael Brendan Dougherty of The Week (both Catholics, by the way, though Dougherty is traditionalist and Williamson has made his peace with liberal innovations like same-sex marriage). Dougherty is no Trump supporter, but he's written several articles sympathetically describing the descent of the white working class as a result of globalization, and their abandonment by both political parties. In response, Williamson asserts that, well sure, but it's their own damn fault.

    The debate reminded me of Theodore Dalrymple's excellent book Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Dalrymple vividly describes the pathologies of the British working class as he encountered them in prisons and hospitals--substance abuse, crime, domestic violence, family fragmentation, moral anarchy, and so on--and while he acknowledges their personal responsibility for the acts they commit, he recognizes that they have been allowed--even encouraged!--to descend into degradation state by social forces that are utterly beyond their control.

    So with the (heretofore forgotten) white working class in America. Williamson is half-right: every man is indeed responsible for his own actions. But the actions available to him at any given time are conditioned by the social fabric of his community. And when that fabric has been shredded, what then?

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    1. Dalrymple is describing a lumpenproletariat which might make up 4% of the white population in this country and not more than 15% or so in a place like West Virginia. Williamson's attack was on working people in general (who make up about 2/3 of the population).

      What's happened since 1973 is that improvements in income have shifted toward holders of capital and land (in comparison with the antecedent distribution), that improvements in labor compensation have shifted toward salaried employees, and that improvement in employee compensation for wage earners has shifted toward fringes and away from cash. The net effect is that hourly wages have grown quite slowly for several decades, not that wage earners have suffered declining standards of living.

      As far as the balance between sectors, manufacturing now employs about 11% of the workforce, agriculture < 2%, construction about 3%, extractive industries about 3%, and services over 80%. That benefits people of some dispositions and injures others, and it injures production workers because the value of their human capital is subject to an abrupt re-valuation to zero.

      I don't think you can do a whole lot about mobility of capital, though more reciprocity in trade may be an achievable goal. I think what needs to be done is a revision of the degree and certificate architecture in higher education, which would allow displaced people to retrain without a mess of padding added to their program.

      Trump's appeal is I suspect also a reaction to the gamesmanship of self-appointed status allocators among the professional-managerial bourgeoisie, which have declared white people the benighted, declared men the benighted, declared Southerners the benighted, declared churchgoers the benighted, declared rural and small-town dwellers the benighted, and declared working-people the benighted.

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    2. Great comment, by the way. I realized after writing the above comment that I had inadvertently tarred all working-class whites with the lumpenproletariat brush. As you say, not so.

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    3. Dalrymple is describing a lumpenproletariat which might make up 4% of the white population in this country and not more than 15% or so in a place like West Virginia.

      You have the data on this because I hear from a lot of sources that it's larger. (well... those sources may also be counting non-whites in the number)

      I don't think you can do a whole lot about mobility of capital, though more reciprocity in trade may be an achievable goal. I think what needs to be done is a revision of the degree and certificate architecture in higher education, which would allow displaced people to retrain without a mess of padding added to their program.

      Amen to that.

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  2. Murray, what a coincidence, I've found "Life at the Bottom" for free here and have been reading through it myself. "What is Poverty" is a particular potent chapter. How things have progressed now such that the merest implication of responsibility gets labeled "Randian."

    The fact is, the invisible hand has been a fist in the solar plexi of millions, and the response of starry-eyed free marketeers has been to offer up another pot of message.

    "Fact?" In a nation as regulated as ours we are as free-market as we are a Catholic theocracy. That is: only so by comparison to far worse countries. Actually that may be plenty apt since I regularly run across internet atheists complaining about the "fact" of the American theocracy and how its oppressing everyone and it would be better if we could just get rid of religion for good. Same reasoning, same flaw.

    "The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under." -Screwtape.

    For those who want it more academically, i'll quote TMLutas first from here.

    The largest economic fact is that we used to have a multi-century phenomenon where India, China, and Africa were effectively out of the global economy. Or said with a little less hyperbole, they were in such economic bondage that they were effectively not part of the game. They radically underperformed their potential.

    The GOP, born an anti-slavery party, agitated for and successfully influenced the reduction of economic slavery via Nixon's opening to China and supporting Dengism and its follow on developments. The GOP also quietly applauded at the dismantling of India's Permit Raj and is encouraged at signs of economic life coming on line in Africa. As moral matters, these are all undeniably good things, much like the end of slavery was during the US Civil War. However, such good news in all these cases came with a downside, a massive increase in available labor and massive economic dislocation.

    Our christian charity does not end when we free somebody from slavery, or we save an unborn from abortion. What do we do with all those people with hardly any work opportunities? You shift work opportunities to them as a matter of justice and also a matter of practicality and you work as hard as you can to expand the labor needed so that the global economy adjusts to a multi-billion influx of new labor. The predictable result is that economic opportunity will be reduced for the people who suddenly get new competition in their fields. This is the outsourcing, deindustrialization, and labor politics of the capitalist world in a nutshell, largely done as a moral argument.

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  3. "'Fact?' In a nation as regulated as ours we are as free-market as we are a Catholic theocracy."

    Oh, so we haven't seen large scale outsourcing and deindustrialisation as a result of corporations chasing the cheapest feasible labor options?

    Those are clearly market effects, and are certainly not hindered by any regulatory policy I'm aware of. Throw in the inflows of cheap labor from our business-friendly immigration policy, which also uses market pressures to bring down wages, and voila--the hollowing out has yet another market-driven component.

    Resorting to the old saw of "but we're not a laissez faire economy!" doesn't add much, save sloganeering.

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  4. More to the point, being upset about the use of "Randian" when Williamson is quite literally hoping communities die off is a rather odd focus, from my point of view.

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  5. Thanks, Nate. TMLutas ably outlines the moral argument for globalization, and while it has substantial force, it's not the last word.

    It's certainly praiseworthy--indeed, a moral duty--to seek to improve the lot of impoverished people in far-off lands, but a government's primary role is to rule on behalf of the common good of those who live within its jurisdiction. If foreigners are raised to a higher material standard of living at the expense of one's own people (or to the further enrichment of a wealthy fraction of one's own people), then we might start inquiring whether our government has failed in its primary duty.

    The Christian life certainly calls some individuals to a life of poverty in service of others, but we are also enjoined to love our neighbours and take care of our kin. Grace perfects nature, and our nature is to care for our families and countrymen before others. If certain policies are benefiting others at the expense of our own people, we should re-evaluate them.

    We might also ask other questions. Absent Western colonial regimes, would India and Africa ever have developed under their own steam to the point where they could take part in a global economy? If not, we have already done them a great service. Also: is it just to abandon our own people to the vagaries of globalism, when many of them will never possess the intellectual resources to succeed in moving up from blue-collar work?

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  6. This comes to mind:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlawibQ_QKI

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  7. "Randian" indeed. And in National Review, which still prides itself on having published Whittaker Chambers's crushing review of "Atlas Shrugged". Now, more than half a century later, they're the ones snapping "To a gas chamber, go!"

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  8. Oh, so we haven't seen large scale outsourcing and deindustrialisation as a result of corporations chasing the cheapest feasible labor options?

    And what's the solution? Build a wall to keep people in? Perhaps shooting those trying to leave? And we all know how the USSR continued to have such great industrialization & manufactoring after that, right?

    The flaw is the belief that factories are natural occurrences like plants (the biological ones), and that if you confine them, they'll keep trying to do what they do. But it's not like that. Humans have this 3rd option: not working. Lock them in the nation all you want, but you can't make them work.

    Those are clearly market effects, and are certainly not hindered by any regulatory policy I'm aware of.

    Just because you're not aware of the policy doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Considering that we hit 1 mil regulations in 2010 (so are no doubt well over that by now), a personal anecdote means zip - it would be more shocking if you knew of one.

    Then again a quick google search turns up: http://www.outsourcing-law.com/ so now's the time to correct your ignorance.

    Resorting to the old saw of "but we're not a laissez faire economy!" doesn't add much, save sloganeering.

    So attempting to use the proper definition of terms and reality adds nothing? Then how is discussion even possible?

    Really, Dale, for someone who so professes to love books & writing, this is immensely disappointing.

    More to the point, being upset about the use of "Randian" when Williamson is quite literally hoping communities die off is a rather odd focus, from my point of view.

    So if a Catholic advocated for pagan communities to die off by all of them converting to the church, you would call that man a Randian? I mean have you even read KDW's reporting on things like the Heroin epidemic? From that one:

    "One of the things that the city’s health providers had been experimenting with was giving addicts and their families prescriptions for naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, which is the anti-intoxicant used to reverse the effects of opiates in people who have overdosed. Put another way: The best clinical thinking at the moment — the top idea among our best and brightest white-coated elite — is to help junkies pre-plan their overdoses. If that’s shocking and depressing, what’s more shocking and depressing is that it really is needful. Essential, even."

    Yes, THAT sounds like a culture worth preserving. Truly Randian to want people to stop overdosing.

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    1. Considering that we hit 1 mil regulations in 2010 (so are no doubt well over that by now), a personal anecdote means zip - it would be more shocking if you knew of one.

      The Code of Federal Regulations is voluminous but fits on a discrete bloc of library shelves (fewer than 5 35" shelves). The share devoted to labor law is a fraction of that. Of course, the New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations will have its analogues, as will those in other states. I can imagine people making page counts or character counts. The regulations themselves are promulgated in the Federal Register, New York State Register and like serials and phrased as adjustments to the standing regulatory codes. I'm not sure why you'd measure this activity by counting discrete issues in the various registers.

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  9. It's certainly praiseworthy--indeed, a moral duty--to seek to improve the lot of impoverished people in far-off lands, but a government's primary role is to rule on behalf of the common good of those who live within its jurisdiction. If foreigners are raised to a higher material standard of living at the expense of one's own people (or to the further enrichment of a wealthy fraction of one's own people), then we might start inquiring whether our government has failed in its primary duty.

    From some people, alright that's fair enough. But when I hear it from Christians, ESPECIALLY those using class warfare rhetoric, the hypocrisy is too much. Really, the poor in the USA (and perhaps in Europe too) have more wealth to them today than the rich man from lazarus' parable. Sure the distance between them and the top of the ladder seems great from our perspective, but from the view of the bottom folk in India, China, or Africa? The distance is tiny. From their perspective, watching such an argument is like a poor hillbilly hearing a millionaire complain about how those billionaires aren't letting him have enough luxuries so he needs to screw over the hillbilly. It's possibly the worst hypocrisy I've ever seen.

    I don't know if you're one of those people, Murray. It's possible you and I could have a very fruitful discussion on the costs of such national plans. Just the tendency of people to speak one minute of "we must help foreign lands" then immediately proclaim, "we should screw over foreign lands" is immensely grating.

    So let's start by looking at two cases. From the Kevin Williamson article I linked above:
    "Drew Callner [is] another recovering addict and a volunteer at the Addiction Prevention Coalition in Birmingham, a faith-based organization aimed at realistic preventative measures and connecting addicts with recovery resources. “Heroin is easier to get, and it’s cheaper.” His father was a child psychologist, he was planning on becoming one himself, and he was a trust-funder — twice. “Yeah, I blew through two trusts,” he says, snorting."

    Then from Dalyrmple's Life at the Bottom, chapter Free to Choose:
    "He himself had done well at school but had insisted upon leaving at the earliest opportunity, running away to sea. After an early marriage, the birth of a son, and the irksome assumption of a mortgage, he longed for the restoration of his premarital freedom and rediscovered the joys of irresponsibility: he deserted his wife and child and worked no more but rather spent his days drinking."

    So in these cases, should the government do anything for these people? If yes, what?

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  10. Pointing to an outsourcing boutique law firm website is interesting, but really doesn't rebut anything. Apparently, one can make a decent living helping people send American jobs overseas. There are some (unspecified) hoops to jump through, but it's quite doable and worthwhile.

    And Carrier A/C agrees, evidencing that it isn't going to have much trouble sending 1,400 jobs to Mexico, according to its president.

    http://thephaser.com/2016/02/outsourcing-america-carrier-air-conditioner-moving-1400-jobs-to-mexico/

    And, please, Nate--Williamson isn't talking about saving communities or redeeming anyone from the scourge of heroin in his screed. He wants people to leave these economic and moral sinkholes and then watch the sinkholes fill in. And all because they're voting for the wrong guy. Period.

    I agree heartily that they're voting for the wrong guy--he's a despicable fraud.

    But even so, Williamson's rage is unworthy and indefensible. Especially since he's quite willing to argue that bad policy plays a role in the dysfunction of urban centers like Detroit, who also have people who vote for godawful candidates. But at least for the residents of Detroit, he has some sympathy and doesn't wish death on them. Unfortunately, such sympathy only applies to the victims of leftist policies. Those affected by those of the right--well, we just need a better citizenry.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/370095/progressivism-kills-kevin-d-williamson

    And I'm really puzzled by your response, too--I haven't denied the pathologies in such communities, nor have I denied the moral agency of the inhabitants. I admitted it right there in the post.

    "Really, Dale, for someone who so professes to love books & writing, this is immensely disappointing."

    I don't see why you needed to go there. Truly regrettable.

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    1. Actually, Williamson's portrait of working-class life (and recall that about 2/3 of the adult population are wage-earners or respectably retired from wage jobs) is a grotesque caricature. The prevalent problem among working people would be the disorganized quality of family life. The thing is, they differ in this respect only in degree from people in the bourgeois classes and it isn't notably more severe in Upstate New York or Kentucky than it is anywhere else (in fact, the loci with the high divorce rates are out west). He brings up opoid abuse, but even those with a vocational interest in giving you the high range of the estimate have it that this problem affects maybe 4% of white working class households.

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    2. While we're at it, Williamson is no more an advocate of conventional family life than is Jason Lee Steorts or Jon Huntsman.

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    3. I heard this (articulated somewhat less indirectly) on a podcast last week. Are you sure you're not confusing Kevin Williamson the journalist with Kevin Williamson the screenwriter?

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    4. The fellow under discussion is the lapsed newspaper editor / theatre critic who writes for National Review.

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    5. Well I knew that, of course, but when I heard some guys on a podcast claiming he was gay, I thought they might have confused him with the screenwriter, who definitely is.

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    6. Don't know what Kevin Williamson the critic's hobbies are. The lout who splenetically tore up working people from Amarillo to Eastern Kentucky to Utica is the critic, not the screenwriter.

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    7. Well, maybe I'm obtuse. By your mention of Steorts and Huntsman (both of whom have been rumored to be gay), I assumed you were implying the same about Kevin Williamson the NR writer.

      This is a very strange conversation.

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    8. Huntsman supposedly has seven children, so, no.

      As for Steorts, 20 years ago I'd have told you that was gratuitous. In the moment in which we live, I'd guess I'd say that's a reasonable inference to draw from his neuralgic reaction to some very jejune things.

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    9. The prevalent problem among working people would be the disorganized quality of family life.

      ...He literally said that in the original article in question.
      "The Mikes of the world may be struggling to make it in the global economy, but what they really are shut out of is the traditional family. The current social regime of illegitimacy, serial monogamy, abortion, and liberal divorce has rendered traditional families optional, at best — the great majority of divorces are initiated by wives, not by husbands — and the welfare state has at least in part supplanted the Mikes in their role as providers, assuming that they have the wherewithal to fill that role in the first place. Traditional avenues for achieving respect, status, and permanence are lost to them."

      While we're at it, Williamson is no more an advocate of conventional family life than is Jason Lee Steorts or Jon Huntsman.

      Seriously, WTF is that coming from? I mean REALLY? Art criticize whatever you want about the man, but don't make up falsehoods. I mean I just quoted the man defending traditional families.

      Why do I keep feeling like nobody's actually reading anything?

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    10. Why do I keep feeling like nobody's actually reading anything?

      Don't know. It's not true. Can't help ya with your feelings.

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  11. "when many of them will never possess the intellectual resources to succeed in moving up from blue-collar work?" I used to be a plumber. I moved up and am now an emeritus professor. There was more meaning is septic system design and construction. Personally, I think you are selling the blue collar worker short.

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  12. Pointing to an outsourcing boutique law firm website is interesting, but really doesn't rebut anything.

    Except your statement, which I quoted: "are certainly not hindered by any regulatory policy I'm aware of." Now you are aware that there are regulatory policies hindering them some. And that your unawareness of the policy means little because it's so massive everybody is ignorant of it, it's too big for any mind to grasp.

    And, please, Nate--Williamson isn't talking about saving communities or redeeming anyone from the scourge of heroin in his screed. He wants people to leave these economic and moral sinkholes and then watch the sinkholes fill in. And all because they're voting for the wrong guy. Period.

    What did he say?
    "The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. . . . What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political."
    So... I'm trying to figure out how he isn't talking about saving anyone from the scourge of heroin, WHEN HE MENTIONS IN IT THE VERY ARTICLE! Which am I supposed to believe? Your assertions or my own lying eyes?

    But even so, Williamson's rage is unworthy and indefensible. Especially since he's quite willing to argue that bad policy plays a role in the dysfunction of urban centers like Detroit, who also have people who vote for godawful candidates. Unfortunately, such sympathy only applies to the victims of leftist policies. Those affected by those of the right--well, we just need a better citizenry.

    Ok, there might be a point about his double standard. But is it EVER a case of a better citizenary? Or is it always policy? Honest question, at what point do the problems become a person's own responsibility?

    But at least for the residents of Detroit, he has some sympathy and doesn't wish death on them.

    Except that's not what he said. Here's another critic of the article, from probably a position very opposite your own can at least admit:
    "I said there were some unfair reactions to Kevin’s article. Mostly people picked on him for saying that economically derelict white trash communities deserve to die. This, said the critics, is sheer Tim-Wise-ery. Die, white trash!

    Come on, guys, let’s have a little respect for the meaning of words. Kevin said the communities should die. What he wishes for the people is that they should rent U-Hauls and get out of there."

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    1. Yeah, he mentioned heroin needles. Whoop de do. He doesn't suggest any other solution than resettlement and nature reclaiming the ruins in this one.

      And speaking of hyperbole--the white underclass is entirely in thrall to a culture whose products are such? So it's good when he does it.

      Yep, I answered hyperbole with hyperbole. But I'm a poser, so he gets a pass.

      And the notion that communities are completely dispensable, that people should pull up roots and relocate fits superbly with the ethos of atomistic individualism, but not with Christianity.

      And it's also not particularly well-supported by history--massive internal migrations have come with their own difficulties and pathologies at the destination point--specifically, the African American migration out of the south, or white migration out of Appalachia.

      My problems with Williamson here are twofold. First, he refuses to consider anything other than moral agency here, and that's entirely because of his (understandable) loathing of Trump and Trump's policies (to the extent Trump truly has any at any particular moment). Except, of course, that he's happy to blame policies when it suits his ideological goals.

      The second problem is that it's entirely magical thinking: the crackers need to just pull up stakes and move and everything will be all better. Except, of course, that there are a host of reasons why that just might not be feasible. In the meantime, what do you do with those who don't leave? For those people--indeed, everyone in those communities, it really just boils down to "screw 'em."

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  13. And I'm really puzzled by your response, too--I haven't denied the pathologies in such communities, nor have I denied the moral agency of the inhabitants. I admitted it right there in the post.

    Because it's one off sentence lessened by a "but everyone has problems" out followed by an longer rant at what is largely a spectre and falsehood. Blaming the free market is rather like blaming Catholicism for anything in America (which i've seen crazier people do) it makes a far greater mountain out of a molehill. Demanding factories never leave is not going to fix these communities any more than Venezuela demanding food is going to keep people from starving.

    Ok, so factories are leaving. Why? "Greed"? That's not an answer, at the least because greed was probably the reason it opened up in that town in the first place and nobody minded then. And Christians believe in the fallen state of man so we should expect and plan for the worst from people. Greed can just easily bring them back home or get them to stay - is it a problem then?

    You can take the goose to the vet to see why it's not laying golden eggs any more, or you can abuse and kill it to teach it a lesson. I know which method I would recommend to keep the wealth coming.

    Or as a wiser man once put it: the free market is to greed as marriage is to lust. Marriages could sometimes be abused and have unintended consequences, but how well have things worked out since dismantling it? Likewise what makes you think things will turn out any better if we dismantle (further) the free market to stop it's mishaps and unintended consequences.

    I don't see why you needed to go there. Truly regrettable.

    Then don't misread a man's words. Or at least if you want to bring hyperbolic charges to a man's 'trial' then be prepared to be served with your own.

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    1. "And Christians believe in the fallen state of man so we should expect and plan for the worst from people." The worst from what people? From the unsaved? Christians don't 'expect' and 'plan', they evangelize. Christians themselves are hopefully on a path of sanctification not debauchery.

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    2. Mr. Matson, I was referring to public policy & planning. As the saying goes: Christian mores (such as "forgive and forget") are the best way of running your life, but the worst way to run a nation.

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    3. "As the saying goes: Christian mores (such as "forgive and forget") are the best way of running your life, but the worst way to run a nation." Are you quoting yourself here?

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    4. No I've heard it from others and find it very apt. One just has to look at France in WW2 to realize 'turn the other cheek' is not a smart national policy. Heck this very post by the blog host is arguing against the "sell all your things [jobs in this case] to the poorer countries."

      If you want a REALLY hard to read example, there's this chapter from Theo and the example of how a nation who forgives all and judges none winds up being very unmerciful indeed.

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    5. I think Roger Scruton said something like (from memory): To turn one's own cheek is an act of virtue; to turn another's is a grotesque crime. A parent who turns his child's cheek to the fist of a bully would rightly be regarded as a monster.

      Leaders of nations who willfully fail to protect the interests of their people are likewise turning the cheeks of others. Unlimited Mahommedan immigration is a good example here: out of deformed and half-remembered notions of Christian charity, Europe's leaders have invited barbarian hordes in to terrorize ordinary people while they remain safe behind their walls and layers of security.

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    6. "out of deformed and half-remembered notions of Christian charity, Europe's leaders have invited barbarian hordes in to terrorize ordinary people while they remain safe behind their walls and layers of security." If only that was their motivation. I think it is more base than that. Immigrants are cheap labor and votes.

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    1. Free Northerner also has an excellent commentary on the Williamson article. Though, content warning for extreme violence done to certain sacred cows.

      In short, Williamson, as a liberal (albeit of the right-liberal variety) reasons, not surprisingly, from liberal premises:

      Modern conservatives, having whole-heartedly adopted liberalism, fall into the tabula rasa trap from a different angle. All men are capable of perfecting themselves, they just need to become rugged individualists and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. While personal responsibility and individual effort are important, to think that all men are capable of self-actualization in anomic isolation is just as nonsensical the New Soviet Man.

      Most men need community, cultural, and institutional support to self-actualize.

      Now, there it is possible to just say, f*** them, they lost the darwinian struggle and deserve to die. Rootless conservatives like Kevin certainly do, as they propose that the broken white working class just move and gets jobs. Rather than trying to fix a system that was designed to destroy working-class communities, he glorifies a system where men’s only hope is to leave behind their families and the towns where their ancestors lived for generations to move to anomic, demographic-shredding urban centres to simply to be able to provide for themselves. Whatever you might call such inhuman mammon-worship, it is nothing anyone sane would recognize as conservatism.

      Real conservativism and reaction recognizes that not all people are equal. You can’t just abandon whole swaths of people to anomie, poverty, and economic misery. Superiors have a duty to protect and care for their inferiors just as the inferiors have a duty to obey and respect their superiors. Conservatives can not abandon the idea of
      noblesse oblige.

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    2. The only 'good piece' by Rod Dreher would have about three sentences, as in, "I've finished that respiratory therapy degree my brother-in-law challenged me to get. I've been hired by Baton Rouge General Medical Center. I won't be writing for publication anymore, and my brother-in-law promises to break every bone in my left hand if I try."

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    3. Follow up, Dreher actually went and discussed it with Kevin on this podcast.

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  15. The Dreher article is very good, and brings Dalrymple to mind once again. Allow me to note this excerpt from his update to the post, quoting a reader:

    I am absolutely certain that whatever material prosperity a U-haul gets you, it will be strictly limited to material prosperity. And that’s because the moral neuralgia of the white working class—though undeniable—is hardly more ultimately grotesque than that which afflicts all other sectors of society. One of the great temptations to the conservative mind is to supplant bourgeois values for Christian ones, as though living in posh subdivisions fueled by organic quinoa cereal and arugula are self-evidently more well-ordered and decent than the haphazard communities of the working poor, fueled by pain pills and government assistance.

    That's it right there, and echoes what I quoted from Free Northerner.

    We have to do the good old Catholic both-and, here. Yes, people are responsible for the personal choices they make, and no-one is pretending otherwise. But people who are stripped of work, dignity, culture, and transcendent moral norms will make bad choices, guaranteed. And that's on us as a society. Taking care of the least among us doesn't just mean giving them big-screen TVs and an adequate supply of processed food; we must also reject the culture that teaches them from infancy that they are just bags of meat built for no higher purpose than pleasure-seeking. They used to know this--or at least enough of them knew this to maintain functional, orderly societies--and they can know it again.

    The problem is multifaceted, and so are the solutions. Trump certainly won't solve them, but then neither will anyone else in the GOP race. The Democrats, meanwhile, will only press harder on the accelerator. But for all Trump's many defects, he's the only reason we're talking about this at all.

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    1. Quote from KDW's original article:

      From Household to Nation is typical in that it is based on a category error, asking economics to do what economics doesn’t: to provide the means “not simply to gain material satisfaction but to support families and the social institutions and identities that evolve from families as the fundamental units of human society and human action.” Economics is about satisfying human wants, not defining them. The problem isn’t that Americans cannot sustain families, but that they do not wish to.

      I can't remember the last time I've watched people fight so hard over stuff they actually agree over.

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  16. Dale, thanks for questioning Kevin's wisdom. And state of mind, really. He's at it again this week; his rage is directed at people he says are raging at the Wily Oriental.

    I think he's gone round the bend.

    The absolutism on free trade is just... wrong. Sure I get Comparative Advantage, but I accidentally tangled with him on Twitter over wanting manufacturing jobs in the US and was dismissed as a Mercantilist. Of course.

    This morning I read Andy Grove's article from 2010 on the desirability of manufacturing jobs,

    How America Can Create Jobs, and I felt a lot less stupid.

    Likewise, Dave Autor was recently interviewed by Russ Roberts, gently questioning the "aggregate-good" premise of free trade.

    Carry on, gentlemen.

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