History

George Will on The Age of Abundance

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The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture , the new book by reason contributing editor Brink Lindsey, an excerpt from which is our July cover story (already in your hands if you are a subscriber ) gets some serious love from George Will in this coming Sunday's New York Times. Will's summation, with a very apposite final word:

Lindsey rightly says that "today's typical red-state conservative is considerably bluer on race relations, the role of women and sexual morality than his predecessor of a generation ago." And "the typical bluestate liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power." In "the bell curve of ideological allegiance," the large bulging center has settled, for now, on an "implicit libertarian synthesis, one which reaffirms the core disciplines that underlie and sustain the modern lifestyle while making much greater allowances for variations within that lifestyle." If so, material abundance has been, on balance , good for us, and Lindsey's measured cheerfulness is, like his scintillating book, reasonable.

Brink talks up the book on the Daily Show.

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  1. Which ties in with Cathy Young’s piece on Russia. Prosperity generally results in tolerance. Russia’s got almost nothing to offer economically.

  2. the typical bluestate liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power.

    I haven’t read the book so I don’t know how he backs that up, but I certainly haven’t noticed it. From where I sit, the left is still all about; Hating Wal-Mart and all multi-nationals, Giving single mothers access to the village’s resources, and never more self-righteous than when decrying the immorality of American geopolitical power.

  3. Thanks for bringing up the word tolerance, Richard, as I believe that is what’s at the root of the bulging center that the sides are allegedly slouching toward, not anything akin to actual libertarianism.

    For every instance of toleration of another group’s sexuality/role/race/etc. by the bulging center comes a truckload of toleration for policies that are antithetical to freedom and liberty (nannystate intrusions, encroachments on constitutional rights, etc.).

    Folks can tolerate a lot if they’re comfy.

  4. He says abundance, I say gluttony.

  5. the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

    I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

    Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

    Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

  6. Alexis,
    Lighten up, dude. You sound just like Alan Keyes denouncing “selfish hedonism.” Since the pleasures you would lay a guilt trip on come from a marketplace, not from a despotic ruler, they won’t automatically lead to tyranny.

    And “the typical bluestate liberal is considerably redder than his predecessor when it comes to the importance of markets to economic growth, the virtues of the two-parent family and the morality of American geopolitical power.”

    Sorry, but I need to drive this nail into every libertarian skull: the two-parent family is rather sentimentally overrated, because almost nobody takes Judith Rich Harris seriously enough.

  7. OFF TOPIC:

    Anyone else notice Judge Bork’s actions basically saying: Tort reform for thee, but not for me!!

    Good to see these guys living up to the principles they pay lip service to!!

  8. Since the pleasures you would lay a guilt trip on come from a marketplace, not from a despotic ruler, they won’t automatically lead to tyranny.

    Did you grasp that Alexis was talking about the government, not the market? Or are you calling the production of government in a democracy the marketplace and saying that that makes it okay?

    Alexis’s next paragraph continues his theme…

    After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

    That most definitely is talking about the exact opposite of marketplace.

  9. “Anyone else notice Judge Bork’s actions basically saying: Tort reform for thee, but not for me!!

    Good to see these guys living up to the principles they pay lip service to!!”

    This doesn’t make much sense to me. If a libertarian lives in a town with rent control should he shut his mouth when his landlord charges a rent in excess of what the law allows? I think not.

    If a wealthy liberal feels that the tax rates for the upper 1% should be at forty percent is he a hypocrite if he only pays what is required under the current tax laws? I think not.

  10. Brink’s article in the new Reason is great. Very insightful.

  11. If this consolidation of red-stater/blue-stater think is true, why in the hell isn’t there ONE presidential candidate, from either side, that appeals to this “consolidating” center. Seems like any candidate you name precipitates foam-specked spittle from either the red base or the blue base.

    I know. . . we’ll call the 51% in the center, the “white” (like in the center of the flag colors) to hide their libertarian tendencies. But then . . . . oh never mind.

  12. This doesn’t make much sense to me. If a libertarian lives in a town with rent control should he shut his mouth when his landlord charges a rent in excess of what the law allows? I think not.

    Yes (s)he should. Absolutely. If you believe rent controls are immoral and improper than you should not take advantage of them. You would in fact offer to pay a fair market rate and tell your landlord you don’t want to pay the rent controlled rate. Otherwise you are a hypocrite.

    If a wealthy liberal feels that the tax rates for the upper 1% should be at forty percent is he a hypocrite if he only pays what is required under the current tax laws? I think not.

    This example is a bit different. I’m not even sure you could force the government to tax you at a higher rate even if you wanted to so I don’t see a parallel here.

    In Bork’s case, he advocates an end to frivolous lawsuits, (not to mention that his beliefs shape his actions when he presides over cases) and then files a really frivolous lawsuit. He’s a Hypocrite.

  13. All for ourselves and nothing for anyone else.

  14. BTW in spite of the fact that George Will sometimes whispers sweet nothings into libertarian ears, he says enough “I don’t understand that which is different, and what I don’t understand is wrong” stuff, that he’s still a douche.

  15. Warren,

    You don’t see a difference between “Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, Viet Cong is gonna win!” and “Where’s Osama?” as philosopohical statements about the morality of American power?

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