The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Jesse Singal's July-4-Adjacent Reflections on Modern America


A thoughtful and optimistic column; I enjoyed reading it, and I thought many of you might, too. Singal is somewhat to the left of where I am on economic matters, but he strikes me as an unusually thoughtful and clearheaded thinker, plus a very good writer. An excerpt:

When I was 24 years old or so, working a fun but low-profile job as an online editor at the Center for American Progress's youth wing, I asked Jon Chait, one of my favorite writers, if he'd meet up with me. Because he is a mensch, he agreed to, and we got lunch in D.C. somewhere.

At one point I was complaining about how flawed the U.S. was and how vital it was to fix things, and Chait responded, in his characteristically mild manner something like: Well, a few generations ago our ancestors lived in villages where sometimes other people would come in and just ransack everything and kill everyone. Things aren't that bad.

The point wasn't that the U.S. was perfect — Chait didn't and doesn't think the U.S. is perfect, and around that time he published a book criticizing conservative economic policy for making life harder for Americans while enriching the wealthy. But the sense I get, looking back on that conversation, was that Chait was trying to cool the jets of a young and passionate would-be intellectual type who was reciting lefty mantras rather than really thinking things through.

Whenever I engage in the navel-gazing act of thinking about how my views have changed since I started writing professionally, I remember that conversation, because I think it captured something important….