IRS Bad, NSA Good


Federalist Papers

Politics can seem frustratingly complex. It can be a challenge to grasp that the targeting of conservatives by Internal Revenue Service officials over the last few years constitutes a genuine scandal, while the lawful activities of employees of the National Security Agency do not. It can be a strain to distinguish the illegitimate and arbitrary use of government power to harass American citizens exercising their constitutional rights from the legitimate use of government power to protect the nation from our enemies abroad. It can be an effort to differentiate patriotic whistleblowers who expose governmental abuse from anti-American lawbreakers who expose secrets they are sworn to protect.

It can be a challenge, and a strain, and an effort. But a serious political movement has to accept the challenge, bear the strain, and make the effort. In the case of the National Security Agency, it’s not that much of an effort. Just listen ...

Disappearing President

Our Disappearing President


One might expect Keith Alexander to advocate on behalf of the two programs at the center of our national debate about terrorism and surveillance. He is, after all, the head of the National Security Agency, which runs them. “It’s dozens of terrorist events that these have helped ...


Downsize Ike


The beleaguered Eisenhower Memorial Commission holds its next public gathering later this month, and before its members duck-walk into the hearing room, huddled in a hoplite phalanx against a shower of eggs and rotten vegetables unloosed by an audience of neo-classicist ...


Our Masters, the Bureaucrats

A republic, if we can keep it.


Gary Locke

With so many scandals swirling around the Obama administration, it is hard to identify which is the most politically damaging for the president. But there’s no doubt which one should trouble constitutionalists the most. The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups raises core questions about the nature of our government that the public has ignored for generations. It’s high time to revisit the issue of how the people can maintain control over those who are supposed to do their business.

Political scientists and economists have identified the “principal-agent problem” that rational actors face when trying to outsource management of their affairs. How can a “principal” induce her “agent” to work for her interests rather than his own? The Constitution is an attempt to manage the principal-agent problem in a republic, though the Founders didn’t understand it in those ...


The Costs and Benefits of the NSA

The data-collection debate we need to have is not about civil liberties.


Should Americans fear the possible abuse of the intercept power of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland? Absolutely. In the midst of the unfolding scandal at the IRS, we understand that bureaucracies are callous creatures, capable of manipulation. In addition to ...


Problems of the Second Generation

To be young, Muslim, and American.


The Boston Marathon bombings highlighted, once again, the challenges of assimilating Muslim youth. And while the onus of accountability ought not rest exclusively on Muslim Americans, it understandably weighs most heavily on them. Indeed, any fair-minded assessment of ...

Erdogan the Problem

Turks in the Streets

This time, it’s personal. They dislike the prime minister.


Two weeks of protests across Turkey that have left four dead and more than 5,000 injured have observers wondering whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing an Anatolian Spring. Is Turkey’s Islamic ruler weathering a crisis similar to the revolutionary climate that sent ...

Tony Alter

Ryan’s Hope

A high-profile role in the immigration debate in the House.


Paul Ryan has been pro-immigration since he worked for Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett two decades ago at Empower America, a now-defunct conservative think tank. When National Review ran a cover story, “Why Kemp and Bennett Are Wrong on Immigration” in 1994, Ryan wrote a 4,000-word ...


Frack to the Future

Can small-town North Dakota survive an oil boom?



Williston, N.D.
It was about 25 years ago, Dave Hynek figures, when his Aunt Doris died. The granddaughter of Norwegian and Czechoslovakian homesteaders, Doris was born and raised on a farm in the small town of Stanley in northwestern North Dakota. The region was settled by immigrants from northern and central Europe, mainly Norway and Germany. The prairie here is ideal for growing short, hardy grains like wheat and barley​—​but not much else​—​and for ranching cattle. For a hundred years, these hardworking new Americans and their descendants were the only folks who braved the harsh wind, freezing winters, and austere life of North Dakota.

Some left, including Doris. After graduating from high school, she moved to Los Angeles, where she got married and lived her entire adult life. When she died (young, at the age of 45), arrangements were made to have her buried back home, in the Stanley cemetery. ...

Books & Arts

God in the Details

Explaining the connection between family and religion.


God in the Details: Explaining the connection between family and religion.

'Time was when the whole of life went forward in the family,” the historian Peter Laslett once wrote, “in a circle of loved, familiar faces. .  .  . That time has gone forever. It makes us very different from our ancestors.” Laslett was writing in 1965, as he lamented the decline of the family over the course of England’s industrial age. But even then, after a century and a half of upheaval, families in Great Britain and the rest of the West were relatively large, divorce was rare, and illegitimacy was frowned upon.

Today, barely two generations later, even Laslett’s fallen world looks impossibly Edenic: In most Western nations, cohabitation vies with marriage as the primary mode of household formation. Those marriages which are consecrated end in divorce roughly half of the time. Out-of-wedlock births are nearly the norm. But total births are relatively infrequent: No Western country produces enough children ...

N. C. Wyeth illustration from ‘The Last of the Mohicans’

Our Stories Begin

The forgotten growing pains of American fiction.


For all of the just wars that have been fought over the cultural canon, one genuine benefit of the (still somewhat undulating) critical consensus is that it’s a pretty genuine aid for determining what you really needn’t bother reading right away. Or, as a professor once said while ...

Not-So-Sunny Italy by Michael Ledeen

Not-So-Sunny Italy

The slow, but steady, revelations of the Fascist era.


Perhaps the most terrible thing about fascism was its enormous popularity. The German and Italian people—the same who had given the Western world many of its most notable cultural

The Lonely Skybox by Joseph Epstein

The Lonely Skybox

Chicago is bereft of celebrity fans.


I was watching the Chicago Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings in the western Stanley Cup final round when, in the second period, the television camera panned to Tom Cruise, sitting ...

The Ivy League Babbitt

The Ivy League Babbitt

The social and political prescience of Harvard’s humanist.


In university classrooms, and across campuses nationwide, we hear it repeatedly: Ever--increasing calls for “social justice.” But not everyone is on board:

Social justice, it is well to remind these ...

‘So Far’ So Good by Joe Queenan

‘So Far’ So Good

Everything is not always as it seems—at the moment.


For years, perhaps even decades, waiters and waitresses have been stopping by tables to ask, “Is everything all right over here?” or its variant, “How are you guys doing?” 

It is a maddening line of questioning, for if everything was ...


Signs of the Times

Jonathan V. Last sees the signs


David Clark

Out in my corner of exurbia, businesses post a lot of signs. Not billboards or paid advertising, but little self-made placards that stick in the ground like the campaign paraphernalia you see before elections. They jut up lamely out of the grassy beds that run along the sidewalks next to strip malls and through semi-residential neighborhoods; they crowd the medians dividing the lanes of the bigger thoroughfares.

These are cheap, minimalist contraptions; just text on white or yellow corrugated poster board. No graphics. The typical sign will read “Haircut $10” and has a phone number printed underneath. Lots of them advertise “Junk Removal,” for some reason. Back during the housing boom days, I’d see signs boasting “We Buy Houses.” And then, once the bubble burst and people started improving the homes they were stuck with instead of flipping them, “Granite $33 sq/ft.” None of these pitches ever mentions a name or corporate entity. Just ...


Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

Defending the Defensible

Defending the Defensible

The Scrapbook’s hypothesis that the substance of blockbuster news stories tends to diminish with time​—​there’s less here than meets the eye​—​is borne out most of the time. Which, as nonscientific theories tend to go, is an enviable record. 

Rice, JOSHUA ROBERTS / LANDOV; Power, Dennis Brack / Landov

The Macho Dynamic

When newspaper editors get together for their next good head-scratching session​—​Why do they hate us? Why don’t they take us seriously? Why are they abandoning us in droves?​—​someone should hand out copies of Ruth Marcus’s column “The girls are back” from the June 12 issue of the ...


The Other Scandals

It’s going to be a long summer in Washington. With so many scandals, news organizations that have spent years sweeping startling allegations about the Obama administration under the rug now find themselves overwhelmed. Woe betide the average citizen who just wants to know what the ...


The Playacting’s the Thing

Last week, the online publication Salon took a break from its usual sophisticated political analysis (“Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American,” the magazine brayed on April 16) to raise a pressing civil rights issue: “Are straight actors in gay roles the ...


The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers