Updating Reagan


Senator Mike Lee

Republicans these days are eager to replay the Reagan revolution. It is not hard to see why: In the 1980s, the GOP was the party of ideas, and the vision that Ronald Reagan and his supporters brought to Washington proved immensely popular with voters and profoundly improved American life. But in their effort to repeat Reagan’s particular policies, rather than his more impressive feat of developing policies that applied conservative principles to the problems of his day, today’s Republicans risk becoming detached from the country’s real concerns.

Nowhere has that risk been more plainly on display in recent years than in conservative tax policy. And yet it is just on that front that Republicans now have an opportunity to demonstrate how applied conservatism can make for both good policy and good politics.

That opportunity comes in the form of a new tax-reform proposal from Utah senator Mike Lee. ...


From Bad to Worse


Syria has receded from the front pages. A long and winding road of failed diplomacy lies ahead, and who wants to bother covering that? Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad is more firmly in power than before, al Qaeda is stronger among the Syrian rebels, the United States has lost ...


Never Surrender


Since January 2011, Republicans have tried to repeal Obamacare, in whole or in part, more than 40 times. That number is recited with a predictable sneer by congressional Democrats and the Washington press corps each time a new vote is held. The mockery is meant to obscure the fact ...


Keystone Kops


It's not often officials from the nation’s largest business lobby and an AFL-CIO-affiliated union speak to one another, let alone work together. But last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and North America’s Building Trades Unions held a joint press conference on Capitol Hill in ...


Ronald Binz’s German Dream

Energy policy über alles.



It may be overdone to say that the Obama administration aims to shove America in the direction of European social democracy, but there’s one domain where this is surely true: energy policy. Any number of administration diktats and subsidy schemes, from Solyndra to proposed EPA strangulation of coal, attest to this ambition, but the most significant sign of Euro-envy is Obama’s nomination of Ronald Binz to be chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Binz is the former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, where he regulated aggressively to suppress conventional hydrocarbon energy in favor of wind and solar power. He threatens to do more of the same at FERC, having gone so far as to assert that natural gas is a “dead end” for the American future, and that “policy and regulation,” rather than market forces, should be the key driver of our energy mix. Binz faced a rocky confirmation hearing last week, ...

A Palm Springs wind farm

Blowin’ in the Wind

How many times must a bald eagle die?


Craftsbury, Vt.
In their seemingly quixotic efforts to reduce emissions, energy companies have increasingly tilted towards windmills. The United States now houses some 45,000 wind turbines on nearly 900 wind farms. That’s enough to power about 1.6 million homes, according to the ...

Ronald Coase

The Best Bargain I Ever Made

Ronald Coase, 1910-2013.


Though I never met the man, I feel a debt of gratitude to Ronald Coase, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who died on Labor Day at age 102. Reading his “Nature of the Firm,” one of the most cited essays in all of economics literature, encouraged me to start my own business.


Economic Malpractice

The stagnation president.


It's amazing how little President Obama has learned about economics in his four and a half years in the White House. Growth, incentives, tax reform, tax increases, private investment, the middle class, a second great depression, the sequester—all these issues have one thing in ...

Michelle Westlund

The New Pioneers

Starting over in North Dakota.


Williston, N.D.
In O. E. Rølvaag’s Giants in the Earth, homesteader Per Hansa and his family depart from the safety of their Norwegian immigrant community in Minnesota for the open land of the Dakota Territory. This is something ...

Fred Upton

Bipartisanship and Biofuels

A volatile mix.


Just before the August congressional recess the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a press release on its progress in reviewing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the nation’s biofuels policy. Since 2005 the RFS has established an annual mandate for the amount of renewable ...


No More Carrots, Lots More Stick

The increasingly imperious Arne Duncan.


In the early days of the Obama administration, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the bipartisan superstar. At Duncan’s confirmation hearing, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told him, “President-elect Obama has made several distinguished cabinet appointments, but in my view of it all, I ...

Congrats—sorry your degree is such a joke.

Back to School

A reclamation project for higher ed.


This school-reopening season ought to be a time of deep pondering and self-examination for conservatives and everyone else who cares about the future of this nation and the world. It’s time to notice how little we have done about the most powerful, dangerous, reactionary force in America ...


Uncommonly Partisan

The consistently divisive rhetoric of President Obama


Truman & Obama

In the wake of last week’s mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, as first responders were tending the victims, police were searching for more culprits, and the nation’s capital was entering lockdown, President Barack Obama gave a speech. This normally would not be news. After all, the president is a loquacious man, and, moreover, the country now expects the president to be therapist-in-chief whenever some sort of disaster, human or natural, occurs.

But Obama’s speech was different from what one would expect. After a few rote words of condolence to the victims, he went after his political opponents with vehemence, charging them with fiscal recklessness and a disregard for the plight of the middle class, and mocking them for wanting to repeal Obamacare. It was a remarkably tone-deaf presentation considering the events of the day. But it was par for the course for this administration, which is one of the most partisan we have seen in the last 60 ...

sorry no gas

Two Miserable Decades

Don’t worry, it was even worse in the 1970s. Or was it?


Happy times are all alike, nestled in the comfortable batting of peace, growth, and stability. Every unhappy time is unhappy in its own way.

America has been blessed because, since the end of the Great Depression, our nation has experienced only ...

Books & Arts

Sincerely, George Orwell

The correspondence of a ‘wintry conscience.’


mondadori / getty images

Literary reputation is an unstable thing. Not so long ago, the luminaries were Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Mailer, but one hardly hears about them these days, unless one of their novels is adapted for the screen. Certainly Arthur Koestler, a much more profound thinker than his contemporary George Orwell, told the same story and in prose that is even better (and in a language not his own). But it is the latter whose books remain in print and whose name has become a byword for the political destruction of individual freedom and thought.

An instructive comparison is Orwell’s slightly older contemporary, Virginia Woolf. Despite major differences, they had in common spouses who faithfully shepherded publication of their works, thereby allowing their reputations to rise above the hot-button issues of their own time. (Koestler and Stefan Zweig suffer in this respect, as ...

Sidney Hook, Seymour Martin Lipset

Warfare of Ideas

There is an alternative to Obama diplomacy.


Christian Whiton occupied several posts at the State Department during the administration of George W. Bush, all of them at the juncture where realpolitik meets ideology. Or would meet, anyway, if the department were able to recognize the importance of ideas in ...

Colin Fleming

Hearts of Darkness

Postcards from a surreal landscape.


You get the sense, reading this off-kilter collection of stories, that somewhere in the background, jazz is playing. Bop, probably. The plotlines and patter of the characters tootle off every which way, high and low, with now and then a nod ...

Sir William Howe

Dispirit of ’76

The American Revolution as seen from the other side.


In his groundbreaking history of the American War of Independence from the British standpoint, The War for America (1964), Piers Mackesy argued, “To understand the war, one must view it with sympathy for the Ministers in their difficulties, and not with the arrogant ...

George Balanchine, Allegra Kent, 1958

Mystery Partner

In search of an early Balanchine ‘muse.’


When balletomanes consider the dancers who stirred the creativity of George Balanchine (1904-1983), they might think of Maria Tallchief (his third wife) or Tanaquil LeClercq (his fourth) or Suzanne Farrell and Allegra Kent (his muses). One name that probably does ...

Thing of Beauty

Ava Gardner as metaphor.


In 1941, a girl climbed off a train in Los Angeles. She was the daughter of a North Carolina farmer and a housekeeper, had grown up bitterly poor, and had few prospects in life. But her older sister had married a man who owned photo shops in New York City. He had taken a picture of ...


The Forgotten Woman

David Skinner’s Queens blues


Man on a boat

A few years ago, I was in New York with my wife, Cynthia. Passing through Queens, we stopped in to see an old family friend of hers who was in town, with a new baby, visiting relatives.

I knew little about this woman, whose name was Cathy, except that she and Cynthia had seen a lot of each other growing up. She was also mentioned in a few family stories, including a favorite of mine about my father-in-law’s boating days.

Peter, as his daughters will tell you, once had a terrible weakness for owning a boat, which, when you live near the water, can come to seem a necessary luxury. Only Peter was not rich, and his boats were always used, dinky little things that embarrassed his daughters, who had spent many an afternoon on much nicer boats owned by the wealthier families of friends. 

It took a lot of pleading for Peter to get his daughters to go out on ...


Friendly Fire


The media have been pretty down on Obama recently. Or rather, the media have been about as critical as they’re ever going to be. Case in point, The Scrapbook was a bit taken aback when we saw last week’s Time cover. Vladimir Putin’s visage is glowering against a stark background, and the cover line is brutal: “America’s weak and waffling. Russia’s rich and resurgent—and its leader doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him.”

What? You didn’t see that Time magazine cover when you were in line at the grocery store? Well, that’s because it ran on the magazine’s Asia, South Pacific, and European editions. The U.S. edition ran with Texas A&M’s quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel, under the headline “It’s Time to Pay College Athletes.”

We’ll concede that a college football cover on the U.S. edition might sell better than the Putin cover. Still, it’s fair to suspect that ...

Pooty Poot

A Foolish Consistency

The Scrapbook was thumbing through the pages of the Nation last week and stumbled upon the sort of essay in which the Nation has specialized since October 1917: defending the peace-loving Russians against a bellicose United States (“Demonizing Putin Endangers ...

Senator George W. Pepper of Pa. at the bat - enjoying a game [of baseball] with

Baseball’s Archaeologist

What if everything we think we know about the history of baseball is wrong? What if despite the carefully cultivated image of its manly origins—long mustachios and tobacco-juice-stained vests—it was a game played by women as well as men? What if the game was invented 100 years ...

Bill Clinton and  Barack Obama leave a lunch at a Greenwi

Lunch with the Big He

This month’s issue of AARP The Magazine is chock-full of important news for your golden years. There’s an essay on Dr. King’s America. (We’re still not past racism.) A piece about Obamacare. (It’s going to be great!) And a long feature about Bill Clinton’s new-found ...


A Good Deed Undone?

When it approved reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) last year, a normally spendthrift Congress showed that its members could work together and do the right thing for taxpayers. Majorities from both parties voted to end some of the program’s subsidies for ...


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