The liberal bargain goes bad.8:55 AM, Jun 22, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Classic David Brooks:
It was the winter of 2007. Dr. Faustus, the famous left-wing philologist, was sitting in a coffee shop in despair over the Bush-Cheney regime and the future of his country.
Suddenly, Mephistopheles, who happened to be the provost at his college, appeared, sipping a double mocha frappuccino. He sat down next to Dr. Faustus and casually asked him if he would like to be granted any five wishes in exchange for his immortal soul.
It just gets better from there.
Reading between the lines.12:23 PM, Jun 21, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Here is Paul Krugman today:
But if we need to raise taxes and cut spending eventually, shouldn’t we start now? No, we shouldn’t.
And yet Krugman focuses solely on the spending side of the equation, never mentioning that the Bush tax cuts on incomes, dividends, capital gains, and estates are set to expire at the end of the year. If Krugman takes his theory seriously, which he does, then why doesn't he spend as much time arguing for a delay in rescinding the Bush tax cuts as he spends arguing for ever more government spending?
Robert Darnton on the secret history of the blog.10:37 AM, Mar 18, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Historian Robert Darnton on early modern blogs:
Short, scurrilous abuse proliferated in all sorts of communication systems: taunts scribbled on palazzi during the feuds of Renaissance Italy, ritual insult known as “playing the dozens” among African Americans, posters carried in demonstrations against despotic regimes, and graffiti on many occasions such as the uprising in Paris of May–June 1968 (one read “Voici la maison d’un affreux petit bourgeois”). When expertly mixed, provocation and pithiness could be dynamite—the verbal or written equivalent of Molotov cocktails.
This subject deserves more study, because for all of their explosiveness, the blog-like elements in earlier eras of communication tend to be ignored by sociologists, political scientists, and historians who concentrate on full-scale texts and formal discourse.
To appreciate the importance of a pre-modern blog, consult a database such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and download a newspaper from eighteenth-century London. It will have no headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type, aside from one crucial ingredient: the paragraph. Paragraphs were self-sufficient units of news. They had no connection with one another, because writers and readers had no concept of a news “story” as a narrative that would run for more than a few dozen words. News came in bite-sized bits, often “advices” of a sober nature—the arrival of a ship, the birth of an heir to a noble title—until the 1770s, when they became juicy. Pre-modern scandal sheets appeared, exploiting the recent discovery about the magnetic pull of news toward names. As editors of the Morning Postand the Morning Herald, two men of the cloth, the Reverend Henry Bate (known as “the Reverend Bruiser”) and the Reverend William Jackson (known as “Dr. Viper”) packed their paragraphs with gossip about the great, and this new kind of news sold like hotcakes. Much of it came from a bountiful source: the coffee house.
Fantastic stuff. And almost as gripping as this story about a surfing alpaca.
8:56 AM, Mar 17, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Must reading this morning in the Washington Post:
This may be the one great innovation of Obama foreign policy. While displaying more continuity than discontinuity in his policies toward Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism, and garnering as a result considerable bipartisan support for those policies, Obama appears to be departing from a 60-year-old American grand strategy when it comes to allies. The old strategy rested on a global network of formal military and political alliances, mostly though not exclusively with fellow democracies. The idea, Averell Harriman explained in 1947, was to create "a balance of power preponderantly in favor of the free countries." Under Bill Clinton, and the two Bushes, relations with Europe and Japan, and later India, were deepened and strengthened.
Read the whole thing, as they say.
Niall Ferguson on complexity and decline.9:31 AM, Mar 2, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
Niall Ferguson had a fascinating op-ed in the February 28 Los Angeles Times:
If empires are complex systems that sooner or later succumb to sudden and catastrophic malfunctions, what are the implications for the United States today? First, debating the stages of decline may be a waste of time -- it is a precipitous and unexpected fall that should most concern policymakers and citizens. Second, most imperial falls are associated with fiscal crises. Alarm bells should therefore be ringing very loudly indeed as the United States contemplates a deficit for 2010 of more than $1.5 trillion -- about 11% of GDP, the biggest since World War II.
These numbers are bad, but in the realm of political entities, the role of perception is just as crucial. In imperial crises, it is not the material underpinnings of power that really matter but expectations about future power. The fiscal numbers cited above cannot erode U.S. strength on their own, but they can work to weaken a long-assumed faith in the United States' ability to weather any crisis.
Ferguson's larger essay, from which the op-ed is adapted, is available to subscribers of Foreign Affairs here. Whether Ferguson is an American declinist is an open question. For what it's worth, I think Josef Joffe and Joel Kotkin are right and the pessimists are wrong: the evidence shows that America isn't going anywhere.
Ryan vs. Orszag5:33 PM, Feb 17, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
From an Economics 21 staff editorial:
The Ryan and Orszag proposals represent competing visions of how the United States deals with our fiscal dilemma. Under Congressman Ryan’s vision, we try to live within our projected revenues, leave our children with tax burdens comparable to our own, and constrain our spending appetites accordingly. On the Social Security side, this means slowing the growth of benefits -- which would still grow faster than inflation.
Under the alternative vision espoused by Orszag, we would impose on younger generations higher payroll tax rates, tax a higher fraction of national wages, and levy an additional 3% benefit-less surcharge, thereby reducing economic growth and individual saving.
The contest between the Ryan and Orszag visions for Social Security is the fundamental contest between constraining our spending appetites and raising taxes to fuel persistently higher costs. It mirrors the gap between the Obama Administration’s larger fiscal policies, and the views of American voters on the political center and on the right.
This editorial is a useful reminder that the Roadmap for America's Future not only tackles Medicare and Medicaid spending; it drastically overhauls Social Security and tax policy, as well. You can say Ryan's plan is ambitious -- perhaps too ambitious! But you can't say it isn't a serious attempt to save a sinking ship.
‹‹ More Recent