Search Results

JOEL KOTKIN: Why Democrats no longer talk about growth and what it means.

Until just a few years ago, the need for economic growth to sustain societies was almost universally acknowledged. This was not just gospel on the free-market Right. Whatever its failings, 20th century socialism was growth-oriented and espoused the notion, however poorly realized, that greater material progress was critical to expanding working-class wealth.

Now political leaders in France, Iceland, as well as the European Commission increasingly believe, along with influential economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, that growing the economic pie should be supplanted by such goals as better health care, less inequality, and fighting climate change.

Many, particularly on the environmental Left, go even further and advocate “de-growth,” essentially urging societies to consciously reduce their economic wealth. This agenda requires that energy, housing, food, and other consumption costs steadily increase, or be legally prohibited, so that ordinary people will be unable to eat meat regularly, use more energy, live in larger spaces, and travel freely. There’s even a quaint notion that we need to return to a more primitive state of existence, essentially cancelling out the progress of the last few centuries. America’s Green Party, for example, would seek to limit long-distance trade entirely in favor of a feudal economy that is “largely self-sufficient in the production of its necessities.”

Even in the United States, where growth has long been an unquestioned priority, virtually none of the leading Democratic candidates for President even mentions the word. Vice-President Joe Biden, the leading “moderate” in the Democratic party primaries, has explicitly stated that he would wipe out fossil fuel employment in the country to pursue a green agenda.

The American Left’s abandonment of economic growth marks a dramatic shift from the approach of Bill Clinton, or even Barack Obama. In the 1990s, progressives still believed that economic growth was indispensable for improving the lives of the middle- and working-class families. Now, rather than seek to outperform the somewhat more robust economy and modest uptick in blue collar jobs under President Trump, progressives focus mostly on identity issues, environmental piety, and income redistribution.

Fundamentally abandoning growth means the effective end of the old social democratic program. Many self-defined socialists—typically academics and media personalities rather than industrial union leaders—reject the fundamental Marxian emphasis on “materialism” in favor of low growth “sustainability.”

To be fair, that’s only because they hate the working class and want to destroy it, by transforming it into a dependent class of government handout recipients. They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please.

And the working class understands this: “It is no surprise that blue-collar workers, traditional a constituency of the Left, are deserting progressive parties for the likes of Donald Trump, and most recently, Boris Johnson. As socialist author Leigh Phillips has observed, the scarcity politics of the greens represents a form of class warfare. . . . Without economic growth, and the opportunity for people to rise up the class ladder, we will devolve, as Tocqueville warned, towards a class structure more favorable to ‘aristocracy’ and authoritarian rule.”

To wannabe aristocrats and authoritarians, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

HISTORY: The Day Sam Houston Met French Historian Alexis de Tocqueville.

JOEL KOTKIN: American Renewal: The Real Conflict Is Not Racial Or Sexual, It’s Between The Ascendant Rich Elites And The Rest Of Us.

Despite the media’s obsession on gender, race and sexual orientation, the real and determining divide in America and other advanced countries lies in the growing conflict between the ascendant upper class and the vast, and increasingly embattled, middle and working classes.

We’ve seen this fight before. The current conflict fundamentally reprises the end of the French feudal era, where the Third Estate, made up of the commoners, challenged the hegemony of the First Estate and Second, made up of the church and aristocracy.

These dynamics are unsettling our politics to the core. Both the gentry left, funded largely by Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and the libertarian right, have been slow to recognize that they are, in de Tocqueville’s term, “sitting on a volcano ready to explode.” The middle class everywhere in the world, notes a recent OECD report, is under assault, and shrinking in most places while prospects for upward mobility for the working class also declines.

The anger of the Third Estate, both the growing property-less Serf class as well as the beleaguered Yeomanry, has produced the growth of populist, parties both right and left in Europe, and the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

Spoiler: The media focuses on those other things to distract people from the real divide.

Related: Trump is a symptom of a new kind of class warfare raging at home and abroad: “But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.”

Also: When Rulers Despise The Ruled. “If the rulers feel neither loyalty nor empathy toward the ruled, the ruled can be expected to return the favor.”

JOEL KOTKIN: The Return To Serfdom.

Many working-class people have descended into what has been described as the “precariat,” a group of workers who have limited control over the length of their workday and often live on barely subsistence wages. Research reveals that 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population in the United States and the EU-15 (the 15 member states of the EU as of April 2004), or up to 162 million individuals, does such work.

Conditions for these workers represent a throwback to earlier times. In ultra-expensive places such as Silicon Valley, many conditional workers live in their cars. The typical Uber driver is not the one seen in ads, the middle-class driver picking up extra cash for a family vacation or to pay for a fancy date; most depend on their “gigs” for their livelihood. Nearly half of gig workers in California live under the poverty line. These workers often face a dismal future as they age; only one-third of independent contractors in the U.K., for example, have any sort of pension savings for their retirement.

Critically, the traditional bulwarks of working-class community — religious institutions, neighborhood and social groups, unions, and extended family — are all weakening. Marriages among the upper classes may be getting more stable and less likely to dissolve but take place later, as sociologist Stephanie Coontz has noted. But the situation is different among the middle and working classes; overall, as many as one-third of the births in the U.S. take place outside matrimony.

The decline of these institutions hasn’t happened on its own, but with a strong push from the upper classes.


Like the revolutionaries of 1789, those in the contemporary French third estate (the commoners) have been stirred by the hypocrisy of their betters. In pre-revolutionary times, French aristocrats and top clerics preached Christian modesty while indulging in gluttony, sexual adventurism, and lavish spending. Today they call for working- and middle-class abstemiousness while they live large and exempt themselves by paying their modern version of “green” indulgences through carbon credits and other virtue-signaling devices.

We may be, as Tocqueville wrote in the 1840s, “sleeping on a volcano” destined to explode. The imposition of the Green New Deal proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — which would effectively mandate the end of many industries, from fossil fuels to aerospace to cattle ranching — would likely spark a mass rebellion in middle America. The “green” policies so appealing to a Silicon Valley billionaire, an investment banker, or a grant-seeking scientific researcher seem more like class warfare to residents of Youngstown, Ohio, the Ruhr in Germany, or, increasingly, China’s blue-collar cities.

Being held in contempt is bad. Being held in contempt by obvious hypocrites is worse.


“John Lukacs is well known not so much for speaking truth to power as speaking truth to audiences he senses have settled into safe and unexamined opinions,” John Willson wrote in The American Conservative in 2013. “This has earned him, among friends and critics alike, a somewhat curmudgeonly reputation.”

Lukacs completed more than 30 books, on everything from his native country to 20th century American history to the meaning of history itself. His books include “Five Days in London,” the memoir “Confessions of an Original Sinner,” and “Historical Consciousness,” in which he contended that the best way to study any subject, whether science or politics, was through its history.

He considered himself a “reactionary,” a mourner for the “civilization and culture of the past 500 years, European and Western.” He saw decline in the worship of technological progress, the elevation of science to religion, and the rise of materialism. Drawing openly upon Alexis de Tocqueville’s warnings about a “tyranny of the majority,” Lukacs was especially wary of populism and was quoted by other historians as Donald Trump rose to the presidency. Lukacs feared that the public was too easily manipulated into committing terrible crimes.

“The kind of populist nationalism that Hitler incarnated has been and continues to be the most deadly of modern plagues,” he once wrote.

Read the whole thing. A decade before Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Lukacs’ self-described “biography of biographies,” The Hitler of History correctly positioned Hitler as a revolutionary leftist, and warned, “We are all national socialists now:”

Of course the proportions of the compound of nationalism and socialism vary from country to country; but the compound is there, and even where social democracy prevails, it is the national feeling of the people that ultimately matters. What was defeated in 1945, together with Hitler, was German National Socialism: a cruel and extreme version of national socialism. Elsewhere nationalism and socialism were brought together, reconciled and then compounded, without violence and hatred and war.

Without violence and hatred? Well, the 1990s were more innocent times.


The French nobility, observed Tocqueville in The Ancien Regime and The Revolution, supported many of the writers whose essays and observations ended up threatening “their own rights and even their existence.” Today we see much the same farce repeated, as the world’s richest people line up behind causes that, in the end, could relieve them of their fortunes, if not their heads. In this sense, they could end up serving, in Lenin’s words, as “useful idiots” in their own destruction.

Although they themselves have benefited enormously from the rise of free markets, liberal protection of property rights, and the meritocratic ideal, many among our most well-heeled men and women, even in the United States, have developed a tendency to embrace policies and cultural norms that undermine their own status. This is made worse by their own imperious behavior, graphically revealed in the mortifying college admissions scandal in the United States, where the Hollywood and business elites cheated, bribed, and falsified records to get their own kids into elite colleges.

At the same time, these same people continue to boost their own share of the world’s wealth, as a recent OECD report reveals, largely at the expense of the middle and working class. The embrace of inexorable “globalization”—essentially shifting productive work to developing countries—may appeal to the progressive rich even as it, in the words of geographer Christophe Guilluy, “revived the citadels of Medieval France.”

Sometimes the elite policy agenda is justified as part of a “green” agenda that impoverishes the lower and middle classes by expelling basic industries, thereby boosting housing and energy prices. This in turn has set the stage for the kind of peasant rebellions—from Brexit and Trump to the rise of illiberal regimes in eastern Europe as well as the re-emergence of socialism—that threaten their hegemony.

Read the whole thing.

GOOD QUESTION: Will Tocqueville’s Dilemma Crash America?

Tocqueville insisted that old regime aristocrats felt compelled by laws and customs to take some care of their servants, that they were bound, however distantly, to their peasants by the land they shared and their regular interactions. The new industrial oligarchs would find themselves free of even these weak bonds. Tocqueville was not arguing for a return to feudalism; he was trying to show just how bad the new oligarchs would be. Workers and masters would see one another only at the factory and otherwise have no point of contact and certainly no sense of responsibility. “The manufacturing aristocracy of our day,” remarked Tocqueville, “after having impoverished and brutalized the men whom it uses, leaves them to be nourished by public charity in times of crisis. This results naturally from what precedes. Between worker and master relations are frequent, but there is no genuine association.”

Perhaps the state, by reducing material insecurity and regulating industry, could offer a partial escape from the logic of Tocqueville’s argument. But it would not fully counter the dynamic that concerned him unless it also somehow brought into existence the “genuine association” that he thought was necessary for true freedom. The more pessimistic second volume of Democracy in America presses us to worry, however, that a state powerful and centralized enough to effectively regulate the industrial economy would also, by virtue of its power and centralization, crowd out the local politics most conducive to the arts of association.

Federalism was the Founders’ attempt to balance local politics with a national government, but progressivism tipped the balance far in Washington’s favor, and seeks to tip it even further.

Still, an interesting piece and worth your time.

A SLIGHTLY LATE HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Today, to be Irish American is to be a typical member of the “white majority.” They’re told they’ve been living a life of “white privilege.” But, if so, it was not always thus. Maybe it’s a good time to remember the tough times …

By all accounts, nineteenth-century Ireland—from which Irish immigrants to this country fled by the boatloads—was a remarkably dismal place even before the Great Potato Famine. As Gustave de Beaumont, traveling companion to Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote in the 1830s: I have seen the Indian in his forests and the Negro in his chains, and thought, as I contemplated their pitiable condition, that I saw the very extreme of human wretchedness; but I did not know then the condition of unfortunate Ireland.”

With the famine, things took an almost unimaginable turn for the worse. In a short period of time, the potato, Ireland’s staple crop, essentially disappeared. One and a half million, half-starved souls were cast upon American shores in the years between 1845 and 1855. And these were the lucky ones. Out of Ireland’s population of eight million, around one million died.

When these rural immigrants got off the boat, many were illiterate, unskilled and ill-equipped for urban life. Not everyone sympathized with them. Friedrich Engels, who regarded himself a champion of the workingman, viewed the Irish immigrant to Great Britain as having a “crudity” that “places him little above the savage.” For work requiring skill or patience, Engels complained, “the dissolute, unsteady, drunken Irishman is on too low a plane.” Here in America, many agreed with Engels’ assessment. “No Irish” signs went up. And for decades, Irish neighborhoods had more than their share of crime, prostitution, and other urban pathologies.

Yet despite all these difficulties, things eventually worked out. It’s the kind of story that makes me optimistic about America and quite willing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a day of revelry.


The article is by Brown graduate Simon van Zuylen-Wood, who somewhat sheepishly admits running into an awful lot of other Brown graduates while researching his tale of adorable young Marxists dreaming of class war while sipping (I am not making this up) frozé in (I am not making this up) Bushwick. He focuses on the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA, we are told, is both a rising political force and also has one-fifth the membership of the Rotary Club. Anyone who thinks the Rotary Club is powerful also probably thinks “I Love Lucy” is the hottest thing on television, but picture something one-fifth as powerful as that.

The Rotary Club, you say? Some original “Progressives” absolutely convinced themselves that the Rotarians were plotting coups and takeovers in the night (or at least at lunch), as Fried Siegel wrote in 2014:

In his new book, The Revolt Against the Masses, Fred Siegel looks back at Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 book, It Can’t Happen Here, which posited that the Rotary Club(!) was poised to seize American power:

The heart of It Can’t Happen Here is laid out in the opening chapter, which presents the local Rotary Club, with its Veterans of Foreign Wars tub-thumping patriotism and prohibitionist moralism, as comparable, on a small scale, to the mass movements that brought Fascism to Europe. Later in the novel, he has a character explain, half-satirically and half-seriously, “This is Revolution in terms of Rotary.” In other words, Lewis’s imagined fascism is little more than Main Street writ political. When he wants to mock Windrip, he describes him as a “professional common man” who is “chummy with all waitresses at . . . lunch rooms.” For Lewis, fascism is the product of backslapping Rotarians, Elks, and Masons, as well as various and sundry other versions of joiners that Tocqueville had once celebrated as the basis of American self-government. There is more than a hint of snobbery in all this. The book’s local incarnation of evil is Jessup’s shiftless, resentful handyman Shad Ledue, who was a member of the “Odd Fellows and the Ancient and Independent Order of Rams.” Ledue uses Windrip’s ascension to rise above himself and displace Jessup from his rightful place in the local hierarchy of power.

If the book were merely an indictment of red-state nativist intolerance, there would be little to distinguish it from numerous other novels and plays of the 1920s that were part of “the revolt against the village.” Lewis was hardly the only writer of the period to, Mencken-like, describe the average American as a “boob” or “peasant.” What made It Can’t Happen Here compelling was that it showed the boobs working through a familiar institution, the local Rotary, to become a menace to the Republic.

As Siegel goes on to note, as late as the 1960s, prominent leftist American intellectual Dwight Macdonald was muttering, “Europe has its Hitlers, but we have our Rotarians.” My dad was president of a local suburban chapter for a year in the mid-1970s; I had no idea until recently what a hard core violent revolutionary in Florsheim wingtips he was!

(Just a reminder that today’s “Progressives” and socialists come from a long line of lefty insanity.)

THIS SEEMS LIKE A MARKET SECTOR WHERE SUPPLY ALREADY EXCEEDS DEMAND: A new anti-Trump publication is the last thing conservative media needs.

What if we had a center-right publication, broadly in favor of globalized free trade and deregulation and hawkish on foreign policy, whose columnists really hated President Trump, even when he does things they otherwise agree with, like spit in Vladimir Putin’s face?

But The Washington Post already exists, you say. Exactly. Which is why I cannot figure who the audience for Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg’s new journalism project is supposed to be. According to Axios, the former editor of The Weekly Standard and the founder of National Review Online are “seeking investors” for “a reporting-driven, Trump-skeptical” conservative periodical.

Of course they are. “Generic white #NeverTrump conservative” is already the most overrepresented type in American media. There are approximately 200 of these people in the United States, and every single one of them has a column in a major newspaper and a book about why Drumpf is the logical and polar opposite of certain ideals supposedly embodied in whatever Tocqueville quotes their research assistants have just pulled up for them.

Harsh, but fair.

TOCQUEVILLE TALKS: A FAREWELL TO JOHN DINGELL. “Eet says ’ere, that, in ’eez book, Monsieur Dingell advocated the abolition of the Senate. Is this a popular opinion in the United States today?”

“But Congressman Dingell took issue with more than just the pace of the Senate — he also saw great danger in how unrepresentative it has come to be of the American people.”

“’ow so?

“Oh, his district in Michigan alone boasts a greater population than say, the entire state of Vermont.”

“And so he says…”

“How can the Senate address the needs of his constituents when they enjoy a fraction of the voice per capita compared the people of Vermont?”

“Ah, but surely they understand that the Senate does not exist for this purpose? To address their needs, and wield their power, les Michiganders ’ave the state government of Michigan. Through this tool they can craft their little society, without a care for the whims of the ’ill people of Vermont. The Senate exists to treat the issues from the perspective of the states themselves, not the individuals who live in them. Recall, as I wrote, that the ‘Federal system was created in order to combine the various advantages of large with those of smallness.’”

Read le whole thing.

SALENA ZITO: America’s Dearth of Civil Society:

Freemasons are civic leaders, and the room is filled with men of all ages, races and backgrounds, about to meet over what they can do next to further the betterment of their community. They are members of a dying American tradition that once drew young men by the hordes, in particular after the end of World War II when memberships in fraternal organizations like the Mason’s, Elks, and Rotary Clubs swelled with young veterans reared on the ethos of community service.

America today has a recession of civic activity as we emerge into a society that less united in a common endeavor with fewer people willing to listen to elders who could guide young men and women with the skills of cooperation and citizenship.

For the past 200-plus years Americans eagerly formed countless associations within their communities. It didn’t matter if their neighborhoods were in large cities, small towns, or spread out in expansive rural farming areas. We liked to form associations; a lot.

Some were serious, some were frivolous, some had ties to commerce in a town or were wedded to a church and some were exclusive, but nearly all of them were formed to advance or foster a better community or a better city.

Or as Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of America’s burgeoning democratic order and the rapid formation of civic groups, through example “they form a society.”

But we don’t join things the way we used to. The question is why? The first obvious answer is we are busy, but so were our parents and grandparents and they joined the Rotary Clubs and Kiwanis.

The second obvious answer is technology. It does everything for us and connects us to people instantly so why would we want to connect in person?

You can answer that one by looking around yourself at an America with an eroded public square. Things are not going well.

Traditional member-based organizations, especially the do-goody ones, rarely included politics and brought diverse different ideas together that helped make communities and societies form cohesively.

Yes, read the whole thing. I made a similar point yesterday.

HAVING APPARENTLY NEVER READ DE TOCQUEVILLE, The New Yorker is puzzled by the Cajun Navy.


In her badly flawed book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, historian Nancy MacLean gets many, many things wrong about the history and purposes of libertarianism. Jonathan Adler, David Bernstein (see also here), Phil Magness (also here), Russell Roberts, and Michael Munger, and others, have highlighted some of her most important fallacies and distortions.

On one issue, however, she is largely correct: it is indeed true that libertarians want to impose tight limits on the power of democratic majorities. Calling this agenda a “stealth plan” is, of course, ridiculous. It is much like saying that pro-lifers have a “stealth plan” to restrict abortion, or that Bernie Sanders has a secret agenda to expand government control over the economy. Skepticism about the power of democratic majorities has been a central – and completely open – feature of classical liberal and libertarian thought for centuries. Most of the Founding Fathers, John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and many others held such views. It was Thomas Jefferson, writing in protest of the Alien and Sedition Acts, not James Buchanan and the Koch brothers (the central villains of MacLean’s story), who wrote that “[i]n questions of power,… let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Regardless, MacLean tries to use libertarians’ suspicion of unconstrained democracy as a cudgel with which to deligitimize them and prove that they are outside the bounds of reasonable political discourse. Why would anyone want to put “chains” on democracy, if not to empower a narrow oligarchy of the wealthy, as she claims libertarians want to do?

Yet libertarians are far from the only ones who want to chain down democracy. Consider a group MacLean may have some sympathy with: mainstream modern left-liberals. Are they populist champions of the will of the people? Do they want to empower democratic majorities to rule as they see fit? Pretty obviously not. In some ways, the left wants to put even more chains on democracy than libertarians do.

That’s different because shut up.

COMBATING THE CULTURE OF COMPETITIVE VICTIMHOOD: What Tocqueville Can Teach Us About Microaggressions.

IT IS NEEDED: Teaching American Government.

HOPE: “#FreeStacy: The Old Regime and the Twitter Revolution

The whole thing reminds me of the book Alexis de Tocqueville wrote after Democracy in America. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution, he examined the failed promise of France’s rebellion against monarchy. What concerned him was not just the Terror and the beheadings, but the fact that the French toppled all of their institutions and tried to remake their politics, only to see all the old institutions re-assert themselves. They ended up with the same system, just under new rulers. The main similarity between the new system and the Ancien Régime was its administrative centralization, the way everything was controlled out of Paris, sapping all power and initiative from local institutions.

This strikes me as a good analogy for what’s been happening with the old regime and the Internet revolution. The impact of the Internet has been a radical decentralization, the breaking down of gateways and barriers to entry for the transmission of information. But the old imperatives for centralization and control are still there, and they’re trying to reassert themselves.

Read the whole thing.

Centralizers gotta centralize, and they have all-new digital tools for doing just that. But those same digital tools can be used against the control-freaks posing as technological liberators.

Say, didn’t someone write a book about that?

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON IN THE L.A. TIMES on How the widening urban-rural divide threatens America:

How did the new Californians deal with the drought? Not as in the past. Enthralled by a fantasy of a pristine 19th century California that has it all — from daily fresh organic tomatoes to schools of fish jumping amid white water, without understanding what it takes to grow those tomatoes — urbanites have argued that farmers can make do with less but wildlife needs ever more. Millions of acre-feet of precious stored water were released out of rivers as urban environmentalists hoped to increase the population of 3-inch delta smelt and to restore salmon to the upper San Joaquin River. Despite millions of acre-feet of released water, both fish projects have so far failed. Meanwhile, under pressure from environmental groups, the state canceled water projects such as the huge Temperance Flat reservoir on the San Joaquin River.

Common sense would have warned that droughts are existential challenges, the severity and duration of which are unpredictable. Droughts are times to bank water, not to release it for questionable green initiatives. Such common sense would assume, though, that millions of Californians had seen a broccoli farm or a Flame Seedless vineyard and had made the connection that what they purchased in supermarkets was grown from irrigated soil.

The founders and early observers of American democracy, from Thomas Jefferson to Alexis de Tocqueville, reflected a classical symbiosis, in which even urban thinkers praised the benefits of life in rural areas. Jefferson famously wrote: “I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.”

Read the whole thing — and then ponder how the typical bobo Los Angeles Times reader would respond to VDH’s harsh truths.

HE WAS A SMART MAN: Alexis de Tocqueville Predicted the Tyranny of the Majority in Our Modern World. Our Constitution, of course, was not originally designed to be majoritarian.

MICHELLE MALKIN: Entrepreneurs Are Not “Lottery Winners.”

For radical progressives, life is a Powerball drawing. Success is random. Economic achievement is something to be rectified and redistributed to assuage guilt. Only those who take money, not those who make it by offering goods and services people want and need, act in the public interest. Those who seek financial enrichment for the fruits of their labor are cast as rapacious hoarders in Obama World — and so are the private investors who support them.

Wealth-shaming is a recurrent leitmotif in the Obama administration’s gospel of government dependency.

In 2010, the president proclaimed, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

Maybe he was thinking of Hillary. Plus:

The progressives’ government-built-that ethos is anathema to our Founding Fathers’ first principles. They understood that the ability of brilliant, ambitious individuals to reap private rewards for inventions and improvements benefited the public good. This revolutionary idea is a hallmark of American exceptionalism and entrepreneurship. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the doctrine of enlightened “self-interest rightly understood” was a part of America’s DNA from its founding. “You may trace it at the bottom of all their actions, you will remark it in all they say. It is as often asserted by the poor man as by the rich,” de Tocqueville wrote.

Francis Grund, a contemporary of de Tocqueville’s, also noted firsthand America’s insatiable willingness to work. “Active occupation is not only the principal source of their happiness, and the foundation of their natural greatness, but they are absolutely wretched without it. …Business is the very soul of an American,” he wrote.

Here is the marvel Obama and his command-and-control cronies fail to comprehend: From the Industrial Age to the Internet Age, the concentric circles of American innovation in the free marketplace are infinite. This miracle repeats itself millions of times a day through the voluntary interactions, exchanges and business partnerships of creative Americans and their clients, consumers and investors. No federal Department of Innovation or Ten-Point White House Action Plan for Progress can lay claim to the boundless synergies of these profit-earning capitalists.

No, but those government programs produce superior opportunities for graft.

ERIC S. RAYMOND: People Want To Make The Garner Killing About Race — If Only That Were True!

The truly terrifying thing about Eric Garner’s death is that I don’t think the cops in that video hated anybody. They were just doing their job. And their job included strangling a man to death for having sold “loosies” – untaxed cigarettes. Something he wasn’t doing when he was killed; he had just broken up a fight that the police came to investigate.

Garner had just broken up a fight. The police hassled him, based on his record as a (gasp!) vendor of untaxed cigarettes, and when he protested the force of law came down on him and snuffed him.

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville wrote a book called Democracy In America that has been justly celebrated for its perception about the young American republic ever since. In it, he warned of the dangers of what he called “soft despotism” – that “covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules”, all justified in soothing ways to achieve worthy objectives. Such as discouraging people from smoking by heavily taxing cigarettes.

Eric Garner died in a New York minute because “soft despotism” turned hard enough to kill him in cold blood. There was no anger there, no hate; the police simply failed to grasp the moral disproportion between the “crimes” he wasn’t even committing at the time and their use of force. And an investigating grand jury did no better.

Violent racists, as evil as they are, generally understand on some level that they’re doing wrong. That understanding is written all over the excuses they make. These cops didn’t need an excuse. They were doing their job. They were enforcing the law.

Remember, when you pass a law, you need to be willing to see people killed to enforce it.

MENTAL CONFUSION. PROBABLY FROM THAT CONCUSSION. Hillary flubs history lesson; thinks Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1930s.

MICHAEL BARONE: Millennials’ Path of Least Resistance:

Today the Millennials, write the Pew analysts, are “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion,” and significantly more unattached than the age cohorts (Generation Xers, Baby Boomers, Silent Generation) that came before.

Politically, 50 percent of Milennials classify themselves as Independents rather than Democrats or Republicans, compared to about 36 percent of their elders.

Millennials largely voted for Barack Obama — 66 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2012. But only 49 percent approve of his performance now, just a bit more than among Xers and Boomers. Only 34 percent of white Millennials rate Obama’s performance positively.

Most Millennials say they believe in God, but it’s a smaller majority than among older age groups, and only 36 percent say they see themselves as “a religious person,” versus nearly 60 percent of their elders. Some 29 percent of Millennials are religiously unaffiliated. They’re evidently moving away from their parents’ religion but not moving toward one of their own.

One reason may be that people tend to join churches when they marry and have children — and Millennials, so far, aren’t doing much of either. Only 26 percent of Millennials age 18 to 32 are married, far lower than other generations were at their age (Xers 36 percent, Boomers 48 percent, Silents 65 percent).

Millennials aren’t entirely rejecting parenthood, but 47 percent of births to Millennial women are outside of marriage. Even so, about 60 percent of Millennials, like their elders, say that having more children raised by a single parent is bad for society.

Unlike Tocqueville’s Americans, and unlike the generations just before them, Millennials seem to be avoiding marriage, church and political affiliation, and to lack a sense of social trust. Only 19 percent say that generally speaking most people can be trusted, compared to 31 percent to 40 percent among older generations.

This is in line with Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam’s thesis that social trust is declining in America.

So is that just sort of happening? Or are things being pushed in that direction?

JAMES HUFFMAN: The Real Public Servants. “Tocqueville recognized what nineteenth-century Americans understood and practiced—the public good is served by the individual pursuit of ‘self-interest well understood.’ Among our most public-spirited citizens are those who work with others, without the intervention or aid of government, in creating and sustaining the businesses upon which our economic and social prosperity rest. We should celebrate their public service.”

PAUL RAHE: China Chooses Despotism.

PAUL RAHE: Toqueville In China. “If Tocqueville’s book is being read, it is because at least some of the men who rule China are wondering whether their country is near a tipping point — in which a seemingly minor event (the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, for example) sets off a conflagration. Twenty-three years ago, at the time of Tiananmen Square, China very nearly came apart. Some Chinese, who know a lot more than I do about the state of affairs in their country, evidently think that it may do so again, and the very fact that are contemplating such a nightmare suggests that it may be on the horizon. If and when such a regime stops delivering the goods — even if only for a short time — there will be a fury unleashed.”

GONNA BE SOME HARD TIMES COMING DOWN: Starting with that allusion to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Victor Davis Hanson explores the Anatomies of Electoral Madness:

The crux for the next four years is whether we become California or transform into a sort of socialist Germany, where the work ethic, fiscal sobriety, and ingenuity trump counter-productive energy and social policies. In other words, will the frackers, horizontal drillers, farmers, engineers, Silicon Valley, Napa Valley, the American farm belt, the coal industry, Boeing, Apple, and Caterpillar just keep chugging along, pulling the rest of us into the accustomed prosperity despite, rather than because of, us? Will the American spirit, like German industriousness, override socialist redistribution, or succumb to it?

As far as why a majority voted as it did, I prefer the wisdom of the Old Oligarch, Plato on Democratic Man, or Tocqueville to the latest spin from Republican grandees.

Read the whole thing.™

FUTURE FRENCH FIRST LADY NICKNAMED ‘ROTTWEILER:’ Obama Immediately Extends Invitation to White House:

The 57-year-old Socialist has openly admitted that he “does not like the rich” and declared that “my real enemy is the world of finance”. This means taxing the wealthy by up to 75 per cent, curtailing the activities of Paris as a centre for financial dealing, and ploughing millions into creating more civil service jobs.

Add an explicit threat to renegotiate the euro pact to replace austerity with “growth-creating” spending, and you have one of the most vehemently left-wing programmes in recent history.

“France is doomed, but you already knew that,” blogger JammieWearingFool adds. At the Corner, they’re tolling the funeral bell for the rest of the continent as well:

In one sense, Europeans have no place left to go. They tried fascism and Communism; those proved deadly flops. That left state socialism’s “mixed economy.” The European Union was created in 1992 at the end of the Cold War — a victory, we note, of America’s making, not Europe’s — as a monument to socialism’s ideal of large centralized planned economies and societies. It’s the same ideal Obama and his liberal friends have worshiped for a generation — with only slightly less disastrous results here.

* * * *

Who knows. Maybe at the end of all this, Europeans will discover their own culture buried under two centuries of socialist and Marxist garbage: the Europe of Adam Smith and Tocqueville, of von Mises and Hayek, of Aristotle and Aquinas. Maybe they’ll realize their birthright as the original home of liberty and freedom, at long last.

I suspect “the end of this,” when and if Europe stumbles over what Tom Wolfe calls “The Great Relearning,” will be a long and painful time arriving in Europe.

MICHAEL LEDEEN: It’s Not The Constitution, Stupid! “It’s about power. And freedom. Power, because the president and his people think that, since they are smarter and better than the rest of us, anyone who tries to limit their power is bad, and has to be brought into line. Thus, the tough words of warning to any Justice contemplating voting against Obamacare. Freedom, because the accumulation of power in the hands of the executive branch comes at our expense, bit by bit and law by law, precisely as Alexis de Tocqueville feared.”

HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY: Prechter: The Last Time The Market Looked Like This Was Right Before The ’87 Crash.

Related: Fortune: Is this finally the economic collapse? The contrarian view, of course, is that once we start seeing these headlines, things are about to turn up. We’ll see. But there’s this:

Lest our doom and gloom seem built entirely on technical measurements, what they boil down to is actually quite simple — an idea about our country which dates back to 1835. Alexis De Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, which was published that year, seemed to warn of this day when he wrote: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

Ugh. Yeah.

UPDATE: Various readers point out that the Tocqueville quote, while common, is misattributed.

ROGER KIMBALL: Laffer vs. Zakaria — Who’s Right? “I do not expect that argument to make much of an impression on Fareed Zakaria or anyone else carrying water for the Democratic establishment. Why not? Because the economic effect of reducing taxes is for them a secondary consideration. What matters most to them is the political effect of raising taxes. . . . I believe the primary motivation was touched upon by Alexis de Tocqueville when he observed that the passion for equality was such in America that many people would ‘rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.’ And here we touch upon the toxic core of Obama’s economic policy: the admixture of economics, which is a pragmatic art or science, with the idea of ‘fairness,’ which is a moral or (more accurately) a moralistic issue.”

Personally, I believe that “fairness” consists in the fruits of my labor not being taken by corrupt hacks to redistribute to their cronies in exchange for votes.


What happened to the rich and powerful’s power? While the federal government debates Barack Obama’s proposals to milk the well-to-do, New York is poised to approve a substantial personal-income-tax hike for people making more than $500,000. New York’s business elites are now wondering how they lost out. . . . Dan Cantor, who runs the labor-affiliated Working Families Party, gave his own diagnosis. “We just work much harder than the right-wingers. They think they can just do it by writing checks to the politicians. We don’t have money. We have our passion.”

That’s not quite true. In Albany, the wealthiest and most well-connected groups often are representing the little guy. The teachers unions burn through $4 million a year on donations to state lawmakers and lobbying expenses, rivaling the outlays of the state’s hospital associations, which also pressed for a tax hike. Since December, the supporters of the rich tax—an alliance of organized labor and community-activist groups—waged a campaign that further weakened Governor Paterson. They spent millions on ads attacking him and staged feisty protests. (At one near City Hall last month, 1199 SEIU president George Gresham mocked his adversaries: “Where are the wealthy going to go? Iowa?”) . . .The idea of a moneyed underclass isn’t a new one. Tocqueville, a contemporary of President Jackson’s, saw wealth as a “cause of disfavor and an obstacle to gaining power” in America. The rich, he wrote, “never form a body which has manners and regulations of its own,” and prefer to retreat into private life than to “engage in an often unequal struggle against the poorest of their fellow citizens.”

Read the whole thing.

IN THE MAIL: From Yale Press, Paul Rahe’s Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect.

AUSTIN BAY: Tea Parties, Flash Mobs, and Tocqueville.

A TEA PARTY IN GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA: “Mike Miller brought his young daughter downtown Friday night to the “Greenville Tea Party” rally at the RiverPlace complex, as the Upstate Young Republicans and others protested the government spending in President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. They weren’t alone. A crowd estimated at 800 to 2,000 people took part in a loud hourlong rally, one of an estimated 60 around the country.”

Plus, a roundup from around the country.

Despite terrible weather in many cases, citizens braved the wind, cold, and rain to exercise their Constitutional right to protest the current direction of the country under Barack Obama and the Democrats.
In St. Louis, over 1500 attended the Tea Party at the famous arch.

In Chicago, between 800 and 1000 braved the bad weather to gather to protest the massive spending of taxpayers’ money by the federal government.

Atlanta was the site of another well-attended Tea Party.

Many smaller towns and cities participated in the semi-simultaneous events around the country, such as Shelby, Alabama, Asheville, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Reader Kaye Evans writes:

You have posted pictures of the Nashville Tea Party gathering at the Legislative Plaza on February 26, and there was much to be learned from the folks who came out on that rainy day.

I was there and spent more time studying the assembled crowd than listening to the speakers. I was struck by how the crowd grew throughout the lunch hour. Many I spoke with had traveled to be a part of the protest.

It was glaringly obvious that these folks were not the $250+K fat cats whom Obama castigates. These people represented the middle class who, ostensibly, will be “helped” by the stimulus spending bills. They clearly were not convinced; they were angered by the class warfare components of his economic policies and the awareness that the burden of his ruinous spending will eventually become theirs to bear.

On a related note, may I suggest an appropriate coda for the New American Tea Party?

In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville cautioned, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

I think we’ll see more people upset about this as time passes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here are a couple of pictures from the Sarasota Tea Party. More on that here.

And here’s TV coverage from Neil Cavuto.

And reader Miles Wilson says don’t give Rick Santelli too much credit: “Just wanted to remind you that the Rick Santelli ‘rant’ was not the genesis of this movement – in fact, at least four events (Seattle, Denver, Mesa, Overland Park) occurred before the coining of the term ‘tea party’. So credit where credit is due – to the grassroots organizers far from the madding media crowd.”

(Had it as “Mike” Wilson earlier; sorry for the error.}

PLAGIARISM CHARGES AIMED AT SAM BROWNBACK: Seems like pretty weak tea to me.

Some thoughts of mine on plagiarism, including a defense of Joe Biden, can be found here. And read this, too.

UPDATE: The “Toqueville quote” is apparently spurious anyway.

WELL, DANG: It looks as if the Times Literary Supplement review of Jim Bennett’s new book isn’t going to be available online to nonsubscribers, at least not today. But North Sea Diaries has a bit of it. And I’ve got a bit more below — click “read more” to read it.

Continue reading ‘WELL, DANG: It looks as if the Times Literary Supplement review of Jim Bennett’s new book isn’t goi…’ »