America • Democrats • Elections • Identity Politics • Libertarians • Political Parties • Post • Progressivism • race • Republicans • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker)

The Real Rising Extremism in America

As the adage goes, “Accuse your opponents of that which you are guilty.” Avoid the blame, or embarrassment, for your own vices by first declaring that your enemies are guilty of those same ills so that the disgust and attention are shifted away from you.

The American Left has all but mastered this tactic, having successfully accused the Republican Party—and the Right as a whole—of being bigoted, sexist, racist, and the like, while completely erasing the Democratic Party’s history as supporters of slavery, against women’s suffrage, and in favor of segregation and Jim Crow. Their dramatic switch came only when it was politically expedient for them to attempt it, as Lyndon Johnson understood with his infamous (private) declaration before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (For those who aren’t aware . . . let’s just say Johnson had a blunt way of declaring that African-Americans would be loyal to Democrats for the next two centuries.)

But this tactic has never before been used so liberally (pardon the pun) as it is used today, where just about every person to the right of Joseph Stalin is “literally Hitler,” anyone who voted for Trump (if even reluctantly) is “alt-right,” and anyone who opposes open borders, multiculturalism, and globalism is “far-right.” Everyone from libertarians to Christians is part of some kind of fringe, although the definition of “fringe” now encompasses the bulk of the cloth.

Enter the SPLC
No group perpetuates this insidious propaganda campaign more than the left-wing hate-group known as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which (of course) covers for its own obvious status as a hate-group by constantly labeling other organizations “hate groups.”

Recently, the SPLC released a report that might well be considered the Left’s equivalent of the Ottomans storming the gates of Constantinople: The report claimed that a record number of white nationalists are running for office in the United States in 2018—more than at any time in our history. Of course, on the surface, this sounds terrible—like the absolute end of political decency in America. More white nationalists running than ever before? What have we come to?

A quick look beyond the headline, however, reveals how ludicrous this statement is. This “record number” equates to . . . eight white nationalists in total, running from across the entire country, in seven different states (two in California, of all places, and one in six other states), and most running primarily for the House of Representatives.

This is the same as recent “studies” claiming, for example, that the rate of suicide among young women has reached record highs . . . while neglecting to mention that this “high” is only 5.2 percent, whereas the rate among young men is nearly five times as much, at 23.7 percent. Clearly, cherry-picked facts contribute to the Left’s favorite narratives, while ignoring what the larger picture says. Even if it’s a record, it is still very low.

Of course, even if confronted with these inconveniently small numbers, the Left’s narrative will only shift to something along the lines of: “Who cares how many it is? The rhetoric of DRUMPF and the GOP is encouraging these people!”


Should Trump take the blame for his campaign being endorsed by David Duke? And what difference does it make if white nationalists claim to be Republicans but are roundly condemned by the party in every way?

Patrick Little, who ran for U.S. Senate in California on a platform of wanting to exterminate and/or remove all Jews from America, was condemned by the state party, kicked out of the party convention, and won a grand total of 55,000 votes, or about 1.4 percent overall. Big whoop.

Paul Nehlen, the borderline-psychotic antisemite running for Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin, has been condemned not only by the party but even by those who once backed his candidacy, such as Steve Bannon.

Two other House candidates, Arthur Jones in Illinois and John Fitzgerald in California, have also been condemned by the state parties, and even then only advanced to the general elections because they were the only “Republican” candidates running, in safely blue seats that the parties opted to not waste time or effort on with serious candidates.

And Nathan Larson in Virginia is of no concern to either major party since he is running as an independent candidate (and is a former Libertarian). His candidacy, however, can be seen as a stand-in for a referendum on Democratic policies if nothing else, since the convicted felon and open pedophile is only able to run for Congress because the Democratic former governor Terry McAuliffe pardoned thousands of felons like Larson.

The fact remains that none of these lunatics are actually going to win in their respective races. So why worry about them?

Socialists Ascendant
Meanwhile, there is another, equally vile but actually dangerous radical movement arising. This movement is dangerous because it is openly endorsed by one of the major parties and its advocates have the potential to win seats and wield real political power.

Out-and-proud socialists are running for office, in numbers that easily match the “record” numbers of white nationalists. In Pennsylvania alone, four outright socialists—backed by the Democratic Socialists of America—won the Democratic Party nominations for state House races. Two of them do not have any Republican challengers for the general election, and so are guaranteed seats in the Pennsylvania legislature come November. One of them arrogantly declared, “We’re turning the state the right shade of red tonight.”

Yes, very red indeed. Red like the blood of the more than 100 million people who were killed by Communism over the course of the 20th century— a body count that vastly exceeds any total the Nazis ever dreamed of achieving.

In one of the races that the SPLC was so fixated upon—the race where Patrick Little came in 12th place—the second-place finisher for U.S. Senate was California State Senator Kevin de León, a socialist-leaning politician who, in addition to his open contempt for the Second Amendment, advocates single-payer, top-down healthcare.

Or what about that race to replace the retiring Paul Ryan? The Democratic frontrunner in that district is Randy Bryce, another single-payer proponent as well as a backer of a $15-an-hour minimum wage. He is endorsed by independent socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and the group Justice Democrats, which was founded by leading figures from Sanders’ presidential campaign, as well as the far-Left, Armenian Genocide-denying YouTube channel The Young Turks.

The Sound of Silence
In response to these outrageous candidates, do you hear any Democrat disavowals or cries of extremism? Is there any condemnation for those who proudly run for office under the hammer and sickle? Do you see any leaders of the party calling upon members to virtue-signal their disgust with the most racialist advocates of identity politics who openly express hatred for white people? What major party leader is out there on the national stage insisting that their party is not represented by these people and that it cannot be a home to those who do?

Of course, you will hear nothing of the sort. This kind of polarizing behavior is encouraged by Democrat leaders because it has the effect of locking in the voting blocs they want and need.

Look no further than the fact that perhaps the two biggest heroes of socialism in America today—Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—are both running for re-election this year, ahead of intense speculation that one or both of them could be frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

And when the Democrats are not touting outright socialism, they are casually allowing their own brand of ethnic nationalism to sweep right into the mainstream.

As numerous Democratic figures have refused to disavow the black nationalist and antisemite Louis Farrakhan, even as his continued presence and growing influence have encouraged like-minded individuals to run for office as Democrats.

In Georgia, a 26-year-old African-American woman named Mariah Parker was elected as a county commissioner in a very close race. In a photo that has since gone viral, she was sworn into office with one hand on a Malcolm X biography, while the other is held in the air in the notorious “black power” fist.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, 22-year-old YouTuber and former national leader of Students for Trump, James Allsup, was elected to a similar position in Washington state. But when he was accused of being a white nationalist, he was condemned by the local, state, and national parties . . . even though he has repeatedly stated he is not a white nationalist (calling himself instead a paleoconservative, a right-leaning libertarian, and an American nationalist), and even condemned the violence and hateful imagery displayed in Charlottesville.

Double-Standards Everywhere
The contrast could not be any more clear. It goes without saying that white nationalists, though not supported by any major party or sensible political figure, continue to draw outsized media attention. Those white nationalists who choose to run as Republicans are often just opportunists seeking the quick and easy attention they know they can so easily get at the moment. Others who are accused of being white nationalists can deny these claims up and down, seventeen different ways from Sunday. But once the claim is made, spineless Republicans can’t wait to disown them.

Meanwhile, outright socialists, black nationalists, and antisemites are excused, ignored, or even openly celebrated by the Democratic Party at large. Where’s the outrage? It doesn’t even exist.

We should not waste any more time falling for the Left’s cries of “white nationalist” when there are clearly none (or, at least, none that are a legitimate problem or political threat). Instead, we should focus on the actual wolves that only seek to do us harm. The true radicals threatening America’s very identity are not on the Right. They are on the Left.

That is why the Left keeps accusing us of being radicals, ethnic nationalists, and antisemites. They’re the guilty ones, and they know it. Soon enough, the rest of the country will know it too.

Photo credit: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

America • China • Donald Trump • Economy • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • GOPe • Libertarians • Post • Trade

No, Tariffs Are Not ‘Domestic Sanctions’

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is not democratic—it’s barely even a republic. The same goes for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos).

In fact, if a country includes democratic in its name, you can safely assume that it’s not democratic. This is a classic example of, what I like to call, the wisdom of irony: things are often not what they claim to be, and the more they claim, the less they are.

Consider Reason Magazine. In a recent piece, columnist A. Barton Hinkle argues that tariffs are sanctions, since both limit imports into nations. Basically, Hinkle’s argument rests on the classic logical principle: “if it looks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Unfortunately, Hinkle’s conclusion is fundamentally unreasonable. As always, the Devil’s in the details—details which he conveniently ignores.

Strength Through Adversity
Hinkle begins with a hubristic bang:

No one would ever accuse Donald Trump of meticulous adherence to the rules of formal logic. But even the president ought to realize the strongest argument against Trump’s tariffs on American imports has been made by Trump himself.

Trump’s implied “argument” runs as follows: both sanctions and tariffs restrict imports to the targeted nation. Therefore, since sanctions harm foreign nations (like Iran), then tariffs should likewise harm America. Basically, Hinkle thinks sanctions are tariffs, and tariffs are sanctions.

Hinkle then brands yours truly as one of “Trump’s cheerleaders” for making the rather obvious point that technology drives economic growth, and moving technology-generating industries abroad will slow domestic economic growth. This point is axiomatic and not open to debate. I suspect this is why Hinkle avoids addressing my argument entirely, and instead turns to sophistry, reframing the debate by conflating sanctions and tariffs.

Hinkle’s first mistake is to assume that sanctions cause harm. Often, they don’t. Instead, minor sanctions routinely trigger hormetic responses, causing economic growth. This is because the economy is an organic system, which benefits from stress (to a point) due to the principle of overcompensation. Just as muscles get stronger in response to the stress of lifting weights, or forests grow lusher in the wake of forest fires, economies get more productive when times get tough (but not too tough).

For example, Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution would likely have been stillborn if not for the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Were it not for the labor shortage caused by war, there would have been far less demand for the productivity-boosting machinery that created the modern world. Likewise, Napoleon’s blockade of the British Isle forced Britain to become economically independent, rather than relying on imports from the Netherlands and Hanseatic States. This greatly diversified Britain’s economy and opened up additional development paths. Were it not for these stressors, steam technology could have been abandoned in favor of human labor—just as it was in Ancient Greece, Rome, and China.

Of course, sanctions can also be damaging—but only when the damage they cause exceeds the economy’s ability to (over)compensate. Consider Britain’s blockade of the German Empire in World War I. Perhaps the chief reason Germany lost was that it lacked rubber (most of which came from Anglo-French Siam). Without rubber, the Germans couldn’t build conveyor belts, many vital industrial components, and—most importantly—tires. No rubber, no industry.

There are two lessons here. First, Britain’s rubber sanctions worked only because Germany’s economy was unable to compensate fast enough. Second, Germany’s economy did compensate to some degree: the Germans invented a way to make synthetic rubber. Although this technology did not arrive in time to save Germany’s immediate war effort, it did make them immune to Britain’s rubber blockade in World War II. Overcompensation did occur, and it did make Germany stronger in the long run. So did Britain’s rubber sanctions work? Yes and no: it depends on the time-horizon.

My point here is that when debating, never accept your opponent’s presumptions without careful consideration. Hinkle’s argument only makes sense if you agree that sanctions are always bad for the sanctioned—this isn’t true. Sanctions only produce harm past a certain tipping point, otherwise they tend to stimulate economic growth. This same logic applies to tariffs.

There is wisdom in the Old English proverb: necessity is the mother of invention.

A Dam is Not a Wall
Let’s assume that everything I’ve said until now is false and that when America imposes sanctions they always harm our opponents. Would this vindicate Hinkle? No.

Long run economic growth depends upon technological growth—not free trade, not immigration, not low taxes, etc. Technology is the only factor that matters: it’s what separates the West from the rest, and ourselves from our ancestors (economically speaking). Understanding this is the key to understanding why tariffs won’t hurt America in the same way sanctions hurt Iran.

America invents technology and generates knowledge—America is at the cutting-edge of science. This is good, because it means we reap the lion’s share of profits from new discoveries, while everyone else plays catch-up. So long as America stays at the cutting-edge, we will remain the world’s richest nation.

However, many of America’s most advanced industries are currently moving abroad to save money. After all, labor is cheaper in India, and China’s government provides generous subsidies for American firms to relocate. This is a problem, because it decreases the likelihood that the next paradigm-shifting technology will be invented in America. By increasing import costs, tariffs prevent American companies from leaving, thus “locking-in” our advantage.

Tariffs are best viewed as a dam, keeping America’s economic advantage from flowing away.

On the other hand, sanctions are best viewed as a wall, preventing American technology from flowing into less advanced nations. Take Cuba, for example. Cuba is a technological backwater—something like a poverty-stricken 1950s movie set. Since they cannot generate their own new technology, they rely on imported technology. No imports, no economic growth. The same thing applies to Iran (to a lesser degree).

Hinkle and the rest of the free trade brigade fail to recognize this rather obvious asymmetry: Cuba needs America, but America does not need Cuba. Thus, American sanctions will harm Cuba, but American tariffs on Cuban goods will not harm America. It’s a one-way street. In fact, tariffs will actually benefit America’s economy by providing a minor stressor that triggers a hormetic response and discourages America’s advanced industries from offshoring.

That Hinkle and the editors at Reason would unreasonably confuse tariffs with sanctions is not surprising—after all, there is a wisdom in irony.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Big Media • Elections • Identity Politics • Law and Order • Libertarians • Political Parties • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • the family • The Left • The Media

Politically Correct Pedophilia

It’s practically a cliché when an old guy or a conservative complains about declining moral standards. But with the news of a professed pedophile now openly seeking a seat in Congress and placing his pedophilia front and center as part of his platform, I feel fairly secure in passing judgment on our society. Something is very wrong here.

Nathan Larson, 37, who has gone on record to proclaim that he is a pedophile and rapist is running for a congressional seat in Virginia. Larson’s political platform includes the legalization of child pornography, marital rape, incest, abolition of child protective services, and a repeal of the 19th Amendment.

When asked by Huffington Post reporters whether he merely writes about pedophilia or engages in it, he proudly proclaimed, “It’s a mix of both.” He also admitted to running and posting in chat rooms dedicated to promoting rape and pedophilia. In one of these, using the administrator pseudonym “Lysander,” Larson noted:

I just want to bang my daughter, actually, but even if it were legal, I’m not sure it would happen, since i don’t have custody. After sex with kids is legalized, parents (or other guardians) will still be gatekeepers to some extent, and a lot of them will want to bang their own kids and not share with others.

Charming. Thankfully, he lost custody of his child. But his first wife committed suicide after he reportedly abused and raped her repeatedly.

The Huffington Post could barely contain itself as Trump’s name came up. The article concluded with a quote in which Larson compares himself to President Trump: “A lot of people who disagreed with someone like Trump . . . might vote for them anyway just because the establishment doesn’t like them.” (I’d love to see what was left out of those ellipses). The article seems to attempt to smear Trump supporters with the brush of this one reprobate.  

Larson calls his platform “quasi-neoreactionary libertarian.” I have no clue what that means, but I’m fairly sure that Ron Paul and Gary Johnson would want nothing to do with this guy. Regardless where and to whom Larson lends his “support” or compares himself, or with what party he claims to affiliate, reasonable people—regardless of politics or party—would agree he is beyond the pale.

Can we safely assume we live in a nation sufficiently populated with reasonable people when a man like this feels free not only to reveal himself but to run for office? The Trump mention is low hanging fruit, and grabbing at it is to miss a broader point. Namely, we now live in a society where pedophiles proudly run for office—on political platforms that paint them as victims.

The Irony of Troll-as-Victim
We inhabit a social ecosystem where the forces of political correctness, deconstruction of traditional mores, and intersectionality all conspired to permit this person to believe that platforming pedophilia and the creation of a troll-as-victim-class was a good idea and the natural outgrowth of expanding “rights.” Political correctness, with its focus on the primacy of victimology based on group identity, worked in tandem with critical theory. The result is the fungibility of ethics that creates this mess.

The irony, of course, is that Larson rails against political correctness but, of course, he himself is one of its primary beneficiaries. At no time before the rise of political correctness could a professed pedophile dare to expose himself to the wider culture. Yet here we are. It is precisely the ethos of victimhood capital and the unmooring of morality from any traditional continuity—phenomena actively promoted by political correctness, cultural Marxism, and critical theory—that allows a disgusting creature like Nathan Larson to believe not only that he and his ilk are a victim class beset upon by arbitrary notions of morality, but that their cause is just and needs vocal representation. As victimhood increasingly becomes political currency, it becomes progressively easier to create subjectively defined categories for victimhood.

In 2014, the New York Times published an article that laid out to the general public the intellectual foundations for pedophile victimhood when it ran an opinion piece by Rutgers professor Margo Kaplan. Kaplan argued that instead of shaming pedophiles and treating them as the stains on humanity that they are, we should, instead, pity them and allow them to come out of the shadows.

Further, as critical theory-laden politically correct culture dispensed with traditional notions of morality in favor of subjective relativism and made “shaming” an unjustifiable moral injustice this kind of thing was bound to happen.

Pedophiles and rapists no longer hide in the shadows. Their shame is gone. Moreover, they take pride in their perceived victimhood. Shame is, in part, a social regulation of norms based upon mutually adhered to moral criteria. As tradition and the idea of traditional moral criteria itself becomes suspect due to the influence of critical theory and cultural Marxism, shame disappears. What’s worse is that it is replaced with a sense of pride and perceived victimhood.

Still Reason for Hope Amid Concern
Ultimately, I still have faith that most of us—regardless of party, politics, race, sex, or socioeconomic status—can recognize that Nathan Larson is exactly the kind of disgusting reprobate who deserves not only our collective scorn, but who also should feel a constant social pressure to be ashamed of his thoughts and actions. And if he truly is guilty of the crimes he has admitted to, he ought to be in jail. This implies that the forces of political correctness, with its victimology gospel, and critical theory, with its indictment of all traditional morality, haven’t triumphed completely.  

It should be disconcerting to all of us, however, that Nathan Larson is not only unashamed, but that he is proud and emboldened by those social forces that allow him to proclaim his desires while simultaneously permitting him to consider himself a victim of society.

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Immigration • Libertarians • Post • The Constitution • The Media

It Is Not Immoral to Deport Criminal Immigrants

George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin argued recently from his perch at the Volokh Conspiracy that “[i]mmigrants who commit offenses worthy of retribution should be punished. But they should not be subjected to any more punishment than native-born Americans who commit the same crimes. That means they should not be deported, unless deportation is also imposed on natives” (emphasis added).

Somin acknowledges that his position is outside the mainstream, and he rests his argument on the moral arbitrariness of deporting immigrants. In his words, “[I]t is wrong to punish people for morally arbitrary characteristics that are beyond their control.” Such characteristics include “race, gender, ethnicity, and—in this case—where you happen to be born, and to which parents . . . Even if a person has committed an offense that merits retribution, it is wrong to inflict additional punishment on them simply because they have the wrong parents” (emphasis in original).

What’s wrong with that? The problem is, Somin simply takes for granted that citizenship status is a “morally arbitrary” characteristic. He really doesn’t even assert this; he simply assumes it to be true. Except, it’s not at all obvious that being an immigrant, whether legal or not, is irrelevant to the sorts of punishments for which one should be eligible.

One can only come to Somin’s position by taking for granted that a nation presumptively has no right to exclude foreigners, or to decide on what terms they will enter the nation, or when and how they will become citizens—if at all. But that clearly has not been the historical norm; nations have exercised their right to exclude for all sorts of reasons and have opened up or restricted immigration throughout history. Our own present-day, wide open immigration policy is, by no means, a preordained state of affairs.

Somin’s view seems to be predicated on the notion that a nation-state is just a place where people congregate to engage in commerce or some such minimal amount of activity. Instead, if one sees a nation-state as something more—a repository of historical memory, a land of shared symbols, a particular place populated by people who partake in common rituals, traditions, and understandings of the world—then it makes sense that those who are citizens of that nation-state would be loath to permit entry of those whom they believe would not readily embrace or adapt to that project.

Perhaps if Somin were distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants, he would have a point. It probably would be (morally) wrong to deport legal immigrants for anything but serious, violent felonies (e.g., murder, rape, armed robbery), and perhaps, too, it would be imprudent (which is not to say immoral) to become too enthusiastic with a deportation regime—even one that focuses most of its resources on illegal immigrants. But this is quite different from Somin’s position: that no immigrant can be deported at all unless natives are also subject to deportation.

That is also why Somin’s position that “[d]eportation of immigrants convicted of crimes might not be a major moral problem if it was limited to those who commit very serious offenses” is rather puzzling. How, precisely, is the seriousness of the offense relevant? If it is deeply immoral to deport any criminal immigrant—illegal or otherwise—because that subjects them to an enhanced punishment to which natives are not subject, then why does the seriousness of that crime matter at all? If we buy Somin’s argument about the “arbitrary” nature of characteristics that make one a non-citizen, what is it about murder versus, say, mail fraud that suddenly transforms the subsequent deportation from “illegitimate” to “legitimate”?

It appears to be nothing more than an unprincipled attempt to correct a deeply misguided view with unsavory implications—i.e., no immigrant, no matter how heinous their crimes, could ever be deported—but it doesn’t hold water. If immigrants can’t be deported when they commit a crime because to do so would be on the basis of some arbitrary characteristic, and this is wrong, then the seriousness of their crime shouldn’t matter, either—unless Somin provides an argument for why “seriousness of the crime” can suddenly outweigh “discriminatory, enhanced punishment.” But he doesn’t, and we have no reason to think it does.

Somin’s view is confused because his concept of the nation-state is too thin to support anything beyond procedural liberalism: a commitment to pretending that all persons are exactly the same morally—even when they’re clearly not.

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America • American Conservatism • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Free Speech • GOPe • Identity Politics • Libertarians • Post

Conservatism, Inc. Collides with the Real World

The saga of Kanye West’s recent transformation into a free-thinking, ostensibly right-leaning Twitter phenomenon brings with it interesting developments for the Right. One of these results is a widening of the divisions among what I like to call the “Young Right.”

At the epicenter of this divide is the organization Turning Point USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that has inserted itself directly into the spotlight on the heels of this and many other of the latest socio-political dustups, despite having only been founded in 2012. Whether it’s through Candace Owens’ central role in the Kanye saga, or the group’s hiring of Kyle Kashuv, the pro-Second Amendment Parkland shooting survivor, TPUSA undoubtedly has taken huge steps to frame the narrative and utilize the most prominent voices charging forward on whatever happens to be capturing the popular imagination on cultural/political front lines. The organization has also capitalized on founder Charlie Kirk’s close relationship with the Trump family.

In response to TPUSA’s meteoric rise, a recent article in Vice by libertarian student Will Nardi declares “TPUSA is a safe space for the worst of campus conservatism,” and that “right-leaning students can do much, much better.” The result is an annoying combination of the most basic leftist talking points and the usual platitudes of pearl-clutching “principled conservatives.”

Even in his opening lines, Nardi displays a complete lack of perspective or ability to grasp the central issue. Announcing that Kanye has stirred up “outrage” in the past month, Nardi just drops the assertion at the top of his piece without going into specifics. Who is outraged? Why? If stirring up outrage is a supposedly a problem, don’t these questions matter?

Since this kind of indignant assertion is common and oft-repeated in his article; I will use the phrase “citation needed” whenever necessary to point it out. Things may get . . . repetitive.

The article’s original title reflects a similar cluelessness: “This Kanye-Endorsed Group Is Ruining Campus Conservatism.” (The headline since has been changed; perhaps Vice’s editors realized they’d gone over the top? See screenshot.)

Not only is the claim of an endorsement by Kanye worthy of a (citation needed) but this label is slapped onto the organization with the clear intention of being an insult. If anything, the would-be slight has the opposite effect. TPUSA seems more interesting, not less, because of its perceived association with West. But people like Nardi are so blinkered by their orthodoxy that they miss this.

The new title aims to be no less snide, however, and remains just as false: “I’m a Campus Conservative and I Can’t Stand This Right-Wing Group.” Way to supply your Leftist overlords with the only kind of red meat they’ll eat: the kind laced with right-wing infighting and self-flagellation. But, of course, this all assumes that libertarians like Nardi are actually part of a politically viable Right, which they aren’t. But I digress.

The Usual Guilt-By-Association Fallacies
Nardi then accuses TPUSA of racism, all because four former employees of the organization were discovered to have made racist comments about African-Americans in their social media feeds. While the comments in question are reprehensible, the idea that this makes all of TPUSA racist is just as idiotic as claiming that Donald Trump is a white supremacist because he was endorsed by David Duke. Remember: the employees involved are now ex-employees.

The self-described libertarian then ramps up the increasingly left-wing rhetoric as he lists ever more reasons to dislike TPUSA, going after their annual conferences—or, as he describes them, “donor-subsidized safe spaces” that feature “propaganda” (citation needed). He further criticizes them with the stinging rebuke that such conferences are not eternal (gasp!), and the attendees must eventually go back to “the real world” and come to the realization that “the real world isn’t a never-ending Trump rally.”

Nardi asserts that “they organize speaker events” and “recruit more naive kids” after attending such conferences. How awful of them! Nardi does not offer any explanation about what makes TPUSA’s conferences any different in these respects from other “safe space” conservative conference like those of CPAC or the National Conservative Student Conference (NCSC).

Nardi chastises TPUSA for inviting such individuals as former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos and Gateway Pundit White House Correspondent Lucian Wintrich to speak on campus. He says that when he found out that the TPUSA chapter at his college was going to host the latter, he emailed the national TPUSA office to “warn them of who they were inviting,” since he claims Wintrich is “conspiratorial” (citation needed).

He blatantly admits to trying to de-platform a right-wing speaker with whom he disagrees, even though he admits a few sentences later that this is a left-wing tactic.

Whose Cult is it Anyway?
After reaching this pinnacle of hypocrisy, Nardi makes a dramatic hard-right turn with a lecture more typically found on the web pages of The Blaze or The Weekly Standard.

TPUSA, he says, “is less a conservative organization than a cult of personality around Trump, with Kirk as the high priest.” This is weird given that Kirk was actually anti-Trump during the election. I grant Nardi that it has been interesting to watch Kirk suddenly shift into such a pro-Trump cheerleader after November 8, 2016, but one could say that about a lot of people.

Nardi then claims that TPUSA “breaks with traditional conservatives in nearly every possible way.” (Citation needed.) His only piece of “evidence” is a Tweet from Candace Owens in which she calls Trump “the savior” of Western Civilization. He rather snidely remarks that “As a Christian, watching anyone use the word savior for anyone besides the son of God is frankly jarring.” I certainly was not aware that “traditional conservatism” was all about religious language policing, a tactic that combines the worst of the politically correct left and the ultra-religious right.

And it is here, towards the end of the article, where Nardi gets to his “solution” to TPUSA and the scourge of the pro-Trump crowd: He promotes alternative groups. One example is Young Americans for Freedom, a group with which he proudly declares his involvement because it was founded by “conservative icon” William F. Buckley, and “continues to memorialize the legacy of Ronald Reagan’s personality.” So according to Nardi, a cult of personality around Trump is bad, but a cult of personality around Reagan? Very good.

While Reagan undoubtedly was a great president, he has been gone for 14 years and he left office 30 years ago. Chasing a great man’s ghost is every bit as effective as chasing after Coolidge’s legacy or asking “What Would Lincoln Do?” about MS-13. If there are lessons there (and there are!) they are not obvious. They are subjects for study and debate rather than rallies.

Moreover, Buckley’s legacy is most certainly in tatters. The times have eclipsed the existential crisis facing the nation when he rose to prominence and, necessarily, the politics have changed. We aren’t fighting the Cold War anymore. And our internal cold war has moved to new fronts as we’ve lost ground on others.  Buckley’s one lasting accomplishment is the (more or less) anti-Trump National Review, which has recently suggested that conservatives shouldn’t dismiss feminism and that a “compromise” is necessary on transgenderism.

Into the Real World
I, too, was involved in YAF in college. I interned for YAF’s Ronald Reagan Ranch Center in Santa Barbara for a year and a half and was the founding chairman of the YAF chapter at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From my experience, while there were some anti-Trump students in the organization, there were plenty of pro-Trump voices, too. Among YAF’s most prominent connections to the Trump White House are Jeff Sessions and Kellyanne Conway. Their most recent NCSC in 2017 featured prominent pro-Trump voices such as Newt Gingrich, Dennis Prager, and Nigel Farage, as well as Trump Administration officials like Conway, Ben Carson, and Vice President Mike Pence.

Nardi then suggests more libertarian alternatives for “non-Christian conservatives,” even though libertarianism isn’t “conservative.”He pitches a group called “Students for Liberty.” He supports this alternative by claiming that “Trump’s commitment to conservative economic orthodoxy is shaky at best.” The idea that there is such a thing as “conservative economic orthodoxy,” in the sense of checklists and policy prescriptions rather than a principle of protecting American interests first, is precisely the thing that distinguishes libertarians from conservatives, it turns out. Considering Trump has done more to deregulate the U.S. economy and cut taxes than any president in recent history, I’m curious as to how Nardi can prove his claim without falling into the error of equating libertarianism with conservatism, but . . . citation needed.

In addition, Nardi suggests the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, also founded by Buckley. Sounds exciting, right? According to Nardi, ISI has “an emphasis on reading groups and academic conferences.” Because when I think of going into battle with the Left, my go-to weapon is a reading group. (Perhaps if you throw the books hard enough . . .)

Nardi concludes by asking us to live “in the real world” rather than “in Trump’s fantasy,” and that he feels sorry for “the people hiding in TPUSA’s safe space.” Last I checked, Donald J. Trump is president of the United States in the real world. I would think that charges of inhabiting a “fantasy” or a “safe space” stick far more damningly to so-called “conservative” groups that pretend President Trump doesn’t exist and that they can go about their work as though 2016 never happened.

This entire catastrophe of a non-argument boils down to just another individual who is jealous about TPUSA’s massive strides in the culture war, in the same way Tomi Lahren is. TPUSA is not focused on praising leaders of the past or in organizing reading groups about economic conservatism (however laudable such enterprises might be in the abstract) because they’re fighting the culture war through unusual—but effective—conduits like Kanye West in the here and now. You might almost call it the real world. In so doing, they’ve recruited more African-Americans to the Right in just a few weeks than “principled conservatives” have done in 50 years.

America • Americanism • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Jeff Sessions • Law and Order • Libertarians • Post • Terrorism • The Left • The Leviathian State • the Presidency • Trump White House

Another Flawed Attempt at Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal justice reform is returning to political prominence, thanks to Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of its most ardent advocates. Ordinarily, that might be good news. But once again, the legislation at issue is so badly flawed that passage would cost taxpayers billions, yield little in the way of public safety or relief for the federal prison system and—at least according to liberal prison reformers—little reform.

The House Judiciary Committee, in a rare burst of bipartisan energy, last week passed the latest rendition of this recurrent theme. In an unusual non-party line 25-5vote, HR 5682, a watered-down version of legislation that has been kicking around Congress for several years, advanced toward consideration by the full House. Supporters hope the bill—which is also known as the FIRST STEP Act—will have a vote in the next couple of weeks.

HR 5682 would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide more resources to reduce the likelihood of recidivism and ease reentry of prisoners back into society. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate but has yet to be taken up by the Judiciary Committee. A very different bill, encompassing a considerably wider array of reform, did pass the Senate Judiciary Committee several months ago over the objection of five Republican members.

The current bill has, not surprisingly, a wide list of supporters and opponents. To try to gain supporters, some of the most objectionable provisions of older legislation were left out and several new provisions added. Kushner has been able to secure White House backing, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly opposes it. Several libertarian right-of-center groups, including those controlled by the Koch brothers, are strong supporters, while a number of left-wing groups, including the ACLU, People for the American Way and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights strongly oppose the legislation because it doesn’t go far enough.

Among the bill’s major flaws is a provision that would require every federal prisoner, without exception, be placed in a facility within 500 miles of home. The first problem? There are some 22,000 gang members in the federal system, many placed far from rivals to avoid violence in the prisons. Many, if not all, would have to be moved at vast expense.

Second, it is doubtful that any member voting in favor of the bill ever looked at a map of federal prison locations. They would notice vast swaths of the United States—particularly in the western part of the country—have no federal prisons. Needless to say, thousands of federal prisoners are housed in facilities well over 500 miles from home. As an example, there is no federal prison facility between Sheridan, Oregon and Yankton, South Dakota—a distance of over 1,600 miles. Either many new prisons would have to be built or presumably tens of thousands of prisoners would be released.

Worse, there is only one federal “supermax” prison in the country, located in Florence, Colorado. Its guests include a rogue’s gallery of the country’s worst criminals, foreign terrorists, domestic terrorists, mafia kingpins and other infamous thugs. Among of its more infamous inmates, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is certainly more than 500 miles from home. So is Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will have a cell waiting after his conviction in New York.

Florence is also home to al-Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 terrorist attack, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, and Terry Nichols of Oklahoma City fame, to name a few. While Florence houses some 400 other prisoners, it is hard to imagine that home is within 500 miles for any of them. New, regional supermax prisons would need to be constructed at great expense to taxpayers.

If passed, supporters of this ill-conceived legislation tell us that it would immediately release some 4,000 federal prisoners by retroactively increasing good-time credits, and would provide liberal good-time credits for participation in rehabilitation programs, with the exception of violent offenders. But heroin and fentanyl traffickers are excluded from the list of violent criminals, allowing these often multi-offenders to return to the streets early to ply their trade.

Left-wing group oppose HR 5682 because it fails to include sentencing reform—particularly reducing mandatory minimum sentences for violent and repeat offenders. That provision has been opposed by the Department of Justice and an array of law enforcement organizations, who have dubbed it the “jailbreak” bill.

Although criminal justice reform is viewed as one of the few bi-partisan measures having even a slim chance of passage, this one, thankfully, still faces  huge hurdles. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley opposes the new House bill but is a strong backer of the bill passed earlier in the year by his committee. So, in the end, it may be a pretty good bet that those 4,000 early release candidates should not pack their bags yet.

Photo credit:  BOB DAEMMRICH/AFP/Getty Images

America • American Conservatism • Congress • Immigration • Libertarians • Neil Gorsuch • Post • The Constitution • The Courts • The Left

Has Gorsuch ‘Gone Wobbly’ Already?

A Supreme Court decision on immigration that was not expected to be controversial instead attracted wide attention upon its release last week. The reason: Justice Neil Gorsuch, the much-heralded successor to the legendary Antonin Scalia, joined with the High Court’s four liberals to overturn an immigration statute on the grounds that it was “void for vagueness,” over the strenuous dissent of the court’s conservative bloc: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The majority in Sessions v. Dimaya held that the catch-all (or “residual clause”) definition of the term “crime of violence”—any felony other than enumerated offenses involving “a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another” may be used—was too vague to be enforced. Hence, by a 5-4 vote, the court halted the deportation of a noncitizen serial felon twice convicted of first-degree burglary.

The press corps generally reacted with a “man bites dog” lede, focusing on Gorsuch’s defection from the conservative bloc. Many news reports mentioned how the majority relied on a 2015 decision written by Scalia (decided by an 8-1 vote, with only Alito dissenting), Johnson v. United Stateswhich held that a criminal statute authorizing enhanced prison sentences for the commission of a “violent felony” was void for vagueness.

Surprisingly, many legal scholars—even those on the Right—have applauded Gorsuch’s decision in Dimaya. I disagree. Even though I am a Gorsuch fan (e.g., here and here), I believe the dissenters in Dimaya were correct. Confusingly, the justices issued four separate opinions—the majority opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, a concurring opinion by Gorsuch, and lengthy dissents penned by Roberts and Thomas—totaling 96 pages.

That’s a lot to unpack in a short space. As a policy matter, legislators should write statutes as clearly as possible, so that those subject to the law have fair notice of its commands. This principle is especially important in penal statutes, when imprisonment is a possibility.  

What the Constitution Says About “Vagueness”
The problem, however, is the Constitution does not necessarily dictate the “ideal” result from a policy standpoint. “Originalism,” which the court’s conservatives purport to follow, means that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning, not based on the justices’ personal policy preferences.

The Constitution—itself full of imprecise terms such as “unreasonable searches and seizures”—does not address the subject of “vagueness.” The court’s “void for vagueness” case law (of which Johnson is an example) is based on the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, but the most straightforward view is that the Framers understood “due process” to require only procedural fairness (such as an impartial hearing). A poorly drafted statute will rarely result in a denial of procedural due process, as Justice Alito explained in his dissent in Johnson. Johnson is not dispositive in any event.

Unlike Johnson, Dimaya was an immigration case, not a criminal case. The statute in question, Section 16(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), authorizes the deportation of foreign nationals who are convicted of specified violent crimes. Deportation—a civil matter—is not the same as imprisonment, and foreign nationals do not enjoy the same constitutional rights as citizens. Even if Johnson was correctly decided (and I think Alito’s dissent makes the far stronger case), it does not support—let alone compel—the result in Dimaya. A noncitizen facing deportation from the United States for committing aggravated felonies (as defined in the INA) is not entitled to the same “due process” as a citizen charged with a felony, facing either imprisonment or an enhanced prison sentence.

As the dissenters in Dimaya painstakingly explained, Johnson simply does not support the holding in Dimaya. Kagan’s decision, which Thomas’s dissent deemed “triply flawed,” is an activist travesty.

Daniel Horowitz, author of the 2016 book Stolen Sovereignty, convincingly argues that courts should—and traditionally have—deferred to the political branches in cases involving immigration and foreign relations. The Framers (and the court itself, in precedents going back to the 19th century) understood deportation to be an extension of national sovereignty, warranting no due process. The executive was properly thought to have “plenary power” to deport (or, in the parlance of the INA, “remove”) foreign nationals on specified grounds.

Gorsuch conceded in his concurring opinion that “the Executive enjoys considerable constitutional authority” in these areas, but could not resist the temptation unnecessarily to meddle in deportation proceedings. In a disturbing footnote, Gorsuch suggests that aliens are entitled to due process in deportation proceedings—a radical (and potentially disastrous) holding.

Misplaced Praise for Gorsuch
is a not a hard case, as the alignment of the sometimes-fickle Justice Kennedy with the court’s reliable conservatives plainly demonstrates. Why, then, did so many right-of-center scholars praise Gorsuch’s erroneous decision? (E.g., here, here, here, here, here, and here.) At the risk of stepping on some toes, I’ll offer several theories, in no particular order of primacy.

Libertarians, who greatly outnumber traditional conservatives in the legal academy, place little importance on maintaining national sovereignty; indeed, the leading libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, unabashedly advocates open borders. Libertarians at Cato and elsewhere also support an aggressive judicial role in overseeing the political branches (sometimes called “judicial engagement”).  Result-oriented scholars tend to cheerlead for judges doing their bidding, and Beltway pundits and think tanks serve as the cheerleading squad.

Moreover, the current generation of right-of-center legal scholars (even the small number of conservatives and classical liberals) have largely abandoned the “judicial restraint” advanced by Robert Bork and Lino Graglia in favor of a “new originalism” that critics contend is just a disguised version of the Left’s “living Constitution,” allowing inventive constitutional law theorists to devise pseudo-historical arguments justifying policy outcomes they find congenial. Skeptics sometimes deride this as “law office history.”

Sadly, the faculties at elite law schools are so overwhelmingly leftist that the beleaguered minority of center-right scholars, in an apparent display of the Stockholm Syndrome, begin to mimic the attitudes and beliefs of the dominant cohort—shifting the intellectual playing field ever leftward.

And, to be fair, some well-intentioned opponents of the administrative state sincerely view Gorsuch’s aggressive approach as a useful weapon in the overdue battle to rein in the federal Leviathan and restore some semblance of the separation of powers envisioned by the Framers. The ends will justify the means, they naively hope. In the past, however, activist judges have created far more problems (and more Big Government) than they have solved.

The question remains: Why would Gorsuch, still a rookie on the Court, abandon his veteran colleagues (especially Thomas and Alito, both unflinching stalwarts) to join with the court’s liberals? The answer may lie in the Sirens’ song of admiring right-of-center pundits, who have been wooing Gorsuch with adulatory coverage during his short tenure on the High Court. Gorsuch’s adoring fans have portrayed him as the intrepid jurist who will slay “Chevron deference” (the bête noir of administrative law critics) and restore the rule of law. Gorsuch may have let this over-the-top flattery go to his head. Unfortunately, few commentators (Mark Levin and Daniel Horowitz excepted) have criticized Gorsuch’s perfidy in Dimaya.

In the past, when conservative justices such as Anthony Kennedy softened their views to win the praise of New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, the phenomenon was dubbed “the Greenhouse Effect.”  Perhaps Gorsuch’s opinion in Dimaya is an example of “the Cato Effect.” Frankly, I hope Gorsuch snaps out of it and regains his bearings, lest he replace Kennedy as the court’s unpredictable flip-flopper. Like Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey, Gorsuch may need to lash himself to the mast of judicial restraint to avoid such temptations in the future.

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American Conservatism • Conservatives • Law and Order • Libertarians • Post • Pro-Life • The Constitution • The Culture • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker)

Kevin Williamson, Abortion, and Extremism

This weekend, Kevin Williamson finally offered his side of the story in his predictable firing by the Atlantic in the Wall Street Journal.  In his piece, he laid bare what the episode was all about: abortion. As he is wont to do, Williamson wrote clearly and directly:

Let’s not equivocate: Abortion isn’t littering or securities fraud or driving 57 in a 55-mph zone. If it isn’t homicide, then it’s no more morally significant than getting a tooth pulled. If it isn’t homicide, then there’s no real argument for prohibiting it. If it is homicide, then we need to discuss more seriously what should be done to put an end to it. For all the chatter today about diversity of viewpoint and the need for open discourse, there aren’t very many people on the pro-choice side, in my experience, who are ready to talk candidly about the reality of abortion.

I agree wholeheartedly with Williamson here. To me, the most pathetic part of this sorry affair is that tokenconservatives” shared a disgust of Williamson’s comment about punishing women who get abortions.

One almost can’t tell the difference between some pro-life conservatives and most pro-choice progressives. Treating abortion as the unjust killing of a human being that it is (sometimes known as homicide or murder) is too much for these “champions of the unborn.” Unsurprisingly, their arguments are lacking a grounding in serious political thought as well as in a general sense of the actual attitudes of most people.

Chief among these “anti-Trump appeasers” is Ross Douthat, the house conservative of the New York Times. He wrote an entire column titled “Among the Abortion Extremists” meant to frame Williamson’s views as abnormal and outside the mainstream of opinion on the Right. Ostensibly, Douthat wrote the column to put some distance between the more socially acceptable pro-life movement, which is sophisticated (we’re assured), and the cruder view Williamson so inartfully expressed that abortion is murder and that considering punishment for those who participate in it is not beyond the pale.

Douthat tries to establish a sort of moral equivalence between what he calls extremists on the Left who are open about murdering babies for personal convenience and those extremists on the Right who think murdering babies for personal convenience should be treated like murder. As he says, people on the Left who have built, “a grotesque legal regime in which the most vulnerable human beings can be vacuumed out or dismembered, killed for reasons of eugenics or convenience or any reason at all” are the same as Williamson, who “carefully defended the idea of someday prosecuting women who obtain abortions the way we prosecute other forms of homicide.” He goes on to explain that “today’s pro-life movement likewise generally rejects the idea of prosecuting women.”

Punishment Beyond the Pale?
I may not be as eloquent or as famous as Ross Douthat, but I think this is hogwash. First, it is not rare or extreme for those on the Left to promote abortion for the sake of convenience. Second, the pro-life movement generally accepts the idea that abortion should be illegal (it’s kind of a central tenant). And many people who are pro-life, like me, do not reject the idea that women who get illegal abortions should be punished.

Does that mean women should receive capital punishment such as hanging? Probably not. But does that mean we should dismiss any criminal sanctions out of hand? Is it so obviously outrageous that we can’t even talk about it? Absolutely not.

From what I can see, most people who actually care about stopping abortion understand that if you commit a crime, you do the time, as they say. That is sort of how laws work.

Despite Douthat’s careful mental gymnastics in defense of his sophisticated, socially permissible pro-life position, he seems to struggle with basic logic.

To everyone I know who claims to be pro-life, the logic is fairly clear. Step 1: unborn children are individual human beings who are endowed by God with the same right to life all human beings possess. Step 2: killing a human being requires justification (usually rooted in self-defense) for it not to be murder. Step 3: governments are instituted among men to secure our rights, however imperfectly, and this includes trying to stop things like murder even when laws prohibiting it are not perfectly enforceable. Step 4: Laws require punishments to be effective—and sometimes even severe. Common sense seems to be that if one wishes to stop (as much as is humanly possible) abortion, women who would get them must be punished if they try.

Anyone with a brain could tell Williamson was not being entirely serious when he spoke of hanging mothers who might seek abortions if the practice were illegal. Certainly, he didn’t seem to be advocating for retroactive laws. But the idea is preposterous that once abortion was made illegal, laws against the procedure could be enforced without some serious punishment for those who would participate in it. It is not strange to think this, it is entirely normal and mainstream pro-life thinking.  

Undermining the Right to Life
Plenty of supposed pro-life writers and 
leaders argue against punishing mothers. But to do so, the honest ones at least admit it is inconsistent then to call abortion murder. Whatever these people may say, at that moment the movement stops being pro-life. Once you start jumping through legal hoops to avoid confronting the idea that it is murder, you undermine the claim of the unborn to his right to life. To do so is to abandon the only firm foundation for the pro-life position. The right to life proceeds the other concerns, not the other way around. To begin with how hard enforcing an abortion ban will be, or to start by highlighting the complexity of abortion in some instances, gets the problem backward.

Moreover, jumping through the legal hoops to avoid treating abortion as murder makes abortion different from all other unjust killings of human beings in a way that must result in keeping it legal. In what other category of homicide or murder are we inclined to chastise the aggrieved for harsh words or presuming malice? In the case of abortion, these victims have no voice (the murderers make sure of it). So you silence those who attempt to speak on their behalf? The left does not care about your arguments so long as they get their way of overcoming nature to liberate women. But they will, to keep abortion legal, exploit the complexity of your legal arguments and the sympathies found within.

Moreover the idea that the Left will be impressed or moved by conservatives who avoid thinking or speaking about abortion as murder reveals a lack of seriousness when considering the state of our politics. No one is winning over any converts from the Marxist-Feminists-Hedonistic New Left. That ship has sailed—even they know it. Every time those on the Right bow to their demands, they ask for more. Like a high school bully, the Left has mastered the art of bludgeoning well-meaning people on the Right into submission with a combination of mockery, shaming, and contempt. No matter how moderate your steps, they will say you are a bigot and you are taking away women’s rights. They are all too happy to have their harem of token conservatives to help them in this project of discrediting serious arguments so as keep the status quo or advance even further leftward.

Pro-Life Failure
The opinions of elite conservatives and “
thought leaders” on the Right are part of the reason the pro-life movement is so strangely pro-choice and so ineffective at producing movement on this issue. Yeah, yeah . . . after 45 years of legalized murder and 57 million babies killed, Texas requires ultrasounds for mothers who want to kill their child or something. Big whoop. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood receives $500 million of taxpayer money from a Republican Congress while chopping up live babies to harvest their organs. Good job, pro-life movement!

Douthat and others like him are worse than anti-Trump appeasers. They appease the murder of babies. Williamson may have written like a jerk and a fool when it came to Trump, Trump supporters, and especially about people who live in the Rust Belt. But at least he had figured this out. Perhaps if movement conservatives spent less time berating fellow travelers on the Right and groveling at the feet of their liberal friends trying to win acceptance if not converts, we might actually move somewhere.

Williamson isn’t an extremist on abortion, and if we want to stop the mass murder of our children, we probably need to say so.

American Conservatism • Conservatives • Education • Free Speech • Identity Politics • Libertarians • political philosophy • Post • Progressivism • The Culture • The Left

A Taxonomy of Conservatives: The Libertarian

His hoodied silhouette emerges from a cloud of white vapor with a few lackadaisical and interspersed smoke rings. With a copy of Atlas Shrugged in one hand, a vape in the other, and a nearly lethal level of caffeine in his bloodstream from a 72-hour coding binge, the libertarian is ready to take on big government.

Second in a series. Read part one.

Batting away any accusations of racism, sexism, or homophobia, he smugly notes that he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. He seduces social justice warriors by pointing out racial disparities in incarceration, complaining about the drug war, and holding a firm pro-choice stance—after all, he wants government out of your checkbook and your uterus. He’s not one of those crazy social conservatives—he’s just a guy trying to stop tyranny.

Though his classmates call him heartless for wanting to gut all government welfare programs, he has the perfect answer to every single question: the free market will take care of it.

While stuffy conservatives trip over themselves talking about the good life and trying to balance public and private concerns, the libertarian has figured out that these eight words can help him win almost any argument. The specific details of how the free market will cure any given societal ill vary, but he has a lot of experience showing how private companies and individuals would take care of the problem.

When asked why the free market hasn’t yet solved all of these problems, he notes that the government is still in the way and skews incentives. His classmates may find his answers infuriating, but they have to admit that he is consistent. And at least he’s better than the social conservatives.

For the most part, liberals like libertarians. Though they may talk too much about Hayek and Rand, they’re still fun at parties and typically know some excellent drug dealers.

Libertarians, in turn, are content knowing that they’re viewed as the edgy anti-authoritarians. They enjoy jousting with liberals and other conservatives because the argument will always end in the same way: with the other person shaking his head in frustration. But because libertarians typically live outside of the political fray and only moonlight in philosophy, they don’t have a burning need to get validation for their views. Their ideology stresses responsibility and self-actualization, and so they tend to study fields that they think are useful, like computer science or electrical engineering. Given their socially liberal views, they get along well with their classmates and typically have plenty of social outlets.

Libertarians typically don’t want to be associated with establishment Republicans and avoid mainstream conservative organizations. They may start their own clubs with help from the Ayn Rand Institute, Cato, or some other libertarian organization, but these are typically far leaner than their establishment counterparts. They may host events with some prominent speakers, but these can get repetitive after a while. After all, how many times can you have Yaron Brook tell you that greed is good before you go crazy?

Although there are plenty of internal debates in the libertarian movement, these typically focus on minutiae or are largely irrelevant—we’re not getting rid of driver’s licenses any time soon, no matter how tyrannical libertarians insist they are. Students aren’t particularly interested in wasting their time on these arguments. Instead, politically savvy libertarians spend their time trying to get their liberal friends to move slightly right on economic policy.

Even if college libertarians aren’t always well organized, that doesn’t stop many Right-leaning students from gravitating towards the ideology. Ultimately, the libertarians and Communists rely on the same basic argument: in my perfect system, everything would be perfect, and if everything is not perfect, then we’re not at my perfect system yet.

Libertarianism gives students a way to feel the youthful idealism of Communism without having to explain away somehow the deaths of 100 million people. But it doesn’t have any positive vision of society besides material wealth. It ignores questions over national identity, moral values, and public interest. It claims that those are out of the domain of government but then doesn’t try to solve those somewhere else. There is a sizable class of students who come to college as libertarians but then get converted into a different class after realizing that the ideology doesn’t really say much. This can be a painful process because they no longer can rely on the simple arguments that they had learned to use and because they might find themselves becoming increasingly socially conservative.

Libertarians are widely accepted on campus—their views are hard to argue against and are relatively innocuous to liberals. Relatively few people actually want to get rid of all the government programs that the libertarians want to gut. They are idealistic, impractical, and harmless enough to be generally accepted as an odd feature in the campus culture.

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Administrative State • Deep State • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Free Speech • Infrastructure • Libertarians • military • Post • Progressivism • Silicon Valley • taxes • Technology • The Left • The Media

Trump Is Right to Fear Amazon

President Trump’s feud with the shopping giant Amazon is both welcome and overdue. Welcome, because Amazon’s ambitions extend well beyond the monopoly power that Trump has presciently warned about in recent months. Overdue, because while Trump has been complaining about the company since August, his complaints only lately reached the level of alarm that is actually warranted by the rise of the online shopping giant.

And make no mistake, Amazon’s rise warrants both political and economic alarm. The protestations of partisan fact checkers notwithstanding, a few things are obvious about Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos. First, as even the fact checkers admit, Amazon does not pay taxes on roughly half the sales that go through it—namely, the sales that take place through third-party sellers.

Second, Amazon gets a special rate from the U.S. Postal Service compared to other companies—an implicit form of favoritism that most definitely advantages the company, seeing as they send about 40 percent of their sales through the mail.

Third, retailers that do not compete with Amazon have had a better time of it economically than competitors that do. Granted, this last point can be chalked up to more than just competition with Amazon, but taken with the other facts, it most definitely lends credence to the argument that Amazon is beginning to become dangerously overpowered in today’s market. Nor does it help Amazon’s case that Bezos is indisputably, and by a wide margin, the richest man on earth.

Further, Trump’s political arguments against Amazon and Bezos carry a particular sting. No other tech billionaire owns a major paper of record with the pedigree of the Washington Post. The closest equivalent is Chris Hughes, who though he once owned The New Republic, sold it in 2016. But even if he still owned it, The New Republic carries a well-known partisan slant and always had a specialized audience. The Post broke the Watergate story. The two aren’t remotely comparable in terms of reputation or influence upon the popular imagination.

So, naturally, Trump’s decision to attack the Post as a “lobbyist” for Bezos has drawn blood, as it should. All the indignation of the paper’s editors aside, It is hard to imagine how the Post could scrutinize Bezos at all, what with it being his money that sustains them. For any paper to have its hands tied in dealing with the richest man on earth is cause for concern, but when their motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” well, it looks even worse.

Nor is it only the Post that Bezos aspires to use to control the flow of information. Indeed, there is one way that President Trump could easily cut off Amazon’s rapidly rising power at the knees, and prevent it from acquiring even more. He could direct Defense Secretary James Mattis not to migrate all the Defense Department’s data to the Amazon Cloud.

The plan to get the Pentagon to migrate its data is something Mattis’s department has been attempting to execute for the past few months, often at the bidding of former Amazon employees. It would probably be the single biggest coup that the shopping giant could pull off, both economically and politically. Economically, it would land Amazon an actual (if also, technically, virtual) monopoly on cloud services, effectively ending the quest for innovation in that sphere. Politically, it would hand them control of all the Defense Department’s top secret data: not exactly a reassuring state of affairs, should Amazon ever decide it wants to punish President Trump or weaken his government. Say, because of a few tweets that tanked their stocks?

So yes, Trump is right to be worried about Amazon, not least of all because the company and its leaders are trying to buy his government out from under him, and to hound him out of that government in the pages of D.C.’s major paper of record. Trump owes it to his convictions and his constituencies to stop the entrenchment of Amazon as the de facto owners not just of online retail, but of the swamp itself.

After all, a swamp controlled by Amazon is a swamp that no one, except Jeff Bezos, will ever have the right to drain. Least of all the American people.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Libertarians • Post • The Media

Take the Loss, NeverTrump, and Move On

It’s a certain indication that NeverTrump is miserable when it turns on Rich Lowry, embraces Michelle Obama, and imitates Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps rattled by new poll numbers showing President Trump with rising approval ratings, NeverTrumpers seem particularly unnerved this week. To some degree, their columns and tweets expose (again) their fundamental contempt for Trump voters and preference for Democrats when given the choice.

But this week, die-hards such as Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, and Kevin Williamson have taken it up a notch: Their collective spite has nothing to do with Trumpism, “conservatism,” or even good manners. Realizing they’re once more on the losing side of a colossal political battle—Trump is getting politically stronger, their beloved Mueller probe is foundering, and the GOP isn’t yet vanquished—NeverTrump is lashing out in an ugly way.

Good Riddance to the “Libertarian Moment”
In his
inaugural column for The Atlantic, Kevin Williamson, a longtime writer for National Review and savage NeverTrumper, presented a mostly warmed-over version of his many anti-Trump rants at NR. (The Atlantic faced a fierce backlash for hiring Williamson over his comments about abortion and minorities. Just weeks before his hiring was announced, Williamson, a prolific tweeter, deleted his entire Twitter account to cover his tracks.)

The piece is classic Williamson: Bursts of compelling prose mixed with childish ridicule and pretentious preening. He laments that the “libertarian moment” is gone, sniffing how “libertarianism is an intellectual tendency rather than a cultural instinct, one that benefited from the rigor and prestige of the economists who have long been its most effective advocates.” Translation: Trumpists are morons and I am superior.

He portrayed Trump’s base this way: “Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum.” (As if to unwittingly counter Williamson’s poor political temperature-taking, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article that same day about how Midwest manufacturers can’t find enough workers amid the tightest job market in 20 years.)

After mocking Jerry Falwell, Sean Hannity, and Larry Elder among others, Williamson concludes: “The Democrats are, incredibly enough, for a moment the relatively free-trade party and the party more closely aligned with the interests of the country’s most dynamic business concerns and cultural institutions.” I am not sure how much daylight exists between Williamson’s assessment and recent remarks by Hillary Clinton. The smug opinion of economic libertarians and social conservatives like Williamson is more aligned with far-left, abortion-loving statist aristocrats than with nationalistic Americans. And they wonder why they are political outcasts.

Williamson also took an ungracious shot at his longtime home and at one of the finest historical and political writers of our time, Victor Davis Hanson. After mocking Hanson for suggesting in National Review that high-tech companies might be regulated, Williamson scoffs: “That from a magazine whose founders once dreamed of overturning the New Deal.” As if regulating the intrusive monopolies of Google and Facebook is the same as passing the Wagner Act. Buckley’s hand is now bitten.

Lowry Reaches Acceptance
But Williamson wasn’t the only NeverTrump hand-biter. An internecine spat erupted at
National Review Online after Rich Lowry, the magazine’s editor, wrote a fairly innocuous column about NeverTrump and the many shortcomings of our president. He flattered his friends in NeverTrump. (Remember, Lowry was the same editor who compiled the magazine’s infamous “Against Trump” issue, which birthed the current NeverTrump movement.)

Lowry presented an unvarnished view of the current political landscape, explained how the GOP’s fortunes are tied to Trump, and jabbed overzealous NeverTrumpers about their unrealized fears: “With Trump, the danger was that the populism would overwhelm the conservatism. But there have been no populist judges, regulation or tax policy. His presidency has been a crude shotgun marriage between the off-the-shelf GOP agenda and his own impulses on immigration and trade. By all means, criticize him when he’s wrong. But don’t pretend that he’s just going away, or that he’s a wild outlier in the contemporary GOP.”

That rather tepid analysis did not sit well with Lowry’s two colleagues, Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru. (Goldberg must be grumpy that his non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels had little impact on public opinion.) They fired off a response that only served to confirm Lowry’s central point that NeverTrumpers can’t move on and refuse to recognize Trump’s achievements.

After completely disregarding the president’s successful first year in office, the pair insists, “Republicans have essentially no agenda this year, with the exception of spastic administrative actions against trade.” There is an agenda, but perhaps Goldberg and Ponnuru disapprove of it and won’t say so. Trump and the GOP plan to tackle intractable foreign policy woes, continue deregulatory efforts, control illegal immigration, and proceed with the not-inconsequential probe into how the Obama Administration conceived and executed the Trump-Russia conspiracy hoax. (This last is a matter that NeverTrump, including Goldberg, rarely acknowledge. Goldberg has instead mocked the idea and the lawmakers who are investigating it.)

But this passage, arguing that Trump is an outlier among Republicans, is the most nonsensical:

With respect to the traits that have earned him the most criticism from conservatives, and his consistently low poll numbers, that is exactly what he is. Paying off porn stars, attacking judges based on their race, and so on should be outliers for any president, Republican or Democrat. Rich concedes that the president is “repellent” to suburban women and Millennials, “perhaps doing long-term damage to the GOP.” This suggests that significant numbers of voters consider him an outlier as well. Republicans should hope they continue to do so.

Let’s break this down: First, Trump didn’t pay off a porn star (still an allegation) or attack a judge when he was president. If NeverTrump must continually rely on off-hand remarks candidate Trump made nearly two years ago, no, they have not moved on.

Trump’s poll numbers remain very high among Republicans and are rising among independents (although still low), a remarkable feat considering the unprecedented amount of negative news coverage Trump receives.

There is no evidence that suburban women find Trump repellent; he won 46 percent of white, college-educated women’s vote in 2016, and—anecdotally speaking—nearly every suburban woman I know voted for him and still supports him. And what support the GOP loses from Millennials (and can I add, who cares?) it may gain in white, working-class voters, which is a far bigger and more sustainable blow to the Democratic Party.

Contrary to what Goldberg wants to believe, Trump is not an outlier in the Republican Party: He has given the GOP a backbone it hasn’t had in more than a decade. Despite Trump’s brash and occasionally unkind messaging, Republicans still consider him a strong leader and are optimistic about his presidency.

So, instead of obsessing over Trump’s tweets or Stormy Daniels, Goldberg and friends might be better served trying to find out why Trump still has such appeal to Republican voters.

Kristol Continues to Embarrass Himself
But the NeverTrump outrage of the week goes to its de facto leader, Bill Kristol. No NeverTrump meltdown is complete without an eye-rolling tweet from Kristol, and this week’s was a

Yes, Kristol—who is openly rooting for Republicans to lose control of Congress in November—hopes a Democrat (and a very liberal one) will win the presidency in 2020. Think of what it would mean for the country if Democrats rule every aspect of the federal government in 2021: There is nothing conservative or Republican or even rational about that scenario. It is pure malice—fueled by bitterness—aimed not only at the president but at America in general.

NeverTrump has quickly devolved from sore losers to women scorned. They’ve learned nothing from 2016, and instead of taking the L, they are upping their losing game-plan in a venal, unpatriotic way. Time to hit the showers, guys.

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Libertarians Will Be the Ruin of Us All

If you believe in limited government, then you need to know that Libertarians are the most dangerous people in America. Thanks to Libertarians, Democrats—completely controlled by left-wing oligarchs and public-sector unions—are going to extend government control into every facet of American life.

If you doubt that, come to California, a one-party state where Democrats enforce everything from the trivial—banning the sale and production of foie gras and a bill to outlaw plastic straws—to the tyrannical—water rationing, urban “densification,” confiscatory taxes.

Libertarians apparently believe their principles justify their running candidates who steal far more votes from Republicans than they ever do from Democrats. This happens for the obvious reason that people who favor limited government tend to vote Republican, but the practical effect of this activity is to dilute support for viable candidates who can actually limit government. For all of their online intellectualizing and high brow banter over the Austrian School and “objectivism” they can’t seem to understand simple math: If you siphon votes away from Republicans, Democrats win.

Earlier this month, a Libertarian candidate in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District drew 1,379 votes, which handed the election to Democrat Conor Lamb, who won by 627 votes. Good job.

If the Libertarians, thank God, hadn’t run a vapid stoner for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton might be our president today, falling down the White House stairs on her way to turning America into California, instead tripping while touring the Jahaz Mahal palace in India. Think about that.

Are Libertarians Right About Anything?
And what of “libertarian” thought? On every political issue of significance to this nation, Libertarians are wrong.

When it comes to immigration, Libertarians believe in open borders. “Free movement of people.” Wonderful. But when you pin them down, Libertarians acknowledge that they don’t believe in welfare, or government-sponsored multiculturalism, or racial hiring quotas, or any of the other taxpayer-funded programs that make America a magnet for destitute immigrants. Like Democrats, Libertarians love to pat themselves on the back because they support “open borders.” Because they’re not racist. We’ll worry about ending all that welfare stuff later. Meanwhile, let millions more pour in, and let government expand to accommodate them. Don’t worry, there are only 1.5 billion people in the world who live in extreme poverty. No problem.

Then consider infrastructure. Libertarians don’t want the government to get involved in funding football stadiums and concert halls. Fair enough. But what about freeways? What about airports, seaports, railroads, reservoirs, and aqueducts? According to Libertarians, a “public-private” partnership is a dirty word. Creeping socialism. Libertarians, though small in numbers, nonetheless manage to mobilize the pseudo-intellectual heft and activist outrage necessary to help kill these projects, especially since approval usually hangs by a thread. They hand victory to environmentalists who don’t want to build anything. And public sector unions laugh all the way to the bank, since they get to pocket all the money the public saved, in the form of increased pay and benefits.

What about government-sponsored research and development? “Never!” cries the Libertarian. Let the private sector make those investments. That’s fine. Nobody’s stopping them. But it was government-funded research that gave us aerospace technology, atomic power, computers, the Internet, life-saving medicines—the list is endless. Perhaps the U.S. government should stop funding all of this vital research, so other nations who’ve managed to curb their Libertarians can overtake us in every strategic technology sector where we remain competitive.

Which brings us to trade. According to Libertarians, “free trade” means if you can make cheap wool, and your trading partner can make cheap tea, then you should stop making tea, and they should stop making wool, and everyone in both nations will buy cheap tea and cheap wool. But what if the wool is actually steel, and what if the tea is actually oil, and what if all of a sudden you need a lot more steel, and a lot more oil, while your “trading partner” doesn’t want to sell it to you anymore? Or what if the country that made wool paid their wool manufacturers a subsidy, so they could sell it to you for nothing right up until all your own wool manufacturers went out of business? Or what if you bought so much wool, and tea, and steel, and oil, that you had to borrow money and hock all your assets just to pay for it all?

What If Libertarians Were in Charge?
The real world is messy.

But let’s not finish without considering the military. Libertarians say everyone in the world just wants to trade freely, and move freely, and the “principle of non-aggression” will keep us all safe and secure. Stay out of foreign entanglements. Abandon the sea lanes. Demilitarize space. Vacate overseas military bases.

But power, like culture, abhors a vacuum. Disengage, and soon enough, the world will become a far less libertarian or libertarian-friendly place. Funny how that works.

Libertarians, please get your nose out of Adam Smith and read Edward Gibbon instead.

Libertarians haven’t really thought things through. If all they ever manage to do is put Democrats in power, America might still have a chance. But imagine if the Libertarians actually were in power. In their perfect world, everyone is a super-yuppie, who trades thin gold coins for services and smokes pot on weekends. Some of them are software engineers, and others design websites. They’re all around 26-years-old, have cool tattoos, and have sophisticated taste in music and fashion. But here’s the deal: in the real world, people aren’t all super-yuppies. They’re old, battered, hard-working, ordinary Americans. And they deserve more.

Ultimately, Libertarians—small and capital “L” alike—are arrogant simpletons. The world they want is a Social Darwinist hell. The world they’re going to give us, if they don’t wake up, is a socialist hell. Tough choices.

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Tariffs: An Allegory

Suppose you run a company with lots of employees. For a long time, among your employees have been a couple of your nephews. If you’re being honest, they are not your favorite workers. There’s always pressure to raise their wages and they are now up to $25 per hour each, which is more than they are worth. They even side with the union against you and are not generally grateful to you for employing them. Plus they are crude: they tell jokes you don’t like, drink beer, and are often just a pain in the rear.

One day you decide you are going to replace them. For just $10 an hour each you can hire three others to do their jobs, dropping your wage to $30 an hour.

At first, you are relieved. You are pocketing more money for yourself and it’s time your nephews make their own way in the world, anyway. Tough love.

But then your sister calls crying and tells you the boys aren’t doing well. Next thing you know your nephews are living in your basement and eating out of your fridge. Already, your plan to save money and avoid aggravation is a bust.

On top of this, you now start to notice problems with your new employees.

You trained Guy A and all of a sudden you realize that his cousin is starting a new company and is launching what looks like a copy of your latest design. Just a coincidence, your employee says. But now it develops that even though you hired one of theirs, his family won’t even let you sell to them anymore. They are going to buy from the cousin, even if his product isn’t the best or costs more. It’s a cultural thing, you have to understand.

Guy B has brought his whole family to your town and even though you are only paying him $10 an hour, the rest of his family is getting free services and your taxes are going up. Plus the whole family is voting against you and changing your town.

Guy C takes the money you pay him and hands part of it over to his religious leaders who regularly complain about you. One of his cousins is threatening a terrorist attack.

Wait . . . It Gets Worse
So now your town wants to hire increased security. You don’t want to to have to get involved in that effort and you don’t want your sons, who are actually contributing to your business, to have to interrupt their lives for this, either. But what about your nephews? They are still unemployed, why don’t they take on that job?

When one of them finally does you are happy to see him out of the house. But, again, the government is still sending you the bill for him. A year later he gets injured and comes back to live with you. Maybe your tough love thing was a little too much. He’s injured and now he’s hooked on pain meds. In fact, your other nephew, who didn’t go off to fight, has discovered that the only work he can find is making and dealing some of these same meds. Yep, this is working out great.

Way back when, you thought your nephews were crude, drank too much beer, and were a pain in your rear. But now you look back and that time looks positively idyllic by comparison. You have new employees who are petitioning to silence the church bells in your neighborhood because their own religious sensibilities are offended by the sound. Some are linked to terrorism and there are whole districts in your town that you know are too dangerous even to visit. Your town just doesn’t seem the same anymore.

Price Isn’t Everything
See how much money you are saving? See how your bottom line is, and should be, your one and only concern?

Sure, if the free market price were your only concern, buying from the lowest bidder would be good. But this is ridiculous. We routinely think that single issue voters are myopic, but then somehow the narrowest definition of free trade is supposed to be our single issue and if we don’t fall over on the wisdom of the elite’s purist definition we are ignorant of economics and have sold out our principles. I’m sorry, price is not the only economic concern and economics is not the only social concern. Would you go and live for decades in Pakistan just because they’d pay you 25 percent more?

I used to fall for the free trade line. I even sold it myself. I was wrong. Most of the free traders in the Beltway aren’t free traders at all. They have their hands in the cookie jar somewhere else. If we are going to live in a quasi-socialist state where we are just going to pay the rust belt in welfare what we took from them in wages, we are not saving a dime.

And then when you factor in the intellectual-property theft from China, the markets they close off to us, the fact that we have to turn to the rust belt to get our soldiers to fight the Islamists we made rich by buying their oil, the anti-American unassimilated voters we are importing. None of this is working out in the way it was sold to us.

The free traders say that whatever you tax you get less of. Well, then let’s stop taxing income. We didn’t have an income tax from 1787 until 1913. We had tariffs. Why are tariffs worse than income taxes? And please don’t bring up Smoot-Hawley, where the government double-dipped and had income taxes and tariffs, which was a huge change from the policies of the 1800s.

Libertarians and NeverTrumpers will say we have sold out our principles. In truth, we have wised up to a bigger game and we are maturely adjusting our actions where our theory didn’t work as planned.

They are stuck with failed policies, still buying into the con.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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Trump Enforces Immigration Law

Americans could view immigration policy three ways: Through the lens of a citizen, a client, or a consumer.

First, there is the small r-republican view of immigration through the lens of citizenship.

Second, there is the progressive view of immigration which passes through the lens of identity politics. What matters is not an individual’s citizenship or ability, but one’s race, ethnicity, and gender. In this framework, there are clients and there are service providers who manage the clients.  The overarching framework is the administrative state.

Thirdly, for some Cato Institute libertarians what matters in immigration policy is neither the citizen nor the client, but the consumer. For them, the rights of the transnational consumer in the global marketplace are superior to the right of free people to rule themselves by determining their own immigration policy.

Immigration enforcement by the Trump administration is an example of an attempt to restore republican government, small r. It is based on the principle of the sovereignty of the people. Thus, in immigration policy (including enforcement) Trump believes that we should put the interests of Americans first, before the interests of foreign citizens.

These core principles of sovereignty, consent, and putting the interests of Americans first are directly challenged by two forces in America today: progressives and some libertarians.

On the transnational progressive Left, Nancy Pelosi makes a clear case for open borders. “We are all Americans—north and south in this hemisphere….This is a community with a border running through it.” So much for the concept of American citizenship

But is this much different from Libertarian Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute? He declares:

America’ core founding principle is the Enlightenment theory of natural rights….Freedom of movement is indispensable to the full use of those rights. To restrict an immigrant’s ability to move to the United States not only infringes upon his natural rights but also upon the natural rights of Americans who want to hire the immigrant…

Thomas G. West in The Political Theory of the American Founding explains that the Cato approach violates the core principle of government by consent of the governed. West states: “Since citizenship is the effect of a compact, there is no right to immigrate unless there is consent on both sides.” In other words, illegal immigrants are here without the consent of the people.

Let us now examine immigration enforcement by the Trump administration, which is a classic example of how small r republican government is supposed to work. What we see is the unitary executive in action, properly understood, with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Tom Holman, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, chief of staff John Kelly, and the president all on the same page regarding immigration enforcement.

To begin with, Trump’s first year saw an increase by 25 percent in interior enforcement which had plunged to a ten year low in Obama’s last year.

Under new leadership, ICE is going into sanctuary jurisdictions. Acting Director Holman said “If he [Jerry Brown] thinks ICE is going away we are not… “as matter of fact we are going to increase our enforcement presence in California.” In December and January ICE conducted raids in California, New York, Chicago, and New Jersey arresting criminal aliens, In New Jersey, 80 percent of these illegal immigrants had prior felony convictions. These crimes included: sexual assault, kidnapping, the production and distribution of cocaine, theft, and child pornography.

Some argue sanctuary policies are needed so that illegal (and legal) immigrants will not be afraid to report crimes. This myth has no basis in reality. A 2009 analysis by the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum found no decline in crime reporting after the implementation of a tough enforcement program.

Take the example of Prince George’s County in Maryland which has been a sanctuary county since October 2014. Since that time, as the Washington Post has reported, “people live in fear” because of MS-13.  Gang control over local businesses is “enforced daily through extortion and intimidation.”

The rebirth of a once defunct MS-13 in the United States was fueled by fresh recruits from a massive wave of almost 200,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America. This wave was facilitated by the Obama Administration and gave asylum to boys, 16, 17, and older (they did not insist on any reliable proof of age) and placed them with illegal immigrant relatives where they were often recruited by MS-13.

The Trump administration has cracked down on MS-13. ICE conducted Operation Raging Bull from September to November 2017 and arrested hundreds of MS-13 gang members in “secessionist,” excuse me, I mean “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Their crimes include murder, kidnapping, sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking, assassinations, extortion, and blackmail.

Under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has demanded documents and threatened subpoenas for 23 sanctuary jurisdictions under the 1996 immigration law. Justice has threatened to recoup funds previously delivered and cut off future grant money to 23 jurisdictions which include: Chicago, Cook Co, NYC, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Louisville, KY, Jackson, MS, and the states of California, Illinois, and Oregon.

The Department of Justice under Sessions is re-examining the policy of “Administrative Closure” which many considered a “back-door” amnesty by the Obama administration.

There are 350, 000 cases that have been closed “administratively,” simply at the discretion of the federal government. To be clear, these are illegal aliens that could be subject to deportation for various offenses. In addition, the regular backlog now stands at around 658, 000 cases. Put the two together and there are at least a million possible problematic cases of aliens living in the United States. Attorney General Sessions is reviewing this whole process to examine categories that might be re-opened as well as adding DOJ judges to speed these cases along.

Next, there is the matter of the K-1 fiancé visa. Let us examine this category of vetting concerning who is permitted to enter the United States. The woman involved in the mass murder terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California was admitted to America under the K-1 fiancé visa

There are two steps to the K-1 visa. The first step is a petition by the U.S. citizen to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request permission to enter the United States for his or her fiancé. This step is supposed to involve a face to face interview with an official of USCIS, but this interview was often skipped during the Obama administration.

During Obama’s last year in office, 90.5 percent of these petitions were approved. During the first year of President Trump, with more serious vetting, the approval rate fell to 66.2 percent. Step two is the interview of the alien fiancé by a U.S. State Department consular official overseas. This step was 99 percent approved under Obama. Under Trump, the denial rate increased by 20 percent. In other words, there has been a lot of fraud and poor vetting in the K-1 visa process which is now being cleaned up by the Trump administration.

Finally, there is VOICE, the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement” office.  This is an office created by an executive order of the president to assist victims of illegal immigrant crime. Some “conservatives” wrote in National Review that VOICE “would serve no good purpose.” Actually, the office serves several good purposes.

The creation of VOICE is a challenge to the sanctuary jurisdictions that protect criminal aliens and then release them into the general population, where they are free to commit even more crimes against Americans. Like, for example, Kate Steinle’s murderer in San Francisco who had illegally entered the United States six times, had been deported five times and had served over a year in various prisons for numerous felony convictions.

We need to delegitimize the entire sanctuary movement. The “center of gravity,” in this political war over immigration enforcement is the occupation of the moral high ground or the grand narrative, that explains the immigration story to the public. The creation of VOICE is one instrument among others, that should be used to seize the offensive in fighting for an immigration policy that serves, first and foremost, the American people.

It is important to note that almost all of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement measures have been fought tooth and nail by progressives, by some libertarians and “conservatives,” and by elements of the administrative state, particularly an increasingly lawless judiciary. Never doubt for a moment that on this issue progressives and many libertarians are allies and that both of them are major adversaries of immigration law enforcement and, thus, of democratic sovereignty.

Note. This article is based on a talk presented at a Claremont Institute-Heritage Foundation panel on February 22 on “Trump, Executive Power, and the Bully Pulpit.” The information discussed is based on the work of Andrew Arthur, Jessica Vaughan, Dan Cadman, Preston Huennekens, and David North at the Center for Immigration Studies.

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Why Not Invite NeverTrump to CPAC?

Adapt or die.

Such, I would argue, was the ultimatum faced by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) after last year. As I explained in serious, but not literal, detail at the time, the conference’s adherence to checklist conservatism gave it the appearance of a corpse still twitching with fragments of consciousness.

So moribund was CPAC 2017 that it began with a literal suicide. So, at the time, did conservatism itself appear bound for self-destruction, if it was not already there:

In short, if CPAC 2017 is to be taken as a microcosm of the pre-Trump conservative movement, then it can only be said (with apologies to Monty Python) that the movement in question is not merely pining for its past: it has passed on. This movement is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s a stiff, bereft of life. It rests in peace. If it hadn’t given itself over to astroturf, it would be pushing up the daisies. Its metaethical, metaphysical, and political processes are now history. It’s off the twig. It has kicked the bucket. It has shuffled off the mortal coil. It has run down the curtain, joined the choir invisible, and commenced preaching to it.

This is an ex-movement. And soon, perhaps, CPAC will be an ex-conference.

What a difference a year makes. Fast-forward to this year and, judging by the agenda of the 2018 CPAC, the ex-movement part remains not only true, but accepted by the organizers themselves. The ex-conference part, on the other hand, does not look likely, because miraculously, CPAC has chosen to adapt, and adapt drastically, at that. What else can one make of a conference that two years ago invited Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and today rolls out the red carpet for Marion Le Pen, niece of Front National leader Marine Le Pen; that invites Nigel Farage for a repeat performance, but neglects Mitt Romney?

The answer, of course, is that CPAC knows where the Right is headed, both at home and abroad: that is, toward a nationalist, or (arguably) Occidentalist stance. The American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes CPAC also knows that it cannot afford to be on the wrong side of this shift in the ideological winds. If they want to continue to preserve the illusion that their conference speaks for the Right, they must somehow get out in front of the march up from globalism. Speaking as a stringent critic of their refusal to acknowledge this shift last year, I am compelled both by good faith and by genuine relief to give them an “attaboy” for it.

Of course, not everyone is so enthused about the ACU’s choice to plant its feet so far from the slough of despond that is pre-Trump conservatism. In particular, the nattering nabobs of NeverTrump have complained loudly that CPAC made room for the likes of Le Pen (and almost made room for Milo Yiannopoulos last year), but has no space on its agenda for anti-Trump pundits. I admit to finding this complaint more than a little confusing, as one of the conference’s headliners this year is none other than Ben Shapiro, a man notable mainly for his inability to give Trump anything more than a qualified endorsement for anything. The conference also features speakers such as Gary Johnson, who actually ran against President Trump during the general election of 2016, not to mention Katie Pavlich, Andrew McCarthy, and Ben Domenech, all of whom were contributors to National Review’s infamous “Against Trump” issue.

What I suspect irks NeverTrump about such people, however, is that most of them have shifted into the so-called “anti-anti-Trump” camp, or into simple Trump neutrality. Johnson is an exception, though I suspect that given NeverTrump’s almost exclusively neoconservative ideological makeup, they hardly see him as a fellow traveler, particularly given his opposition to pointless wars. In other words, without Johnson, CPAC’s invited Trump-skeptical people are objectionable to NeverTrumpers because their skepticism is not hardline enough. They are not prepared to follow the logic-defying vacillations of the ungrateful bastards determined to find something wrong in everything Trump does, no matter how much they would otherwise agree with it. When NeverTrump implores CPAC to invite anti-Trump speakers, they probably have people like John Schindler, or Jennifer Rubin, or Evan McMullin in mind.

And you know what? I agree with them! CPAC should invite such #NeverTrump pundits to speak.

How can I say this? Well, I implore the hypothetical pro-Trump reader to hold off the “sellout globalist cuck” comments for just a moment, and hear me out.

Let me take you back to an earlier CPAC—specifically, CPAC 2010, where speaker Ryan Sorba issued a full throated condemnation of the conference for inviting GOProud, a now defunct Tea Party-friendly alternative to the gay friendly Log Cabin Republicans. Sorba’s complaint was, essentially, that in doing so, CPAC was encouraging sinners—an argument that would have been right at home at CPAC during the Bush years, but which no longer held currency at a time when the conservative movement was re-embracing its libertarian wing in opposition to Barack Obama. In short, the audience didn’t want to be lectured on the impurity of GOProud: if gays were against socialism, they were conservatives just like everyone else.

The result? Sorba couldn’t even finish his speech. He was booed off the stage after taunting the audience (“The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do”), GOProud was invited to succeeding conferences without incident (and, in fact, invited Donald Trump to his first CPAC the following year), and the libertarian bent of Obama era conservatism was solidified more completely by that moment than a thousand speeches by libertarian politicians, writers, and activists could have done.

Which brings me back to NeverTrump. Those arguing for aggressively anti-Trump speakers to gain a speaking slot at CPAC are protesting that the conference organizers are afraid to permit them to speak, for fear that their persuasive abilities may work on the audience.

Stop laughing for a moment and consider: the more likely explanation is that ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp’s refusal is born of mercy more than of fear. He knows that last year’s CPAC straw poll showed overwhelming support for Trump among the attendees, well before Trump had managed to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed, or eviscerate the regulatory state, or push through the most consequential tax reform in 30 years. The odds of them souring now are somewhere between zero and Jeb Bush’s chance of ever being a credible presidential candidate again.

Given this, how long into a speech would the hypothetical NeverTrump speaker get before being treated like Sorba? A minute? Two? Schlapp, probably out of a desire not to alienate any anti-Trump friends, is no doubt anxious that we never find out.

Those of us on the Trump train should not be so afflicted. Let us show the world that it is not only CPAC, but the right itself, that has rejected NeverTrump. Let those who still fear the potential influence of NeverTrump’s legacy writers watch them immolate that influence on live TV. Mr. Schlapp, let NeverTrump speak. 

…If they can.

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Mitt Romney’s Two Paths

Something happened in U.S. politics last week that shocked no one. No, I’m not talking about liberals blaming Americans en masse for the horrific mass shooting at a Florida high school. Nor am I referring to the press’s shameful effort to keep the Trump-Russia collusion narrative alive, even though Robert Mueller and his team have uncovered zero evidence to support that claim.

Instead, like water falling down, Mitt Romney announced he would seek public office. With Senator Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) impending retirement and Romney’s popularity in Utah, his victory for Senate in November is all but a foregone conclusion. The latest polls show he has an astonishing 45-point lead over his rival, Democrat Jenny Wilson.

Though Romney won’t work with 47 percent of the population, evidently he will work with voters he deems acceptable—the voters of Utah. In his campaign kickoff video, Romney says he wants to bring “Utah’s values and Utah’s lessons to Washington,” adding: “Utahns are known for hard work, innovation, and our can-do pioneering spirit.”

As American Greatness contributor Kevin R.C. Gutzman quipped, “I hear a Massachusetts governor from Michigan is going to take Utah values to D.C. America: What a country!”

Rand Paul or Ben Sasse?
Romney’s inevitable victory may help to erase the sting of the 2008 and 2012 elections, where he was defeated by John McCain in the primaries and Barack Obama in the general election, respectively. And what he accomplishes in the Senate could markedly alter the public’s perception of the man.

Will he put aside differences with President Trump and work together in areas where they share common ground? Or is his pledge of being an “independent voice in the Senate” a euphemism for being a constant thorn in the side of the president and the more than 63 million Americans who voted him into office?

Will Romney be more like Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who works with Trump on the policies they share, stays mostly silent on differences in policy and style, and voices constructive concerns on important topics such as our massive budget deficits and bloated defense bureaucracy?

Or will Romney follow in the lead of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)? Though Sasse almost always votes with the president, he disagrees sharply with much of the Trump agenda and too often has made his own personal thoughts and feelings about the president’s public persona the focal point of his commentary.

From watching Romney’s announcement video, there is evidence suggesting the answer is likely to be “both.”

On immigration, Romney says, “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world; Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

If ending chain migration and the DACA program, securing the southern border, and enforcing federal immigration laws are sending “a message of exclusion,” then Romney is no different than the bipartisan open-borders politicians who have monopolized our so-called national immigration “debate.”

Romney’s preferred policy of importing low-skill immigrants only exacerbates cultural differences between peoples, continues to demoralize and infantilize low-skill Americans who are currently thought of as undesirables, and keeps immigrant families locked into low-wage jobs for generations.

And importing Utah’s lax immigration policies to Washington would continue the ruling class’s disastrous insouciance on illegal immigration.

A 2016 Pew study found that Utah has the 10th-highest illegal immigrant population in America. Salt Lake City has declared itself a sanctuary city and a decade-old state law gives illegal immigrants access to a driving privilege card.

These policies have predictably led to some particularly horrific crimes. Late last year, a twice-deported illegal immigrant living in Utah was arrested for raping a 7-year-old girl thousands of times.

How About the Common Good? 
While the people’s wish to limit both illegal 
and legal immigration is in the national interest, that decision is also perfectly aligned with our nation’s principles. As David Azerrad of the Heritage Foundation has written:

Our dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal should therefore not blind us to the fact that these same men, because of the diversity of political regimes and the power of deeply ingrained habits, are not all equally prepared to live as free men.

Romney also argues that the United States needs to be like Utah and export more than we import. If he’s talking about creating a self-sufficient and independent nation, thus allowing our statecraft to be guided by considerations not tied to necessity, that seems to be in line with an America First economic and foreign policy agenda.

Romney’s campaign maintains that he is a “statesman” and his candidacy will not be about protesting Trump. So it seems he will not don a pink hat and declare himself to be part of #TheResistance.

Let’s hope that Romney takes the better path and decides to choose the common good of the American people—not the neoliberal orthodoxies and “severe conservative” ideology he has voiced in the past.

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NeverTrump “Conservative” Michael Medved: A Look Back

Now that Donald Trump has had what is, by many accounts,  an astonishingly successful first year—according to the Heritage Foundation, at any rate, an even more successful year than the one enjoyed by sainted Ronald Reagan—it is worth looking back on just how spectacularly wrong were some of the president’s “conservative” critics.

This is a crucial exercise for at least two reasons.

First, voters accustomed to identifying as “conservative” need to recognize that many of the commentators to whom they’ve turned in the past are scarcely the gurus they once may have seemed.

Second, in attending carefully, especially in hindsight, to the words of self-avowed “conservative” talking heads, it’s a bit easier to see that perhaps their ideas of what it means to be “conservative” aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, it becomes increasingly difficult in some cases to discern any significant differences between these “conservatives” and those on the left against whom they rail.

Radio host and “conservative” columnist Michael Medved is a classic case in point.

Medved has been a NeverTrumper from day one. According to his friend and colleague, Mike Gallagher, with whom Medved had a debate of sorts recently, it sounds as if Medved has had something of a change of heart on Trump. Still, unlike his other colleague, Dennis Prager, Medved has yet to admit, unequivocally, that he had been disastrously wrong about the president. If he wants to be taken seriously going forward, he should.

Why? Because some remarks are harder to forget than others. Here are some examples:

After Trump put Ted Cruz out to pasture and secured his party’s nomination, Medved remarked:.

I actually believe that Trump represents the very, very worst elements of our politics and would be very threatening and damaging for the future for my kids, the Republic, our economy and our national security.

He insisted further that, “more than any other candidate in my lifetime, [Trump]“represents a threat to the viability of the United States of America.”

Wow. Let that sink in: Medved argued that more than any other candidate in his 70 or so years, Donald Trump would all but spell the ruination of all that is good with the country.

Lyndon Baines Johnson launched the War on Poverty and plunged us into the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon had to resign due to Watergate. Jimmy Carter presided over a recession, astronomical inflation, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Bill Clinton was impeached. George W. Bush, on false pretenses, embarked America on two wars that, in varying degrees, continue until this day. And Barack Obama—well, this speaks for itself for a whole host of reasons.

And yet, it is Trump who Medved predicted would prove to be dramatically worse than them all.

“On all of the issues, the core issues that make people conservative, Trump is wrong. He is on the other side,” Medved said.

It isn’t just that Trump is “on the other side” of what Medved understands when he says conservatism. Regarding “the issues that matter most to conservatives,” Trump “is probably worse…than Hillary [Clinton],” Medved claimed.

Be clear: Medved, a “conservative” commentator, confessed to suspecting that Hillary Clinton would prove to be a better president, from a conservative standpoint, than a President Trump.

Medved forecasted that Republicans would “get wiped out” in 2016. “I think this [Trump’s alleged unpopularity] means we get wiped out in the next election.”

Medved also said that Trump could increase his chances of prevailing over Clinton only if he selected Oprah Winfrey as his running mate.

“The one candidate he would pick, it would horrify me but probably help him, would be Oprah.”

Trump did, once, publicly entertain the possibility of selecting Oprah as a running mate. Medved explained why he thought that only Oprah could salvage the Donald’s candidacy.

“Who would be, of these celebrity candidates, more qualified and more effective? Oprah is a better communicator than he is. She is more beloved. She does have a spiritual core. She has a more inspiring story. She worked her way up from great difficulty.”

Medved concludes: “In every capacity, she is more qualified to run for president than he is”.

To be fair, Medved denied that he would vote for Clinton. Rather, he was giving consideration to voting for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson. This is particularly ironic, for Medved spent many years on the air blasting Libertarians as “losertarians” for failing to realize that third parties in the American political system simply aren’t viable.

This, at any rate, is the tune he whistled as long as his listeners had problems with his candidates of choice: the Bushes, the McCains, and the Romneys.

Medved always urged those who were disenchanted with the GOP to seek to change it from within. Of course, once they proceeded to do just that by rallying behind the outsider Trump, Medved decided to follow exactly the counsel he had castigated so many of his listeners for following in previous elections. If Medved and other “conservatives” are coming around and beginning to see our political situation a little more clearly that is, of course, a development to be cheered and—even—appreciated. But forgiveness shouldn’t mean forgetting in this instance. Fine people can have bad political judgment. And when it is revealed, as it was in so many instances in 2016 among the NeverTrump “conservatives,” the rest of us must never forget.


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Friedrich Hayek’s Enduring Legacy

In 1929, Benito Mussolini boasted, “We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.”

This is the first in a series of essays on the life and thought of Friedrich A. Hayek. 

Of course, Mussolini was wrong about his historical priority, just as he was wrong about most other things. The palm for first promulgating that principle in all its modern awfulness must go to V. I. Lenin, who back in 1917 boasted that when he finished building his workers’ paradise “the whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of work and equality of pay.”

What Lenin didn’t know about “restricting the freedom of the individual” wasn’t worth knowing.

Granted, things didn’t work out quite as Lenin hoped—or said that he hoped—since as the Soviet Union lumbered on there was less and less work and mostly worthless pay. (“They pretend to pay us,” one wag said, “and we pretend to work.”) Really, the only equality Lenin and his heirs achieved was an equality of misery and impoverishment for all but a shifting fraction of the nomenklatura. Trotsky got right to the practical nub of the matter, observing that when the state is the sole employer the old adage “he who does not work does not eat” is replaced by “he who does not obey does not eat.”

Nevertheless, a long line of Western intellectuals came, saw, and were conquered: how many bien-pensants writers, journalists, artists, and commentators swooned as did Lincoln Steffens: “I have been over into the future,” he said of his visit to the Soviet Union in 1921, “and it works.” Jeremy Corbyn updated the sentiment when, in 2013, he said that Hugo Chavez “showed us that there is a different and a better way of doing things. It’s called socialism, it’s called social justice and it’s something Venezuela has made a big step towards.”

Yes, Jeremy, it has. And how do you like it? Of course, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. But it is remarkable what a large accumulation of egg-shells we have piled up over the last century. (And then there is always Orwell’s embarrassing question: “Where’s the omelet?”)

I forget what sage described hope as the last evil in Pandora’s box. Unfair to hope, perhaps, but not inapplicable to that adamantine “faith in a better world” that has always been at the heart of the socialist enterprise. Talk about a hardy perennial! The socialist experiment has never worked out as advertised. But it continually blooms afresh in the human heart—those portions of it, anyway, colonized by intellectuals, that palpitating tribe Julien Benda memorably denominated “clercs,” as in “trahison de.”

But why? What is it about intellectuals that makes them so profligately susceptible to the catnip of socialism?

In his last book, “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism” (1988), Friedrich Hayek drily underscored the oddity:

The intellectuals’ vain search for a truly socialist community, which results in the idealisation of, and then disillusionment with, a seemingly endless string of “utopias”—the Soviet Union, then Cuba, China, Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Tanzania, Nicaragua—should suggest that there might be something about socialism that does not conform to certain facts.

It should, but it hasn’t. And the reason, Hayek suggests, lies in the peculiar rationalism to which a certain species of intellectual is addicted. The “fatal conceit” lay in believing that, by exercising reason, mankind could recast society in a way that was at once equitable and prosperous, orderly and conducive to political liberty.

Everything Up For Grabs
I say “mankind,” but of course the fatal conceit is always pursued by a tiny elite who believe that the imposition of their reason can effect the desired revolution in society. The rest of us “deplorables” are the raw material for the exercise of their fantasy.

Hayek traced this ambition back through Rousseau to Descartes. If man is born free but is everywhere in chains, Rousseau argued, why does he not simply cast off his fetters, beginning with the inconvenient baggage of traditional social restraint? Whether Descartes deserves this paternity suit is perhaps disputable. But I see what Hayek means. It was a small step from Descartes’s dream of making man the “master and possessor of nature” (as he said at the end of the “Discourse on Method”) through science and technology to making him the master and possessor of man’s second nature, society.

How much that was recalcitrant about human experience and the world had suddenly to be rendered negotiable even to embark upon that path! All that was summed up in words like “manners,” “morals,” “custom,” “tradition,” “taboo,” and “sacred” is suddenly up for grabs. But it was part of the intoxicating nature of the fatal conceit—for those, again, who were susceptible to its charms—that no barrier seemed strong enough to withstand the blandishments of mankind’s ingenious tinkerings. “Everything solid,” as Marx famously said, “melts into air.”

John Maynard Keynes—himself a conspicuous victim of the fatal conceit—summed up its psychological metabolism in his description of Bertrand Russell and his Bloomsbury friends: “Bertie in particular sustained simultaneously a pair of opinions ludicrously incompatible. He held that in fact human affairs were carried on after a most irrational fashion, but that the remedy was quite simple and easy, since all we had to do was to carry them on rationally.”

What prodigies of existential legerdemain lay compacted in that phrase “all we had to do.” F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the test of “a first-rate intelligence” was “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time” and still be able to function. In fact, that ability is as common as dirt. Look around.

The Triumph of  “Serfdom”
Friedrich Hayek (he dropped the aristocratic “von” to which he was born) was a supreme anatomist of this species of intellectual or intellectualist folly. Born to a prosperous family in Vienna in 1899, Hayek had already made a modest name for himself as an economist when he departed for England and the London School of Economics in 1931. Over the next decade, he published half a dozen technical books in economics (sample title:
“Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle”). Life changed in 1944 when “The Road to Serfdom”—published first in England, then a few months later in the United States—catapulted him to fame.

The story of this short but extraordinary book—which is less a treatise in economics that an existential cri de coeur— is well known. Three publishers turned it down in the United States— one reader declared it “unfit for publication by a reputable house”—before the University of Chicago, not without misgivings, took it on. One of Chicago’s readers, while recommending publication, cautioned that the book was unlikely to “have a very wide market in this country” or “change the position of many readers.” In the event, Chicago could hardly keep up with demand. Within months, some 50,000 copies were in print. Then Reader’s Digest published a condensed version, which brought the book to some 600,000 additional readers. A few years later, a Look picture-book version—the “graphic novel” of the day—further extended its reach.

“The Road to Serfdom” transformed Hayek from a retiring academic into an international celebrity. By the time he died, six weeks shy of his 93rd birthday, in 1992, Hayek had become a darling of the academic establishment. He’d been a professor at the London School of Economics, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg, and was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. In 1974, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics—the first free-market economist to be so honored—and his theories helped lay the intellectual groundwork for the economic revitalizations that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan undertook in the 1980s.

In a deeper sense, however, Hayek remained a maverick, outside the intellectual or at least the academic mainstream. The message of “The Road to Serfdom” shows why. The book had two purposes. On the one hand, it was a paean to individual liberty. On the other, it was an impassioned attack on central economic planning and the diminution of individual liberty such planning requires.

It might seem odd, in the wake of the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions, to describe an attack on central planning or a defense of individual liberty as “maverick.” But in fact, although Hayek’s theories won some major skirmishes “on the ground,” in the world of elite intellectual opinion his views are as contentious now as they were in the 1940s. Even today, there is widespread resistance to Hayek’s guiding insight that socialism is a nursery for the growth of totalitarian policies.

With the example of Nazi Germany before him, Hayek saw how naturally national socialism, leaching more and more initiative away from the individual in order to invest it in the state, shaded into totalitarianism. A major theme of the book is that the rise of fascism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the 1920s, as is often contended, but on the contrary was a natural outcome of those trends.

What began as a conviction that, if planning were to be “efficient,” it must be “taken out of politics” and placed in the hands of experts, ended with the failure of politics and the embrace of tyranny. “Hitler did not have to destroy democracy,” Hayek noted; “he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done.”

Britain, Hayek warned, had already traveled far down the road of socialist abdication. “The unforeseen but inevitable consequences of socialist planning,” he wrote, “create a state of affairs in which . . . totalitarian forces will get the upper hand.” Hayek quotes numerous influential commentators who cheerfully advocate not only wholesale economic planning but the outright rejection of freedom.

Democratic Despotism and the Deep State
Today, some of us warn about the growth and insidiousness of “the administrative state” or “the deep state”—that permanent bureaucracy of busybodies who are not elected but nevertheless wield enormous power over every aspect of our lives. The growth of that unaccountable apparatus of control has deep roots. In 1932, for example, the influential political theorist Harold Laski argued that “defeat at the polls” must not be allowed to derail the glorious progress of socialism. Voting is all well and good—so long as people vote for the right, i.e., the left, things. In 1942, the historian E. H. Carr blithely argued that “The result which we desire can be won only by a deliberate reorganization of European life such as Hitler has undertaken.”

The two great presiding influences on “The Road to Serfdom” were Alexis de Tocqueville and Adam Smith. From Tocqueville, Hayek took both his title and his sensitivity to what Tocqueville, in a famous section of “Democracy in America,” called “democratic despotism.” Hayek, like Tocqueville, saw that in modern bureaucratic societies threats to liberty often come disguised as humanitarian benefits.

If old-fashioned despotism tyrannizes, democratic despotism infantilizes. Echoing and extending Tocqueville, Hayek argued that one of the most important effects of extensive government control was psychological, “an alteration of the character of the people.” We are the creatures as well as the creators of the institutions we inhabit. “The important point,” he concluded, “is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives.”

A major part of “The Road to Serfdom” is negative or critical. Its task is to expose, describe, and analyze the socialist threat to freedom. But there is also a positive side to Hayek’s argument. The road away from serfdom was to be found by embracing what Hayek called “the extended order of cooperation,” a.k.a. capitalism. (Although Hayek uses the term “capitalism,” I prefer the term “free market,” which is innocent of Marxist overtones.) In “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith noted the paradox, or seeming paradox, of the free market: that the more individuals were left free to follow their own ends, the more their activities were “led by an invisible hand to promote” ends that aided the common good. In other words, private pursuits advance public goods: that is the beneficent alchemy of the free market, of capitalism. Hayek’s fundamental insight, enlarging Smith’s thought, is that the spontaneous order created and maintained by competitive market forces leads to greater prosperity than a planned economy.

The sentimentalist cannot wrap his mind, or his heart, around that datum. He cannot understand why we shouldn’t favor “cooperation” (a pleasing-sounding arrangement) over “competition” (much harsher), since in any competition there are losers, which is bad, and winners, which may be even worse. It is at this juncture that advocates of a planned economy introduce the word “fairness” into the discussion: wouldn’t it be fairer if we took money from person “A,” who has a stack, and gave it to person “B,” whose stack is smaller? (“That is,” as W. S. Gilbert put it in “The Mikado,” “assuming I am ‘B’.” )

Socialism is a version of sentimentality. The socialist, the sentimentalist, cannot understand why, if people have been able to “generate some system of rules coordinating their efforts,” they cannot also consciously “design an even better and more gratifying system.” Central to Hayek’s teaching is the unyielding fact that human ingenuity is limited, that the elasticity of freedom requires the agency of forces beyond our supervision, that, finally, the ambitions of socialism are an expression of rationalistic hubris. As David Hume, another of Hayek’s intellectual heroes, put it, “a rule, which, in speculation, may seem the most advantageous to society, may yet be found, in practice, totally pernicious and destructive.”

Market Order vs. Socialism
A spontaneous order generated by market forces may be as beneficial to humanity as you like; it may have greatly extended life and produced wealth so staggering that, only a few generations ago, it was unimaginable. Still, it is not perfect. The poor are still with us. Not every social problem has been solved. In the end, though, the really galling thing about the spontaneous order that free markets produce is not its imperfection but its spontaneity: the fact that it is a creation not our own. It transcends the conscious direction of human will and is therefore an affront to human pride.

The urgency with which Hayek condemns socialism is a function of the importance of the stakes involved. As he puts it in “The Fatal Conceit,” the “dispute between the market order and socialism is no less than a matter of survival” because “to follow socialist morality would destroy much of present humankind and impoverish much of the rest.” We get a foretaste of what Hayek means whenever the forces of socialism triumph. There follows, as the night the day, an increase in poverty and a diminution of individual freedom.

The curious thing is that this fact has had so little effect on the attitudes of intellectuals. No merely empirical development, it seems—let it be repeated innumerable times—can spoil the pleasures of socialist sentimentality. This unworldliness is tied to another common trait of intellectuals: their contempt for money and the world of commerce. The socialist intellectual eschews the “profit motive” and recommends increased government control of the economy. He feels, Hayek notes, that “to employ a hundred people is . . . exploitation but to command the same number [is] honorable.”

The Limits of Conservatism
It is not surprising that Hayek is often described as “conservative.” In fact, though, he was right to object that his position is better described as “liberal,” understanding that term not in its contemporary deformation (i.e., leftist, statist) but in the 19th-century English sense in which Burke, for example, was a liberal. There is an important sense in which genuine liberals are (in Russell Kirk’s phrase) conservative precisely because they are liberals: they understand that the best chance for preserving freedom is through preserving the institutions and traditional practices that have, so to speak, housed freedom.

Although cautious when it came to political innovation, Hayek thought traditional Tory conservatism too wedded to the status quo. “The decisive objection” to conservatism, Hayek wrote in “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” a postscript to “The Constitution of Liberty,” is that it is by nature reactive and hence unable to offer alternatives to the “progressive” program. It can retard our progress down the socialist path; it cannot, Hayek thought, forge a different path.

At the end of the day, Hayek’s inestimable value is to have dramatized the subtle and seductive insidiousness of the socialist enterprise. “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once”: that sentence from Hume stands as an epigraph to “The Road to Serfdom.” It is as pertinent today as when Hayek set it down in 1944.

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‘Black Mirror’ and Liberal Nightmares

A new season of “Black Mirror” just dropped on Netflix, and it’s worth your time. Liberalism is ahead of conservatives when it comes to technological nightmares, perhaps because it invests more in redefining America (and the world) in light of scientific advancement. All the things we fear about technological powers taking control of human life are available for the curious viewer to ponder, as the show aims to describe our humanity by its most agonizing characteristic: our individuality.

That’s the problem we want to fix, the tragic knowledge that each of us will inevitably, but unpredictably, die. We cannot forget it, and we don’t know how to deal with it.

Maybe this future is so scary precisely because it reduces humanity to our individual fates. The implication is moralistic: we are human while at the same limits apply to all of us. If we use technology to break through those boundaries, we have nothing left in common. And that would open the floodgates to wickedness. We might not think ourselves all of a kind anymore, with reciprocal duties and rights, or even mutually comprehensible. If technological powers are there to explore our nature, we will find our nature unredeemed, incapable of grace, atheistic, and destructive.

In each episode of “Black Mirror,” individuality turns out to be a trap.

Each episode also assumes this is the new normal and that it is more or less self-sustaining. It’s a libertarian future, driven by tech, but a nightmare only for a chosen few. Everyone else gets on with life; sheep untroubled by the new reality. Only tragic individuals are interesting. The whole purpose of the show seems to be to re-elevate tragedy to its rightful place in our lives. Most critics have compared “Black Mirror” to “The Twilight Zone,” but the show goes far beyond Rod Serling’s morality plays.

Tragedy is Villainy
The new season starts with symbols of patricide and matricide and a mention of the most famous tragic hero, Oedipus, the first character in poetry to claim kingship because of his knowledge of human nature. All these characters caught in catastrophes not of their design are his children. Tragedy is now villainy. In fact, since the storytelling suggests these are particular expressions of a general situation, we can all be tragic heroes—most of us just didn’t get caught in catastrophic series of events.

So let’s look at the sociology and politics of the story. It’s full of strange details. Almost all of the new season’s protagonists are female—surely no accident. It’s hard to talk about social classes in futuristic terms, but some things are obvious: this is a show for and about successful classes—those who are part of the tech future. It’s important to learn about the fears of tech and the insecurity of lonely people because the rhetoric of “Black Mirror” is far likelier to get through to the Netflix audience than any anti-liberal or anti-libertarian screed.

Tragedy might create the basis, as storytelling is concerned, for a new sense of what people have in common. Our secret fears are revelations of things we do not wish to know about ourselves. Once we understand this, we can begin to look past the shallow arguments that so absorb public press and learn to see something deeper—fundamental truths about who we are as Americans and as human beings. 

The first source of contemporary tragedy is medicine. The powers we use to protect our lives are not entirely compatible with the human character of our lives. In part, that means that medical powers create new vulnerabilities and new weapons at the same time that they improve health. But in part, it’s because they make us think that, to be ourselves truly, we should be utterly in control of our lives. There is always a temptation to get more out of life. To leave less to chance and to assert our will more.

The importance of medicine is its ultimately democratic character. Life is life for all human beings. We’re all mortal and we all are part of a miracle of medicine that’s both historically recent, previously unimaginable, and radically uncertain concerning its future. In the midst of health and longevity unlike anything we’ve known in history, we are apparently haunted by nightmares. We are flesh and blood beings, we have that in common, but we are haunted by something—or else shows like “Black Mirror” would have no audience.

Replacing Politics?
What we loosely call information technology is the second source of our contemporary tragedy. You can think of this as acquiring all possible knowledge about the actions of human beings. Ultimately, this is a replacement for politics.

Politics is a thing of the past, where human beings act in essentially adversarial ways. What’s characteristic of politics is that people who agree on what’s good and worthwhile nevertheless have to become enemies because of their limits—borders, for example, the limits of political communities. Different countries are natural enemies, but beyond politics, we’re all the same, without those limits, and without countries. None of these stories take place in a specific community. They’re as global as hotel chains or worldwide apps.

This brings us to our liberalism, as opposed to our democracy. Liberalism is constituted by our deep belief that each one of us harbors a secret that cannot be uttered. That secret is our private life, our privacy, ultimately our self or soul.

Even in an age when we’re supposed to be the same or equal, we still have protagonists and in some way hope we’re each the protagonists of our lives. Science is what tempts our liberal individualism. Why not download your soul into a machine? This is how we go through the looking glass—the black mirror of the title—and find out terrifying secrets about ourselves, above all that we cannot live alone.

The combination of democratic concern for life and liberal concern for individual choice or self-expression describes all these stories, but does not yet explain why they’re supposed to be tragic, why they’re supposed to have villains and shocking deeds. The answer, each time, is that the burden of humanity is too great for any one of us to bear.

Forced by circumstances to bear it, we become inhuman. Tempted by power, we become corrupted. Wickedness, however, now comes as a surprise, because we think we’re all supposed to be good. Who among us admits to being bad or evil?

You Get What You Deserve
So we see that for all the ideas or tech on display, the only real question is justice. What justice is there left in a world where people blindly chase their fantasies or try to escape their fear of death by projecting onto the black mirrors of their technological power, getting what they think they want only to learn to their horror that it’s not what they thought? Poetic justice—that’s the only justice left, the only way to make sense of that world. This strange future completely bereft of divine providence retains one attribute of the divine: wrath.

This, then, is an intensely moralistic form of storytelling. The last sure thing in a world of unceasing, unpredictable change is getting what you deserve. “Black Mirror” is either a matter of telling you that you learn by suffering, which was the typical phrase of Greek tragedy, or that you’re fated, which seems to be the consensus opinion among tragic heroes. Who we are, an audience of tragedy, or protagonists of it, might or might not be for us to choose.

Not all the stories are tragic. Deserving something good or getting something good isn’t intended to be impossible. At least at its best, “Black Mirror” is neither nihilistic nor intent on shocking people’s humane expectations. Whether the show gives us a near-future version of how we live or just a tech-based disguise for our everyday life, it’s an achievement: it dramatizes the every day until the moral seriousness involved in our technological opportunity and dangers becomes a matter of urgency.

It leads us to a non-polemical, nonideological understanding of the psychology that underlies the big political conflicts of our times. That’s where we have to go to understand the strange mutations of identity politics and the possibility of a liberal-libertarian convergence, a Silicon Valley-D.C. alliance, that would seclude itself from the rest of America to leave out tech-based fantasies and nightmares.

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John Locke, Closet NeverTrumper?

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The fissures that led to the crackup of modern conservatism run deep. The most visible sign of this reality was the election of Donald Trump, which pitted certain elite conservatives against the majority of conservatives who make up the Republican base. Elite NeverTrump conservatives, who argue to this day about the president’s supposed unfitness for office, have made common cause with progressives to undo the results of the 2016 election. These Salon conservatives are united in their hatred of Trump and his voters and seem to agree with the progressive consensus of globalism, identity politics, and corporatism.

A majority of Americans who identify as conservative instead voted with independents and Democrats for Trump, seeing his agenda of restricting immigration, crafting fair trade deals, and championing an interest-based foreign policy as a vital corrective to the manifest failures of both parties over the past few decades. For this group, neither party has accumulated a record that reflects their priorities. Democrats have successfully forwarded their agenda of fundamental transformation in all areas of public life while Republicans watched impotently and even sometimes helped to advance the Democrats’ radical program.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Yoram Hazony contends these problems on the political Right are symptoms of deeper troubles. Trump’s election was the result of a centuries-long battle between classical liberals, whom Hazony sees as forebears of the NeverTrump cause, and Anglo-American conservatives, who are more Trumpian in their outlook.

Liberalism’s Crisis
Classical liberalism in Hazony’s understanding derives “from Hobbes and Locke,” whose “aim was to deduce universally valid political principles from self-evident axioms, as in mathematics.” In the 20th century, this “rationalist” view of politics supplied the foundation for Austrian economics practiced by Ludwig von Mises and the Friedrich Hayek. They argued for the spread of “individual liberty and economic freedom” not only in the United States but the world over. As Mises claimed in his 1927 magnum opus 
Liberalism, “Liberal thinking must permeate all nations, liberal principles must pervade all political institutions.” This thinking in Hazony’s view eventually led post-Cold War neoconservatives such as Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol to argue for a foreign policy based on exporting the principles of classical liberalism abroad.

By contrast, Anglo-American conservatism—according to Hazony—comes to us from Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Alexander Hamilton, and other lesser-known figures. This “tradition is empiricist and regards successful political arrangements as developing through an unceasing process of trial and error,” Hazony explains. Anglo-American conservatives are “deeply skeptical of claims about universal political truths” and understand “the importance of traditional Protestant institutions such as the independent national state, biblical religion, and the family.”

As Hazony argues, from Iraq to the 2008 financial crisis to the “disintegration of the family,” deep concerns have emerged over the future viability of classical liberalism. Trump and a resurgence of nationalism around the globe represent “if not a conservative revival” then at least a potential return to a conservatism based on “experience” rather than “17th-century rationalist dogma.”

Misreading Locke
Hazony’s argument about the split on American Right is plausible enough. But his attempt to read history through our present time
obscures more than it clarifies.

For one, he misreads Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Far from being a progenitor of modern liberalism (and therefore NeverTrumpism), Locke should be a guide for anyone who wants to Make America Great Again. After all, which political philosopher did the American Founders cite most? Locke. Who was the source of many of their key insights? Locke.  Natural rights, government by the consent, and the role of government in securing the equal rights of all citizens? That’s Locke all the way.

Certain conservatives and progressives sometimes accuse Locke of dismissing the need for duty; that he’s concerned almost entirely with self-interest. In fact, his writings are replete with teachings about the duties we have to our fellow man, our families, and ultimately to God. In fact, Locke’s argument is built upon a law of nature that indicates, through the use of reason, what duties we have to ourselves and to others.

Reason is Not Enough
A concern for morality also animates Locke’s conception of freedom.
“Freedom then is not . . . a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws,” he writes in the Second Treatise on Government. Locke’s views, then, are diametrically opposed to the notions of radical autonomy and third-wave feminist sexual ethics that are in vogue today.

Hazony argues Locke “asserts that universal reason teaches the same political truths to all human beings.” But he overlooks the crucial caveat that Locke recognizes: while such truths are accessible to anyone capable of reason, not all men have an equal capacity to use their reason. Locke would have thought it preposterous to think that the use of human reason would be widespread throughout a single civil society, much less worldwide. This is why he argued that religion, civil society, and a public sentiment that supports reason are all crucial to the perpetuation of human life. Vague hopes that the proliferation of human reason alone is enough to maintain civil society are folly—and something Locke clearly rejected.

Curiously, Hazony also faults Locke for his supposed neglect of “the family.” But Locke devotes his First Treatise and Some Thoughts Concerning Education to the vital differences between paternal and political power and the importance of childrearing and having a stable marriage between one man and one woman. The family, Locke says, is important from a political standpoint because it is the only way civil society can be preserved for future generations.

Parents are bound “under an obligation to preserve, nourish, and educate” their offspring. Locke rails against “[a]dultery, incest, and sodomy” and thinks that “easy and frequent [dis]olutions” of marriage would “mightily disturb” the very foundations of civil society. Today, Locke would be considered a radical social conservative and be targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hatemonger.

Misunderstanding the Founding, Broadbrushing Liberalism
Though Hazony does not directly discuss the American Founding, by implication he would have to view it as partially suspect at best since much of the founders’
political theory comes from Locke. What would he make of the founders’ reliance on the laws of nature and of nature’s God and the self-evident truths—the “universal political truths” he argues have helped bring disaster upon our nation—on which they justified American independence? And how would he understand Lincoln’s statesmanship, which was based on the principles of the Declaration of Independence and its central idea of natural human equality?

While founded upon universal truths, the United States is also very clearly a distinct nation with a distinct people. This is not an either/or proposition as Hazony’s argument seems to suggest.

It’s hard to argue, as Hazony does, that the term “liberalism” covers everyone from Locke and the American Founders to modern presidents such as Barack Obama. Locke and the founders thought government’s purpose was to protect natural rights. Obama thinks government should lift up the least among us based on race, class, and gender and hurt those thought to have gotten ahead at their expense. Consequently, government has the duty to ensure every person has an equal start in the race of life.

But what if modern liberalism is a phenomenon distinct from the political theory of Locke and the American founders? As Thomas G. West has argued plausibly, the “post-1900 transformation in the American understanding of justice is better explained by the rejection of the founding principles.”

Americans interested in advancing the American experiment shouldn’t have to be of two minds about our nation, even looking to re-found it on another set of principles. The attack of progressive elites on Western Civilization is as much an attack Locke, the American Founding, and our very way of life. All available resources that have supplied vitality to the West should be marshaled against the progressives’ determination to transform us into their warped and stunted image.

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