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Category: Political Discussion & Analysis

Book Review: What Washington Gets Wrong (Bachner & Ginsberg)

“What Washington Gets Wrong” shows, by polling statistics, what we all know already. Namely, that those who run the government, from Capitol City—sorry, from Washington—not only think differently from Americans as whole, but also have different policy priorities and have deep contempt for most Americans. This isn’t a surprise, because this is the nature of every bureaucratic ruling class throughout history, though ours is both less monetarily corrupt than usual, and more ideologically corrupt than usual. But these basic facts are interesting and useful to see proven and quantified, and even more interesting, to me, are some of the authors’ suggestions to alleviate the problem—which I think don’t go far enough, but would at least be a start.

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Analysis: Does Political Correctness Exist Among Conservatives?

[This is a reaction requested from me regarding a Washington Post article, by Alex Nowrasteh, titled “The right has its own version of political correctness. It’s just as stifling.”] This is not convincing, because it posits a false analogy.  (It is also extremely badly written.)  The analogy is false because it falsely defines “political correctness.”  Conservatives don’t regard PC as bad because it shows that people have strong feelings, or because those feelings are believed to be irrational.  (A side note:  PC has been around for 30 years, not 10.  See my review of Thiel’s “The Diversity Myth,” which was written in…

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Colloquy: Not-For-Profits Are Not Inherently Virtuous and “Giving Back” Is A Stupid Term

[This is a colloquy between myself and a  friend of mine.  Italics are her; regular text is me.  She is responding initially to a comment I had made about “evil not-for-profits.”] I don’t understand, but without the rhetoric, I really want to see the world through your eyes regarding your comment about “evil not-for-profit…” How is it that people who sacrifice so much for others are evil? I’m a corporate attorney and admire the heck out of people able to do something I’m too greedy to do. While they walk the walk (of spiritual leaders, etc.), I’m just a coward…

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Book Review: Render Unto Caesar (Charles Chaput)

Charles Chaput, now archbishop of Philadelphia, is probably the most prominent traditionally orthodox Catholic prelate in America. There exists, of course, more than one traditionally orthodox prelate (though fewer now, given that Pope Francis is deliberately reducing their numbers). But Chaput has the talent and drive to operate in the public square, to write and talk on the intersection of Catholic doctrine and public life. In fact, as of this week he has been in the news for a speech on this topic at Notre Dame. And next year, in 2017, he has a new book coming out on “Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World.” This book, “Render Unto Caesar,” nearly ten years old, was his first book-length foray into the struggles faced by Christians against attempts to exclude them from the public square. This is a topic that has only become more pressing, and timely, because the day is already late.

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Book Review: It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies
(Mary Eberstadt)

Mary Eberstadt’s It’s Dangerous To Believe offers very clear analysis and very wrong recommendations. Eberstadt eloquently describes how the elite and powerful in today’s America have subscribed to a new religion, the religion of sexual autonomy without limit, and are increasingly using their immense power to punish heretics, in the form of traditional believers. But, because she misapprehends the historical processes at work, she fails to adequately address how the targets of oppression can, or should, respond, and her actual suggestions are harmful fantasies.

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Book Review: Liberal Fascism
(Jonah Goldberg)

“Liberal Fascism” is really a history book, not the book of political analysis I expected it to be. I didn’t love this book (written in 2007—apparently a 2009 version is updated to include talk about Obama), even though it’s famous among conservatives. I’m not sure why I didn’t love this book. Maybe it’s because despite the book’s aggressive thesis, it is over-careful not to give offense. Maybe I think its thesis is overstated. Maybe it’s because the strain of combining a complete history, intellectual analysis, and polemic regarding the American Left for the past century shows, in lacunae in the book. Or maybe it’s because the style of writing, which I would call “unflashy expository,” just isn’t compelling to me. Nonetheless, I still think the book is very much worth reading, because the history it relates is valuable to know.

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Colloquy: Why Vote For Trump, and What Do Conservatives Want?

[Italics are my interlocutor; regular text is me.] Hi Charles, I’ve been pondering the Republican debacle that is Donald Trump and would love your view.  I’m wondering what alternatives a Republican with coherent conservative principles is supposed to do in the coming election.  Is the anti-Hillary vote a vote for Trump?  Or is a conservative vote a Libertarian vote at the expense of the general election?  It just doesn’t seem like there is any good option for a conservative with a sound mind.  Do you lean toward Trump to stop Hillary and forego the dignity of the country, or do…

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Book Review: The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism (Yuval Levin)

“The Fractured Republic” is a fantastically original book. It is very optimistic, yet clear-eyed, which is a rare combination. Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic. They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America’s past. Yuval Levin’s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite. It is precise and even-handed. And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt. At the same time, Levin believes that we as Americans, liberal and conservative, can jointly renew our society without retreading the past, and in this age, such optimism is no small thing.

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Book Review: The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (Francis Fukuyama)

Like Daniel Burnham, Francis Fukuyama makes no small plans. “The Origins of Political Order” aspires to be nothing less than an all-encompassing explanation of how human beings created political order. This book carries Fukuyama’s analysis up to the French Revolution; a second volume carries the story to the modern day. This volume is mostly taken up with creating and discussing a coherent framework that explains political order before the modern era. Much of what Fukuyama discusses here is non-Western societies, which makes it particularly interesting.

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