Keeping up with the FITs, 4/23
Bari Weiss and Tyler Cowen; Some Doves on Ukraine; James Pogue on the New Right; Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer on Sweden's COVID performance
Bari Weiss talks to Tyler Cowen. Around minute 25, Tyler points out, citing Larry Summers, that President Biden’s recent extension of forgiveness of student loans is a $100 billion stimulus that feeds inflation.
Near the end, Tyler says “The Vietnam War would not have lasted a week with Twitter.” Whether that is true depends on whether hawkish or dovish views would have been the first to mobilize. I think there are good reasons to believe that in the early days of the Vietnam War opposition to the war would have been marginalized by social media rather than amplified. That is what happened in the mainstream media at the time.
Look at the way that the doves on Ukraine are marginalized now. Matt Taibbi calls it America’s intellectual no-fly zone.
That may very well correspond to what would have happened in the early days of our involvement in Vietnam. It took a long time for opinions to shift on Vietnam. It might have taken even longer with Twitter, because so many people would have committed themselves in public to hawkish positions that they would then be embarrassed to change.
Later, Tyler says that he regrets that Iran is hard to visit. I wonder if visiting the Persian community in LA would be something to do meanwhile.
Speaking of Ukraine doves who are marginalized, an open letter says,
we urge the Biden administration to focus on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, as a prelude to good-faith negotiations toward a permanent peace that takes into account Ukraine’s right to self-determination and Russia’s legitimate security needs;
we urge the White House and Western allies to keep open channels of dialogue and diplomacy to Moscow on all issues;
and we call on President Biden to reiterate unequivocally that regime change in Moscow is not a US policy goal.
Most of the signatories are conservatives, many of whom supported Donald Trump. But Freddie DeBoer and Glenn Greenwald also signed.
Arguing against their stance, Robert Tracinski writes,
the events in Ukraine are being driven primarily by the Ukrainians themselves. We are watching in real time as the people of a nation, one-by-one, choose the kind of society they want and take control of their own fate.
To me, it is not so clear what the Ukrainians are choosing. Many of them are choosing to leave. They are voting with their feet against submission to Russia. But they also may be voting with their feet against continuing the war.
James Pogue profiles “the new Right.” (The open letter I cited above appears in a new right publication.)
the basic worldview: that individualist liberal ideology, increasingly bureaucratic governments, and big tech are all combining into a world that is at once tyrannical, chaotic, and devoid of the systems of value and morality that give human life richness and meaning
. . .[J.D.] Vance recently told an interviewer, “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine,” a flick at the fact that he thinks the American-led global order is as much about enriching defense contractors and think-tank types as it is about defending America’s interests. “I do care about the fact that in my community right now the leading cause of death among 18- to 45-year-olds is Mexican fentanyl.” His criticisms of big tech as “enemies of Western civilization” often get lost in the run of Republican outrage over Trump being kicked off Twitter and Facebook, though they go much deeper than this. Vance believes that the regime has sold an illusive story that consumer gadgets and social media are constantly making our lives better, even as wages stagnate and technology feeds an epidemic of depression.
. . .Vance denounced elite colleges as enemies of the American people; he has long proposed cutting off their federal funding and seizing their endowments. The speech was later linked in alarmed op-eds to “anti-intellectual” movements that had attacked institutions of learning. But that doesn’t quite reckon with what an apocalyptic message he was offering. Because Vance and this New Right cohort, who are mostly so, so highly educated and well-read that their big problem often seems to be that they’re just too nerdy to be an effective force in mass politics, are not anti-intellectual. Vance is an intellectual himself, even if he’s not currently playing one on TV. But he thinks that our universities are full of people who have a structural, self-serving, and financial interest in coloring American culture as racist and evil. And he is ready to go to extraordinary lengths to fight them.
Pointer from Nellie Bowles. I keep thinking of Bryan Caplan’s simple model that the left hates markets and the right hates the left. In that sense, the right is a big tent, which is bound to include some clowns and weird acts. Too many of them also hate markets, unfortunately.
I like markets, free speech, and processes that reward talent and effort. To the extent that the left opposes those things, I hate the left. To the extent that the right is afraid of those things, I distrust the right.
Bowles also points to a piece by Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer.
Sweden seems to have been right. Countries that took the severe route to stem the virus might want to look at the evidence found in a little-known 2021 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The researchers found that among 11 wealthy peer nations, Sweden was the only one with no excess mortality among individuals under 75. None, zero, zip.
That’s not to say that Sweden had no deaths from COVID. It did. But it appears to have avoided the collateral damage that lockdowns wreaked in other countries.
Listen to the science.
Many thanks for the article on Sweden. I had been wondering about how Sweden was doing with COVID. As you say: "Just listen to the science>"
Am I so out of step with the term "individualism"?
Pogue says Vance is against "individualist liberal ideology", but I don't read anything like that in what Vance says or writes (and I've read his book). At the philosophical level, it's basically the same old libertarian concept that big government (especially as it exercises more control over big business) crushes the individual. And that's bad.
Tracinski, on the other hand, offers something that sounds like individualism ("people of a nation, one-by-one, choose the kind of society they want and take control of their own fate."). But really, that's limiting "individualism down to your ability to flee, fight, or be slaughtered. The "society" that's being built is a product of war, coercion, brutality, and denial of individual rights.
I think this gets to something kind of basic. Generally, I see the American right as for the primacy of the individual. I think the American left sees the individual as the base material of whatever collective they feel at the moment is most important.