Links to Consider, 1/9
Ben Sasse on political tribalism; Jonathan Rauch on institutions; Brad Littlejohn on authority; The Zvi on airline service
In the WSJ, Ben Sasse writes,
In a nation as big as ours, there is always someone somewhere saying something stupid—but tribalism takes this fact as its lifeblood. And it’s the excuse for otherwise civic-minded Americans to ignore the nuts in their own party and obsess only over the nuts in the other party. We’re tempted to think that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It takes a genuine leader to remind us that most of the time, the enemy of our enemy is still a jackass.
The topic of political tribalism is a “well-squeezed orange,” but those lines get a bit more juice out of it.
(I owe the “well-squeezed orange” metaphor to Charles Kindleberger, who used it to describe the literature on the origins of the Industrial Revolution—an orange that is still being squeezed.)
Participation in politics for most people amounts to voting once every couple of years and maybe donating money. The parties, meanwhile, primarily function as brands, not institutions. A few people may volunteer for a candidate or get involved with a partisan cause, but the large majority tune in to politics only on Election Day, if at all. This is a thin kind of political life.
Twitter is no substitute for face-to-face engagement with others through intermediaries — human intermediaries. Algorithmic intermediation, through which we participate by clicking on links curated by software, is woefully insufficient.
As he does in his book, Rauch seems to blame mostly the people who have lost respect for institutions. I put more emphasis on institutional decay, particularly in academia. As the importance of academia as a credentialing system has risen, its ability to distinguish wise people from poseurs has fallen apart.
our problem is that we no longer know how to recognize an authentic claim to authority, even if one dares show its face — which it almost never does. Without recognition of authority, there can be no legitimacy. Without legitimacy in our authoritative institutions, we cannot know how or why to act — a paralysis we experience as a loss of freedom even as we rage against the authorities we fear pose the greatest threats to our freedom.
…Today the term "expert" is more likely to elicit a sneer than an attentive ear — except among segments of the population who, as if in a desperate attempt to compensate, try their best to make expertise an object of nearly religious genuflection.
He draws a distinction between power and authority which sounds a bit like the distinction between a dominance hierarchy and a prestige hierarchy. This distinction carries over to another one that he makes, between political authority and epistemic authority. He argues that
Due to their systematic conflation over the past century, both types of authority are in a state of crisis.
Littlejohn points out that the problem with conflating political authority with epistemic authority is that they operate differently. Political authority is necessarily final and decisive. Epistemic authority is necessarily tentative and open to challenge.
if we wanted more competition, the thing we could plausibly want, there is a very easy and free way to get that. The world’s biggest airlines would be happy to get involved in the domestic air travel market. They are not American, so we ban them.
Ross Douthat had a piece recently which amounted to "voters have really short memories and only care about the Current Thing, even if some horrible thing the other side did in the recent past seems salient to you." It started out talking about Trump, but noted that the same has been true for COVID policy and many other things through history.
This can be a feature or a bug, but it is.
As for nuts on either side, what matters to me is if they are driving policy. Much hey has been made of vaccine skepticism, but none of that interfered with my getting a vaccine. By contrast, much hey has been made about wokeness, and wokeness really did interfere with my getting a vaccine (the CDC equity protocols).
Since the left has the power, its crazies matter more to my life because its crazies often set real life policies.
Zvi: "The world’s biggest airlines would be happy to get involved in the domestic air travel market. They are not American, so we ban them."
Catchy, but wrong. The world's biggest airlines by revenue are Delta, American and United. The biggest airlines by passenger carried are China Southern Air, American and Delta. One time startups like Southwest, Jet Blue, Allegiant, WestJet, etc are major competitors for the US big three.
Rather than foreign entry, the main block to competition to to be landing slots and boating ramps at airports, particularly the major airports. The may be room for more red-eye flights, but 7 am to 11 pm is full at the majors. NIMBY to airport expansion.