Sunday, May 19, 2013

Odds and ends 5/19/2013

“Dear brothers and sisters, how hard it is, in our time, to make the ultimate decisions! The temporary seduces us. We are victims of a trend that pushes us to the temporary ... as if we wanted to stay teenagers for life! We should not be afraid of the agreed commitments, commitments that involve and affect the whole life! In this way, our lives will be fruitful!” –Pope Francis

Boy genius Michael W. Hannon rebuts Robert P. George on limited government in Public Discourse:

While the Aristotelian tradition teaches that man is essentially a citizen, it also, with a nod to hierarchy and subsidiarity, notes that his civic hat is but one of many that he wears—or better, that it is but one of many identities that he bears.

Therefore, our theoretical justification for the natural limitations on governmental authority should not be based on the accidental importance of political community, as in George’s system. Instead, we should defend limited government using the relation of political society to other goods that are also intrinsically valuable.

No natural good is comprehensive to the point of excluding all others. Friendship is limited; health is limited; marriage is limited too, despite being a one-flesh union and thus comprehensive in a certain narrow respect. Yet marriage is limited not because it is a merely instrumental good, but rather because it is one of many intrinsic goods, a particular non-exhaustive facet of human wellbeing. The same is true of civics.


To see political community as intrinsically good offers a more stable foundation for limited government than to reduce political community to a merely instrumental good. By demarcating government as one of many intrinsic goods in the created order, we can see where political community ends and other goods pick up. This picture gives politics naturally defined bounds. Government gets a realm of its own, and that realm is an inherently limited one.

Political community understood merely as an instrument to realizing individual goods, however, opens the doors to state encroachment wherever the government believes it can lend a hand. And as recent history shows all too clearly, the state tends to think it can assist with just about everything; even our government of clearly defined bounds oversteps them at every turn. When government is denied its own realm of importance as an intrinsic good, it overtakes whatever territory it can claim for itself.

Subsidiarity is the Catholic doctrine of limited government. David A. Bosnich writes at the Acton Institute:

This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.

This is why Pope John Paul II took the “social assistance state” to task in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The Pontiff wrote that the Welfare State was contradicting the principle of subsidiarity by intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility. This “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

Sing it, Holy Father.

At the American Thinker, Bruce Johnson hits on this theme in an essay on the government’s interest in removing charitable deductions from the tax code:

Progressives enjoy herding people to the door step of governmental assistance. Food stamps and disability payments and the entire cornucopia that is federal assistance are their pet programs. Charities are an obstruction to a full and total reliance on government.

At the American Spectator, Ron Ross inveighs against politicization and resulting tyranny:

A popular battle cry of feminists in the ’60s and ’70s was “the personal is political.” That phrase pretty well reflects the politicization movement in general. Politicizing something essentially moves it from the personal, individual realm to the public realm. It converts what used to be in the private sphere to the public sphere. Issues and preferences are moved from individuals to the “collective.” Pressure is applied to create uniformity of opinion. Independence of thought cannot be tolerated. An irony of liberals is in spite of their professed belief in “diversity,” what they actually yearn for is conformity.

The personal is political, the private is public. That includes not just behavior, but more insidiously, thought and choice. In the left’s view there is only one“correct” way of thinking. If you have another opinion you must be a bigot, racist, or Neanderthal. And they don’t want to discuss it.

Arthur Brooks tells how Republicans can win Hispanic votes in the Wall Street Journal:

We all know that several cultural forces best predict earned success and happiness. With exhaustive evidence in his 2012 best seller Coming Apart, Charles Murray shows that these forces are faith, family, community and work. Conservatives are in their natural habitat here and should fight every day to get the government out of the way of a healthy culture for vulnerable American families.

This means ending tax and welfare incentives that discourage marriage and encourage children out of wedlock, rewarding work over unemployment benefits, and a host of other pro-poor policies. Healthy culture should not be the realm of Puritanism but of Good Samaritanism and smart policy.

You have to speak to their souls. You have to tell them no one is more capable of realizing his goals than a man released from the economic, psychological trap of smothering government.

The Washington Examiner editorial board sounds off on scandalpocalypse, and frames the issues perfectly:

Conservatives and liberals have long debated the most effective way to ensure accountability in government. Conservatives, who usually view human nature as inherently flawed, automatically distrust those exercising official power. Liberals, for whom the perfectibility of man is an article of faith, argue that government is inherently benevolent – and that officials who would abuse their power are restrained by the threat of exposure.

James Delingpole of the London Telegraph writes a hilarious piece mocking “expert environment expert” Mark Lynas. The two long quotes are from Lynas’ book Six Degrees: Our Future On A Hotter Planet:

“In constraining carbon through rationing, we might soon find that we were building a different sort of society, one emphasising quality of life before the raw statistics of economic growth and relentless consumerism.”

Yes! Yes! We don’t want quantifiable data or tiresome real-world metrics. We want made up, random measures like – I know – how about Sustainayumminess and Recyclocaringempathy and Nonracistantijudgementalism? I expect Anthony Seldon would be eager to work them into the curriculum at Wellington.

But wait. I’ve had a bad thought. I know I shouldn’t but I have: what about all those sceptics who say that CO2 is just a harmless trace gas and even if you double atmospheric CO2 it’s only going to have a forcing effect of about 1 degree C – not the scary 6 degrees in Mark’s arresting title. Should we take these people seriously – or is there some sinister underlying explanation for their denialism?

“According to psychologists, denial is a way for people to resolve the dissonance caused by new information which may challenge deeply held views or cherished patterns of behaviour. Motorists, therefore, may not be willing to absorb information which challenges their perceived need to use their cars; nor are holidaymakers likely to be eager to think too much about global warming as they board their flights to Thailand.”

Aha! I see. So it’s in all in their heads? Nothing to do with real-world data, then? That’s good to know. Otherwise all those people who bought Mark’s important contribution to the state of global climate hysteria might feel that they’d been sold a pup by an anti-scientific eco-loon talking way above his pay grade and demand their money back.

And how’s Mark supposed to support his next holiday in the Maldives if they all do that?

Makoto Fujimura writes about meeting his wife:

I had an internal compass toward her that told me that I could be straightforward with her in a way that I had not mustered, in my many shy attempts in the past, with other girls.


I remember the ease I had in my heart speaking with her; I could tell that Judy saw me differently than any girl had seen me in the past. She allowed me to come inside her mind and reside in her heart, as natural as breathing, without any prejudice whatsoever.

Charles Murray defends Jason Richwine in National Review. I enjoyed the following exchange in the comments section (as well as the first commenter’s moniker):

Julian_Castro_Picks_His_Nose: I would like to ask the resident Leftists a question: If you conducted research which inadvertently proved that mean white IQs were significantly higher than mean black or Hispanic IQs, would you suppress the findings?

thewiks: I would like to ask the resident Rightists a question: If you conducted research which inadvertently proved that mean black or Hispanic IQs were significantly higher than mean white IQs, would you suppress the findings?

Lex Corvus: Most Rightists who study this issue will readily admit that Chinese have significantly higher IQs than Europeans (by about 1/3 of a standard deviation), while Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQs of all (around a full standard deviation higher than non-Jewish Europeans). Leftists conveniently ignore this in favor of accusations of white racism—probably because “Rightists are pro-Semitic Chinese supremacists!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Philip Jenkins, professor at my alma mater, Baylor University, absolves Joe McCarthy of the “witch hunt” label at RealClearReligion:

Alger Hiss was a spy, as were the Rosenbergs. If FDR had died before 1944, his successor would have been Vice President Henry Wallace, who identified Laurence Duggan as his potential Secretary of State, and Harry Dexter White as his Treasury Secretary. Duggan and White were both Soviet spies. Quite apart from the many known cases, VENONA reveals the existence of several hundred more Americans who worked for the Soviets, but who still remain unidentified.

The “witch hunts” of course began long before McCarthy's rise to prominence, and arguably had done far more to dismantle the Soviet spy threat than the Senator from Wisconsin. Anti-Communist purges were in fact at their height under the Democratic Truman administration. They reached new heights after 1950 not because of the rise of a new demagogue, but because the U.S. was at open war with Communist forces in Korea, with the daily expectation of an imminent escalation against the Soviets – who had tested a nuclear bomb the previous year. In such a dire situation, it was natural to expect a domestic sabotage campaign by those Soviet assets on American soil who could most easily be found within the ranks of the Communist Party.

In the 1950s, unlike the 1650s, the “witches” were quite real and deadly dangerous, and any government that failed to seek them out and neutralize them would have been signally failing in its basic duty of national self-preservation. It made excellent sense to ask exactly who was, or recently had been, a Communist, and the obvious way to do that was to track their political views over the previous decade or so. In what sense could investigating such a record be called a witch-hunt?

A cat fight erupts at American Thinker. The delicious Elisabeth Meinecke of Townhall wrote a Mother’s Day special on several high-profile, conservative women. One thing was missing: actual, relatable women. M. Catharine Evans takes exception:

Sandra Fluke may be a joke to most conservatives, but the unglamorous law student appealed to the “in” crowd that gets its cues from mass market media. The left knows there are a heckuva lot more women who look, live, and sound like Fluke than the alluring and/or powerful women writing and posing for Townhall.

In a less threatening political climate, a magazine heralding well-to-do conservative moms wouldn’t be a big deal – but these are not normal times. Obama has ushered in a gussied up version of a third-world country where mothers, as the hubs of their families, will have to figure out ways to survive not only the cultural war, but the economic one. The dire situation facing cash-strapped moms continues to escape the young, smart, but often out-of-touch editors like Elisabeth Meinecke.

Evans is right. The virtuous women Meinecke profiled have easy, upper-class, cookie-cutter lives. She would have done better plucking a woman off the street, or venturing into a dusty rural town. But that would not be “glamorous.” It might scarily confront the salty aspects of real life.

Sometimes you read something by an author you’re not familiar with, and you know it was written by woman, because only a woman has the balls to write it. That woman is Ashley McGuire of AltCatholicah:

We can thank women for no-fault divorce laws. They fought hard in the 1960s and 1970s for the right to be freed from that terrible, hierarchical construct that is marriage.

When I reached this, I scrolled to the byline to confirm it was indeed written by a woman. I write stuff like this, but I’m a garden-variety misogynist, on the fringe, as they say, and I may yet remain so.

Anthony Quinn reviews Star Trek: Into Darkness for the UK Independent. He concludes:

There’s not a great deal of suspense here. However frantic the scramble, however frequent the panic stations, do we believe that the Starship is heading into anything but the next sequel?

Nope. And that’s a problem. The absence of genuine peril can prevent a movie from elevating itself above popcorn entertainment into the realm of art. The Dark Knight trilogy did very well to leave the outcome in doubt. Bruce Wayne lost fights, suffered setbacks, and was forced to make terrible choices about who to save and who to let die.

As a writer, I try to imbue the narrative with a sense of—dare I say it—mortal weight. If nothing is really at stake, what’s the reader reading for?

Here’s what I left on the cutting room floor in writing “Spaces between”:

Two months ago, I heard Tim Tebow give a talk at a charity event. The definition of tragedy, Tebow said, is being great at something you don’t love.


Last month, Mitch Wilburn, a guest speaker at our church retreat, told us about a man whom he volunteered with at a ministry. They were strangers to each other, but through conversation, Mitch learned he was a wealthy account manager, responsible for billions of dollars in assets. He said to Mitch he was being paid seven figures to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. He didn’t consider it his real work. Christ’s ministry was his real work.

At First Things, Wesley J. Smith hones in on the identity racket and gives a harrowing example:

Transhumanists urge society to devote its intellectual and financial resources to expensive research aimed at enabling individuals to radically redesign themselves in their own image. The ultimate goal of transhumanism is designing a “post-human” species in which everyone could freely change their appearance and capacities at will.

There is now even serious talk about allowing doctors to amputate healthy limbs as a “treatment” for a terrible mental illness known generally as “body integrity identity disorder.” BIID sufferers obsess about becoming disabled, a few as paraplegics or quadriplegics, but most desperately desire to become amputees—which they perceive as their true identities. Some defenders of voluntary amputation note, correctly, that we permit sex change operations—and even legally “reassign” males to be females and vice versa—so it is only logical that we also accommodate “amputee wannabe” self-identity.

Joseph Knippenberg weighs in:

The antidote is to recognize what we are made for, about which our bodies (created by the creator) give us some very strong hints. We can through very great efforts seem to overcome the limits of our bodies (in medicine, we sometimes call that “playing God”), but that doesn’t free us so much as it makes us dependent, not on the partners for whom we were made, but on the Leviathan that offers us choices.

The fundamental issue here is not anyone’s sexual orientation; it’s the assumption that choice, pleasure, and self-fulfillment are our be-all and end-all, an assumption that many—nay, all—of us sinners share.

What Smith calls “transhumanism” Mark Tooley calls “gnosticm” (via the American Spectator):

The ancient Gnostics believed in mind over matter, in conflict with Judaism and Christianity, which have always asserted a concrete reality in God’s order of creation.

It’s been commonly claimed that America’s historically intrinsic offer of constant self-reinvention is itself gnostic influenced. Maybe, but this American promise was actually a reaction against static social and economic stratification in the Old World. American individualism offered upward mobility and the liberty to pursue adventure and even eccentricity. It has not until recently demanded that society must approve and subsidize new gender identities entailing elective, radically mutilating surgery followed by a lifetime of hormone treatments.

Mitt Romney gave a commencement speech at Southern Virginia University and praised the early marriage model. This raised liberals’ dander, as Jennifer Wadsworth illustrates (hat tip Aaron Goldstein):

Forget about waiting until you’re in your 30s or 40s, he continues. What, you want to start your life as an independent adult? Live a little? Travel? Maybe pursue one dream or another until you stumble into your own coming-of-age without a spouse by your side?

Those types, Romney dramatically remarks, “they’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.”

Right. Those poor unattached 20-somethings, wallowing in loneliness while they wait for a partner to help them discover a purpose and unburden themselves from the trials and tribulations of single adulthood. That’s what they get for their self-centered pursuit of happiness. They’ll probably end up at 43 years old in a one-room apartment, eating fistfuls of melting Dibs, perusing profiles on, long past their baby-makin’ prime. Smite!

Wadsworth is more right than she knows. Is there nobility to the single, unattached life that I am missing? I’m reminded of Taylor, played by Michael Biehn, unburdening his soul to his dying climbing partner in K2:

My whole life has been about me. My work is about lies and compromise and dealing with the scum of the earth. I come to places like this with you to find a little grace, you know? I don’t want to be selfish all my life. I want some nobility, God dammit!

If you think marriage is between a man and a woman, Starbucks doesn’t want your business. Victor Medina writes:

The rise of support for gay marriage has also seen a rise of intolerance for those who oppose it. Many who joined the boycott of Starbucks last year were dismissed as bigots, even though the boycott did cause revenue to drop.

... I hear echoes of “Economic anonymity.”

“Not every decision is an economic decision.” –Howard Schulz, Starbucks CEO
“It’s common sense that any investing strategy that makes choices based on politics rather than financial considerations will come with a cost.” –Hamilton Nolan

Jillian Keenan of Slate embraces the slippery slope of marriage redefinition (hat tip Ryan T. Anderson):

Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less ‘correct’ than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults.


Legalized polygamy in the United States is the constitutional, feminist and sex-positive choice.

John Milbank warns how the redefinition of marriage could mean the loss of parents’ rights to raise their children, resulting in a “biopolitical tyranny.” Excerpt:

The graver fear surrounding the new legislation is that secular thought will not so readily let go of the demand for absolutely equal rights based on identical definitions. In that case, we face an altogether more drastic prospect. Not only would “marriage” have been redefined so as to include gay marriage, it would inevitably be redefined even for heterosexual people in homosexual terms. Thus “consummation” and “adultery” would cease to be seen as having any relevance to the binding and loosing of straight unions.

Many may welcome such a development as yet a further removal of state intrusion into our private lives, but that would be to fail to consider all the implications. In the first place, it would end public recognition of the importance of marriage as a union of sexual difference. But the joining together and harmonisation of the asymmetrical perspectives of the two sexes are crucial both to kinship relations over time and to social peace. Where the reality of sexual difference is denied, then it gets reinvented in perverse ways – just as the over-sexualisation of women and the confinement of men to a marginalised machismo.

Secondly, it would end the public legal recognition of a social reality defined in terms of the natural link between sex and procreation. In direct consequence, the natural children of heterosexual couples would then be only legally their children if the state decided that they might be legally “adopted” by them.

And this, I argue, reveals what is really at issue here. There was no demand for “gay marriage” and this has nothing to do with gay rights. Instead, it is a strategic move in the modern state’s drive to assume direct control over the reproduction of the population, bypassing our interpersonal encounters. This is not about natural justice, but the desire on the part of biopolitical tyranny to destroy marriage and the family as the most fundamental mediating social institution.

“[It is a] happy truth that man is capable of self-government, and only rendered otherwise by the moral degradation designedly superinduced on him by the wicked acts of his tyrant.” –Thomas Jefferson

At Touchstone, Douglas Farrow digs deep into the tension between liberty and morally limiting truth.

The power of On Liberty to overturn social and moral and religious conventions arises from Mill’s exciting and flattering suggestion that freedom will lead you into the truth. That iconoclastic gospel from the Romantic period still competes very successfully, tractable as it is to post-modern cynicism, with the older idol-smashing gospel of Jesus, that “the truth will set you free.”

Mill’s gospel takes no account of the creator/creature distinction, or of the fallenness of man. It takes no account of a freedom higher than freedom of choice, and gives no thought to how the truth of our own good will be recognized, or how that good will prove commensurate with the good of others. It is incurably romantic and naively optimistic. Most significantly, it fails to reckon with the fact that, in the absence of an overarching common good, based on a prior truth to which both the individual and the state are subject, the state must become the arbiter of all the competing goods of “free” individuals. It is not the individual who triumphs, then, in the appeal to a freedom that is prior to truth, but the state.


Replaced by a kaleidoscope of transient sexual and psychological configurations, which serve chiefly to make children of adults and adults of children, the declining family is ceding enormous tracts of social and legal territory to the state. At law, parent-child relationships are losing their a priori status and privilege. Crafty fools ask foolish fools, “What harm does same-sex marriage do to your marriage, or to your family?” The truthful answer is: Same-sex marriage makes us all chattels of the state, because the state, in presuming to define the substance rather than the accidents of marriage, has made marriage itself a state artifact.

Those who have trouble connecting the dots here—which lamentably includes many defenders of the traditional institution—should take time to consider the fact that the new “inclusive” definition, in striking procreation from the purview of marriage, has left both parents and children without a lawful institution that respects and guarantees their natural rights to each other.

I’m convinced the only reason Victor Davis Hansen still lives in California is so he can report on its collapse.

Immigration from Mexico and Central America in the past was manageable, since it was mostly legal, newcomers met a host eager to assimilate and integrate them, and the limited pools of yearly arrivals facilitated such confident melting-pot approaches. But in the last 30 years, a perfect storm of huge increases in illegal immigration, the politicized abandonment of the assimilationist melting-pot model in favor of the multicultural salad-bowl approach, the transfers of billions of dollars out of the state in annual remittances to Latin America, and the dismal economy resulted in soaring costs in welfare, Medi-Cal, the penal system, and law enforcement. Ironically, it is the sputtering California economy, not federal- or state-government enforcement of the law, that has led to a fairly recent slowdown in illegal immigration.

Mike Gonzales of the Heritage Foundation discusses assimilation, a pretty word for conformity, in the context of the Boston Marathon bombing in the Denver Post:

We no longer teach patriotic assimilation. By that I mean love of country, not just its creature comforts.

We teach the opposite, in fact — that we’re all groups living cheek by jowl with one another, all with different advantages and legal class protection statuses, but not really all part of the same national fabric. In other words, we teach multiculturalism and diversity, and are officially making assimilation very hard to achieve.

If Dzhokhar and his brother Tamarlan are guilty of the acts of terrorism they are accused of because they succumbed to Islamist radicalism, then they are monsters who are personally responsible for turning against the land that welcomed them. Tamarlan has paid with his life, and Dzhokhar will be dealt judgment.

But as we grapple now with the thorny question of immigration, how to handle the millions of people who started to arrive at mid-century in a massive immigration wave, we could do worse than look at the affairs in Boston for a clue on whether our current approach works.

First let’s look at the brothers Tsarnaev. For a hint on their motivation we have no less an authority than their uncle Ruslan. Asked why his nephews had bombed the Boston Marathon, he replied with the now famous line, “Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves; these are the only reasons I can imagine of.”

The author of the citizenship clause, Sen. Jacob Howard, wrote:

Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

Thus does Cal State Political Science Professor Edward J. Erler in testimony before Congress conclude:

Congress is fully competent, under the fourteenth amendment, to pass legislation defining those who are “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States. It does not require a constitutional amendment to withhold citizenship from children born in the United States of illegal alien parents. Their parents are not “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States and they seek citizenship for their children without the consent of the nation. It defies logic to insist that an illegal act on the part of parents can confer the boon of citizenship upon their children.

It’s absurd that an illegal immigrant can create a legal jurisdiction through an illegal act.

Keith Ablow seizes the opportunity of the sexploitation film Spring Breakers to tear into our hypersexual culture (via Fox News):

Genital contact (along with brawling) is now America’s reflex antidote to losing contact. And the antidote is being peddled indiscriminately to kids, who are being dragged right out of childhood by a vicious undertow of eroticism fueled by tides of primal fear that we are not really living life at all, nor are we male, nor are we female, nor need we be troubled (just take Prozac), nor need we be distracted (just take Adderall), nor need we be anxious or bored (just take medical marijuana), nor are we responsible for ourselves (just apply for government entitlements).

The toll of using sex as a drug is, of course, the same as using any drug. You get high and temporarily avoid struggling to face what troubles you [have] and pursue the dreams that motivate you and choose the values that will guide you.

The hard work of becoming a complete individual is put off, in favor of getting off. And one’s value to society is minimized. This is why a culture that drugs people—especially children—with sex is a culture in decline.

Ashley Benson of Pretty Little Liars stars in Spring Breakers. I read the first two books in the PLL series because I like to keep up with what young people are reading. But that’s not why I would watch the TV show, which features four nubile 20-something female leads pretending they’re 17 and 18 years old.

“Without a plot, it’s just masturbation.” –George Costanza

Kylie Bisutti used to be a Victoria’s Secret model, until she gave up modeling. She saw what damage she was doing to men’s and girl’s psyches by flaunting her body (hat tip Zjolt):

“I was being paid to strip down and pose provocatively to titillate men. It wasn’t about modeling clothes anymore; I felt like a piece of meat,” Bisutti said during a recent interview while recalling her career as a Victoria’s Secret model.


The then-teenager says she felt exploited multiple times by photographers and agents, who seemed to perceive her as a sex object.

Kylie eventually came to terms that she was becoming a bad role model to other women.

“At the time, a Victoria’s Secret lingerie show was airing on TV, and I was looking at Twitter and saw loads of tweets from women comparing themselves to the impossible image of the models,” she told the Post. “It made me think back to earlier in my modeling career, when my 8-year-old cousin was watching me put on makeup and said to me, ‘I’m going to throw up my food so I look like you.’ I realized my career was sending a bad message to women about confidence and body image.”

Few things make me feel as sad, helpless, and lonely as the ubiquity of pornography and the constant distraction of flesh. The worst part about it is many girls simply don’t know how their style of dress torments men.

Joseph Postell reviews Stephen Krason’s The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic for Public Discourse:

For Krason, the radical democratization of the Jacksonian period (which “was clearly contrary to the Founders’ beliefs”), combined with increased emphasis on self-interest and material wealth, joined developments in religion and the family to produce a much more individualistic culture. Unlike other accounts that cite the Progressive era as the first strong break from the founding, Krason argues that it started much earlier: The country had already experienced an important philosophical and cultural transformation by the time the Civil War started. This is an important and often-overlooked point, and he does well to highlight the importance of the Jacksonian period.

The two other phases of radical transformation occurred from 1877 to 1920 and 1960 to 1980. The former period “brought about the emergence and increasing domination of great, centralized economic power and business” as well as a “new era of bureaucratization” and “positivistic jurisprudence.” Due to these changes, “[t]he connection between ethics and economics was decisively severed” and “enduring division and tension among different social groups and a lack of civic friendship took hold.” All these problems indicated “the decisive erosion of the natural law-natural rights tradition of the Founding.”

In the latter period almost every cultural norm upheld by the founders was overthrown. The administrative state was “consolidated” and “the breakdown of sexual morality ... and of the family” occurred. “Secularization and the public marginalization of religion reached their zenith” and “suspicion and conflict among different social groups became widespread as never before in the country’s history.”

While developments in other periods marked important changes from the founders’ design, it was in these three eras that radical individualism, economic and political centralization, and the decline of religion and the family were fully realized.

In closing, some levity (via the Atlantic):

President Obama answered a question about Benghazi during a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, and hi-def photos reveal that some moisture traveled from the president’s eye area to his cheekbone in a thin stream. Was it a tear?

Depends on the vector of the moisture. Let’s go to the tape and play it back in slow motion.

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