Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kristi Coulter on the Twenty-Four Hour Woman

For reasons that escape me the femosphere is up in arms about Kristi Coulter’s article about modern First World women, or better, the Twenty-Four Hour woman.

Women have objected strenuously to the fact that Coulter seems to be blaming it all on the patriarchy, because, after all, who does that anymore?

For my part, never having bought into the women-can-have-it-all silliness, I was more interested in the quality of the writing and the great story that Coulter tells. As it happens, she writes exceptionally well and much of the time seems to be, as I would put it, “in character.” If you were reading a cri de coeur by Holden Caulfield, you would not be thinking that J. D. Salinger was speaking his heart. You would understand that he has created a character that has a specific way of seeing the world and of making his way through it. Why should we not afford Coulter the same consideration?

For my part I have the greatest appreciation for great writing. I do not really care whether Coulter agrees with me or echoes my thoughts. There is not enough really good writing out there and those who produce it deserve our respect and praise. Laurels for Kristi Coulter.

Coulter is describing a young woman who has stopped drinking and who has gained a measure of sobriety. Naturally, she sees alcohol everywhere. She sees temptation everywhere. She sees Sirens inviting her to take a drink. And she sees that far too many other women are more than happy to drown their lives in booze.

When you are a recovering alcoholic and when everyone around you seems to be drinking, the world does not look very friendly and inviting. And besides, you feel like an outsider, a misfit, a traitor to your gender.

And you are likely to feel some considerable anger. At the patriarchy, of course, because you have been taught—I wonder where?—to blame the patriarchy for everything that has gone wrong in your life. But you are also, fairly obviously, blaming yourself for having bought the story about today’s modern liberated woman.

You are likely to be angry because, however much you would like to blame the patriarchy, today’s modern women do not, as a point of pride, take advice from any member of the male sex. At which point it becomes increasingly difficult to blame it on men.

True enough, Coulter rails against the patriarchy. She is learning how to be sober in a world where women drink themselves into oblivion because they have set unrealistic goals for themselves, and where they tend to blame others when they cannot ply the world to their will. Or better where they believe that the only options they have are either to be everything or to be nothing. That way madness or alcoholism lies.

The notion that women can be everything and can have everything does not come down to us from the patriarchy. Not at all. It comes down from second-wave feminists who set up an unrealistic expectation in order to seduce young women into joining the cause. Join the cause and you will have everything.

It did not work out that way, of course.

Coulter writes:

Is it really that hard, being a First World woman? Is it really so tough to have the career and the spouse and the pets and the herb garden and the core strengthening and the oh-I-just-woke-up-like-this makeup and the face injections and the Uber driver who might possibly be a rapist? Is it so hard to work ten hours for your rightful 77% of a salary, walk home past a drunk who invites you to suck his cock, and turn on the TV to hear the men who run this country talk about protecting you from abortion regret by forcing you to grow children inside your body?

Evidently, Coulter does not have warm feelings toward men. One might say that, to some extent, the feeling is reciprocated. We live in a world where the cultural environment is hostile, even toxic. And it is not just hostile toward women.

Rather than say anything about second-wave feminism, Coulter blames it on a pefume… one that I do not recall. The perfume commercial promised women that they could be everything, that they could have everything. It was addressed to women who were breathing in the fumes of the new feminist revival. To blame it on the perfume maker is really to miss the point.

Coulter writes:

Do you remember the Enjoli perfume commercial from the 1970s? The chick who could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man?

I blame that bitch for a lot. For spreading the notion that women should have a career, keep house, and f**k their husbands, when the only sane thing to do is pick two and outsource the third. For making it seem glamorous. For suggesting it was going to be fun. And for the tagline she dragged around: “The 8-Hour Perfume for the 24-Hour Woman.” Just in case you thought you could get one fucking hour off the clock.

The passage shows the damage done by unrealistic expectations, by the notion that a woman can have it all. For my part I agree with Coulter that a woman should choose two and outsource the third. It’s brilliant antidote to the have-it-all mentality.

Coulter continues that these unrealistic expectations have caused women to lose touch with their natures by marinating their bodies in alcohol. It’s not the same as liking your body. If that is their strategy that suggests that they are simply not very happy to be women. Call this yet another a consequence of the feminist revolution.

In Coulter’s words:

But knives and booze, yoga and booze, 13 mile runs and booze? What’s next to be liquored up: CPR training? Puppy ballet class? (Not really a thing, but someone should get on it.) Is there nothing so inherently absorbing or high-stakes or pleasurable that we won’t try to alter our natural response to it? Maybe women are so busy faking itto be more like a man at work, more like a porn star in bed, more like 30 at 50that we dont trust our natural responses anymore. Maybe all that wine is an Instagram filter for our own lives, so we don’t see how sallow and cracked they’ve become.

Perhaps, women are busy faking it. But, the question is: who told them that they had to be all these things? For the record, it was not I.

And Coulter does not conclude that she should be angry with the patriarchy. She concludes by being angry at the women and with herself. She describes a moment where she overcomes her anger and begins to see things more clearly. She is recovering and regaining her bearings. As I said, she is writing in character:

I am very angry with women that summer and then I’m very, very angry with myself. And I stay that way for months, trudging through my first sober Christmas and job change and flu and birthday and using that anger at every turn as a reminder to pay attention and go slow and choose things I actually want to happen. By the time summer comes back around I realize I no longer smell like eight-hour perfume.

The story has a happy ending… and not in the way you are thinking. It shows Coulter sitting around a pool with her friend Mindy, watching a group of women on the other side of the pool having what they think is a great time drinking pomegranate mimosas. 

And, she is happy that she is not one of them. She prefers her side of the pool:

Then Mindy slides her Tom Ford sunglasses back over her eyes and says, “All I can say is it’s really nice on this side of the pool.” I laugh and my heart swells against my swimsuit and I pull my shades down too, to keep my suddenly watery eyes to myself. Because it is. It is so nice on this side of the pool, where the book I’m reading is a letdown and my legs look too white and the ice has long since melted in my glass and work is hard and there’s still no good way to be a girl and I don’t know what to do with my life and I have to actually deal with all of that. I never expected to make it to this side of the pool. I can’t believe I get to be here.

Another Reason to Quit Psychoanalysis

As everyone knows, Freudian psychoanalysis requires the patient to say whatever comes to mind, regardless of how obnoxious or how trivial it is. I have often pointed out that this manner of speaking is unnatural and abnormal. Thus, psychoanalytic treatment, among its other detriments, trains people to master the bad habit that it calls free association.

If psychoanalysis is conducted properly the patient will develop a habit that will make him dysfunctional. Some people feel good about being dysfunctional, but, as Jason Notte points out-- in an article that does not mention either Freud or psychoanalysis-- saying whatever comes to mind, running your mouth and being generally indiscreet will tend to impoverish and immiserate you. It will make it far more difficult to become wealthy, because… here is the important point… being wealthy and successful requires you to get along with other people and to do so you need to display a high standard of decorum and propriety.

One ought to ask how many therapists, Freudian or not, promote such values and teach people the best ways to get along with other people.

Anyway, Notte explains:

Amassing wealth and maintaining it requires building relationships and cultivating partnerships, which are difficult to accomplish when you're running your mouth about anything that comes to mind.

You will be happy to note that this can all be measured. And that it has been measured, by a financial advisory firm:

A recent survey by international financial advisory agency de Vere Group discovered that the wealthier classes covet civility as much as any luxury item. It recently asked 830 clients who have investable assets of more than $1.3 million which subject was the most difficult to discuss with family, friends and colleagues. According to responses from the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, there is a global consensus that prizes silence about certain topics for the sake of decorum, public perception and maintenance of personal relationships

Tact and discretion, there you have it. In an age of oversharing and overexposure you might not agree with the point, but people who care about getting along with other people, and whose livelihood depends on it, understand it well.

Notte writes:

With social media only amplifying discord once reserved for the loud guy at the restaurant or the less-tactful relatives at a family dinner, it's worth looking at the wealthy's taboo topics and determining if discussing them with anonymous strangers is any more fruitful than bringing them up in awkward face-to-face interactions:

No family relishes an aunt's retelling of her latest goiter operation, complete with disgusting detail. They tolerate it even less at a dinner table where they're ostensibly attempting to enjoy a meal without it being rendered unpalatable by each passing phrase.

Considering how important personal relationships are in cultivating and maintaining wealth, there's a reason why the wealthy avoid the topic altogether. 

Notte recounts some topics that are off limits and out of bounds in polite conversation. Obviously, they include the vulgar and the obscene, but they also include topics about which people have very strong feelings: like religion and politics. And, of course, you do well not to discuss how wealthy you are over the dinner table… or anywhere else.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Politics of Pregnancy

Apparently, Avra Siegel missed the Women’s Studies class where they explained pregnancy. Or perhaps the subject never came up in her lean-in group.

For whatever reason, Siegel was surprised to discover how difficult it was to be pregnant. She was even more surprised to discover that pregnancy made it more difficult to do her job.

Being a card-carrying feminist Siegel likes to pretend that pregnancy is not a disability. At the same time she describes it as disabling.

One understands that for this ideologically committed woman reality is what you say it is. If you say it isn’t a ransom, it isn’t a ransom. If you say it isn’t Islamist terrorism, it isn’t Islamist terrorism. If you say that it isn’t a disability, it isn’t a disability.

Got it?

Even Siegel understands that she is not the first woman to get pregnant or to have morning sickness or to suffer the multiple indignities that accompany her condition. And yet, she acts as though she is.

She acts as though no one ever prepared her for this. Perhaps she does not read very much. Perhaps she never talks to other women about pregnancy. Or, perhaps she is suffering from the feminist bias against pregnancy. It is too obvious to have to say it, but feminism believes that women’s health issues are limited to contraception and abortion. What happens during pregnancy is not part of the Women’s Studies curriculum.

In any event, Siegel pretends that her experience is really, truly unique. It is so unique that it merits an article in Fortune, of all places. And it is so unique that she never mentions her husband, the father of her child. She does acknowledge that under normal conditions a man does contribute to the process, but she never mentions her husband.

One understands that politically correct thinking does not allow you to refer to your husband. Because if you do you are expressing your deep-seated bigotry against those women who are pregnant but do not have husbands. And it would express a deplorable bigotry against those women who conceived via parthenogenesis.

Allow Siegel to recount her tale of woe:

I had been up all night, stricken with nausea, frantically Googling “heartburn or heart attack?” because my epic chest pains were so bad that they were making me feel faint….

I was totally unprepared for how challenging pregnancy would be–and felt uncomfortable voicing this to anyone but someone else who was also pregnant….

I didn’t want to be seen as complaining or ungrateful — or even worse, not committed to my career. And I know I’m not alone. For the millions of American women who work outside the home, the career consequences that frequently accompany starting a family can begin during pregnancy, well before the baby arrives. The truth is, pretending pregnancy doesn’t sometimes suck isn’t doing anyone any good.

Stop and take a breath. We now know that pregnancy sucks. But, is this the kind of information that you expect to find in an august business publication like Fortune. And besides, being up all night Googling? Hopefully, her husband was there to comfort and console her. Besides, why not call her obstetrician? Isn't that better than frantically googling your symptoms?

We have also learned that, however uncomfortable Siegel feels taking about this with outsiders, she has chosen to expose it all to the world in a magazine article. So much for her sense of shame. If she wants to be respected for her professional achievements she should not be going out of her way to draw attention to her bodily functions.

Despite what she says, she is certainly complaining. Yet, she wants you to know that this minor inconvenience has not in any way compromised her commitment to her career.

She is a feminist, so career must come first. Any suggestion that a pregnant women, or a woman with an infant, might be less of an employee is anathema to her raised feminist consciousness.

And yet, Women’s Studies classes did not explain morning sickness. And they did not explain how inconvenient it was to feel like you want to throw up all the time.

Of course, Siegel takes it as a given that a pregnant woman and a woman who has just had a baby will naturally want to keep working. In many cases such women are forced to keep working, but why is it unthinkable—another lapse in her article—that women might want to take some time off from careerism in order to have and to nurture babies? Obviously, if you present yourself as husbandless, it’s the only option. But most women do have husbands, don’t they?

One ought to mention a point that does not seem to enter Siegel’s entirely self-centered narrative. Different women have different experiences of pregnancy. Some find themselves nearly incapacitated while others have a much easier time of it.

Beyond telling us far more than we want to know about her pregnancy, Siegel also uses her pregnancy to promote a political agenda: paid family leave. What good is pregnancy if you cannot politicize it?

She wants pregnant women and new mothers to continue to do their jobs, even if their focus and concentration are elsewhere. If they cannot do their jobs, she wants them to be paid for it. But, repeat after Siegel: pregnancy might be disabling but it is not a disability.

Even though Siegel presents it as a win/win situation for companies, she has described a mental and physical condition that cannot allow most women to work as well as they did before. The notion that a woman undergoing what Siegel says she underwent is going to contribute as much  to the bottom line is simply a lie.

But, Siegel works at CARE, at a do-good organization that, I am guessing, has a considerable number of female employees. So, when she suggests that pregnant women should advertise how they feel, and especially tell their managers how they feel, she is assuming a company that is run like a charity. And also, a company that is run by and for women.

She writes:

All of us pregnant women who are in a position to do so can do our part to speak up at work. Because each and every time you tell your manager how you are feeling, you empower other women to do the same. This single action gives confidence and credence to those around you and helps to change the workplace culture from the ground up.

As for the male who has contributed to a woman’s misery while pregnant, Siegel does not mention her own situation or her own husband, but, she has come to the realization, that the male role in pregnancy is severely limited. There is only so much that even the most attentive male can do.

In her words:

Let’s be real: it’s not like women got pregnant on their own – there was another person 50% responsible for that pregnancy. But men just happen not to be the biological sex that bears the child, and so all the consequences of the pregnancy fall on women because of our physical role in childbearing and rearing. When our laws and workplace policies do not account for the reality of pregnancy and childbirth, it is the height of gender inequality. We must do better, not because pregnancy is a disability, but because it is actually a condition that should be honored, revered and celebrated.

It’s good to be real. Biology counts here. It does more than count; it is decisive. This, despite the fact that feminism has been telling us that gender differences are a social construct.

A woman who has been dining out on feminist pabulum will obviously have a difficult time dealing with pregnancy. If she spent her formative years learning all of the different ways to avoid pregnancy she will be unprepared for the changes that her body is enduring.

We all agree that pregnancy should be honored, revered and celebrated… but how well has feminism done its part, how well has it served women by associating women’s health with contraception and abortion?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The New Sleepwalkers

It’s probably too soon to break out the champagne, but statistically, the world has become a safer and less violent place. And yet, those of us who are old enough to remember the twentieth century know that violence is never really out of date.

Between wars, massacres, genocide, famine and pestilence, well over 200 million people were killed during the twentieth century. Communism alone is responsible for over 100 million deaths. It’s nice to be optimistic and it’s nice to trot out statistics about automobile accidents and muggings, but still, in the not too distant past, the world was a bloodbath.

It would not take very much for the same or worse to reoccur.

If you limit your perspective to last year’s traffic fatalities, and even homicides, you can find cause for optimism. You can even find out that the world has never been safer. And yet, if you look back into the past century you might believe that it’s just the calm before the storm. If you think that the civilizational clash between Islam and the West is not going to get a lot worse before it gets any better you have been smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes.

For the record those who are promoting the meliorist view are arguing that the advances of modern science and the decline of religion are causing peace and prosperity to bust out all over. Since many of these thinkers are atheists, and since many of the horrors in the twentieth century were produced by atheist cultures, they do well to ignore the past and paint pictures of a rosy future.

As for today’s America, Ross Douthat finds that youth are less prone to pathological behaviors but that adults are less prone to adult behaviors. It is puzzling.

It turns out that American youth culture has become less inclined toward criminal excesses while American young adults have become more infantile. America’s young people are less promiscuous, less drug-addled, less alcoholic and less criminal than their predecessors. At the same time, America’s young adults are more likely to be living with Mom and Dad, to have jobs that do not look like careers and to be delaying the moment when they will have to settle down and have families.

One finds such statistics compelling. Yet, one suspects that they distort the reality. One’s suspicions increase when we read, from Douthat, that we can try to explain it all by showing how much time America’s children and young adults spend online. When push comes to shove, we can blame it on the internet. At least the internet is not going to take offense and accuse you of a microaggression.

It sounds like a good explanation, except that it tends to absolve all human beings of responsibility for their behavior. If we were serious about blaming it all on Facebook and internet porn, we would want to know about whether the same internet produces the same results for young people around the world. If the internet has turned Johnny in Portland into a slug, has it done the same for his peers in Singapore, Mumbai, Tokyo, Rome and Sao Paulo?

For all I know we are using the wrong standard to evaluate adolescent and young adult well-being. The absence of deviant and pathological behaviors does not necessarily translate into well-being. We would do better to take these statistics and balance them against achievement. Watching internet porn might very well cause there to be less sex crimes,  but are these young people establishing more durable relationships with other human beings.

It may be the case that sex crimes have diminished, but in our national conversation we are talking about nothing but sex crimes. As for achievement, America’s young are not doing very well in their academic achievement tests when compared to their peers around the world… peers who, again, have the same access to the internet and to social media.

I believe we should ask about whether or not these children and young adults have good or bad character. Are they trustworthy and reliable? Do they have a strong work ethic? Do they show up on time? Do they take initiatives? Do they feel loyal to their school or their company? Are they patriots?

There is so much more to well-being than not committing heinous crimes, that one barely knows where to start.

For the record, I report on Douthat’s observations:

First, youth culture has become less violent, less promiscuous and more responsible. American childhood is safer than ever before. Teenagersdrink and smoke less than previous generations. The millennial generation has fewer sexual partners than its parents, and the teen birthrate has traced a two-decade decline. Violent crime — a young person’s temptation — fell for 25 years before the recent post-Ferguson homicide spike. Young people are half as likely to have been in a fight than a generation ago. Teen suicides, binge drinking, hard drug use — all are down.

Of course, responsible people do not commit violent crimes.Sleepwalkers don't either. Yet, the fact that you forgo criminal and degenerate behaviors does not mean that I can count on you to do a good job or to show up on time for the meeting. For all anyone knows American adolescents have become a bunch of solitary wankers who have fallen into a hypnotic trance by overindulging in internet porn.

While we are mentioning hypnotic trances, I would add that in order to judge these statistics we should want to know how many of these children are taking psychiatric medication, whether anti-depressants, anti-anxiolytics or amphetamines. If young people are zoned out, perhaps it’s not the culture or the internet, but pills that are making them that way.

And how many of these children are taking pills because their parents either hover too much or are never around. One accepts that there are too many helicopter parents, but there are also probably too many latch-key children. If children come home from school to an empty house because both of their parents are away working during most of the day, they might very well have used the internet as a babysitter. In that case the fault will not lie with the internet but with delinquent parents.

Obviously, it’s much easier to blame the internet. The internet will not take offense. Parents will.

And also, for what it’s worth, this young generation has suffered the soporific effects of the self-esteem movement, the one that teaches them not to compete because everyone is just as good as everyone else. And they have also been brainwashed into believing that they should spend their waking hours fighting for social justice and demonstrating against microaggressions. If they have suffered a good upbringing they now believe that they should be whining about their privileges and trying to debilitate themselves in order not to enjoy any competitive advantage.

In any event, the absence of bad habits does not necessarily translate into good habits. It does not make for responsible adults. Douthat continues:

But over the same period, adulthood has become less responsible, less obviously adult. For the first time in over a century, more 20-somethingslive with their parents than in any other arrangement. The marriage rate is way down, and despite a high out-of-wedlock birthrate American fertility just hit an all-time low. More and more prime-age workers are dropping out of the work force — men especially, and younger men more so than older men, though female work force participation has dipped as well.

Regardless of which of my several explanations you prefer, the facts suggest that the absence of bad behavior in young people does not mean that they have developed the good behaviors or the good character that they need to conduct themselves as responsible adults.

Not doing irresponsible things does not mean that you are consistently behaving responsibly. The absence of the bad does not necessarily entail the presence of the good.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Caroline Glick on Hillary Clinton

In a Facebook post the highly estimable columnist Caroline Glick responded to those who have been asking her whether she is happy that a woman is running for president of the United States.

Here is what Glick said:

For what it's worth, I am sick and tired of being asked if I am excited as a woman that Hillary Clinton is running for president.

The short answer is no.

In a bit more detail, I think that anyone who views Clinton as a feminine or feminist role model has no idea what it means to be a working woman. 

Here are the facts: Hillary married her way into her career, just like Evita Peron. Her career is entirely a product of her marriage.

And it isn't like her meal ticket husband is a pioneer of women's rights. He's a sexual predator. 

Hillary Clinton was never in the dark about Bill's character. She's been a full partner in his escapades in the sense that she has enabled his obscene behavior, loudly, unapologetically, without hesitation or an ounce of shame, from the very beginning. 

As a woman, I am embarrassed and insulted that the first woman the Democrats ever chose to nominate for president is Hillary Clinton. The fact that they couldn't get behind a self-made woman like Carly Fiorina shows that their supposed concern for women is complete nonsense.

She doesn't represent women anymore than Donald Trump does.

This is fair and balanced and reasoned. 

I will note that many women are far more hostile to Hillary Clinton than even I am. They believe that she represents their gender badly… if at all. As one young woman explained to me the other day: If women know anything, they know other women.  When women look at Hillary Clinton they are horrified that she represents them. 

Transgenderism and the Culture Wars

Camille Paglia called it a sign of cultural collapse. She was referring to the current mania over transgenderism. Boys who believe they are girls and girls who believe they are boys were previously thought to be suffering from a delusional belief. If not a delusional belief, a childhood confusion that would eventually pass.

Nowadays, psychiatrists have caved to social and political pressures and have decided that someone who thinks he was born in the wrong body—that is, that God made a mistake—must be taken at his word. He does not suffer from a delusional belief but has a body that is not his true gender identity.

His true gender identity is what he believes it is. At the least, he is suffering from a mind/body problem. Thinking makes it so, as the bard said, because if you think you are a kangaroo you must be a kangaroo. And if you think that your left leg is far longer than your right leg surgeons must immediately amputate. Unfortunately, I did not invent the latter example.

In the transgendered ideologues have found fertile ground for promoting their narrative. And they have exploited these sad cases to detach people from reality. In the end reality must yield to belief. If you don’t think that this is dangerous, you need to learn how to think.

David French offers an excellent synopsis of the current state of the debate.

In his words:

Human experience simply doesn’t conform to ideological models, and the far worse damage is done when we try to impose radical ideology onto the complexities of individual, troubled lives. In reality, people are far more vulnerable to suggestion and fashion than the Left lets on. Rather than affirming an immutable identity, our culture is ratifying and rendering permanent what often amounts to little more than a troubled youthful phase — one that is subject to all the whims of fashion that mark any other cultural trend.

Keep in mind, Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul McHugh did the important research on this matter many years ago. He summarized the results in the Wall Street Journal. 

Since the vast majority of children who believe they are transgendered change their minds, McHugh persuaded Hopkins to cease performing gender reassignment surgery. Today, he would naturally be called a bigot. A child who declares himself to be transgendered will now be subjected to hormone treatments and even mutilating surgeries. If this is not a sign that the nation has gone off the cultural rails, I do not know what is.

French explains:

Let’s be clear: The vast majority of kids who experience a period of discomfort with their biological sexual identity eventually desist. Indeed, the number may well be over 90 percent. In other words, kids who are growing and learning about life and themselves sometimes endure a period of confusion. This should shock exactly no one. What is shocking, however, is the insistence that this period of confusion should be treated as a period of confirmation — and that medical intervention is the logical and tolerant next course.

The medical profession is now more interested in ideology that it cares about the well-being of its patients.

French continues:

But we live in a world where if a troubled girl wants to become a man — to begin immediate hormone treatment that will dramatically alter her physiology, with the immediate hope of undergoing painful, life-altering surgery – she is encouraged, even celebrated. In this world, education professionals will stand by her side against reluctant parents. (Some parents have encountered teachers who simply refuse to call their child by her given name.)

And you know what is coming. French predicts that when parents refuse to consent to the mutilations involved in so-called “treatment” their children will be removed from the home.

In French’s words:

We’re not far from the day when a child will be taken from a loving home simply because the parents refuse to believe that their little girl is actually a little boy. We’re already living in the days when telling your girl child that she shouldn’t undergo treatments that will render her infertile and painfully mutilated is deemed to be intolerant. And we refuse to believe that such behaviors are at all influenced by peer groups or social trends. Instead, your daughter is simply “trans,” just as she is either black or white.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Decline and Fall of Liberal Democracy

One recalls Francis Fukuyama’s famous argument. Namely that, at the end of the twentieth century, liberal democracy had emerged as the crowning glory of civilization, the ne plus ultra of governmental systems, the victor over all other forms of government. When Communism collapsed of its own internal contradictions—everywhere but in the minds of American graduate students—liberal democracy was the only system left standing.

Since Fukuyama included free market capitalism in the broader category of liberal democracy, he covered himself against the chance that someone would find a better political system. Or that the public would sour on liberal democracy. Or that democratic elections would promote leaders who had no use for democracy. Or would discover that no system can function when it is run by incompetent self-interested people who do not believe in the system.

As you know, Fukuyama was reading from a Hegelian chapbook. One recalls that Marx was doing the same. In itself this tells us to be skeptical of his conclusions. He believed that the movement of the World Spirit had produced liberal democracy. We have a right to doubt his conclusions.

And one must recall, because everyone overlooks it, that America was founded as a Republic, not as a democracy. As you know, the American president is not elected by a raw majority. The Electoral College is not proportional to the population. And the balance of powers that is fundamental to the American constitution guards the people against spasms of democratic madness.

Fukuyama could not have known it at the time, but the rise of China has influenced the way people around the world see the current civilizational conflict between liberal democracy and authoritarian capitalism. One remarks that, countries like the United States and France have far more bureaucrats per capita and far more regulations than do the putatively Communist Chinese government.

And yet, China takes a decidedly negative view of free expression, of the free press and even of student revolutionaries. Recall the way the government treated the pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Yet, the prognostications of Nick Kristof notwithstanding, China is prospering. Its leaders maintain their power, because the system is producing prosperity. Thus, Chinese leaders still have what they call the Mandate of Heaven. It is not quite the same as the will of the people.

Given a choice between authoritarian capitalism and debates over transgrendered locker rooms, the Chinese people prefer the former. Given the choice between working to prosper and entering into a seemingly endless game of whack-a-bigot, the Chinese prefer the former. They did not vote, but they are not feeling aggrieved either. We Americans vote and we feel aggrieved all the time.

Americans believe in democracy, but they have not been doing a very good job of selling it to the world. Or even to their own people.

Americans love their unruly democracy. But, they no longer understand that if they want to have other nations emulate it, they need to make it work. And, let us not forget, whereas the idea and the practice of democracy goes back to Attic Greece, it has no such roots in Chinese culture or thought.

Undoubtedly, the clash between Chinese and American civilizations is the story of our times. And, for now, the Chinese system is looking better and better to many Americans.

Here we need to be careful. The students who especially dislike democracy and free expression are not militating for authoritarian capitalism. They are clamoring for socialism. After all, it has failed everywhere it has been tried, so students, idealistic to a fault, want to try it again.

Other Americans are also being attracted to more authoritarian rule. In particular they seem more comfortable with rule by the military than with rule by politicians. Why is this so? Perhaps it shows that people understand that soldiers are less motivated by self-interest, whereas politicians, led by Hillary and Bill Clinton, seem motivated by nothing but self-interest.

Young people are not as much of a mystery as you might imagine. They have known one president and they have seen that president run roughshod over the separation of powers and American constitutional law. They have seen him rule by executive decree, lie to the people systematically, get away with the lies, and prefer his golf game over a show of concern for the people of flood-ravaged Louisiana. Self-interest and self-indulgence… quite the combo.

Today’s young people have also, and this is more important, lived under a president who has no real commitment to American exceptionalism, who does not believe that America is a great country, and who does not want to win out in the clash of civilizations. They have seen a president disparage his nation and surrender to its enemies.

If you are young and impressionable, if you have been brainwashed with political correctness from the time you were out of diapers, if you see life as a therapeutic project, you are not going to like free competition in free markets. You will feel entitled to get what you have not earned.And you are not going to have any real use for the marketplace of ideas, either.

Today’s college students are more likely to believe in socialism, in receiving more benefits for working less. They want to shut down free speech and free markets. They are more like the Red Guards than like the current leaders of China.

The young Americans who flocked to Bernie Sanders are surrender junkies. They wish to surrender to Islamist terrorism, to surrender to a massive wave of immigrant refugees, and to surrender to newly empowered capitalistic China. They believe that competition is yesterday's game.

When so many of your countrymen and women have been indoctrinated to the point where they can no longer think, what do you do?