As Prime Minister David Cameron was visiting the U.S. last week, his party stumbled into another public-relations pit when an unnamed high-ranking associate of the prime minister’s was quoted characterizing the party’s activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons.” (The comment was made in private, but within earshot of journalists.) That followed on UKIP’s impressive showing in local elections and a Tory backbench revolt against Cameron’s push for same-sex marriage, which passed with more members of the prime minister’s party voting against it than for it.
Hugo Rifkind in the Spectator traces these troubles to a generational divide:
Speaking almost factually, it’s pretty unlikely that the Tory grass roots are ‘swivel-eyed loons’. By most estimates, their average age is somewhere between 65 and 70, and swivelling your eyes behind bifocals rather defeats the purpose. Meanwhile, according to a poll by Survation this week, 33 per cent of those over 65 would vote Ukip tomorrow, and 13.4 per cent of everybody else would. Similarly, according to an ICM poll earlier this year, 37 per cent of over-65s fancy the idea of gay marriage, compared with 72 per cent of those below. This is glaring stuff.
… let us recognise Mr Cameron’s difficulty for what it is. Which is, essentially, that he faces a concerted fightback from an older generation that feels the world slipping from its fingers, and has had enough.
Or if you prefer, we can put the bellicosity on the other side, and identify an aggressive move … by a younger generation — or, to be more accurate, a couple of younger generations — who realise the world is finally theirs and wish to brand it with their stamp. This is why equal marriage, in particular, has become such a big deal, despite affecting relatively few people. It’s not just a symbol. It’s an early skirmish, between those who feel it is time to stop just living in their country and start owning it, and those who have owned it until now and don’t want to let it go.
It’s not just a matter of assertiveness, though. In the UK as well as the U.S., the cultural backdrops against which the older and the younger cohorts have grown up have been so different as to lead quite naturally to widely divergent views—indeed, opposite views of what constitutes stability and crisis, or who is aggressing against whom.
The Republican Party is in the same boat as Cameron’s Conservatives: however “grand” the GOP may or may not be, it is certainly the Old Party. National Journal‘s Charlie Cook observed earlier this year: Read More…
The longtime Orlando Sentinel columnist who was one of the first conservatives to speak against the Iraq War has died. The paper’s obituary gives a precis of Reese’s worldview:
A self-described “constitutional purist,” he started working for the Sentinel in 1972 and two years later began writing a column that would continue through 2001.
“He was more concerned with the individual, and he felt that the government should be more of a servant of the people,” said Manning Pynn, a friend and a retired Sentinel editorial page editor.
Reese’s writing developed an intensely loyal following during a time when metropolitan Orlando was a decidedly more conservative region than it is today.
Still, Reese did not always follow the conservative line, and sometimes embraced a libertarian viewpoint instead. His readers did not always agree with him, said Jane Healy, who was a longtime Sentinel editorial page editor.
“He was very blunt, and he told it like it was,” Healy said. “Nothing was too controversial for him. He really was one of a kind.”
Eric Garris of Antiwar.com, which often ran Reese’s columns, remembers him here.
Somewhat ironically, considering his later view of Bush’s wars, Reese was pivotal in electing him president in the first place. He had supported Pat Buchanan in the past, but at the critical moment in 2000 backed Bush, and an influential independent conservative adding to the Republican column even a handful of votes that might otherwise have been up for grabs or have sat out the election would have been enough to tip Florida. But that’s just politics. Reese was a great columnist and a man of conscience, and it’s a shame we don’t have more writers like him.
David Pilling has it right in the Financial Times: “the unstated aim of the TPP is to create a ‘high level’ trade agreement that excludes the world’s second-biggest economy,” while including practically everyone else with Pacific a coastline: Vietnam, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, and more.
Pilling argues that the prospective free-trade union will, in effect, both reverse and replay the story of China’s admission to the World Trade Organization—allowing Beijing to be singled out as an unfair trader on the one hand (thereby slowing its economic ascent) and on the other creating “a block so powerful and attractive that China will feel obliged to mend its errant ways in order to join.” Pilling doesn’t think TPP will achieve its grand objectives, whatever modest benefits it may confer on states like Vietnam (“giving it preferential market access”) and Japan (“through nudging industrial and agricultural reform”).
Actually, the last thing Japan needs is cheap, imported rice—through all the hardships of the past 20 years, the Japanese have remained a healthy and culturally distinct people. Why give that up for the 21st-century equivalent of $24 of wampum? Yet Japan may sacrifice much for the illusion of a multipolar East Asia—for China’s neighbors, strategic considerations are at least as much a motive here as strictly economic ones. The leverage TPP would give Asia’s second-tier powers over China would be minimal in real terms, but to whatever extent it helps them persuade themselves that they aren’t really second tier, it is something deeply to be desired. No doubt there are certain U.S. lobbies that gain something concrete from the agreement, but the opportunity to manipulate perceptions of power in the region is part of Washington’s motivation as well.
It’s an unnecessary as well as futile ploy: quite apart from the dubious economic merits of TPP, it will aggravate the Chinese, encouraging them to lash out with their own symbolic displays of power, while the reality of the East Asian balance is unchanged. China is in the paradoxical position of being vastly more powerful than any of its neighbors, yet being surrounded by so many suspicious states large and small—not only the likes of Vietnam and Japan, but such giants as Russia and India—that it will never enjoy the freedom to throw its weight around that the U.S. enjoys now or that the Soviet Union once wielded in Europe. China is both paramount and constrained; what TPP does is to give Beijing one more reason to resent its condition. That helps drive nationalistic provocations, and TPP will mean more of them.
The editors of Antiwar.com have known for some time that the FBI has had an eye on them. Naturally enough, they used the Freedom of Information Act to request bureau’s files on them and their organization—but the FBI hasn’t been forthcoming. Now the ACLU has filed suit to force the bureau to divulge the extent of its snooping on anti-interventionist journalists. As Kelley Vlahos reports: Read More…
I’d heard a lot about “Choice,” the campaign film Clif White instigated for Goldwater in 1964 but that the candidate ultimately vetoed. Until it appeared on YouTube, however, I hadn’t seen the program in full. It’s a doozy: fast cars, fast women, John Wayne. And more problematically, scenes of riots and civil rights protests portrayed in a way that led Goldwater to call it “a racist film” and demand that “Choice” not be shown on his behalf.
Clif White had been indispensable in helping Goldwater win the Republican nomination, but after that the candidate entrusted his campaign to others. Getting to make “Choice” was something of a consolation prize—but as Rick Perlstein writes in Before the Storm, in giving White permission to do a film on the “morality issue,” Goldwater “didn’t realize he had just become Truman giving MacArthur what the general thought was a green light to cross the Yalu.” The film wasn’t an official campaign product, but the campaign got the blame—both for the film itself and, from right-wing activists, for canceling it.
Here it is, a half-century later, in all its 28-minute, black and white extravagance:
A classic C-SPAN clip from 1993 is doing the rounds on Facebook. Brian Lamb is frustrated when the “balanced” left-right discussion he tried to set up on Bill Clinton’s presidency is stymied by Pat Buchanan and Christopher Hitchens agreeing that Clinton is a neoliberal corporatist. Long clip, but worth watching—bookmark it.
The most basic criticism of Obama turns out to be the truest. A one-term Senator doesn’t have much preparation for governing anything—yes, a risk that Republicans will have to keep in mind with Marco Rubio and Rand Paul—and government under Obama often seems to be run by functionaries. It’s all too plausible that Obama didn’t know, or care to know, about the IRS applying discriminatory standards against right-leaning 501(c)(4) groups, and his attitude toward Eric Holder’s Justice Department grabbing Associated Press phone records appears similarly blasé.
This is rather unlike the disgraced president to whom many Republicans want to compare the incumbent. As Dana Milbank puts it: “Nixon was a control freak. Obama seems to be the opposite: He wants no control over the actions of his administration. As the president distances himself from the actions of ‘independent’ figures within his administration, he’s creating a power vacuum in which lower officials behave as though anything goes.” That’s not exculpatory: a president is responsible for the abuses of his administration whether he orders them directly or simply creates the conditions in which they can happen.
It’s doubtful, alas, that congressional Republicans will treat these matters as anything other than opportunities for Benghazi-style partisan hype. There are fundamental matters behind each of these scandals that the GOP establishment does not want to face any more than Obama does. Namely: exactly what the CIA was doing in Benghazi (and why the U.S. had to be so deeply involved in Libya in the first place), the tremendous discretion the IRS enjoys over whom it targets and how, and the extent to which the War on Terror is really a War on Transparency in government. Failure to strike these problems at their roots only reinforces the idea that the GOP’s leadership cares not a whit for the substance of the issues but only about embarrassing Obama. That may be enough to rally the base ahead of 2014, but there are many other Americans—not nearly enough, to be sure—who actually would like someone to stand up for consistent standards, not only for the IRS but to check and limit arbitrary executive power across the board.
Noah Millman takes issue with some of the excerpts I’ve given from Schumpeter. But Schumpeter’s full view of the relationship between family, individualism, and capitalism can’t be captured in a brief quotation. If I had to give a close approximation of it, though, this is probably the most apt passage from Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy:
In the preceding chapter it was observed that the capitalist order entrusts the long-run interests of society to the upper strata of the bourgeoisie. They are really entrusted to the family motive operative in those strata. The bourgeoisie worked primarily in order to invest, and it was not so much a standard of consumption as a standard of accumulation that the bourgeoisie struggled for and tried to defend against governments that took the short-run view. With the decline of the driving power supplied by the family motive, the businessman’s time-horizon shrinks, roughly, to his life expectation. And he might now be less willing than he was to fulfill that function of earning, saving and investing even if he saw no reason to fear that the results would but swell his tax bills. He drifts into an anti-saving frame of mind and accepts with an increasing readiness anti-saving theories that are indicative of a short-run philosophy.
People once accumulated capital largely for the sake of their progeny. Now that they are less inclined to think about progeny, that is one more reason (among others Schumpeter gives in his book) for greater concern with immediate satisfactions rather than long-term capital development. The motive for defending accumulation against redistribution by the state has also been weakened. These are not only changes that affect actual economic practices, but they also condition the public’s receptivity to ideas that promise to solve short-run problems such as, say, unemployment by means of some sacrifice of capital. (To what extent unemployment actually is a short-run problem is something to think about, but this is where Schumpeter is coming from.) Read More…
Perhaps for comic relief amid a news cycle otherwise full of escalation in Syria, the festering abuses of Guantanamo, and the wake of the Boston bombings, over the weekend pundits swarmed over Niall Ferguson for gay-baiting the long dead John Maynard Keynes. Tom Kostigen, who broke the story, summarized thus: “Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of ‘poetry’ rather than procreated.” Ferguson has since apologized, and as several sources pointed out, Keynes and his wife, Lydia Lopokova, did indeed try to have children, and she may have suffered a miscarriage. But Ferguson got a dose of the attention he craves, and pundits pleased themselves with their own moral fury, so everybody’s happy.
Unfortunately, the good name of Joseph Schumpeter has been dragged through the mud by this episode as well. Both Ferguson’s critics and defenders have said, in effect, “Schumpeter did it first.” Schumpeter’s 1946 American Economic Review obituary for Keynes is cited as proof: therein, Schumpeter writes of his subject, “He was childless and his philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy.”
But Schumpeter is not indulging in any sly gay-baiting here—the issue for him isn’t homosexuality, it’s childlessness for whatever reason. The wider context of Schumpeter’s remark is that the “sober wisdom and conservativism” of Keynes’s economic advice was intended for a specific time and place—England after World War I—and was characteristic of the kind of person Keynes was: not homosexual but rather part of “the high intelligentsia of England, unattached to class or party … who rightly claimed, for good and ill, spiritual kinship with the Locke-Mill connection.” Schumpeter continues on this theme:
Least of all was he the man to preach regenerative creeds. He was the English intellectual, a little déraciné and beholding a most uncomfortable [postwar] situation. He was childless and his philosophy of life was essentially a short-run philosophy. So he turned resolutely to the only ‘parameter of action’ that seemed left to him, both as an Englishman and as the kind of Englishman he was—monetary management. Perhaps he thought it might heal. He knew for certain that it would sooth[e]—and that return to a gold system at pre-war parity was more than his England could stand.
If only people could be made to understand this, they would also understand that practical Keynesianism is a seedling which cannot be transplanted into foreign soil: it dies there and become poisonous before it dies. But in addition they would understand that, left in English soil, this seedling is a healthy thing and promises both fruit and shade.
So much for the context. But isn’t the reference to childlessness at least indirectly an attack on Keynes’s sexuality? Probably not. Consider what Schumpeter writes about children and economics, in a clearly heterosexual context, in Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy:
Just as Britain has a parliamentary system rather than separate executive and legislative branches at the national level, most localities in the UK are governed by “councils” that oversee everything from emergency services to schools. Yesterday elections were held for a large number of these local authorities—in places where the Conservative Party performed very well in 2009, presaging David Cameron’s (qualified) success in the following year’s parliamentary election.
The big story this year, however, is the rise of a “fourth party” atop the wreck of the coalition between Cameron’s Conservatives and Britain’s center-left third party, the Liberal Democrats. UKIP, the UK Independence Party, stands for restricting immigration, getting out of the EU, and opposing nanny-statism. (Some of Britain’s new alcohol regulations are the cultural equivalent of Mayor Bloomberg’s war on Big Gulps.) These are populist or nationalist former Tories and independents, though UKIP says it draws from all established parties. And while UKIP gets pilloried as a party of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” (in David Cameron’s words), as Tim Stanley points out, yesterday’s results show “Ukip have helped to smash the BNP … by providing a non-racist Right-wing alternative.”
Given the Tory party’s drift to the left under David Cameron, many on the right hope that pressure from UKIP and its voters will force the Conservatives to live up to their name again. The fear among Tories, however, is that UKIP will do to them what the center-left Lib Dems (in their various incarnations) did to Labour in the ’80s, siphoning away enough votes from the ideological base to permit the other major party to win—without the minor party picking up enough seats in Parliament to be a viable coalition partner. The likeliest outcome of UKIP-Tory fratricide is Labour victory. Think of, say, the Tea Party or the religious right breaking off from the GOP. The rump Republican Party would still be torn between going right to reclaim its lost base or trying to cobble together a centrist majority or plurality in general elections. Certainly there are Republicans who feel that shorn of the likes of Christine O’Donnell and Todd Akin, the party could win a few seats it’s lost in recent years. Read More…