Category Archives: Exchequer

The Case for American Nationalism, Properly Defined

“Man isn’t at all one, after all – it takes so much of him to be American, to be French, etc.” – Henry James to William Dean Howells, May 17, 1890

A striking feature of the elite consensus in the United States today is how heavily skewed it is against the interests of the American nation-state. Stretching from Left to Right, the class that sits atop the commanding heights of American life is so consumed by its own interests and concerns that it is largely unencumbered by the mounting troubles taking place under its gaze. It has often been remarked how the power, wealth and prestige of this privileged class distort the operation of American democracy. What is less often remarked is the studied indifference of this clique to the fate of the nation, which have proved no hindrance to their righteousness. A plausible explanation for this lack of patriotic attachment is the diminished status among this coterie of the very concept of citizenship. The connection between the two has become unignorable. Continue reading

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Filed under Exchequer, Foreign Policy, Social Policy

The Line vs. The Ladder

We need a politics that defends free markets but also enables citizens to rise within them.

Yet again, America’s political parties are at crossed purposes. The debate over economic inequality traditionally features two rival definitions of equality. On the left, redistributive fairness reigns supreme. From this perspective, inequality is inherently unfair, and thus it is fair to equalize rewards. On the right, a much higher premium is placed on meritocratic fairness. From this perspective, forced equality is inherently unfair, and thus it is fair to match reward to merit. One definition involves equality of outcome, the other involves equality of opportunity. Winston Churchill – no egalitarian, he – put it pithily: the left favors the line, the right favors the ladder. Continue reading

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Filed under Exchequer, Republican Reformism

A Better DREAM

The question of immigration reform has lost some of its salience of late, undoubtedly an upshot of America’s protracted economic distress. The credit crunch and tepid recovery has manifestly weakened the pull of the American immigration magnet, but not for long. It will come back, and when it does, the governing class would do well to depart from tradition and conduct a debate that Americans need and deserve.

It may be worth stating up front that an immigration reform bill is highly desirable, even quite necessary, to put right a system riddled with inefficiency, imprudence and unfairness. But that bill deserves to prevail only on the condition that it recognizes and reflects the complex balance of interests and principles that coincide on this delicate ground. The DREAM Act now before Congress, the latest stab at “comprehensive” immigration reform, is not such a bill. It deserves to be terminated with extreme prejudice. Continue reading

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June 30, 2013 · 5:54 pm

A Contract Betrayed

In a frequently quoted passage from Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke observed that the real social contract is not (as Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed) between the sovereign and the people, or “general will,” but what Burke referred to as the “partnership” between the past, the present and the future. Continue reading

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Republicans’ Achilles Heel

The Great Recession has officially ended, but it lingers painfully for a vast swathe of Americans. The economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have documented that recessions sparked by financial crises penetrate deeper and last longer than the normal sort, and so it has proved in this case. No less than 93% of income gains in the recovery have accrued to the top 1 percent. The huge class of Americans between society’s upper reaches and lower reaches has sustained heavy trauma in this recession, but it is a mistake to classify this condition as the product of a mere turning of the business cycle. A close reading of the facts reveals that the economic crisis only accelerated the trends already under way, laying bare the terrifying scale of the widening inequality of American society. Continue reading

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Filed under Exchequer, Republican Reformism

Where Obama Flounders

The idea that President Obama is uncommonly aggressive in defeating the country’s enemies and championing democracy in the world is now widely proclaimed. This judgment has been rendered occasionally by the president’s critics, but more often it has come from his admirers. The notion that he is, to borrow from one of those admirers, “more Teddy Roosevelt than Jimmy Carter” is generally shared.  Continue reading

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Filed under Exchequer, Foreign Policy

Repeal AND Replace

The motto the Republican elite settled upon in the aftermath of Obama’s signature achievement – the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare – was “repeal and replace.” The second half of this pledge always seemed to sit awkwardly with the party’s rank-and-file that had spent most of its energy during the first half of Obama’s term defending the health care status quo ante. Perhaps the Republican elite would have yielded to this sentiment during the primaries if it were not for the record of their sole electable candidate. I speak, of course, of Mitt Romney, whose tenure as Governor of Massachusetts was distinguished (or tarnished, depending on your opinion of the individual mandate) by achieving universal care for citizens of the Bay State. Continue reading

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Filed under Exchequer, Social Policy