Beware those who claim to have a detailed blueprint for the ideal society. If such a person thinks you stand in the way, you may get run over. That’s how it is with utopians. They want everything just so, and woe betide those who disagree.
I find much to admire about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch-American scholar, author, and one-time politician who has drawn international attention to the violence against women and girls not only in Muslim-majority countries but also in the West at the hands of Muslim immigrants. Hirsi Ali is obviously intelligent, courageous, and nuanced. But of course that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get some important things wrong.
How about we do something novel in the new year? Let’s stop worrying about the stuff most politicians, pundits, and activists want us to worry about and instead think about ourselves, our families, our friends, and whatever communities we choose to be part of. Let’s forget about “the country” and the rest of the world. Let’s individually pursue happiness.
U.S. government interference with our lives often resembles a Russian matryoshka doll: regulation is nested in more regulation. Take the provision of Biden’s pending Build Back Better bill that would create a big tax credit for people who buy U.S.-built electric vehicles (EV).
Here’s a good idea: let’s not go to war against Russia. Let’s not even rattle a saber at Russia (or China, for that matter) because even wars that no one really wants can be blundered into. Many losers would be left in the aftermath, even if nuclear weapons were kept out of sight, but no one would win. So as that smart Defense Department computer says in the 1983 movie WarGames, “The only winning move is not to play.”
With the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, renewed restrictions on liberty or calls for their reinstatement have broken out around the world. The new wave is probably only beginning, and with it will surely come sermons on how we must face trade-offs between liberty and safety. This seems to be the new normal.
Be they “left” or “right,” those who agitate for racial polarization seem to have no sense of the harm they could do to everyone in our society. As the wise Glenn Loury would say, they are playing with fire.
It’s an old trick: gain advantage over others by hiding one’s meaning behind euphemisms and other forms of linguistic camouflage and misdirection. People do this in all walks of life, but politicians make careers of it. If they engage in straight talk at all, it is by far the exception. The journalist Michael Kinsley defined a gaffe as “when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”
A pet peeve of mine is the distinction, drawn even by some market enthusiasts, between so-called personal liberty (or civil liberties) and economic liberty. The former, which usually includes freedom of conscience and religion, speech, and press, is thought to be noble and spiritual, while the latter, related to commerce and the pursuit of wealth, is held to be vulgar and materialistic. This has its roots in the thinking of the ancients.
Sometimes we’ve got to be grateful for hypocrisy. If those who pretend to be world leaders actually delivered a fraction of what they promise in Glasgow, Scotland, where the UN’s COP-26 (Conference of Parties) Conference on Climate Change runs through Nov. 12, we’d be far bigger trouble than we already are.