The Religious Roots of the Elite Liberal Agenda

MBD in The Week:

For nearly 80 years, social critics of the Right and far Left have been trying to understand American liberalism by studying a specific social class. These critics share a belief that liberal ideas of a certain type dominate American life, and that they emerge from a social caste produced by American meritocracy. It’s a class that sets the moral tone and imperatives for our society, that shapes our tastes and conversation.

One of the first attempts to dissect this tribe came from former Marxist turned conservative James Burnham, who theorized about an emerging “managerial class” that existed between capital and labor, and was made up of professionals, corporate executives, and executive administration officials. Like a good historical materialist, Burnham believed that material ambitions generated ideology. Using this as his guiding light, he hoped to understand and reveal the character of America’s new elite, as well as determine what would happen to a country ruled by them.

In the 1960s and ’70s, neoconservative thinkers like Daniel Bell wrote about the “New Class,” which was slightly less expansive in scope and focused mostly on professors and social scientists. A little later, the populist and left-leaning social historian Christopher Lasch wrote The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, slashing at the educated classes for abandoning socialist economics in favor of the politics of cultural revolution.

These theorists were offering a critique of the educated and liberal classes, with neoconservatives and socialists both lamenting the betrayal of older liberal ideas about the economy or about America’s role in the world.

All three of these diverse theories have had a deep influence on modern conservative thinking in America. Many of my peers were influenced by Bell and Lasch, and I primarily by Burnham. But with the publication of Joseph Bottum’s new collection, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, I wonder if these earlier thinkers haven’t all been surpassed.

Kids’ Movies and the Cult of Self-Esteem

The Atlantic is on it.

In addition to disparaging routine labor, these films discount the hard work that enables individuals to reach the top of their professions. Turbo and Dusty don’t need to hone their craft for years in minor-league circuits like their racing peers presumably did. It’s enough for them simply to show up with no experience at the world’s most competitive races, dig deep within themselves, and out-believe their opponents. They are, in many ways, the perfect role models for a generation weaned on instant gratification.

The magic-feather syndrome has so thoroughly penetrated animated features that it’s difficult to imagine a film that doesn’t incorporate at least some of its tropes. Perhaps, you might be tempted to argue, kids movies have to be this way. But that’s easily debunked–just look at Pixar’s roster, which features a number of magic-feather narratives but also includes stories largely about family, friendship, and growing older.

Ron Sider Interviewed at Patrick Henry College, Reported in World Magazine

[PHC:] So at that point, the federal government, in terms of the civil rights movement, is the good guy in promoting certain virtuous objectives?

[Sider:] I want to start with a biblically informed framework and say two things. One: Government should be limited, for two reasons. God created every person in the image of God. We’re all called to be stewards and to shape the created order. If all the decisions are made by a few powerful people, most of us cannot fulfill our creation mandate and can’t shape history the way God intends us to. Also, in a fallen world concentrated, unchecked power will always be used for the selfish advantage of the powerful. So, government must be limited.

[PHC:] Welcome to the conservative movement.

I wish Sider had responded to this comment by saying that he’s been part of this conservative movement since before Patrick Henry College was a twinkle in Michael Farris’s eye. Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s not that long.

Plato’s Cave and Modern Media

David Oderberg, a really fine philosopher from the United Kingdom, gave a lecture almost four years ago on the question of how Plato’s allegory of the cave can help us understand the tasks of modern journalism. It’s worth re-reading.

As the journalist and politician Clare Boothe Luce used to say, no good deed goes unpunished. How correct this is when applied to journalism, where it is generally safer to focus on the shadows than the light. Love of truth should be the standard for all journalists, and not mere truth but the truth that matters. One might spend a career reporting the truth about objects that cast shadows whilst ignoring the sun that is the source of all light. There is, as it were, truth and Truth, or better truths and Truth, and to say that the role of the journalist is to report truths is as erroneous as to suggest that he should report about whatever people happen to be interested in.

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?

From City of God:

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?  For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms?  The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on.  If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.

The Over-protected Kid

Don’t miss Hannah Rosin’s cover story in this month’s Atlantic:

A trio of boys tramps along the length of a wooden fence, back and forth, shouting like carnival barkers. “The Land! It opens in half an hour.” Down a path and across a grassy square, 5-year-old Dylan can hear them through the window of his nana’s front room. He tries to figure out what half an hour is and whether he can wait that long. When the heavy gate finally swings open, Dylan, the boys, and about a dozen other children race directly to their favorite spots, although it’s hard to see how they navigate so expertly amid the chaos. “Is this a junkyard?” asks my 5-year-old son, Gideon, who has come with me to visit. “Not exactly,” I tell him, although it’s inspired by one. The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It’s only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. “Why are you rolling tires into the water?” my son asks. “Because we are,” the girl replies.

It’s still morning, but someone has already started a fire in the tin drum in the corner, perhaps because it’s late fall and wet-cold, or more likely because the kids here love to start fires. Three boys lounge in the only unbroken chairs around it; they are the oldest ones here, so no one complains. One of them turns on the radio—Shaggy is playing (Honey came in and she caught me red-handed, creeping with the girl next door)—as the others feel in their pockets to make sure the candy bars and soda cans are still there. Nearby, a couple of boys are doing mad flips on a stack of filthy mattresses, which makes a fine trampoline. At the other end of the playground, a dozen or so of the younger kids dart in and out of large structures made up of wooden pallets stacked on top of one another. Occasionally a group knocks down a few pallets—just for the fun of it, or to build some new kind of slide or fort or unnamed structure. Come tomorrow and the Land might have a whole new topography.

From here, go read Anthony Esolen’s Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child(And also add The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls while you’re at it.)

You Are Not Left- or Right-Brained

This has long been a pet peeve of mine. I love it when science vindicates my pet peeves.

In a new two-year study published in the journal Plos One, University of Utah neuroscientists scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people, ages 7 to 29, while they were lying quietly or reading, measuring their functional lateralization – the specific mental processes taking place on each side of the brain. They broke the brain into 7,000 regions, and while they did uncover patterns for why a brain connection might be strongly left or right-lateralized, they found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.