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Donner Party Conservatism

[ 333 ] August 8, 2017 |

Joe Scarborough wishes to inform you that he wore an onion on his belt, which was the style at the time:

Feinberg’s dunk is sufficient to deal with Morning Joe. But it does remind me that there may be people who haven’t read John Holbo’s classic review of Dead Right, so I thought it was worth bringing it to their attention:

This sentiment or intuition or feeling (whatever you call it) produces a strangely hypertrophic concern with what seem (to me anyway) like rather ornamental details:

“If I am bearded, and I notice that my boss and the last four men in my section to win promotion are clean-shaven, I will find myself slowly nudged toward the barbershop. If the owner of the gas station across the road from mine smiles a lot, and I don’t, I will find myself forcing a cheerful manner myself, no matter how snarly I may inwardly feel. People who do not have to work for a living, however, can indulge themselves in a hundred little peculiarities of behavior – one reason that the English upper class is so famously odd. Millions of Americans now live as free from the pressure to conform as any English lord, thanks either to the direct receipt of welfare or to civil service employment where promotion is by seniority and firing is unheard of. The fact, as much as any fashion change, explains the sudden flaunting of ethnic difference in manner and dress that so distresses Patrick Buchanan in his native city. Relatively few vice presidents at Proctor & Gamble would dare wear a kente cloth or keffiyeh; nobody who intends to earn very much of a living in the polymer business can hope to get away with not learning English; but city hall employees and welfare mothers can do both.

So the cultural conservatives are simply deluding themselves when they hope for escape from the unpleasant task of resisting every enlargement of the ambit of government action and trying, when opportunity presents itself, to reduce that ambit.” (p. 196)

This is supposed to sound sober and sensible. If cultural conditions are functions of economics, you can’t change the culture without altering the economics. So conservatives must keep up the titanic, colossal, epic, probably cosmically doomed and tragic economic struggle to keep government small … so people will not dress funny or wear their hair in hairy ways? Sort of wimpy, as ragnaroks go. Notable disproportion here between means and the wished-for end. Even if you are the sort of person who feels deeply offended by funny, ethnic clothes (we’re off the deep end) – even if you think it is anything like your business to dictate fashion sense to everyone around you (we’re so off the deep end) – how could you possibly think it was so important as all that? And yet immediately we are off and running about after the bourgeois virtues, all dying out: thrift, diligence, prudence, sobriety, fidelity, and orderliness. I won’t bother to quote. Why can I not exhibit all these virtues beneath and/or behind a beard, kente cloth and/or keffiyeh? Frum seems to find it too obvious to bear arguing that the trick is impossible. (Yet he can’t actually think that.) Does Frum seriously believe there are no shrewd, sober businessmen in those parts of the world where businessmen wear beards and keffiyehs and kente cloths? (Obviously he doesn’t. That’s crazy.) So what does he think? I think he just has a powerful feeling that: things ought to be a certain way. And if they are that way, everything will be all right.

Bearded Guy: I like my beard.

Frum: You should shave it.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because it should have been the case that you were too afraid to grow it.

BG: But I wasn’t.

Frum: But you should have been.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because you are wrecking the culture.

BG: Why?

Frum: Because the culture will decay and then the economy will fall apart and we’ll all be poor.

BG: Because of my beard?

Frum: Just think about it. Our economy depends on a healthy culture.

BG: But you don’t even care about the economy. You said you don’t.

Frum: I wish you hadn’t mentioned that.

BG: But I did.

Frum: Look, if you shave the beard, everything will be … better.

BG: You’re a moonbat.

Frum: It’s all related to … foreign policy and wheelchair access in public school, in ways that … would take a long time to explain.

BG: Get away from me!

Frum: Look. Just shave your beard!

Seinfeld had his Soup Nazi. Frum is sort of a Suit Nazi. (OK, that’s too mean.) A kente cloth-free zone. An advocate of radical (what shall we call it?) sartorauthoritarianism. Society and culture conservatively dictate everyone’s dress code down to a whisker.

And why?

Because otherwise you wouldn’t be (wait for it) FREE!

It’s long, but worth reading. And, credit where credit is due, while Frum’s affirmative defense of American conservatism was a massive FAIL his argument that Republicans can win elections on conservative platitudes but have trouble governing on the agenda because people hate it remains relevant.

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  • Brian J.

    Believe it or not, this is actually considered funny and/or an effective way to sell razors:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2pSEX2_nNE

    • sigaba

      I hate to bring up Arendt again, but she talks about how totalitarian propaganda is simply the complement of advertising, except instead of running ads, the advertisers simply make it so men who don’t shave can’t get a job, and women who don’t use Acme Brand Tooth Powder can never meet a man.

      • Jon Hendry

        Um, the ad isn’t saying anything about beards or shaving in general. The guy is seeking an advantage over the competition in landing the job by emulating the baldness which, he discovers, runs in the family of the company’s owners.

        There’s no general point about “men who don’t shave can’t get a job”, it’s just a sight gag in an unlikely scenario specific to the one fictional business, meant to catch the viewer’s attention for a moment in hopes that they’ll remember the brand.

    • LeeEsq

      Beard hate is less common in liberal or a-apolitical circles but it does exist. Amanda Marcotte, for all her other virtues, just hates facial hair. Many heterosexual women do not find beards and mustaches attractive, although others do or do not mind them, and there is a cultural expectation that men should shave to be pleasing to the ladies.

      Like I said bellow, the beard fell into disrepute before World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution made it worse because beards were associated with Communists; even though the Communist countries developed their own form of beard hate by the mid-20th century to. It started to become fashioned again during the 1960s and more or less remained marginally acceptable until the present. Facial hair is fashionable in the present.

  • MikeG

    Authoritarians can’t be happy unless they’re bullying others. Enforcing conformity in matters large and small, though disguised as promoting the “superior” way of doing things, is primarily just another aspect of exercising power.

    • aab84

      I actually think Holbo is dead on that, while bullying for bullying’s sake is a real factor, many conservatives do have a gut instinct that if you get the right societal order, everything else will take care of itself. It accurately describes the views of just about all my conservative friends.

      • weirdnoise

        Belief in a strong social hierarchy seems to be the one constant of conservatism.

        • CS Clark

          Belief that things were better when the conservative was a kid is the only constant, which is why they claim to believe in a strong social hierarchy that is nevertheless constantly shifting in definition.

          And is also why !FutureMorningJoe will be tweeting “Young men in the 2010s enjoyed wholesome entertainment in the safety of their own homes. Today, too many roam the Capital Wasteland hunting mole rats.”

          • sibusisodan

            I would like to enjoy a Nuka Cola with this comment.

      • djw

        many conservatives do have a gut instinct that if you get the right societal order, everything else will take care of itself.

        One of the great virtues of Holbo’s review of Dead Right is that he exposes just how utterly empty this instinct is–they have no idea how or why they think this is going to work.

        • Oh, many people who aren’t conservatives (and some ultra-sophisticates who are) know perfectly well how it’s going to work: the number of people who are–in practice–allowed to be liberal in Holbo’s sense will be very small (though large enough so they don’t get lonely or feel oppressed), and the rest of us–identified by visible markers like gender and race, or more subtle ones like class–will scramble around making sure both that things work and that our betters don’t start feeling bad about things.

        • Thirtyish

          Well, conservatism can’t fail, it can only etc.

      • Thirtyish

        Might makes right in their eyes. If others don’t conform to their vision of a just, orderly world, they feel entitled and justified to use force (including violence, just to prove their point all the more) against those others.

    • “Unless we all conform; unless we all follow our leaders without questioning them, we cannot hope to be free.”
      Maj. Frank Burns

      • TJ

        Before we get all sanctimonious in the superiority of our liberalism we should recognize that conformity is a feature, not a bug, of all society.

        Whatever do you think political correctness is but liberal conformity? All groups favor conformity. In large part because that’s what means to be a group lol!

        • “Conformity” needs an object. One cannot simply conform, one must conform to or conform with something. You judge the value of the conformity based on the associated something.

          So Frum makes himself look silly, because while he thinks he’s talking about the value of “conformity” itself, that’s impossible, so he’s just saying he hates beards in book form.

          • TJ

            That’s a fair distinction and one wasn’t being made.

            That being said, political correctness can be every bit as stifling, oppressive and dogmatic as conservative insistence on conformity. We’re hypocrites if we don’t acknowledge this.

            • If there is a monolithic structure enforcing a dogma called “Political Correctness” of language, then yes. If “Political Correctness” simply means that ones statements are engaged politically with critical, or even adversarial language and permissible actions by other individuals or groups, well then that just is what freedom of speech is. .

              I think the burden is on the anti-PC crowd to show the monolithic and dogmatic nature of whatever they’re calling PC if their criticisms of it are to amount to anything more than lamenting that other groups don’t share their opinion and have the nerve to be vocal about it.

              • TJ

                Tomayto, tomahto. No one’s trying take away freedom off speech. But that doesn’t mean that speech doesn’t work enforce compliance with conformity. The squirts at Oberlin have it that eating shredded, not fried, General Tso’s chicken appropriates Asian culture. They have free speech right argue that. But their 1st Amendment right also imposes conformance with their liberal orthodoxy.

                Both things are true.

                • ” But that doesn’t mean that speech doesn’t work enforce compliance with conformity. ”

                  And my original point is “so what?”, we have to judge based what is being complied with or conformed to. If “liberal orthodoxy” exists and has become hyper-concerned with the ethnic authenticity of college cafeteria food– yes we have problems. But the obnoxious, overzealous actions of a bunch of obnoxious, overzealous undergrads (really, are there any other kinds?) I doubt warrant the language of first-amendment jeopardy that we see out of the right and some on the left.

                • ColBatGuano

                  The squirts at Oberlin have it that eating shredded, not fried, General Tso’s chicken appropriates Asian culture.

                  This seems like a very serious problem. One we should all clutch our pearls about.

                • TJ

                  It’s a silly example of political correctness, I’ll give you that.

                  Just to put this in perspective when I was pushing political correctness it was to keep from being called a nigger or to keep whites from wearing blackface. Given that today even liberals like Lemieux defend blackface I’d say political correctness has been an abject failure.

                • ColBatGuano

                  So worrying about it should be stupid.

                • TJ

                  The current occupant of the WH is a good example of why we should take silliness seriously.

                • ColBatGuano

                  Trump is the end result of decades of racial pandering by Republicans of the ugliest kind. He is not a silly clown that people voted into office for the yucks of it. To compare the him to college PC is to be a fool.

        • Whatever do I think political correctness is but a conservative buzzword?

          Seriously, though, it is true that any decent society wilI expect its members to conform to certain basic standards of decent behavior. The problem is when such demands are taken well beyond such necessary basics. Then they stifle personal freedom and creativity in order to reinforce existing social hierarchy.

          • Paul Thomas

            I think the point is that the line between “basic standards of decent behavior” and “stifling personal freedom” is completely arbitrary.

            When you say “my standards are just basic politeness, yours are oppressive!” it just comes off as enshrining one’s own preferences into the rules.

            • No, it isn’t completely arbitary, unless there is no actual distinction to be made between prohibiting murder and prohibiting beards.

              • Snarki, child of Loki

                I, for one, would prefer such “basic standards of decent behavior” as “driving on the correct side of the road”, and “signaling turns”.

                It seems that even that is too much for this fallen age.

                • BiloSagdiyev

                  You are a mere idealist. I am a fanatic! I want the turns signalled _before_ they start happening! If you brake, slow down, then put the signal on while you turn, that’s relaly not a warning, ya dopes. These flashing lights can send messages to your fellow citizen, messages that can be quite considerate and allow us to share the roads more efficiently.

                  This also applies to the “tap signal/crank head to side as if your car has no mirrors/crank steering wheel and change lanes” simultaneous motion.

                • These flashing lights can send messages to your fellow citizen, messages
                  that can be quite considerate and allow us to share the roads.

                  Those fortunate enough to ride as my passengers will fairly often hear me mutter “Why do you think God gave you turn signals, <expletive deleted>?”. Well, maybe not exactly mutter.

                • CJColucci

                  My repeated line is: “Signal flashers optional that year, shithead?”

                • OldScold

                  I am convinced that in certain states using turn signals is illegal lest they startle other drivers.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Oh, you’ve been to Mass., huh?

                • Pat

                  You, sir, have never driven in California, methinks.

                • Paul Thomas

                  Driving on the correct side of the road is something that is acknowledged openly by everyone to be completely arbitrary. Arbitrariness is not ALWAYS a bad thing.

                • You mean we don’t need myths and metaphysics to ground our society’s choice of the correct side to drive on? How ever will people take the law seriously then?!

                • the actual Bajmahal

                  Or, as my mother often said, “but officer, I was driving only one way.”

                • MikeG

                  Everyone driving on the same side of the road in a shared infrastructure is a practical measure. Declaring that countries driving on the left are awesome while countries driving on the right are stupid, is arbitrary.

              • Paul Thomas

                This is much like the situation present in some animal populations where populations far geographically removed from one another cannot interbreed (hence, by the traditional definition, would be different species) yet the intermediate populations can interbreed with both (suggesting that they are all the same species).

                It’s possible, even useful to some degree, to draw a distinction between species behavior at the extreme ends. But where you draw the line between the two “species” is indeed arbitrary, and a really honest taxonomist would probably argue against doing so.

                • What the extremes show is that there clearly is a distinction to be drawn between types of behaviours that can be curbed or required by requirements to conform, and that therefore the distinction isn’t arbitary. The fact that reasonable people can disagree over where precisely to draw the line does not mean there is no non-whimsical basis for drawing that line.

            • TJ

              This. Minimal necessary standards are subjective.

              • I suppose you could say that the idea that murder is wrong is “subjective”, but once we’ve reached that point I really don’t know what your point would be in saying it.

                • TJ

                  You know what? You’re right. I oppose laws against murder and discrimination. C’mon man…

                • An eye roll is not an argument.

                • My point is not that you oppose “laws against murder and discrimination”, but rather that, if you don’t oppose them, the fact that you say that “minimum standards” of behaviour are subjective seems to mean nothing at all.

          • TJ

            The problem is when such demands are taken well beyond such necessary basics.

            This is a subjective question, the answer to which is the animating force of most all domestic politics.

            Liberal conformity can be every bit as stifling as conservative conformity.

            • “Liberal conformity can be every bit as stifling as conservative conformity” is certainly a subjective claim, so subjective, in fact, that I find it highly uninteresting in the abstract. If you want to compare concerete examples, fine, but “political correctness” is just too much of a right -wing bogeyman to take seriously.

              • Deborah Bender

                Here is a concrete example: the ever increasing extension of laws restricting places where it is legal to smoke a cigarette.

                No smoking on airplanes; good because it is a common air supply and you can’t get away from the smoke. No smoking on the upper balconies of old fashioned movie theaters; not sure about that, efficient fans might take care of the comfort of people in the rest of the theater. No smoking in offices; necessary for the health of employees who don’t smoke. No smoking in bars; a net loss for patrons who like to smoke and drink and play pool at the same time, but justifiable for the health of the people who work in the bars. No smoking outdoors within X feet of the building entrance; justified on the basis that the comfort and health of the people entering and leaving the building is more important than that the smokers who work there have a convenient nearby place to smoke on their breaks. No smoking anywhere in a public park; any whiff of smoke inhaled by a passerby is an assault. No smoking on public beaches; there is always a breeze at the beach, so this rule is justified by saying that smokers leave a lot of butts on the beach, which are expensive to clean up and bad for the wildlife. No smoking anywhere on the premises of any multiunit apartment building or condominium complex, outdoors, in common areas or inside the individual apartments; this regulation, which is model legislation from the American Lung Society which has been adopted in unincorporated Marin County and most of its towns and cities, is justified on the basis of ending regular exposure to secondhand smoke. One of the consequences of the adoption of this ordinance is that the only places left in Marin County where it is legal to smoke a cigarette are in the middle of a forest or in a house. The median price of a house in Marin County is more than $1,000,000. None of this legislation has been accompanied by any effort to accommodate smokers with a ventilated area where they can smoke without bothering nonsmokers. Because smoking is bad for you.

                My late mother, who was a smoker and died of smoking-related causes, predicted that this would come to pass, and I didn’t believe her.

                • ColBatGuano

                  Smoking isn’t a right.

                • Deborah Bender

                  I think it is. I think adults have the general right to ingest what they wish and to make modifications to their bodies as they wish. This right, like all rights, is not unrestricted, but the burden of proof to show a greater public good is on the person who seeks to restrict it. Incidentally, I have had asthma for most of my life, very possibly brought on by my mother’s smoking.

                  If tobacco is outlawed, which would be stupid for many reasons, there needs to be a religious exception for Native Americans.

                • ColBatGuano

                  You do realize that you thinking it doesn’t make it true, right? No one is proposing outlawing smoking, but restricting it’s use to places where it doesn’t impinge on others.

                • Deborah Bender

                  Did you read my entire list? Under California rules, the concept of impinging on others is being extended to the point where there is nowhere a person can legally smoke in public and nowhere they can legally smoke in private unless they are wealthy enough to live in a house. I’ll add another: if you are a smoker and travel, you are SOL because you can’t smoke on any form of public transportation or in a hotel.

                  The objective of these restrictions was originally and legitimately to protect the health and comfort of nonsmokers.The ever-extending rules are openly intended to make it so difficult and inconvenient to smoke that people will give it up and tobacco smoking will be eradicated.

                  The moral issues involved are in no way comparable, nor are the penalties for noncompliance, but this is exactly the same strategy being used by the campaign to prevent women from having legal abortions.

                • ColBatGuano

                  Sorry, I can’t equate restricting smoking to abortion rights. I have some class.

                • More importantly, smoking is bad for me. While I can in theory support the right to smoke, the problem is that when people had the right to smoke in bars, for example, it meant I could not go into them for any prolonged period of time. So in practice my rights were circumscribed. One principle is that when behavior negatively affects others the rest of us can legitimately say something about it.

                • epidemiologist

                  This is not an example of liberal policy preferences unless your argument is that all evidence based policies are liberal ones. It’s also not a fair description of smoking restrictions. Liberals and public health professionals– not necessarily the same people– can and do disagree about whether smoking restrictions are an appropriate way to discourage smoking. Most of the disagreement centers on whether it is ethical to stigmatize a health condition, which addiction to nicotine is, and whether it is even effective to inconvenience smokers since many people smoke to cope with stress. Most public health professionals believe these harms can be ameliorated by public support for smoking cessation.

                  There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. This is even true of healthy people who can experience transitory inflammation and decreased exercise tolerance as a result of exposure. Kind of defeats the purpose of going for a run around the park. There is also no such thing as an appropriate ventilated area for smoking. Indoor ventilation and filtration cannot eliminate secondhand tobacco smoke from buildings, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. This is especially salient in multi-unit housing, where one person’s decision to smoke indoors can permanently contaminate the living quarters of their neighbors and any future residents, without their consent.

                  The price of a house in a jurisdiction where smoking is restricted is not relevant to the justice of these restrictions. Almost any conceivable policy change will disproportionately affect people who lack flexible resources to adapt; does that mean we should never do anything? More to the point, from a public health perspective it’s appropriate for anti-smoking policies to affect low income people because they are disproportionately harmed by nicotine addiction, tobacco smoke exposure, and social and media encouragement to smoke. An anti-smoking policy that targeted rich people and poor people equally would be an inequitable use of resources. Yet many liberals do object to these and other policies whose effectiveness is driven partly by income inequality.

                  The only safe and appropriate accommodation of smokers is help reducing or quitting smoking. And lack of resources to help people– rather than just punishing them– is more an example of institutionalized racism than either a liberal or an evidence-based preference. Many jurisdictions like sin taxes such as those on cigarettes and the opportunity to fine people, but restrictions do not apply equally to products and public spaces used by different groups (e.g. here in Chicago, cigarettes don’t get much cheaper than $12.50 while flavored cigarillos can be found for $0.99 for a two pack. College campuses were some of the first outdoor areas to go smoke-free). The smoking cessation programs these taxes are supposed to pay for (currently no state commits the recommended funding) would benefit those who smoke more than the general population: people with less education, people of color, some immigrant groups, LGBT people.

                  Arguably, the current state of tobacco control in the US is classist and racist– because it leaves the disadvantaged much more exposed to tobacco, and less able to access services to reduce the harm. Even if smoking could somehow be accommodated in public spaces, it would often amount to racial and ethnic segregation in the service of continuing to harm the health of those being excluded.

                • Deborah Bender

                  Most of the health problems exposure to tobacco smoke cause would be trivial if tobacco weren’t so addictive. Tobacco is more addictive than most other drugs, and if one acquires the habit and quits, it is especially tempting to return to it, because of the short term physiological rewards it provides. The ways to avoid addiction are not to ingest at all or to ingest infrequently and under controlled circumstances that prevent one from becoming physically dependent. Traditional ceremonial use by Native Americans is an instance of the latter.

                  I favor taxes on tobacco products, as long as most of the funds are directed to smoking cessation programs as you advocate, and as long as the taxes are not high enough to provide an incentive for organized smuggling. I think there is a case to be made for diverting some of the proceeds to medical care, but certainly not to the general fund, since that would provide a perverse incentive.

                  I favor controls on tobacco advertising, stringent regulations to make it harder for minors to get their hands on it, and public antismoking campaigns. I am not philosophically opposed to sin taxes, whether they are imposed to encourage behavioral changes or to defray the expenses of dealing with whatever social problems the targeted behavior is thought to cause.

                  I agree with you that tobacco addiction is disproportionately a problem of the poor.

                  I’m not making a general argument against liberals enacting regulations. Someone suggested that it was a straw man to charge, as some conservatives do, that liberals enact such regulations on other people to impose their own cultural and moral preferences on others. I think that is not usually a major motive but it does happen now and then.

                  It has a bearing on my views, that I am skeptical of the claim that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. The fact that it has transitory effects does not in itself make it dangerous to healthy people. I am not, like you, a scientifically trained medical professional. I do know enough about toxicology (partly from receiving OSHA mandated trainings on workplace exposure) that toxicity is a function of dosage and frequency of exposure.

                  Human bodies evolved to cope with exposure to all sorts of organic and inorganic substances. Human beings have been living in close proximity to wood fires for hundreds of millions of years. There is no question that frequent inhalation of soot particles is bad for healthy human lungs, infrequent inhalation bad for unhealthy ones, but if we couldn’t stand a certain amount of it, if our lungs and our circulatory systems did not have some resilience, we wouldn’t be a fire-using species.

                  Like a lot of other warm blooded species, we have also evolved finding it rewarding to ingest some substances that either entertain us or make us feel good by temporarily throwing some of our regulatory systems out of whack. Many substances that have these effects either make a person vomit or kill them in larger doses. If those regulatory systems aren’t allowed to resume their normal balance, or in the meantime the drunken bird flies into a plate glass window and kills itself, it’s bad for the organism’s health.

                • bender

                  I seem to have returned to being Bender. As Bender, I regret being so long winded just above. The important part, which I would have edited down to if it didn’t require my changing my nym back, is this:

                  It has a bearing on my views, that I am skeptical of the claim that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke. The fact that it has transitory effects does not in itself make it dangerous to healthy people. I am not, like you, a scientifically trained medical professional. I do know enough about toxicology (partly from receiving OSHA mandated trainings on workplace exposure) that toxicity is a function of dosage and frequency of exposure.

                • ColBatGuano

                  Your skepticism isn’t grounds for policy making and your faulty understanding of our respiratory system isn’t either.

                • bender

                  i inadvertently reverted my older nym, which makes it inconvenient to re-edit or track my posts under firstname lastname. Feel free to disregard the one immediately below.

          • Thirtyish

            We can’t have a decently run, operational civilization without soft (and occasionally hard) enforcement of basic, widely agreed upon norms, many of which center around respecting others’ rights to widely live their lives in accordance to their own preferences and whims, provided those don’t infringe upon others’ rights and safety, etc. To the degree that a society’s inhabitants are expected to live in accordance with these norms, you could technically consider that to be an expectation of a broad sort of conformity. Conformity to some extent is necessary for humans to get along and work in groups of others. This type of conformity is to be differentiated from a more narrow, concrete conformity that serves as a value in and of itself for many people, or conformism as a trait that manifests itself in traditionalism, prescribed ways of thinking and doing, an emphasis on established duties and roles, and suspicion of and contempt for those who exhibit more individual, iconoclastic ways of thinking/doing.

        • so-in-so

          Yes, thinking everyone should conform to a conservative set of standards is exactly like thinking people should get to choose the terminology used in referring to or addressing them. When I call a man older than me "boy", it is a term of affection and should be viewed as such

          • TJ

            Stop being silly. Nowhere did I say it’s ok to demean others. We both know political correctness goes well beyond enforcing civility norms. And by the way some liberals, some here even, widely civility norms.

        • witlesschum

          The difference between liberalism and conservatism is that liberalism aims (certainly imperfectly because groups are made up of people) to embrace a wider range of nonconformity as acceptable and embrace live and let live as a principle. Liberalism aims to combat and relax the natural human tendency toward hunter/gatherer-style tribalism while conservatism aims to comfort and strengthen it.

          The appeal to political correctness isn’t the analogy you think it is, for one, because the aim of getting people to say fewer insulting things about women, LGBT people and minority groups is to decrease the amount of conformity required by society. Even if you believe it’s failing in that mission or has overcorrected, the mission is fundamentally different than conservative appeals to allegedly traditional values and/or white supremacy.

          • TJ

            I wish more modern liberals were live and let live liberals. That’s what liberals used to be. Back in the ’90s I was the guy on campus promoting political correctness. Now I see liberals telling everyone how live: What to eat, how raise your kids, etc. We’ve become practically as bad a busybody as conservatives.

            Our intentions with political correctness may have been good but we should remember that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

            Besides when you get Lemieux defending white professors wearing blackface then it’s safe to say that whatever political correctness is, it’s not a defense of blacks. It may be way for white liberals to battle white conservatives.

            • witlesschum

              I don’t see a unified liberal position on any food issue I can think of, other than people should some. Liberals have always had ideas about how to raise kids, as have conservatives and everyone I can think of. Scott Lemieux is not the pope of liberalism, whatever he said about professors in blackface at some time in the past. I’m gonna bet that’s not a fair gloss of what he said, too, but it’s possible he and I’d disagree about something in particular. (ETA cleanup this sentence.)

              I expect you’re confusing some vague notions of upper middle class coastal urban/suburban culture with “liberals.” I don’t think I fit in with that group well and I don’t feel any particular pressure to conform to the superficial aspects, as opposed to the bedrock women, gays and religious and ethnic minorities are equal stuff.

              You don’t happen to be the person who used to post as Throttle Jockey/Norman Radd or whatever? If not, you guys should hang out.

              • Cheap Wino

                I’d be shocked to learn that “TJ” isn’t Throttle Jockey.

              • Thirtyish

                You don’t happen to be the person who used to post as Throttle Jockey/Norman Radd or whatever? If not, you guys should hang out.

                It’s the very same (I have him blocked, but the discussion on others’ ends is easy enough to follow regardless). Do what you want with him, but be aware that any debate about “PC” with Norris Jockey will quickly show itself to be an excuse for why liberals are mean for looking askance at him calling women liars who cry rape/suggesting that transgendered individuals can’t be trusted in bathrooms/etc., so therefore liberals are the *real* authoritarians, because MLK.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Don’t forget that if you want to raise your kids right, you gotta beat them.

                • Cheap Wino

                  Ugh. I forgot about that piece of horrible, which, so on topic, included liberals being authoritarian for telling him that, no, beating your child isn’t a good way to raise it.

                • Origami Isopod

                  I don’t recall him calling us authoritarians for it on the various occasions this came up, but since he doesn’t really know what an authoritarian is, I can readily believe he did.

                • Cheap Wino

                  Isn’t he basically calling us authoritarians here in this very thread? Here’s a copy/paste from just above (might be below after a refresh):

                  “Now I see liberals telling everyone how live: What to eat, how raise your kids, etc. We’ve become practically as bad a busybody as conservatives.”

                • BiloSagdiyev

                  Dear Sir, When I was at school, I was beaten regularly every thirty minutes, and it never did me any harm – except for psychological maladjustment and blurred vision.

            • LeeEsq

              Yes, this. Liberalism started out as the idea that you can basically trust people and let them lives as they please. You don’t need to police them so much. It started with religious freedom issues after the giant Catholic-Protestant wars in 16th and 17th century Europe and grew from there.
              That being said, the moral strain in liberalism is a lot older than the 1990s. The Liberal Party in 19th century United Kingdom attracted most of the earnestly moral voters that wanted laws to make people’s lives better like restricting what you can do on Sunday. The Conservatives were seen as the fun party that defended Sunday sports and pub openings.

              • Don’t forget abolitionism and prohibitionism in the US.

                • LeeEsq

                  Yes, Prohibition had some liberal forces behind it in addition to Protestant morality.

            • Bullshit. If I’m a vegetarian and I explain my decision on ethical and health grounds, am I forcing a lifestyle on others? No, I am not. If I have opinions on family, urban development etc, am I imposing anything on them? No!

              • TJ

                Well no one accused you personally Paul. I said some liberals not all liberals. The stupid President of the Cook County Board pushed through a regressive soda tax. If I didn’t want Republicans policing my bedroom I sure don’t want Democrats policing my kitchen. Why can’t Preckwinkle enjoy a Coke and a smile like the rest of us?

                • Deborah Bender

                  The soda tax is a sin tax. Those have been a popular way of raising revenue for generations.

                • TJ

                  So now liberals believe in sin, and believe that drinking a Coke is a sin? Why who needs Billy Graham anymore???

                  LOL You’ve proved my entire point which is that we’re becoming as bad a busybody as the GOP. Can’t we just leave people the hell alone?

                • Yours seems to be a very literal mind, TJ.

                • Leaving people the hell alone by not imposing special taxes to pay for specific things, or encourage or discourage certain things, is a libertarian idea. It has never really been a liberal one.

                • TJ

                  Regressive taxes such as this are a libertarian idea…. Progressives tax income, property and wealth. Unless they’re the busybody type of liberal.

                • So, what countries in the world embody progressive ideas most of all to you, TJ? Would they happen to be countries like Sweden and Denmark?

                  How about you compare those taxes in those countries to the ones here? I’ll wait.

                • Are you against taxes on cigarettes and booze as well? What about gasoline? Truly, a tax is an attack on our cherished freedoms!

                • TJ

                  Booze and cigarettes are not pop. Unless you’re drinking rum with your Coke. Now you’ve said that you’re the type of liberal who only likes to talk about their beliefs, not push them on others. Are you or aren’t you? Because your 2nd response sounds like you support this kind of thing.

                  Funny, I remember when progressives used to oppose regressive taxes. But that was sooo yesterday.

                • “Booze and cigarettes are not pop”, and so?

                • “Now you’ve said that you’re the type of liberal who only likes to talk about their beliefs, not push them on others.”

                  I didn’t say I was any kind of liberal at all, actually. I was responding to the sort of “culture war” b.s. that you were implying you favoured, whereby conservatives go batshit at Michelle Obama promoting healthy eating habits.

                  Now, if in fact you’re arguing that the government ought not to tax certain things, you should know that this is not an exclusively “liberal” idea. While it isn’t a libertarian idea, as you imply, it certainly is accepted by right-wingers who aren’t into stupid culture wars.

                • epidemiologist

                  TJ, it is interesting that you would take this line because many Democrats do oppose soda taxes (and other regressive taxes) for exactly this reason. I think it should be pretty obvious to you as a Cook County resident that Democrat != liberal, and in particular any particular type of liberal.

                  Soda taxes are actually an example of an evidence-based public health intervention that is being implemented around the country, not just here in Cook County. Health economists (including my boss) have found that certain groups that are particularly likely to be harmed by excess consumption of sugary drinks– including low income people and children– are also particularly price sensitive and likely to respond to the tax by consuming less soda. In this case, there is a good fit between the people we would hope will benefit from the policy and the way the policy works. From a policy perspective, it would actually be an unfair and inefficient use of resources to try to target all people the same regardless of their age or income.

                  It is totally reasonable to object to policies that target people based on income– regardless of the evidence for doing so– or that depend on income inequality to work. I share your discomfort actually! But surely you can see that you are actually making a liberal critique when you do that. I wouldn’t say that soda taxes are necessarily liberal, unless all non-nihilism is liberal now. Hey, maybe.

                • TJ

                  Hi Epidemiologist! As you probably know Preckwinkle is a bona fide liberal, and for most her career, including when I’ve voted for her, I mean that in a quite good way. So I certainly don’t mean all liberals approve of this–many here actually probably disapprove of it–but there is an increasing segment of liberals who do approve of it.

                  I understand that in places where the policy has been introduced it’s worked at curbing soda consumption. But policing this kind of hurts-only-you-behavior is classically illiberal and really at odds with a movement that’s trying legalize pot (which most of us support). Moreover the tax assessments aren’t even being plugged back into public health. What’s next making me pay extra every time I pick up wings at Harold’s? :-D

                • Whether seatbelt laws, for example, are “classically liberal” or not is much less important to me than whether or not it is good public policy. In that case, certain behavior is imposed, but the imposition is arguably trifling compared to the public policy goal.

                • TJ

                  I’m sure you’ll feel that way until they start taxing your favorite thing simply because it’s your favorite thing.

                  Classical liberalism may not be something you value but it’s premised on the fact that treating adults like they’re little kids is patronizing and infantilizing. Intangibles–freedom, respect, decency, equality–are no less important outputs of public policy because they can’t be plugged into a spreadsheet.

                • “I’m sure you’ll feel that way until they start taxing your favorite thing simply because it’s your favorite thing.”

                  I doubt very much that soda pop is being taxed because it’s your favourite thing. Speaking of being treated like adults, how about you grow up? This isn’t about you.

                  “Intangibles–freedom, respect, decency, equality–are no less important
                  outputs of public policy because they can’t be plugged into a
                  spreadsheet.”

                  Weren’t those the things you were saying were “subjective” earlier, which is why attempts to get people to conform to such ideals is PC claptrap? You might want to get your story straight.

                • TJ

                  I never said I objected to subjective values. I was objecting to the superiority complex suggesting that conservatives are more conforming than liberals. Duh! Everyone else got that but you!

                • TJ

                  Hi Epidemiologist, this was forwarded to me this morning: “Beer cheaper than soda in Philly” (https://seekingalpha.com/news/3287276-beer-cheaper-soda-philly).

                  I used to live in Gabon, Central Africa where this was also the case. They had high alcoholism rates. Just something to keep in mind as you guys track stuff.

                • TJ

                  PS–how often do you drink pop?

            • Daniel Elstner

              how to raise your kids

              Could you elaborate on what exactly you mean by that? Because this is kind of a hot-button issue for me, and I am appalled at what is still legal in kid treatment in the US.

              To cut to the chase, I am strongly in favor of the state enforcing the protection of children from violence, just as it already does for adults.

      • Steve LaBonne

        And you shall know your place, and staying in your place will set you free.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        +1 You tell ’em, ferret face!

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Speaking of hair and conformity and identity and nonconsenusal barbering, I just remembered this ancient bit with the future Senator Al Franken and his brief conversion to Hare Krishna.

      http://snltranscripts.jt.org/78/78tfranken.phtml

  • Bruce Baugh

    John’s dissection there remains one of my favorite blogging pieces ever.

    It’s time, I think, for my periodic mention of how accurately Ayn Rand extrapolated the future of her own movement, while projecting it onto liberals, in Atlas Shrugged.

    At first, the lefties in Atlas Shrugged are full of visionary schemes in which everyone will live better than they do now once the shackles of capitalism are removed. As those schemes fall apart, they fall back on the idea that at least suffering can be shared around and redistributed a bit, and in particular, those who’ve already had a grand ride can bear some for the sake of those who never did. As things keep getting worse, the leadership devolves into pure what’s-in-it-for-me greed as bullies and thugs push out out the visionaries, academics, etc. Things keep getting worse, and the old visionaries start glorifying poverty and suffering as active goods in themselves, and it culminates with them outright seeking the death of everyone.

    Reading Frum jolted me into the realization that Rand had grasped something important, just about the right rather than the left. Postwar conservative writing has a lot of exposition about how wonderful life can be for everyone, including the teeming masses, if only we unleash the power of the dollar. Some of that was never more than propaganda, of course, but if you look back on it now, a fair amount of it seems genuine – those guys wanted to do away with poverty, hunger, disease, and the like, and believed fervently that the free dollar could do it. It’s a long way down from there to this idea that it’s good for almost everyone to live in fear and for many to go ahead and actually suffer terribly, all for being sufficiently conforming to some arbitrary set of norms. And it’s not very far at all from that to fuck-yous that include destroying the planet’s ability to sustain humanity, all because they didn’t get their own way in everything.

    • sigaba

      If you think the world works totally according to iron material laws, and sensualism and the vital spirit is meaningless grease in the wheels of history, then yeah, the conclusion that we’re all going to barter each other’s deaths for bottlecaps (preferably under a bridge by a burning tire) becomes obvious, even inescapable.

    • Steve LaBonne

      With these people it’s always, always projection.

    • LeeEsq

      It is genuine. The Free Market belief is that if we allow much more economic action than we prohibit than people will be happier because of greater and more perpetual economic prosperity. Its a viewpoint that I’m not entirely unsympathetic with since I’m a market liberal. People in the consumerist, capitalist West generally were happier than people in people in Communist countries because they had more of their material needs and wants met.

      • Alesis

        Like most deeply held beliefs it is at once genuine and something they will sell out entirely given the right incentives. Free market uber alles when talking tax policy. Command and control government enforced quotas when it comes to immigration.

        It’s all hierarchy it’s just that which “Great Chain of Being” is subject to change without notice.

        • Bizarro Mike

          “The market is free to choose my preference.”

          • Bruce Baugh

            That’s a big ‘un with the conservative crowd. They really hate the thought that markets might freely choose something not at all conservative.

            • Hypersphrericalcow

              Hence, their outrage over companies pulling their ads from certain websites/shows, or embracing gay pride, or any other number of things. That’s just good business. It’s what the market is asking for!

              In short, the market is always right, except when it isn’t.

            • LeeEsq

              Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard were big examples of this. They loved capitalism but they hated a lot of the mass culture produced by capitalism. Their cultural tastes were Frankfurtian and the Frankfurtians at least hated capitalism.

          • MikeG

            Their definition of Freedumb is being exploited by a corporation, not a government.

        • Man is born free to be in the great chain of his choice!

      • Bizarro Mike

        I think markets are a good tool to achieve some ends, but if the market isn’t meeting our goals as a society, we should have other tools to try.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

          And all too many RWNJs are total hammer-heads.

        • We only use markets in very rare instances — really just wholesaling the products of extractive industries: fossil fuels, agricultural products, raw heavy industry products (basically steel). And some in financing, though that is even mostly “over the counter” at the meaningful level.

          Otherwise the capitalist economy is organized on the basis of firms. These semi-governmental organizations (incorporation is a government action akin the chartering in the old mercantilism days), together with outright government agencies, are the actual means of organizing a capitalist economy (see H.A. Simon’s work, this isn’t new). They don’t compete in “free markets” anymore than the elaborate mechinations and politicking of the War of the Roses could be called no-holds-barred gladiator cage match.

          The notion that our economy is regulated by markets is a useful fiction for the economists tasked with intellectually defending the system. We basically use corporations the same way the ancient regime used fiefdoms.

          • There is a Hayekian screed called, I think, “I, Pencil,” which suggests that the workers, suppliers, and so on, all come together spontaneously, on the basis of the world order or something and its inherent knowledge of the manufacture of pencils, if the world is working properly and in libertarian manner–no need for management or decisionmaking, corporations or firms, which I suppose are seen as corruptions of the process. I don’t know how widely held this view is, though.

            To read about economics, though, you would get the impression that hardly anyone had ever heard of a firm.

            • Schumpeter was actually really good on this. But I also just like the fact that he said [to paraphrase] “Please, I admit socialism is perfectly capable of running a functional economy, but just give capitalism 70 more years to innovate a bit more and it’ll have done what good it can and can be replaced.” in 1942 (+70=2012).

              It’s nice when you can site the guy who came up with the term “creative destruction” to say even in his estimation we’re 5 years past that idea’s sell-by date.

      • TJ

        Yeah I think there’s reason that most first world countries settled on capitalism. Socialism plays a necessary part at the edges–social insurance, economic development, public schools–but we tend to lead with capitalism, even in countries like the Nordics, for good reason. There’s no such thing as a successful pure capitalism country same as there’s no such thing as a successful pure socialism country.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          And, I don’t mean to be rude*, but there are no libertarian countries.

          * Oh, sure I do.

          • Ithaqua

            Somalia and Yemen come to mind.

            • Deborah Bender

              Somalia is not libertarian. Libertarianism holds that nearly the only legitimate exercise of government power is to protect citizens from violence and theft of their property.

              • Ithaqua

                Well, yes and no. The libertarian solution to an economy running on free market / libertarian principles is not the only one; there are others that are equally consistent with the free market conditions. One of these is called the “Jungle Economy”, in which everyone gets a power rating, and the person with the most power gets everything they want. #2 gets everything they want from what’s left, and so on down the line. “Government” protects people from theft of their property, because if I have something you want, you have every right to take it from me if you’re more powerful, so it’s not theft. (It’s only theft if someone less powerful takes it, and you don’t want to be caught in Yemen taking someone more powerful’s stuff.) Also, one way the people at the top legitimize themselves is by adopting the trappings of government while using it as a means of enforcing the jungle economy distribution of wealth (not actually much different than what governments everywhere do, if you think about it), so… “Government” the word means something different in a jungle economy than it does in the libertarian fantasy. But… there’s no reason why the libertarian solution, if implemented, would lead to the libertarian utopia as opposed to the jungle economy, and the fact that humans are closely descended from hierarchical pack animals gives a lot of credence to the idea that the jungle economy is actually a lot more likely to be what results. Also, of course, Yemen, Somalia, and dozens of other hellholes around the world far outnumber the approximately 0 libertarian paradises that have ever or will ever exist.

                Not expecting to convince you of course, nor argue with you about this ad nauseum in a blog thread, but it is something to think about, perhaps.

                • Deborah Bender

                  I’m not myself a libertarian, but I’ve read some basic accounts of libertarian principles and my recollections of them are the basis of my previous comment.

        • BigHank53

          There are things that work better when they are socialized (police, roads, air traffic control) and things that work better as independent capitalist enterprises, like entertainment and restaurants. The line between the two is fuzzy, and needs to be constantly re-examined. But to deny the utility (and limitations!) of either system is foolish.

          • Cheap Wino

            This is so obvious, not in the least bit intellectually difficult to understand. Yet we have an entire party that commands at least 40% of the electorate which has ginned up visceral hate for one of those two systems in every single possible case. They will vote to privatize the water supply, not to mention your health care, every single time.

          • Bugboy

            Roads are largely publicly financed but subcontracted out to private construction firms, and are a perfect example of that “fuzzy”-ness.

            As a career entomologist in mosquito control, I’ve been contemplating that arrangement my entire career, as in how is it profitable to build roads on the public dime, but it’s never been profitable to provide mosquito control services?

            The only answer I’ve been able to come up with is, not to make a pun of it, that the results of road building are much more “concrete” than the results of a service like mosquito control.

            • Bufflars

              Plus, watching those old films of kids eating lunch while being completely engulfed in clouds of (publicly provided?) DDT may not conjure up the burning desire for more large scale mosquito control projects.

              • Bugboy

                You would be surprised at the demand for just that kind of service from the public. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told stories of kids riding bikes behind fogging trucks, from folks who just laugh about it.

                Contrary to popular belief, the mosquito control industry is the only thing standing between the environment and the public’s demands for useless and illegal routine spraying. It’s a constant battle to push back against the propaganda produced by the pest control industry, which tells their customers they must have routine spraying to keep them from being bug infested.

        • LeeEsq

          One of socialism’s biggest failures is that a lot of the people thinking about what a socialist society would look like had either big Puritanical or Bohemian culture leanings. This meant that they were fundamentally anti-consumerist in their tastes but most people are consumerist and like their creature comforts and entertainments. After Stalin died, the Eastern Bloc Communists more or less got this but tended to be pretty bad at it because they were still Puritanical or Bohemian.

      • applecor

        I liked the Holbo piece, but what jumped out at me (and that Holbo did not mention) is that Frum’s whole beard/dress thing appears to be a twisted version of a famous passage from Wealth of Nations where Smith says that the free market successfully imposes beneficial behavioral norms that the government would otherwise be tempted to enforce (in particular, honesty and reliability).

      • Deborah Bender

        I don’t think you can make a straight across happiness comparison between societies without also taking into account non-material considerations like family life, whether people feel they are making a contribution and whether that contribution is recognized by others, whether occasions for envy are frequent, how much people live in fear, etc.

    • Karen

      I’m not going to share mangoes about this, but there are many on the Catholic right now who glorify pain and misery as entirely beneficial in and of themselves now. It’s the doctrine of “redemptive suffering,” in which I can save your soul by enduring some kind of pain or inconveniece while thinking about you, and teaches that inflicting pain on someone else is good for them because it saves their souls. “Humans are never so capable of mischief as when doing something for someone else’s good.”

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        “here are many on the Catholic right now who glorify pain and misery as entirely beneficial in and of themselves now”

        Line ’em up, let’s get to crucifyin’.

        Someone bring the 2 by 4s, I’ll bring the screw-gun (we have better construction techniques than the ancients), and I just feel like giving those christianists ‘a good turn’.

        • Helmut Monotreme

          The evil part of my brain would like to add “Remember to use a washer, the heads of your average drywall screw would just rip through an arm.” but the rest of me is a little horrified.

          • N__B

            Washers don’t spread the punch-through shear enough. I’d go with two 2xs sandwich the flesh for the most effective connection.

            What?

            • Helmut Monotreme

              2x4s are expensive. What if we supplement the screws and washers with some zip ties?

              • Snarki, child of Loki

                2×4’s are cheap. You’re don’t need the fancy ones.

                If they’re a bit warped, with knot-holes, it’s okay. And the wood too.

              • N__B

                You’re trying to fasten a material with low tensile strength, low shear strength, low compressible and bearing strength, and a low elastic modulus. Narrow connectors are just going to rip it.

                • Helmut Monotreme

                  I defer to your expertise.

                • Origami Isopod

                  While I appreciate the expertise on display in this sub-thread, there are already real-life examples that our Revanchist brethren and sistren could be pointed to. Obviously their devotion is not sufficient if they are not emulating Filipino Catholics.

                • Zamfir

                  Filipino crucifixions use lots of ropes, with hardly any structural contribution from the hand nail. That underlines how the traditional ‘Rogier van der Weyden’ crucification is conceptually unsound.

                  If you hang someone from their hands AND you spread their arms, then each arm carries several body weights in tensile force. The arms and joints might take that, perhaps. But nail in flesh will shear through. A bolted clamp would hold the hand, but I don’t think bolt or screws were common in Roman times. Perhaps a nail through the the wrist would work?

                  Most crucifix images imply some hidden bond between Jesus’s back and the cross, like he’s glued. Or they just imply lack of structural insight in the artist.

                  There are apparently no good contemporary images of crucifications, only some crude graffitis. One of them shows a standing Jesus a with footrest, but it also gives Jesus a donkey’s head, suggesting it might be less than 100% accurate. So we don’t actually know how crucifications worked, we’re just guessing.

                • wjts

                  One of them shows a standing Jesus a with footrest, but it also gives Jesus a donkey’s head, suggesting it might be less than 100% accurate.

                  And I suppose you don’t believe St. Christopher had a dog’s head, either.

                • N__B

                  To each his ow ow ow

            • Washers don’t spread the punch-through shear enough.

              Sure, but they only have to bear the initial load from the third hour to the sixth hour. Don’t splurge—keep your eye on the bottom line!

          • Lurking Canadian

            I think you’d need at least 3/8″ lag bolts. That’s a heavy load.

            • Bruce Baugh

              LGM: always an education. Even where ignorance would be bliss.

              :)

      • Lurking Canadian

        It’s such a distortion. There may be an argument that there is moral value in enduring suffering yourself. The idea that there is moral value in making other people suffer is horrifying.

        • Karen

          My response when I heard that was to suggest that the Catholics should canonize Hitler and Stalin. After all, if misery is good for us then the two men who inflicted the most ‘benefit’ on humanity should get credit for it.

        • BigHank53

          It's for their own good, you know.

        • TJ

          I was surprised to hear Albert Mohler criticize this strain of thought among evangelicals last week. He said many evangelicals think people are poor because of sin, but that doesn’t mean that they’re poor because of their sins. It’s the sins of the structure, he said.

        • Deborah Bender

          I think there has definitely been moral value in some of the limited suffering I have experienced, because without those experiences I would lack the empathy to notice or understand what suffering does to other people. There is also the banal fact that doing without something and then receiving it usually makes you appreciate it more, and gratitude is usually an uplifting emotion.

          Suffering that goes on and on doesn’t do anyone any good.

      • Bruce Baugh

        It’s a weird but recurring failure mode in human thought, apparently. Following Slacktivist’s wise comment that teaching yourself to believe lies makes you stupid, i wonder if it becomes more likely in a mind deeply stuffed with obvious lies about everyone around them.

      • TJ

        Did you catch what Pope Francis’ friends had to say about Trump and Bannon’s alliance with Far Right Catholicism? It was withering: https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/13/pope-associates-criticize-american-evangelicals-extremism

      • Hypersphrericalcow

        That was the main complaint about Mother Theresa, right? That she cared for the sick and dying, but didn’t actually *do anything* to improve their condition, because their suffering was the imitation of Christ.

        • Sly

          Among numerous other complaints, such as her fawning praise of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, her single-minded crusade against contraception (something that would have done much to alleviate systemic poverty in Calcutta, and indeed elsewhere), her soft-pedaling of the massacres in countries like Nicaragua and Guatemala (including massacres of both ordained and lay Catholics) at the behest of elite Western economic interests during the 70s and 80s, the comfort and ease with which she was welcomed into halls of power as a political ally of the elite yet feigned apoliticism and humility at every turn, etc.

          The list is rather long.

          • Deborah Bender

            Recently there was a miniseries on HBO called The Young Pope, starring Jude Law in the title role. I thought it was a much deeper examination of Catholic thought than most teleplays that have Christian themes, and I couldn’t nail down the writer’s POV because there wasn’t a character who was an obvious spokesperson for it.

            Anyway, one of the six or eight episodes centered on a character who was a Mother Teresa type.

            It would be a bit of a digression, but I would be interested in the takes of other commenters who watched this series, because I did not run across any critical examinations of it when it aired.

      • Sly

        Its not just poverty that the Catholic right champion as redemptive, i.e. “AIDS is bad, but condoms are worse.”

        It has a kind of vulgar logic to it – extend the timeline of human experience toward infinity, and any suffering incurred while on this mortal coil is such an infinitesimally small price to pay that its easy to reconceptualize it as a gift. What’s the pain of wasting away from Kaposi sarcoma compared to an eternity of otherworldly torments?

        The Protestant right deals in the same kind of calculus, most recently seen in their widespread rejection of HPV vaccination. Usually, because most of them are goddamn liars, when they’re just talking to each other. Pam Stenzel will tour the country telling girls in high school auditoriums about the medical dangers of HPV and why abstinence is the only thing that “works,” but at places like Reclaiming America for Christ rallies she’ll openly spout to the faithful that she doesn’t care what works, and that its better for her daughter to need a hysterectomy at 25 than to get the implicit sanction of free wheeling sexy time that a vaccine against a potentially deadly virus somehow provides.

        • Solar System Wolf

          Well, I’ve been vaccinated for tetanus and now I go about stepping on rusty nails on purpose. It’s a moral hazard.

      • LeeEsq

        Meanwhile, the Pharisees and their Rabbinical descendants decided that redemptive suffering is a really dumb idea and that experiencing or inflicting unnecessary pain is something to be avoided. This is why you get some really Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis making some really unusual decisions from a religious conservative perspective like marijuana isn’t that bad.

      • epidemiologist

        My school’s Newman center has an institute for “ethics” focusing on health and business. A “bioethics” talk they hosted was actually on the distinction between suffering and pain: a supposedly useful distinction for clinicians (!).

        I didn’t go because I prefer to keep my lunch down, but isn’t that distinction, for ethical clinicians, defined by the experience and wishes of the patient?

        • Hogan

          Pain is what you experience before the operation; discomfort is what you experience after the operation.

        • Deborah Bender

          A parallel distinction is made in some circles between healing and cure. Cure fixes the physical ailment. If that’s not possible, healing adjusts your thinking or emotions so you feel better about whatever you have to live with or die of.

      • Origami Isopod

        on the Catholic right now

        This is nothing new. Google “Mother Teresa” + “Jesus is kissing you”.

      • OldScold

        Lord Almighty, “temporal punishment” and the “sacrifice for the souls in purgatory”. I’ve seen people wracked with pain from terminal disease for sake of the souls in purgatory. I say let the Purgatorians take care of themselves (if there are such people).

    • Sly

      Part and parcel of this “unleash the dollar” ideology is the tacit assumption that poverty itself serves as the punishment for some imagined lack of virtue – not smart enough, not diligent enough, not ethical enough, not white enough, not male enough, etc. Poverty becomes the line of demarcation between society’s rightful winners and losers, and economic power no longer serves as a means of relieving material wants and needs, but a sort of moral scorecard. If there are no barriers to individual attainment, than all rise and fall according to individual merit. The resultant hierarchy rationalizes itself.

      This is obviously different from the classical christian notion of redemptive suffering perhaps most vociferously championed by Mother Theresa (i.e. poverty is a blessing for which the poor should be thankful for having and the non-poor should be thankful for anesthetizing), but it doesnt take much in the way of rhetorical slight of hand to move from one to another, and redemptive poverty was the obvious rhetorical choice for a church intent on crushing liberation theology in its crib.

      • Bruce Baugh

        I’m glad you included “not smart enough” on the list of “lack of virtue”. Whenever I hear or see libertarian bros going on at length, sooner or later they’ll slide into treating lack of specific knowledge and/or mental training as a kind of wickedness.

        • Sly

          The current imbroglio at Google has certainly demonstrated the need for its inclusion, when we have male engineers with no understanding of genetics (and a demonstrated ignorance of the characterological prerequisites of success in corporate engineering) spouting off about how corporate policies increasing the inclusion of women in the tech sector are a waste of resources because BIOTRUTHS show how their brains just can’t handle the intellectual rigors of hunting for bugs in APIs, much in the way our manly forebears hunted mammoths on the savanna or some bullshit.

          • Bruce Baugh

            So darned true.

          • LeeEsq

            I’m hoping it ends with justice, inclusion, and big legal fees for hard working lawyers.

          • I can’t understand how smart people (not just the disingenuous like Charles Murray) can be so dumb about this.

            Let’s say two groups display a statistically significant difference in their mean performance on some appropriate (very hard to determine in itself) metric. I.e. the difference between group means is bigger than what is able to be accounted for by the intra-group variances.

            1. We can’t determine from this fact the source of this difference, and in fact that is a doozy of a problem in itself if we’re trying to sort based on this measure. Even if we know the intra-group variance is say highly heritable, that doesn’t tell us anything about the source of the inter-group variance.

            2. If you have large populations, group A and group B, and are already operating under a filtering assumption (only a small number of individuals accepted), then even if there is a significant difference between group means due to some unalterable source of variance, there’s still almost inevitably going to be plenty of group B members who exceed a very large percentage of group A members in the metric, and quite possibly several group B’ers that exceed all group A’ers. So simply stating a claim that one group out performs the other in a T test or Anova or whatever is meaningless in terms of actual evaluation of policy.

            And this is assuming the science and metrics are actually done well and appropriate– which is quite a hefty assumption. These engineers are supposed to be trained in these facts at a high level, and they regurgitate fallacious reasoning that any intro stats course should have disabused them of.

            • Sly

              I can’t understand how smart people (not just the disingenuous like Charles Murray) can be so dumb about this.

              It’s purposeful obtuseness. They continually retreat into the abstract language of anodyne debate when what they really want is a change in human action and are simply offering any post-hoc rationalization for it that they can think of, and will generally glom on to any that sounds sufficiently “sciencey” to give it a measure of authenticity for people who lack the competency to tell the difference.

              Murray called for the state to abandoned efforts at integrating black Americans into the larger socioeconomic structure of the nation because their biological inferiority made such efforts a waste of scarce resources. TechBro called for Google to abandon policies of gender inclusion because the womenfolk are just too plagued by “neuroticisms” and incompatible genetics to properly benefit.

              The reasoning proceeds from the demand, not the other way around. The “lets just debate ideas” defense tries to put all the focus on the reasoning and conceal the demand.

              It’s akin to Sam Harris falling back on the tired line of “I just want to debate ideas!” after he calls for affirmative religious profiling at airports and border crossings, as if his stated policy preference won’t have any real consequences for any real people. It’s not even particularly good intellectual sleight of hand.

              I consider it a variation of the “Just Asking Questions” line of defense for specious argumentation in the service of various conspiracy theories, in that there is a reason why its often abbreviated as “JAQing off.” It’s because its nothing more than rhetorical masturbation that doesn’t fool anyone who didn’t buy into the con to begin with.

              • Origami Isopod

                Yep. Got nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with character.

          • Captain_Subtext

            All of which really just serves to demonstrate how bad Google is at doing actual engineering work instead of just hiring more hackers. It smacks of the 4chan fiasco a couple of years ago.

        • Origami Isopod

          Hell, we see it here, in the condemnations of poor white people who won’t get retrained. Despite the fact that “Just go get job training” doesn’t fucking work for structural reasons, and aside from the fact that we shouldn’t coddle the racism or other bigotries of of poor white people. It’s a problem with affluent, technocracy-sympathetic liberals.

    • SatanicPanic

      I think this was one of the most perfect passages:

      “The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundaton is hereby laid for a desirable social order.”

  • sigaba

    JUST BE NORMAL. JUST BE NORMAL AND I’LL STOP HITTING YOU.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      THIS IS THE THE LAND (KICK) OF THE FREE (STOMP) NOW SHAVE YOUR BEARD, HIPPIE FREAK!

    • Bruce Baugh

      Narrator: He will not in fact stop hitting them.

      • tsam100

        I’m saying all of this in Morgan Freeman’s voice and it makes me happy.

        • Hypersphrericalcow

          I was imagining Ron Howard.

  • “You know, David, you celebrate strange holidays and you have weird hang ups about bacon cheeseburgers… you are flaunting your ethnic differences! Why can’t you just act like a nice, normal Episcopalian?”

  • apogean

    In re: the Holbo review, “dark satanic millian liberal” is one of my favorite political philosophy coinages ever, up there with “poetic justice as fairness.” Just the pun on mill/Mill alone makes me cackle with glee.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Thanks for reminding me of that classic. I will never think of anything half that clever, sigh.

    • jdrem

      I really wish that caught on. Although, “Donner Party Conservatism” is pretty good.

    • dn

      “I wish you hadn’t mentioned that” cracks me up every single time I read it and this is like the half-dozenth time I’ve revisited the piece.

  • Gareth

    “And, credit where credit is due, while Frum’s affirmative defense of American conservatism was a massive FAIL his argument that Republicans can win elections on conservative platitudes but have trouble governing on the agenda because people hate it remains relevant.”

    An anti-Trump conservative sarcastically suggested on Twitter that the Republicans try passing some popular legislation. Can’t remember if it was Frum or Ross Douthat.

    • sigaba

      Neither, it was Otto von Bismarck.

      • jmwallach

        Well he took that joke way too far with proto-Obamacare.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          And that ponzi scheme of old age pensions which will crash! Crash any week now!

  • scott bates

    Does anyone else besides L&L write for this site? Just wondering.

    • JUICY_JOEL

      What?

    • Warren Terra

      As you could easily find out by looking, Lemieux has of late been writing about 1/2 the posts here. Loomis, maybe another 1/6. Leaving about 1/3.

      • woodrowfan

        alas, Dave Noon among them

      • billcinsd

        Loomis is on vacation, so somebody has to fill the maw of the commentariat

    • Murc

      Shakezula reliably makes posts that turn into threadnaughts. Dan Nexon doesn’t post often, but when he does post they’re long-form pieces with a lot of research behind them.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Nexon is literally the 5th most recent post, so he has posted most recently than Loomis.

      Why did you only look at the four most recent posts? Bad RSS feed reader?

  • Lurker

    Perhaps I have simply an odd workplace but I think that the ship has already sailed for beards. They are not counterculture but culture, at least in Europe. I have one, and most of my co-workers have at least an unshaved look. Many of those that are clean-shaven have a a skin and hair that look like they would not be able to grow a beard of any kind even if they wanted. Even the senior VP of the division has a beard. And all of us are native Finns, presumably Lutherans.

    This is sort of trend, which is demonstrated by the amount of bearded models in advertisements.

    The point is simply the kind of beard you grow. It should look clean and well-kept, and by Jove, it takes about as much work to keep a full beard in presentable shape as shaving does.

    • M Lister

      and by Jove, it takes about as much work to keep a full beard in presentable shape as shaving does.

      Maybe true (the opposite is too far in my past to fully remember, if I every really reached it) but it’s also true that shaving all the time with anything but a super sharp (and so new) razor bothers my skin quite a bit, so I really don’t like to do it.

      • majeff

        I wonder how many of us started growing beards because shaving was just annoying.
        I did. So, now I do a touch-up shave of the neck and cheecks twice a week, and use the beard trimmer (also on the eyebrows) on those days.

        It’s actually pretty damned easy.

        • LeeEsq

          I wanted to grow a beard since I was thirteen. This is a good thing because my facial hair is very thick and clean shaving is something of an aspirational statement. Even when I shaved everyday, my face never had that really clean shaving look unless I splurged for a straight edge shave at a barber shop.

          • Lurker

            Me too. When I was a conscript in the Finnish Army, I needed to shave twice a day if I wanted to be sure of not getting yelled at. Nowadays, when I go to drills as a reservist, I am happy to wear a beard, which is the reservists privilege. Active service staff need to be clean-shaved, though there has been talk about allowing short beards for servicemen. Even the military follows fashion. (Historically, both creates and follows fashion pretty strictly.)

            • LeeEsq

              Beards grew popular during the mid-19th century because British soldiers began growing them during the Crimean War. The military also led the way for growing mustaches several decades earlier.

              • You look at a lot of American abolitionists photos and many of them have the sideburns going down the jawline as well as a few beards like the Brit military sported.

                • LeeEsq

                  The frontier led to a growing popularity for facial hair in the United States because shaving was kind of luxury in the deep American wilderness.

                • A straight razor along with a leather strop, a bar of soap, and a small mirror is all you really needed.

              • Jon Hendry

                I suspect the current “white working class” fondness for beards might have started in part as emulation of the beards worn by Navy SEALs and other special forces troops in Afghanistan.

                • anonotwit

                  I started growing a beard at the end of 2001. Sometime after Tora Bora, one of the conservative types in upper management at the startup I worked at asked me if was growing it in solidarity with the Taliban.

                  He wasn’t joking.

                • MikeG

                  Let me guess that the startup is now defunct.
                  When upper management is that stupid and abusive, it’s past time to bail out.

                • BiloSagdiyev

                  Sometimes the beard, it’s about Afghanistan, and sometimes it’s about a brutal war against a rebellion in an ungovernable tribal region in the 1860’s.

        • DJ

          LGM. Come for the politics, stay for the grooming advice.

          • stay for the grooming advice.

            Certainly there’s a lot of local expertise in nit-picking.

        • Terok Nor

          I grew a beard to get into bars at 17.

          • LeeEsq

            I could do that without a beard at fifteen. I had a very adult face and was
            routinely seen as being five to six years older than my actual age.

        • woodrowfan

          same here. irritated the hell out of my skin. decided “f! it” 30+ years ago. fortunately I met (and married) a woman who likes beards…

        • Steve LaBonne

          I grew mine in order to give the illusion of having a chin.

        • Rand Careaga

          Count me as one who hated shaving, and gave it up as soon as I left for college (although the surviving photographs from the period suggests that I probably should have held off for a few years on the alleged beard, and that once it filled in I overcompensated in the latter seventies by letting it sprout too luxuriantly). What I’ve found these latter years—I’m sixty-five—is that the devil-may-care approach to grooming that still worked in my thirties is unsustainable at this stage in life: blow off the maintenance of the muff, or go too long between haircuts, and one quickly starts to look seedy rather than raffish. When indigents on the streets in San Francisco start offering you spare change, it’s time to see the barber.

          • Jon Hendry

            I’m 45 and still waiting for my beard to fill in.

            • LeeEsq

              Bishonen.

              • Jon Hendry

                Sadly, no. I just have an ugly sparse beard.

        • witlesschum

          I’ve had a beard for most of my adult life. Grew it out for the first time at age 19 or so and have kept it for the 20 years since. Started with the neck and cheek shaving, but I’ve since quit that nonsense and just clip in every couple of weeks, for my wife’s benefit.

        • Hypersphrericalcow

          That’s basically my routine. I also get really bad razor burn on my neck (tweezing out ingrown hairs on your Adam’s apple is, to put it mildly, not fun).

          It helps that my face is shaped so that I basically have a Riker Beard, which makes me look much more mature and competent.

    • So you have few or no female co-workers? An odd workplace indeed, for Finland.

      • N__B

        Perhaps he works in a dwarfish mine. Tolkien spends more time than is seemly discussing dwarfish women’s beards.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          were they well trimmed and fashionable?

          Sounds plausible

    • TJ

      I like wearing well trimmed beards in winter. They’re too hot for summer. Get yourself some clippers and a straight edge razor and they’re no trouble all. I only trimmed mine twice a week and looks good.

    • MikeG

      the amount of bearded models in advertisements

      I don’t see many Victoria’s Secret models with beards yet.

  • auberge

    Public employees get promotions? This writer must not know much about public employment.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Thank you. What I came here to say. Ayup. This new learning amazes me!

    • Hogan

      . . . and now I’m vice president of the DMV!

      • Origami Isopod

        Would you mind adding an open bar? It’d make the visits more enjoyable.

    • Anna in PDX

      Right? I just did my second “lateral move” in the past 5 years. It has been many since a promotion.

  • M Lister

    It’s long, but worth reading.

    One of those is _always_ true of Holbo’s writing (not just blog posts – he has produced huge rambling book reviews for the NDPR, for example.) The other is true a fair amount of the time (including this one!) but not always, and the huge length makes it hard to know whether to try too often. This time, though, you probably should, if you have not already done so.

  • Robbert

    “Young men in the 1740s defended the Habsburg’s right to put a woman on their throne. Today, too many stay home reading Goethe and Schiller”.

  • MariedeGournay

    “Playing video games”? Christ, is all ‘conservative’ cultural criticism stuck in the fucking 90s?

    • You’re either a Master of the Universe making the dough hand over fist, or you’re a small-time drone laboring away in deserved anonymity at subsistence wages. Those are the only two categories of “citizen” for conservatives. Anybody else is spending their days playing video games and fucking on the couch, and thus are worthless moochers.

    • woodrowfan

      like how they rant that “the poor have flat screen tvs!!!”

      • CJColucci

        Can you even get anything else these days?

        • BigHank53

          No. It’s been almost a decade since I saw a CRT offered for sale.

    • Robbert

      Certainly not. Some of it is stuck in the fucking 60s.

    • Aaron Morrow

      I guess I’m old, because I remember this from the 80s, along with the anti-D&D stuff.

      • Anna in PDX

        Me too. Remember the fear and loathing of arcades?

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      Street Fighter II is making our children the violents!

    • Hypersphrericalcow

      “Young men are leaving the workforce to stay at home and play Xbox all day” is a pretty common hot take these days.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        When I was a boy, the concern was that young men didn’t want to work, they just wanted to bang on the drum all day.

      • LeeEsq

        Considering how unemployed or underemployed people spent their time in the past, video games are a lot healthier for society.

    • sigaba

      “Dead Right” was published in 1995.

  • LeeEsq

    The obsession with clean-shavingness is one thing that I find utterly confusing about Christian conservatives. Most depictions of Jesus show him with a beard. The Apostles are also depicted as bearded in art. The historical Jesus definitely had a beard because he was a Jew and lived at a time where nearly every Jewish man couldn’t imagine himself without a beard. The 19th century Protestant pastors and Evangelicals like Dwight Moody grew some really impressive beards. Sometime during the early 20th century and lasting even to the present in some circles, the beard became a symbol of everything wrong in the world for people who worship a person whose always depicted with a beard.

    I have a friend who grew up in these circles. He told me that the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago required all male students to be clean shaving even though the institute was filled with pictures of the very bearded Moody.

    • The beard became a symbol of what’s wrong with the world the instant hippies began sporting beards.

      • LeeEsq

        I think it started around the time of the Russian Revolution if not several years earlier. The safety razor and running hot and cold water did make shaving a lot easier for most men.

      • blackbox

        But, of course, Jesus was a hippie.

    • M Lister

      See also: BYU, where all the men must be clean-shaven despite the place being named for this guy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigham_Young#/media/File:Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_Carter.jpg

      • LeeEsq

        The NYT had an article about this. Young Mormon men are just as into fashion as non-Mormon men and want their hipster facial hair.

        • M Lister

          Maybe so, but you can’t wear it at BYU, just like shorts above the knees and “thongs” in the dining hall. (That bit is just for fun – I’m not sure if they use that terminology any more, but when they did, it meant flip-flops, not that they were checking people’s underpants, though undoubtedly some wished that they could.)

          • billcinsd

            I knew some guys that went to BYU and the big thing they did, was to use tape to make their underwear feel, to those checking from the outside, as if they had on post-mission underwear. They felt this worked well with the women attending BYU

    • Lurker

      I know that in parts of rural Finland, old folks in certain revival movements considered, even in the first decade of the 20th century, that a beard was a must for a true Christian. Naturally, these same people wanted their womenfolk to wear scarves. Essentially, they wanted people to conform with the conservative rural fashion of 1850’s. Similarly, the religious movements promoting cleanshaven look today are trying to achieve the fashion that was respectable 70 years ago.

    • J Tzimiskes

      I came to the conclusion some time ago that most Christian conservatives are really pagans. They seem to only like parts of Christianity when filtered through a pagan lens by means of Plato and Aristotle and get rather upset when you try to claim that Jesus meant what he said and was critiquing the misogyny and cruelty of the pagan world around him rather than affirming it. They seem to take the status quo of the Biblical world as an ideal to aspire to rather than as an instance of the fallen nature of man that Christ’s teachings are trying to take us away from. They tend not to take kindly to the notion that the Bible is meant to point in a direction for change, despite the text. Closet pagan Platonists all insisting on the purity of forms and dressing it up in a false Christian garb. And since the Romans hated beards they do too, just another instance of their pagan thinking.

      • LeeEsq

        Freud believed that anti-Senitism was a result of the pagan trying to rebel against the Jewish morality imposed on him or her in the form of Christianity.

      • M Lister

        Well, that’s mostly Paul’s fault. He fits with your depiction of Christians pretty well

      • Scott P.

        And since the Romans hated beards they do too, just another instance of their pagan thinking.

        The Romans didn’t hate beards between Hadrian and Constantine. And then they came back into style after Constans II.

        • Tzimiskes

          Evidence of the decadence, corruption, and moral turpitude that befell the Empire after the clean shaven glory years of the Republic and Augustinian periods.

          • Steve LaBonne

            Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius were corrupt, decadent, and immoral?

            • Tzimiskes

              One man’s moral uprightness cannot make up for the decline of his whole civilization!

              Really, I can’t keep this up. I’m running off a vague recollection of a Roman writer who contrasted the orderliness of the Roman appearance with the barbarian, but it has been awhile since I was reading a lot of Roman history and can’t sustain this absurdity off vague recollection alone.

              • Anna in PDX

                And this is why you are not a conservative pundit!

                • Tzimiskes

                  Too bad, conservative pundit sounds like a much easier and more lucrative sinecure than my day job.

    • CS Clark

      And so now I draw to a close. I want you, when you go out into the world, in times of trouble and sorrow and hopelessness and despair, amid the hurley-burley of modern life, if ever you’re tempted to say: ‘Stuff this for a lark!’, I want you, at such times, to cast your minds back to the words of my first text to you tonight: ‘But my brother Esau is an hairy man, but I am a smooth man.’

    • applecor

      I believe the change came around the time of WWI. You had to be clean-shaven in the military, so some kind of moral uprightness became associated with it.

      • Helmut Monotreme

        I read somewhere, that soldiers in WWI had to be clean shaven, so that their gas masks would seal to their faces securely.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          I’d call that a “self enforcing” cultural norm.

        • M Lister

          When I was a federal law clerk for the first time, many, many years after WWI, we had emergency kits with gas masks. They noted that they might not seal properly if we had a beard. I suggested that they should therefore include a razor and shaving cream, so that I could give myself a quick shave in the needed areas if we had need for the masks (while holding my breath) but it was suggested to me that this wasn’t really feasible.

          • Unless you can shave in 9 seconds*, or the rest of your life, whichever comes first.

            *During chem warfare training we were told that was all the time you had to clear and seal your mask.

        • Fun Fact: Hitler was ordered to trim his mustache so that his gas mask would properly fit. And now you know the rest of the story.
          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1550768/Hitler-was-ordered-to-trim-his-moustache.html

        • billcinsd

          Their is a commercial being aired currently that gives a similar reason for firefighters to be clean shaven

        • wjts

          I had a job once that required me to shave my beard because employees occasionally had to be able to wear a properly fitted respirator mask. There was a fit test and everything.

          • Deborah Bender

            Me too (although I can’t grow a beard so it didn’t affect me).

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I even learned this in MAD magazine in the early 70’s. Some dad lecturing his dirty hippie son, “Nobody with a beard ever amounted to anything!” and on the wall behind them in the den, portraits of their ancestors, wearing beards.

  • Nathan Goldwag

    This is AMAZING, especially, I think, the rightful re-framing of so much “cultural wars” bullshit around aesthetics rather than morality. It reminds me of Rod Dreher arguing that we need to make queer children as miserable as possible so they’ll pretend to be straight because he would rather not know they exist. Except Dreher can at least claim to be Doing God’s Work. I don’t know why Frum hates beards so much.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      What is EXTRA AMAZING is how fervent Christianists used to try and force left-handed kids into right-handedness. Because left=sinister=Satan or something.

      Handedness, like sexual orientation, seems to be something hardwired in the brain: you don’t get to choose.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        My mom got her hand cracked with a yardstick in a 1940’s? 1950’s? Catholic school over that, too.

        • Hypersphrericalcow

          My mom had the same experience at a pre Vatican II catholic school . She also walked to school terrified that Satan was hiding in the bushes and jump out and grab her.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            Is it so hard to understand how easy it would be to whip such people into a lather over the Viet Cong/Manuel Noriega/some with a beard who likes redwoods/Saddam Hussein/Barack Hussein Obama etc etc etc? I swear, childhood programming has so much to do with whether you are later dealing with someone capable of using the logic circuits.

            • Hypersphrericalcow

              That was a Jesuit saying, right? “Give me the boy for 10 years, and I will give you the man.”

      • applecor

        In the 50s I knew a set of Jewish atheist parents who did this, To Be Fair.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          So their child could write the name of the creator, but only with their right hand? Hmph.

        • LeeEsq

          Its just one of the stupid practices that existed in the past. My left-handed paternal grandfather was taught to write with his right hand in a New York City public school.

      • Daniel Elstner

        Happened to me in atheist East Germany in the 80s. Unfortunately at that age I was too timid to just ignore the teacher. I finally switched to writing with my natural left hand when I was 19.

        Well, at least I can write with either hand now.

  • McAllen

    Courage is a virtue, but it’s a virtue that only shows itself in times of danger. If you’re lamenting a loss of courage, what you’re really wishing is that we lived in a more dangerous society, which is awful.

    (I would also point out that those protesting the Republicans healthcare atrocity showed courage, especially the disabled protesters).

    • Karen

      I wish the country gave people more opportunities to safely practice physical courage, by fully funding schools with sports programs for all kids in sports that they could play for the rest of their lives and by arts funding which gives kids a chance to perform in public. Both these things teach the mental ability to overcome fear and anxiety in places where there’s no serious danger of injury. I also believe with even more conviction that both girls and boys need these skills. Scarborough, by contrast, wants a world with more physical danger and at the same time wants only men to get credit for facing it.

    • Hogan

      This is the Holbo excerpt I usually quote:

      “The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor, or of the crash of his investment portfolio. Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control. Without a safety net, people won’t try to vault across the big top. Social security, student loans, and other government programs make it far less catastrophic than it used to be for middle-class people to dissolve their families. Without welfare and
      food stamps, poor people would cling harder to working-class respectability than they do now.”

      The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundation is hereby laid for a desirable social order.

    • ColBatGuano

      I think this is Morning Joe’s real message, that we should get the Axis and Allies back together for a reunion war so that the manly virtues of dying in the mud in Europe or Asia will be revived.

  • Karen

    I dislike facial hair on men, almost all tattoos, and I prefer to see people dress with some effort or sense of style. These feelings are in the same category as my wish that raspberrries grew well in Texas, that Fredericksburg peaches had a longer and more reliable season, and that the world would work in a way that allowed me to take six month’s off so that I could move to Montreal and learn French. Other than the last one in that list, none of these things are remotely related to public policy. Because I recognize that my esthetic preferences, even the ones I cling to with the most passion — Erik’s hatred of ketchup is not as strong as my loathing of visible bra straps — are not matters of policy disqualifies me for a position as a conservative pundit.

    • Thom

      Living in Austin must present a challenge, especially on the “dress with some effort” front. (I am an offender most of the time.)

    • Anna in PDX

      You would absolutely hate Portland :)

      • stepped pyramids

        Yeah, let’s see, I’m wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt, and I have a horrible scruffy goatee mostly due to hating shaving. This is basically unremarkable here; I could go to most restaurants like this and nobody would raise an eyebrow.

        • David Allan Poe

          Many years ago, a columnist at the Anchorage Daily News wrote a column about flying to the East Coast. Dressing in her finest clothes, she started out in Anchorage looking respectable as hell, and by the time she got to the Atlantic she looked, comparatively, like a homeless person.

    • epidemiologist

      I’m relieved that what we disagree strenuously about is so trivial! I’m one critical self-delusion away from trying to wear a bralette instead of a bra to work.

  • Remember the good old days when America was great? People were sturdy, rugged, self-reliant individuals. They also knew their place and conformed accordingly.

  • I liked the excerpt. I do think it tries to reducto ad absurdum the link between cultural and economic conservatism. And while humorous, I don’t think that’s accurate.

    It looks like a cargo cult–shave the beards and markets will be free because markets were free when beards were shaved! But conservatism is about protecting the privileged’s privileges, whether economic, cultural, or political. It looks silly to associate fashion with economic productivity, and it is. But that’s an absurdity in the intellectual front used by conservatism; the actual conservative impulses are harmonious, just in ways that Frum hasn’t cognisized or can’t speak to the uninitiated.

    • It shows that the power of conservatism lies not in intellectual coherence but in the emotional pull of nostalgia and nationalist mythology.

      • Don’t forget fear and greed!

        • BiloSagdiyev

          And as they see it, your fear, our greed.

  • NeonTrotsky

    Where the hell in the United States are there city hall employees who don’t speak english?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Navaho reservations?

      Yeah, just horribly unAmerican, you betcha.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Who let these people in, anyway?

    • Paul Thomas

      I was wondering that, too. I’ve literally never heard of even a single person who would fit that bill.

    • Joe Paulson

      Puerto Rico? No, I don’t really think so. But, maybe he visited there once & was confused.

    • Wapiti

      Maybe he’s just a known jerk and any person he deals with in these settings just affects to not speak English.

  • An oldie but a goodie. And by the time you get to the end of it, it’s probably about time for you to read it again.

    The obvious joke about Frum not knowing anything about the US because he’s Canadian (does he complain when Montreal city employees don’t want to speak English to him?) won’t be made in case the proprietor takes it personally, but it’s interesting that the review was written from Singapore, which has its own peculiarities.

  • petesh

    O/T but … Chait has turned in a column that many here might enjoy. It is titled: The Alt-Right and Glenn Greenwald Versus H.R. McMaster and may be found here:
    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/08/the-alt-right-and-glenn-greenwald-versus-h-r-mcmaster.html
    Bonus entertainment derives from the illustration halfway down the page, which shows GG sharing a mordant chuckle with Tucker Carlson.

    • DN Nation

      Back in ’04, there was a media profile of Mark Halperin going around where Marky Mark did this winky-winky thing when asked whom he voted for in 2004, implying that he absolutely voted for Bush and supported his shitshow presidency despite being LIBRUL MEDIA. Greenwald at the time savaged the piece and Halperin’s hemming and hawing.

      Well cut to now. Glenn’s voting for Trump in 2020 and he knows it. Mbut mbut mbut it’s because deep state bad mbut mbut neocons mbut mbut Democrats savagely injured Michael Tracey mbut mbut

    • witlesschum

      Chait is unhelpful in explaining why the Trump dimbots have chosen to turn on McMaster now.

  • Jon Hendry

    To be fair, fucking beards have gotten out of hand since 2003.

    I find it odd that, post-9/11, the Trump-supporting white working class (and others) have gone all-in on beards that wouldn’t look out of place in a NWFP madrassa.

  • epidemiologist

    I actually found the linked letter from Dreher’s alleged reader interesting. And I found it especially interesting to go down four quotation layers of men to find a 19 year old speculating without evidence about what his female classmates feel.

    As an aside my personal anecdata also bear out the young idiot’s observation of high prevalence (not high rates) of anxiety and depression among other young people who brag about their own misanthropy. But shouldn’t Frum and others be pleased? It seems like they’re just observing a social norm– increased acceptance of introversion– and adopting it to add a gloss of conformity to even their personal suffering. Certainly their nasty public judgment of others looks canny, in the context in which it was shared.

  • Origami Isopod

    Nobody has yet quoted my favorite bit: “The Donner party? Where did all these people go? Into each other, to a dismaying extent.”

  • Being a veteran and seeing the people who could have gone to war but never chose to (really, the GOP seems filled to the brim with these kinds) stay at home, then watch some crap movie and go on about the kids these days, truly makes me laugh if it didn’t cause stupid foreign policy. It also appears that the lessons the right gained from WWII arent to help refugees and stop war, but rather race toward total war and wash sins with another Dresden et al.

  • Peter Smith

    “bloody” and “senseless” are very nice liberal ways of describing war. protect the guilty at all costs, i guess.