Archive for the ‘Ross Douthat’ tag
I really liked Ross Douthat’s column yesterday about the way work and politics fits together:
But the universal 15-hour workweek is not exactly with us yet. Instead, a different trend seems to be emerging, in which well-educated professionals — inspired by rising pay and status-obsessed competition — often work longer hours than they did a few decades ago, while poorer Americans, especially poorer men, are increasingly disconnected from the labor force entirely. (That this trend coincides with widening inequality is not coincidental.)
Good criticism expands on and explains clearly the work it critiques. It brings a deeper understanding of the subject by virtue of contextualizing it in a world a a consumer of the work under review probably rarely notices, and may not even fully comprehend.
I’d say by that definition James Bowman’s essay on the recently concluded television series Breaking Bad is quite good criticism. I watched the show from start to finish, even when I found it’s painful plot points made me want to stop. And while at the end, I felt satisfied, I didn’t fully comprehend. Bowman’s contextualization is hugely useful in this regard:
All of us are uneasily aware that beneath the good civilizational order in which most readers of these pages and viewers of the show continue to live their lives there is a dark alternative where old rules dominate, the Enlightenment’s recurring bad dream just waiting for the opportunity to reassert itself. Ironically, it is Walt’s Enlightenment credentials as a man of science that are his entrance ticket to this new state of nature.
(via Ross Douthat)
Ross Douthat does a pretty good job pinning down why Americans afford their politicians so little breathing room for their personal life:
But by turning their personal choices to political ends, politicians lose the right to complain when those same personal lives are subject to partisan critiques. They can and should contest these critiques, but they can’t complain about them. In a culture as divided about fundamental issues as our own, the kind of weird attacks that Rick Santorum is enduring come with the vocation he has chosen.
Ross Douthat’s latest column raises an interesting idea I’d never fully considered:
In meritocracies, though, it’s the very intelligence of our leaders that creates the worst disasters. Convinced that their own skills are equal to any task or challenge, meritocrats take risks that lower-wattage elites would never even contemplate, embark on more hubristic projects, and become infatuated with statistical models that hold out the promise of a perfectly rational and frictionless world.
Ross Douthat’s been on the editorial page of the New York Times for a few months, and while none of his columns have been out-of-the-park exceptional, most are rather good. Yesterday’s example:
When it comes to divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, Americans with graduate degrees are still living in the 1950s. It’s the rest of the country that marries impulsively, divorces frequently, and bears a rising percentage of its children outside marriage. Indeed, if you’re looking for modern-day Percy Shelleys or Mary Wollstonecrafts (to pluck a pair of Nehring’s romantic risk-takers), you’re more likely to find them in Middle America than among the environmental lawyers and documentary filmmakers who populate Tsing Loh’s depressing social world.
He’s exactly what I thought he could be — a Brooksian conservative who’s not afraid to venture deep into the personal, religious, and moral weeds that Brooks himself mostly avoids.
Ross Douthat, who to little derision or attention has started having his column published in the New York Times, has a good summary of Obama’s apparent plan for “winning” America’s culture war:
Engage on abortion, punt on gay rights.
And just to say, if the first two weeks are any indication, Douthat’s going to be a great compliment to Brooks. The two most conservative columnists at the paper are very probably the best.
A weeks-old piece from the New York Times Magazine discussing Freeman Dyson’s heterodoxy seems a fitting response to the previous link — and also, perhaps, it’s inspiration.
“I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”
(via Ross Douthat, who points to non-climate heresies)
Mr. Contenetti’s logic is so straight-forward that I’m ashamed to have been oblivious to it while the campaign unfolded:
It’s worth revisiting why this has been a long campaign. The reason has nothing to do with when the primaries were scheduled. The early primaries were a symptom, not a cause. The cause is Bush. Starting with Hurricane Katrina, a large portion of the country simply wrote off Bush’s presidency. That grew worse as the Iraq war worsened and the Democrats took Congress in 2006. As Jeffrey Bell has pointed out, Bush’s dismal popularity has driven all politics ever since. It is the country’s desire to move beyond Bush, as well as his lack of a successor, that has made this election last so long and propelled Barack Obama to the edge of the presidency. For these reasons alone, George W. Bush is one of the most consequential presidents in history.
… The next campaign will not be as long as this one.
And to quote Ross Douthat, “Not that this wasn’t fun and all, but here’s hoping he’s right …”.
On the topic of equality in America… Ross Douthat, on the heels of McCain’s attacking Obama for trying to speard the wealth around, agrues that it’s silly for conservatives to oppose all redistribution.
In other words, a conservative welfare state would eliminate our current network of universal entitlement programs, and replace them with cheaper, means-tested programs that, well, spread the wealth - that spend your tax dollars to provide temporary assistance to the unemployed, underwrite health care costs for the aged and very poor, set an income floor underneath American seniors, and so forth, rather than taking money from the middle class with one hand and giving it back to them with the other.
I’m not sure what to think about this article. A part of me is made a little queasy by the idea, while another part agrees with the woman that no relationship should be forbidden so long as it is free of coercion:
There’s no comparison between siblings close in age having sexual feelings and contact and an adult forcing a younger member of the family to do something they neither understand nor want to be involved in.
(via Ross Douthat)