...Archive for June 2024

May away

I’m continuing mostly to write at my drafts blog. Below you’ll find excerpts of posts I’ve written there during May 2024.

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Anyway, excerpts from May.

From Masculine virtues (2024-05-28):

[Chris] Rufo and his movement seem particularly wedded to rehabilitating masculine virtues, which I unironically applaud. There is indeed a crisis that demands redress surrounding masculinity. Whether we like it or not, males are and will continue to be nearly half of the population. They, like every other minority, deserve to be integrated in all of our institutions. We should acknowledge that the mere fact college-student populations are disproportionately female may not reflect invidious discrimination. Differences in outcome may reflect real differences in aptitude, interest, or ability. But we should treat skeptically claims that groups which underperform today must always underperform due to something inherent in their natures. Sometimes these outcomes reflect systemic, even structural, inhospitabilties entrenched in the institutions where members of the group seem to underperform. If a better developed athletics program helps to make differently gendered students feel more at home at New College, then I am all for it…

I wish the project of restoring masculine virtues much greater success than it has thus far enjoyed.

From Industrial policy and ecosystems (2024-05-11):

The United States is finally trying to reverse its great decline into forms of specialization and trade that lobotomize us. I am very supportive of, and very grateful for, the CHIPS Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Bipartisam Infrastructure Law. But, I fear that rather than developing ecosystems, our political system is more likely to support a few plantations…

We in the United States are counterproductively attached to very simple and immediate forms of state accountability. Every meeting should be open and transparent. Every dollar spent should have a responsible party to blame if, sometime later, we decide that it was spent foolishly or corruptly. An opposing political party and an adversarial press eagerly collude to characterize even the most justifiable choices as corrupt, if in the end they don’t work out. It’s hard to get people to take a lot of risks under these conditions….

The “artificial” enthusiasm created by [China’s form] of loose, untitrated subsidy encourages too many entrants, from an orthodox financial perspective. It engenders “overcapacity”, vicious price competition, and more eventual failures than would be typical in an “undistorted” business domain.

But when all is said and done, “inefficient” exuberance is a better problem to have than failing to develop the ecosystems that nuture high-value industries. In a firm-by-firm tally, a lot of money will seem to have been “wasted”. But if a competitive, world-class industry emerges, its value to the nation will far outstrip the cost of all the defaulted loans.

From The long fistbump (2024-05-08):

Regardless of what should or should not be, the United States is no longer a “hyperpower”. China alone is a near peer power. Geopolitics is again contestable, and becoming terrifyingly contested. The American policy community has belatedly realized it captains a status quo power and must preserve as best it can stability.

Supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity is an easy lift for us morally, even if it is not militarily. Ukraine is at least aspirationally a Western-style democracy. Its borders were militarily overthrown by an autocratic external aggressor. We can launder our interest in stability through our Western ideals. We experience no ethical dissonance.

But the Middle East is different. The allies upon whom we rely to superintend a fragile stability are not liberal democracies. Nevertheless, the US has been, and proposes to remain, their security guarantor. It would be a threat to our interests if they allied with our rivals. There may yet be another “spring” when these “tyrannies”, “autocracies” face the same kind of choices Qaddaffi faced in 2011. Can the US and the West be trusted to put alliances and security interests before the passions of their publics? When rebels are cast as Luke Skywalker and our allies as Darth Vader on all the social media, are we as polities even capable, not only of allowing the rebellion to be crushed, but even participating to some degree?

If we are not, why shouldn’t these rulers prefer countries like China and Russia as security guarantors? China and Russia are demonstrably less precious about these things…

My conjecture is that America’s Israel / Palestine policy since October 7 has, at least in part, been a long fistbump to America’s less democratic partners. Can the United States, under a Democratic administration, be trusted when its security commitments demand support of highly visible, politically difficult brutality?

Yes we can.