|Middle Class Self-Government||Conservative Passing Gear|
by Christopher Chantrill
April 10, 2004 at 8:00 pm
GREAT ARTICLE in the April Atlantic, Howie. But, hey, couldnt you have used an editor? Id say that 15,000 word magazine article is approaching New Yorker levels of self-indulgence. Surely you want to hold something back for the book?
As a conservative, you can imagine that it was delicious for me to read of the dysfunctional culture of complaint at the Times. It is a bit shocking, I admit, to read that the newsroom is not a rollicking battlefield of overachievers but a sour pasture polluted by Newspaper Guild time-servers. Its easy to forget that every story in the Times should probably have a conflict of interest disclosure on it: This story was reported, written, and edited by members of the Newspaper Guild, so forget about ever reading any criticism of unions, pal.
It was encouraging to read of your valiant efforts to turn the Times around, to get in there and make the tough decisions immediately before the opposition had time to organize. But what struck me most of all was the failure to tie the problems at the Times to the rest of the world. Here you were, leading an old and venerable institution, owned by a man you characterize as a weak and vacillating leader, trying to break out of the slow exponential decay from former vigor to present complacency to future crisis. Isnt this a metaphor for the city around you? Yet I cant say Ive ever gotten the feeling that you have a clue that your own institutional situation was just a microcosm of the whole welfare state that the Times supports so robustly.
Wasnt Rudy Giuliani trying to do the same thing to the city as you were to the Times? Wasnt he trying to inject a tiny dose of your culture of performance in the vast culture of complaint that we know and love as New York City? And what about New York State? How much support did you give over the years to Governor Pataki in his occasional and indecisive attempts to rein in the vast patronage machine managed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver? Then theres George W. Bush. By all accounts, President Bush sems to be bringing a culture of performance to the nation government, shaking up the nations global strategy in response to 9/11, responding to the collapse of the 1990s bubble by radically cutting income tax rates in investment income, and actually proposing to do something about Social Security and Medicare. But you know, Howie, I cant say that Id ever noticed the least acknowledgement of this from the editorial page that you ran for so many years. Indeed, Id say that, outside your crusade in the Times newsroom, you side 100 percent with the national culture of complaint. There certainly was ample opportunity in your 15,000 words to establish your reforming bona fides if you had wanted to.
I also felt that you didnt articulate any long-term vision for the newspaper beyond a few platitudes about the digital age. I couldnt help noticing last week that the Boeing Company announced that it was putting its big Wichita plant up for sale. It wants to outsource the subassembly of its commercial jets, and position itself as an intellectual company rather than a tin-bender, according to The Wall Street Journal. Coincidentally, Boeing will distance itself from its own culture of complaint, and dissolve somewhat the monopoly powers of the rather militant Aeromechanics union. Your plans for the Times did not seem to include anything in similar vein. Is this because you knew that Arthur was too timid to do anything, or because you never thought about it? Its an exciting idea though isnt it? How do you think an outsourced news operation would look like at The New York Times? How would it be if you kept the brand and the names, but outsourced all the support? What would the average Times reader think about it?
Id say that The New York Times reader would find it hard to make sense of it, because the Times rarely strays from the Democratic party line in reporting on political and economic issues. Yet, as you write, you believe its responsibility is to provide the smartest and most affluent people in the United States a sophisticated menu balanced between things they need to know and things theyd like to know. Out here in conservative land we have a ton of exciting writers busily trying to make sense of this new world aborning. But they write the kind of book that would never see the light of day in The New York Times Book Review, or if it did, would be set up for a put-down. So the Times reader never gets to know about a lot of things that they need to know. Why would that be, do you think?
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel