Dear Intelligent American,
This week we preface the smorgasbord of links and excerpts with two mentions that may seem steeped in quasi-vanity—forgive us if it is such.
The first is to make all aware that on Thursday, June 29th, the Center for Civil Society shall host a one-hour, free webinar on why “The Right to Association Needs Help.” Expert on that subject of the associative right, found in the First Amendment’s profound “Assembly Clause” (true: no relation to the Marxist Sanity Clause), is esteemed Duquesne University scholar Luke C. Sheahan, who will explain (upon being questioned by Your Humble Correspondent) why civil society is weakened when empowered entities (such as the federal courts) fail to give this essential right deserved protection. Prepare to be enlightened! It will be the right way to slide into the ensuing July Fourth many-day’d weekend, so sign up, right here.
More vanity: In these parts a few weeks back much mention was made of the new collection of the late Bill Buckley’s travel writings, Getting About, compiled by Buckley pal Bill Meehan—who on Saturday, May 27th, at Yale University, will be questioned about the collection by Yours Truly, who once upon a time served as publisher of Buckley’s famed journal, National Review. The discussion (sponsored by the Buckley Institute) is free, and there’s even breakfast to be had. If you live in the New Haven, CT, area, think about coming. Get more information here.
(And know this: The first 20 people who sign up and attend will receive a free copy of Getting Around!)
Now, let us get around to why you came around—for a well-rounded round-up.
A Round of Applause, for We Have Arrived!
1. At Law & Liberty, Richard Gunderman reflects on Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and how the strategies underlying his fight for racial justice are at odds with those of contemporary activists. From the essay:
Penned 60 years ago this year, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” remains refreshingly forthright in its religious conviction. Addressed to “My fellow clergymen,” it is chock full of references to Biblical figures and stories, appealing to God by name no fewer than five times. King himself is first and foremost a preacher and a prophet, someone interpreting contemporary events from a God’s-eye point of view. This deeply religious perspective means that King would have grave doubts about contemporary efforts to combat racism in purely secular terms, which often assume that the concept of race must be affirmed as both real and necessary if racism is to be combatted. His Christian commitments helped him to articulate a response to racism that was rooted in both the natural law tradition and in a kind of Christian personalism, focused on the things that all human beings share. I believe that this perspective would powerfully shape King’s view of today’s polemics concerning “systemic racism.” . . .
Because King viewed himself through the lens of Biblical apostles and prophets, he understood himself to have an obligation to preach fundamental truths that were applicable to all human beings. In responding to the clergymen’s charge that he represented an outside agitator, King invokes the principle of justice, writing, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here,” and immediately citing Biblical precedents. The Old Testament prophets had left their homes and carried the message of “Thus saith the Lord” to other places, and the apostle Paul had spread his message throughout the Graeco-Roman world, so now it was King’s turn to carry the Lord’s word wherever it is most needed. Informed by such a perspective, King’s voice rings forth biblically: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” King emphasizes not the incommensurability of different racial perspectives, such as the view that a white woman could never understand what it is like to be a black man, but the mutuality and oneness of humankind.
2. At Plough Quarterly, Lisabeth Button shares what it is like to have a pen pal who slowly vanishes, courtesy of Alzheimer’s. From the article:
Meanwhile, Ellen herself was deteriorating. Because of her heart condition, she experienced several brushes with death. “I got halfway up there once, don’t bring me back now,” she said to a doctor during one of these episodes, referring to Marie Johanna’s birth. Later, as she lay in bed with her family around her, singing their favorite hymns, my sister came in to say what she thought was goodbye. Ellen clasped her hand and whispered, “I can’t sit up now, but you’ll find a new Dorothy Sayers on the bottom shelf there.” (She recovered, and later said that she had decided she was glad to still be on earth.)
On the good days, she still came to the community’s woodworking factory for several hours to socialize with other people her age while doing simple handwork. She attended communal meals and participated in worship meetings. She visited newborn babies and held them close, singing snatches of lullabies in tiny ears. In winter, she asked to be taken sledding long after she couldn’t walk. And for as long as she could, she remained the hostess, inviting other older ladies into her home every Saturday afternoon for a weekend ice cream parlor. But eventually, even these activities gradually disappeared.
As the Alzheimer’s progressed, Ellen’s letters, to my surprise, began to acknowledge the disease and allow me to glimpse the fear she was experiencing as her mind slipped away. I was still living away from home, and her communications betrayed small but significant changes: her frustration that she couldn’t remember what used to come naturally (looking up words in her well-worn dictionary, for example), or write her name in her characteristic script.
3. At The Heritage Foundation, Jeremy Kidd and George Mocsary explain why “stakeholder capitalism” and ESG are harmful to the economy and society. From the report:
Financial markets are fundamentally distorted by ESG’s artificially inflating the cost of being a public company subject to regulation, public pressures, or both. If checking ESG boxes is too expensive, providers of capital for new businesses will never agree to take them public, and existing public companies may reprivatize, reducing the options available to public investors. This trend has likely already started, with the number of publicly traded companies having declined 50 percent in the past 20 years. Most of the decline is from the disappearance of small firms.
Unfortunately, average investors will be the ones with ever fewer investment options, while professionals and those with high net worth (“accredited investors” in SEC-speak) get to invest privately. It should therefore not be a surprise that asset managers serving the wealthy favor ESG initiatives. ESG, in other words, serves to build a “bigger moat” between those who are able to bear its costs and those who are not.
Moreover, if ESG-focused capital—whether provided by genuinely ESG-conscious investors or by those who care more about greenwashing (or pinkwashing or bluewashing)—departs disfavored firms, arbitrageurs will see unlocked value. In firms that are able to attract new capital from what ESG pressures turn into a smaller pool of available investors, the new owners may be, for example, foreigners who have little concern even for basic environmental cleanliness in the U.S. The ultimate result, then, can easily be worse overall environmental outcomes and the departure of capital to nations without ESG burdens.
4. At National Affairs, Nicholas Eberstadt and Peter Van Ness investigate the unexplored regional aspect of America’s workforce woes. From the study:
America’s workforce-participation problem has been studied exhaustive—but only after a fashion. It has also been subject to a curious—and consequential—blind spot among scholars and policymakers alike.
Over the past decade alone, many hundreds of studies and reports have examined America’s LFPRs: patterns, trends, correlates, determinants, consequences, policy options, and alternatives. Yet almost all of this work has been devoted to tracking and assessing national conditions—aggregate results for the country as a whole. Hardly any attention has been accorded to the differences in LFPRs within America.
As it happens, local variations in LFPRs within America today are significant—indeed extraordinary. As we shall see, a stunning 50-plus percentage-point gap separates rates in America’s highest and lowest LFPR metropolitan areas. Between these extremes lies a remarkable national dispersion of local performance that has occasioned strangely little interest.
By some indications, domestic discrepancies in America’s LFPRs look to be increasing, and may have been doing so for decades. Growing gaps in LFPRs between localities—due mainly to the collapse of work rates and workforce participation—are also directly associated with the drop in national averages in labor-force participation. Yet the topic has gone almost entirely unexamined in academic and policy circles. It’s well past time for that to change.
5. Dystopia Ahead: At The American Conservative, Ashley Colby bemoans the long-term consequences of bureaucratic prejudice favoring industrial agriculture while detesting holistically managed farming. From the beginning of the piece:
Some green activists have come to the conclusion that agriculture itself is necessarily destructive to the climate, biodiversity, and soil health. Thus World Economic Forum–adjacent thinkers call for a “farm-free future” with food primarily manufactured via precision fermentation and other scientific processes that result in products like lab grown meat. This idea, that we could simply eradicate the entire class of farmers, the land stewards who produce the world’s food——in favor of corporate processed food products has been , especially among .
Chief among these “farm-free” advocates is George Monbiot, a vegan activist and, naturally, a columnist. A champion on the other side of the debate is Allan Savory, the originator of the idea of “Holistic Management” for livestock systems who has spent his life managing game reserves and ranchland around the world. Monbiot and Savory have engaged in an , which represents two very important poles in the fight for the future of our environment: reductionist eco-modernism versus a holistic, regenerative approach to land management.
An eco-modernist like Monbiot sees humans as the enemy, a fundamentally flawed and dangerous creature meant to be removed from pristine nature if that ecology is to have any chance. The holistic approach, typified by Savory, sees human beings as stewards of the Earth, a force for good when guided by the right principles. How did the environmental and conservation movements become so divided?
6. At The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Matthew G. Andersson calls out the University of Chicago for selling out its defense of free speech. From the analysis:
Of course, the Chicago Principles are functional as a first-order practice (that is, as a general, everyday campus observation or pledge). But their establishment can also have larger strategic purposes: They sound welcoming, mature, and independent, even if they turn out to be window dressing. In other words, they may be a curtain, behind which is more political partisanship than you might expect.
This is where the university’s actual behavior becomes more interesting. What is the University of Chicago doing in practice that turns free speech into doublespeak?
Indeed, when one looks closely at recent university actions (including, for example, a move to keep a conservative student group off campus), one sees an institution that is trying to thread the needle between taking a stand on free speech and accommodating the political interests of the progressive Left that actually runs the university. Thus, it is unsurprising to read that a business professor “spent much of [his] last few years of teaching afraid,” that many students are “hostile to attempts at bipartisan, thoughtful discussion,” and that the academic catalog is full of “crazed left-wing course listings.”
The fascinating thing about the “Chicago Principles” is that they even exist at all. Would a statement that declares different opinions tolerable be taken seriously if the subject were physics? Or astronomy, chemistry, or aerospace engineering? Why is it necessary to formalize, at an institution of higher learning, a willingness to hear all viewpoints that contribute to knowledge? Since when do we think it noteworthy in America that a university “allows” different perspectives?
7. At Tablet Magazine, Nadia Asparouhova declares that Silicon Valley is the site of a civil war. From the piece:
Tech was at a crossroads. On one side were those who believed the media narrative that tech had caused a lot of problems in the world, and felt remorseful and ashamed of their work. On the other were those who maintained that tech and its values were uniquely positioned to improve the world, and refused to apologize. At best, they felt misunderstood; at worst, they saw the backlash as an attack from outsiders who didn’t understand how tech worked. This latter group formed the beginnings of the counterelite. . . .
Unlike previous generations, the counterelite isn’t rushing to start charitable (tax-advantaged) foundations in their name or make large donations to universities. Because the counterelite views individuals, not institutions, as the primary agent of change, they are more concerned with circumventing institutions than building them. Yet this individualist mindset will only take the counterelite so far if in fact they want to be public stewards rather than ambassadors of yet another industry town, like entertainment in Los Angeles, politics in Washington, D.C., or academia in Boston.
Tech is still afraid of the nuance and compromises that are required to interact with the outside world, and given how they’ve been mischaracterized by press and politicians, that fear is not unjustified. But this is a rite of passage which every wealth generation must navigate. The Davos elite were not immune to public criticism in their heyday, either. They, too, went through the hazing ritual of a public fallout in response to the 2008 bank bailouts and excessive displays of wealth, leading to the Occupy Wall Street movement several years later.
8. At Newsweek, Emma Waters proposes a better way to speak about motherhood and pregnancy. From the article:
As girls and young women think about having kids, they look to their mothers, mentors, and female influencers. The way these women portray motherhood can and will play an outsized role in the future decisions of young women. If 45 percent of women are single and childless by 2030, we should first look to older generations of mothers for the cause.
It’s time to reframe motherhood as the providential, pleasurable, and life-giving experience that it is. This is not to dismiss the legitimate difficulty it may bring. Rather, it is to suggest seeing motherhood through the lens of what children bring to a woman’s life.
Motherhood unfolds slowly through nine months of pregnancy. It’s common for women to lament how pregnancy changes a mother’s body for the worse. In reality, these changes make a woman’s body stronger and help her adapt to the needs of her child.
9. More Newsweek: Scott Atlas looks at the Covid-lockdown rationales and finds them rife with mendacity. From the article:
Numerous experts—including , , and —called for targeted protection, a safer alternative to widespread lockdowns, in national media beginning in March of 2020. That proposal was rejected. History’s biggest public health policy failure came at the hands of those who recommended the lockdowns and those who implemented them, not those who advised otherwise.
The of reckless, unprecedented lockdowns that were contrary to established pandemic science, and the added massive harms of those policies on children, the elderly, and lower-income families, are indisputable and in . This was the biggest, the most tragic, and the most unethical breakdown of public health leadership in modern history.
In a democracy, indeed in any ethical and free society, the truth is essential. The American people need to hear the truth—the facts, free from the political distortions, misrepresentations, and censorship. The first step is to clearly state the harsh truth in the starkest possible terms. Lies were told. Those lies harmed the public. Those lies were directly contrary to the evidence, to decades of knowledge on viral pandemics, and to long-established fundamental biology.
10. At In My Tribe on Substack, Arnold Kling reflects on the intersection of nonprofits and better intentions. From the piece:
One example of the intention heuristic at work is in how people think about profit-seeking firms vs. non-profits. I estimate that at least 90 percent of people intuitively believe that non-profits are morally superior to profit-seeking firms. And that intuition rests on the intention heuristic. . . .
Every organization has a mission. With very few exceptions (criminal enterprises are the most blatant exceptions), the missions of profit-seeking enterprises are noble. Of course, non-profits and government enterprises also have stated missions that are noble.
As I see it, the main difference between profit-seeking organizations and non-profits is this: profit-seeking organizations are accountable to the customers that they aim to serve; non-profits are accountable to donors.
If a profit-seeking business fails to deliver service to its customers, they stop patronizing the business, it loses money, and it shuts down. If a non-profit fails to deliver on its mission, all it has to do to stay in business is find a way to please donors. This could be by putting out a fancy annual brochure or having a fundraising event where elite donors get to rub elbows with other elite donors.
But most people don’t see it the way I see it. They see the intentions of non-profits as inherently better than the intentions of profit-seeking businesses. The intention heuristic is harder to overcome than you might think.
11. At The American Mind, David Lewis Schaefer comes to the defense of Justice Clarence Thomas, under relentless attack—now about teaching at the Scalia Law School—by a media still simmering in decades-old discontent over his confirmation to the Supreme Court. From the piece:
But as the Times acknowledges (below the fold), Supreme Court justices are legally allowed to earn outside income from such sources as book royalties, investments, and teaching. In fact, the judicial code of conduct specifically encourages teaching, and “many justices have augmented” their salaries, currently under $300,000, by teaching at schools including Harvard, Duke, and Notre Dame. But the Times nonetheless expresses concern that by making use of generous donations from outside benefactors, the law school has offered “bespoke” arrangements to accommodate the justices. Meanwhile, the Times reports that the school’s “closeness to the justices has coincided with a striking upswing in its funding and academic standing,” which has helped attract “higher-caliber students.” Perhaps even more worrisome, the co-professors who joined the justices in their guest teaching assignments have sometimes filed amicus briefs on cases pending before the Court.
But it isn’t only conservative members of the Court that the law school has been able to entice. Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, joined Justice Gorsuch on his Iceland trip and emailed a favorable judgment of the school to a George Mason professor. And Justice Sonia Sotomayor, even more consistently on the Left than Kagan, spoke on a panel at the school with Gorsuch that same year.
12. At UnHerd, Ashley Colby draws attention to the later work of Christopher Lasch, and the antidote it prescribes for our civilizational afflictions. From the commentary:
When discussion turns to Christopher Lasch and his diagnosis of Western narcissism, his later work is often neglected. And this is a shame, for it is here that he offers an antidote: a physical community designed to combat the malaise of modernity.
Lasch had an affinity for the common man. He made appeals to religion and tradition for moral guidance; he saw the family as a “haven in a heartless world”; he regarded a sense of pride in one’s hometown as essential for the community functioning of Middle America; and he called for a political economy wherein people would be able to access meaningful work that called them to a higher vocation. These visions never came to fruition during his lifetime. But that hasn’t stopped others from attempting to pick up the mantle. Today, his heirs can be found across the world—in the increasing trend towards homesteading and localism. . . .
Over the past few decades, a growing movement of individuals and communities has embraced this idea—choosing to reject the dominant culture of consumerism and “progress” in place of homesteading and localism as functioning alternatives. Most of these people, I have suggested, are driven by a larger, more amorphous sense of risk, which I attribute to the trend of societal decline.
Lucky 13. At KOBI5-TV in Medford, OR, Diksha Sharma reports on a Klamath Falls elementary-school fundraiser that ends with a cherry on top. From the article:
The kids worked hard to sell one-dollar tickets for their Shasta Booster Club.
It supports projects like an outdoor classroom and bike park on campus.
After their annual spring carnival last Friday they reached their target of $45,000.
“The kids reached the target of forty five thousand dollars, they were able to turn their principal, in this case it was me, into a human sundae,” said Randy Rose, Shasta Elementary School’s principal.
That’s right: The incentive for the fundraiser was Principal Rose would become an ice cream cone, complete with all the fixings.
BONUS: At Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty Online, Richard Turnbull reminds us that the 18th-century evangelical revival left a tremendous legacy of hymns written by Charles Wesley. From the piece:
Charles Wesley’s hymns were a work of poetic genius, although they were not devoid of polemical intent. We should, first of all, take a step back and consider the place of hymnody in the spirituality and history of the evangelical revival. . . .
Singing in most churches—and all churches that were part of the Church of England—in the 17th and 18th centuries consisted only of Psalms, with England more dependent on the Genevan Reformed tradition than was German Lutheranism, in which congregational singing was more the norm. The singing was led by a parish clerk (or precentor) who would sing a line that would be repeated by the assembled musicians in the gallery (known as “lining-out”). The congregation listened passively. The gallery musicians, the village band and singers, rarely approached their task spiritually. They were often late, the worse for drink, usually hiding behind the gallery curtain except for their own set part, reading, playing cards, and engaging in gossip during the sermon. Hymns as we know them today were slow to catch on—although increasingly embraced by those influenced by the revival—and remained, technically at least, illegal in the Church of England until a court ruling in 1819.
Charles Wesley’s hymns are masterpieces of poetic communication. He wrote somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 of them, many still extant. He was, of course, not the only hymn writer of the time; for example, the poet William Cowper and the rector of Olney in Buckinghamshire, John Newton (“Amazing Grace”), formed a partnership in the more Calvinist part of the revival. Isaac Watts is a prime example outside the Church of England (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”). Charles Wesley’s hymns, however, continue to form a significant aspect of evangelical piety. Some of Wesley’s grand, expansive hymns (for example, “O for a Thousand Tongues”) were written specifically for the open-air rallies and preaching undertaken by the Wesley brothers. Thousands of miners gathering at Kingswood, near Bristol, singing out “O for a thousand tongues to sing, my great redeemer’s praise,” must surely have stirred the heart.
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. Yes, but barely. That’s the answer to the question “Is there still time to sign up for that important webinar on ‘What Differentiates a Good Fundraiser from a Great Fundraiser’?” It takes places in but a few days—on Tuesday, May 23rd, to be precise. That’s when Center for Civil Society director Jonathan Hannan will be joined by The NorthStar Consulting Group’s Brian Green and Henry Scroope to explore the ways a fundraiser (the person, not the fish fry) can excel in his job. The free, via-Zoom webinar (from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern) will share information and advice that is sure to . . . inspire. The time is at hand to sign up: Get more information from C4CS, and register, right here.
Due. At Philanthropy Daily, Emily Koons Jae makes the case for the virtue to be found in naming gifts. Read it here.
Tre. Does America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity have something to do with the problems affecting this nation? If you believe that to be true, and you have a keen concern about the consequences this poses for this One Nation, Under God, then do come to the important C4CS conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society”—taking place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information right here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: How do billboards communicate with each other?
A: Through sign language.
Tuesday night in the Nation’s Capital there was honoring and merriment afoot, as the Bradley Foundation awarded its prestigious Bradley Prizes to Nina Shea, Betsy DeVos, and John Cochrane. Kudos to this trio of truth-tellers and friends of liberty.
May We Show Gratitude to the Bestower of Unalienable Rights,
Jack Fowler, best reached with comments, suggestions, and insults at email@example.com.
P.S. Our favorite (aforementioned) Marxists, done with sanity-clause escapades, engage in stateroom right to assembly and related food ordering—which may empty the ship larders of henfruit. Do enjoy.