February 2021

Welcome to February 2021 in review: links, excerpts, and clips of what I've been reading and listening to.

Don't Forgive Student Loan Debt

Zaid Jilani in Persuasion

Such debt relief would help underprivileged minorities, says Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer... But this argument gets it exactly backward. Large-scale student-debt cancellation would disproportionately benefit the wealthy and make an imperceptible difference on the racial wealth gap—or even make it worse.

Why the U.S. Needs the Romney Family Plan

Ross Douthat in New York Times

[T]he Romney plan offers something to left and right alike. It would significantly reduce child poverty, a core left-wing ambition. At the same time it reduces the current system’s penalties for marriage and its tacit bias against stay-at-home parents, both social-conservative goals, and raises the current subsidy for middle-class families, usually a Republican-leaning constituency. Finally, it’s both deficit neutral and softly pro-life, with a benefit that starts while the child is still in utero.

Our Illiberal Moment

Charles C.W. Cooke in National Review

History is littered with examples of men who, when pressing their case in the public square, have thought solely about the interests of their land, tribe, religion, or self; but it is sprinkled only lightly with men who, in making their arguments, have taken care to respect the enduring principles that have served to break the old cycles of strife, faction, and war. In the United States today, we seem increasingly drawn to the tribalistic over the principled.

Little is known about the effects of puberty blockers

The Economist

All drugs offer a mix of harms and benefits. But despite their popularity, the effects of puberty blockers remain unclear. Because they are not licensed for gender medicine, drug firms have done no trials... The studies that do exist are at once weak and worrying... The best way to settle such disputes is the same as in any other part of medicine: a big, well-run clinical trial. So far, despite soaring caseloads, and puberty blockers having been prescribed for decades, no one is planning to conduct one.

What has the New York Times got against Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

Douglas Murray in The Spectator

Filipovic seems to think that because Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a black immigrant of Muslim origin she must say only one set of things. When she says a different set of things she must have words put in her mouth by America’s former paper of record. That paper must then muffle the woman’s opinions, defame her and otherwise unvoice her. These have all been tropes in the history of racism. And I suppose that the history of racism is alive, well and continuing at the New York Times. Under the guise of ‘anti-racism’, obviously.

The Racist At Smith

Scott Greenfield in Simple Justice

Greenfield responds to Michael Powell's NYT piece about the "woke gone awry at Smith College," pointing out that the ACLU has completely lost it.

The Neoracists

John McWhorter in Persuasion

Third Wave Antiracism, becoming mainstream in the 2010s, teaches that racism is baked into the structure of society, so whites’ “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct... Third Wave Antiracist tenets, stated clearly and placed in simple oppositions, translate into nothing whatsoever... The self-contradiction of these tenets is crucial, in revealing that Third Wave Antiracism is not a philosophy but a religion.

Congress Day

Yuval Levin in National Review

The president’s job isn’t fundamentally representative. It is Congress that is shaped to be representative. And more important still, Congress is shaped to enable the diverse interests and views of our society to be represented in a way that also enables them to negotiate and bargain, and ultimately to accommodate each other... [If] you think that enabling and compelling compromise is the very purpose of the institution, and that Congress’s serving that purpose is essential to the health of our broader political culture, then you would incline toward the first path of reform — making compromise more likely to happen by enabling the institution to better represent the political diversity of the country and to function as an arena for bargaining and accommodation... You would have to believe, as I do, that the shortage of cross-partisan deal-making in Congress is a bigger problem for the country at this point than the shortage of major legislation — whatever its partisan valence.

I also recently completed Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground and started Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary and Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology.

McGilchrist's ideas, in particular, have fascinated me lately. Besides his recent appearance on Sam Harris's Waking Up podcast, he has given several worthwhile lectures and interviews.