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  1. Opinion

Selected readings from the left and from the right

Published Dec. 21, 2018

We live in a partisan age, and our news habits can reinforce our own perspectives. Consider this an effort to broaden our collective outlook with essays beyond the range of our typical selections.

FROM THE LEFT

From "Remember the Big Story in the Russia Scandal: Donald Trump Betrayed America," by David Corn in Mother Jones.

The context, from the author: In the flurry of new developments — and disinformation — it's easy to lose sight of the essential and proven fact that the president betrayed America.

The excerpt: While Trump had pitched himself to voters as an America First candidate who sincerely held positive sentiments regarding Putin, he had pursued a deal in Russia that could have reaped him hundreds of millions of dollars. And he had not shared this salient fact with the public. Nor had he shared that Cohen, on his behalf, had asked Putin's office for help. Needless to say, Trump could not have moved ahead with a major endeavor in Moscow if he had been talking tough about the Kremlin. He was thoroughly compromised as a candidate and hid that from the public during the campaign. In a non-Trumpified world, revelations of this behind-the-scenes scheming for profit would have set off an enormous political earthquake. After all, this was the most significant conflict of interest in modern American campaign history.

From "Tucker Carlson Isn't Speaking Forbidden Truths About Immigration — He's Just Wrong," by Matthew Yglesias in Vox.

The context, from the author: Immigrants make most Americans richer, not poorer.

The excerpt: For starters, nobody has been "silenced" for criticizing American immigration policy. Donald Trump is the president of the United States, for example, and Tucker Carlson is a multimillionaire television star with wealth and power that far outstrips that of his critics. ... The substantive point is that it's simply not true that immigration enriches a tiny number of people while making the rest poorer. Quite the opposite.

From "Liberalism In Theory And Practice," by Luke Savage in Jacobin Magazine.

The context, from the author: Contemporary liberals are temperamentally conservative — and what they want to conserve is a morally bankrupt political order.

The excerpt: I am a socialist because I simply cannot fathom reconciling myself to a society where so many needlessly suffer because of circumstances beyond their control; where human dignity is distributed on the basis of luck and a social caste system is allowed to permeate every aspect of daily life; and where all of this is considered perfectly normal and acceptable in a civilization that has split the atom and sent people to the Moon. ... (But) something else has played a formative role in animating my politics and anchoring me on the Left: namely, a searing dislike for liberalism as the hegemonic outlook in our culture and a deep, abiding disdain towards the political class that so self-righteously upholds it.

FROM THE RIGHT

From "The Liberal Arts Weren't Murdered — They Committed Suicide," by Victor Davis Hanson in The National Review.

The context, from the author: Once a student has signed up for a (liberal arts) class on the Renaissance or the Great Depression and quickly learns that it can become a periodic harangue on the oppression and victimization of particular marginalized groups, she will likely not wish to repeat the experience on money borrowed at between 5 and 7 percent interest.

The excerpt: Over the past few years, lots of employers have privately concluded that today's graduating liberal-arts majors are quite confident and yet so often poorly educated. Or worse, those hiring were turned off by the strange combination of youthful ignorance and arrogance. Employers had clearly no desire to be enlightened by fresh graduates who were entirely unaware that their inductive skills were suspect or nonexistent.

From "Saving Democracy From Its Own Contradictions," by Nick Phillips in The American Conservative.

The context, from the author: Without some limiting principle, democracy inevitably gives way to populism and institutional decay.

The excerpt: Historical conservatives were, to put it mildly, skeptical of the untrammeled will of the people. They backed forces that limited it: religion, hierarchy and respect for tradition. These forces often had more to do with culture than government design. The moral foundations particular to conservatism — deference to authority, loyalty to the group, purification of man's fallen nature — are tailor-made rebuttals to the idea that our appetites should be satisfied immediately. But once popular sovereignty is conceded and man is his own master, none of these limiting factors pass the legitimacy test, because in the age of popular legitimacy, nothing is legitimate that limits the individual will.

From "The Trump Administration's New 'Bump Stock' Ban Is A Legal Abomination," by Sean Davis in The Federalist.

The context, from the author: If the government can get away with lawlessly declaring a piece of plastic to be a machine gun, then it can get away with saying your AR-15 is a machine gun, knocking in your door, confiscating your guns, and throwing you in prison.

The excerpt: Even though a bump stock has no moving parts, no barrel, no chamber, no trigger, no buffer tube and no springs, the Trump administration declared it to be a firearm all by itself. And because the new Department of Justice rule contains no language requiring intent to be demonstrated in order to determine whether the object's possession constitutes a felony, an individual who owns no actual guns and no ammunition but has an unopened box containing a bump stock in a closet somewhere will instantly be a felon under the new Trump rule.