March 2, 2014
Is life worth living?
...It is as old as Robinson Crusoe; as old as man. Our race has not been strained for all these ages through that sieve of dangers that we call Natural Selection, to sit down with patience in the tedium of safety; the voices of its fathers call it forth. Already in our society as it exists, the bourgeois is too much cottoned about for any zest in living; he sits in his parlour out of reach of any danger, often out of reach of any vicissitude but one of health; and there he yawns.
If the people in the next villa took pot-shots at him, he might be killed indeed, but, so long as he escaped, he would find his blood oxygenated and his views of the world brighter. If Mr Mallock, on his way to the publishers, should have his skirts pinned to the wall by a javelin, it would not occur to him - at least for several hours - to ask if life were worth living; and if such peril were a daily matter, he would ask it never more; he would have other things to think about, he would be living indeed ...
--Robert Louis Stevenson, from the essay The Day After Tomorrow
February 10, 2014
"You can’t bring a dead horse to life"
...I certainly agree about the mind-bending banality of the Times opinion page and the windiness (at best) of Friedman. But I think the reporters are off the mark on the cause. They can blame it on Rosenthal if they wish — I have no opinion, not working there — but the real problem is far greater than any one editor.
To adopt what is becoming a modern cliché — it’s the ideology, stupid.
The Times reporters complained of the page’s uniformly negative tone, but not even S.J. Perelman or P.G. Wodehouse could write with verve in the service of modern liberalism. You can’t bring a dead horse to life. No writer is that good — at least on a regular basis.
How, for example, do you write an eloquent defense of Obamacare or justify the administration’s actions in Benghazi without resorting to the kind of obfuscation that makes for convoluted, or at best tedious, writing? How do you advocate for yet more government programs in a country already so mired in debt it’s hard to see how it will ever get out? It’s Keynesian economics itself that’s the problem, not Paul Krugman.
Although I admire many of the writers at the Wall Street Journal, let’s admit they have a lot more to work with, a plethora of easy targets for a man or woman with even a modicum of wit. We live in an era when readers are distrusting big government more than ever. Where does that leave the NYT, that great tribune of of ever-expanding government? With a bunch of grumps on their hands....
When I was young the NYT was referred to as "the flagship of the Eastern Liberal Establishment." But back then there really was an "establishment," a generally recognized set of ideas and people that almost everyone considered the legitimate guides of our society. And it was as much Republican as Democrat.
But that world is gone. Their model was the one created in the last phase of the Industrial Age. It was captured in Richard Nixon's quip, that "we are all Keynesians now." Ironically said at the time when that sort of economics was failing and the Information Age was beginning.
The NYT's business model is to maintain a cocoon where those in denial about the massive failure of "liberal" institutions all around us can pretend that nothing has changed. The real excitement and new ideas are elsewhere.