The Commons

The Commons hosts commentary from contributing writers across the political spectrum, advancing American Compass’s mission through discussion that combines intellectual combat and personal civility.

Asymptotic Freedom Share This

| Jan 17, 2021 | social media

The rapid internet purge of anyone tangentially involved with the events of 1/6 has led even some moderate voices to see our internet ecosystem in a new light. De-platforming Nazis and insurrectionists is one thing, the argument goes, but the big platforms haven taken things a dangerous step further, slamming the ban hammer on anyone within the proverbial Six Degrees of Kevin Greeson — a power that comes naturally to the keepers of our social graph. This in turn has led to renewed calls for reforms that would limit the power of Big Tech to impose its will, be that some form of public accommodation, or the vigorous application of competition policy.

Their concern, as I see it, might best be distilled in an updated version of the “First they came …” poem; something like:

First they came for the groypers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Very Online …
etc.

I’ve already offered my thoughts on why I do not share this basic concern and, if anything, worry more about a future with too little censorship, not too much. Yet before leaving the topic for good, I think it’s worth underscoring the sheer physical limitations of digital censorship. Read More

The Pandemic Necessitates a New Approach to Health Care Share This

| Jan 13, 2021 | Health Care

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an existential conundrum to the structure and principle of employer-based health care and its various supporters and dependents. The loss of a job often cuts off access to health care, adding greater weight to the challenges of dealing with this public health crisis. And this is widely exacerbated by a longstanding problem in U.S. health care: ordinary medical goods and services for Americans remain grossly overpriced by international standards.

Whatever one’s political beliefs, or economic stake in a privatized health care system, the reality is that COVID-19 is a social, not individual, problem that demands a method to address the costs and accessibility of health care. This has become even more urgent, given that even 10 months after the initial virus-related economic shutdown, we are now living through a second wave of infection-reduced activity. Unemployment and business failures of all sizes continue—all readily visible to the public—along with a ticking time bomb in the health care system, which cannot ensure pandemic mitigation via economic restrictions because most health care access is predicated on the very employment put at risk by those restrictions.

The process of moving to a single-payer system would entail a massive political and bureaucratic overhaul impossible to achieve in this period, and critically would not address the immediate goal of reducing the spread of the virus.

So, what to do?

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National Developmentalism ≠ Critical Theory Radicalism Share This

| Jan 12, 2021 | market fundamentalists

After years of dismissing the rise of critical theory-inspired identity politics, many conservatives have become “woke” to just how divisive this movement is. The problem, however, is that some free market fundamentalists see both radical intersectionalists and Hamiltonian supporters of national developmentalism as desecrators of the Founding Father’s principles. Read More

Corporate Sponsored Censorship Share This

| Jan 11, 2021 | American Tradition

Parler, the alternative to Twitter, is being strangled by the tech giants. Apple and Google removed the app from their app stores. Amazon removed the company from its web-hosting service. These companies claim these actions serve the public interest.

Whatever one thinks of last week’s events, this action in concert marks a milestone. In recent years, the private sector has adopted more activist stances with respect to partisan political issues. But here we’re witnessing the privatization of a fundamental political function: Determining the proper balance between free speech and public safety. Read More

Where Do We Go From Here? Share This

| Jan 11, 2021 | Politics

January 6 was a catastrophe for America. An angry mob, spurred on by the president, some carrying confederate flags, ransacked the Capitol during a joint session of Congress. Lives were lost. Indelible and humiliating images of a desecrated seat of government were burned into the nation’s consciousness and broadcast around the world. Any comfort taken in the notion that this might all have been avoided with appropriate security measures is offset by the horrifying realization that the outcome also could have been much worse.

I often compare President Trump to an earthquake—a costly disaster, but one that exposes structures outdated or sloppily built and provides the opportunity to improve upon them in the rebuilding process. We are living now through the final tremors, which can do most damage because they shake foundations already weakened by what has transpired. Trump’s actions and inactions in the election’s aftermath and especially in the last week are impeachable offenses, but the Congress’s decision whether to proceed is political and prudential in character rather than legal, and impeachment and removal is more complicated than tweeting “Impeach. Remove.” Read More

The Ramifications of a Regime-Level Politics Share This

| Jan 11, 2021 | Politics

The quite clearly collusive actions of the Big Tech giants, in recent days, accelerate even further the national reckoning that has been overdue at least since Big Tech’s coordinated “Pearl Harbor attack” against the nation’s fourth-largest newspaper on the precipice of the monumental recent presidential election. The actions represent an epochal escalation in the ruling class’s war against the “deplorable” half of the country. They prove the prescience of those, like Tucker Carlson, who have warned that the greatest 21st-century threats to our freedom often come from the private, and not public, sector.

Most distressingly, the concerted actions of the Big Tech cartel since last Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol storming, encapsulated by but hardly limited to the “permanent” suspension of the president of the United States from his favorite social media platform, forebode the imminent arrival of a regime-level politics that will further tear asunder a nation already teetering on the brink. They indicate that the regime is insecure about its tenuous grasp on power, and is willing and eager to lash out in defense of its power against all perceived threats.

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Republican Party Platforms On Collective Bargaining, 1920-2020 Share This

| Jan 06, 2021 | Labor

In 2020 Donald Trump won 40 percent of voters who live in a household with at least one member in a labor union, slightly fewer than the 42 percent of union households who voted for him in 2016.  With the exception of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden won fewer union households than any recent Democratic presidential candidate.  While presiding over an otherwise conventional Republican administration, Trump devoted much of his term to thwarting Chinese mercantilism, attempting to reshore industry and renegotiating NAFTA, replacing it with the USMCA, which is more protective of American manufacturing jobs—goals shared by organized labor in the private sector.  In the 2020 election, sizeable minorities of working-class Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans shifted nationwide toward Republicans, while managers, professionals and investors gave Biden the edge he needed to win the White House.  In 2019, according to Gallup, nearly half of all Republicans—45 percent—approved of labor unions, compared to 61 percent of independents, 82 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Americans as a whole. Read More

The Real Science Denialism Share This

| Dec 31, 2020 | Political Philosophy

The American Revolution was in many ways inspired by the scientific one. But this says at least as much about science as it does about America—and as vaccine-related controversies renew calls to “listen to scientists,” it’s worth considering how the philosophy of science parallels the philosophy of the Founders, and what those parallels suggest about the nature of scientific authority.

One parallel between the foundations of science and the founding of our country is their shared metaphysical legalism. Just as the Founders assumed the existence of unchanging, rationally discoverable laws of politics, so too do scientists assume the existence of unchanging, rationally-discoverable laws of nature. Another parallel is that science, like the Founding, has both a progressive and conservative character. By writing down the constitution and basing it in “self-evident truths,” the Founders were creating something genuinely new and revolutionary—but they were also claiming, in George Mason’s words, “the liberty and privileges of Englishmen,” which belonged to a preexisting tradition. Likewise, science seeks to develop new theories that explain more about the world than their predecessors—but it constructs those theories on the basis of background knowledge, not just new experiments, and even accidental discoveries are usually the result of an existing research program, an inherited epistemic agenda.

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Industrial Policy Must Account for Worker Attitudes Share This

| Dec 31, 2020 | Industrial Policy

In a recent post about the relationship between family trends and the skills gap I noted that for some of the young adults my husband David and I interviewed in southwestern Ohio, trauma and addiction make it difficult to take advantage of the employment opportunities that do exist.

A second possible reason for the skills gap is more straightforward: fewer people today want to work in factories. And while the idea of reshoring manufacturing is still very popular, people don’t want their children to do factory work. With the recent emphasis on and possibility of a more robust industrial policy, this is something to consider. Read More

The Trump Apocalypse Share This

| Dec 30, 2020 | American Tradition

In popular parlance an “apocalypse” means an epic disaster. As a simple transliteration of Greek (apocalypsis) the literal meaning is more pedestrian: “uncovering,” or to use a fancier word, “revelation.” But one understands the popular sense, for it is often unsettling (or worse) when the true nature of things is revealed. This is the case in last book of the New Testament, which bears the name Apocalypse.

The Trump phenomenon—his ability to gain the loyalty of core Republican voters, his defeat of Hillary Clinton, the endless uproar during his years in the White House, and the coalition of voters that almost gave him a second term—has been apocalyptic. To this day, our political establishment regards his impact as a disaster. And rightly so, for Trump has revealed unsettling truths about twenty-first-century America that most would prefer to remain covered up and hidden. Read More