Wednesday, 3/12/14

    1. Progressivism now and then
    2. Inflating the (grand)mother of all bubbles
    3. Gene Robinson on gay marriage
    4. Authority: mostly “an aesthetic movement of love”


I lead today with a deeply subversive essay, What a progressive used to be, from a deeply conservative scholar, Anthony Esolen – Classicist, Dante translator and committed Roman Catholic. I just discovered it before “press time” yesterday, but managed to link to it in my modest expansion of Ramesh Ponnuru’s great little essay.

Esolen opens:

If someone were to ask me what a “progressive” is, I’d be at a loss to reply. The term as used by those who call themselves such seems but an exercise in self-approbation. The progressive does not tell us to what place we are progressing, what we must abandon to take the journey, and why we should want to go there anyway.

If I were pressed to give an empirical rather than an analytically coherent answer, I’d say that a “progressive” believes in an ever-wider scope of sexual license for the individual and a greater concentration of authority in quasi-governmental bodies outside the direct control of the political process (Child Protective Services, the World Health Organization, the National Education Association), to effect changes that the subject peoples would be too slow to accept on their own.

Such a progressive is not a rebel against, but a collaborator with, the social influences of the very thing he affects to disdain—for there is something else that thrives upon the symbiosis between sexual license and centralization of power.

Esolen absolutely nails it. “Progressives” in today’s terms are collaborators the very people that yesterday’s progressives opposed, heart and soul. Read on. It’s not long.


I’m not convinced that “retirement” is anything like an unmitigated good, let alone a basic human right, although I still expect to cease from my “learned profession” within five years or so. But I’m suspicious when the American Enterprise Institute and another high-minded-sounding group bring us an essay against it on the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

How do we build an economic growth model for an aging society? As the over-60 population grows much faster than the younger working-age cohorts, while life expectancy increases, the 20th-century model of work and retirement becomes increasingly unsuitable for economic growth. The key will be finding new solutions to engage older Americans in the workforce.

In other words, “having tasted the bitter fruit of the contraceptive portion of the sexual revolution, how do we maintain the illusion of social health through a few more years of economic growth?”

Go ask a “progressive.”


As in all divorce stories told by the uninjured party, Robinson’s is one in which everyone concerned has benefitted greatly from the break up. His wife was freed from a relationship with a man who couldn’t love her in a truly marital way. His daughters benefitted from a happier father, and they built a new and wonderful relationship with their new stepdad, Mark. Above all, Robinson was able to be “true to himself,” the highest in our current table of virtues. But one wonders how his ex-wife and daughters remember those difficult years when Robinson decided to disassemble their family (the children were four and eight years old).

He explains that he believes Jesus to be the “perfect revelation of God.” This appears to be a kind of Arian code for “I don’t believe Jesus to be the Son of God,” but as with much mainline doublespeak, one simply can’t be certain about Robinson’s Christology.

(Gene Robinson Makes the Case for Gay Marriage)


[A]uthority is primarily an aesthetic movement of love rather than a rational movement of adducing evidence. (Adducing evidence can be a part of how we come to trust an authority–that was a part of Leah Libresco’s conversion, for example–and reasoned argument aimed at clearing away misconceptions was a big part of my own conversion. But overall, authority is what we love, not what we understand.)

(Eve Tushnet via Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry; H/T Rod Dreher)

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.