Toqueville the Prophet

  1. Tocqueville the Prophet
  2. Gated Community, Borderless World
  3. Faith and Reason
  4. Bad theology
  5. Does the Billy Graham Rule help women?
  6. If he only had a brain (or brain trust)
  7. Immunity for Flynn
  8. Why not encrypt?


There’s a saying along the lines that culture precedes politics, but that’s not the whole story.

When Alexis de Tocqueville toured America in the 1820s, he was amazed that township democracy was the center of shared civic life, while interest in the federal government was nearly nonexistent. But he worried that, over time, our individualistic political beliefs would redefine all aspects of our life, such as neighborhoods, townships, even families, eventually leaving us in such a state of complete “liberty” that only the central government would remain as the guarantee of our freedom and assistance in times of need. He wrote Democracy in America as a warning. Over time, our political order would shape our culture, or more accurately, it would eliminate traditional culture in favor of a liberal anti-culture. These three books are a postscript to Tocqueville, describing not the betrayal of our political origins, but the fulfillment of its logic.

(Patrick Deneen)


It’s an interesting paradox that the most ardent supporters of a “borderless world” live in gated communities, don’t mingle with others on public transportation, and channel their children toward a narrow set of elite educational institutions. Self-governance is an essential feature of a free society—and globalism is an enemy of self-governance. John Q. Public is not stupid. He senses these dangers, which is why voters in Europe and America are swinging toward nationalistic forms of populism.

(R.R. Reno)


Anthony Esolen recently observed: “The true faith has its mysteries that transcend reason. Politics, the false faith, has its confusions that do not rise to the level of reason.”

(R.R. Reno)


“If you drive out explicit theology from public education, you get not no theology, but only bad theology, theology never properly examined as such.” So writes Rachel Fulton Brown, professor of medieval history at the University of Chicago. She makes the point in order to explain why former Breitbart senior editor and conservative bad boy Milo Yiannopoulos arouses such passionate opposition from students and faculty when he’s invited to speak at colleges and universities. Brown observes that students are being taught ersatz theologies that deny being theologies. “Multiculturalism; race, class, gender; the purportedly secular ideals of socialism and Marxism” have “become their faith.” Without any training in what it means to have a faith—how to assess it, what to make of challenges and doubts, how to distinguish between core commitments and less crucial convictions—these students are unable to face Yiannopoulos’s challenge to their progressive faith. Thus the juvenile responses of outrage and protest, as well as darker, more troubling reactions. “The violent response to Milo’s tour of our college campuses, culminating in the riot at Berkeley, is evidence of a deep crisis in religious thinking.”

I find Brown persuasive about the secular theologies of our time, but I’m not enthusiastic about Yiannopoulos. She cites his comments for an interview: “[Western civilization] has created a religion in which love and self-sacrifice and giving are the highest possible values. . . . That’s a good thing.” We ought not to parse interviews too closely. I’ve made more than my share of sloppy formulations over the years. But the notion of the West giving rise to Christianity gets things backwards. As a simple historical matter, to a great extent, Christianity gave rise to Western civilization. There’s a theological problem as well. No culture “created” Christianity. Our faith is founded on God’s revelation, not Western civilization, or any other civilization.

(R.R. Reno)


Grandpa spent his career in congregations across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as an associate pastor by choice, a minister focused on youth education and music, whose job was to support the church’s senior leadership. The era of his ministry he most likes to discuss is the time he worked as an associate to a female senior pastor in the 1970s and ’80s — a time and place in which that kind of arrangement was fairly uncommon. When he reflects on their partnership, he says the same things he says about men he worked under: “She was very intelligent,” or “She was a fine Christian.”

Grandpa didn’t completely disavow private meetings with his superior — how could he? — but in his role, he believed avoiding any whiff of impropriety helped to support and elevate the woman in charge. For him, staying away from closed-door meetings or private get-togethers with female co-workers wasn’t a case of wanting to avoid being alone with a woman colleague due to a deep-down certainty of his own uncontrollable lust. Rather, he wanted to spare his boss any personal discomfort, as well as any potential public misperception that their time spent together was anything other than purely professional. This might seem quaint, if not also indicative of a problematic culture. But it was, at the very least, not rooted in any salacious attitude toward women.

Fellow progressives eager to disparage Christians they imagine must be closet perverts fail to recognize another type of believer: the person who thinks very little about sex, especially in the workplace. For these Christians, setting up boundaries around working relationships is a way of keeping sex — or even the appearance of sexual interest — out of the question, so the real work can get done. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s one rooted not in negative attitudes toward women but rather the still-rampant examples of sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace. In some ways, it’s a guideline meant to combat sexism more than perpetuate it.

(Brittany Shoot) I fear that Shoot, who calls herself progressive, is about to get mugged by her fellow progressives. Oh well: that’s one way to make a new conservative.


[A] core weakness of this White House, more devastating (for now) than the pugilistic tweets and permanent swirl of scandal, is the absence of anyone who seems to have thought through how one might translate Trumpism, the populist nationalism on which the president campaigned, into substantive policy on any specific issue except a temporary visa freeze.

The dearth of Trumpists in official Washington was always going to be a major problem for this administration, both in staffing the White House and in negotiating with Congress. But it’s been worse than anticipated, because Trump himself doesn’t know what he wants to do on major issues and there’s nobody in his innermost circle who seems to have a compelling vision that might guide him.

A certain Steve Bannon — perhaps you’ve heard of him — was supposed to help Trump figure all this out, perhaps with an assist from Michael Anton, the once-pseudonymous pro-Trump essayist now ensconced in the National Security Council. But there’s little evidence that either man’s policy vision has advanced much beyond, “The conservative movement has failed, let’s try something else.”

(Ross Douthat)


Michael Flynn is seeking immunity before he testifies. In the past, he has trash-talked people who ask for immunity, saying it reflects guilt.

Big deal.

What this signifies is either that (1) Flynn’s a hypocrite or (2) that Flynn’s a motormouth who lawyered up and had some of the facts of life explained to him:

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against … We’re after power and we mean it … There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

(Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged)


Do you use Protonmail for mail and Signal for texting? If not, why not?

A governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communications services of the contents of a wire or electronic communication that has been in electronic storage in an electronic communications system for more than one hundred and eighty days by the means available under subsection (b) of this section.

(18 U.S.C. §2703)

As lawyers and civil libertarians point out, federal criminal law is so vast and complicated that it is easy to unwittingly violate it, and even innocent conversation can later be used to build a criminal case. Encrypting your communication isn’t a matter of hiding criminal activity; it’s a matter of ensuring innocuous activity can’t be deemed suspicious by a zealous prosecutor or intelligence agent. Telling a friend that a party is really going to “blow up” when you arrive is less funny when it’s being entered into evidence against you.

(Max Read, Trump Is President. Now Encrypt Your Email.) Despite that article’s title, for me it’s not a Trump thing.

Often without realizing it, Americans have exposed vast and previously private information about ourselves to enormous tech companies, the government and, in all likelihood, malicious actors looking to mess around. If a President Trump is what it takes for liberals to think more clearly about the security of our data and communications, so be it. At worst, security LARPing — like using Signal when GroupMe would do — is an exercise in mindfulness: a daily check on your exposure. At best, it’ll actually prevent a security breach.

Oh: but first things first. If you’ve given your kid a smart phone or access to a computer, implement parental controls first. You are a fool and a menace if you don’t.

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.