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Incarceration as Incapacitation: An Intellectual History

Explaining the dramatic rise of incarceration in the United States has been surprisingly difficult. Theories abound, but they are continually defeated by the vastness and complexity of the American criminal justice system. For a time, the prime suspect was the War on Drugs, which President Obama described as “the real reason our prison population is so high.” Numerically, this never made sense, given that drug offenders are a small fraction of state prisoners. Mandatory minimums and three-strikes laws were tangible reforms that attracted a great deal of attention. But as causal explanations they, too, wither under scrutiny. “There’s not a lot of evidence that the amount of time spent in…

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The Three Fusions

Media headlines to the contrary, there is at present no authentic debate between globalists and nationalists in the West. Paradoxical as it may seem, this is because there are no authentic globalists. Worse than any open conflict between the two is the confusion that results from the absence of one. This confusion with respect to…

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An Anatomy of Radicalism

What is radicalism really about? When does it make sense? Do we need it now? These seem to be impossibly abstract questions. At first glance, everything turns on the substantive commitments of those who purport to be radical. Do they believe in theocratic rule? In authoritarianism? In decentralization? In economic growth? In liberalism? In the collapse of liberalism? In property rights? In free markets? In self-government? In liberty? In freedom from discrimination on the basis of race and sex? In executing or imprisoning…

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Earmarks: Better Government through Honest Graft

George Washington Plunkitt, the notorious leader of New York’s nineteenth-century Tammany Hall machine, famously insisted on a distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft. When acting from honest graft, a politician is simultaneously pursuing both personal interest (including the interest in being reelected) and the public good. Our constitutional system, as Madison, Hamilton, and Jay…

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Integration from Within

One of the central themes of Tocqueville’s thought is that a political movement, or (at a later stage) a political regime, may be undone by its very success. University of Notre Dame professor Patrick J. Deneen shows himself to be a worthy successor of Tocqueville…

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Regulation in Early America

America is in the midst of a potentially transformative moment with regard to regulation. After decades of rapid and steady expansion, the Trump administration promises to deliver an unprecedented retraction of red tape. Candidate Trump called regulation “a hidden tax on American consumers, and a massive lead weight on the American economy,” and he campaigned…

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The Corporate Contradictions of Neoliberalism

In The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism—a canonical work of economic sociology in the 1970s and ’80s—Daniel Bell argued that the productive and consumptive sides of capitalism had fallen into contradiction. Capitalism continued to rely on the Protestant ethic of sobriety and delayed gratification in the sphere of production, yet, contradictorily, had come to rely on modernist hedonism and credit purchasing in the sphere of consumption. Modern capitalism needed people to be sober by day and swingers by night. What is more, the displacement of the Protestant ethic by hedonism, Bell argued, was primarily the work of capitalism itself. Its mass production urbanized the population and created an economy of abundance…

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James Burnham’s Managerial Elite

Conservative polemicists have long presented a caricature of a decadent liberal elite, and liberals have offered a competing caricature of a conservative plutocracy. But few have attempted to understand how these ostensible opponents function as elements of the same elite, or how they have participated in maintaining the broader intellectual, political, and economic status quo.…

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