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Ernst Lubitsch, Censorship, and Political Correctness

Theodor Adorno turned around Benedetto Croce’s patronizing historicist question about “What is dead and what is alive in Hegel’s dialectic.” If Hegel is really alive as a thinker, then the question to be raised is the opposite one: “How do we today stand in the eyes of Hegel?” Exactly the same holds for Ernst Lubitsch. The question is not “What does an increasingly forgotten filmmaker have to say to us?” but rather, “How would our comedy of manners appear in the eyes of…

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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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North Korea’s Search for Totality

In early April, I participated in the Pyongyang Marathon, organized for the birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung (1912–1994), founder of the Kim dynasty. He is the father of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il (1941–2011), and the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. Our tour…

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Nicholas II: A Tsar’s Life for the People?

On July 16 and 17, Russia will mark one of the most sensitive centenaries in its recent history: the slaughter of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, his wife (the Anglo-German Empress Alexandra), five children, and four remaining servants at point-blank range by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. Beyond Russia’s borders, the Great War was…

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Baudrillard’s Revenge

The book that shaped the political culture of the 1990s appeared, in 1992, fast on the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Almost simultaneously with The End of History and the Last Man, the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard published a slender reply that never so much as mentioned the name of his target. L’illusion de la…

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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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Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise

In March 2018, China’s state-controlled internet, amid rumors that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was secretly visiting China, rendered the term “fatty” unsearchable. In China, “Fatty the Third” is a derogatory nickname for Kim, who inherited his position from his father and grandfather. This occurred shortly after Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party…

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Trump, Conservatives, and Human Rights

During his short presidency, President Trump has downplayed human rights, preferring to emphasize American economic and military interests abroad. He has sought to develop close ties with autocratic Arab rulers and invited human rights abusers such as Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte to the White House. Yet the administration has not totally sidelined human rights concerns,…

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Jordan Peterson: Shepherd of the Easily Freudened

Sometime between 1922 and 1939, James Joyce wrote the following cryptic passage in his equally cryptic book, Finnegan’s Wake: Be who, farther potential? and so wider but we grisly old Sykos who have done our unsmiling bit on ’alices, when they were yung and easily freudened, in the penumbra of the procuring room and what…

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Against the Deformations of Liberalism

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed is a blistering critique of contemporary American culture and its foundational philosophy of liberalism. Deneen’s surprising argument is that “liberalism has failed because it succeeded,” and that the bankruptcy of liberal ideas has resulted in unsustainable forms of political community…

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