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Liberalism for Losers: Carl Schmitt’s “The Tyranny of Values”

To those familiar with his most famous writings, it may seem that Carl Schmitt is an enemy of liberalism. In texts such as The Concept of the Political (1932) and Legality and Legitimacy (1932), Schmitt critiqued the Weimar Republic and the liberal tradition, the weaknesses of which Weimar seemed to embody. Liberalism, Schmitt argued, depends…

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Biden’s Dreampolitik at Home and Abroad

In a timely new book reflecting on the inner springs of Joe Biden’s biography and personality, New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos notes a central contradiction that has long animated the new president. During the campaign, Donald Trump and most Republicans tried to associate Biden with a malevolent plan to smuggle socialism into the United…

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A Tale of Two Immigration Systems: Canada and the United States

It is an understatement to say that Americans and Canadians do immigration differently. It is not only vastly different immigration policies and systems that separate the two countries, nor merely the facts of geography—as undeniably significant as it is to share a long border with a less developed neighbor—but there are also sharply divergent histories, cultures, values, principles…

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Reforming the Administrative State: A View from China

Size matters. In the case of a state, smaller is usually better. Plato specifies that a state informed by justice and moderation should have 5,040 citizens. Aristotle concurs that a relatively small state, with a maximum of about one thousand households, is more likely to be well governed. It is difficult, if not impossible, to run a state well in large political communities composed of diverse peoples with large class differences. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is famous…

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Rediscovering E. Digby Baltzell’s Sociology of Elites

With increasing income inequality and social stratification remi­niscent of the Gilded Age, talk of an “establishment” has re­turned to our political discourse. As in the past, the word is typically used as a pejorative describing an incumbent power structure that needs to be overturned. Yet today’s sociopolitical regime is vastly different from the establishment that…

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The Death Cult of Smart

In his recent book, Fredrik deBoer tells an anecdote about one of his freshman writing students. Bright but indifferent to academics, the student asked deBoer—not rhetorically—“What else am I sup­posed to do?” “I couldn’t answer,” writes deBoer, whom you may know from sharp essays first posted on his blog, such as “The Iron Law of Institutions and the Left” and “Planet of Cops,” which criticized…

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A Tyranny without Tyrants?

Sandel is among the few thinkers who warn fellow elites that the very system that has afforded them prestige, material comfort, and the tools to survive, and even thrive, amid economic and social instability has given rise to pervasive political discontent and lies at the root of the recent populist backlash against elites. He notes that liberal and center-left political parties—once the champions of the working class—have become the home of the meritocrats, and hence the party of the new aristocracy. Liberal-left parties have developed a self-serving obliviousness to their complicity in creating the threat to their own position…

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Carrie Lam’s Problem—and Ours: China’s State-Backed Digital Currency

The feverish rise in the trading value of digital currencies in the last twelve months suggests that they are in the advanced throes of a faddish and complicated reenactment of the typical investment bub­ble. Yet to dismiss the whole phenomenon would be a mistake. At some point over the next year, a groundbreaking digital currency…

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The Future of China’s Semiconductor Industry

Over the past four years, the Trump administration—driven by growing concerns over China’s rise as a technological competitor and the coupling of its military and civilian industries—has ratcheted up controls on semiconductors and semiconductor manu­facturing equipment destined for Chinese end users. China hawks in the administration viewed American companies’ dominance of key semiconductor subsectors, particularly…

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The Politics of Tollbooth Capitalism

No historical analogies are perfect. But in many ways the election of 2020, along with that of 2016, echoes the election of 1896. In 1896, the geographic and social bases of the two national parties were the opposite of what they are today. McKinley in 1896 and Biden in 2020 did best in the same…

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