Kenworthy and Rauchway in the blogosphere

by Henry on December 14, 2007

Two great new blogs by academics who I admire but have never met. First, Lane Kenworthy, author of many articles and a few books on the comparative politics of inequality, is now blogging at Consider the Evidence. This post, for example, does a nice job of bringing together some of the data on economic risk (on which more soon), and looks at how the incipient credit crunch and the high number of families that already have two parents in the workforce means that lower income households simply don’t have much margin to cope any more with unexpected financial emergencies.

households now appear to be more sensitive to serious short-run financial strains — job loss, a medical problem that results in significant cost (due to lack of health insurance or inadequate coverage), a hike in rent, a rise in mortgage payments (as a low-interest-rate adjustable mortgage rolls over). A generation ago a household could adjust to this type of event by having the second adult take a temporary job to provide extra income. During the economic boom of the late 1990s they might have been able to switch jobs in order to get a pay increase. In the past ten years they could run up credit card debt or take out a home equity loan. For many households with moderate or low incomes, these strategies are now foreclosed.

Second, Eric Rauchway at UC Davis is blogging together with Ari Kelman at The Edge of the American West. One of his posts gets stuck into the recent outbreak of the liberal bias in the academy thing in the Washington Post op-ed pages, and generates an interesting conversation in the comments section about where you can find intelligent and intellectually honest conservatives in the US. I’d add Steve Bainbridge to the people listed in the comments section; also Clive Crook and Clive Davis (who I don’t follow as much as I should now that he’s at the Spectator and doesn’t have his own RSS feed any more). Both of the latter are Brits, of course. Does anyone have other nominations for interesting conservatives in the blogosphere or elsewhere? Please: no need to list obvious suspects at high profile blogs like Orin Kerr, nor to state that there ain’t any such thing as an interesting honest conservative. I know that this latter view has some adherents among CT readers, but its restatement in response to questions of this sort is kinda like telling people who are troubleshooting their PCs that the obvious solution is to buy a Mac.

{ 15 comments }

1

Kieran Healy 12.14.07 at 4:45 am

Damn you, Farrell, I was just going to post about Lane’s new blog. You’ve never met him, but I see him all the time because his office is down the corridor from mine.

2

Eric Rauchway 12.14.07 at 6:01 am

But you should buy a Mac, Henry!

Thanks for the kind mention. Feel free to stop by anytime.

Kenworthy, Rauchway, and Kelman! (oh my, as they say in The Wizard of Oz).

3

Zack 12.14.07 at 6:22 am

The “are there any intelligent and intellectually honest conservatives in the US” conversation seems to come up a lot, and I’d answer unequivocally yes. The more interesting question is, “are there any intelligent and intellectually honest defenders of the Bush administration?” Several of the people I’d name in answer to the first question voted for Kerry or didn’t vote in 2004, when it was way, way more acceptable to defend Bush than it is today.

4

John Emerson 12.14.07 at 8:40 am

I’m sure that there’s a pony somewhere there in the horseshit, and presumably some of Bush’s less vicious and ignorant enablers are capable of rehabilitation. So good luck with your project!

5

Rich Puchalsky 12.14.07 at 2:29 pm

What’s more interesting than the “are there any intelligent and honest conservatives” question is why so many liberals are so committed to insisting that the answer be yes. I could similarly ask whether there are any intelligent and honest Stalinists, and the answer is probably yes in exactly the same strained way — in that there has to be at least one of everything, and that the intelligent and honest Stalinist has no relationship to Stalinism as actually practiced or to its overwhelmingly more common adherents — but I don’t see the need to keep desperately seeking them out.

6

Matt 12.14.07 at 2:43 pm

Russell Fox is, in many ways, an authentic conservative. By this I mean that he favors conservative vaules, tradition, and so on. In Europe he’d be in a christian democratic party that believed in providing social services for the sake of the common good and stability. I disagree with Russell all the time but he’s clearly smart and honest.

In the non-blogger category Jon Mandle’s former colleague John Kekes is a smart and honest conservative (once again, not the sort that thinks that supporting the rich, cutting taxes in all cases, etc. is what’s right.) I often thought he gave quite uncharitable readings to his opponents’ views in his books but he was always willing to discuss why he attributed particular views to people, to make his position clear, to change when convinced, etc. I’ve learned something from reading his books (though I do think they became pretty repetative over time.)

7

Rickm 12.14.07 at 3:39 pm

Without a doubt, Daniel Larison is very conservative, and his blog is very awesome.

8

Eric Rauchway 12.14.07 at 4:17 pm

the horseshit

The kids call that a “blog,” Emerson.

9

Martin James 12.14.07 at 4:19 pm

One reason that it is so hard to be an interesting, intellectually honest conservative to a non-conservative audience is that conservatism entails a certain amount of pessimism about democracy.

Since non-conservatives view a strong preference for democracy as a given, if a conservative states the opposite premise plainly it is not interesting. (I’m reminded of certain posts beginning “In order for us to have a meaningful conversation, we need a minimum level of common values, since we don’t share that goodbye and good riddance.)

If the distrust about democracy is hidden enough for an argument to be interesting, then eventually it will seem dishonest.

I expect that if polled 60% would find this comment uninteresting, 30% unintelligent, 8% dishonest and about 2% a meaningful contribution to an intellectually honest, interesting conversation.

I have the good fortune that playing to a small crowd doesn’t conflict with my values.

10

Michael Bérubé 12.14.07 at 5:22 pm

I could similarly ask whether there are any intelligent and honest Stalinists, and the answer is probably yes in exactly the same strained way—in that there has to be at least one of everything, and that the intelligent and honest Stalinist has no relationship to Stalinism as actually practiced or to its overwhelmingly more common adherents—but I don’t see the need to keep desperately seeking them out.

OK, Rich, I’ll explain. The reason we need to seek them out is that when we find them, we can invite them to our liberal academic dinner parties, at which they will mention that they are registered Republicans. We will then lapse into embarrassed silence and refuse to hire them in our search committee meeting the next day, so that they can write up the experience in the Washington Post. I hope I’ve made the plan clear to everyone now.

The real question is whether there are any intellectually honest PC users.

11

seth edenbaum 12.14.07 at 5:38 pm

I don’t think it makes sense to use liberal and conservative in this context anymore, if it ever did. Most self-styled conservatives are what used to be called economic liberals, and most liberals are individualists. Rauchway refers to liberals’ refusal to accept claims of authority but that’s far from true. Liberal technocracy devolves quickly into argument from authority. Related to that, there’s the question of the liberal arts, which in themselves are less liberal by design than by default, while those who study them are more and more the opposite. The arts are an example of Burkean liberalism: negotiating the tensions between individual and community, not resolving them. Scorsese and the Italian American community, including of the mob: Celebration or condemnation? Either or both? There’s nothing new, its pretty standard stuff. Shakespeare? Jane Austen? Freshman Comp? How much do we make our own lives? How much are we made by them? What disgusts me [that’s a fair description] about the discussion of culture here and at related sites is that it inevitably hinges on the a philosophy of methodological individualism that the arts themselves oppose. It’s bizarre. Or not, considering the sort of marginal culture ancillary [and ancillary is all it is] to the intellectual life of proud technocracy.

Is Richard Posner conservative? Is Brian Leiter liberal? Is Dan Dennett? Do any of these three actually respect democracy and what underlies it? Stephen Bainbridge is a vulgar materialist, a gourmand with a cross around his neck and a Porsche. You can see the photos on his blog. I guess it’s fair to call him a conservative, but not a serious one. I read Clive Crook on torture and he was better, more direct, more clear, than most liberals. Someone called Russel Fox a conservative but on the old Political Compass graph page he was proud to test as an “authoritan leftist,” and he has a quote from Norman Mailer on the right margin of his page.

“Mailer was a Left Conservative. So he had his own point of view. To himself he would suggest that he tried to think in the style of [Karl] Marx in order to attain certain values suggested by Edmund Burke…”
(The Armies of the Night [The New American Library, 1968], 185)

You tell me what it means. I take these contradictions for granted, and I don’t try to pretend they don’t exist. The division between those who pretend they don’t, or that they shouldn’t, or that they can be ignored, and the rest of us, that’s the division that I worry about.

12

sniflheim 12.14.07 at 7:23 pm

What disgusts me [that’s a fair description] about the discussion of culture here and at related sites is that it inevitably hinges on the a philosophy of methodological individualism that the arts themselves oppose. It’s bizarre. Or not, considering the sort of marginal culture ancillary [and ancillary is all it is] to the intellectual life of proud technocracy.

Er. Can I be disgusted too? How do I start?

13

seth e 12.14.07 at 8:41 pm

You can begin by reading the posts at the valve. Then answer me this:how does the book under review do anything more than undermine any notion of literature as a philosophically valid form of discourse?
Or better yet:why are words not like rocks?
That’s a start.

14

Valuethinker 12.16.07 at 6:36 pm

Andrew Sullivan

Virginia Postrel

Andrew Bacevitch – a self-described ‘Catholic Conservative’, Vietnam War colonel, who opposed the Iraq war (from the start), and irony of ironies, lost his son on active duty in it this spring

William S Lind (not Michael Lind of the New America Foundation) – perceptive writer on manoeuvre warfare, streetcars, and associate of Paul Weyrich

Francis Fukuyama

Amity Shlaes – I suspect she has integrity, even though her stuff enrages me sometimes

various folks who write for The American Conservative– although the nativist slant of the publication is disturbing you do feel you are reading the logical inheritors of Edmund Burke, which I do not feel reading the New Republic, the National Review or the Weekly Standard

15

Valuethinker 12.16.07 at 6:39 pm

I would add most of the folks who publish for ‘Defence and the National Interest’

http://www.d-n-i.net/

And Colonel Patrick Laing, former head of the Defence Intelligence Agency for the Middle East:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2007/09/an-iraq-program.html

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