As readers know I think Matthew Yglesias’ One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger is a decent read. Unlike a reviewer at the new TNR, I didn’t expect a Ph.D. dissertation. Though a few years ago I would be very skeptical of one billion diverse Americans, today I am far less so, mostly because I think our elites are perverts. I see no conventional way to get out of the perversion spiral, so I’m quite open to some sort of “exogenous shock”. I am aware of the arguments of people such as Mark Krikorian. We are actually quite friendly and I have appraised Mark of my change of views privately and am open to revising my perspectives in light of new data (he makes the fair point that our elites are so powerful they’ll turn new immigrants into perverts as well!).
But setting that aside, I think Yglesias’ candor in his interviews has been refreshing (he’ll be on the Brown Pundits podcast on the 15th, though I’ve posted it for Patrons). For example, on Tyler Cowen’s podcast, he admits he thinks if more Americans went to church, that that would be a good thing. He also admits openness to immigration that takes into account parameters such as cultural or national background. Like most normal Americans he is not beholden to the redlines of woke Twitter.
But these are details. What I am interested in seeing are ideas that are new for this century. Ideas that shake things up. We have not reached the ennui of the last bourgeois man. On the contrary, we again live in interesting times. But our cultural elites do not have the mental furniture to grapple with the beginning of the new century and the new age. They are stuck in a “Boomer Mindset.”
For conservatives, the 1950s will not return. For liberals, the 1960s will not return. They can pretend and will it, but the recycling of old motifs and paradigms reflect intellectual and cultural exhaustion, not renewed vigor.
That is one reason I read The American Mind. I am, fundamentally, a fusionist of the old school (I do write for NR). But the future does not belong to fusionism. For someone of my age, the future is going to seem crazy. Perhaps Matthew Yglesias crazy. Or Michael Anton crazy. Or a thousand other permutations. The only thing I’m certain of is the exhaustion of old paradigms. I believe “Black Lives Matter” is attempting to recapture the old 1960s radicalism in a bottle. It will not last. When the Republicans last had control of the legislature, the thing they managed to do was pass a tax cut. The last gasp of an old ideology.
What is America in the 21st century? I don’t know. None of us do.