Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’

Full piece here.

Douthat’s original piece here.

‘The Swedish experience does demonstrate that it’s possible for a welfare-state society to survive the waning of religion and the decline of traditional marriage without sacrificing middle class prosperity. But this success is founded on a level of cultural homogeneity and an inheritance of social capital that simply isn’t available in a polyglot republic-cum-empire like our own.’

Riffing on Douthat: If liberty means extending liberty, or aiming to extend liberty to ever more groups of people through State involvement and a more moral bureaucratic class redistributing resources through the most up to date thinking or the new economic models, then at what cost does this occur to the creation of wealth?   Can you even compare Sweden and the U.S effectively?  What hard evidence do we have that these policies will work?  More deeply: Who is in charge and how do such people ‘know’ what is best for others?

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I remain skeptical of some work by Charles Murray, but he had some interesting ideas on Sweden fifteen years back.  That model has not been as successful in assimilating immigrants and maintaining Swedish birth rates nor arguably economic dynamism, and there is a pendulum which can swing back darkly to the right, to nationalism, racial identity and the baggage of the past:

“In every town was a beautiful Lutheran church, freshly painted, on meticulously tended grounds, all subsidized by the Swedish government. And the churches are empty. Including on Sundays. Scandinavia and Western Europe pride themselves on their “child-friendly” policies, providing generous child allowances, free day-care centers, and long maternity leaves. Those same countries have fertility rates far below replacement and plunging marriage rates. Those same countries are ones in which jobs are most carefully protected by government regulation and mandated benefits are most lavish. And they, with only a few exceptions, are countries where work is most often seen as a necessary evil, least often seen as a vocation, and where the proportions of people who say they love their jobs are the lowest.”

As Murray suggests, the prevailing European secular habit of mind (which shuns overt religious faith) has also transposed a lot of Christian metaphysics (and a lot Marxist materialist/socialist/social democrat/communist thought) into the modern European state.  Many religious values continue of course, but are also, in part, maintained by that state.  That state, in turn, can limit much dynamism and freedom we take for granted here in the U.S..

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Continuing towards a theme, the rise of nanny-statism in the U.S. (banning Big Gulps and ‘nudging‘ people toward decisions you want them to make) partially has its roots in behavioral economics, and Cass Sunstein’s libertarian paternalism (he makes some interesting arguments):

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From an article at CATO:

“If behavioral economics has taught us anything, it’s that humans are vulnerable to framing effects. In other words, how people make choices turns on seemingly irrelevant aspects of the situation, such as the order in which options are presented, the other (unchosen) options presented at the same time, which option is designated as the “default,” and so on.

The new paternalists, having learned this lesson well, frame the public policy debate in a way that encourages paternalistic interventions. They have done so in at least three ways.”

Click through for more.  A lot of people have plans for you and me.  A lot.

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Here’s a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer:

“Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

Related On This Site:  From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

The West is less violent?  I’m not sure I’m convinced by Pinker, anyways: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘

Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have plans for America and India, and it involves much more state involvement here in America:  Amartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis

Have you downloaded the apps…and the concepts of Enlightenment and post Enlightenment liberty that can lead to runtime errors and fiscal failure? Sachs and Niall Ferguson duke it out: CNN-Fareed Zakaria Via Youtube: ‘Jeff Sachs and Niall Ferguson’

Repost-From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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