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I think framing climate change as an unfortunate side effect of a very good thing (immense and unparalleled human prosperity and flourishing in more parts of the world than ever before) is far and away the best way to frame the issue.

It allows us to acknowledge the huge benefits we've reaped by burning fossil fuels for the last couple centuries, it thoroughly undercuts and highlights the cruel absurdity of the de-growth camp (yeah, let's solve climate change by keeping most of Asia and Africa poor), and it allows us to look at the future in a positive light (ie, all the new technology we get to develop to move beyond carbon). It makes me excited instead of depressed.

Also, as someone who has always enjoyed history, whenever anyone says "this is the worst time to be alive" or "things are always getting worse" I want to say "I don't know, 536AD seemed pretty bad, and also the black death? Even 1900-1950 was pretty terrible! Two world wars and a massive economic downturn?? I'll stay in 2021 thanks"

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And the benefits will outweigh the costs until the frog has boiled...

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Comments like yours make me wonder what I am missing in the debate. It appears that climate change is a human tragedy for the developing world and an expensive adaptation problem for OECD. Either that’s wrong, or I am not sure why this became the crusade for the left and liberal elites. Because if the issue is compassion, where is the outage about multiple actual disasters affecting hundreds of millions of actual people today - is the allocation of say NYT front page real estate to climate change vs I don’t know - modern slavery, gay stoning, worm diseases, coal pollution cancers, child labor, prison conditions, favelas, refugee lives, forced marriage, female circumcision, malnutrition- really appropriate? And that’s just humans. I am always a bit confused by how many of the strident climate moralists head off to their neighborhood artisanal burger joint to fill up on physically and emotionally tortured animal carcasses after a busy day of protesting injustice.

Thanks in advance for anyone able to unpack this for me.

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I don't think we actually understand yet where the potential bottom is once climate change starts driving refugee crises. The entire stretch from Africa around through South Asia could devolve into a Hobbesian war of all against all, and that violence will both wreck the world economy and have direct spillovers as educated people whose lives have been destroyed decide to commit acts of terrorism against a West that they see as responsible for their plight. Even in the US, the sunbelt could become unlivable, leading to refugees fleeing to the Great Lakes and coastal regions.

I could go on, but I'd just recommend reading The Ministry of the Future and taking it seriously as a scenario that is pretty well within the possible range of outcomes.

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To be clear, I don't think we're there yet, and I think, as Matt says, that the liberal world order has set us up with everything we need to avert the worst outcomes, if we accelerate deployment. But if the GOP got consolidated control of the federal government again, and then entrenched itself for twenty years through constitutional hardball? Things are going get _really bad_.

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Nope because renewable energy costs continue to decrease dramatically. Many of them will be the low cost leader shortly death is this we are going to greatly decrease carbon emissions no matter who's in charge

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> Either that’s wrong, or I am not sure why this became the crusade for the left and liberal elites.

You're not wrong. It became a crusade because non-elites are easily convinced that that OECD is genuinely, irreversibly, deeply fucked. It is easier to convince people of that and use their votes to do what you want, than to convince people to vote for what you want.

It's like the GOP and caravans of migrants. It's a modest issue made into a panic because it's easier than not being full of shit.

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Sorry for the delay. A thought-provoking comment that warrants response (although I disagree).

Several questions embedded in your response, I'll take them one at a time.

First, why is the climate "suddenly" a lefty cause. I'd argue it has been a lefty cause for a long time, both historically and ideologically. Whether we want to look at Cesar Chavez, pesticides, and the long environmental justice movement or the ways in which environmental degradation disproportionately burdens the impoverished at home and around the world, there's good empirical evidence that climate change's harms are regressive. Ideologically, we should get into the atomization and fragmentation of modern liberalism vs. interconnectedness as worldview.

Second, you ask why climate and not the other issues, naming several domestic and foreign afflictions. We can look at this from a materialist or a strategic perspective. The current fossil-fueled model of extraction and exploitation is not easily replicated with regenerative energy sources, making decarbonization a social priority. Strategically, you can bundle shared economic prosperity, health, and climate transformation.

Finally, what's wrong with your worldview of monetizing the costs? Nothing, except that it reinforces the worldview that we can continue to substitute natural capital for financial capital, not recognizing the financial capital's value depends on environmental habitability and stability.

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I think your comment re: significant coordination problems posed by climate change making it a qualitatively different problem is an excellent one. But while I agree with your last thread I am not sure my take is in conflict with it. At any rate wish there way to take this offline in sub stack - thanks for the reply!

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Definitely! There should be more space in the discourse for honest disagreement (or teasing out of different emphases) among so-called leftists and libs.

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My state is on fire, and is going to be on fire for six months every year going forward, and it's going to get worse. I can't just shrug that off.

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I don’t think you or anyone should. But “expensive adaptation” covers a number of solutions be it water pipelines from the suddenly wetter Great Lakes region to farming adaptation to forestry management. And we would always welcome you to the verdant and mild upper Midwest.

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But will you always welcome climate refugees? There are going to be a lot of them. (I like the Midwest, but it's so flat. So very flat. And I've been in Michigan in the summer; I did not love the heat and humidity.)

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I recall a former friend telling me a year ago that he “didn’t want to have to shoot at me if there was a civil war”. Like he would be trudging through some swampy hedgerow with his AR-15 and rucksack of bone broth and toilet paper as part of Rogans 1st Texas Rifles or something. I told him if anything we might experience something like “the troubles” or the 1970’s terrorism here in the US with political headquarters being bombed and a bunch of innocent bystanders being killed. It’s the longing to be a romantic hero in a broken world via murder of your fellow countrymen that just breaks my brain. Now most people do not feel this why but it scared the hell out of me that a relatively intelligent white collar professional told me this.

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Matt does well to tug at the string of boredom at the end of history. I think in this article and in others consistent with this article, he underrates just how much Americans will resent and chafe against that boredom.

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Jesus.

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I absolutely agree (though with the caveat that I do think the Republican Party has basically abandoned small-l liberalism and really does pose a threat to US democracy.) There's a kind of grillpilling that happens when you look at the disconnect between poll responses about people's own lives (plurality answer: fine to great) and poll responses about the direction of the country (majority answer: thisisfinedog.jpeg). Of course, a big thing in liberalism/leftism is one should be careful not to take one's own relatively okay life as representative ("check your privilege"). But it turns out lots of people from a variety of walks of life say they're doing fine! The US is a rich country with high standards of living! It changes your priors; you have to be convinced that any given domestic policy concerns *is* a widespread crisis, rather than that it *isn't*.

I was just thinking today how silly it is that there's a political club in San Francisco called "the SF League of Pissed-Off Voters". It's been around since I was a tween. Mayors and presidents have come and gone, but the League of Pissed-Off Voters' lodestar remains the same: whatever's happening, they're angry about it.

Maybe this is just me losing my stomach for intense debate with highly zealous people, but increasingly I feel like you shouldn't trust the politics of anyone who doesn't have a clear idea of the kind of world they'd be happy living in, the kind of world where they could relax their constant vigilance and just enjoy life. Life is fun! Why would we want to be led by dour puritans who don't see that? The only legitimate goal of politics is to make more lives more comfortable, I'd say.

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I think this is exactly right, when you survey people about their own lives they are pretty happy. Compared to the last the main issue seems to be that people have somewhat fewer IRL friends which is bad, but hardly an ideological crisis.

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>>>I think that the United States is not under siege from a neo-fascist movement personified by Donald Trump.<<<

This is a truly engrossing article, Matt. Thanks. There's a lot to absorb here and I plan a few more comments after my brain ponders the ideas here a bit more. But I did want to offer a thought on the above sentence of yours I've excerpted.

It seems plainly the case that many Republican operatives, lawyers, political strategists and officials — the bulk whom are personally loyal to Donald J. Trump and his MAGA movement — are attempting to set things up to enable election nullification in the event the Democratic presidential nominee wins in 2024. That really does seem different (and far more menacing) from anything the republic has had to face since the 1860s in terms of the integrity of its political system and constitution. But maybe I'm being alarmist. I hope my fears are unfounded.

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Yeah, I mostly agree with the article. If Trump dies tomorrow, please God, there’s no way Hawley or Cotton can make a quasifascist state. But Trump is uniquely charismatic and unconcerned about the potential for triggering a civil war. It’s a really scary combination and quite unique.

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Actually, lets think about that “quasifascist state” idea—what if it’s actually a state? What if it’s a bunch of states? People keep talking about the US like it’s a nation rather than a government of limited powers (ironically, considering its also a military superpower) with the fundamental unit of sovereignty being the states. There is no right to vote in the US Constitution, only limits on discrimination in who is allowed to vote (which Republicans are busily finding ways to circumvent). What if more than half of states elected “quasifascist” governments?

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I don’t want to minimize your fear. But I think the chances the 2024 election ends up with a less democratic resolution than the 2000 election is small. Republicans determined to win will control many important offices in the elections administration and certification, but so will Democrats.

Just to put things in perspective: your whole life the US has had a less than democratic system for deciding presidential elections and when the election is very close control over administrative levers has decided the outcome not a literal pile of ballots.

It’s not great, but it’s also not new

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The minority leader of the house signed on (at least publicly)to a plan to swing the election toward the side that lost (and lost both in the legal and popular manner). That's new. How serious will this kind of behavior be? Maybe it's not that much of a problem. I don't think Kevin McCarthy even thought Trump's failure to certify plan would work. He just went along for the sake of expediency. But at some point that sort of opportunism has costs that McCarthy doesn't imagine and can't control. I'd say that a that kind of opportunistic conservative play acting is what led to Trump in the first place. I agree that hysteria or extreme measures is not the appropriate answer, but our problems are new (maybe different is a better word), even if not cataclysmic.

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Well they lost in the legal sense bc we did in fact certify joe Biden’s win and the Republican controlled Supreme Court stood by it.

All I’m trying to get at is that in the year 2000 we already had the entire Republican Party line up behind a similar, albeit slightly different, effort to stop counting votes and decide the election in their favor. And it worked! And Dems did the small r Republican thing and just gave it to them. And we continued to have contested elections in the future. It’s wasn’t great, but most of us survived. Just like Matt says in the post, it’s not that everything is great right now it’s just that the past was full of challenges as well, many larger challenges in fact. We don’t need to be apocalyptic about our current issues.

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Sorry if this response sounds nitpicky. I don't mean for it to, bc I don't really disagree all that much with your point. But I would point out a significant differences between then and now. In 2000, the GOP hadn't clearly lost during the time of the recounts. It's not even exactly clear that they would have lost the actual recount as it was occurring. They lost the popular vote and they should have lost Florida, except for ballot design. But it wasn't clear to them they had lost the actual vote count. McCarthy knew Trump had lost seven ways to Sunday. He lied and most of the GOP leadership is still lying about that now. At some point, all this play acting might have consequences beyond bureaucratic wrangling over the e college and congressional districts. I don't know how serious this problem is (which is sort of my point), but it seems distinct from the 2000 election processes.

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I don’t disagree. Part of this is that W was an establishment figure and was able to present his case in a more organized, legally formal manner. Which is part of why it succeeded and Trumps did not

Trump started previewing his playbook for election night madness pretty early, he seemed aware he was likely to jump out to a big lead early and then lose ground. But he didn’t manage to assemble a team of credible litigators and get them in place to challenge late arriving ballots or the emergency voting measures in a timely fashion. Because he’s a bit of a clown, I guess, and probably bc enough of his own staff didn’t really want him to succeed.

I think the charismatic leader who breaks the rules is clearly a different threat than someone deeply entrenched in the conservative establishment who knows how to pull all the legal levers. I’m not sure if it’s clearly worse but I could be persuaded. But anyway it seems to me like the next go round the danger is more about conservatives taking legal measures to ensure victory, more like they did in 2000, then it is about a chaotic effort like trump mounted in 2016

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All good points and I agree. But, it doesn't seem crazy to me to think that the next Brooks Brothers riot is less a Brooks Brothers riot and more like an act of actual political violence. Now that there's a dedicated group of people who want to stop the steal, would another Bush v Gore be as peaceful as the first Bush v Gore? I don't know what the actual risks are or how to calculate how serious something like that would be.

On the other hand, I could also be persuaded that Trumpism w/out Trump is going to die not w a bang but a whimper.

Historical analogies and examples are helpful, but not exact enough to offer real data on what to expect, so, again, how do you calculate the risk on the chances of something bad happening?

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I think it's time to stop blaming the politicians and start blaming the people. If elections weren't so damn close all the time, there'd be less temptation and opportunity to mess with vote counting and rules about how to vote and certify the results.

Sheesh -- c'mon, people! Just pick one side and let's have a few blowout elections for a change!

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>>>Republicans determined to win will control many important offices in the elections administration and certification, but so will Democrats.<<<

Depending on how things shake out, Republicans may only need to subvert the results in three or four states. Also, your response (and my response to your response) undergirds the seriousness of how bad things have gotten: once upon a time the bulk of professional Republicans and professional Democrats thought "losing sucks but them's the breaks." Richard Nixon famously shut down efforts to mount a challenge to Kennedy's victory in 1960. In other words, in the 2020s it's not a matter of whether Republicans will try to steal the election (let's use plain language here), rather, it's only a matter of whether they'll hold a sufficient number of offices necessary to engineer said steal.

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Well there have definitely been periods of time when this threat was less pronounced, usually times in US history when the parties themselves didn’t cohere or sort well. I would say we had other problems at those times, even grave threats to the democratic nature of the elections, just of a different nature.

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Suppose that the Democratic candidate wins the most votes in states with 284 electoral votes, but Republican legislators in Georgia and Wisconsin install GOP ejectors and a Republican Congress declares Trump president.

The next two years would be pretty ugly. However, I don’t think a even a majority of GOP voters want to stop having elections and I don’t see how the GOP could win an election after pulling that kind of shit. A cynical power grab by a demographically disadvantaged party might give them a last hurrah, but it would likely open the floodgates to a working center left majority.

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What was the last time that Republican voters (or partisan voters on either side) turned against their party for being too aggressive on procedure? Independents/swing voters would hate it, but the whole point of these actions would be to make those voters irrelevant.

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You talk about Wisconsin, but they've already committed to a state legislature that is ruled by a permanent Republican majority even when Democrats win the vote. They win elections the same way Trump became President-- because "winning elections" no longer means "getting more votes than the opposition."

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This is a weak article.

It seems to obviously contradicts some of Matt's own work. 5 years ago Matt wrote an article titled "American policy is doomed". 1 year ago Matt wrote an article saying "America needs a democratic revolution".

It doesn't engage with the specifics of the emergency of our time, which is that the Republican Party is close to ending American competitive democracy as we've historically known it. They've achieved it at the state level in Wisconsin and they're working to replicate that success nationally.

Just because this would not be bad as Nazi Germany doesn't mean it would not be very bad.

https://www.vox.com/2015/3/2/8120063/american-democracy-doomed

https://www.vox.com/21429181/democracy-reform-senate-gerrymandering

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Yeah i'd say that American Democracy is doomed article is wrong and this one is much more reasonable. Everyone was telling him he was nuts because he was. This article is much closer to my own view, it's pretty funny what one reconciliation transportation bill will do (which I think is actually awful. Investing in a bunch of stuff like roads, cars and electric charging stations that we shouldn't be spending money on.)

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Writers have to address the temperament of the moment. Sometimes an idea is underrated and has to be pumped up; at other times an idea is overrated and has to be punctured. I don't know why this is so hard for people to forgive, because we do it in our personal lives all the time. I feel like my underlying values haven't changed that much in the last 10 years, but I am certainly emphasizing different things and in some cases it looks like I have reversed the polarity of my arguments, because the discourse has gone crazy!

I think it's still true that America needs a democratic revolution, and that the current constitutional order is a recipe for disaster. We're always on the verge of disaster. The President just did an executive action (extending the eviction moratorium) right after saying that it's probably illegal! Congress is once again flirting with the idea of refusing for no reason to pay for allocated spending! The winner of the 2016 presidential election got 3 million fewer votes than his opponent! In AZ they're looking for bamboo fibers in the ballots in order to discredit the results of the 2020 election!

This is a shitty way to run a country, much less the most influential country on earth, and I seriously hope that we make representation more proportional, improve our sclerotic administrative state, stop electing lunatics to office, and in general get our shit together. It worries the hell out of me because our political problems make addressing our other problems that much harder, and the other problems are not small either! That's different from saying that we're on the verge of a fascist takeover of the United States that requires stepping outside of politics to address. It's an open question whether you should go back in the time machine to kill Hitler. I don't think assassinating the orange guy would make anything better. We just have to improve how we do politics; that is a super-unsatisfying answer, but all the alternatives are worse.

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"...the Republican Party is close to ending American competitive democracy as we've historically known it."

How? By getting rid of drive-through voting?

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By allowing various state legislatures to simply toss election results on a whim?

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"I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have."

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Oh, that does sound bad. What states have that law?

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Georgia’s new law slipped it in while the idiots in the commentariat were whining about ID requirements.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html

Which part of this law allows the state legislature to "toss election results on a whim"?

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These two:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html#link-12a209e

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html#link-3c31d135

The legislature formally seized for itself the power to override local election boards and the Secretary of State.

Now, in theory, it probably was already constitutional for a legislature to simply appoint a slate of electors, ignoring the outcome of the election, especially if they wanted to gin up a claim of "irregularities".

But before, at least, that could be subject to federal and state litigation around standards for changing the rules of an election either too close to the election date, or in this case, _after_ the election. There's equal-protection jurisprudence for that.

Under the new law, it is just explicitly stated in the law that if the legislature says they believe there was foul play -- and the GOP _always_ believes there was foul play if they lose, regardless of what a sane observer would believe -- then they can just overturn the result.

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I’m gonna post it in another article but here’s another article Matt posted after Trump was elected that seemed to recognize him as a threat of a different kind. And while Trump’s success was limited, the stuff Matt warned about—Trump making life difficult for people he perceived as his political opponents by threatening their careers and businesses—definitely happened, and was prevented from happening further by the 2020 election. I remember Matt warning before that election that Jeff Bezos wouldn’t necessarily hold out another 4 years before giving in and giving Trump more favorable coverage at the Post. Does Matt now feel he was being alarmist?

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/17/13626514/trump-systemic-corruption

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Well, what do you have in mind? If you're talking about boycotts, I would say there's a big difference between a grassroots/viral campaign by activists targeting a company, and *a political figure using the levers of government* to target one. The former can be good or bad depending on the cause, methods, etc.; the latter is what we would generally call corruption.

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Man, you really do love your whataboutism, don't you?

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Look, being a pundit means never having to admit you were wrong. It's audience farming. By moving to Substack he can now live out Jefferson's ideal of the yeoman audience farmer. Let the man farm in peace. (As a non-pundit I must admit that I was wrong to repeatedly point out MY's self-contradictions in this comment section. I now see that contradicting oneself is merely a means to the end, a bountiful audience yield.)

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Why do you subscribe if you think this is just cynical audience farming?

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I paid for one year when SlowBoring launched mostly to see how the substack model would impact MY's writing, and a little bit to scare the pants off legacy media.

I might ask you: why do you subscribe if you *don't* think this is just cynical audience farming? Are you so sure your answer is less embarrassing than mine?

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I view it as the polar opposite of audience farming. Traditional media with their clickbait headlines and ideological conformity are the ones audience farming. Matt, and frankly all the Substackers that I subscribe to, are far more free to give more nuanced takes and not blindly follow the dogmatic right/left narratives that pervade nearly every other space. As a more conservative person, I don't usually agree with Matt's takes, but I certainly value them as thoughtful and considered. As a matter of judgment, I don't feel he is farming my subscription in the least. I think he's quite genuine in his opinions. Frankly, refreshingly so.

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I should have continued my insistence that Substack is "yeoman audience farming." He owns his land, he can easily meet his family's needs, and is independent from others. He's not doomed if a drought spoils a year's harvest. Good work if you can find it.

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Fair enough, I forgot that the the year-long option will yield some unsatisfied customers.

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I am also a year-long subscriber who's feeling a little wary about the direction of the substack at the moment.

That doesn't mean I'm unsatisfied, exactly. I'm very impressed with the amount of writing Matt is doing, and I look forward to each day's article.

At the same time, I think there are a number of articles that leave me thinking, "this is broadly correct and says something important, but doesn't really engage with the counter-arguments for why somebody would believe differently."

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This is why I unsubscribed from Freddie DeBoer (feeling very glad that my past experiences with him had led me to subscribe month-to-month)—he's just so dismissive of the possibility that anyone could honestly see things differently from him that he engages in childish sneering and crude stereotyping. It wasn't worth the occasional gem. I don't think Matt has that problem, but the blind spots he has are pretty glaring by contrast with the better stuff.

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Also share some wariness with the direction of the substack. Can't put my finger on it. I do think daily articles might be too frequent. I think the comments have become less engaging. But look ... how many times can you facilitate a similar topic?

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I think matt is mostly right when he delves into specific issues, and is mostly wrong (like everyone) when he does any big picture prognosticating. Big picture stuff is generally dumb though because there are too many variables and words barely have meaning, so even when you're completely wrong you can argue you were correct.

If you're going to make a prediction, show me your market position, or even you don't really believe what you're saying.

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Well, he did do that prediction post at New Year’s, complete with confidence percentages.

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Can you clarify what specific change in Wisconsin voting law you think represents "the end of American competitive democracy"?

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Gerrymandering. Which isn’t new but is being applied more effectively.

In 2018 republicans won 63% of the seats with 45% of the vote. That is not democracy in my book.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Wisconsin_State_Assembly_election

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'In 2018 republicans won 63% of the seats with 45% of the vote' The reason that they did isn't gerrymandering though. The primary cause of this is Democrats being super super inefficiently clustered in just a few counties. Because we use districts and not proportional representation, each district gets one legislator- so if 70-80% of the Dems live in just two counties, and the Republicans are spread out over the rest, you'd get results like this with absolutely no gerrymandering whatsoever.

Peoples' failure to understand this just blows my mind

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That is bad. Its also a wild swing where Republicans went from 55% in 2016, 45% in 2018 and back to 55% in 2020. I suspect turnout effects from Trump is the big driver there, unless you know of something different?

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The wild swing between presidential and non-presidential election years isn't really the issue-- so much as the system they've constructed where they do not need the majority of votes to command large majorities in the legislature.

This is a mirror to the systems that now exists nationally-- Biden won by *7 million* votes, but his actual margin of victory was maybe a hundred thousand split across five states. There is an enormous antidemocratic thumb on the scales. Many of its characteristics are novel.

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'American Democracy' is doomed, but it always has been at least for the last 50 years. Democracy in America is not doomed, however.

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The Doomed article argues for a crisis and does not presume that we’ll come out healthy on the other side. He says early on that there’s a chance we’ll reform our electoral system but that if we don’t, “something worse will happen.”

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What is the contradiction?

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You don’t see a contradiction in saying that American democracy is doomed and unsalvageable, and also saying that everything is mostly fine and people should stop worrying about everything being in a crisis?

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Right. In the Doomed article he specifically disagrees with people who think these times are comparable to past ones or that today’s problems are transitory, and argues that things are different now than they were in the recent past (more polarized AND more ideological, comparable to the Civil War).

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But American democracy being doomed isn't itself an existential problem. For example, you can check out Ezra Klein's follow-up where he predicts that we'll just muddle through with a half-democratic governing process for however long. Bad? Sure. Commonplace without societies collapsing in on themselves? Also sure. NYC has (not so) arguably been a non-democracy for as long as it's been around - turned out ok anyway.

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that sort of retconning of the meaning of democracy is part of the problem, I think

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Matt's argument in today's piece is not that American democracy might end but that will not cause the extinction of humanity—that would obviously be a very banal insight. He's specifically arguing that *American democracy itself* is not under any kind of new threat:

"But this basic tension is not new; today’s progressives are fighting Trumpian fascism in exactly the sense that the progressives of 15 years ago were fighting Bushian fascism. I think if you want to say we are perpetually teetering on the brink of toppling into right-wing authoritarianism but thanks to our heroic efforts we keep avoiding that outcome, that’s fine.

But I think a more enlightening interpretation of events would be to say that we have been living through strong directional progress toward more diversity and more cosmopolitanism but that when you push things forward, you end up with some overreach (both substantive and political) and then some blowback."

You can argue that we're living through a new challenge to American democracy or you can argue that we're not, but in 2015 Matt argued that we were and here he's arguing that we're not, and that's a contradiction.

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I mean, read what you just cited. You can see there's no contradiction by simply noting that the "Democracy is Doomed" article made no reference to fascism, Trumpian, Bushian, or otherwise.

At a certain point I expect others to find this interpretive exercise tedious, so let me rephrase this more directly: I personally hold both views. I believe (in line with the Doom article) that American democracy has structural problems that are likely to be exploited for a long time, resulting in anti-democratic outcomes. And I also believe (in line with this article) that Trumpian fascism will come and go with approximately 0 chances of "topping [us] into right-wing authoritarianism".

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No, I don't. Perhaps you can explain it.

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American democracy being doomed seems like a crisis to me.

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This isn't much of an explanation but whatever, this clearly isn't going anywhere.

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I grew up in Maryland, and complained to Democratic peers there about gerrymandering when I lived there. My grandfather lived in DC, and was active with Common Cause, on anti-gerrymandering initiatives among other things. (I have mixed-to-negative feelings about individual state initiatives that remove gerrymandering, like what California has, because there are so many MORE gerrymandered GOP states now that abolishing it in places like MD and IL amounts to unilateral disarmament.)

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I was talking to my wife about the woke movement and it occurred to me that Olivier Roy's argument that Europe did not see a 'radicalization of Islam' but rather an 'Islamization of radicalism' might fit the woke movement as well. That is, Roy argues that there was a desire/need of second generation Islamic immigrants in Europe for identification with a movement against the status quo in Europe. He gives a fancy very French sociological argument for why which you can take or leave. The point is that Islamism was incindental not causal. It was there and so adopted and so all the measures to fight Islamism or Islamofascism are not only pointless but harmful as they just make it more radical. It seems to me woke movement likewise fills a need for radicalism and identification of an anti-status quo movement and the actual content is not causal. [which would make Andrew Sullivan a two-time fanatical overreactor!]

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This is really interesting.

You can kind of see a similar thing happening on the American right with evangelicalism, which was originally a term created to refer to non-fundamentalist, mostly-apolitical, non-newsmaking (yet theologically traditional/orthodox) forms of Protestantism. In the last 10-20 years we've gotten into a feedback loop where people noticed that white evangelicals are majority Republican, causing many right-wingers (who aren't necessarily that "religious") to self-ID that way, thus causing white evangelicals to poll as even more right-wing, etc. At the same time, some evangelicals who are not politically conservative have stopped self-IDing that way, further accentuating the polling. But what's really driving this political trend is politics, not religion or theology.

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Some of the blame here lies in the Western security apparatus- they spent the 20th century supporting pogroms against the left in middle eastern client states, and nurturing Islamic fundamentalists as proxies. Islamofascism was the only living and viable ideology available.

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Yea that’s astute. Sure doesn’t stop them from provoking a lot of backlash against the liberal project before they (hopefully) fade into oblivion

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I was sort of agreeing with the piece but I think this reaction snapped me out of it - https://twitter.com/jbouie/status/1425810950142242817

If you're going to jab left, then I think you have a responsibility to actually address the concrete concerns instead of vaguely brushing them aside.

"And it’s important to understand that Republican Party presidents are always psychologically experienced by their most strident opponents as the leading edge of a fascist reaction, just as conservatives experience everything from FDR to Medicare to Barack Obama as the leading edge of a socialist takeover."

I both agree with this and think it misses the mark. Which can be taken as contradiction but let me explain. Political/campaign rhetoric has been over the top for a long time, and because it's *over the top* it ends up being wrong. But that doesn't mean current warnings are wrong. Downplaying the Trump movement's fascistic tendencies is irresponsible because they are literally acting on the Big Lie in the states. The Conservative movement has been trying to undo the VRA for decades (with Roberts literally being at the forefront of this particular movement) and have been quite successful.

You use a lot of examples to demonstrate linear progress, and claim that the negative side effects don't outweigh the positive outcomes. Which I think is fine and often useful. But then you ignore the examples of progress that is undone, because sometimes progress isn't linear.

I think also think that instead of having petty twitter arguments that ends with you blocking Jeet, it would be better to bring Jeet onto the Weeds (or go on his podcast) to actually discuss this. You both tend to dismiss each other, which is understandable since twitter is a bad place to have thought provoking debates, but c'mon. You're just jabbing left here and telling people to chill out.

Have you been outside? It's really hot. And you even mention how a lot of what needs to be done around climate should have been done a long time ago. Maybe the reason it wasn't acted upon earlier is because too many people were chilled out.

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But if you actually look at "the effort to repeal the landmark voting rights victories" you see a bunch of bills that are more liberal than existed 2 years ago and aren't any different than voting rules that exist in blue states. In other words, its an excellent example of what Matt is talking about.

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How is SCOTUS taking apart the VRA piece by piece more liberal than 2 years ago?

How is state legislators giving themselves the power to overturn results more liberal?

Early voting, as an example, is itself quite arbitrary. But when the legislature specifically looks at "which rules benefitted the other party so that we can take them out" it is not more liberal.

There's certainly a fine line here. Sure, you can emphasize that such-and-such rules aren't "Jim Crow 2.0" or whatever. But it's willful blindness not to recognize the larger pattern. This is part of the blowback! And sometimes blowback is incremental! The blowback to the passage of the VRA has been going on for decades. And how long and how much work did it take to get the VRA passed in the first place? It's not unreasonable for people to see that drawing it back as an existential threat.

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SCOTUS eliminated the need for pre-clearance of changes. To demonstrate "undermining democracy" or whatever you need to bring forth actually negative regulations that can be discussed.

Which regulations, exactly, allow a state legislature to overturn elections? I see lots of chicken little rhetoric - but nothing in the actually laws that actually support that assertion.

Sometimes bad laws are bad, but they aren't the 'end of Democracy' and nothing that has been passed come even close to the rhetoric that has been used to describe the changes. Mostly its tinkering at the edges that aren't going to have much impact.

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I agree that the "end of democracy" claims are over-hyped. But if, as Matt does, you're going to apply historical perspective to things, I don't see why people would ignore some serious red flags that have historical parallels.

Things don't just happen naturally or unfold in some flowery way where everything gets better.

We never had a group of people storm the Capitol building to contest the election results on behalf of one of the presidential candidates. That's not a normal event or over-the-top rhetoric. It actually happened. And at the very least, it's an example of the increasing cracks in our society.

I think that Matt wouldn't have written this piece if the bipartisan bill didn't pass with overwhelming Republican support in the senate and if he wasn't perusing a conservative town in Texas where people aren't, idk, storming Capitol buildings I guess.

I will look up specific regulations.

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1/6 LARPers don't scare me. We weren't anywhere close to Biden not being president, and if anything that event is likely to make any Trump run 2024 doomed before it starts.

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The voting rights act has already been repealed by SCOTUS. They repealed section 5 and have essentially repealed section 2 in the VRA in Brnovich by allowing for disparate impact.

It is great that Democrats are putting bills out that are more pro-democracy, but if they aren't able to pass them or if the anti-democracy Supreme Court overturns those laws then that is not really worth all that much.

Republican legislatures are making incremental changes, but the intent of the changes are clearly to disenfranchise people who they don't think will vote for them.

There are blue states that also have regressive voting laws, but that does not excuse those regressive laws. The VRA made it so that states could not make changes that restricted the right to vote, but it did not do as good of a job at compelling states to make it easier to vote in the first place. That is why states that have never implemented had early/no-excuse absentee voting have been allowed to remain. But the remedy to that is force those blue states to change as well, not disenfranchise voters everywhere.

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Ugh, twitter and its "I'm not going to link to it, so there!" Yeesh

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Recently heard an apt description for the sentiment that tweet expresses: motivated incuriosity — X is bad, and you shouldn't even let yourself look at it, lest some other opinion accidentally form in your pretty little heads, dear readers.

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Yeah it's more petty nonsense. But I was more pointing to that Matt left out some crucial pieces in his overarching "everything's actually good" narrative.

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yeah Jamelle Bouie often comes off as a really mean person on twitter.

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Heartily agree about the Trump thing- his administration was such a complete shitshow that it's easy to forget that he actually did a lot of incredibly bad administrative stuff at State and DOJ that really did weaken a lot of the "normal democratic liberal" infrastructure that Matt credits with safeguarding our democracy in the shadows. I think it's hard to overstate how bad that could have gotten if Trump had won a second term, and I feel like Matt's take doesn't seriously grapple with this at all; he just sort of points at Joe Biden in office and says "see, everything's fine". If Matt wants to try to argue that Trump's anti-democratic behavior is basically inconsequential and broadly in line with what other presidents have always done then he needs to actually do that.

The overall point that life is generally better now than it was in the past is essentially correct, but the idea that US democracy is fundamentally safe because we barely managed to prevent Trump from completely corrupting it is really weird.

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"barely" is doing a lot of work there and I think it's wrong. Trump needed like 24 miracles to overcome the election and achieved exactly zero of them.

Trump was extremely incompetent and put a lot of incompetent people in positions of power - but arguments that State and DOJ were compromised in any meaningful way is pretty overstated.

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I'll just add the way I view the 2020 election aftermath is a tremendously positive stress-test. I think the combination of Trump's disregard for legalities + his lackey appointments presented a perfect storm of risk and nothing happened. The system held together.

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Eh, a lot of people seem to agree with you, but I'm not so sure. At the end of the day, lackeys can only take you so far if you basically have no plan whatsoever beyond inciting a riot.

As much of a lickspittle as Barr is, he's not a complete moron. He could see that overthrowing the US government isn't something you just slap together at the last minute just as well as everybody else can. That said, it's not at all clear that he wouldn't have helped craft a credible plan to do that if Trump had had it in him to do so. And as mentioned downthread a number of other state legislatures are clearly not against making it much easier to meddle with elections in the future.

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Trump was indeed incompetent and hired a lot of incompetent people, and I'd argue this is largely why he failed to gain a second term. The election ended up being extremely close, however, and it could have easily broken the other direction with many fewer than 24 miracles.

Agree to disagree about State and DOJ- Bill Barr was clearly ready to carry water for Trump, but basically decided that he hadn't din't have a credible plan in place to overthrow the government and backed out.

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How many miracles do you think it would have taken for 4 state legislatures, 4 Secs of State, 4 State courts and how many untold Fed Judges to all agree to ignore the law? Yet, none of those things broke Trump's way.

I disagree about Barr too. He did mostly inconsequential things that made Trump think he was on his side and ignored most of the consequential things Trump wanted done. A big mistake I think a lot of people make is failing to model what a "good" AG under Trump looks like. I don't think it gets much better than Barr while actually keeping the job.

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I think that we aren't going to agree on this, but I'll point out that you seem to be focused on the immediate response to the 1/6 insurrection (where as you note a bunch of scattered officials were basically unprepared to independently overthrow democracy with no obvious plan), but I am really talking about how this essay would be different if it were written from year five of the Trump regime.

Regarding Barr, you are probably right that nobody could remain employed by Trump that I would regard as a "good" AG because Trump explicitly indicated that he regards the AG as a personal soldier whose main job is to attack his political enemies. That's not really compatible with what I think most Americans believe a "good" AG does.

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I'm not arguing that Barr was objectively good - just that he is likely the best we could have reasonably hoped for. And all things being equal mostly the Trump era was bumbling incompetent and not uniquely damaging in any lasting way. I also doubt years 5-8 would have been terribly different.

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I gotta say, many people’s apocalyptic predictions about the future are not present out in their revealed preferences. If mass swathes of the left actually thought that fascists were years away from permanently seizing the reigns of power and presiding over a dying planet, they probably should stop dilly-dallying with primaring boring incumbents and move to the woods to be prepper gun fanatics, like the people on the right who believe the world is ending.

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Yes, there is a huge disconnect between words and actions. Catastrophic rhetoric on Twitter followed up by nothing is the norm.

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Excellent piece. Unfortunately, you'll always run up against a few challenges when you have perspective on life:

1. People want to feel like they're an integral part of a grand narrative/interesting times

2. People love to frame the world in terms of Manichean struggles of good and evil for the same reason (and all see themselves as the good)

3. People are myopic and ignorant of history, making very plausible in their minds the notion that the "bad" times we're experiencing are actually the "worst" times

The best you can do is make prudent decisions and have perspective, but the limitations of the human psyche will always keep society "interesting" I suppose...

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And it cuts across all ideologies. Back in the oughts I remember Jerry Falwell said something like "the antichrist is alive and walking the earth right now."

Like, really?! 2,000 years and he decided the short 70-80 years you're alive is the time he'll come?

It's a form of narcissism.

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Oh absolutely. There's nothing more terrifying for people than to think that the things they care about so much are not consequential from a historical perspective.

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The Great Depression and WWII were such amazing, thrilling, and fulfilling times to live in except for all the people living in them.

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Intellectuals hatred of the 50s is fascinating. The world had just two decades of war depresssion. Korean war ends, relative peace & progress. Intellectuals start deriding the sterility of the decade. WTF

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You're making multiple generalisations about how dumb everyone is except for you (and Matt) without is without providing any evidence or specifics. If you're as smart as you are maybe provide a couple examples?

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Pick the 3 things you were most passionate about/freaking out about 10 years ago. Or even 20 if you're old enough. How many actually ended in the catastrophe you were predicting? Was it avoided because we did everything right, or because we were blowing problems out of proportion?

There's at least 3 data points.

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It's a good exercise.

10 years ago my main issues were probably gay marriage and health care. I was disappointed that my then-state of Colorado had passed an anti-gay marriage amendment. I do remember being a little shocked we were talking about trillion dollar stimulus/spending plans. I remembered when Clinton had tried to push through a $16 billion plan in 1993 and it failed.

20 years ago I was disappointed in the outcome of the 2000 election, but I didn't hate Bush. I remember thinking there were worse things than having a businessman as president.

In 1999 or 2000 the Atlantic published an article along the lines of "millennials are coming of age in a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, how lucky they are!"

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One of the things I was worrying about ten years ago was that the Republican Party was increasingly setting itself against cosmopolitan liberalism and the academy, and I think I was right to be concerned, since the problem has worsened, not abated!

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More hot air. Give some specifics.

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Matt Y just wrote a whole post with specifics. If you want to make a counter argument, make one.

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It is such a classic Matt Y column, in that I agree with the general point, but have a strong impulse to quibble because it sets up some strawmen to argue against.

I think the discussion of climate change is unconvincing. Yes, it would be possible (and desirable) to respond to climate change within a liberal framework, but the last 30 years of attempts are not reassuring.

I am a procedural liberal, I want to see that succeed, but a counter argument is that Matt Y never answers the original question (who is the liberal intellectual most successfully, “trying to come to grips with our broader global social, political, and economic crises.”).

Even if you think the various crises are smaller than they appear (which I do believe on even days), they still present genuine difficulty for conventional liberal thinking.

Matt is correct that there are always difficult challenges but that is only partially reassuring.

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"Yes, it would be possible (and desirable) to respond to climate change within a liberal framework, but the last 30 years of attempts are not reassuring."

I dunno - there are many countries out there less liberal than the US. Do you see any of them having greater success at combating climate change?

And what would be a non liberal but democratic way of addressing climate change?

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Jan. 6 was really bad and conceivably a harbinger of worse things to run. But I suspect that the best counter strategy is a banal one: offer the American people instead effective government, make their lives better, tamp down on the stupid shit ("defund the police") and convince the mostly apolitical mass of Americans that your vision of governance is better.

Many problems are not "confronted" and "solved" but via the slow boring of hard boards, mostly out of sight, are increasingly rendered irrelevant.

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This is much closer to my view, though. The reactions to endless cycles of hyperbole/catastrophizing are more dangerous than the root cases.

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Agree with your point that narrative can create it's own reality, but it goes both ways. A narrative of crisis that blows real problems out of proportion can lead to a very damaging hair-trigger mindset and overreactions that feed the fire instead of tamp it down.

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On the one hand I agree about the policy stakes. But on the other I remember reading a really good article at Vox a while ago titled American Democracy is Doomed arguing that due to structural weaknesses in our system of government we should expect the polarization of our political parties to tend to result in political crisis. So while we might not be in a historical crisis right now compare to the election of 1800, say, we've been seeing a spiraling escalation of constitutional hardball for a while and regardless of the policy stakes I can't help thinking we're headed for political crisis sooner or later.

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Yeah and in a few billion years the sun will swallow the Earth. Personally I don’t see the point of worrying about a crisis crisis - ie a crisis of political procedure that will maybe lead to a crisis of real outcomes somewhere down the line.

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Isn't there a difference between worrying and overreacting?

When 9/11 happened, and terrorists hijacked the planes, we massively upgraded the cockpit doors so hijacking would be incredibly hard to do again (also important: passengers are unlikely to tolerate it - United 93 is a case of this - prior to this you could assume that the hijackers would land somewhere, some negotiation would happen, and you'd leave alive. Now you can't assume that if they control they plane you'll live). That is looking at a real problem: "Planes can be deadly weapons if hijackers control the cockpit" and making a reasonable solution: "make it harder to control the cockpit"

Then we can ALSO overreact with all the things we did.

The spiraling constitutional hardball _is_ a problem. I want to try my best to take reasonable solutions to it - I'll tend to try to defeat extremists in primaries (Texas lets me pick a primary each year to vote in without registering, so I can decide which primary lets me support more moderates). I can vote against people who refused to impeach Trump. But I don't have to panic and yell about it all the time either.

So I can say "yes this is a problem, I should do what I can to address it" but I can also say "let me consider the costs of my particular solution before I do so" (I won't always get that consideration right, and sometimes I'll overreact anyway, but I like to think I'll try)

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Fair point

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I think the hyperbolization of every political, cultural and social disagreement in this country, and the accelerating trend to take every single debate up to 11 is an existential threat to our democracy and if not fought by a total mobilization of us all using every means at our disposal will lead to the end of the American experiment and the absolute destruction of our way of government.

But seriously, folks . . .

When I listen to, oh, Pod Save America, and hear that Republican state legislative attempts to suppress the vote and overturn legitimate electoral results is such an existential threat (that phrase again), and that passing HR1 into law is so necessary that if it fails, it will be game over for our democracy, all I can think is "And then?" As in, once HR1 doesn't become law (and it won't), will the hosts of Pod Save America cease their funny back and forth, shut down their feed, pick up arms and take to the streets?

No, they won't. They'll bemoan the fecklessness of the Democrats, curse Manchin for not caring about democracy, and then continue on their same merry way as if nothing had happened. And to some degree that's because nothing will have happened. Voter suppression laws have limited impact on turnout; while obnoxious (and deeply un-American), if anything they inspire increased efforts to go out and vote. Laws that *might* allow overturning electoral results would be deeply worrisome if I believed that, when the moment of truth came, any state legislature would actually say, I don't care that the D won Arizona by 25,000 votes; we're giving the victory to the R. That's a Rubicon that for all their posturing and chest thumping, I just don't believe any politician is courageous (and outrageous) enough to actually cross.

This isn't to say that everything is fine and we're not facing serious challenges . . . oh what the hell. I'll go over the top and say sure, that's exactly what it's saying.

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>Laws that *might* allow overturning electoral results would be deeply worrisome if I believed that, when the moment of truth came, any state legislature would actually say, I don't care that the D won Arizona by 25,000 votes; we're giving the victory to the R.

One thing I keep coming back to is the fact that in 2020 the more power someone had to affect the election results, the less they were seemingly willing to do so. A lot of the people who "stood strong" in the face of pressure to do something shady were not people that I would have expected to have any special fortitude. I think people understand that "they are going to steal the election next time" has a certain rhetorical weight that "they are trying to demonstrate their allegiance to Trump which requires doing pathetic bullshit" lacks, even though the latter is closer to the truth and is still pretty contemptible!

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> They'll bemoan the fecklessness of the Democrats, curse Manchin for not caring about democracy, and then continue on their same merry way as if nothing had happened.

This is the tell. They bemoan Manchin today and Lieberman 12 years ago. The tipping-point senator is the easiest scapegoat in American democracy, even though we know the tipping-point senator gives cover to others who would vote the same way. It goes back to (at least) the Johnson impeachment trial.

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I mean, Lieberman *was* kind of a tool. He endorsed John McCain in 2008 specifically in support of the war on terror. He wasn't even a Democrat after 2006.

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Neither is Bernie...

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He wasn't a Democrat because someone successfully primaried him so he ran as an Independent, right?

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Just like Murkowski these days.

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I think the Pod guys are pretty entertaining but yeah, their advocacy of HR1 was completely devoid of facts about the bill. It was a bloated mess that was doomed to fail.

I like their analysis of things like messaging strategy and stories about how things work in the White House, but I don't look to them for actual policy analysis.

I wouldn't say they're entirely anti-Manchin. They defended his vote for Kavanaugh, or at least didn't rake him over the coals for it.

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I am going to comment on the "Trump = Fascism" bit because it's the part I find most infuriating about American politics; simply put Americans REALLY struggle to identify ideology.

Donald Trump is a weak authoritarian, with Populist rhetorical impulses. This makes him similar to Viktor Orban, perhaps Vladimir Putin. However, the problem with Trump appears less to be that he does not believe in democracy, and more that he's personally incapable of reckoning with facts (like that he could actually lose an election). To some this may be a distinction without a difference, but they would be wrong. Trump never tried to end elections, and to the extent he interfered it appeared he did so from an idiotic, and maniacal, bending of the rules to make him appear better. Had Trump won in 2020 we would not see the end of presidential elections (we would have seen several other awful policies enacted, but that's different.

The real problem in America is less Trump than a handful of really illiberal institutions which need reform. The Electoral College no longer serves the country (if it ever did), the House of Representatives (and all state legislatures) are too easily gerrymandered, and one part of the US with millions of citizens (Puerto Rico) lacks presidential and Senatorial voting rights. All of these are real issues which require reform; what they are not is Fascism.

To add a few other points:

-Fascists were against capitalism, and pro autarky (the idea of a country being self-sufficient). Trump is a capitalist to his bones.

-Fascists believed in abolishing all other political parties and ending elections. As described above this does not fit Trump

-Fascists place the state (or a people) at the heart of their ideology. Trump places himself (and himself alone) at the heart of his ideology.

-Fascists were aggressively military expansionist. Trump is simply not.

Overall the most important point to be made is: you do not need to be a Fascist to be really (REALLY) bad. Trump was an awful president, a worse political actor, and a cancer on our body politic. That is enough. Exaggerating and claiming moral superiority by labeling him a Nazi says more about the accusers than reality.

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"Overall the most important point to be made is: you do not need to be a Fascist to be really (REALLY) bad. Trump was an awful president, a worse political actor, and a cancer on our body politic. That is enough. Exaggerating and claiming moral superiority by labeling him a Nazi says more about the accusers than reality."

Yes. True. On the other hand, having a word to smear Trump and his movement with would be a helpful thing. The problem w/ Fascist is less that it doesn't fit. It's that the word just doesn't provide the shock or the distaste it needs to b/c it's been thrown around and used up by casual reference. Also, I think someone could poke holes in both in the old definition and Trump's applicability to the term. Franco fought a civil war. He wasn't an expansionist. Trump isn't a capitalist in any ideological sense, as you note elsewhere. Some of the rhetoric and the associations are closer to fascism than I'd have assumed possible for an American president decades, even if he doesn't fit a literal definition of a fascist. But I agree that the word Fascist doesn't really work. So what word would?

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American discourse needs to get out of WWII. Everyone needs to learn more history and make different analogies. And analogies to badness that is less grand in scale than Nazism.

There were plenty of bad dictators in the Americas- will Trump go down as the next Pinochet?

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I think that prompts an interesting question: If you were a social democrat in Chile in the 70s, would it have been wrong to call Pinochet a fascist?

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No because Trump is not as bad as Pinochet

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Oh please, now you're just throwing crap out there for no rhyme or reason.

I am not an expert in Pinochet, but the little I know of him clearly marks him as a far worse human being than Donald Trump. Pinochet suppressed dissidents (incredibly violently, killing thousands of his own citizens), perpetuated countless human rights abuses, and created a single party state in Chile. There's no comparison between Pinochet & Trump. Pretending that stating: Pinochet was worse than Trump has anything to do with using 'Fascism' as a term for evilness is a non sequitur.

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I'm sorry, I misread the comments! I thought you were responding to Tom C (the other Tom, the Snoopy guy) who said "If you were a social democrat in Chile in the 70s, would it have been wrong to call Pinochet a fascist?" And so when I read your "No, because Trump is not as bad as Pinochet" I thought you were saying, "No, it would not be wrong to call Pinochet a fascist," but I just misread how the thread was working. My bad—I can see how my comment seemed like a random shot, so I'll delete it.

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I personally would not call Franco a Fascist (again: you do not need to be a Fascist to be really REALLY bad).

And no, Trump is not a liberal: he's definitely a capitalist, those two are not the same.

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My point is that he's committed to capitalism only to the extent that it serves his own needs. That's not being a capitalist. That's him being him. And I've seen Franco's status as a fascist debated pro and con. But when people went to fight the fascists in Spain, that's the word they used. Some terms are short hard for a collection of views or attitudes, not textbook definitions. Trumpism is anti-democratic (functionally, if not rhetorically), illiberal and as you say bad, so what's the shorthand term for what we should call him? I agree fascist is probably not the best choice (though for different reasons), but it's not surprising to me that people have used it with more sincerity than I would have suspected not too long ago.

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You might say that there are many things in fascist regimes that Trump admires and attempts to evoke without any real understanding or ideological alignment.

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Without understanding, sure, but I would certainly say there's ideological alignment. People act like Trump just says whatever he thinks people want to hear at any given moment, and that's true on many issues, but there are some clear throughlines that he's stuck with even before his political career started. One is that the "other" is harmful to the national character, traitorous (Muslims cheering on rooftops), and even disgusting (that tweet about Barney Frank's nipples). Another is the valorization of state violence against undesirables (the "Bring back the death penalty" ad about the Central Park Five). Trump is undeniably cynical and unserious, but his instincts point in a clear direction.

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I agree. I meant alignment in a more formal sense of copying the fascist program. Trump says positive things about Putin, but he didn't try to learn and adopt Putin's playbook.

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Trump emphasized deregulation, made no effort to have the federal government own the commanding heights of the economy, and supports private ownership of goods and capital. He's a capitalist with a capital C. Arguing otherwise is rather ridiculous.

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The Nazis also privatized industries that had previously been under the control of the Weimar government. Trump was also a protectionist and saw the marketplace as a weapon to be wielded against his and the country's rivals, rather than a potential source of wealth.

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There is no rational comparison to be made on the collaboration of German business interests and Hitler, and Trump's tariffs.

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Not all of the fascists were military expansionists, partly for lack of opportunity. What they did have in common with Trump in this regard was a) a belief in the value of brutal violence to express toughness (Trump removed military safeguards against killing civilians in drone strikes, and on a domestic level extolled police violence and even extrajudicial killing) and b) a totally cynical and selfish view of the purpose of military action being to enrich the stronger nation rather than any sort of philanthropic goal (“we should have taken the oil”). So on this point I think the “not a fascist” line fails.

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There are plenty of military expansionist governments which weren't Fascist. Joseph Stalin comes to mind. Imperialists as well.

Again, you do not need to be a Fascist to be really (REALLY) bad.

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I promise I am not calling him a fascist as a synonym for "really bad"; I genuinely think it's the best word to describe his political style and appeal.

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Then you’re wrong, and that’s fine

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It's been known to happen! However, I don't think any of your objections to calling him fascist really stand up. One example: "Fascists place the state (or a people) at the heart of their ideology. Trump places himself (and himself alone) at the heart of his ideology." Trump certainly put the country at the heart of his political messaging—everyone knows what "MAGA" stands for. Now of course you could say that it was really just a vehicle for his own veneration, but is that not true with the other fascists? People in Germany greeted each other with "Heil Hitler"! His birthday was a national holiday!

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I cited several reasons why I do not think Trump is a Fascist. To restate:

1. Fascism is against Capitalism. Trump is a Capitalist.

2. Fascism is state focused. Trump is not state focused.

3. Fascism is against democracy. Trump made no effort to abolish elections.

4. Fascism is military expansionist. Trump has ended American involvement in foreign countries.

Overall, Trump is a populist authoritarian. He is not a Fascist. That does NOT make Trump any more or less bad than he was before. But it helps knowing what you're fighting.

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Trump has decided that pretending to be fascist furthers his personal goals.

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I emotionally grok this piece. I'm increasingly coming around to Tom Nichols' point of view that many of our psychoses as a polity stem from the fact that "We've gotten used to a high standard of living and it bores us."

That said, I think there's a balance to be had here. Yes, "chill" out a bit. But keep a watchful eye on those who refuse to chill. Ironically, it's precisely those people in a perpetual state of mental crisis that could bring us all down in the end. Trump appealed mainly to those people, and we've seen how they can force-multiply their own paranoia and megalomania (magalomania?) into generalized widespread hell.

So yes, realize how good we have it and how standard our problems are in the long arc of history. But also realize the danger in those who will find that situation hard to handle regardless.

P.S.: Also, scratch Will Stancil behind the ears and give him a treat. Without checking today, I'm guessing he's quite tense. :/

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Saying "we're living in unparalleled horrible times" is pretty obviously just ingroup signaling. It shows that you're *really* concerned about Republican fascism, climate change, etc.

Not sure that Jeet Heer or David Astin Walsh, if given truth serum, actually think today's problems are somehow so much worse than in the past.

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I think you underestimate how much most people convince themselves that the things they say to gain status with their preferred groups are totally true.

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There’s an very fine, oft-broken line between analysis and sales pitch.

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fair point

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Today's problems are always, by definition, much worse than the problems of the past because today's problems affect ME, whereas those other problems didn't.

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This ingroup signaling is a real problem for us left of center folks (though obviously it's not a historically important crisis 😉).

Folks say "defund the police" show they're *serious* about abusive policing, and if they offer any solution at all it's to vaguely gesture at more involvement by social services and community groups. To show climate activists you're *really* concerned about climate change you should advocate for abolishing capitalism, fossil fuels, or both. I'm not fond of this at all.

I'm glad Matt gives us some perspective and addresses actual real world effects and solutions.

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I'm a bit grumpy at the fashion for linking the climate crisis to capitalism. There are many political and economic systems that can result in environmental degradation (like deforestation during Qing China), and just calling them all capitalist is weird.

This can get harmful when people start opposing climate policies that work within capitalism (cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, building more housing, etc), and I wish people would cut it out.

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Chinese communism seems to be doing a pretty good job at polluting the earth without capitalism (as did Soviet Russia)

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You see comrade, it's capitalism when I don't like it.

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I'm not an expert on their system, but "socialism with Chinese characteristics" seems awfully capitalist. Private ownership of companies, lots of billionaires with deep connections to government, etc.

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The Soviets and pre-market reform China have plenty of environmental disasters you can point to evicerating the "its all capitalism's fault" hot take. The only way to build wealth was through consuming power and the only method to generate power at scale was by burning fossil fuels once environmentalists decided they hated nuclear power.

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I'm sorry, I must have been taking a nap when the Greens took over Russia and China.

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The only reason USSR and China didn't release more CO2 than they did is they organized their economy around a flawed system and couldn't get rich enough!

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I get it, you were trying to be snarky and stepped on a rake and now you're hot. Been there.

I doubt that there's only one reason the USSR and China did as much damage as they did, or continue to do in China's case. Just as there's no one reason (capitalism) that the US is doing the same. But I think you maybe unintentionally called out the common cause - nobody can get rich fast enough if they are forced to pay for their pollution. In our case, we have capitalists trying to get rich fast and damn the consequences, and in other cases it was totalitarian governments that were/are trying to grow fast enough to forestall another revolution.

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You are aware environmental disasters (and CO2 emissions) pre-date the 1990s, right?

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Thank you for describing state controlled socialism

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Can't take credit for what I didn't do. Socialism involves state or public ownership and control of enterprise, and that doesn't really appear to be what's happening in China, at least not directly. They certainly have a totalitarian/authoritarian situation where nobody will openly buck the CCP, but private individuals establish businesses and employ workers, and as those businesses grow, the owners reap the rewards. That's capitalism. China also doesn't appear to have much in the way of redistribution, which also tends to be a hallmark of actual socialism.

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China controls the country and you cannot be a successful company in China unless you're in line with the CCP. Being a successful businessman frequently means being part of the ruling class. That's state ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. A vast majority of China's GDP is generated by state owned enterprises.

China's wealth does not make it a capitalist society, and certainly China has done a very good job of exploiting foreign companies doing business in China for its own gain.

Additionally, the Soviet Union is a wonderful example of a socialist country which quite frankly showed complete indifference towards the environment. The USSR's economy was dependent on oil and gas throughout much of its history (as it is today).

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As a nice swim in the Aral Sea could remind us.

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Environmental harm incurred prior to capitalism does not prove capitalism is innocent of current environmental harm.

It's also possible to distinguish capitalism from other free market systems, and implementing pro-climate regulations is probably just as difficult in any system - you're always going to have parties with a stake against the regulation, whether it's a worker cooperative or a corporate overlord.

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Nobody thinks capitalism is free from scrutiny. We are saying that pretending it’s the be all, end all, bogeyman causing environmental damage (and it’s number one cause) is idiotic.

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I don't think capitalism is innocent of anything -- oh god no.

I'm trying to argue against the idea that it's singularly or uniquely responsible, or that the best way to solve it is to apply an anti-capitalist lens. More planned economies are having their own struggles with solving it. You made a good point about worker cooperatives.

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I think that possibly, to the extent one could say capitalism leads to environmental problems, it's because capitalism is very good at divorcing power from responsibility, and it's good at concentrating wealth which leads to distorted political outcomes. But, capitalism is far from unique in either regard - other systems are just as capable of prioritizing industrial development over environmental integrity.

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Every time I hear that, I remind peopel that the Soviet Union was one big environmental disaster and their standard of living was much lower than the industrialized west. So they didn't really get much in return for all that pollution.

I will also add that the modern environmental movement is very strong in capitalist countries with open societies.

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This is up there with How to Change Some Things and Secret Congress as one of my favorite SlowBorings.

I have an aunt who’s a nun, and I’ve talked to her about this kind of thing. She’s with a liberal order and has worked with refugees, death row prisoners, and people injured in the late 1960s riots in Detroit. Some kind of shit is always going down, but being paralyzed by despair doesn’t help you achieve anything.

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Is despair (about the Resurrection or anything else) still a cardinal sin?

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Being lapsed myself, I wouldn’t know! But these nuns (IHMs) are very pragmatic and focused on this life.

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