The Tuesday: The System Worked . . .

Welcome to the Tuesday, a post-Monday/pre-Wednesday newsletter about language, culture, and eating your political enemies. To subscribe to the Tuesday, follow this link ...

BY KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON December 21, 2021
WITH KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON December 21, 2021

The System Worked

Welcome to the Tuesday, a post-Monday/pre-Wednesday newsletter about language, culture, and eating your political enemies. To subscribe to the Tuesday, follow this link.

BBB Failure Is How American Government Is Supposed to Work

The Left loves "the masses" — at least, in theory. As a matter of historical fact, leftist regimes around the world spent most of the 20th century putting "the masses" into camps or intentionally starving them to death or, from time to time, eating them ("The incidents reported from Guangxi were apparently the most extensive episodes of cannibalism in the world in the last century or more") to make a political point, and they have not done a hell of a lot better in the 21st century.

("Te Occidere Possunt Sed Te Edere Non Possunt Nefas Est." Nobody told the Red Guards.)

But there are no "masses."

Not in the United States, anyway. The American people are not an undifferentiated blob of interchangeable individuals or interchangeable communities. Time, mass media, and mobility have ensured that the states are not as different today as they were when the Constitution was drafted, but life in rural West Virginia really is quite different from life on the Upper West Side or life in Echo Park or life in Bountiful, Utah. I am not sure that there are "masses" in Mexico, India, or China, either, however much politicians of a certain demagogic sort may like to appeal to the masses and their grievances.

There is genuine diversity in American life, and the splendid array of American communities and their particular interests matter, irrespective of whether 50 percent plus 1 of the total American voting population says otherwise. Everybody understands this when it is his own interest on the line, and everybody pretends not to understand this when it is some rivalrous interest in question. "Black Lives Matter" is a meaningful statement because black Americans have particular interests, particular experiences, and particular histories all their own; whatever the misdeeds of the organization calling itself Black Lives Matter, the sentiment itself is no more exclusionary than the idea that we should maintain such organizations as the League of Women Voters, the Texas Asian Republican Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.

Our law recognizes these particularities in many different ways, some prudent and some less so. We have civil-rights laws that were intended mainly to help African Americans secure their basic rights and interests in practical ways that probably would have been impossible without federal intervention; we maintain a contingency plan for conscripting men into military service but not women; farmers receive tax exemptions not available to other businesses; churches receive exemptions from certain employment laws; we offer many different kinds of benefits and subsidies to small businesses that are denied to large ones. We have both urban-development and rural-development programs in government because these communities do not have identical interests or identical needs.

Protection for this diversity is written into our Constitution, and it informs the fundamental shape and organization of the federal government. No majority, no matter how large, gets to tell you what to teach in your church or what to publish in your newspaper. No majority gets to use the law to single you out because you are black or an immigrant. Our system is by no means perfect: Well-intentioned civil-rights practices are why we now have men competing in women's college sports, for example, and equally well-intentioned accommodations such as bilingual-education mandates have blunted valuable spurs to immigrant assimilation. (Diversity is not the only value.) Passing civil-rights laws has not as a practical matter solved the problems those laws were meant to address. God knows we have problems. But the American approach has proved extraordinarily resilient, strong and flexible at the same time.

The United States and Switzerland — the world's oldest democracy and the world's second-oldest democracy, respectively — have very different governments and very different political cultures, but they have one important thing in common: federalism. Switzerland's "double majority" system requires that big social changes move forward only when there is substantial consensus, as indicated by winning the votes of a majority of the ...   READ MORE




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