by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s somewhat disheartening to pick up The American Scholar, the publication of Phi Beta Kappa, and to read a somewhat clueless note about the election from editor Robert Wilson.
As I write this, it has been only a week since the election, and I continue to waver between despair and the stubborn habit of a lifetime to feel hopeful. First among the many causes for despair is knowing that a reversal or even a delay in the world’s efforts to allay the worst consequences of climate change might well hasten their arrival. The hope is that the office is bigger than the man, that when the new president wanders the halls of the White House late at night and stares at the portraits of his predecessors, they will school him.
Part of the sickening realization of the results had to do with what it said about a near majority of American voters. Could so many people really forgive the things the winning candidate has said and done-—a list of transgressions too long and too familiar to repeat. Does the outcome mean they actively support the many forms of hatred in his speech? And then came the thought that the thin layer of the losing majority known as elites might share responsiblity for the result. Has there been too much self-satisfaction and too little attention given to the needs of those still left behind by the steady economic recovery of the past eight years?
If so, and I’m far from ready to concede the point, who or what has disappointed all those red-state voters? It’s too easy to accept the blame—as easy as it is to assign it. But who or what could make their lives better in the future? The answer can only be the government.
Ugh. Yes, the editor of a publication for academic scholars actually wrote that garbage.
My disappointment was alleviated to some degree by a letter from Fort Valley, Ga., reader Charles Adams on the next page.
One of Alan Taylor’s salient points in “The Virtue of an Educated Voter” is that poorly educated voters might elect dangerous demagogues who would appeal to class resentments and promote the redistribution of wealth. Robert Wilson’s statement in his editor’s note, that Donald J. Trump is such a demagogue who “might dupe the people into a return to the tyranny that a revolution had been fought to undo,” and the placement of Trump’s likeness on the front cover, ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton would have been likelier to appeal to class resentments (those of women, blacks, Latinos) and promote the redistribution of wealth (in the form of higher taxes and free college education). Wilson’s willingness to insert his personal political opinion into the scholarly journal that he edits is disappointing, to say the least.
One hopes that Mr. Adams and I aren’t the only readers who disapprove of Wilson’s ill-informed comments.
On an even brighter note, subscribers to the American Scholar can read a fascinating 13-page article in the latest issue about the late economist Milton Friedman‘s efforts to spread free-market economic principles to communist China.
In more recent years, the senior echelons of the Chinese Communist Party have occasionally returned, like Zhao 30 years ago, to an interest in Friedman’s inflation-fighting wisdom. Senior officials at the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, have even quoted from Friedman’s Free to Choose to describe their anti-inflationary goals. Once characterized as an agent of unforgivable treachery, Friedman has now become a foreign name to be cited in formulating official policies.