STAR WARS RETURNS today with its fifth installment, “Attack of the Clones.” There will be talk of the Force and the Dark Side and the epic morality of George Lucas’s series. But the truth is that from the beginning, Lucas confused the good guys with the bad. The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good.
It’s a difficult leap to make–embracing Darth Vader and the Emperor over the plucky and attractive Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia–but a careful examination of the facts, sorted apart from Lucas’s off-the-shelf moral cues, makes a quite convincing case.
What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster is a new book out by the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last, and he was available for an interview with me on it and its argument – which is, essentially, that worldwide fertility rates are crashing, for a wide variety of reasons; including ones that we’d rather not change, like lowered infant mortality and increased educational and employment opportunities for women. In point of fact, Jon was available for two interviews… both of which crashed and burned in a fiery software mess. Rather than subject Jon to a third interview, I just pulled a three minute audio clip that was salvageable and will review the book generally.
To sum up What to Expect When No One’s Expecting is in some ways easy; it’s a numbers-driven book that points out the global drop in fertility, and attempts to look at some of the reasons why it’s been happening. It’s also, pretty deliberately, not a sentimental book; there’s a good deal of zero-sum in it. To give just one example: one major reason that fertility has dropped in the US is because we’re sending more people (especially women) to college. Jonathan Last thinks – as do I – that this is a good thing for our society, and obviously it’s a good thing for women… but it’s still bad for our fertility rate, and there’s really no way to get around that. There are, in fact, no really good and easy answers to the problem (and, as Jonathan points out, the historical record shows that population decline is heavily associated with general societal problems); to go back to the example, Western Europe’s attempts to make it easier for working mothers to have no children seem successful, but they also require a good deal of constant effort for somewhat modest gains. Which is something that is, generally speaking, impolitic to say or write in public. (more…)
I don’t normally do follow-ups to posts so quickly, but there seems to have been some reaction (generally favorable, which is gratifying) to my written fist-to-the-nose to Tom Junod. The triggering for my response is from Jonathan Last, who (accurately) called what I did to Junod both ‘flat-out brutal’ and ‘pretty fair.’ Jonathan then asks a question: why haven’t more of our supposedly principled liberal altruists taken the next step from disapproving of what Barack Obama does, to breaking with him permanently?
As Lane points out, if you’re a liberal and you fell a-over-t for Obama and now you realize that he’s elevated cold-blooded murder to the level of routine executive prerogative, why haven’t you clapped your hands together, stepped away from the table, and said, “I’m out”?
I’d change it, except that I think that it’s also true.
I think that Jonathan Last is misunderstanding Matthew Yglesias’ interests, here (the short version: the latter seems to think that American cities only had one newspaper apiece in the old days, and the former is mocking the latter in response). The Yglesias ‘brand’ has always been ‘precocious youngster;’ which is easy enough to do when you’re a kid blogging from Harvard, but considerably harder when you’re a thirtysomething, fairly doctrinaire liberal who has had all the interesting bits burned away after spending several years in Establishment Left ‘journalist’ knocking-shops*. So, there’s not exactly a reason to avoid being sloppy: the occasional dumb mistake is perfect for simulating that fresh-faced look, no?
Now, I’m not saying that Yglesias deliberately got it wrong about how many American cities had multiple newspapers in the Good Old Days; I’m merely saying that he’s got no real pressing economic reason to do the necessary research.
*Look it up.