Saturday, April 4, 2020


An interesting review in the WSJ today sent me looking for a 1970 essay by Irving Kristol. I found it: "When virtue loses all her loveliness"—some reflections on Capitalism and "the free society" [pdf] (also published in Two Cheers for Capitalism). Much of it reads as though it were written yesterday.
"Two," not "Three"
.... Our young radicals are far less dismayed at America's failure to become what it ought to be than they are contemptuous of what it thinks it ought to be. For them, as for Oscar Wilde, it is not the average American who is disgusting; it is the ideal American.

This is why one can make so little impression on them with arguments about how much progress has been made in the past decades, or is being made today, toward racial equality, or abolishing poverty, or fighting pollution, or whatever it is that we conventionally take as a sign of "progress." The obstinacy with which they remain deaf to such "liberal" arguments is not all perverse or irrational, as some would like to think. It arises, rather, out of a perfectly sincere, if often inchoate, animus against the American system itself. This animus stands for a commitment—to what, remains to be seen, but against what is already only too evident. ....

...[I]t is my impression that, under the strain of modem life, whole classes of our population—and the educated classes most of all—are entering what can only be called, in the strictly clinical sense, a phase of infantile regression. With every passing year, public discourse becomes sillier and more petulant, while human emotions become, apparently, more ungovernable. Some of our most intelligent university professors are now loudly saying things that, had they been uttered by one of their students twenty years ago, would have called forth gentle and urbane reproof. ....

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