Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson
shkarlson
50bookchallenge

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HE FIGHTS.

I'll devote a short Book Review No. 29 to Kurt Schlichter's Militant Normals: How Regular Americans are Rebelling Against the Elite to Reclaim Our Democracy.

It's difficult to distinguish an "elite" from "anyone else" and public intellectuals with, shall we say, more conventional credentials have previously struggled with the same theme.

Perhaps it is less important to attempt to distinguish, particularly in the way Mr Schlichter does (yes, people who put on airs and give their spawn odd, androgynous names are off-putting) Rulers from Ruled, and more important to count the ways in which the Rulers have messed up.

Page 92:
Progressivism, a disease of the Elite, is notorious for its preference for governing through the wisdom of detached, neutral experts who will be guided solely by the best of science and philosophy.  These great minds will not be subject to the passions and prejudices of lesser men and women.  Their fact-based, logical rule will usher in a new age of enlightened governance.

And they've been trying to impose a regime of rule by experts, with varying levels of intensity, since the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century, and everything's gone great since.

Wait, what?
Sorry, no, not since Plato, and it's impossible for experts to govern so wisely anyway.

But brains trusts are a thing popular among Democrats, and Mr Schlichter suggests those Republicans who are skeptical about brains trusts are too quick to cower in the face of "People.  Will.  Die." rebuttals.

That is, people other than Donald Trump, who saw the failure and said "We are being governed by stupid people."  Or as Mr Schlichter argues, page 114, "Our institutions are terrible."  Turn to page 151 for the bill of particulars.
The Elite simply seeks obedience and control, and it tries to strangle any new birth of freedom in its crib.  In every instance, the Elite seeks to maximize its own authority at the expense of the Normals.

It attacks the basic concept that Americans are suited to govern themselves, and substitutes the reign of experts.

It prioritizes the institutions of society over the purpose for which those institutions allegedly exist and over the interests of Normal citizens.

It resents and rejects accountability, because those concepts assume that the Normals have the moral standing to hold the experts and the institutions to account.
At this point, dear reader, you might wonder how an unprepared outsider such as Donald Trump becomes the champion of the Militant Normals.  It's about the failure of expertise, and macroeconomic torpor and "you didn't build that" and nation-building wars that got a lot of Normals maimed or killed to little effect, and in Mr Schlichter's formulation, there are a lot of people hard done by thanks to the Experts who ask, page 193, italicized in the original, "Do I vote for the guy who lays pipe with supermodels and porn stars, or for the woman who won't let me get a high-paying job laying the Keystone Pipeline because some weather cultists in Palo Alto object?"

That's almost enough to excuse a contrast at once funny and silly.  Page 234:
How about an assistant adjunct professor at some law school who pens a tome titled something like Transgender Issues in Uniform Commercial Code Article 9 Jurisprudence? Is there any chance, even the slightest possibility, that someone is going to come to him and say, "You know, you contribute nothing to what we are doing here, and you need to go away."
Yes, that's exactly what that "adjunct" means.  The author might share the aesthetic preferences and the irritable mental gestures of the tenured Elite, and yet, he's in a position as precarious as an oil country worker during the Obama years.

But perhaps I cavil too much.  Mr Schlichter observes, throughout the book, that the Normals are militant only because the Elite govern badly.  An Elite that "shares and respects the basic values of those it leads" and governs wisely and modestly will not provoke militancy.  An Elite that doubles down on condescension and deplorable-shaming?  The next iteration of populism might be less pleasant.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: current events, in the media, politics
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