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I wouldn't count those "imploding" countries out just yet. Think of it this way: for tens of thousands of years, human beings have been having kids pretty much whether they liked them or not--either because they were the result of doing what comes naturally, or because they were necessary for economic or social reasons. Now, all of a sudden, a number of countries are engaging in a ruthless genetic experiment, in which the only parents who have kids are the ones who really, really want them, despite all the hassle and costs. How many generations can that kind of genetic selection go on before pretty much the entire population consists of genetically programmed kid-crazy super-breeders?
I've long said that there are two paths to career success: the direct path and the indirect path. One can, for example, work hard, be helpful to one's colleagues, and cultivate a reputation for probity and reliability. That's the indirect path. The direct path is to spend every waking moment doing whatever will most effectively advance one's career. At times, that will be something that reflects honesty and integrity--and at times, that will involve back-stabbing one's colleagues, or lying to one's superiors, or swindling one's partners. In my experience, the very top echelons of business (and also, I suspect, politics, culture, entertainment--even academia) are dominated by those who have arrived via the direct path. They simply have too much of an advantage over those who have stuck to the indirect path. That they are generally ruthless, unscrupulous and egomaniacal is merely a matter of filtering: these are the personality traits that make one capable of charging ahead along the direct path.
That was a clever bait-and-switch...Based on the opening paragraph, I was expecting an article about how the nation's major football colleges have formed a legally sanctioned employers' cartel to milk literally billions of dollars in profits out of the unpaid labor of some of the nation's poorest, most vulnerable youth, working them like animals and subjecting them to a high risk of lifelong debilitating injury, while pretending to offer them a college education that they are neither equipped nor, practically speaking, even permitted to pursue. But no--it turns out the supposed "crisis" is something about colleges gaming the BCS...
James, my answer to your question is an emphatic, "no, we shouldn't". Political ambition never justifies embracing profound evil. That applies equally to the apologist for Polish Communists when they were in power, and to the apologist for Polish anti-Semites today. Maimon, I count three times in the same comment that you interpret Jews' disproportionate prominence in small groups as a broad tendency among Jews. I'd have thought my allusion to the prominence of Jews in the neoconservative movement would have cured you of that confusion. I have no doubt that "too many Jews...stuck with utopian leftism even when it morphed into totalitarian Communism"--after all, even one would have been too many. But what fraction of Jews--let alone non-anti-Semitic ones--do you really think followed that route? Ditto for the CPUSA. Jews may have played a major role in it, but do you seriously believe they were ever more than a tiny minority of American Jews as a whole? Or that those particular Jews weren't every bit as disdainful of their heritage as Marx himself was? As for today's "Jewish anti-Semites"--well, they certainly exist, and some of them are indeed radical leftists. (And all of them, to state the obvious, vehemently dissociate themselves from their people and their heritage.) But if you're seriously arguing that Jews should "be concerned about it, for reasons of moral probity", then you've just entered into the ranks of those who blame Jews for anti-Semitism. Trust me--that's not the kind of company you want to keep.
James, when the Jewish intellectual mind left the confines of the rabbinical world two hundred years ago, it occupied--and thrived in--any niche that permitted it entry. That included commerce, the arts, science, and of course politics--except for the political right, which was until recently uniformly and virulently anti-Semitic the world over. So it's hardly surprising that Jewish political thinkers sat disproportionately on the political left for most of that history. How do we know that that was the cause? Well, during the 1950s, William F. Buckley and his allies pretty thoroughly purged the anti-Semites who had previously wielded considerable influence on the American intellectual right. Almost immediately, a trickle of Jewish political thinkers began joining them, gradually growing into a healthy volume. Today, Jewish conservatives are every bit as important to the American conservative movement as Jewish liberals are to American liberalism, and anti-Semitic slurs against conservative Jews--the so-called "neoconservatives"--solidly outnumber attacks on Jewish liberals. Sadly, the European Right has never experienced anything like the same opening--it remains, to a depressing extent, the same essentially nativist, traditionalist and generally anti-Semitic movement that it has been for centuries. American conservative thought--focused on individual rather than collective economic and ethical responsibility--is simply not popular in Europe, running a poor third to philosophies based on ethnic/national or class collectives. That's why Prof. Krajewski, rather than telling Polish anti-Semites to get stuffed, feels compelled to take their vile calumnies seriously.
Sorry, but this article is frankly sickening. First of all, pretty much every group on the planet takes pride in its individual success stories, while disavowing its individual embarrassments. (Think of international sports champions, for instance, whose talent and competitiveness often have next to nothing to do with the country that takes credit for them; or crime kingpins, who are generally reviled by the nations that spawned them.) The fact that Jews like to take a bit of pride in Freud's (or Mark Spitz') Jewish background no more requires them to feel responsible for Lazar Kaganovich than for, say, Bugsy Siegel. After all, as the article concedes, most Jews were never Communist, most Communists were never Jews, Communists in fact routinely targeted Jews for attack, and the identification between the two--not to mention the guilt Jews should supposedly feel about it--is supported by nothing but anti-Semitic stereotypes devoid of any substantiated factual basis. Of course, *politically ambitious and successful* Eastern European Jews were probably disproportionately communist, at least before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The reason is obvious--for such Jews, internationalist socialism and communism were more attractive and productive vehicles for their ambition, because they were at least somewhat less infected with virulent anti-Semitism than were the vast majority of Eastern Europe's nationalist political movements. The stereotype thus became a self-fulfilling prophesy: among the anti-Semitic nativists of Eastern Europe, Jews were at first condemned simply for being Jews, and later also because the more politically visible among them were almost exclusively socialist or communist. This is a common pattern in the history of anti-Semitism: ambitious Jews tended to gravitate towards any political force that granted them some degree of relative succor, becoming that force's de facto allies, and thus magnifying the anti-Semitic wrath of its enemies. And whenever the tide turned and the protector was defeated by adversaries, it was the Jews--ambitious or otherwise--who inevitably paid the dearest price. One finds a similar pattern, interestingly, among politically active Arab Christians, who often eagerly embrace secular nationalist or socialist movements--including some particularly brutal ones--because they are far more welcoming than, say, Islamic religious factions. Of course, nobody in their right mind would ever think to blame Christianity or Christians generally for, say, Saddam Hussein crony Tariq Aziz or PFLP terrorist George Habash. The relatively greater conspicuousness of such figures in Ba'athist or socialist movements relative to Islamic ones, after all, hardly needs a conspiracy-theoretic explanation. But while I condemn Prof. Krajewski's article, I also understand his dilemma, to an extent: like, say, Judge Goldstone, he's forced to navigate his way in a hideously anti-Semitic political environment, and is trying to strike a compromise between alienating the anti-Semitic powers-that-be by defending Jews, and giving in completely to their raging bigotry. This is always an impossible task, and the professor should never even have attempted it--but at least I understand why he might try. You, Maimon, on the other hand, are in no such awkward position, and you're free to eschew on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand equivocations about anti-Semitic slanders. Why on earth would you instead endorse them?
Tom, the idea that crime is simply an alternative form of economic activity isn't new--as Wilson points out, it's the foundation of the dominant liberal view of crime: that normal, entrepreneurial citizens, deprived of non-criminal economic opportunities, simply switch to criminal ones. Your own somewhat idiosyncratic interpretation of "crime as economic activity"--that legal and illegal economic activity are part of the same economic whole, and therefore thrive and wilt in synchrony--runs into exactly the same problem as the mainstream one: over the entire postwar era, crime trends simply don't correlate at all with economic trends. The great crime wave of the latter part of the twentieth century began during the prosperous 1960s; continued to rise during the recessions of the 1970s and early 1980s, as well as through the boom years of the 1980s; crested just after the recession of the early 1990s; and has continued to decline through both the boom of the early-mid 2000s and the subsequent great recession. The difficulty of mapping this trajectory to any kind of economic explanation is precisely what has driven sensible people like Wilson to look for "cultural" explanations--which are certainly messier and less precise, as Wilson himself admits, but have the advantage of not necessarily being hopelessly in conflict with the historical data. As for your idea that economic activity and criminal activity are equally predatory--well, it's a bit of a surprise to see an opinion like that on this blog, given that it's held primarily by radical anti-capitalist leftists, who argue, with considerable logical force, that if economic activity can be as predatory as crime, then it ought to be vigorously suppressed by harsh government sanction, just like crime. Something tells me that's not quite what you had in mind.
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Aug 28, 2011