Reading list for Friday, July 29, 2016: Open vs. closed, liberal smugness, and doomsday prepper manuals

The new political divide

“Farewell, left versus right,” reads the subtitle in this Economist article. “The contest that matters now is open against closed.”

I agree with the Economist’s stance, which is made clear in this excerpt:

Start by remembering what is at stake. The multilateral system of institutions, rules and alliances, led by America, has underpinned global prosperity for seven decades. It enabled the rebuilding of post-war Europe, saw off the closed world of Soviet communism and, by connecting China to the global economy, brought about the greatest poverty reduction in history.

A world of wall-builders would be poorer and more dangerous. If Europe splits into squabbling pieces and America retreats into an isolationist crouch, less benign powers will fill the vacuum. Mr Trump’s revelation that he might not defend America’s Baltic allies if they are menaced by Russia was unfathomably irresponsible (see article). America has sworn to treat an attack on any member of the NATO alliance as an attack on all. If Mr Trump can blithely dishonour a treaty, why would any ally trust America again? Without even being elected, he has emboldened the world’s troublemakers. Small wonder Vladimir Putin backs him. Even so, for Mr Trump to urge Russia to keep hacking Democrats’ e-mails is outrageous.

The smug style in American Liberalism


South Park poked fun at liberal smugness ten years ago in their episode, Smug Alert:

…and Vox’s Emmet Rensin writes that the wages of all this smugness is Donald Trump. You see it in articles like Gawker’s Dumb Hicks are America’s Greatest Threat, the clever mockery of the right that the Daily Show and The Onion produce, and the question we ask over and over again: Why are these people voting against their own self-interest?

The Smug Style of American Liberalism will be a challenging article for some people to read, but it’s an important one. It’s not a call to compromise values or back down on issues for the sake of going along to get along, but for empathy. Rensin hits the nail on the head when he writes:

It is impossible, in the long run, to cleave the desire to help people from the duty to respect them.

It’s too easy to live in our own bubbles and associate with people who are pretty much just like us, and that makes it easy to forget that everyone thinks they’re the good guy:

Confessions of a former apocalypse survival guide writer

One thing you’ll learn in this article is the value of writing to your audience:

The first time I bid on a freelance job to ghostwrite a doomsday survival guide, I was only asked one question: Did I have experience writing for middle-aged Republican men?

And of course, there’s a Florida angle:

I didn’t know anything about the client, let’s call him Dimitri, other than that he lived in Florida, and that he had about $600 for me if I could pump out 100 pages on how to survive the end of the world. The only way to make a living on writing projects at these prices is to do them quickly. In some cases, freelancers are asked to “spin” extant books—that is, to essentially copy the structure and content of those books but to make them new enough to reasonably (and legally) market them as new products.


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