Benjamin Disraeli and the Conservative Response to Change (J Tyler Syck, 1/02/24, American Daily Press)

[I]n the face of rapid industrialization, conservative politicians found themselves facing a difficulty never before encountered.

Conservatives at the time hit upon two different approaches. The first, pioneered by British Prime Minister Robert Peel, was to embrace the brave new post-industrial world wholesale, merely working to implement social change in a slow, moderate fashion. The second, largely a continuation of old-fashioned conservative strategy, was to stand opposed to all change and work to undo industrialization. Disraeli thought both approaches were deeply wrong-headed. Disraeli thought Peel’s approach was hardly different from liberalism. In Coningsby, the most political of his novels, he describes Peel’s brand of conservatism as “an attempt to construct a party without principles.” However, Disraeli thought the old guard of his party was little better. By attempting to stand against the forces of industrialization and stop all change, they were trying the impossible.

Disraeli offered a middle ground between these two approaches. He summarized his view in a speech delivered before a crowded banquet hall in Scotland: “In a progressive country change is a constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws, and the traditions of a people,” which are the real source of human freedom and happiness. In short, Disraeli believed that the job of conservatives was neither to embrace nor to stop change but to work to preserve and adapt those institutions that sustain human flourishing. In practice, this meant a conservatism that provided generous welfare to the poor while at the same time bolstering custom, tradition, law, and religion.


Can the centre hold? From Mandeville’s bees to artificial intelligence (David Howell, 1/03/24, The Article)

Not many people nowadays read Bernard de Mandeville’s allegorical Fable of the Bees, first published in 1705. This described to a shocked world at the time how a large and successful beehive colony stayed bound together and prospered, so long as the bees all pursued their own interests within the law and their relationships one to another, as both individual and essentially social creatures, even if untidily, and with some backsliders. Each creature, by going about its reciprocal business, contributed, even if unintentionally, to the cement of society.

But once they stopped working for themselves and their individual and mutual needs, focussing instead on higher and more perfect state design for general welfare and behaviour, their precious equilibrium was rapidly lost. The framework of society, which no one had planned but in which not only bees but humankind too had always existed, fell apart. Without that glue, a cohesive society, which all the millions of their individual actions had created, crumbled and their relatively stable and balanced society disintegrated into chaos, division, grievance and immiseration.

So things would also turn out, went Mandeville’s thinly disguised message, where in human affairs states spent too much time and effort trying to iron out social blemishes, intervening to insist on virtuous conformity to blueprints of perfection and putting the interests of an increasingly separate and distanced state ahead of people’s daily lives and needs. It would all end badly, if ever it ended at all. […]

Coming from the global to the national level, the societal divisions, like deep flesh wounds, must be held with plaster strips and stitched together, not salted with more tired ideology from a past age and a partisan spectrum of beliefs and aims that now barely connect with the real issues before us. The heart of the matter is not race or gender or class, but reaching with new determination towards a capitalist system that shares, that is democratic, that is fair and spreads dignity and security to millions of households and financial literacy to an entire population, starting in the schools. This was the old dream of the Conservatives. The digital revolution brings a dream of genuinely widened ownership and financial justice to the edge of reality.


The immigration game (Ian Linden, 1/03/23, The Article)

Much of what is popularly believed about immigration – I confess to a measure of gullibility myself – is just plain wrong, misguided or exaggerated. The world is not facing an unprecedented refugee crisis, South-North migration is more a rational economic decision than “a desperate flight from poverty, hunger and conflict”. Immigration’s impact on the wages of indigenous workers is negligible. We need migrant labour. We don’t have enough UK-born trained staff in the NHS, social care and a range of vital occupations. Neither development nor border restrictions will stop migration.

The uncomfortable truth for the Right: “control of your borders” includes the right to admit immigrants past them freely


Public support for the death penalty is still at its low. Here’s why. (JOHN SIDES , JANUARY 3, 2024, Good Authority)

[A]merican support for the death penalty remains low. That is the conclusion of an October 2023 Gallup poll, which didn’t get much headline coverage. In that poll, only 53% of Americans favored “the death penalty for a person convicted of murder,” while 44% opposed it.

This is basically where opinion has been for the past 7 years, which represents a nearly 30-point decline from the high point of support in the early 1990s.


Anti-Zionism isn’t the same as antisemitism. Here’s the history. (Benjamin Moser, January 2, 2024, Washington Post)

[T]his conflation has nothing to do with history. Instead, it is political, and its purpose has been to discredit Israel’s opponents as racists.

Race has always been at the heart of the debate. Many anti-Zionists believed the Jews were, in their parlance, “a church.” This meant that, while they shared certain beliefs, traditions and affinities with coreligionists in other nations, they nonetheless belonged as fully to their own national communities as anyone else. For them, an American Jew was a Jewish American, just as an Episcopalian American or a Catholic American was an American first of all. They were unwilling to subscribe to any idea suggesting that the Jews were a race, separate and, as the antisemites would have it, unassimilable. These people did not consider themselves to be in exile, as the Zionists would have it. They considered themselves to be at home. They feared that the insistence on ethnicity or race could open them to the old accusations of double loyalty, undermining attempts to achieve equality.

In fact, anti-Zionist thinking predates Zionism. It emerges from the possibility that first appeared at the end of the 18th century. In 1790, in his famous letter to the Jews of Newport, R.I., George Washington declared that “all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”


Welcome to the Neighborhood! Wall Street Designed It (Carol Ryan, Jan. 3, 2024, WSJ)

Your new suburban rental has granite kitchen countertops, built to withstand even the most hard-wearing tenant. The neighbors next door have the exact same laundry machine. Welcome to the community where every detail has been designed to keep costs down for the Wall Street landlord.

Big investors are bullish about America’s family homes. So bullish they are willing to build entire new neighborhoods as it becomes harder to buy houses from the usual channels.


China Is Pressing Women to Have More Babies. Many Are Saying No. (Liyan Qi and Shen Lu, Jan. 2, 2024, WSJ)

Fed up with government harassment and wary of the sacrifices of child-rearing, many young women are putting themselves ahead of what Beijing and their families want. Their refusal has set off a crisis for the Communist Party, which desperately needs more babies to rejuvenate China’s aging population.

With the number of babies in free fall—fewer than 10 million were born in 2022, compared with around 16 million in 2012—China is headed toward a demographic collapse. China’s population, now around 1.4 billion, is likely to drop to just around half a billion by 2100, according to some projections.


Millennials have found a way to buy houses: Living with mom and dad: More than a fifth of adult millennials chose to live rent-free before buying their own houses, according to real estate data (Julian Mark and Eli Tan, January 1, 2024, Washington Post)

The strategy has gained traction among young adults trying to bridge the gap between sky-high rents and a daunting real estate market. In 2022, the share of first-time buyers who moved directly from a friend’s or family member’s home and into their own hit 27 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest share since the group started keeping track in 1989. Though that number trended lower this year to 23 percent, it remains elevated, said Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research at NAR.

For swaths of millennials, hunkering down with family gave them breathing room to save for a home. The trade-off comes down to temporarily relinquishing a measure of independence to achieve a milestone increasingly out of reach for people their age.

Having the aduut kids home was one of the things that made the pandemic so enjoyable.


China Confronts a New Political Reality in Taiwan: No Friends (Josh Chin and Joyu Wang, Dec. 29, 2023, WSJ)

A drawing of Taiwan at the presidential campaign headquarters of the island’s ruling party shows strikingly little concern for north and south. Instead, the island is shown turned on its side, with China and the Taiwan Strait conspicuously absent.

The drawing reflects the worldview of the Democratic Progressive Party, which over the past eight years has sought to carve out an identity for the self-ruled island that is separate from mainland China. But it also represents a broader change in Taiwan that sits uneasily with Communist Party leaders 1,000 miles to the northwest in Beijing.

With voters set to cast their ballots for a new leader in a volatile three-way election next month, Taiwanese politics has shifted decisively, and perhaps irrevocably, away from China. The change in mood is evident in public-opinion polls—and even in the campaign of the opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang.