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The Wall Street Journal‘s Matthew Hennessey profiles Joseph Epstein. Two slices:

A great many of Mr. Epstein’s professed enemies are academics. This is probably because he writes in plain English and wears his considerable learning lightly—two things the intellectual classes find difficult, if not impossible, to do. Something about the marriage of down-home common sense to sharp sentences in a well-balanced paragraph drives a certain kind of tenured radical bonkers.


Most recently, Mr. Epstein empurpled the smart set with his December 2020 Journal op-ed encouraging Jill Biden to dump the honorific “Dr.” It was this episode that triggered the late night prank call. Mrs. Biden isn’t a physician or even a Ph.D. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Delaware. During her husband’s presidential campaign, an adoring media had taken to referring to her as “Dr. Jill Biden.” Mr. Epstein was clearly winking as he wrote, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr.’ unless he has delivered a child.”

The blowback was immediate and furious. Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, opined that Mr. Epstein would never have written a similar piece about a man. “Her name is Dr. Jill Biden. Get used to it,” Hillary Clinton tweeted. A Washington Post columnist wrote that Mrs. Biden had in fact delivered a child, “out of her own uterus.” Even his former employer issued a belated disavowal: “Joseph Epstein has not been a lecturer at Northwestern since 2003.”

Tunku Varadarajan emphatically does not like Michiko Kakutani’s new book, The Great Wave. Two slices:

“The Great Wave,” by Michiko Kakutani—czarina of book reviews at the Times from 1983 to 2017—is one such textual debacle. It is a sneering, snobbish little exercise in ideological and cultural partisanship whose aim is to rail against this “era of radical disruption” and the rise of the “outsiders” who have reshaped our lives for the worse—not just Donald Trump, an obvious villain, but men like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, amoral and incorrigible techies who’ve robbed us of our privacy and, with their abetting of “misinformation,” our right to the truth.

In forecasting the collapse of Western civilization, Ms. Kakutani sets herself up as a leftist mimic of the Weimer-era conservative Oswald Spengler. Our 21st-century decline, she believes, is the result of an unstoppable march of right-wing, populist nihilism. The wrecker-in-chief—no surprise—is Mr. Trump, who has transformed America from a beacon of justice and equity into a “bizarro” land where “one in five adults believe a crackpot conspiracy theory, which contends the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshipping child molesters.” Mr. Trump is, himself, a “gasoline-wielding arsonist” who stokes “the racist and xenophobic impulses embedded deep in the psyche of the country.” This last diagnosis—America as an incurable redoubt of racism—is metropolitan elitism of such impressive purity that it should be bottled and preserved for future study.


For all her bluestocking bookishness, Ms. Kakutani has a penchant for melodrama, repeatedly describing the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection,” one that was “a near-death experience for American democracy.” But her hyperbole pales in comparison with her selectiveness. While berating the Republicans for becoming a party of “election deniers,” she puts on a pedestal a political hack like the Democrat Stacey Abrams, who stated “we won” after losing an election for governor of Georgia in 2018 and who has persisted in her election-fraud claims up to the current moment. Ms. Kakutani hails Ms. Abrams, also, for her fight against “voter suppression” in Georgia—a political accusation that has not stood up in federal court. For Ms. Kakutani, however, voter suppression is axiomatic in racist America.

Martin Gurri praises the too-rare – the transcendent – courage of individuals such as the late Alexei Navalny. Two slices:

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s leading opposition figure, died under suspicious circumstances on February 16 in an Arctic prison camp that serves as a useful reminder of Soviet brutality. His was a death foretold. In fact, he had been murdered once before. As a blogger and social media activist, and later as a politician, he had been relentless in his opposition to the regime: he spoke of the “virus of freedom,” of which he was a carrier. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s supreme hit man, simply could not run the risk of contagion. He had Navalny secretly exposed to a lethal nerve agent, Novichok—another handy legacy of Soviet criminality.


Navalny is what fear prevents us from becoming—what we would be if we absorbed Aristotle’s lesson that courage is the highest virtue, because it makes all the others possible. We like to think of ourselves as tolerant and inclusive, but what does that matter, if we can be compelled by fear to participate in pogroms and inquisitions? What is the point of political freedom, if we are in thrall to an inner tyranny? For the fearful, even the best of them, every principle is contingent, every virtue negotiable.

Juliette Sellgren talks with my GMU Econ colleague Thomas Stratmann about economic freedom on the reservation.

The great Bruce Yandle offers reasons for optimism.

My Mercatus Center colleague Alden Abbott reflects on recent developments in antitrust. A slice:

I’m proud to announce the release of my Mercatus Center colleague Satya Marar’s primer on Artificial Intelligence and Antitrust. It provides a comprehensive outline of AI concepts, their antitrust implications, and how the law approaches and ought to approach this burgeoning, rapidly-evolving technology from a pro-innovation and pro-consumer standpoint. Issues canvassed include the intersection of AI-related industries and markets and vertical and horizontal mergers, monopolization, algorithmic collusion, consumer protection and more. I highly recommend this primer for anyone with an interest in technology law and antitrust policy in innovation-based markets.

David Henderson makes the case that higher immigration will reduce the U.S. government’s budget deficit.

Fiona Harrison explains that the data do not support the notion of an “immigrant crime wave.”