Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Backlog of things to talk about.
First, a free ad. The latest issue of City Journal is a doozie. If you don't subscribe to this magazine yet: do. It's consistently forceful, intelligent and well-written. It's the only conservative publication I can think of dedicated primarily to urban problems - it's written about cities and for cities. And it's pragmatic in the best sense: they actually care about solving problems, about checking the facts - and they do actual reporting!
Three particularly notable pieces in the latest issue:
George Will on the Wilsonian vision, in Brussels and Washington, and its dangers. A sobering and important piece on an important question. I remain highly skeptical that George W. Bush is the reincarnation of Woodrow Wilson; I don't believe Bush bought the whole force-'em-to-be-free ideology that some advocates of the Iraq war advocated. I do believe Bush thinks the spread of liberal democracy - especially in the Middle East - is important to American national interests, and I think that, too. But I refuse to believe that our government ever signed up for the more grandiose schemes of reshaping the Middle East. That having been said, we broke it, now we bought it, and we better figure out what we want to do with it. Iraq, that is. And Will's cautions in that regard remain very, very timely.
(As an aside, there's a lot of folks out there who assume Israelis were big advocates of democratizing the Middle East, and that this had something to do with neocon support for the war. Not in my experience. Just a few weeks ago, I attended a talk by an Israeli counter-terrorism expert. One of the points he made quite forcefully is that America is making a big mistake trying to democratize Iraq - and, further, he argued that while Iraq was certainly ruled by a horrible regime and a dangerous man, it was not the most important target in the war on terror by a long shot. That accords with the sentiments I've heard from almost every Israeli I've talked to: sure, it would be a great idea to get rid of Saddam, but it's not top priority. For the record.)
Steven Malanga on the myth of the Creative Class. There's apparently a notion going around that young, hip professionals are what you need most to create jobs and revitalize a city, and that to attract them cities should build bike paths, enact generous domestic partnership laws, and subsidize the alternative music scene. These are, after all, what made Burlington, Vermont the economic powerhouse it is today. Steven Malanga rips this bizarre thesis to shreds, and points out what you really need to make a city an economic success: reasonable tax rates, rational zoning laws, effective policing, and a well-maintained physical infrastructure. Just like in Sim City.
And the always hard-hitting Heather MacDonald on the illegal alien crime wave. Immigration has never been my strong suit as an issue; I'm not an enthusiastic restrictinist nor an enthusiastic open-borders guy. But the development of a massive underground economy, and a huge class of non-citizens living outside of the law is clearly a bad thing. What I had no idea was just how bad it has been - from a law-enforcement perspective. This piece was a real eye-opener for me.
Seriously: the City Journal people show the rest of us how it's done. They're not snarky, they don't just make debating points - they do real research and they hit hard and consistently. I started paying attention to them after 9-11, when they came out with a truly phenomenal issue all about that day - from a national-security perspective, a domestic counter-terrorism perspective, a New York economic-recovery perspective, and from a memorialization perspective - all within weeks of the attack. It took my breath away.