The Future and Its Enemies

Depiction of a futuristic city

In 2011, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, worried that the future might be over.

In a cover story for National Review, the entrepreneur and investor argued that, “when tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains.” Only drastic changes, he said, could sustain the centuries-long (and historically atypical) stream of progress that the rise of the West has represented.

The Liberal Gilded Age

San Jose skyline

The vision embedded in the Founding documents of the United States was of a free and equal people. At the time of the nation’s founding, this was not so much a fantasy but—with the obvious and inhumane exception of slavery—empirical reality. Class distinctions were extant, but they were not necessarily pronounced. The same was true of inequality in wealth and status. Northeastern financial families like the Schuylers had an edge over the yeoman farmers of Shenandoah Valley, of course, but it was nothing compared to the rigid class divisions in continental Europe.

Review: Season of Saturdays

Tom Osborne

Only when it comes to college football do we believe that the deaths of a girlfriend and grandmother will spur a 21-year-old to lead his team to victory, and accept that a 22-year-old sprained his ankles from leaping off a three-story balcony to rescue a drowning nephew. The NFL may be played on Sundays, but college football is religion, with each team steeped in its own obscure mores, traditions, and believers.

The Pens of August

AP

When the start of World War One is discussed in history class, it is typically portrayed as having happened in the manner of a regrettable and complicated automobile accident. An assassination of a semi-obscure middle-European aristocrat by a genuinely obscure extremist, a complicated web of alliances, militarist movements, and untalented politicians, and naïveté about the nature of the coming conflict: no one to blame here, really, except insofar as everyone was to blame.

Broadening the Base

Mexico soccer fans wave their national flag in Arlington, Texas / AP

We’ve all read it a thousand times: Republicans are not popular with Hispanic voters. Beyond that broad statement, though, there’s a rich story to be told of how and why Republicans fail with this increasingly important demographic. Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation is out with a new book, A Race For The Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans, which attempts to tell that story—and to show how Republicans might win Hispanics back.

Blogging Alone

AP

“The last refuge of a social-scientific scoundrel is to call for more research,” quipped Robert Putnam near the end of his seminal 1995 essay “Bowling Alone.” Yet that is what he proceeded to do, and his fellow scoundrels have obliged. The latest round of research comes from Marc Dunkelman, whose book, The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community, is a valuable contribution to our understanding of how America’s rhythms of civic life are changing.