“I heard Bernie wants to raise taxes” — you heard right, and it’s going to hurt

Bernie sanders yellingMy daughter introduced me to a pro-Bernie site called I Like Bernie, But….  There, in response to various concerns voters might have about Bernie (e.g., he’s a socialist or a taxer), the website provides short, pithy, and entirely inaccurate responses aimed at setting those fears to rest.

Because I know that the website appeals strongly to young voters, I created a website called I Don’t Like Bernie, Because… that challenges the misinformation.  Today I challenged the pro-Bernie’ website’s breezy promise that higher taxes on the rich will easily fund Bernie’s spending plans, leaving tons of money left over for everyone else.  Here’s that post:

“I heard he wants to raise taxes” — you heard right, and it’s going to hurt

The new website I Like Bernie, But tries to calm people’s fears about Bernie Sander’s socialist extremism.  It states questions reflecting concerns that people might have about Bernie, and then provides pithy little answers refuting those fears.

In a previous post, I addressed the myriad falsehoods, omissions, and misconceptions in the website’s assurance that Bernie isn’t a dangerous socialist, he’s a good socialist. This post addresses the misleading answer to a concern that “I heard he [Bernie] wants to raise taxes.”

Here’s what I Like Bernie, But…. has to say about Bernie and taxes:

I Like Bernie But On Taxes

That’s simply false. Here’s the truth:

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I don’t like Bernie because he’s a socialist

Bernie sanders yelling

[92,000 104,000 116,000 121,000 130,000 people and counting.  I must have hit a nerve here….  Welcome to all of you, even the trolls (of whom there are many, and yes, dear trolls, I am ignoring you in the comments section).]

My older Little Bookworm can vote in the upcoming election, so she’s paying a bit of attention to things.  She told me that, on her SnapChat and Facebook pages, all of her friends are mesmerized by Bernie and most of them are getting information from a website called “I Like Bernie, But….”  I checked out the website, didn’t like it, and created my own website called “I Don’t Like Bernie, Because….”  The following is my first post at the new website:

Isn’t Bernie a socialist? Why, yes he is

The website I Like Bernie, But… takes it upon itself to answer concerned readers who ask “Isn’t Bernie a socialist?”  It assures these people that Bernie isn’t a socialist socialist. Instead, he’s a democratic socialist, which the website promises is something entirely different:

Bernie is a democratic socialist

The above conclusions are just wrong, and they’re so very wrong that they need to be corrected and explained in a lot of paragraphs.  Here goes:

To begin with, you need to understand what it really means to be a socialist.  Only then can you understand that putting the word “democratic” in front of “socialist” doesn’t change anything.

So what is a “socialist” system?  Think of the realm of available politics as a line moving from left to right.  On the far left side are totalitarian regimes, which means government has all the control and the people have none.  At the far right side is anarchy, which means there is no government at all, although the resulting chaos usually means that people have no control either.  (Ironically, anarchy usually ends when a strong man takes over and creates a totalitarian regime.)

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Government-imposed minimum wages: A world that cultivates every person’s inner Veruca Salt

veruca-salt-now2

A month ago, my Facebook feed (which reflects the fact that many of my friends are Progressives) was suddenly overrun by a series of posters, all pointing out that minimum wage work is insufficient to support the cost of a two bedroom apartment.  It’s unlikely that the new minimum wage laws that went into effect on January 1, 2016, in 14 states will change these charts:

minimum wage won't afford two bedroom apartment

Also, in a charming irony, that problem is worse in most blue states compared to most red ones, as you’ll see if you compare the two charts below:

Minimum wage two bedroom apartment

red state - blue state

There are three major bad ideas packed into the notion that minimum wage should be the Rolls Royce of salaries.

The first problem is basic economics: The reality is that a higher minimum wage benefits the few over the many:

Increasing the minimum wage is an inefficient way to reduce poverty, according to a Fed research paper that comes amid a national clamor to hike pay for workers at the low end of the salary scale.

David Neumark, visiting scholar at the San Francisco Fed, contends in the paper that raising the minimum wage has only limited benefits in the war against poverty, due in part because relatively few of those falling below the poverty line actually receive the wage.

Many of the benefits from raising the wage, a move already undertaken by multiple governments around the country as well as some big-name companies, tend to go to higher-income families, said Neumark, who also pointed to research that shows raising wages kills jobs through higher costs to employers.

On its face, then, the charts’ premise, which is that higher minimum wages will see everyone in better homes, is wrong.

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Promoting socialism is like giving candy to little kids (and just as dangerous for the kids)

Lenin posterYesterday, John Hinderaker asked “Can the Democrats Mainstream Socialism?”  After all, Bernie is proudly stating that he is a Democratic Socialist (which we hope is different from a National Socialist, although he seems just as intent upon controlling all citizens within his realm).  It’s not just Bernie, though.  Hinderaker looks  at Democrat party pushes for socialism, coupled with scary numbers about Americans’ receptivity to this doctrine.

What any logical, intelligent, educated person will do, is point to the fact that socialism, since it first reared its head during the French Revolution, and then later as Marx refined it, has been a failure everywhere it’s been tried.  As best, it’s bankrupted nations, as it’s doing with Europe; at worst, it’s resulted in blood-soaked domestic tyrannies that often sought to spread their loathsome tentacles throughout other lands, a death-ravaged tale that traverses the world from the former USSR, to Italy, to Germany, to China, to North Korea, to Vietnam, to Cuba, etc., etc., etc.

I was bemoaning to a friend the fact that Americans seem incapable of learning from history.  Of course, a lot of young Americans who are products of modern American education don’t know history or, if they do know history, it’s a version that would make Marx proud.  I’ve already suffered through one child getting an AP US History education and am now valiantly combating the dreck that’s being visited on my second child.

But even people who ought to know better — the ones who still managed to catch the rag-tag end of a decent education before the 1980s or so — are drawn like moths to a flame when they hear the word “free.”  “Free education!” “Free healthcare!” “Free retirement care!”  They can’t seem to stop themselves.  They hear the sound and every rational thought flees their brain.

I realized today what this phenomenon reminds me of.  It reminds me of this scenario:

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Socialists and the dearth of babies

Empty baby carriageSeveral of my recent posts have focused on the American Left’s death cult, otherwise known as unlimited abortion. As I’ve stated repeatedly, the Left’s risible claim that abortion does not take a life, combined with its obsessive demands that the right to abortion be unfettered up to, including, and even after a viable baby is born has turned me from a fairly mindless, garden-variety, pro-Abortion, old-time Democrat into someone who is edging remarkably close to being pro-Life. Even though I can still accept situations in which an abortion is reasonable, I’m so disgusted by the Left’s death cult that I want to run as far away from it as possible.

The Left doesn’t just have a death cult, it also has a lack of life cult. It is true that American women still seem to be shtupping like rabbits. In 2013, following a five-year drop in baby-making, American women gave birth to almost 4,000,000 new babies (and aborted about 300,000 more). Americans are therefore just about holding their own demographically.

In Europe, though, the demographics are a nightmare, which goes a long way to explaining Angela Merkel’s bizarre desire for her country to be repopulated with Muslim Arabs. While the Muslims are picking up where they left off in 1683 and looking towards a European conquest, Merkel is obsessively focused on cheap labor to care for an aging German population.

What’s fascinating about Europe’s declining baby numbers is that it’s entirely possible that the problem isn’t just because women are making good use of birth control and abortions to limit family size. Instead, as has been happening in Japan for a long time, it may be that the Europeans have lost interest in sex entirely.

I don’t have any scientific basis for reaching that conclusion. What triggered the thought is a video that a Danish travel company made urging wannabe grandmothers to buy their children vacation packages to the sexy warm climates in which they are most likely to get pregnant:

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Bookworm Beat 8-11-15 — the illustrated edition, devoted to excavating the Leftist mind through Facebook posters

Woman-writing-300x265One of my Facebook friends is an uber-Leftist, although he does staunchly support Israel.  He never puts up personal posts.  Instead, his Facebook feed is filled with posters, some inspirational, some funny, some pro-Israel, and most pro-Left and anti-Republican.

I thought that for this illustrated edition, instead of the usual conservative-oriented posters, I’d take a peak at, and run some comments by, the stuff coming from the Left.  In each case, my commentary about a poster will be below the poster.

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[VIDEO] An Australian’s view about what makes America unique and wonderful

Somehow it seems appropriate to note here that 10,000 people in Madison, Wisconsin, turned out to hear Bernie Sanders speak. Please remind me why Americans, who have voted for Obama twice, aren’t stupid enough now to sweep Sanders into office. Otherwise I fear I’ll go all Victorian and fall into a decline just thinking about the possibility of an openly socialist, creepy old man President in the White House.

The Bookworm Beat 5-27-15 — the “oy, such a day!” edition and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265It’s been one of those days: I took two family members to two different doctors’ appointments, went to a work meeting, went grocery shopping, and cooked dinner. It’s 8:30 at night where I am, and this is the first time today that I’m sitting down at the computer.  I still have legal work to do tonight so this will be a very abbreviated post, in no small part because I haven’t had the chance to read a dang thing today. Still, for what it’s worth, here are a few things you might enjoy:

Bernie Sanders is a dodo

Bernie Sanders is a proud socialist (although his net worth is greater than Scott Walker’s, so perhaps he’s a proud socialist hypocrite, but anyway….). Bernie Sanders has announced that he wants to cut back on the number of antiperspirants and sneakers offered to American shoppers so that more children get fed. If you think that’s a non-sequitur, you’re correct. Only an economic illiterate would take — gosh, they’re not even close enough to be apples and oranges…. Let me try again:  Only an economic illiterate would conflate bottled water and tires, and insist that if we use less of one, we’d have more of the other.

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Will American capitalism be a victim of the rise of fascism-lite and the devaluation of language?

monopoly_manIt’s no secret that certain words degrade with time as the objects associated with them lose status. Something my sister said to me made me realize that we’re at that point with the phrase “free market capitalism,” and there may be dire consequences because of that linguistic devaluation.

One of the most obvious and painful areas in which language keeps degrading is in the words we use to describe those people in America who are of African descent. They’ve been called Africans, Black people, Colored people, Negro (which comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word “negro” or “black,” which in turn derives from the Latin “nigrum” or “black”), African-Americans, People of Color, and of course the infamous N-word, which is a bastardization of “negro.”

Why so many different appellations? Because each takes on a negative connotation as time goes by. Language usage shows that American blacks have never been held in high esteem, and blacks have therefore constantly tried to skip ahead linguistically, coming up with new words as the old ones grow stale and distasteful.

It’s not just blacks who find language devalued when it comes to them. Women don’t fare so well either. Once upon a time, “spinster” and “bachelor” were complementary words, with the former simply meaning a woman who spins (a task that unmarried woman did during the Middle Ages) while bachelor, a word only slightly older than spinster, referred to a “farm hand” — a job description no higher on the social scale than one who spins.

Over time, however, the word “bachelor” became something of a hip, happening term, implying an unfettered man enjoying the sexual delights of the single life. Meanwhile, the word “spinster” devolved to mean a dried-up, elderly, high-strung, entirely unattractive woman who never married and who certainly will not marry.

Likewise, the word “beldam,” a somewhat dated word for an “old hag,” started out life as “belle dame,” the French for beautiful woman. Somewhere along the line, it became the word for a grandmother and from there it was a short journey to a disgusting, raddled old woman.

The word “slut” too has had a downhill slide. In England, at least as of 30 years ago when I lived there, it was still used in its traditional sense of describing a woman who is a poor housekeeper. I need not explain to you how insulting the term “slut” has become in America.

So why am I boring you with this little side trip into word origins and their depressing stories? Because my sister told me that “free market capitalism has proven to be a failure.” She was referring, of course, to our endless recession, as well as to the constant complaints about income inequality.

My immediate response was “It has not been a failure!” When she started explaining all the ways in which the American economy was failing, I realized that we agree as to substance — the American economy is a disaster — but that we parted ways definitionally. I explained to her that what we have today, in terms of the marketplace, is essentially fascism-lite, and that it bears increasingly little relationship to a free-market capitalist system.

For example, the United States’ maximum rate for individual taxpayers, which can go up as high as 56% (welcome to New York or California), is higher than the maximum individual tax rate is such proudly socialist or semi-socialist countries as the Netherlands (52%), Cuba (50%), Israel (50%), Japan (50%), Norway (47%), United Kingdom (45%), France (45%), Italy (43%), and New Zealand (33%).

The United States fares even less well when it comes to corporate taxes, which play a huge role in attracting or repelling businesses. The federal tax rate ranges from 15% to 39%, with additional state (0%-12%) and local (0%-3%) taxes added on. Again, just think about the difference between California’s inability to hold on to corporate jobs and Texas’s ability to lure those jobs. Meanwhile, as with individual tax rates, ostensibly socialist or semi-socialist countries place a much less onerous burden on companies that want to do business there. Canada, for example,, has a federal tax rate of 11%-15% federal rate plus a highly variable 0%-16% provincial rate.

Other countries have rates that are higher than 15% (the lowest federal corporate tax rate), but significantly lower than 39% (the highest federal tax rate, and that’s not even counting state or local add-ons). Among those countries are the United Kingdom (20%), Sweden (22%), Austria (25%), Denmark (25%), Netherlands (25%), Norway (27%), and so on. It’s more expensive to do business in ostensibly “free market capitalist” American than it is to do business in all of those ostensibly socialist nations.

In addition to the fact that we tax the Hell out people and businesses, we also regulate the Hell out of them. Businesses are not left to make their own market-based decisions about products, prices, sales practices, etc. Instead, federal, state, and local governments micromanage them. To keep a market honest, some regulation is always going to be necessary, but that regulation should take the form of a few big, unbreakable rules necessary to keep markets honest (don’t lie in your financial reports, don’t commit fraud, don’t poison the public, don’t enslave workers, don’t manufacture cars that explode, etc.). Instead, all too often, whether it involves replacing a chair, tiling a floor, installing a machine, or shipping a widget, some government entity or other has pages and pages of rules and regulations detailing precisely how these activities must be done. (For a primer on this circa the early 1990s, when regulations were less onerous than today, check out Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America.)

Oh, and then there’s what we call “crony capitalism,” which is really “fascism lite.” Under full-bore fascism, the socialist government, rather than nationalizing businesses as happens under communism, simply takes the businesses under its wing, directing all of their activities and decisions, while allowing the businesses “owners” to collect whatever profits are available once the government has had its say and taken its cut. Crony capitalism is less formal, with businesses paying the government various sums to encourage it to destroy competitors or provide unfair market advantages for the business. The government still has the ultimate say, but the businessmen have the illusion that they’re calling the shots. As with fascism, the only one getting really shafted under this arrangement is the consumer.

Which gets me back to my discussion with my sister. Whatever is going on here, it’s not free market capitalism. It is, instead, a form of socialism most closely akin to fascism, in that the government gets its cut and gets its say, but allows the illusion of private ownership.

The problem is that if people believe this fascism-lite is free market capitalism, then the phrase “free market capitalism” is devalued to the point of meaninglessness. We’re no longer in the realm of John Locke, Adam Smith, Friederich Hayek, or Milton Friedman. We are, instead, sliding down the Marxist slope, something that never ends well — and Americans, seeing this economic degradation combined with a less of individual freedom have been brainwashed into indicting “capitalism,” rather than putting the blame on “socialism,” where it actually belongs.

Hey, Sweden! How’s that open immigration and PC-multiculturalism working out in your faux-socialist land?

swedish-rape-victimI was cruel to a young Swede the other day when, without being at all rude, I told him unpleasant, unnerving truths about his country. First, I told him that his country never really had socialized medicine. Instead, it had “paid for by America” medicine. During the Cold War, Sweden was able to put aside a nation’s first obligation to its citizens, which is to defend it against foreign enemies, when America took on that role. With the money freed from defense, Sweden could have pretend socialized medicine.

The second thing I told him is that Sweden never had real socialism. (Yes, I’m sure this is a shocker to many of you, because Sweden is considered the ultimate socialist success story.) The reality, though, is that Sweden never truly had an all-powerful central government. That anomaly is due to something sui generis about the Scandinavian countries: In the years after WWII these countries were small, racially homogeneous, and comprised of citizens all of whose minds had the identical values. This meant that Sweden’s socialism was more of a societal collaboration. It never needed the strong arm necessary for socialization in countries lacking any one of those specific and unique factors.

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[VIDEO] Daniel Hannan on the fact that Nazis were socialists

I was fortunate enough to hear Daniel Hannan speak earlier this year. He is, in a word, brilliant. A few other words: informed, moral, funny, articulate, and a true classic liberal. In a just world, he’d be one of our greatest statesman. In today’s world . . . well, we’re still fortunate enough to get to hear him speak:

By attacking Jonah Goldberg, a recent college grad reveals that the American mind is no longer closing, it’s closed

The-Closing-of-the-American-Mind-Bloom-Allan-9780671657154The etymology of the word “liberal” isn’t complicated. It’s from the Latin līberālis, meaning “of freedom,” which in turn derives from līber, meaning “free.” The problem with “liberalism” as a political doctrine comes about when people try to define the control from which they wish to be free.  As a recent attack on Jonah Goldberg reveals, America’s finest colleges are failing miserably when it comes to helping students examine what “liberty” really means, both in theory and in fact.

The definitional problem with the notion of “liberty” was already evident in the late 18th century, so it’s not as if American educational institutions haven’t had a while to wrestle with this intellectual problem. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about each individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the liberty that he envisioned meant an individual’s right to construct his own life: his own career, his own faith, his own personal relations, and his own economic progress.

The Bill of Rights, a binding contract between government and governed, established that Jefferson and the other Founders knew that this liberty could be achieved only through less government, not more. At various times throughout history, the federal government has stepped in to lift a heavy yoke off of people, including slavery and Jim Crow (both of which were state government initiatives), but the understanding was that the federal government wasn’t then supposed to fill the power vacuum it had created.

At the same time that the Founders were reducing individual liberty to what they hoped would be an iron-clad constitutional contract (with the enforcement mechanism being each individual’s jealously protected right to bear arms), French revolutionaries were contemplating a very different type of “liberty.” When they spoke of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” they meant to substitute one heavy-handed government (the blood-thirsty commune) in place of another heavy-handed government (the ancien regime). The notion of individual liberty, a person’s right to be free from government encroachment, was not part of the French Revolution’s operating system.

In the 220 or so years that have passed since the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution, the diametrically-opposed meanings applied to the words “liberty,” have never changed. A steady strand of thinking in America has always held that liberty means a person’s right to determine his own destiny with minimal government intervention, control, taxation, and policing. Meanwhile, whether under the heading of socialism, fascism, communism, Naziism, or Progressivism, most Europeans and some Americans (including the modern Democrat party) have steadfastly insisted that liberty means a person’s right to be free from the burden of thinking about and caring for himself. (Islam makes that promise too.)

I was reminded of this definitional paradox when I read a 23-year-old’s throbbing denunciation of Jonah Goldberg’s challenge to the recycled communism found in a Jesse Myerson article published in Rolling Stone. The 23-year-old guilty of this purple passion in support of the Left’s liberty is Emmett Rensin, who describes himself for the L.A. Times as “a political activist and essayist living in Chicago.”  His website adds that he recently graduated from the University of Chicago, which is one of America’s premier institutions and was once Milton Friedman’s home base.

Rensin may be young, and he may consider himself Progressive, but his article is actually pretty funny because it’s so reactionary in tone. This is a guy who, after four years in a top American university, looks back in longing at communism’s glory days, and regrets that he was unable to live in those heady times himself. Even his insults have a dated quality, rolling of the tongue with all the clunky rhetorical elegance that used to character a good Stalin speech. Thus, Goldberg is a “professional colonialism apologist and perennial Democratic crypto-fascist hunter.” Wow! It’s 1948 all over again.

Obviously, Rensin’s writing is not the stuff of ages, although it’s probably the stuff of old, aged Leftists. Rensin is worth quoting, though, because he so perfectly embodies the long-standing Leftist notion, one that is now de rigueur in America’s colleges, that “liberty” means the freedom to have an all-powerful government take care of you:

Young leftists like Myerson and myself share a moral outlook that fundamentally differs from conservatives like Goldberg: Freedom, in the most prosperous nation on Earth, must entail the freedom to act without the constant specter of homelessness, hunger and preventable illness. But this is nothing new, and the very founders Goldberg implies would have defended the present status quo are cases in point. The revolutionary generation (many of whom, by the way, were theatrically radical young people) was made up of men of means. They were all comfortable; many were wealthy. They had time to recycle the old ideas of Locke and Montesquieu and to dream of a nation outside the shackles of English monarchy.

It’s hard to imagine squeezing in the Continental Congress in a world where Thomas Jefferson had to run across town to his minimum-wage night job.

If liberalism believes that freedom consists of freedom from want, then we want only to extend the means for such achievement beyond the wealthy, white and landed few. Not everyone needs their own Monticello, but an apartment and some groceries might suffice.

Rensin has the youthful college grad’s passion for supposedly erudite references and sweeping pronouncements, not to mention a good acquaintance with the Spark Notes version of Marx’s turgid, lugubrious, boring Communist Manifesto. What Rensin lacks, however, is actual knowledge. If he had knowledge, he would know that freedom from want (which is what he desires) happens best when a society lets individuals decide how to create and spend wealth, rather than in societies in which the state, promising freedom from want, makes decisions for individuals about how to create and spend wealth.

It’s absolutely true that every country predicated on individual liberty and economic freedom has failed to eradicate poverty and has made terrible moral mistakes. What’s also true, though, is that these same countries have raised the standard of living for every individual within the country, from the poorest on up; has contributed wealth around the world; and has repented and remedied its moral mistakes.  (A useful primer on this is Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Ferguson.)

The contrary is true for countries of the kind Rensin envisions, with a beneficent government caring for every individual. Without exception, the promises of a managed economy have failed.  Invariably, and quickly, many more, rather than fewer, people end up mired in abysmal poverty, grinding despair, not to mention existential fear of ones own all-powerful government.  The standard of living for everyone in these countries has gone down. There isn’t one communist country that doesn’t support Winston Churchill’s justly famous observation that “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.  Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery” (emphasis mine).

Worse, in every one of these socialist countries, as the promises failed and the people took notice of those failures, the governments did something that no magnate or corporation could ever do and on a scale so vast even now it’s hard to comprehend: they silenced, tortured, imprisoned, and executed people who failed to be adequately grateful for the state’s vision of “liberty.”  This is true whether one speaks of Soviet Gulags, Nazi and North Korean concentration camps, Chinese reeducation camps, or Cuban prisons.  In each case, people were sent there, not for committing crimes against their fellow citizens (assault, murder, robbery), but for being offensive to the state, sometimes by what they said, sometimes by what they did, and sometimes just by existing.

I can already hear Rensin saying that my statements only apply to the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Nazi Germany, East Germany, North Korea, and other “communist” countries, but are untrue when it comes to socialized Europe. Again, he would be wrong. Because Europe went for soft socialism, not hard, and because America supported it economically for decades during the Cold War, it’s decline has been the slow-mo version of hardcore socialist states.

When the Cold War collapsed, and America’s dollars dried up, Europe’s economy slowly disappeared. Living standards across Europe are falling, not rising. Moreover, the petty tyranny of the EU is ramping up. Free speech is increasingly verboten in England, the home of free speech; France is reliving the Dreyfus affair with virulent antisemitism rising to the fore; Greece is in social and economic free fall; Spain is broke; and on and on. Norway still does socialism successfully, but that’s primarily because it’s floating on a sea of the Beverly Hillbillies’ famous “black gold.” It’s easy to be socialist when you have an unending stream of one of the world’s most valuable commodities.  And of course, Norway is back away from socialism as fast as it can.

This post started with Jonah Goldberg, and it’s going to end with him too. His opinion piece today at the National Review notes that, while Allan Bloom once wrote about the “closing of the American mind,” that’s no longer true.  The American mind has stopped closing; instead, it’s closed, very tightly.  On college campuses throughout America — the ones that are training the Emmett Rensin’s who are let loose in newspapers and magazines — the door has shut firmly and definitively on wisdom, general knowledge, historical understanding, and analytical thinking.  We are in an intellectual dark age as stultifying and dangerous as the one that swept through Europe with Rome’s collapse and that only slowly lifted in the eight centuries thereafter.