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Mary Harrington: Family Formation in the 2020s

“The long-term problem there is that if your feminism becomes associated with anti-natalism, sooner or later it’s going to trigger a backlash, and that backlash is not going to look very nice for women.”

On May 13th, Mary Harrington joined Merion West editor Erich Prince to discuss, in particular, her recent work at UnHerd addressing family and gender, along with a more general conversation about her worldview. Having written a number of widely-discussed recent pieces at UnHerd but also at First Things and Plough, Ms. Harrington is establishing herself as an influential voice on cultural issues, including on issues affecting both women and men. In this conversation, Ms. Harrington and Mr. Prince discuss a recent piece of hers on masculinity, declining birth rates in the United States and Europe, and the idea of embracing obligations and limits, including how this pertains to family formation.

Mary, I took a look at a number of your recent pieces, and there were two that jumped out in particular. One was last month at UnHerd about “the virtues of masculinity.” You’re talking about this “insufferable rooster.” Apparently, he’s running amok and being very, I think you said, “obnoxious.” Then you have this telling line, and I quote, “but for men whose personalities tend toward aggression, protectiveness, competition, and stoicism, what honorable roles are left?”

This is something one hears from a number of voices in today’s discourse: this idea of roles for men such as these potentially disappearing. And you allude—in the piece—to what some of the consequences of that might be.

I started thinking about toxic masculinity and roosters because it’s very difficult to think of a more quintessential example; all roosters are basically like that. And the language for what we now call “toxic masculinity”—so much of it from 200 0r 300 years ago actually references roosters. You hear terms like “cock-a-hoop” and “cock of the walk” and “cocksure” and “cocky,” even. They’re not terms that refer to the euphemism for male genitalia; they refer to cockerels. If you live in a world where people are familiar with the personality of a cockerel, it’s an obvious metaphor to use because they really are like that. They’re tiny and pea-brained, and they’re 95% psychotic aggression and 5% looking after their wives. And it’s kind of mean to say it, but you meet dudes who are like that as well. And there isn’t much room in the world—as it currently is—for men who are like that.

I suppose I was exploring the possibility that, in fact, humans aren’t infinitely editable. Human personalities are not infinitely plastic, and I think it’s woefully naïve to imagine that they are. We’ve managed to convince ourselves that despite every species on the planet having evolved—having a nature that’s evolved over the course of time and might evolve further—that somehow that applies to every species except the human one. Or, rather, it applies to us as well, but only from the neck down. And to me, that makes no sense. It’s this crazy cognitive dissonance that runs through the culture based on what we want the world to be like.

I had a conversation with Warren Farrell the other day, who is credited with inventing the men’s movement. [He’s] a really nice guy, probably in his 50s or 60s now, a therapist by trade, based in the United States. And I read his book, The Myth of Male Power, about ten years ago when I was doing my own therapy training, and it had a huge effect on me. It was a very gentle, very thoughtful, very data-driven, counter-intuitive take on this idea of patriarchy and male power. And his argument is essentially that if you look at it from the other point—from a different perspective—it’s not so much that men are powerful as that most of them are basically trained to consider themselves disposable, and you can reframe the entire dynamic of the relations between the sexes in terms of male disposability. Men are expected to go off and fight wars; they’re expected to put themselves before women and children; yada, yada, yada. What really surprised me in the conversation (this was a Rebel Wisdom thing; it’s on YouTube) was discovering that, in fact, he is more liberal about the relations between the sexes than I am. He’s roughly of the opinion that men desire honor, and they’ll come around to embracing any role that gives them honor. Now, I’m not completely convinced about that, again, because it is my observation that people’s personalities are not infinitely plastic.

I have one child, and her personality has been her personality since she was in the womb. You might think that’s fanciful, but I really don’t think it is. If you talk to any parents with more than one child, they’ll tell you that they just aren’t the same. I was just having a conversation with three other mothers earlier today, with reference to a friend of ours, who’s just had a baby. We were talking about what our babies were like when they slept, and all of them who had two or more children were saying, “Well, they were completely different.” One of them liked to be wrapped up tight; the other one didn’t. One of them slept really easily; the other one didn’t. It’s not just a matter of environmental factors; it’s a personality thing.

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And I think you can generalize beyond everybody being an individual special snowflake. Anybody with eyes and a functioning brain can see that there are traits which are more common in men and boys than they are in girls and women. I think you have to be grimly and willfully determined to ignore what’s right in front of your eyes to pretend that that isn’t a thing. So I was looking to find a way into that—and to try and find a way into where I see that throwing up of blind spots in the culture [when it comes to] the spaces that we make available to—and honorable for—those traits which predominate more in men than women, and which a highly technologized civilization doesn’t have much space for, particularly the ones surrounding aggression.

Insofar as these roles are potentially disappearing, where does this energy go? If we are taking as a given what you’re saying, that personalities are what they are more or less, where does that get directed?

There are several possible answers to that, and it depends on how fringe and how counter-cultural and how outside of mainstream society you want to get. I’m probably not the best person to speak to this because I’m not a dude. But in as much as I occasionally go spelunking in the Manosphere and the various different bits of the Manosphere, depending on how extreme you get, some of it disappears into porn and PlayStation; some of it disappears into new fringe ideologies; some of it disappears into actually going and volunteering as a fighter in the Ukraine. Those guys are a minority, but I don’t think we can take it for granted that it would necessarily stay a minority. But if we’re going to carry on honoring people for being cooperative and having soft skills and for never fighting overtly, sooner or later, the people who really like fighting are going to find a way to do it.

Right, there are these guys who like to slug each other outside the pub.

Right, exactly. And I don’t think it’s completely beyond the realm of possibility that a certain amount of the street protests which have been erupting all over the place, a significant subset of the people involved in that—whether they are Antifa or Proud Boys—are just the guys who like fighting. They’re like, “Okay, fine, if we’re not allowed to go raving, and we’re not really into going and joining the army, we’re going to find a way.”

So this is their opportunity for a heroism of sorts?

Yes. It’s pretty anti-social, but if you’re not going to run those guys up and drill them and make them do something pro-social, then they’re going to end up hitting each other in the streets. I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of real cancellation territory by saying this stuff out loud because it’s the stuff you’re really not supposed to say.

I think it’s good we’re having a frank conversation, though. When did these roles start disappearing? Was there a moment in time, or was it more of a gradual process? 

That’s a hard one to answer because it’s probably very culturally specific. It’s probably fair to say in Britain, at least, that’s all been on a steady downward path since World War II. In the United States, I couldn’t say, because it’s very culturally specific. But I would say since World War II in Britain.

And it’s an obvious question, but what is the effect on women, if this, indeed, is going on?

I think women secretly hate it, but there are a number of complicated cognitive dissonances around that. That’s the short answer.

So they really don’t like it, deep down?

That’s my assessment. But there’s a whole set of complicated rationalizations and cognitive dissonances there because you’re not supposed to hate it.

Another recent article of yours coincided with Mother’s Day and was a response to Elizabeth Bruenig’s New York Times piece about becoming a mother at the age of 25. I think that’s a good segue into talking about motherhood in general and this potential class divide you’re hinting at when talking about how we’re conceiving of people having children at a young age.

And I think that one thing that’s being hinted at is this idea of marriage or children being something that happens earlier in your life, as opposed to being this crowning event where you get to X point, and you go and pursue it then, as opposed to it being something that’s nested within your life trajectory as a whole.

It’s a difficult one to answer definitively because you don’t necessarily meet somebody who you want to do that with at the age of 25, and I certainly can’t hold myself up as an example of having done that. I was 32 when I got married, and I was 38 before I had my first and probably only child, but the fact that she will be my only child is a good cautionary reason for not being too dilatory about it if you have the opportunity to settle down sooner. So I tell my 20-something friends not to waste time. And like you, it’s something I hear discussed—certainly among younger millennials and Gen Z people—again, in my corner of the Internet. I certainly don’t think it’s mainstream, but it’s my view that there’s a sexual counter-revolution brewing. I actually just filed something for Spectator USA on that very subject. I think there’s a real backlash coming against this idea that we’re somehow better off for having liquified all norms around sex and relationships. I think a lot of people are coming very firmly—on the basis of their own lived experience—to the conclusion that that just isn’t true.

There’s a meme apparently floating around, and there’s this fellow; he’s heavily tattooed, and he has some outlandish haircut, and then there’s a family with a young child, and it suggests that what was counter-cultural in 1980 is now dominant and vice versa. So now they’re inverted, and the fellow with the funny hair is now the prevailing culture.

Yes. I interviewed a very amiable 30-year-old American guy the other day who would only say on the record that he thinks marriage and sexual continence are a good thing on the condition that I only quoted him under a pseudonym. Because, as he put it, in his circles making that statement could potentially cause social ostracism, if not actual employment difficulties.

So what do they want as the alternative?

We don’t know. Obviously, if you go about actively discouraging people from treating the obvious, basic paradigm for reproduction of the species as the human norm—over time, cumulatively—it’s going to have potentially existential consequences for the future of your civilization. If you multiply out the effects of that collapsing birth rate over generations, it does start to look existential.

As you may have been following, this has been coming up a lot in the United States during the past couple of weeks. One of our most widely-watched news hosts here, Tucker Carlson, did a broadcast mentioning a lot of things you’re saying.

Yes. I think birth rates have been plummeting in the United States, and they’ve gotten worse over the course of the pandemic. And people are starting to realize that, and people are starting to think, “Well, hang on a minute, this is going to have long-term existential consequences, and there’ll be some quite severe political ones.” But to my eye, it’s a feminist issue that most feminists are oblivious to. At the moment, very understandably in the light of centuries of history of really not being able to avoid getting pregnant, even if you didn’t want to, feminists are really quite keen on bodily autonomy. And I support that; I used to have recurring nightmares about being pregnant when I didn’t want to be. If you’ve got other things you want to do with your life, the prospect is a bit nightmarish; it has a body horror element to it.

But the flip side of that is that it’s become so normalized to prioritize personal autonomy over the prospect of raising children that more women than not think children are a massive pain in the ass, or enough women think that children are a massive pain in the ass, that they’re just not bothering to have any. So not enough people are having babies. The long-term problem there is that if your feminism becomes associated with anti-natalism, sooner or later it’s going to trigger a backlash, and that backlash is not going to look very nice for women. The nightmare scenario from where I’m sitting is that my daughter, who’s now four, grows up into a world where it’s starting to look a bit more Handmaid’s Tale-like, and women are under the moral pressure to reproduce that feminists spent decades fighting against.

So you think there could be an overcorrection?

Exactly. And I see that overcorrection as having all sorts of really quite fascist overtones, which I’m deeply worried about. I resent being the one who gets accused of being a fascist for pointing this stuff out.

You’re trying to anticipate potential future fascists, perhaps.

Right. I’m trying to avoid the fascism, so stop calling me the fascist.

It seems as though you’re identifying the locus of a lot of this in some of these feminist attitudes, where other people also have pointed to some other factors potentially at play. Rob Henderson, for example, is very interested in the role that dating apps play, where there’s a Pareto distribution where the most attractive minority of men is going with the vast majority of the women or something like that, and he’s also talking about the overabundance of choice. 

I think that really doesn’t help. To be honest, I’m a long way out of the dating game, so I can’t speak to this from any sort of a personal capacity. I’ve been married since 2012. What I hear from friends who are in their twenties suggests that it’s a pretty bleak landscape to be trying to form an intimate relationship in. Certainly, the prospect of choosing from a sort of infinitude—your dating pool being potentially everybody—somehow seems to result in it being effectively nobody for a lot of people, and a series of fairly empty, uncommitted relationships for numerous other people. I don’t really know what the answer is, what the solution is there.

There is, of course, the question of political vs. cultural answers to all of this. For example, in the United States right now, Senator Romney and others are trying to push various tax incentives for families. Are you optimistic about these sorts of policies at all, or do you think it really is more about the soul of the people (i.e. a religious or cultural solution)?

It can’t hurt. My sense of American family policy is that it’s much harder—that there’s even less incentive, even less state intervention to smooth the process of family formation in America than there is in Britain. You don’t even have a national statutory minimum maternity leave, which to me is just absolutely barbaric. I honestly cannot wrap my head around how the same people can campaign vigorously against women’s right to abort and then also campaign vigorously against laws that would protect her baby once it’s born from having to be shoved into daycare. I don’t see how anyone can think those two positions are consistent. If you’re going to protect the unborn, then you have to protect the born as well.

I find a number of American policies very confusing on that front. So anything that supports family formation has got to be a help on that front. I also think it would be a great help if people stopped using the term “sexual marketplace.” In the next issue of Plough, I wrote a whole piece about why we shouldn’t think about sex as a marketplace, and how we ended up with this sort of common term that’s just passed into standard usage: the sexual marketplace. I don’t know if you know Google Ngram where you can do a search in Google’s entire machine-read library of millions and millions of books for instances of a term or a word appearing. And you can track the frequency of a term over time.

So I did a Google Ngram search for the term “sexual marketplace.” It doesn’t appear before the 1960s, and then it just skyrockets.

There’s a friend of mine; he’s in his late 40s now, and he’s looking to meet someone after a relationship ended, and various people say, “Why don’t you go onto the Internet?” And he says, “I refuse to participate in the commoditization of human beings.”

Well, he’s kind of right. I mean, he’s also kind of doomed, but I salute his epic stand against something which is really dark. But I started thinking about this term, the sexual marketplace, and I ended up going right back to Adam Smith and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and his theories of the invisible hand in the marketplace. Of course, it’s perhaps less known that he wrote both of those. And I ended up arguing that his Theory of Moral Sentiments, in turn, justified his reading of the marketplace as something sort of cleansed of mess and blood and violence. There’s this sort of dispassionate abstract thing, which follows its own kind of natural law in a way which shaped the entire modern era, from Adam Smith’s time until very recently.

But my reading of where we are now is that we’ve passed out of Adam Smith’s time into something new, and we don’t really understand the contours of it yet. And that’s come with bio and digital technologies. It’s erupted probably since about the beginning of my adult life, 1998, with the mass arrival of the Internet and cell phones. That we’re not in Adam Smith world anymore is basically my take on it. You can see that both in the way [that] the physical marketplace is no longer really where business happens; they’re all online marketplaces, which follow new power laws. The same power law [holds] on eBay, as on Facebook, as on OnlyFans, as on online dating websites, and really the distinction between all of those places is very slight. Once you’ve put something into an online profile—and made it something that people click on because they want it—whether or not you pay actual money for that is almost immaterial.

The point is Adam Smith’s laws don’t really apply anymore, and we’ve got a new set of power laws that apply. What also happens is that it collapses the distinction between public and private: e-commerce. I’m sitting here working from my study at home; home-working since the pandemic has suddenly become a mass phenomenon, and people run businesses from their bathtub if they want to. And dating is no longer something which happens in a formalized public domain anymore, necessarily. You might talk to somebody via an app for a few weeks, then sext with them for a bit, and then hook up, and you might never actually go for a date. This is not something that I personally have ever done, but I get the sense that—were I 15 or 20 years younger—that might really not be that unusual.

In a sense, it’s following the same disintegration of the public-private distinction, which was the characteristic defining feature of Adam Smith’s division of the human terrain into moral sentiments on the one hand and the market on the other. Because to him they were completely separate spirits that didn’t really have very much to do with one another. And that’s no longer the case in the e-commerce world because the public-private distinction is just gone. We’re in a completely new territory now. And I think the social and, increasingly, the material consequences of that are really only just being grasped.

When you talk about marketplace, I think about some of your criticisms of where large L-Libertarianism tends to lead. You’ve alluded to personal autonomy, and you’ve alluded to some of these ideas of seeing people as individuals, rather than situated over generations, as we were talking about in thinking about where the birth rate goes. What is the role of Libertarianism, and to what extent does that intersect with what you’re talking about with this new Internet trend? Was it inevitable once the Internet happened that this would happen, or were all of these 2008 era, “I love Ron Paul”-types helping us along? I don’t know if you were in the United States in about 2008, but it was the cool thing if you were 25 or so, you would have a sign in your window that said “Ron Paul for President.” It was the thing to do.

The last time I was in the United States was maybe 2007, so no.

I’m exaggerating a little bit, but this was very prevalent.

[Laughs.] There’s a great book I read earlier this year, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear. I highly recommend it. It’s a book about a town in New Hampshire that was taken over by libertarian entryists who tried to turn it into their libertarian paradise—and just what happened next. It’s a fantastic book. It’s one of the most interesting and just really funny books. If you love Americana, the mad s— that you get away from the coasts, and there’s some Gothic bits. The upshot of it, the “too long, didn’t read” version of it is that their libertarian utopia just went completely to s—, and the town got overrun by bears because they just were not capable, psychologically, of agreeing to any of the sort of collective measures that would enable proper bear management policies. They couldn’t do the policy by definition because they were libertarians, so the whole thing went quite tragically pear-shaped.

So that’s one part of my answer to the thing about libertarians. I kind of appreciate the libertarian thing because it’s very well-intentioned, and there are lots of very nice nerds who are into that. But I wonder about the viability of any society which isn’t willing to wrestle with the problem of power, which is fundamentally what libertarianism is about; it’s a refusal to engage with the problem of power. It’s saying, “We’ll all just do our thing. And, somehow, it’ll all just sort itself out and work itself out in a way which will be the best thing for everybody.” I don’t think that’s good enough, and actually, we’ve got to a point with the experiment in personal autonomy where—whether we like it or not—we are back to reengaging with the question of power.

I had an interesting chat yesterday with James Poulos, who you might come across sometimes; he is a writer at The American Mind and a bunch of places like that. We were talking about the technological singularity, if you like, which both of us think is either nearly here, or we’re basically living in it already. If I were to say the singularity has happened, I would pinpoint it somewhere around—I don’t know—maybe within the last ten years. Anyway, we’re no longer in Kansas; that much should be clear to anybody. As far as James and I are concerned, the only question is whether we reengage with the problem of power with somebody human in charge or just continue to disavow it and try and create a society in which the machines run things for us. So we can go on pretending that we can disavow it.

All over the world, we’re seeing this debate about the big tech companies, for example, which includes the libertarians. This goes back to the public-private distinction, right? They say, “Well, they’re private. They can do whatever they want.” And then a lot of people—and you probably followed this at Quillette, the editorial team vs. Allen Farrington, and the suggestion that this distinction isn’t as relevant today.

It’s a very live question, but it’s not a very meaningful distinction. I think the question of big tech and power—that’s really where the rubber hits the road because what we’re seeing emerging there is precisely a commitment to libertarianism, which is driving us into the exact opposite of mass freedom for everybody. Because what you end up with instead is a sort of surveillance state.

They’re using these allegedly libertarian means to arrive at a conclusion that I think no libertarian would really want.

Right. And if you’re going to avoid that particular speed bump, it’s probably best to moderate your libertarianism with a measure of recognition that, in fact, there is a social dimension; there is a social domain. This is the point I found myself back at when I was thinking about the sexual marketplace. The only way of backing out of this sort of nightmare cul-de-sac of radical atomization, where each of us is stuck in our personal kind of porn fantasy fulfillment (and either commodifying or being commodified for everybody else) is by being willing to submit ourselves—to an extent—to the needs and to the gaze of other people. And to say:

“No, actually, I’m willing to limit my sexual opportunities by committing to this one person, even if they’re not perfect, and perhaps because they’re not perfect. I’m willing to foreclose all of those other possibilities. And actually, I’m willing to choose one place and live in it and commit to it. I’m willing to embrace the closing down of my own possibilities in exchange for a relationship and in exchange for meaning.”

It seems like Jordan Peterson often says something to that effect, when he talks about this character of Peter Pan?

Yes, I think it’s crackers that he gets the grief that he does. Mostly, what he’s telling people is that the route to meaning is through a willingness to accept a measure of limitation, which is pretty basic advice. And it’s actually very sensible advice, particularly for men who are lonely and aimless, and he delivers it in a way which obviously appeals to these young men. I fail to see what’s so terrible about that.

Mary, when I think of your body of work, one of the main themes is this idea of embracing obligation. And I’ve talked about this a lot too, but most of the voices that are ascendant or celebrated are telling people to do the opposite. Then, there is a smaller number of people, who are basically saying, “You have to embrace obligation; embrace being situated in a certain family or religious tradition; or this Burkean notion of place.” You have to embrace something that’s yours and not just have these limitless options.

Yes. The book I’m reading at the moment is about biosemiotics, which is a very arcane-sounding word for the idea that, in fact, the entirety not just of human life and culture but of the natural world as well is not inert, but it’s organized through and by systems of science, systems of meaning. And part of that argument is thinking about the evolution of species and the development of any particular species or form as necessarily being ordered as much by its constraints as by its possibilities. The plumage on a particular bird will have evolved the way it has because it has to blend in with [a given] surrounding.

There’s a great example I like to give of constraints and how they change and how things evolve in dialogue with their environment in this way. The North American peppered moth; it’s a small insect. Some of them are mostly black; some of them are mostly white. The proportion used to be that they were mostly white, with the occasional black one, but these days—because pollution has radically changed their environment over the last 100 years—they’ve evolved such that more of them are black now than are white. So it makes more sense to me to think of the species as a conversation with its environment rather than as an abstract thing that is existing for itself or in and of itself.

And I think it makes sense to understand humans in a similar way, as being not a set of metaphorical billiard balls pinging around the table and occasionally bouncing off one another but, rather, more as a set of conversations with our physical environment, and also with our social and cultural ones, and with each other. And [we can conceive] of ourselves as fundamentally relational in that way, and that is much more constitutive with what we are than any sort of individual selfhood that’s thought of as some sort of absolute.

You alluded to this before about some of these men; they’ve lost roles, and they’re butting heads in the street and some of these protests. Around the time of last June when things were really at a fever pitch, Henry George, whom I think you know, did a very important article with us called “How Close We Are To Unraveling.” It was talking about what he was seeing, and it’s an old idea, a very widely discussed idea: of society as being fragile and being easily lost.

Zooming out a bit, I was wondering what your thoughts are on these movements that have been very ascendant in the United States, and some of our writers, like Gerfried Ambrosch, have talked about it popping up where he lives in Vienna, where apparently these American cultural issues don’t even map on that well to where he lives. What are your thoughts on how we got to this point where cities are being burned?

It’s hard to comment on it directly from where I sit, which is in a small town in Britain, in the shires, about 50 miles outside London. There are no marches for social justice on the street in small towns; there just aren’t. Life is relatively ordered and sensible and kind of trundles on from day to day here. So I don’t know, is the short answer. If the question is is everything imminently about to go up in flames and fall apart? No, I don’t think so.

Longer term, there are a number of things in play which I think make the future very unpredictable. One of them is climate, by which I don’t just mean global warming; I think that’s a very simplistic understanding of that whole terrain. We are burning through resources on the earth; it ought to be obvious to anybody with a functioning brain that we’re burning through resources, they’re not going to be replaced, things as banal as helium. Our rate of using up mining and using up minerals—those are all finite resources. We might not run out of iron ore, but I have no idea when it is that we run out of aluminium; it’s sometime within the next five decades, I think. And that’s just one example.

The digital revolution, which is theoretically going to uncouple economic growth from resource usage, depends on the mining of rare earth minerals, some of which are extremely difficult to recycle. We keep finding new ways of kicking the can down the road on resource usage, but, sooner or later, we’re going to have to grasp the nettle of the end of economic growth. I see that coming within our lifetimes, certainly, and I don’t think the results will be evenly distributed. What seems much more plausible to me is that it will be an intensification of what’s already happening, which is the people right at the top of pulling away from the people underneath.

I think you could argue that the end of growth is already happening. In fact, the stagnation of wages in the bottom 70% is part of that story, and the acceleration of wealth accumulation right at the top is also part of that story. In fact, [perhaps] we’re already in the end of growth, and it’s just a car crash which is going to be happening in slow motion over the next few decades. And going back to all those many people that are considerably further to the Right than I am—there’s a French new-Right writer, who it’s not generally polite to mention in civilized company called Guillaume Faye, whose prediction for the future is what he calls archeofuturism, which is to say an extremely technologically advanced civilization for a tiny minority of super wealthy people and then a primitive subsistence economy for everybody else. Although I don’t draw the same conclusions from that as a French white nationalist would, I think it’s a very plausible scenario for what comes in the age after abundance. So to me, those are more the kinds of future scenarios which I see as coming to bite us, slowly.

Is there any way to avert that?

No.

So you’re like [Elon] Musk with his resignation to some terrible dystopian future [due to artificial intelligence], but he basically says, “I don’t worry about it anymore because it’s inevitable.”

[Laughs.] What it’s actually going to look like in practice is anybody’s guess. But is the end of growth avoidable? No, I don’t think it is. Is the fact that we’re going to have to stop consuming at a higher rate than we replace avoidable? No, I don’t think it is. Are the class politics of that going to be horrible? Yes, you can bet your bottom. One of the strangest things to me is the fact that environmentalists so often think of themselves as left-wing because the implications of ending mass consumer culture are brutal for everybody below the top 10%. The number of people who are not thinking that through is astonishing. Honestly, I think you can either be left-wing or an environmentalist, and I don’t see how you can comfortably combine the two.

A lot of the Republican members of Congress in the United States did an Earth Day video that they each put the video in front of their face and said, “Happy Earth Day!” So maybe they’re trying to draw that out a bit.

But the Republicans aren’t really the right-wingers anymore, or at least they’re not the elitists anymore. My sense is that everybody’s swapped seats now, and suddenly the people who are campaigning for the interests of the working class—or at least kind of campaigning for the interests of the working class—seem to be more on the Right than not.

That was Henry George’s article this week; it was talking all about that. Rubio, and the Congressman from Indiana, Jim Banks, they sound almost like old school progressives now.

There are some interesting developments; I’ve not been following it that closely, but I’m a big fan of Matt Stoller’s work on monopolies. I don’t know if you follow Matt Stoller. He wrote a book called Big, which is all about monopolies in American business.

It’s a major concern here. A lot of people say we don’t have capitalism here; we have an oligopoly, where a few major corporations control most of the economic activity.

Well, I highly recommend Matt Stoller’s newsletter.

Well, I shall subscribe.

I’m giving you more reading.

It’s important to get an education, you know?

[Laughs.] Yes. Outside the cartel, if possible.

Mary, we’ll leave it here. Thank you

Erich J. Prince is the editor of Merion West. Erich has contributed to a variety of publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Hartford Courant, The News & Observer, the Orlando Sentinel, and The Hill. He studied political science at Yale, completing his thesis on polarization in the United States Congress.

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