Author: Steve Prestegard

For a lively drive to work

Of the big four of car magazines when I started reading them — Road & Track, Car & Driver, Motor Trend and Automobile — R&T was the most Eurocentric and most skeptical of American cars.

I wonder, though, where R&T writers work when they came up with this list of 23 Sports Cars That Make Great Daily Drivers considering where I live (too close to the Great White North) and work (a place where the auto mechanics don’t seem to deal with anything foreign beyond Toyota, Honda and Subaru). The list includes:

McLaren GT

The GT is McLaren’s latest attempt at a grand-tourer, packing a handful of luxury features you’d normally wouldn’t see in something with its engine in the middle. There’s even room to pack a set of golf clubs in the back. Here’s one for sale on eBay now.

BMW Z4

The Z4 has always been a great choice for those looking for a comfortable luxury experience with the ability to drop the top. This newest one is no different. And with nearly 400 horsepower on tap in the six-cylinder model, you’ll be having a blast behind the wheel. This brand new one is painted in a lovely shade of blue, and you can own it.

Toyota Supra

While it wears a Toyota badge, the Supra is basically just a hardtop version of the BMW Z4. So it makes sense to see it on this list. It has all the same comfort features, plus a good amount of storage space out back thanks to the hatchback styling. Here’s one you can own today.

Aston Martin DBS Superleggera

Aston’s newest production car is an even faster, more capable DB11. With stunning looks and a 715-horsepower twin-turbo V-12, it’ll have no problem getting out of its own way. It’s just as well-appointed inside as the DB11, meaning you won’t worry about spending a lot of time in the cabin. Here’s one with 70 miles on the clock for sale now.

Aston Martins are about as exotic as it gets in this list, and they’re British, with everything that implies. Still, it would give the driver a chance to channel his inner Bond, James Bond on his trip to the office.

Ferrari 812 Superfast
Though it may look (and sound) like a no-compromise supercar, the 812 Superfast is actually pretty livable day-to-day. It’s designed as a grand tourer, meant to carry two people along with all their luggage in relative comfort for great distances. Here’s one painted in blue with less than 800 miles on the clock that you can buy right now.

I have had two previous Ferrari experiences, as some readers know. The first was in September 1986, when upon arrival in Las Vegas I decided to try to win a Ferrari, and was one 7 away from becoming probably the youngest Ferrari owner in at least the U.S. Missing that seven meant I didn’t have to figure out (1) how to pay the taxes to take the car, (2) how to get the car back from Vegas to Madison, and (3) how I was going to deal with ownership of the second manual-transmission car I had ever driven as a college student in Madison, a town with both bad parking and perpetual winter.
Before that I saw a group of Ferraris on my first trip to Road America. There is a photo of myself somewhere acting like I’m trying to break into the car, which upon further reflection may have been owned by a prominent Wisconsin car dealer. (There is not, I believe, a photo of the sunburn I got that day that matched the Ferrari.)

Chevrolet Camaro SS

Though it retains the muscular profile from past Camaros, the newest version is pretty good at pulling off the daily commuter thing. Sure, visibility isn’t the best, but with a torquey V-8 and four seats, you won’t be wanting for much. This used one has low miles, and it can be yours today.

Maserati GranTurismo

The GranTurismo is great because unlike many other 2+2s, people in the rear two seats actually have somewhere to put their legs. Pair that extra space with the car’s magnificent V-8 soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a daily driver. This used one can be yours for just under $30,000.

As with Ferraris, mechanic on retainer not included.

Lotus Evora GT
If our torture test of the Evora 400 taught us anything, it’s that Lotus sure knows how to build a versatile car. The latest version, the GT, brings more power and an even lighter curb weight. Here’s one you can own right now. …
Jaguar F-Type
The F-Type’s crackle-filled soundtrack and drop-dead gorgeous looks aren’t the only things it’s known for. It’s also luxurious inside, and plenty fast. Here’s one with the now-discontinued manual transmission on eBay for sale.

Porsche Cayman / Boxster

Can’t afford a 911? Looking for a great mid-engine experience? The Porsche Cayman or Boxster are the cars for you. They’re just as nice as the 911 inside, and whether you get a turbocharged 718 model or an older flat-six powered car, you’ll be having the time of your life behind the wheel. This low-mile GTS variant is painted in red, and you can own it.

Ford Mustang GT
The new Mustang makes a great all-rounder, with plenty of modern tech and comfort-minded features. We’d recommend going for the Performance Pack 1—it has enough capability for track use, and isn’t as hardcore as the more expensive Performance Pack 2. If you’re into special editions, this Bullitt Mustang is up for grabs right now.

Did someone say “Bullitt”?

Acura NSX

The entire R&T staff can attest to the NSX’s ability as a great daily driver. We had a long-term tester for more than 20,000 miles in 2017, and can confidently say you’ll have no issue commuting to work every day in one. Here’s one with 3000 miles on the clock you can own for tens of thousands off the original price.

Nissan GT-R

The R35-generation GT-R was one of the first of a new breed of sports cars, and includes a bunch of different features to make sure you’re comfortable behind the wheel. It even has four seats, so you can take the whole family along, if you desire. This 2013 model is painted in a deep blue color, and it’s for sale right now. …

Mercedes-AMG GT

AMG’s newest flagship is a hit among enthusiasts everywhere, and it’s easy to see why. The comfort and poise of a Mercedes combined with that fantastic 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 and stunning looks make for one hell of a car—one you can start up a drive to work in without any sort of fuss. Here’s a GT S model painted in red you can own today.

Honda S2000

While the S2000 is known mainly as a great sports car, it makes for a great daily too. That Honda reliability and great visibility mean an easy care-free drive to work, plus the fun of driving one of Honda’s greatest cars. This white one with relatively low miles is for sale right now.

Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S / Toyota 86

The Subaru-Toyota sports car trio is a popular choice among enthusiasts looking for a fun ride they can also use everyday. With four seats, a sizable trunk, and a gas-sipping boxer-four, the BRZ, FR-S, and Toyota 86 check all the boxes necessary for a fun daily. This used one is listed for under $20,000.

Chevrolet Corvette

The Chevy Corvette is a beast of a car no matter what trim you get, but thanks to a big trunk, tons of convenience features, and solid GM reliability, it makes for a solid daily as well. Here’s one you can buy now.

Well, finally.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

There’s no arguing the versatility of the Mazda Miata. It’s one of the greatest sports cars on the planet, but also does well as a daily driver. The simplicity, good gas mileage, and small costs the Miata has to offer mean people will be commuting in them for years to come. This low-mile RF model is up for sale on eBay.

Audi R8
The R8 is for those looking for the daily-driving capabilities of a 911, but want something more exotic. The car’s Audi roots mean it’s a great place to spend time in, and that Lamborghini V-10 makes for a great substitute for your morning coffee. Here’s a used Plus model you can own today.

Porsche 911
There isn’t much the Porsche 911 can’t do. Any trim in the 911 range can be abused on the track, then turn around and bring you to work with no issue whatsoever. Visibility is great, as is interior comfort. If you need a fun daily, the 911 is the way to go. This one is brand new, and you can buy it now.

That was a suggestion of a former boss of mine. He, however, did not take up his own suggestion.

Corvettes aren’t supposed to be this kind of red

Motor Trend:

The all-new mid-engine C8 Corvette’s impressive $59,995 starting price is only good for the first year, as we reported back in August, and unless it goes up by $20,000, Chevrolet will continue to lose money on low-trim cars, a senior GM source tells MotorTrend.

We had a feeling the $59,995 starting price was too good to be true, and a GM source confirmed as much to us explaining the price would rise for the 2021 model year. This isn’t much of a surprise, as the base price of a C7 rose nearly $2,000 in its second year and by another $2,000 the following year. While we still don’t know how much the C8’s price will rise in 2021, a more senior GM official tells us it would have to go through the roof in order to cover GM’s cost.

According to our source, the original budget for the C8 project assumed a starting price of $79,995. This is certainly reasonable considering the enormous amount of work needed to redesign the car into a mid-engine configuration, but it’s a huge jump from the C7. In order to keep customers from revolting, Chevy is taking it on the chin and willingly losing money on every C8 it sells for less than $80,000. No doubt a factor in the C8’s laundry list of options and dress-up parts is the hope buyers will load up their cars with extras and turn their $60,000 Stingrays into $80,000-plus Stingrays. The C8 Stingray Z71 3LT we tested rang up at $88,305.

More critical are the base prices of upcoming performance variants including Z06 and ZR1. According to our source, the sweet spot for profit and volume is between $80,000 and $100,000. Once the car crests six figures, our source says, sales volume drops off precipitously. This will be a trick for Chevrolet, because the C7 Z06 starts at $82,990, which doesn’t leave the company much room for an increase without upsetting customers and breaking out of the sweet spot in price and volume. The C7 ZR1, meanwhile, already starts at $135,090, so Chevrolet has more discretion to price the C8 ZR1 knowing full well it will be a low-volume car.

Apparently GM has learned absolutely nothing from its bailout. (Which should never have happened; GM should have been allowed to go through the bankruptcy courts, as many companies have. A GM bankruptcy would not necessarily have meant the end of GM; the GM bailout ended up costing U.S. taxpayers $11.2 billion.)

Companies go under when they lose money on what they sell. Previous Corvettes made money for GM. This one won’t.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 6

The number one British single today in 1967:

Today in 1968, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra backed The Doors for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS:

The number one single today in 1969:

On that day, a free festival in Altamont, Calif., featured the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 6”

Journalists against … free speech?

Edward Jay Epstein:

Suppose you’re the editorial-page editor of a college newspaper, contemplating the big news on campus: protesters have silenced an invited speaker and gone on a violent rampage. Should you, as a journalist whose profession depends on the First Amendment, write an editorial reaffirming the right to free speech?

If that seems like a no-brainer, you’re behind the times. The question stumped the staff of the Middlebury Campus after protesters silenced conservative social thinker Charles Murray and injured the professor who’d invited him. The prospect of taking a stand on the First Amendment was so daunting that the paper dispensed with its usual weekly editorial, devoting the space instead to a range of opinions from others—most of whom defended the protesters. When a larger and more violent mob at the University of California at Berkeley prevented Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus, students at the Daily Californian did write a forceful editorial—but not in favor of his right to speak. Instead, they reviled Yiannopoulos and denounced those who “invited chaos” by offering a platform to “someone who never belonged here.”

Free speech is no longer sacred among young journalists who have absorbed the campus lessons about “hate speech”—defined more and more broadly—and they’re breaking long-standing taboos as they bring “cancel culture” into professional newsrooms. They’re not yet in charge, but many of their editors are reacting like beleaguered college presidents, terrified of seeming insufficiently “woke.” Most professional journalists, young and old, still pay lip service to the First Amendment, and they certainly believe that it protects their work, but they’re increasingly eager for others to be “de-platformed” or “no-platformed,” as today’s censors like to put it—effectively silenced.

These mostly younger progressive journalists lead campaigns to get conservative journalists fired, banned from Twitter, and “de-monetized” on YouTube. They don’t burn books, but they’ve successfully pressured Amazon to stop selling titles that they deem offensive. They encourage advertising boycotts designed to put ideological rivals out of business. They’re loath to report forthrightly on left-wing censorship and violence, even when fellow journalists get attacked. They equate conservatives’ speech with violence and rationalize leftists’ actual violence as . . . speech.

It’s a strange new world for those who remember liberal journalists like Nat Hentoff, the Village Voice writer who stood with the ACLU in defending the free-speech rights of Nazis, Klansmen, and others whose views he deplored—or who recall the days when the Columbia Journalism Review stood as an unswerving advocate for press freedom. While America has seen its share of politicians eager to limit speech, from John Adams and Woodrow Wilson (who both had journalists prosecuted for “sedition”) to Donald Trump (who has made various unconstitutional threats), journalists on the left and the right have long shared a reverence for the First Amendment, if only out of self-interest. When liberals supported campaign-finance laws restricting corporations’ political messages during election campaigns, they insisted on exemptions for news organizations. One could fault them for being self-serving in this selective censorship, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in its Citizens United decision, but at least they stood up for their profession’s freedom.

Today, though, journalists are becoming zealous to silence their ideological rivals—and the fervor is mainly on the left. During the 1960s, the left-wing activists leading Berkeley’s Free Speech movement fought for the rights of conservatives to speak on campus, but today’s activists embrace the New Left’s intellectual rationalizations for censorship. To justify the protection of an ever-expanding array of victimized groups, theorists of intersectionality—the idea that subgroup identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, overlap to make people more oppressed—have adapted Herbert Marcuse’s neo-Marxist notion of “repressive tolerance.” Marcuse propounded that Orwellian oxymoron in the 1960s to justify government censorship of right-wing groups that were supposedly oppressing the powerless.

Greg Lukianoff, who has fought free-speech wars on campus for two decades as the head of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), dates the ascendancy of the new censors to 2013, when student protesters at Brown University forced the cancellation of a speech by Raymond Kelly, the New York City police commissioner. “For the first time, rather than being ashamed of this assault on free speech, most people on campus seemed to rally around the protesters,” says Lukianoff, coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind. “That’s when we started hearing the language of medicalization, that free speech would cause medical harm. Outsiders dismissed this as a college phenomenon and predicted that these intolerant fragile kids would have to change when they hit the real world. But instead, they’re changing the world.”

This change can be seen at the once-stalwart ACLU, which has retreated to a new policy of rejecting First Amendment cases when the speech in question “can inflict serious harms” on “marginalized communities.” That’s the paternalistic rationale for campus speech codes, which have repeatedly been declared unconstitutional but remain popular, especially among Democrats and young people. In a national survey in 2017 by the Cato Institute, a majority of Democrats (versus a quarter of Republicans) said that the government should prohibit hate speech, and 60 percent of respondents under age 30 agreed that hate speech constitutes an act of violence.

Even journalists are adopting these attitudes, as Robby Soave observed while reporting on young radicals in his book Panic Attack. A decade ago, when Soave was an undergraduate on the University of Michigan’s student paper, his fellow editors stood in the Hentoff tradition: devout leftists but also free-speech absolutists. Starting around 2013, though, Soave saw a change at Michigan and other schools. “The power dynamic switched on campus so that the anti-speech activists began dominating the discourse while those who believed in free speech became afraid to speak up,” says Soave, now a writer for Reason. “Campus newspapers, especially at elite institutions, have become increasingly sympathetic to the notion that speech isn’t protected if it makes students feel unsafe. And now you’re seeing these graduates going into professional journalism and demanding that their editors provide a safe workplace by not employing people whose views make them uncomfortable.”

The result is what Dean Baquet, the New York Times executive editor, recently called a “generational divide” in newsrooms. The progressive activism of younger journalists often leaves their older colleagues exasperated. “The paper is now written by 25-year-old gender studies majors,” said one Washington Post veteran. She wouldn’t speak for the record, though: as fragile and marginalized as these young progressives claim to be, they know how to make life miserable for unwoke colleagues.

If their publication is considering hiring a conservative, or if a colleague writes or tweets something that offends them, young progressives express their outrage on social media—sometimes publicly on Twitter, sometimes in internal chat rooms. The internal chat is supposed to be confidential, but comments often get leaked, stoking online outrage. It takes remarkably little to start the cycle, as Times opinion writer Bari Weiss discovered last year. Weiss, already in disfavor among progressives for criticizing aspects of the #MeToo movement, got into trouble for celebrating the Olympic performance of gymnast Mirai Nagasu, the American-born daughter of Japanese immigrants. Weiss adapted a line from the Hamilton musical to tweet: “Immigrants: They get the job done.” Weiss was promptly attacked for describing Nagasu as an immigrant, making her guilty of a progressive offense known as “othering.”

HuffPost’s Ashley Feinberg, who did her own version of othering by labeling Weiss a “feminist apostate” and “troll,” published the leaked transcript of an internal chat among Times staffers in which Weiss’s tweet was compared to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The staffers called for an expansion of the company’s program in implicit-bias training to combat the paper’s “microaggressions” and “hostile work environment.” Weiss tried explaining that she’d been aware of the gymnast’s family background and had been using poetic license, but eventually she tweeted her surrender: “I am being told that I am a racist, a ghoul and that I deserve to die. So I deleted the tweet. That’s where we are.”

Ian Buruma, the editor of The New York Review of Books, was fired for publishing an article by a man accused of sexual assault (a Canadian journalist who’d been acquitted of the charges in court but saw his career ruined). Buruma was doomed by online outrage, a staff revolt, and threats from university presses to withdraw advertising. Harper’s was similarly roiled by internal rebellion and online fury for publishing articles by John Hockenberry, the NPR host who lost his job over sexual harassment accusations, and by Katie Roiphe, whose criticism of #MeToo was controversial even before the magazine published it. Rumors about the pending article prompted Nicole Cliffe, a columnist at Slate, to call for freelance writers to boycott Harper’s unless it killed Roiphe’s piece; Cliffe even offered to compensate them for any money they lost by withdrawing their articles. Her preemptive strike didn’t stop publication of the Roiphe article, but it did inspire at least one company to withdraw an ad from Harper’s.

The Atlantic faced a campaign to fire Kevin Williamson shortly after he was hired away from National Review. Writers at theNew Republic, the New York Times, Slate, Vox, the Daily Beast, and other outlets called him unfit for the job. They were particularly appalled by an earlier podcast in which Williamson, in a spirit of provocation, said that women who have abortions deserved the same punishment as those who commit first-degree murder, even if that meant hanging. The Atlanticinitially stood by him, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of its star progressive writers, even praised Williamson’s work and said that he’d advised hiring him. But the online dragging and internal discontent soon led to his exit. At a staff meeting (a video of which was leaked to HuffPost) after Williamson’s firing, Coates apologized to his colleagues. “I feel like I kind of failed you guys,” he said.

The online outrage against Williamson was fanned by Media Matters for America, the nonprofit that employs dozens of researchers to dig up damaging material on conservatives—or, at least, material that will sound especially bad if it’s quoted without context. (Williamson, for instance, had also expressed reservations about imposing the death penalty for any crime.) One Media Matters researcher, heroically profiled in the Washington Post, spent ten hours a day listening to recordings from 2006 to 2011 of Tucker Carlson’s conversations with Bubba the Love Sponge, a shock-jock radio host. Media Matters published some of Carlson’s cruder comments and followed up with new ones on subsequent days to keep the story alive and provide ammunition for activists demanding that corporations stop advertising on Carlson’s Fox News show. The campaign succeeded in pressuring advertisers like Land Rover and IHOP to abandon the program, which runs fewer commercials than it did last year.

It’s easy to see why progressive activists have made advertising boycotts one of their chief weapons against Fox, Breitbart, and other conservative outlets. What’s harder to fathom is why so many journalists have cheered a tactic that’s bad for their profession. This kind of boycott is different from the traditional ones against companies accused of bad behavior like mistreating their workers or polluting the environment. In this case, companies are targeted not for the way they run their businesses but simply for advertising their wares. Jack Shafer, the longtime media critic, has been a lonely libertarian voice warning of the threat that this poses to journalism and public discourse. “I barely trust IHOP to make my breakfast,” he wrote in Politico. “Why would I expect it to vet my cable news content for me?”

Journalists have traditionally prided themselves on their independence from advertisers. Now the boycotters want to end that independence. If advertisers start being held accountable for content, their aversion to controversy will put pressure on media companies to churn out bland fare that won’t risk offending anyone. “It’s easy to imagine today’s boycotts turning into tomorrow’s blacklist,” wrote Shafer.

Instead of worrying about this threat to their autonomy, journalists at progressive and mainstream publications have promoted it. Activists announce boycotts regularly, but these rarely make an impact unless they get widespread public attention. Sleeping Giants, an activist group leading the boycotts, has gotten lots of publicity (and web traffic) from largely uncritical articles heralding its leaders’ pure motives. Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist, acknowledged that there might be a problem if boycotters aimed at a provocative outlet like Gawker—a left-leaning site that meets her approval—but she couldn’t bring herself to condemn the tactic. Quite the reverse: “To those who sympathize with Sleeping Giants’ objections to online racism, sexism and hate-mongering—count me in this number—their efforts seem worthwhile, sometimes even noble.”

Other journalists have explicitly endorsed the Carlson boycott, including Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, and Michelangelo Signorile of HuffPost. Some have even pitched in to pressure the advertisers directly. Jenna Amatulli, a reporter at HuffPost, published a list of the show’s advertisers, complete with links to their contact information, and wrote that she had “reached out” for statements from each company—meaning, in effect, that she had personally threatened them with bad publicity. No one wants to be named in a story accusing an advertiser of supporting “racism,” “white nationalism,” and “misogyny,” Carlson’s alleged sins, reported as established facts in HuffPost articles.

Other HuffPost reporters used similar tactics against Daryush Valizadeh, known as Roosh, a male critic of feminism who ran a website called Return of Kings. After the reporters “reached out” to Amazon, YouTube, and other companies that enabled Roosh to collect online revenue, Amazon removed some of his books, and YouTube banned him from livestreaming. HuffPost triumphantly reported the campaign’s outcome: “Rape Apologist ‘Roosh’ Shutting Down Website After Running Out of Money.”

How would the management of HuffPostreact if conservative journalists similarly “reached out” to its advertisers? I put that question to Lydia Polgreen, the editor-in-chief, noting that it would be easy to find articles (like one by Jesse Been defending violence against Trump supporters) that could scare off corporations. She dodged the question, referring me to a spokesperson’s bland statement about HuffPost being trusted by advertisers because of its “factual insights.”

A few conservatives have tried these censorious tactics against liberals, with little success. They’ve hired researchers to dig up damaging social-media posts by liberal reporters—a move that Polgreen called an “extremely alarming” threat to “independent journalism,” though it’s precisely what her HuffPost staff and Media Matters do to conservative journalists. Some conservatives responded to the Fox boycotts by announcing counter-boycotts against MSNBC, but these efforts got virtually no press coverage. Conservative journalists eagerly criticize the bias of their progressive colleagues, but they don’t have the same power to censor—or the same zeal.

To get an idea of the imbalance, consider the cases of Quinn Norton, a libertarian technology writer, and Sarah Jeong, a progressive technology writer. After the Times announced that it was hiring Norton for its editorial page, it took just seven hours for progressives to get her fired. On Twitter and in an internal Times chat room (as HuffPost reported), Norton was attacked for having tweeted that she was friends with a neo-Nazi hacker whom she had covered. She had always repudiated his ideology, calling him a “terrible person,” but that wasn’t enough to save her job. Six months later, in August 2018, when the Times hired Jeong for the editorial page, conservative activists unearthed tweets from Jeong, an Asian-American, denigrating white men as well as whites as a race. One used a hashtag “#CancelWhitePeople”; another predicted that whites would soon go extinct and said, “This was my plan all along.” The Times stuck with its decision to hire her. (The paper recently announced that Jeong would no longer be part of its editorial board, though she will continue as a contributing writer.)

Conservative journalists criticized the Times for its double standard, but they didn’t unite with the online activists demanding that Jeong be fired. The Times’s Bret Stephens wrote a column urging the paper to overlook the offensive tweets. In New York, Andrew Sullivan lambasted Jeong’s bigotry and the progressive dogma that it’s impossible to be racist against whites, but he, too, urged the Times not to fire her because media companies should not succumb to online mobs. You might think that Sullivan’s forbearance would win him some points with progressives, and perhaps even make them question their own enthusiasm for purges, but the column didn’t play well even with Sullivan’s colleagues at New York. Brian Feldman, an associate editor, tweeted: “Andrew Sullivan’s newest column is complete garbage and I’m embarrassed to be even tangentially associated with it.” Not exactly collegial, but again, that’s where we are.

Another thought experiment: suppose, after a small organization announces a march in support of abortion rights, that an alliance of antiabortion protesters vows to shut it down. As the marchers proceed, they’re confronted by a much larger group of counterprotesters wearing masks, carrying clubs, and chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” The counterprotesters block the marchers’ progress and throw eggs, milk shakes, and rocks at them. Fights break out, inspiring a news article: “Six people were injured today in clashes between anti-murder demonstrators and a far-left group linked to infanticide. Leaders of the anti-murder protesters blamed the left-wing group for provoking the violence and vowed to ‘continue defending ourselves and the most vulnerable members of our society.’ ”

Are there any right-wing journalists capable of misreporting a story so dishonestly? They haven’t had a chance to try. There’s no group of right-wing masked thugs who regularly try to stop left-wing speeches and marches. The “no-platforming” strategy is a specialty of Antifa, the left-wing network whose members have brawled at conservative and Republican events in Berkeley, San Jose, Charlottesville, Washington, D.C., Boston, Portland, Vancouver, and other cities. They describe themselves as “anti-fascist,” a ludicrous term for a masked mob suppressing free speech, but journalists respectfully use it anyway.

Media coverage obscures Antifa’s aggression by vaguely reporting “clashes” between antifascists who claim to be acting in “self-defense” (though they typically outnumber their enemies by at least four to one) against the violence of “racists” and “white supremacists” of the “alt-right.” It doesn’t matter if the conservative group is rallying to support free speech—hardly a traditional priority for fascists—and has specifically banned white supremacists from participating. Enterprising journalists can always find someone at the rally somehow linked to what some left-wing organization has designated a dangerous “hate group.” And journalists can turn to the much-quoted Mark Bray, a historian at Dartmouth, to provide a rationale for the masked mob’s tactics. In his Anti-Fascist Handbook, Bray acknowledges that Antifa’s no-platforming strategy infringes on others’ free speech but maintains that it is “justified for its role in the political struggle against fascism” and approvingly describes violence as “a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.”

This coverage jibes with the media narrative that the great threat to civil liberties comes from the right, a rationale used for censoring conservatives. If a lone sociopath with right-wing leanings turns violent, commentators rush to blame it on the “climate” created by President Trump and Fox News, which makes no more sense than blaming Elizabeth Warren for the recent killing spree in Dayton by a supporter of hers, or blaming MSNBC for the Rachel Maddow fan who opened fire on Republican members of Congress in Alexandria, Virginia. Violent young men certainly exist on the right, but no conservative academic or journalist tries to rationalize their attacks as “self-defense.” They can post online threats and domination fantasies, but they don’t have the numbers or the institutional power to silence their opponents.

Yet most journalists obsess over right-wing dangers while ignoring or downplaying the actual violence on the left. There are exceptions, like Peter Beinart of TheAtlantic, who has warned about Antifa and criticized The Nation and Slate for celebrating one of its assaults (the punching of white nationalist Richard Spencer). But few others have paid much heed to Antifa. Some, like Carlos Maza and the New Republic’s Matt Ford, have praised its milk-shaking tactic. While working at Vox, Maza tweeted, “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.” He has also tweeted, “Deplatform the bigots,” and put that idea into practice with the outspoken support of Vox’s executives. His pressure on YouTube triggered the “Vox Adpocalypse,” in which YouTube cut off advertising revenue to Steven Crowder and other conservative commentators.

Outside of conservative and libertarian outlets, Antifa hasn’t attracted much scrutiny, even as its followers have assaulted journalists. (They also stood outside Carlson’s home, chanting, “Tucker Carlson, we will fight! We know where you sleep at night!”) The latest victim is Andy Ngo, a writer for Quillette, City Journal, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications, whose coverage of Antifa’s violence led to threats and harassment from the group’s members over the last two years. In June, Ngo was attacked at a rally in Portland for men’s rights that attracted two dozen supporters. They were opposed by 400 protesters who blocked streets and threw milk shakes handed out by organizers. As Ngo was reporting, masked Antifa protesters rushed him, stole his camera, showered him with milk shakes and eggs, kicked him, and pummeled his head, cutting his face and tearing his earlobe. He was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage.

Any attack on a journalist for reporting usually inspires displays of professional solidarity, but the Wall Street Journal was the only major newspaper to editorialize in support of Ngo. The Committee to Protect Journalists, which issues frequent news bulletins on threats to the press, published nothing on the assault. Last year, the committee ran a detailed report on American journalists who felt threatened by the far right (none of whom had been physically injured), but it seems uninterested in Antifa.

Some progressive journalists condemned the assault on Ngo but faulted him and the conservative organizers of the rally for inviting violence, as in a HuffPost article headlined “Far-Right Extremists Wanted Blood in Portland’s Streets. Once Again, They Got It.” Aymann Ismail, a staff writer at Slate, tweeted, “This is bad, but Ngo has done worse.” The Portland Mercury tried discrediting Ngo by claiming that he previously had been complicit in an attack by right-wingers on Antifa—a baseless claim debunked by Reason’s Soave but nonetheless repeated by the Daily Beast, Vice, and Rolling Stone. Zack Beauchamp of Vox condemned the physical assault on Ngo but offered excruciating rationalizations for Antifa’s rage. “The mere fact that Ngo was assaulted doesn’t say what the meaning of that assault is, or what the broader context is that’s necessary to understand it,” he wrote, explaining that the controversy “isn’t really a debate about press freedoms” but rather about “two divergent visions of where American politics is.” One of those visions just happens to require silencing the other side.

Free speech should be of special interest to the Columbia Journalism Review, which calls itself “the leading global voice on journalism news and commentary.” But CJR sees the issue through a progressive filter. It not only criticized The New York Review of Books and Harper’s for publishing articles by journalists fired for sexual harassment but also essentially advocated a blacklist: “The men who feel they have been unfairly treated following accusations of harassment or abuse are entitled to their perspective, but nothing demands that editors turn over the pages of their publications to these figures.” CJRapplauded Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for “stemming the flow of toxic ideas” by banning “hate-mongers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones.” After the violence at Berkeley and Middlebury, CJRurged reporters covering campus unrest to “be wary of amplifying flashpoints that match Trump’s own ‘intolerant left’ narrative,” and it has been following its own advice.

CJR showed little interest in Antifa’s censorious tactics until prompted recently by Quillette, the online magazine devoted to “dangerous ideas,” which has run articles by journalists and academics on the culture wars over free speech. Eoin Lenihan, a researcher in online extremism, reported in May on an analysis of the Twitter users who interact most heavily with Antifa sites. Most turned out to be journalists, including writers for the Guardian, the New Republic, and HuffPostas well for pro-Antifa publications. Following a group closely on Twitter, of course, doesn’t mean that one endorses its activity; journalists do need to track the subjects they cover. But these journalists seemed more devoted to promoting the cause than covering it impartially. “Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way,” Lenihan wrote. “In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.”

CJR responded to Lenihan’s article—but not by analyzing the press coverage of Antifa. Instead, it ran an article, “Right-Wing Publications Launder an Anti-Journalist Smear Campaign,” by Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch, a project of the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way. Holt’s article was a mix of ad hominem attacks, irrelevancies, and inaccuracies. Cathy Young, who wrote about the controversy for Arc Digital, concluded that every key point in his argument was wrong. Even worse was what Holt omitted. He didn’t even address Lenihan’s main conclusion: that press coverage of Antifa was biased—the issue that should have been most relevant to a journalism review.

Yet CJR remained uninterested in Antifa even after the subsequent assault on Andy Ngo. This past summer, it ran an article about rightists attacking journalists in Greece, but Ngo’s assault didn’t even rate a mention in CJR’s daily digest of journalism news. The only reference to the Portland melee was a summary of a Media Matters article criticizing Fox News for its coverage. Fox, like other outlets, had quoted a report from the Portland police that some of the milk shakes handed out by Antifa contained quick-drying cement, but no other evidence existed that this was true. To the nation’s leading journalism review, that was apparently the most important lesson of the episode for reporters: be careful not to exaggerate the violence of leftists opposed to free speech. And never mind that a journalist is in the hospital as a result of that violence.

Is there any hope of reviving the spirit of Nat Hentoff on the left? The zeal for banning “hate speech” doesn’t seem to be abating, though some progressives are developing a new appreciation for the First Amendment, thanks to Trump’s incoherent comments about it, like his offhand remark that “bad” speech is not “free speech” because it is “dangerous.” While the dangers of Trump’s “war on the press” have been exaggerated—no matter how much he’d like to silence “fake news CNN” or the “failing New York Times,” the courts won’t suspend the First Amendment to please him—there is a danger of the federal government stifling speech on social media.

There’s some bipartisan support in Congress and even among journalists for removing what’s been called the Internet’s First Amendment: the exemption that allows social media platforms to publish controversial material without being held legally liable for it. Removing the exemption appeals to some Democrats who want to restrict “hate speech,” and to some Republicans, too, angry at the platforms for censoring right-wing voices. This censorship is often blamed on social media companies’ progressive bias, which may well exist, but it’s due at least in part simply to the greater external pressure from progressive activists and journalists. If progressives keep trying to de-platform their opponents—and if Twitter and Facebook and YouTube keep caving to the pressure—there’ll be more bipartisan enthusiasm to restrict all speech on social media.

A more immediate danger is self-censorship by writers fearful of being fired or blacklisted and by editors fearful of online rage, staff revolts, and advertising boycotts. After the firing of Williamson, The Atlantic (to its credit) published a dissent from that decision by Conor Friedersdorf, in which he worried about the chilling effect it would have on the magazine’s writers and editors, and how their fear of taking chances would ultimately hurt readers. That’s the danger at every publication that bows to the new censors. Resisting them won’t be easy if journalism keeps going the way of academia.

But all editors and publishers can take a couple of basic steps. One is to concentrate on hiring journalists committed to the most important kind of diversity: a wide range of ideas open for vigorous debate. The other step is even simpler: stop capitulating. Ignore the online speech police, and don’t reward the staff censors, either. Instead of feeling their pain or acceding to their demands, give them a copy of Nat Hentoff’s Free Speech for Me—but Not for Thee. If they still don’t get it—if they still don’t see that free speech is their profession’s paramount principle—tactfully suggest that their talents would be better suited to another line of work.

This is unfortunately not surprising, given that people now appear to be entering journalism to, in their words, change the world, not to just report the world.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 5

The number one album today in 1960 was Elvis Presley’s “G.I. Blues” …

… which is probably unrelated to what Beatles Paul McCartney and Pete Best did in West Germany that day: They were arrested for pinning a condom to a brick wall and igniting it. Their sentence was deportation.

The number one single today in 1964 (really):

The number one single today in 1965 wasn’t a single:

The number one British single today in 1981:

The number one single today in 2002:

The number one British single today in 2004 …

… was a remake of the original:

The number one British album today in 2004 was U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”:

So who shares a birthday with our guitar-playing son? “Little Richard” Penniman:

Eduardo Delgado of ? and the Mysterians:

Jim Messina of Buffalo Springfield and Loggins and Messina:

Jack Russell of Great White …

… was born the same day as Les Nemes of Haircut 100:

Two deaths of note today: Doug Hopkins, cofounder of the Gin Blossoms, in 1993 …

… and in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:

Bad Times

John Sexton:

The NY Times’ 1619 Project was a sprawling effort earlier this year to convince Americans that slavery was part of the DNA of America. Made up of various pieces by different authors, the 1619 Project seemed to promote an idea that matched current far left sentiment about the importance of identity with an underlying anti-capitalism. The Times is now promoting the Project for inclusion in high school curricula, so it’s likely it will be with us for some time. But where did all of this material come from?

One site has done some important work looking into the Times’ Project by simply asking top scholars what they though of it and whether or not they were consulted. In published interviews, three of those scholars have said they were not consulted and that the Project seems to be based as much on a biased an narrow ideology as history. But there is one twist in this story that you probably won’t see coming. The site which has done these interviews is the World Socialist Website. Take that for what it’s worth but I think the work speaks for itself in this case.

Earlier this month the site interviewed James McPherson on his reaction to the Times’ Project. McPhereson is a Princeton history professor who specializes in the history of the Civil War including a Pulitzer Prize winning history on the topic. Here’s a sample of what McPhereson had to say about 1619:

Q. What was your initial reaction to the 1619 Project?

A. Well, I didn’t know anything about it until I got my Sunday paper, with the magazine section entirely devoted to the 1619 Project. Because this is a subject I’ve long been interested in I sat down and started to read some of the essays. I’d say that, almost from the outset, I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history. And slavery in the United States was only a small part of a larger world process that unfolded over many centuries. And in the United States, too, there was not only slavery but also an antislavery movement. So I thought the account, which emphasized American racism—which is obviously a major part of the history, no question about it—but it focused so narrowly on that part of the story that it left most of the history out.

So I read a few of the essays and skimmed the rest, but didn’t pursue much more about it because it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning very much new. And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view…

Q. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer and leader of the 1619 Project, includes a statement in her essay—and I would say that this is the thesis of the project—that “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.”

A. Yes, I saw that too. It does not make very much sense to me. I suppose she’s using DNA metaphorically. She argues that racism is the central theme of American history. It is certainly part of the history. But again, I think it lacks context, lacks perspective on the entire course of slavery and how slavery began and how slavery in the United States was hardly unique. And racial convictions, or “anti-other” convictions, have been central to many societies.

But the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true. And it also doesn’t account for the countervailing tendencies in American history as well. Because opposition to slavery, and opposition to racism, has also been an important theme in American history.

The WSWS also interviewed James Oakes, “Distinguished Professor of History and Graduate School Humanities Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” Oakes has written several award-winning books about slavery and anti-slavery in America. In this interview, Oakes was asked directly about the attempt by one of the 1619 authors to connect slavery to capitalism:

Q. Can you discuss some of the recent literature on slavery and capitalism, which argues that chattel slavery was, and is, the decisive feature of capitalism, especially American capitalism? I am thinking in particular of the recent books by Sven Beckert, Ed Baptist and Walter Johnson. This seems to inform the contribution to the 1619 Project by Matthew Desmond.

A. Collectively their work has prompted some very strong criticism from scholars in the field. My concern is that by avoiding some of the basic analytical questions, most of the scholars have backed into a neo-liberal economic interpretation of slavery, though I think I’d exempt Sven Beckert somewhat from that, because I think he’s come to do something somewhat different theoretically.

What you really have with this literature is a marriage of neo-liberalism and liberal guilt. When you marry those two things, neo-liberal politics and liberal guilt, this is what you get. You get the New York Times, you get the literature on slavery and capitalism…

Q. And a point we made in our response to the 1619 Project, is that it dovetails also with the major political thrust of the Democratic Party, identity politics. And the claim that is made, and I think it’s almost become a commonplace, is that slavery is the uniquely American “original sin.”

A. Yes. “Original sin,” that’s one of them. The other is that slavery or racism is built into the DNA of America. These are really dangerous tropes. They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical. The function of those tropes is to deny change over time. It goes back to those analogies. They say, “look at how terribly black people were treated under slavery. And look at the incarceration rate for black people today. It’s the same thing.” Nothing changes. There has been no industrialization. There has been no Great Migration. We’re all in the same boat we were back then. And that’s what original sin is. It’s passed down. Every single generation is born with the same original sin. And the worst thing about it is that it leads to political paralysis. It’s always been here. There’s nothing we can do to get out of it. If it’s the DNA, there’s nothing you can do. What do you do? Alter your DNA?

Finally, just this week the site published an interview with Gordon Wood, professor emeritus at Brown University. Wood is author of a Pulitzer Prize winning book on the Revolutionary War. Like the others, he was not contacted by the NY Times for the 1619 Project and doesn’t know any of his fellow expert historians who were either. Wood tells the WSWS, “I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways.”

The entire interview is worth reading but some of the highlights are contained in the video clip below. The conclusion of any one of these scholars would be a problem for the NY Times’ 1619 Project, but the fact that all three of them see it as fundamentally wrong, anti-historical, and lacking perspective ought to lead schools around the country to reconsider its value.

It’s not my party

University of Maryland Prof. Peter Morici:

My grandfather, a buttonhole maker, had three loyalties — family, his union and the Democratic Party. He believed a man’s first calling is to be a provider, his union enabled that role and the party of Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt was the workingman’s champion.

He could not give great thought to New Deal policies — the efficacy of Fair Trade Laws that made his appliances more expensive or Secretary of State Hull’s freer trade agenda that ultimately decimated his apparel industry. The details were beyond the grasp of someone with a grade-school education.

His politics were tribal, and he embraced politicians who often worked against his interests.

My father, a high school graduate who spent most of his career on the first rung of management supervising salesmen in the now-defunct door-to-door life insurance business — put first family, his company and the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, because he wanted to identify with the class of his superiors at corporate headquarters.

He was anti-union, for low taxes and strict curbs on government spending, because that was in line with the views of the managerial class and GOP agenda.

Ironically, three of his children owe their educations and considerable prosperity to progressive institutions and policies — the State University of New York and generously subsidized tuition.

These days, we like to think a better-educated citizenry weighs policy prescription and the performance of incumbents on everything from trade and immigration to health care and education, and aligns with candidates and parties based on an earnest appraisal of what they offer. And the combined wisdom of an engaged electorate will prudently steer our government.

In A Democracy for Realists, political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels offer significant evidence that thinking is wrongheaded. Instead, voters choose political parties and candidates based on social identities and partisan loyalties and then adjust perceptions of facts on the ground and views on public policy to match party loyalties.

Nearly 90 percent of Republicans are happy with the economy as it is now performing but fewer than 40 percent of Democrats do, and presidential approval ratings through both the Obama and Trump years have been little correlated with fluctuations with broader perceptions of economic conditions.

This is hardly surprising. Few voters have time to understand the machinations of economics and government policy and rely on leaders who share their values to be their guide.

The trick to winning elections consistently is to build a big tribe and then win enough of the 15 million swing voters with very expensive high-tech marketing that profiles individuals through surveys, purchases and web-surfing habits, and then bombard them with surgically targeted social media messaging, videos, direct mail and walk and phone contact for registration, persuasion and turnout.

The really interesting elections occur when presidential candidates steal major segments of the other party’s tribe — Reagan garnering blue collar union votes, Bill Clinton’s inroads with women and Barack Obama’s outsized success with younger voters and college grads — and sometimes keep them for their party permanently.

To build a tribe in an ethnically diverse, gender role-evolving, post-industrial America, parties can’t clutch to binary divisions like workers vs. management but instead pick big villains that can unite fragmented elements of the electorate.

Mr. Trump characterized undocumented immigrants — most recently the DACAs — as criminals, but the statistical evidence indicates they are not more inclined toward crime. The Obama-Clinton-Warren et al. axis practices identity politics and harpoons white male culture for inequality and injustice.

Candidates and public officials can advocate the most irresponsible policies. For example, failing to accept millions more immigrants will smother our economy. The birth rate of native-born Americans is too low to sustain our labor force and support the elderly.

The Green New Deal would make U.S. cities and homes uninhabitable. By 2030 or even 2040, does anyone honestly believe electric vehicles could be competent and plentiful enough to replace all the petroleum-powered trucks that supply Manhattan and other cities with daily necessities or every gas furnace in America could be replaced by heat pumps?

In the absence of reason, voter frustration encourages new demagogues to oust incumbents.

Virtually all Elizabeth Warren’s “plans” are premised on scapegoats — big banks, business and billionaires.

It’s Latin America with ballots for rifles but self-destructive just the same.

If you don’t like Mr. Trump, wait and see what the next man — or woman — on a­ white horse does.

This is pretty self-evident, isn’t it? Republicans are circling the wagons around Donald Trump for things for which they would seek impeachment of a Democratic president … just as Democrats did for Barack Obama … and Republicans did for George W. Bush … and Democrats did for Bill Clinton … you get the picture.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 4

Imagine being a fly on the wall at Sun Studios in Memphis today in 1956, and listening to the Million Dollar Jam Session with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

The number one single today in 1965:

The number one British album today in 1971 was Led Zeppelin’s ” the Four Symbols logo“, alternatively known as “Four Symbols” or “IV” …

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 4”

Remembering “Ronnie Raygun”

One of the features of our body politic is the increasingly hysterical predictions that second-term Donald Trump will cause the earth to boil over and/or lock up everyone in government concentration camps, or something like that.

The funny part for those of us who were paying attention is when your favorite leftist compares Trump unfavorably to a previous Republican president — for instance, either George Bush or Ronald Reagan.

About the latter, Ira Stoll remembers:

The New York Times ad was so effective that four days later …

… Reagan won 49 of the 50 states, and it seemed as though every left-wing college newspaper (but I repeat myself) used the same headline, “There he goes again.” Fortunately for the ad’s signers, none of them appear to have suffered negative career consequences for their non-credible hysterics.

 

Kamerat Sanders har fel om Sverige

Rainer Zitelmann:

In 1989, as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, Bernie Sanders praised the Cuban revolution in a public statement. “For better or for worse, the Cuban revolution is a very profound and very deep revolution. Much deeper than I had understood,” Sanders wrote. “More interesting than their providing their people with free health care, free education, free housing … is that they are in fact creating a very different value system than the one we are familiar with.”

After a trip to the Soviet Union in 1988, Sanders also praised many aspects of the Russian socialist system. But today he stresses that when he talks about “socialism,” he isn’t referring to a system like in the Soviet Union.

Democrats like Bernie Sanders tend to hold up Scandinavian countries as their dream examples of “socialism.” Either socialists like Sanders don’t know enough about Scandinavian countries’ economies or they hope that huge swathes of the American public know too little about them. That’s why it’s so informative to take a look at economic developments in Scandinavia. For a long time, Sweden was regarded as a model of “democratic socialism” and the perfect example of a counter-model to American capitalism.

Spoiler alert: Modern Sweden is not a socialist country. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom ranking, Sweden is among the 20 most market-oriented economies in the world. With an “Economic Freedom Score” of 75.2, Sweden has a similar level of economic freedom to the United States (76.8) and ranks ahead of South Korea and Germany.

The image of Sweden and other Scandinavian countries as strongholds of socialism harks back to the 1970s and 1980s. During the period of socialist welfare-state expansion from 1970 to 1991, Sweden dropped far behind many of its European competitors. Sweden’s economic growth rate was lower than in a number of other countries, including Italy, France, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. From fourth place in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) per-capita GDP ranking in 1970, socialist-era Sweden had dropped to 16th place by 1995.

In the decade from 1965 to 1975, the number of civil servants swelled from 700,000 to 1.2 million, a rise that was accompanied by increasing government intervention in economic affairs and the creation of a number of new regulatory authorities. Between 1970 and 1984, the public sector absorbed the entire growth of the Swedish workforce, with the largest number of new jobs created in the social services sector.

In order to understand the full extent of Sweden’s disastrous flirtation with socialism, it is well worth taking a closer look at the development of two key groups: In 1960, for every 100 “market-financed” Swedes (i.e. those who derived their income predominantly from private enterprise), there were 38 who were “tax-financed” (i.e. dependent on the public sector for their income, whether as civil servants or as welfare recipients). Thirty years later, that number had risen to 151. During the same period, the total number of employed or self-employed in the market-financed sector fell from just under 3 million to just under 2.6 million, while the total number of tax-financed Swedes grew from 1.1 million to 3.9 million. These figures reflect Sweden’s move away from a capitalist free-market economy to a socialist model during that period.

Politicians, such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who call for drastic tax increases on the rich, would be well advised to take a closer look at how such policies played out in Sweden. The socialist agenda damaged the Swedish economy and resulted in prominent entrepreneurs leaving the country in frustration. Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad was one of them. The marginal income tax rate of 85% was supplemented by a wealth tax on his personal assets, which forced him to borrow money from his own company in order to pay his taxes.

To pay back his debts to Ikea, Kamprad planned to sell one of the small companies he owned to Ikea at a profit. At the time this was a common practice among Swedish entrepreneurs as they attempted to reduce their wealth tax burden. As Kamprad was preparing the sale, the government made changes to tax legislation. And they did so retroactively. He was stuck with the costs and furious at his country’s unfair treatment of entrepreneurs. In 1974, he moved to Denmark and later to Switzerland, where he spent the next few decades—for a time as the wealthiest man in Europe. Kamprad didn’t return to Sweden to live and pay taxes until 2013—a textbook example of how countries cut their own throats by imposing excessive taxes on the rich.

Many excesses of the welfare state were equally absurd, including the generous sick pay. As well as statutory payments, most employees in Sweden received additional sickness benefit under company agreements and their collective agreements, which meant that those who took sick leave ended up with a larger paycheck than a healthy person who came to work every day. Unsurprisingly, Sweden held the OECD record for the highest rate of non-working adults in the labor force for several decades. Equally unsurprisingly, spikes in the rate of absence due to sickness frequently coincided with major sporting events. Even during the 2002 soccer World Cup—by which time reforms had already reversed the very worst excesses—the number of sick days increased by 41% among male workers.

From the 1990s, however, a counter-movement emerged in Sweden to push back against the clearly catastrophic effects of “democratic socialism.” There was a major tax reform in Sweden in 1990/91:

–      corporate taxes were slashed almost in half;

–      the tax on share dividends was abolished;

–      capital gains from shares were taxed at a greatly reduced rate, which was later eliminated completely; and

–      the top marginal income tax rate was cut by a third.

While income tax rates have come down considerably from their peak in the 1970s and 1980, they are still higher than in many other countries. However, what many don’t realize is that other taxes have been completely abolished in Sweden, including:

–      wealth taxes; and

–      inheritance and gift taxes.

In stark contrast, socialists of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s ilk want to drastically increase wealth and inheritance taxes in the United States.

The Swedish population willingly accepted that stripping back the welfare system would result in a more drastic decline in equality than almost anywhere else in the world. The Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of income distribution, grew by around 30% between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s. Only New Zealand recorded a similar growth in inequality during the same period. As a result, Sweden lost its ranking as the world’s most egalitarian country. But this did not seem to bother the Swedes all that much. After all, despite the significant decline in equality compared with Sweden’s socialist phase, prosperity increased for the vast majority.