The West is best

Tom Holland:

Declarations of hope that Notre-Dame can be resurrected have been much in evidence this Holy Week. Such is the lesson of Easter: that life can come from death. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, that other great emblem of Paris, Notre-Dame provides the French with evidence that their modern and secular republic has its foundations deeply rooted in the Middle Ages. Notre-Dame has always been more than just an assemblage of stone and stained glass. It is a monument as well to a specifically Christian past.

Last summer, one of the world’s best-known scientists, a man as celebrated for his polemics against religion as for his writings on evolutionary biology, sat in another cathedral, Winchester, in the United Kingdom, listening to the bells peal. ‘So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar”,’ Richard Dawkins tweeted. ‘Or is that just my cultural upbringing?’ A preference for church bells over the sound of Muslims praising God does not just emerge by magic. Dawkins — agnostic, secularist and humanist that he is — absolutely has the instincts of someone brought up in a Christian civilization.

Perhaps, then, the debt of the contemporary West to Christianity is more deeply rooted than many — believers and non-believers alike — might presume.

Today, as the flood-tide of western power and influence ebbs, the illusions of European and American liberals risk being left stranded. Much that they have sought to cast as universal stands exposed as never having been anything of the kind. Free-thinkers who mock the very idea of a god as a sky fairy, an imaginary friend, still hold to taboos and morals that palpably derive from Christianity. In 2002, in Amsterdam, the World Humanist Congress affirmed ‘the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others’. Yet this — despite humanists’ stated ambition to provide ‘an alternative to dogmatic religion’ — was nothing if not itself a statement of belief. The humanist assumption that atheism and a concern for human life go together was just that: an assumption. What basis — other than mere sentimentality — was there to argue for it? Perhaps, as the humanist manifesto declared, through ‘the application of the methods of science’. Yet this was barely any less of a myth than the biblical story that God had created humanity in his own image. It is not truth that science offers moralists, but a mirror. Racists identify it with racist values; liberals with liberal values. The primary dogma of humanism — ‘that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others’ — finds no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated. The wellspring of humanist values lies not in reason, not in evidence-based thinking, but in the past, and specifically in the story of how a cult inspired by the execution of an obscure criminal in a long-vanished empire emerged to become — as the great Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin has put it — ‘the most powerful of hegemonic cultural systems in the history of the world’.

The Easter story lies at the heart of this narrative. Crucifixion, in the opinion of Roman intellectuals, was not a punishment just like any other. It was one peculiarly suited to slaves. To be hung naked, helpless to beat away the clamorous birds, ‘long in agony’, as the philosopher Seneca put it, ‘swelling with ugly weals on shoulder and chest’, was the very worst of fates. Yet in the exposure of the crucified to the public gaze there lurked a paradox. So foul was the carrion-reek of their disgrace that many felt tainted even by viewing a crucifixion. Certainly, few cared to think about it in any detail. Order, the order loved by the gods and upheld by magistrates vested with the full authority of the greatest power on earth, was what counted — not the elimination of such vermin as presumed to challenge it. Some deaths were so vile, so squalid, that it was best to draw a veil across them entirely.

The surprise, then, is less that we should have so few procedural descriptions in ancient literature of what a crucifixion might actually involve, than that we should have any at all. Nevertheless, amid the general silence, there is one major exception which proves the rule. Four detailed accounts of the process by which a man might be sentenced to the cross, and then suffer his punishment, have survived from antiquity. These accounts are to be found, of course, in the New Testament. There is no reason to doubt their essentials. Even the most skeptical historians have tended to accept them. In the words of one of the most distinguished, Geza Vermes, ‘The death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is an established fact, arguably the only established fact about him.’

Altogether more controversial, of course, are the stories of what happened next. That women, going to the tomb, found the entrance stone rolled away. That Jesus, over the course of the next 40 days, appeared to his followers, not as a ghost or a reanimated corpse, but resurrected into a new and glorious form. That he ascended into heaven, and was destined to come again. Time would see him hailed, not just as a man, but as a god. By enduring the most agonizing fate imaginable, he had conquered death itself. ‘Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…’

The utter strangeness of all this, for the vast majority of people in the Roman world, did not lie in the notion that a mortal might become divine. The border between the heavenly and the earthly was widely held to be permeable. Divinity, however, was for the very greatest of the great: for victors, and heroes, and kings. Its measure was the power to torture one’s enemies, not to suffer it oneself. Even Christians, in the early years of the cult, might flinch at staring the manner of Jesus’s death full in the face. They were as wise to the connotations of crucifixion as anyone. Paul, the most successful and influential of early missionaries, readily described Christ’s execution as a ‘scandal’. The shame of it was long felt. Only centuries after the death of Jesus did his crucifixion at last start to emerge as an acceptable theme for artists. By 400 ad the cross was ceasing to be viewed as something shameful. Banned as a punishment decades earlier by Constantine, the first Christian emperor, crucifixion had come to serve the Roman people as an emblem of triumph over sin and death. An artist, carving the scene out of ivory, might represent Jesus in the skimpy loincloth of an athlete. Far from looking broken, he would be shown as no less muscled, no less ripped than any of the ancient gods.

We are the heirs to a later, much more unsettling way of portraying Christ’s crucifixion. The Jesus painted or sculpted by medieval artists, twisted, bloody, dying, was a victim of torture such as his original executioners would have recognized. The response to the spectacle, though, was far removed from the mingled revulsion and disdain that had typified that of the ancients to crucifixion. Christians in the Middle Ages, when they looked upon an image of their Lord upon the cross, upon the nails smashed through the tendons and bone of his feet, upon the arms stretched so tightly as to appear torn from their sockets, upon the slump of his thorn-crowned head on to his chest, did not feel contempt, but rather compassion, and pity, and fear. That the Son of God, born of a woman, and sentenced to the death of a slave, had perished unrecognized by his judges, was a reflection fit to give pause to even the haughtiest monarch. This awareness could not help but lodge in the consciousness of medieval Christians a visceral and momentous suspicion: that God was closer to the weak than to the mighty, to the poor than to the rich. Any beggar, any criminal, might be Christ. ‘So the last will be first, and the first last.’

Christianity had revealed to the world a momentous truth: that to be a victim might be a source of strength. No one in modern times saw this more clearly than the religion’s most brilliant and unsparing critic. Because of Christianity, wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘the measure of a man’s compassion for the lowly and suffering comes to be the measure of the loftiness of his soul’. The commanding heights of western culture may now be occupied by people who dismiss Christianity as superstition; but their instincts and assumptions remain no less Christian for that. If God is indeed dead, then his shadow, immense and dreadful, continues to flicker even as his corpse lies cold. The risen Christ cannot be eluded simply by refusing to believe in him. That the persecuted and disadvantaged have claims upon the privileged — widely taken for granted though it may be today across the West — is not remotely a self-evident truth. Condemnations of Christianity as patriarchal or repressive or hegemonic derive from a framework of values that is itself nothing if not Christian.

Familiarity with the Easter story has desensitized us to what both Paul and Nietzsche, in their very different ways, instinctively recognized in it: a scandal. The cross, that ancient tool of imperial power, remains what it has always been: the fitting symbol of a transfiguration in the affairs of humanity as profound and far-reaching as any in history. ‘God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ It is the audacity of it — the audacity of finding in a twisted and defeated corpse the glory of the creator of the universe — that serves to explain, more surely than anything else, the sheer strangeness of Christianity, and of the civilization to which it gave birth.

Today, the power of this strangeness remains as alive as it has ever been. It is manifest in the great surge of conversions that has swept Africa and Asia over the past century; in the conviction of millions upon millions that the breath of the Spirit, like a living fire, still blows upon the world; and, in Europe and North America, in the assumptions of many more millions who would never think to describe themselves as Christian. All are heirs to the same revolution: a revolution that has, at its molten heart, the image of a god dead upon an implement of torture.

Jonah Goldberg:

The other day Ben Shapiro offered what should have been an utterly banal statement about the fire at Notre Dame:

Absolutely heartbreaking. A magnificent monument to Western civilization collapsing.

Now, I have no problem with quibbles (and neither does Ben) from Catholics who point out that Notre Dame was a monument to the glory of God and what Catholics believe to be the One True Church as delineated in the Nicene Creed. But, I doubt any of those Catholics took offense at what Ben said. And if they did, they should probably lighten up. I’d also point out that Cathedrals were the space programs of their day (“The Knights Templar were the first Space Force”: Discuss). Cities and nations constantly competed to see who could build the tallest Cathedral — which is why most are built on the tallest ground available. The idea was both theological and political. Theologically, the idea was to get as close to God as possible. Politically, it was a desire for, well, national greatness.

Anyway, what I have a huge problem with is the bonfire of asininity that ignited from people who think “Western civilization” is a term reserved solely for the alt-right and other bigots (David French addressed the point well here). In a piece about Ben’s excellent book on Western civilization — I’ll reserve my quibbles for later — The Economist labeled him an “alt-right sage” and a “pop idol of the alt right.” To The Economist’s credit, they retracted and apologized. But the immediate assumption that praise for, or pride in, Western civilization is a species of bigotry and racism is a perfect example of the sort of civilizational suicide I describe in my own book on the subject.

So adamantine is this absurdity that some Shapiro haters actually assume he’s not actually saying he thinks the West is superior, only “tacitly” suggesting it.

Ben might as well be standing in the center of Times Square waving a giant foam finger that reads “Western Civ #1” on it. But the idea is so offensive to some people they think he wouldn’t dare say it outright.

What’s So Great about Western Civilization?

I’ve covered much of this at length — book length but also in this G-File — elsewhere. So I’ll go in a slightly different direction.

Forget calling it Western civilization for a moment. Instead think of a kind of party platform with a bunch of planks:

  • Support for human rights
  • Belief in the rule of law
  • Dedication to democracy
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of conscience
  • Admiration for science and the scientific method
  • Curiosity about other cultures
  • Property rights
  • Tolerance or celebration of technological and/or cultural innovation

I’ll be generous and stipulate that 90 percent of the people who are offended by pride in Western civilization actually believe — or think they believe — in most or all of these things. They just have a problem connecting the dots, so I’ll try.

Where do they think most of these ideas come from? Where were they most successfully put into action? What civilization today or in some bygone era manifests these values more? Chinese civilization? Islamic civilization? Aztec? African? Indian? Persian? Turkish?

I’m not trying to belittle any of those cultures, nor deny their contributions to human history. I’m not even trying to argue – here, at least — that Western civilization is objectively superior in some scientific or God’s-eye-view sense. As with the debates over nationalism, there’s no arguing — and no reason to argue — with a French patriot about whether or not America is “better” than France. I would think less of a Spaniard who didn’t love Spain more than he or she loves France. It’s like arguing whose family is better, we love what is ours. As Bill Buckley liked to say, De gustibus non est disputandum.

But the weird thing is that many of the people who are outraged by benign nationalism or the benign pan-nationalism that is pride in Western civilization take no umbrage when someone from Iran or China says they think their civilization is best.  This of course is a manifestation of the ancient cult of identitarianism, which the best traditions of the West have battled internally at great cost for thousands of years. Saying Western civilization is great hurts the feelings of some people invested in some other source of identity. And it hurts the feelings of some Westerners because they think it’s a sign of enlightenment to get offended on other people’s behalf or to denigrate the society that gave them their soap box.

The irony is that the willingness to entertain the possibility that some other culture has something important to offer or say to us is actually one of the hallmarks of Western civilization (and the condescension with which many Americans treat other cultures is also a more regrettable side of Western culture). We “borrow” stuff from other cultures constantly, starting with Christianity itself.

This is particularly true of America, which is why our menus read like the requested meal plans from a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. This profound lack of self-awareness manifests itself most acutely among progressives who wear their Europe-envy on their sleeves. Oh, they’re so much more civilized over there. Well, what civilization do you think “over there” is part of?

Western civilization is a work in progress because that’s what civilization means. If you want a Cliff’s Notes version of what my book was about it’s simply this: Every generation, humans start from scratch. As Hannah Arendt said, every generation Western civilization is invaded by barbarians — we call them “children.” As babies we come into the world with the same programming as Viking, Hun or caveman babies. These barbarians need to be civilized and that’s a job primarily done by families, which is why the days are long and the years are short. We teach barbarians how to be citizens in the broadest sense of the word, through formal education, religious teaching, social norms and the modeling of proper behavior. In other words, we assimilate people into a culture.

As Alan Wolfe writes in his discussion of Immanuel Kant:

As cultivating a field yields a better product, the arts and sciences cultivate us by improving the quality of who we are. No wonder, then, that when we look for a term that expresses the way we improve upon nature, we use “culture,” which has the same root as “cultivate.” And civilization—expressed in German not only as Zivilisation but also as Kultur — far from corrupting our soul, makes it possible for us to bring good out of evil.

The way you sustain and improve upon a culture is by fostering a sense of gratitude for what is best about it. You celebrate the good in your story while putting the bad in the correct context. Conservatism is gratitude, and as I noted on Fox the other night, one of the most compelling things in reaction the fire of Notre Dame was seeing how many people recognized their own ingratitude for this jewel of their own civilization. The Church was in peril because the French took it for granted. But, like that feeling one gets deep in the soul when a loved one in peril, millions were overcome with a sense of what they might lose. And now France is devoting itself to restoring what was almost lost.

Has Western civilization made mistakes? Sure (cue the Monty Python skit about Rome). Terrible things have been done in its name, a statement one can make about every civilization that has ever existed. But to say that the mistakes define us more than the accomplishments is suicidally stupid. And if you subscribe to those planks I mentioned above, I’d like to suggest that telling people they’re bigots for taking pride in the civilization that brought them forth better than any other is like taking a sledgehammer to the soapbox you’re standing on.

And to do it in the name of virtue tweeting is one of the purer forms of asininity.

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On Assange

Tucker Carlson:

If you watched a lot of the coverage of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s arrest on television Thursday, you likely came away with the understanding that he is some kind of Russian spy who is in trouble because he stole classified documents from the U.S. government.

That is not true. It’s factually incorrect, and saying so is not a defense of Assange. We’re not here to promote him or excuse any number of things he said over the years that we disagree with quite a lot.

But just so it’s clear, whatever his sins, Assange did not steal documents from the United States government. He did not hack the DNC servers. He didn’t break into John Podesta’s Gmail account.

There is no proof that he is working for the Russian government or ever has worked for the Russian government. Assange has never been charged with any of that and wasn’t on Thursday, no matter what they tell you.

If you’re upset about the theft of classified documents from the U.S. government — and there is reason to be — we already know who did that.

A 22- year-old Army private named Bradley Manning, now called Chelsea Manning. In 2013, Manning pleaded guilty to stealing secret material and got 35 years in prison for it.

Shortly after that, President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. This allowed Manning to leave jail decades early, go back on television as a commentator, and then run for political office.

So if your real concern is America’s national security, you have someone to be angry at — Barack Obama. And yet strangely, nobody is.

Instead, they’re furious at Julian Assange for posting the documents that other people stole. “Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services,” wrote professional moralizer Ben Sasse, who also serves in the U.S. Senate. “He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

Wicked? The rest of his life in prison? Idi Amin ate people and never faced this kind of scorn.

Not even close. Nor, for the record, was Amin ever extradited. He died at 78 years old in his own bed, leaving behind 43 loving children.

So what’s going on here? A couple of things. First, Julian Assange embarrassed virtually everyone in power in Washington.

He published documents that undermined the official story on the Iraq War and Afghanistan. He got Debbie Wasserman-Schultz fired from the DNC.

He humiliated Hillary Clinton by showing that the Democratic primaries were, in fact, rigged. Pretty much everyone in Washington has reason to hate Julian Assange.

Rather than just admit that straightforwardly – that he made us look like buffoons, so now we’re sending him to prison — instead, they’re denouncing him as, you guessed it, a Russian agent. “Justice should come to Julian Assange for his role in Russian meddling in our election and the sooner the better,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Okay, so once again, just to be totally clear, no one has ever shown that Julian Assange is a Russian agent. The indictment against him does not say that; t doesn’t mention Russia at all.

But that has not stopped virtually every politician in Washington from repeating Senator Blumenthal’s line, including many Republicans. Robert Mueller nearly killed the Russia collusion hoax. Julian Assange is allowing them to keep it alive.

You’d think journalists would say something about this. Assange is, after all, one of them. What do you call a man who publishes news for a living?

Assange is no sleazier than many journalists in Washington; he’s definitely not more anti-American. He’s broken stories the New York Times would have won Pulitzers for. And yet many of his colleagues have disowned him.

So why all the hostility to Julian Assange? Assange’s real sin was preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

“Oh, please,” wrote Alexia Campbell of Vox. “Assange is no journalist. We know who he works for. ” (Meaning Russia.) “Julian Assange is not a journalist,” explained Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker, without actually explaining. Ken Dilanian of NBC, who doesn’t so much cover the national security state as he writes memos on its behalf, noted that, “Many believe that if Assange ever was a journalist, those days ended a long time ago.”

At NBC when they tell you “many believe” something, it means they believe it.

So why all the hostility to Julian Assange? Assange’s real sin was preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president.

Former Democratic staffer and current CNN anchor Jim Sciutto explained it this way: “He is central to several cases. He is central to Russian interference in the election. The U.S. intelligence views him as a middleman, a cutout that he was in effect part of this interference.

He’s central to questions about what the Trump administration or Trump campaign, I should say, knew prior to the release of those materials, right? What were the communications between Roger Stone, et cetera? It’s possible that this has something President Trump himself is not particularly excited about.”

It’s remarkable to watch this. It’s bewildering, actually. There was a time, not so long ago, really, when reporters didn’t applaud the arrest of other journalists for publishing information.

In 1971, the Washington Post and the New York Times published a trove of stolen classified documents about the Vietnam War.

It was called the Pentagon Papers. Remember that? Liberals loved it. Books were written celebrating their bravery.

As recently as 2011, the Washington Post saw the connection: “A conviction of Julian Assange would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms.”

A Post op-ed said that year, “It is difficult to distinguish Assange or Wikileaks from the Washington Post.” And that’s true.

But that was before the Trump election and the total war that followed, a war in which the media have definitively chosen a side.

Press freedom?

Sure, as long as we agree with your politics. The First Amendment? Well, that all depends. Who did you vote for?

The guardians of speech or now the enemies of speech.

The people charged with policing power are now colluding with power.

There’s a reason you see John Brennan on NBC all the time. They’re all on the same team now.

We’re not saying any of this to defend Julian Assange.

We just want to be absolutely clear about who hurts this country more — and it’s not him.

Off target on trade

Jonah Goldberg:

Trump said Friday: “I’ll just close the border, and with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation.” …

This is hardly the first time the president has said this type of thing. He’s often claimed that tariffs are essentially profitable because other countries pay them (they don’t).  In September he said “China’s now paying us billions of dollars in tariffs and hopefully we’ll be able to work something out.” And there was this:

….I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN

If you don’t understand why the president’s statements are wrong, this post isn’t for you. But closing the border would, among other things, throw the supply chains of various American businesses into a tailspin. Also, trade deficits aren’t like budget deficits which reflect spending in excess of revenue. I have a trade deficit with my cigar shop, barber shop, supermarket and liquor store. They get my money and I get goods and services in return. Here are some explainers.

Anyway, what I’m sincerely curious about is what Trump supporters think of stuff like this. Do they think he understands how trade works and just deceives the public in order to sell protectionist policies or tactics? Or do Trump supporters think that he honestly believes that closing the border with Mexico would be profitable and that China and other trading partners pay tariffs instead of American consumers? Does he really think trade deficits are akin to budget deficits?

On the latter theory, one could, I suppose, make the case that this is brilliant statecraft; by sending the signal that he actually believes these untrue things, he makes his protectionist threats more believable. One hears this sort of thing often. He’s a free trader, but he’s using protectionism to get to a desirable goal. (But as Charlie Cooke often notes, the same people often also defend tariffs as good things in and of themselves. If tariffs are so “profitable,” why pursue free trade at all?).

This is of a piece with the “chessmaster” school of Trumpology. It seems to me this is a very hard theory to support. You’d have to believe that Trump’s tendency to say whatever comes into his mind is a ruse or a façade and that he in fact has incredible message discipline, refraining from ever once speaking accurately about his true feelings or betraying his real knowledge of how trade actually works.

It’s a sincere question. Whenever I hear versions of it asked of Trump administration officials, the answers are usually evasive. Such as: “Look, the president hears arguments on all sides of the issue” (I’ve heard one Trump official say this in four different off-the-record settings).  Another reply one often hears on TV is “I may not see eye-to-eye with the president on every aspect of trade, but at least I know he’s fighting for American workers and putting America first.”

That’s all fine as political handwaving or statements of emotional support. But my question remains: Does the president know the facts and is therefore deceiving the public about his beliefs or is he truly ignorant of some of the most basic concepts of one of his signature issues?

Or, is there some way to square this circle I am missing? I am eager to hear it if so (Oh, and a pro-tip for folks on Twitter and even in the comment section, “Shut up you RINO asshat” is not a dispositive answer to the question).

I specifically want to hear from Wisconsinites who defend this:
Trump’s trade war(s) are hurting Wisconsinites and Wisconsin farmers. You cannot support this state’s farmers and support this.

Ambisjon og frihet

On many Independence Days I repeat the words of former Facebook Friend (former because he’s not on Facebook anymore) Tim Nerenz:

Americans are the perfected DNA strand of rebelliousness.  Each of us is the descendant of the brother who left the farm in the old country when his mom and dad and wimpy brother told him not to; the sister who ran away rather than marry the guy her parents had arranged for her; the freethinker who decided his fate would be his own, not decided by a distant power he could not name.  How did you think we would turn out?

Those other brothers and sisters, the tame and the fearful, the obedient and the docile; they all stayed home.  Their timid DNA was passed down to the generations who have endured warfare and poverty and hopelessness and the dull, boring sameness that is the price of subjugation.

They watch from the old countries with envy as their rebellious American cousins run with scissors.  They covet our prosperity and our might and our unbridled celebration of our liberty; but try as they might they have not been able to replicate our success in their own countries.

Dan Mitchell somewhat brings this up in comparing here with the “old country” for those of us of Scandinavian heritage:

The most persuasive data, when comparing the United States and Scandinavia, are the numbers showing that Americans of Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian descent produce much more prosperity than those who remained in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway.

This certainly suggests that America’s medium-sized welfare state does less damage than the large-sized welfare state in Scandinavian nations.

But maybe the United States also was fortunate in that it attracted the right kind of migrant from Scandinavia.

Let’s look at some fascinating research from Professor Anne Sofie Beck Knudsen of Lund University in Sweden.

If you’re in a rush and simply want the headline results, here are some excerpts from the abstract.

This paper examines the joint evolution of emigration and individualism in Scandinavia during the Age of Mass Migration (1850-1920). A long-standing hypothesis holds that people of a stronger individualistic mindset are more likely to migrate as they suffer lower costs of abandoning existing social networks. …I propose a theory of cultural change where migrant self-selection generates a relative push away from individualism, and towards collectivism, in migrant-sending locations through a combination of initial distributional effects and channels of intergenerational cultural transmission. …the empirical results suggest that individualists were more likely to migrate than collectivists, and that the Scandinavian countries would have been considerably more individualistic and culturally diverse, had emigration not taken place.

If you’re interested in more detail, here are passages from the study.

We’ll start with the author’s description of why she studied the topic and what she wanted to determine.

People of Western societies are unique in their strong view of themselves… This culture of individualism has roots in the distant past and is believed to have played an important role in the economic and political development of the region… differences in individualism and its counterpart, collectivism, impact processes of innovation, entrepreneurship, cooperation, and public goods provision. Yet, little is known about what has influenced the evolution of individualism over time and across space within the Western world. …I explore the relationship between individualism and a common example of human behavior: migration. I propose a theory, where migration flows generate cultural change towards collectivism and convergence across migrant-sending locations.

Keep in mind, by the way, that societies with a greater preference for individualism generate much more prosperity.

Anyhow, Professor Knudsen had a huge dataset for her research since there was an immense amount of out-migration from Scandinavia.

During the period, millions of people left Europe to settle in New World countries such as the United States. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark experienced some of the highest emigration rates in Europe during this period, involving the departure of approximately 25% of their populations. …Total emigration amounted to around 38% and 26% in Norway and Sweden respectively.

Here are some of her findings.

I find that Scandinavians who grew up in individualistic households were more likely to emigrate… people of individualistic mindsets suffer lower costs of leaving existing social networks behind… the cultural change that took place during the Age of Mass Migration was sufficiently profound to leave a long-run impact on contemporary Scandinavian culture. …If people migrate based, in part, on individualistic cultural values, migration will have implications on the overall evolution of cultures. Emigration must be associated with an immediate reduction in the prevalence of individualists in the migrant-sending population.

Here is her data on the individualism of emigrants compared to those who stayed in Scandinavia.

As an aside, I find it very interesting that Scandinavian emigrants were attracted by the “American dream.”

…historians agree that migrants were motivated by more than hopes of escaping poverty. Stories on the ‘American Dream‘ and the view of the United States as the ‘Land of Opportunities‘ were core to the migration discourse. Private letters, diaries, and newspaper articles of the time reveal that ideas of personal freedom and social equality embodied in the American society were of great value to the migrants. In the United States, people were free to pursue own goals.

And this is why I am quite sympathetic to continued migration to America, with the big caveat that I want severe restrictions on access to government handouts.

Simply stated, I want more people who want that “American dream.”

But I’m digressing. Let’s now look at the key result from Professor Knudsen’s paper.

When the more individualistic Scandinavians with “get up and go” left their home countries, that meant the average level of collectivism increased among those remained behind.

Several observations are worth mentioning in light of the revealed actual and counterfactual patterns of individualism. First, one observes a general trend of rising individualism over the period, which is consistent with accounts for other countries… Second, the level of individualism would have been considerably higher by the end of the Age of Mass Migration in 1920, had emigration not taken place. Taking the numbers at face value, individualism would have been between 19.0% and 20.3% higher on average in Sweden, 17.8% and 27.9% in Norway, and 7.6% and 12.5% in Denmark, depending on the measure considered.

… To wrap this up, here’s a restatement of the key findings from the study’s conclusion.

I find that people of an individualistic mindset were more prone to migrate than their collectivistic neighbors. …Due to self-selection on individualistic traits, mass emigration caused a direct compositional change in the home population. Over the period this amounted to a loss of individualists of approximate 3.7%-points in Denmark, 9.4%-points in Sweden, and 13.6%-points in Norway. …The cultural change that took place during the Age of Mass Migration was sufficiently profound to impact cross-district cultural differences in present day Scandinavia. Contemporary levels of individualism would thus have been significantly higher had emigration not occurred. …The potential societal implications of the emigration-driven cultural change are of great importance. The period of the Age of Mass Migration was characterized by industrialization, urbanization, and democratization in Scandinavia. Individualism was generally on the rise, in part due to these developments, but it seems conceivable that the collectivistic turn caused by emigration played a role in subsequent institutional developments. While economic freedom is high in contemporary Scandinavia, the region is known for its priority of social cohesion and collective insurance. This is particularly clear when contrasting the Scandinavian welfare model with American liberal capitalism.

This is first-rate research.

Professor Knudsen even understands that Scandinavian nations still have lots of economic freedom by world standards.

Imagine, though, how much economic freedom those countries might enjoy if the more individualism-minded people hadn’t left for America? Maybe those nations wouldn’t have dramatically expanded their welfare states starting in the 1960s, thus dampening economic growth.

The obvious takeaway is that migration from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to the United States was a net plus for America and a net minus for Scandinavia.

P.S. When she referred in her conclusion to “American liberal capitalism,” she was obviously referring to classical liberalism.

All

35 years ago

Today in 1983, I was a freshman at UW–Madison. My first-semester schedule — a horrid screwed-up mess because, in the troglodyte days of assignment committees to register for classes — I had just one comparative-literature class and marching band practice on Wednesdays. That’s what I remember, anyway.

A lot of people on the politically overstimulated UW–Madison campus were discussing ABC-TV’s upcoming movie “The Day After,” which depicted the U.S. following a nuclear war.

Unknown to us this day, the day of the movie (which I missed because that was also the night of the UW Marching Band banquet, a far more important event) or for years afterward was that apparently the U.S. and the Soviet Union came close to preempting “The Day After” for the real thing.

The Economist reviews 1983: Reagan, Andropov and a World on the Brink:

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was terrifying, but at least both sides knew the world was on the brink of catastrophe. As Taylor Downing’s snappily told account lays bare, what arguably made the near-miss of November 9th 1983 worse was that the West had almost no idea the Soviet leadership believed war was imminent.

East-West relations had been in dire straits for years. Ronald Reagan’s soaring anti-communist rhetoric, terming the Soviet bloc an “evil empire”, inspired freedom-lovers on both sides of the Iron Curtain, but panicked the Politburo gerontocracy. So too did his idealistic belief that missile-defence (“Star Wars”) might keep the peace better than MAD (mutually assured destruction). A hi-tech arms race spelled doom for the Soviet Union.

As communication had shrivelled, misunderstandings mushroomed. When the Soviets shot down a Korean airliner that had veered drastically off course into their airspace, nobody in the American administration could countenance the idea that the tragedy might be (as it was) a blunder, not an atrocity. The Soviets were certain the plane was on a spying mission.

NATO’s “Able Archer” exercise was also wildly misinterpreted. The Kremlin was convinced it masked war preparations. A routine change of NATO codes made the Soviets assume a nuclear first strike was imminent. In fact the KGB had an agent in the heart of NATO, Rainer Rupp. In response to an emergency request, he assured Moscow, with some bemusement, that everything in the alliance’s civilian bureaucracy was ticking along as normal. But the spymasters discounted the information, while “toadying KGB officers on the ground…sent back alarmist reports.” If the Soviet misreading of NATO intentions was a colossal intelligence failure, so was the inability of Western intelligence to realise just how jittery and ill-informed the Communist leadership had become.

As the Soviet Union put its nuclear forces on high alert, Lieutenant-General Leonard Perroots, the American air-force intelligence chief in Europe, reacted with puzzlement. A quid pro quo might have triggered an all-out nuclear war, which would, as Mr Downing puts it, leave only “cockroaches and scorpions” alive. Luckily, Perroots did nothing. After a sleepless night, the Kremlin leadership, huddled in a clinic outside Moscow with the ailing general secretary, Yuri Andropov, realised nothing was going to happen.

Mr Downing’s book gives abundant historical background, perhaps too much for readers familiar with the period. A useful later chapter depicts how realisation of the Soviet panic unfolded in the West, first in classified assessments and eventually, long after the event, in the public domain—not least thanks to Mr Downing’s television documentary, screened in 2008. He wisely avoids questions of the morality of nukes. Instead he focuses on the shortcomings that made accidental nuclear war far too plausible.

The Great (decline in world power because of the) Recession

Steve Forbes:

Perhaps the most toxic fallout from 2008–09 was not economic but rather geopolitical. It severely damaged faith in free markets in much of the world–most ominously in Beijing–even though government folly brought on the crisis. Policy errors that subsequently stunted U.S. growth for nearly a decade reinforced the perception in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea that the U.S. was a declining power, and they acted accordingly. It will take a few years of good, solid growth in America to put an end to this kind of deluded–and dangerous–thinking.

Whatever differences it had with the U.S., China believed Americans understood money and finance. The disillusionment triggered by the crisis quickly set in motion a resurgence of Chinese government intervention in the economy that goes on to this day. Violations of international trading rules that Beijing had agreed to honor proliferated. Forced transfers of know-how and trade secrets from foreign companies to Chinese ones mushroomed, as did involuntary mergers with domestic entities.

Disturbingly, China has chucked out the cautious foreign policy that had been in place since 1978. It is aggressively working to expand its influence regionally and globally. Spending on military forces and R&D is rapidly growing. Beijing is determined to be the master of cyberwarfare.

The liberal post-WWII order of American-led military security and growing trade is under stress.

Of course, a sustained Reaganesque economic and military revival at home and wise peace-through-strength policies overseas could right matters again, as they did once before.

What everyone missed from Helsinki

Facebook Friend Tim Nerenz:

Everybody has had their say about what Trump said in Helsinki, including Trump himself. I don’t care about that; I want to talk about what Putin said in Helsinki, which seems to have sailed right over the heads of Ken and Barbie press posers who look good in clothes and read virtuous words for lots of money. The Putin story is much better.

Trump was weird from the opening bell; all amped up about the DNC servers for no apparent reason. But Putin was on it; steady and focused like a pointer pinning a quail with a stare. Granted he has a dozen years of practice at these events, but my own decades of doing deals and watching deal-masters told me instinctively to pay close attention, and the boy did not disappoint.

After Mueller dropped his turd in the Helsinki punch bowl with his second round of non-prosecutable indictments a couple days prior, Putin responded with his kind offer of co-operation under a 1999 Treaty that none of us knew existed and then pulls the pin and throws the grenade of a charge that U.S. intelligence officials aided an international tax fugitive in funneling $400 million to the Clinton campaign. Ba-bam! We can help each other investigate international interference in your elections, says Putin…ALL of it.

Wait, what? $400 million? Aided by our own intelligence officials? Browder is his name? And we are hearing this in now in 2018 not from any of our own watchdog news media? So I quickly Google Browder – sure enough, a real guy with Interpol warrants for massive tax evasion and global skullduggery. Not a phantom like Guccifer 2.0. Renounced his American citizenship and went to loot Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union – foreigner who meddled in Maryland campaigns and paid to get federal legislation passed. Living in the UK. Seems like a well connected filthy-rich globalist sleaze ball, passes the Clinton orbit instant background check.

Bombshell of the century and the press does not bother ask a follow-up question – not the story they were sent there to write. Somebody please Make Journalism Great Again.

That was not Donald Trump talking – the fellow on the left with all the hair who is prone to hyberbolic off-script nonsense. That was Vlad the Impaler, the most disciplined public figure on the planet, who does not utter a syllable that is unplanned or un-purposed. He used complete sentences and his charges were specific and he waited to make them until the entire world was watching. Cold, methodical, surgical.

I’ll see your 32 hackers and $200k in Facebook ads and raise you $400 million, the DNC, the heads of your own intelligence services, and the Clinton Foundation. Here’s a soccer ball, Deep State, it’s your move. The charges are so outrageous, so over the top, that no thinking person would make them unless they were in possession of some evidence to back them up. Say what you will about Putin – he is every bit of bad that you can imagine and worse – but he is not stupid and he is not reckless and that must mean….ruh-roh.

Which brings me to John Brennan, former head of CIA and chief hysteric in the aftermath of the Helsinki presser. He thinks Putin ordered the hack of the DNC, CF, Clinton campaign, and their network or fund-scrubbing operations, and this week he declared it an act of treason to fail to publicly believe him. And the same Trump-hating lefties who wanted to erase borders, shut down ICE, and let illegal aliens vote four days ago are suddenly right-wing uber-patriots ready to start WWIII to defend the honor of the CIA and protect election integrity from foreign interference. I pledge allegiance to the former head of the CIA, and to the shadow government for which he stands… Bizarro world.

Well, I’m no traitor, so I believe you, Mr. Brennan; I think you are right that Putin ordered the hacks that succeeded at DNC and other places run by incompetent nincompoops and I think he was behind the successful hacks at CIA under your watch, too. I think he told WikiLeaks what to release and what to hold back in 2016, and he is sitting on the good stuff, including the dirt on Browden, Clinton, and our American intel traitors. That would explain a lot.

That might be what he and Trump talked about for two hours that made Trump so excited about DNC servers and emails. Who knows? I certainly don’t, but Robert Mueller does and his response to Putin’s offer of cooperation over the next couple of weeks will be very telling.

Trump and Putin: Another view

J.T. provides …

A few thoughts about Trump, actions versus talk, and negotiations with foreign leaders….

Trump understands negotiations like few others. He’s very much like Reagan in being tough on our adversaries, although they have a different style. Reagan, of course, called the Soviet Union “The Evil Empire,” and it was, and Reagan used very harsh rhetoric, and rightly so, considering the circumstances.

Trump won’t do that with Russia now, because it would be counterproductive. Putin is a genuinely bad guy. I think we all understand that, and that includes Trump. But, Russia is nowhere near as much of a threat nor is it nearly as powerful as the USSR was. Reagan’s was a different time and called for both different tactics and a different strategy. The way to get Russia to stop its nefarious ways is through a carrot-and-stick approach, much like before, except we can use a lot more carrot than stick, now, because Russia just isn’t as powerful as the old USSR was. Not even close.

Russia’s GDP in 2017 was less than a tenth of ours (1.577 trillion versus 19.390 trillion for us).

The EU’s GDP in 2017 was 17.277 trillion, also more than ten times Russia’s.

Germany’s GDP was 3.677 trillion in 2017.

France’s GDP in 2017 was 2.582 trillion.

Spain’s was 1.311 trillion.

The United Kingdom’s was 2.622 trillion.

Italy’s GDP was more than Russia’s (1.935 trillion). Even Canada’s (1.653 trillion).

All of these are NATO countries. And those aren’t all of the NATO countries, either. (Link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Member_states_of_NATO )

(You can look at the other NATO members’ GDP at this link: https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/gdp )

It’s quite easy to tell that Russia is the 21st century’s “sick man of Europe.”

In 2015, NATO countries’ GDP totaled 36.211 trillion dollars (from the wiki link above). That’s nearly 23 times as large as Russia’s in 2018 (Link: https://tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp) .

I’m sure Putin knows this. I’m sure Trump does, too.

So, why did Trump treat Putin so nicely during the press conference? Because talk is cheap, which Trump also knows very well. Trump wants Putin’s help in corralling China and North Korea. He also wants help keeping Iran at bay and defeating ISIS, while guaranteeing Israel’s security. How does he get all that? Carrots and sticks.

Actions matter orders-of-magnitude more than talk. In April, Trump imposed a whole slew of sanctions against Russians. (Link: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/07/trump-sanctions-on-russia-this-is-as-far-from-collusion-as-can-get.html )

That hurts. I’m sure it got Putin’s attention.This, also, is the very opposite of “collusion.” Trump has been extremely tough on the Russians. Note that those sanctions are still in effect and were put in place months before the summit earlier this week. That’s the stick. Russia’s economy sucks and Trump gutpunched them in April.

Proving to foreign leaders that he wants to get along with them, because we’re all better off as friends than we are as enemies, is the exact same play he tried with Kim Jong-Un and with China’s Xi, as well. Did it work? Kim Jong-Un hasn’t fired any rockets off since then has he? Trump’s power of persuasion is his superhuman ability.

Trump is all about trying to get along with the foreign heads of state, but he understands that we sit in the catbird’s seat. Between us and NATO, we could cripple Russia’s economy if we needed to.

If Russia were an enemy, would Germany allow itself to get so dependent on energy from Russia?

Trump is right in calling Russia a “competitor” and not an enemy, much less an “Evil Empire.” That echoes what George W. Bush said about China when he said they were a “strategic competitor.” He’s also right to try to schmooze Putin face-to-face (as well as Mr. Kim and President XI), and make nice for the cameras in order to try to get cooperation (although the press conference was a mistake).

Will all of this work? Can he make “competitors” play nice? Well, it’s all about the economy, and between us, NATO, South Korea, Japan, and all of our other allies, we have Russia bent over a barrel.

None of us know what Trump and Putin discussed in their meeting. It was probably all sorts of things, and I bet trump pursued our national interests as hard as he could. Imagine how tough he was on Putin since he was so tough on our NATO allies.

I bet we’ll see progress on that front soon enough. It would help if the EU would be tough on Putin, too.

Putin quite obviously wants to reassemble the old Soviet Un

Putingate

Jay Nordlinger:

[Monday] morning, President Trump tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

Some of us see it differently. Putin’s Russia is a dictatorship that kills critics, violates borders, interferes in democratic elections, etc. — and that’s why relations between it and the United States, a great liberal democracy, are bad.

Also, the Mueller team has just indicted twelve GRU agents. Does our president think that’s the fruit of a “Rigged Witch Hunt”?

When Trump sent out the above-quoted tweet, the Russian foreign ministry responded, “We agree.” That’s something that ought to give us pause — all of us Americans.

• Some conservatives are remembering Jeane Kirkpatrick today, who, in a famous 1984 speech, said Democrats (her own party at that point) tended to “blame America first.” President Trump appeared to do so in his tweet. Then, at his press conference with Putin, he was asked whether Russia bore any responsibility for bad relations between Moscow and Washington. Trump said, “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.” And a bit later: “I think we’re all to blame.”

In times past, we conservatives referred to such a posture as “moral equivalence.”

• For two years now, there has been a debate over who hacked the Democrats in the 2016 election. In a debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump said, “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

Later, there was a theory that a Democratic staffer had leaked sensitive information and been murdered as a result.

The U.S. intelligence community holds that Russia is the guilty party, when it comes to election interference. Our intelligence community holds that Russia is still at it. H. R. McMaster, who was once Trump’s national security adviser, said that evidence of Russia’s guilt was “incontrovertible.” In February, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, made a blunt statement: “Frankly, the United States is under attack.” Last week, with equal bluntness, he said, “The warning lights are blinking red.”

And, of course, Robert Mueller indicted those twelve GRU men.

President Trump, at his joint press conference with Putin, was asked whom he believed: Putin or the U.S. intelligence community. He answered, “My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

That was corrected a day later when the White House claimed Trump meant to say “I don’t see any reason why it would not be.”

• Many of us have noted that Trump has excellent people around him — many of conservatism’s best and brightest. General McMaster was one of them. Then we have John Bolton, James Mattis, Dan Coats, Mike Pompeo, et al. But none of them was elected president. None of them ran for the office. The American people chose Trump. And “it all comes down to the man at the desk,” as George Bush the Elder said in the 1988 campaign. The president is where the buck stops, as Truman had it, or rather his sign did.

Dan Coats can be as blunt as he wants, and he does a service when he informs the public. But if the president chooses not to listen to him, or not to believe him — that’s the president’s prerogative, and the voters will react as they will.

• People have often pointed out that there seem to be two administrations, when it comes to U.S. policy on Russia: President Trump — and the rest of the administration. This idea was spelled out in a New York Times article, headed “Trump Opens His Arms to Russia. His Administration Closes Its Fist” (here).

• Sergei Magnitsky was Bill Browder’s lawyer — and a whistleblower. Magnitsky was tortured to death, real slow, by Russian authorities. Since that time, Browder has dedicated his life to human rights and justice. He has campaigned all over the world for “Magnitsky acts,” which place sanctions on Russian officials who abuse human rights. His activism has made him a prime target of Putin and the Kremlin. Bill (he is a friend of mine) has to watch his step at every turn. He has stuck his neck out, for truth and justice.

{Monday] at the joint press conference, Putin told his usual tales, his usual lies, about Bill (or some of them). All the while, Trump nodded solemnly and understandingly. It would be hard to tell you how disgusting that was to many of us.

• Putin suggested that the Kremlin and Washington cooperate in investigating Russian cyber attacks. Trump, gratified, called this “an incredible offer.” He repeated it: “I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay?”

“Incredible” is just the right word, though the president may not know it.

• Throughout this summit, Trump’s posture toward Putin has been gentle and respectful — even deferential. Contrast this with his posture toward Trudeau, Merkel, May, and their like.

• In an interview on Saturday, Trump was asked to name America’s “biggest foe globally right now.” Trump first said the European Union. Later, with Putin, he referred to the boss of the Chinese Communist Party as follows: “our mutual friend President Xi.”

People notice these things, and are right to.

• On his way to Finland, to meet Putin, Trump once again referred to the press as “the enemy of the people.” This phrase is greatly meaningful in Russia: Many, many people have been killed under that designation. What I mean is, many people have been killed as “enemies of the people.” I think American presidents should avoid this phrase, especially when talking about the free press, annoying as that press may be.

In Russia, many, many journalists have been killed, having incurred the displeasure of Putin. An American president should remember that.

• Over the weekend, I expressed the hope that Trump would bring up political prisoners, in the tradition of American presidents. (For my blogpost, go here.) Evidently, this did not happen. Some of us were especially hoping that Trump would bring up the case of Oleg Sentsov, the filmmaker and writer from Crimea who has been on hunger strike for over two months.

• In the Obama years, a lot of us made the following point: The president seemed annoyed with democratic protesters in Iran, for making it harder for him to deal as he wanted with the Iranian government. In a similar way, Trump seems annoyed with reality for intruding on his desired relations with Putin.

• I have been banging on a drum for many years (to no avail) — decades now. I don’t believe that Olympic Games, World Cups, and other such international competitions should be held in police states. President Trump said he wanted to “congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever.”

I would greatly appreciate a president, or other leader, who said, “No more Olympic Games or World Cups in police states. Choose another place in this great broad world.”

• Over and over, Trump said, “The world wants to see us get along” — the United States and Russia. Sure. But sometimes, relations must be unsmooth between adventuring dictatorships and democracies such as ours. Every conservative, among others, knows this in his bones.

President Trump, at his joint press conference with Putin, was asked whom he believed: Putin or the U.S. intelligence community. He answered, “My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

The view from the Great White North

Canadian J.J. McCullough:

There’s an overused anecdote in Canada about how an American newspaper guy, several decades ago, declared the headline “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative” the most boring one he’d ever seen. These days, however, I’d say the headline comes off less boring than implausible. When’s the last time Canada proposed any sort of initiative, worthwhile or otherwise?

The administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught off guard by the election of President Trump, and has not handled well the ensuing disruption of U.S.-Canadian relations. It’s a flat-footedness that has highlighted the degree to which the Canadian establishment has become complacent and unimaginative in managing this supposedly most sacred of relationships.

It’s been almost 30 years since then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney proposed, negotiated and implemented free trade with the United States (prompting the aforementioned headline). Yet in the decades since, the Canadian interest in the U.S. relationship has consisted mostly of “playing within the boundaries of that big change,” as Gabe Batstone of the Canadian American Business Council told me.

Part of this is no doubt because of the unwillingness of successive Ottawa administrations to risk the political consequences of inflaming Canadian anti-Americanism. Canadians may happily inhabit a broadly Americanized culture and economy, but it’s not difficult to provoke patriotic resentment of this status quo.

Notions that having deep economic integration with the United States represents some sort of national character flaw remain mainstream.  Pundits and public alike wax on with fantastical ideas that Canada could lessen this dependence on the United States if only the will was there. This resentful conventional wisdom warps the national understanding of the degree to which Canada’s wealth, safety and general pleasantness is a byproduct of its American integration, as opposed to being organic national virtues.

Trump’s aluminum and steel tariffs have given Canada a fresh excuse to indulge in the worst excess of such delusions. There’s nothing to call the recent bevy of absurd editorials that have filled major Canadian news outlets — from an Ottawa Citizen column on “why Canada should get nuclear weapons” to Maclean’s “case for invading America,” to any number of broader media provocations for a boycott of American goods and vacations —- beyond manifestations of a Canadian Napoleon complex.

Even supposedly serious voices propose strategies to circumvent Trump that pander to patriotic fantasies. Retaliatory tariffs have been endorsed by all parties. Conservative politicians have argued that their partisan agenda of tax cuts and energy deregulation will offset Washington’s damage. The case for building new pipelines, or signing trade deals with Asia or Europe, or lowering barriers of commerce among Canada’s provinces, or making enormous new investments in the Canadian military have all supposedly become “more obvious than ever.”

No Canadian dares make the case for the one thing that would objectively provide long-term relief: surrendering in Trump’s trade war before it begins.

As he stood beside the Canadian prime minister at the Group of Seven summit in Quebec, Trump joked to reporters that “Justin has agreed to cut all tariffs, and all trade barriers between Canada and the United States, so I’m very happy about that.” It was supposed to be funny, because that’s not Trudeau’s position.

But what if it was?

Ottawa could dramatically call the president’s bluff and announce its intention to embrace unqualified free trade with the United States, abolishing all existing tariffs, duties, subsidies, quotas and regulations employed to discriminate against U.S. goods in favor of Canadian ones. Canada could eliminate its astronomical dairy tariffs, adopt the U.S. understanding that yes, its softwood lumber is subsidized, and dismantle all protectionist measures aimed at keeping various American no-no industries —- telecommunications and banking chief among them — out of Canada on spurious pretexts of national security, or cultural sovereignty, or whatever. The ball would then be in Trump’s court to make good on one of his other G-7 musings: “No tariffs, no barriers, that’s the way it should be.”

Though it might injure Canadian pride in the short term — just as Mulroney’s deal originally did — complete free trade with the United States would impart scant hardship on Canadians themselves. All available evidence suggests one of the main things Canadians crave in life is easier, cheaper access to American goods and services. Yet such wants tend to go ignored in the politics of trade talks, which are biased toward guarding the privileges of protected industries at the expense of consumers — i.e., milk farmers over milk drinkers.

Compensation could be offered to those most disrupted, but the United States is not Mexico. Canada is not some shaky steel town. Many of Canada’s most jealously guarded firms in high finance, transportation and media employ only a privileged few, and are synonymous with wealth and unsavory government connections. The ultimate goal should be a Canadian economy properly positioned to maximize its competitive advantage in a binational, continental context, as opposed to one that invests large amounts of public money propping up redundant, noncompetitive Canadian industries for their own sake.

Honest free trade with America — not closer ties with China or Europe, nor any tweaking of domestic trade or taxes — is the only realistic plan for a long-term, prosperous Canada, immune to “every twitch and grunt” of the U.S. elephant, as the prime minister’s father so famously put it many decades ago.

To a certain class of Canadian raised on a diet of anti-American preening, nothing will seem more counterintuitive than walking toward Trump. But doing what’s right for the broader national interest sometimes means ignoring the counsel of those who possess the narrowest notions of patriotism.