Mark Steyn

Steyn on Europe

Country Matters

As I've said before, I've said it before. One of the occupational hazards of the commentative biz is that what's new - the daily news item - simply illustrates the same old thesis you've been hammering for years, so that life's rich pageant comes to seem like a Broadway catalogue song, a great torrent of accumulation all making the ever wearier point - that "You're the Top", "The Lady is a Tramp", "These Foolish Things remind me of you". Or in our case: We're the Pits, The Lady is a Transitioning Gentleman, and These Foolish Things remind me that our civilization's on the express chute to oblivion.

Here, by way of example, are a couple of stories readers asked for my thoughts on in the last 24 hours:

Richard Dawkins has become the latest speaker to be prevented from speaking at Berkeley. Professor Dawkins is a world-famous scientist, whose book The Selfish Gene has just been voted "the most inspiring science book of all time" in a poll commissioned by the Royal Society.

His science is not the problem. Dawkins is also an atheist.

That's not the problem, either - or it wasn't when he was principally urinating over the Pope ("a leering old villain in a frock") and the Catholic Church (an "evil corrupt institution" that's also a "child-raping institution"). All three quotes are from just one Washington Post column: that's how respectable and mainstream Dawkins was back then in 2010.

Alas, Dawkins is an equal-opportunity atheist, and feels just as unkindly toward Islam. Hence the announcement from the "liberal" sponsor of his Berkeley talk, KPFA Radio:

Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,

We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn't know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.

KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.

KPFA Radio 94.1 FM

It would have to be "sincere", wouldn't it? Because it's hard to see how apparently sentient beings could otherwise write such effete desiccated tripe. Notice how the shriveling of free expression smoothly proceeds to the next diminished staging post: Once upon a time, Berkeley professed to believe in free speech. Then it believed in free speech except for "hate speech". Now it supports "serious" free speech, but not "hurtful" speech.

Well, we live in a world of hurt. Personally, I'm hurt by people who say they don't like my cat album, or by the director's decision to give me purple hair in this video. But what's really hurtful is that KPFA and Berkeley can't even be bothered to pretend to a principled defense of free speech. What is "serious" free speech? Not so long ago, arguments for same-sex marriage or tampons for menstruating men would have been dismissed as utterly unserious - indeed, preposterous. What KPFA means by "serious" speech is compliant, conformist speech that brooks no ideological dissent from the pieties of the day - on male menstruation, climate change, Islam, and whatever's next on the list. You can be as "hurtful" as you like to cardinals but not imams, to climate deniers but not climate alarmists, to homophobic pastry chefs but not to gay newlyweds.

Its "emphatic support" of "serious free speech" is, thus, merely a regime of apostasy enforcement - which is why it has no place for an atheist such as Dawkins.

Now I think of it, readers may recall that Mr Dawkins has been rather hurtful about me:

Five years ago, when I was battling Canada's "human rights" commissions to restore free speech to my native land, Richard Dawkins was one of the few prominent figures in Her Majesty's Dominions to lend unequivocal support. He put it this way:

'I have over the years developed a dislike for Mark Steyn, although I've always admired his forceful writing. On this issue, however, he is clearly 1000% in the right and should receive all the support anybody can give him.'

Let me return the compliment: I have over the years developed a dislike for Richard Dawkins's forceful writing (the God of the Torah is "the most unpleasant character in all fiction," etc.), but I am coming round rather to admire him personally.

I renew that admiration today. Notice that even his defender Jerry Coyne feels obliged to qualify his defense: "Dawkins is not Milo Yiannopoulos." And that's true: Milo has bigger hair. Dawkins is also not Ann Coulter. Dawkins is not Germaine Greer. Dawkins is not Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And yet he has joined all of them in the Pantheon of the Hurtful. Funny how that works.

So, as a practical matter, Richard Dawkins is Milo Yiannopoulos. Which is where this sort of thing always leads. As I noted early on during the above-mentioned dispute with Canada's "human rights" commissions, restrictions on speech always start out on the far fringes - ensnaring wacky peripheral figures nobody cares about. But you should care about them - because those scalps are just the warm-up act, and the restrictions always move inwards, to (in my case) Canada's mainstream, impeccably respectable dentist's-waiting-room news magazine and (in Dawkins') to the winner of the Royal Society's prize for most inspiring science book of all time.

Unless they've already rescinded that. Because who wants to be inspired by someone so beastly and hurtful?

Why are we surprised that identity politics trumps even a theoretical commitment to free speech? Richard Dawkins belongs to the generation of British subjects who grew up in the long shadow of Dunkirk - the "miracle" (Churchill's word) of evacuation that saved the British Expeditionary Force (including significant numbers of Canadians, as our many RCL readers won't need reminding) and critical elements of the French and Belgian armies from certain capture or death by the Germans. The event resonated throughout Britain and the Commonwealth for half-a-century and was far more central to a people's sense of themselves than any of the more obvious triumphs: "The Dunkirk spirit" is shorthand for snatching victory from certain defeat by muddling through, backs against the walls, improvising as one can, and, without making a lot of fuss about it, never giving up. Yes, it has a big dollop of self-flattery, but right now we could use a bit more of that in the western world, don't you think?

I hope to have more to say about Christopher Nolan's new film on the subject, but I'll be hard put to match this insight from USA Today's critic Brian Truitt:

The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.

He's right. I've seen Pirates of the Caribbean. Why isn't Keira Knightley kick-assing on the beaches? Or better yet Halle Berry, with Jay-Z as the plucky Cockney Tommy stranded in France and gasping for a fag. And Morgan Freeman back at HQ as Field Marshal Viscount Gort, VC, GCB, CBE, DSO...

But hang on: Wouldn't that be "cultural appropriation"?

No. As with Berkeley's distinction between "serious" and "hurtful" speech, it all depends where you're coming from. If you happen to have the wrong kind of culture, it is necessary to appropriate it. Which is why Brian Truitt worries you may be hurt by Nolan's film.

Anyone who reads accounts of the instant, reflexive, civilian response to Dunkirk - of those middle-aged Englishmen volunteering to take a small fishing boat on a dangerous journey across the Channel to rescue a beleaguered soldiery from what would have been the most total and catastrophic defeat in British military history - finds himself thinking, as presumably Christopher Nolan did, about what spurs such men. Mrs Thatcher and Enoch Powell were both diligent attenders of the Conservative Philosophy Group, and at one meeting had a dispute on that very subject:

On one occasion, just before the Argentines invaded the Falklands, Mrs. Thatcher spoke about the Christian concept of the just war and Western values. "We do not fight for values," said Powell. "I would fight for this country even if it had a Communist government."

"Nonsense, Enoch," snapped Maggie. "If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values."

Powell stuck to his guns. "No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed."

I'm inclined to give that one to Enoch. After the war, we tidy things up and say we "fought for freedom". But Englishmen fought bravely for England, just as Germans fought bravely for Germany and Russians fought bravely for Russia. Freedom in the two latter was non-existent, and in the former incidental: it's more visceral than that.

Well, we are all moral preeners now. When the Oxford Union voted that this House would not fight for King and Country, they did not say what they would fight for instead. We like to think we would fight for "values" - which is why martial imagery and metaphor are so enthusiastically bandied for piffling micro-crusades on the home front.

But as Powell said, values exist in a transcendental realm. And, as the Berkeley incident illustrates, values are precisely what we're surrendering, incrementally, every day. Many of us, including presumably Richard Dawkins, are puzzled why all over the developed world there are so few takers to "fight for freedom": Certainly the list of those prepared to champion the cause of free speech and protest assaults on it - from Berkeley to Berlin to Brisbane - is short, and those prepared to subordinate free speech to the needs of identity politics grows ever longer. Is this really so surprising? Most people are not invested in abstractions: "Country" or "tribe" is real, which is why Pushtun goatherds prove so implacable to transnationalist do-gooders.

But we're not much invested in "country" these days, except as a repository of "values" - all those "British values" and "Canadian values" the likes of Mrs May and M Trudeau keep going on about. In the absence of any real, felt sense of "country", we seek alternative identities in the new triabalisms: for the left, sexual self-expression; for restive western Muslims, a global Islamic identity. Whatever the defects of these enthusiasms, they're more real, more felt than a commitment to transcendental values unmoored from national identity.

Three-quarters of a century ago, the Englishmen at Dunkirk did not need to think about these things. They felt them. Today we have forgotten how to think about them, and no longer feel them.

Which is why, at Berkeley, no one will fight for freedom of speech. Values are no match for identity.

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Meanwhile, for existing members, if you take issue with me on King and Country or anything else above, please have at it in our comments section...

from Steyn on Britain, July 24, 2017


The Will of the West

President Trump's speech in Warsaw was a remarkable statement from a western leader in the 21st century - which is why the enforcers of our public discourse have gone bananas over it and denounced it as "blood and soil" "nativism" (The New Republic), "racial and religious paranoia" (The Atlantic), and "tinpot dictator sh*t" (some comedian having a meltdown on Twitter). Much of the speech was just the usual boosterish boilerplate that one foreign leader sloughs off while visiting the capital of another. But that wasn't what caused the mass pearl-clutching. This was the offending passage: There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation ...

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The Great Fire of a New London

No black detail is too absurd for today's world. And so it happens that the first named victim of the towering inferno in North Kensington is Mohammed Alhajali, a Syrian refugee who arrived as a teenager with his brothers in London four years ago and somehow wound up being housed in a flat in Grenfell Tower. Launching a fund to raise money for his funeral, Kareen el Beyrouty, director of the Syria Solidarity Campaign, declared that "Mohammed Alhajali undertook a dangerous journey to flee war in Syria, only to meet death here in the UK, in his own home. His dream was to be able to go back home one day and rebuild Syria." Which is apparently a lot safer. His friend and fellow Syrian refugee Abdulaziz Almashi tells the BBC that "Syria is a ...

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When You're Not Anyone, Any Explanation Will Do

Steyn on how Theresa May squandered her majority

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Mayday! Mayday! for Britain's Tories

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Getting Used to It

An enervated fatalism sets in in Britain

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A Lot More Than London Bridge is Falling Down

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The New Mancunians

Salman Abedi's very expansive comfort zone

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The Ruin of England

The groupthink in our public discourse is so pervasive it goes as unnoticed as the air...

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"Dangerous Woman" Meets Dangerous Man

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The Midnight Train

Reality intrudes on Macron's delusions

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Leading by Example

Mark on President Macron and the barren Eurocrats

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The Wrong People do the Right Thing

A Milton Friedman lesson for the UK's general election

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Macron Bionics

The French and EU establishments, the stock markets and the currency exchanges were rather too quick to advertise their glee. Within nano-seconds of the first projections yesterday evening, the euro rose and so did the Union's princelings, from the absurb President Junkers down, to congratulate their very good friend M Macron...

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Aux Champs-Elysées...

Terror at the heart of Paris

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Who Lost Turkey? (Revisited)

As they used to say in the long Ottoman twilight, the Turk is the sick man of Europe. Following the referendum, the Turk is sicker than ever...

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Mopping-Up Operation

Denial, derangement and debacle in Europe

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Descent into Evil

In Europe, migrants' rights trump children's rights

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Never Mind the Prose Style...

Here's how America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It actually begins. Page one...

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Where the Streets Have No Jokes (cont)

Turkey's sultan Erdogan extends Islam's strictures on free speech to his new vilayet of Germany

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The Late Late Show

The man who introduced the word "Islamophobia' to the western world revises his position...

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The New Man and his Gender Gap

When the chips are down, progressive liberal feminist men won't be there for you

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"I Was Only Good at Enjoying It"

An attack on the section of the airport outside the security perimeter was entirely predictable

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Tomorrow's Civilizational Cringe Today

All the stories are different, and yet they're all the same...

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No Man's Land

Further to my observations about civilizational suicide as a form of moral narcissism comes this stark statistic...

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The Real Containment

Hashtagistan vs the real world

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The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates

As I write, Paris is under curfew for the first time since the German occupation, and the death toll from the multiple attacks stands at 158, the vast majority of them slaughtered during a concert at the Bataclan theatre, a delightful bit of 19th century Chinoiserie on the boulevard Voltaire. The last time I was there, if memory serves, was to see Julie Pietri. I'm so bloody sick of these savages shooting and bombing and killing and blowing up everything I like - whether it's the small Quebec town where my little girl's favorite fondue restaurant is or my favorite hotel in Amman or the brave freespeecher who hosted me in Copenhagen ...or a music hall where I liked to go to hear a little jazz and pop and get away from the cares of the world ...

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Manifest Destiny in the New Wild West

Gunfight at the OK Koran

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He Was Just Seventeen. You Know What I Mean.

Is it time for Seal Team Six to save the Mona Lisa?

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The Two Faces of Facebook

This tenth anniversary of the Mohammed cartoons is a glum day for free speech. But that's no reason for some "social media" billionaire not to make it worse. During her visit to New York for the grand UN dictators' ball, Angela Merkel was overheard rebuking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for permitting people to post "anti-immigrant" sentiments on social media...

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Last Laughs in Europe

Mark and Mohammed in the Danish Parliament

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The Emperor's Moral Narcissism

Twelve years ago, it was said that the western armies in Iraq would be welcomed as liberators. (They were - for a while.) Today in Germany, another conquering army are being welcomed as liberators - liberators from the residual moral stain of what remains of ethnic nationalism and cultural identity. Watching European news broadcasts right now is like an insane demotic inversion of the Emperor's new clothes. "To a fool these thousands of fit young Muslim men appear well dressed and well fed. But a wise man such as Your Majesty can easily see that they are desperate starving refugees in rags." And so as the trains pull in to German railway stations to disgorge men who meet no known definition of "refugees" they are greeted on the platform by ...

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Taking It

With a migrant tide engulfing Europe, the question remains whether the west can muster the will to turn away from the suicidal delusions of multiculturalism

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Disunion Jack

Further to my note on last week's UK election, Mark Wilson writes from beautiful County Down: Hey there, Mark is of course right when he says that no one outside Northern Ireland cares about the difference between the 'official ' unionists (or their name, since the 'official' went out years ago!) and the DUP...

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St George and a New Dragon

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Mods vs Choppers

According to Daniel Pipes, "Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution." But what if "moderate" Islam is the problem?

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For Valour

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The Last of England

The new British police state wages war on free speech

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The Sound of Silence

Free speech is in retreat around the western world

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Hollande Daze

The French authorities killed three murderous savages yesterday. That was the only good news on a day in which a third hostage siege began in Montpellier. The bad news started at the top, with President Hollande's statement after the Charlie Hebdo slaughter and the Kosher grocery siege: Those who committed these acts have nothing to do with the Muslim religion. Yeah, right. I would use my standard line on these occasions - "Allahu Akbar" is Arabic for "Nothing to see here" - but it's not quite as funny when the streets are full of cowards, phonies and opportunists waving candles and pencils and chanting "Je suis Charlie." Because if you really were Charlie, if you really were one of the 17 Frenchmen and women slaughtered in the name of ...

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Seasonal Stockholm Syndrome

My column on Britain's and Europe's Christmas holiday without end attracted a bit of pushback from readers across the pond. For example: Oh dear. I do like your stuff normally but this nonsense you have produced about the Xmas holidays us lazy Brits take is irritating crap. Just because the Yanks are good little wage slaves it's not a template. In any event average hours for a full time job per year in the UK are around 1950 for a 37.5 hour week. Most are lucky to get a couple of days for Xmas – many of course work it. Thirty or so years ago one man/woman could work in a relatively average job, buy a house, get a decent pension and send his kids to university. Now both parents have to work their arses off just to keep head above water. ...

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The Reformation of Manners

Rotherham and the multicultural cringe

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Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

Just about the only part of my career I truly regret was the time I spent at the BBC, who very kindly fired me back in the Nineties. Otherwise, I'd have a lot more time to regret. Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile - or at least I don't think so...

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Kippers and Curtains

As I was saying: "Ukip — like Nigel Farage's bar bill at ten in the evening — will climb a lot higher yet." And so it did...

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Nigel vs the Lunatic Mainstream

Today Britain goes to the polls to vote in the European elections. Nigel Farage has had a rough ride, to the point where a casual observer might easily assume the election was being fought between Farage's UKIP and a Tory-Labour-Liberal-Media coalition...

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The Churchill Bust

In the new Britain, quoting Winston gets you arrested

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Shooting the Messenger

Who will rid Dutch liberals of this turbulent blond?

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Hath Not a Jew Eyes?

"Neo-Nazis" and "anti-government people" on the march!

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To the Slaughter

Behold the infidels - bystanders in their own fate: Steyn on an act of savagery in a London street - and the appalling aftermath

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The Unfinished Revolution

The picture on the right is from the Nineties, and I'm rather fond of it, because I manage to look both goofy and shifty but Mrs Thatcher's cool is undiminished. I don't know why the harp was there...

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Lars Hedegaard, Defender of Freedom

Steyn salutes a great man...

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'Government Health Care: The Musical' an infectious hit

I scrammed out of London a few days before the Olympics began, but after getting an earful on what the locals make of it. On the whole, the residents of that great city would rather the honor of hosting the world's most disruptive sporting event had gone to some joint that needs the publicity more – Alma Ata, or Ouagadougou, or Oakland. In 21st century London, traffic moves at fewer miles per hour than it did before the internal combustion engine was invented without the added complication of fleets of Third World thug bureaucrats and the permanent floating crap game of transnationalist freeloaders being dumped on its medieval street plan. Nevertheless, having drawn the short straw of hosting the Games, Londoners felt it a point of honor that the city be able to demonstrate the ability to ferry minor globalist hangers-on from their favorite whorehouse in Mayfair to the Olympic Village in the unfashionable East End in time for the quarter-finals of the flatwater taekwondo.

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The Guardian has a report from the Greek-Turkish frontier - or "Europe's border", as a German member of the 175-strong Frontex security team describes it: In 2009 some 3,600 migrants managed to slip across the frontier not far from this market town; in 2010 that number shot up to 36,000, helping explain why Greece has become the favoured port of entry for 90% of illegals pouring into the EU. "They come at all hours of the night and day," said Orestiada's police chief, Giorgos Salamangas, in his icon-bedecked office. "And they're coming not just from the Middle East and Asia but all of Africa, places I have never heard of before." The Guardian being The Guardian, they headline the piece "Fortress Europe". But it's a fortress you can stroll ...

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The last of the 20th century's Big Ideas is dying before our eyes: The sick man of Europe is ...Europe

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My weekend column is on London ablaze and a society summed up by the relevant chapter title in my new book ("The New Britannia: The Depraved City"). The scenes we've witnessed this last week ought to prompt some serious soul-searching by liberal elites. I nearly said "paternalist," but, as Tocqueville noted, the word paternalism implies that your object is to raise your charges to adulthood, whereas the children of dependency are maintained by government in a state of permanent and increasingly feral adolescence. Are we likely to get that soul-searching? Charles Crawford, sometime NR cruiser and formerly Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador in various parts of Mitteleuropa, thinks not: The only worse thing than having a problem is not ...

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