In today's mail came the Winter 2021 issue—the second that has been published—of Liberties, the new journal edited by Leon Wieseltier of New Republic fame.
It is refreshingly different from what else is out there, not least in its online strategy, which seems to consist of not publishing the articles on the Internet, even behind a paywall, but requiring people instead to subscribe in print.
Here are two things I enjoyed in the current issue. From Nicholas Lemann, a suggestion to "decentralize power." He writes, "Like everybody else, experts live in their own enclosed worlds, and they often operate on distinctive, non-universal, and not fully conscious assumptions that nobody they encounter ever challenges. Technocracy is not a guarantee of truth or wisdom. No matter how smart and epistemologically sophisticated they are, experts miss things....in a democracy, experts must be prepared to respect and honor what the great majority of citizens who aren't experts think."
Writes Lemann: "You should think in particular about what kind of political system you would want, if the bad guys were winning. You would want checks on the power of the President and on the more politically insulated parts of the federal government, such as the Supreme Cort and the Federal Reserve. You would want good state and local governments to have room to do what the national government can't or won't do....squabbling, bargaining self-interest, partisanship, and gridlock would be signs of political health, not dysfunction. Influence would come from the sustained effort to be effective through democratic means, not from finding workarounds to open, participatory politics." (See my November 2016 column, The Left Discovers Devolution.)
From David Greenberg: "Partial defenses of Robert E. Lee, of the sort that David Brooks earnestly mounted in the New York Times just five years ago, now induce cringes. ('As a family man, he was surprisingly relaxed and affectionate...He loved having his kids jump into bed with him and tickle his feet.') Were the Times to publish a piece like Brooks' in the current environment, the whole masthead would be frog-marched out of the building under armed guard."