I had a rant against the Federalist Papers, and then this article ran in the WSJ

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on May 8, 2012

There have been two anti-millenial pieces posted in the last two days in the Wall Street Journal: “Why Colleges Don’t Teach the Federalist Papers” and “To the Class of 2012.” They deserve to be discussed together, but I have very separate issues with them.

Regarding the Federalist Papers, I have had the misfortune of reading them in recent months. Why we revere propaganda pieces in this day and age is beyond me. The only possible reason for reading the Federalist Papers is to laugh riotously at all the “promises” the nationalists made to those devoted to freedom and independence. My favorite is Number 46. I can save you the time and energy of reading the whole thing as Number 46 shows you all you need to know. The topic, according to modern compilations, is “The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared.” I chose this one because the particular logical fallacies involved was so completely disproven by the end of the 20th century, and they were disproven party by the operation of the modern tax system.

And not even our greatest legal minds understand what these documents contain. Recently Justice Scalia made headlines by mocking the Healthcare Act, saying it was so long it could hardly be considered a law at all. Scalia might be pained to be reminded of Hamilton’s words in the 78th Federalist Paper, “It has been frequently remarked with great propriety that a voluminous code of laws is one of the inconveniences necessarily connected with the advantages of a free government.” Or, in modern English, free governments need a lot of laws. Original intent clearly shows that our notion of freedom anticipates long pieces of legislation, and the accompanying interpretative case law and regulations. Sorry Scalia.

The truth is no one can read these documents. I would have said anymore, but they were not really designed to be read for their content to begin with. In fact, their goal was an absence of content. The goal, as with most propaganda, was to repeat themselves over and over with blatantly false statements and convictions and preposterous predictions of the future. They repeated themselves until people were embarrassed into thinking they must be true. We should be ashamed of their role in our history. These documents do not have any bearing on truth, either then or now. Some may specialize in the propaganda used to create Phase One of the American Republic. But it will not serve to create a healthier conservatism in our young people to continue to expose them to suspicious statements of opinion.

And the second article. The second article made me all the more furious about these issues. The author criticizes mid-20th century knowledge of recent college graduates. I am sick and tired of every conversation and every opinion piece beginning in this manner. Face it: I am 25 and I have no idea who was president in 1956 (disregard that I went to school in England as a child). We live in a knowledge economy that encourages specialization. I do not need that information, therefore I have efficiently left it out of my brain. If I ever need it, I will go to Wikipedia and learn it. Depth is ranked over breadth these days. And that is because the depth is so much deeper than it ever was before.  If you are really judging candidates by this criteria, you are not an efficient consumer of intellectual labor.

I am a certain kind of conservative, and because we are so rare, I spend a lot of time among a related group of conservatives who are obsessed with our lack of civic knowledge as a generation. The author of the article goes on to say we are competing globally. What good does it do to my global knowledge to hold extraneous facts about American history that are little more than trivia? It’s just not relevant to the kind of questions I address and raise on a daily basis. These paternal rants are really getting out of control and need to stop. These authors are right to require such historical rigor of their children but not of the generation as a whole. In fact, my parents didn’t emphasize learning mid-20th century American history. We learned about economics at the dinner table, and how market forces work. That is our niche.

I’m sorry that Mr. Berkowitz and Mr. Stephens feel so woefully out of touch. But they should keep that between themselves and their psychiatrists.


2 Responses

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  1. No One Special said, on May 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Did you send this to the WSJ?

    • a1icey said, on May 12, 2012 at 9:52 am

      No, someone else can steal it and send it if they want. I don’t really need wall street journal letters to the editor-type exposure.

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