The Corner

Typical Ezra

I largely stopped reading Ezra Klein when it became clear he was going to spend the next couple years being something of an intellectual hall monitor for whatever ideas blow through the netroots. When he grows out of it he might be moderately interesting again. I also grew particularly tired of his regularly suggesting that he’s a whole lot smarter than me. It’s a bad pose from people who are smarter than me (and there are plenty of ‘em). But I’m embarrassed for Ezra when he does it. Whether he believes it or is simply playing to the lefty-blog-commenter crowd I have no idea nor do I much care. And heck, maybe he is a lot smarter than me, I just have never seen much proof in his writing or his commentary on bloggingheads.

Anyway, a couple leftwing transmission-belt emailers sent me Ezra’s post about my latest article in NR and I figured I’d break my moratorium. He writes:

TRUE DIVERSITY. Speaking of Jonah Goldberg, he’s got a long piece extolling the virtues of federalism in the latest National Review that’s sort of accidentally revealing. After conducting an evaluation of federalism based largely on open container laws and squeegee men, Goldberg writes:

For some people owning a monkey might be the very definition of freedom. For others, it’s a pointless public-health hazard. Either way, that a presidential campaign has become the venue for proselytizers of monkey freedom should tell you a lot about the mess we’ve made of the constitutional order. There is no correct answer, discernible through reason or revelation, about whether people should be free to own pet monkeys or to drink beer outside without a brown paper bag. It depends on where you live and how you and your neighbors want to live. The beauty of federalism is that it values real diversity over the superficial diversities of skin color and gender.

It takes a particular type of, um, thinker to conclude that monkey-ownership represents real diversity, while the experience of being an African-American or woman is a shallow, largely aesthetic, distinction. And to assert, rather than argue, the claim! Well! One might, in fact, call this a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care. But then, we’d expect nothing less from Jonah.

Me: It takes a particular kind of, um, intellectual hatchet-boy to so deliberately misread my article. I won’t break out the hand puppets and flash cards unless I have to, but let me explain: liberalism’s reigning understanding of “diversity” is that every institution should “look like America” but think exactly alike. Surely even young Ezra has heard this argument before. Clarence Thomas types don’t count as contributors to diversity because they don’t think black. There is a narrow understanding of what constitutes the “black perspective” or the “woman’s point of view.” If you break from it, you are no longer authentic. What was it Naomi Wolfe wrote about Jeane Kirkpatrick? That she writes as if she doesn’t have a uterus? It’s similar to the point we’ve been discussing around here for a while now. Gay people according to Ezra-types have to support a litany of “gay issues” if they are going to be authentically gay. Otherwise they are hypocrites.

The benefit of the sort of diversity I’m talking about is that it is more than skin deep and allows for a diversity of ideas, not one set of ideas imposed across the entire country under the label “diversity.” If Ezra took a moment to think about it, he’d actually realize that the federalism I propose is very, very different than the sort of conservatism he spends most of his time whining about. In my ideal, there would be states where left-libertinism could reign supreme. As I’ve written about federalism and this argument dozens of times, I’d be glad to go into more detail if Ezra doesn’t understand.

But the real problem with Ezra’s complaint is that it deliberately misreads an obviously light, un-”long” (1,500 words) impressionistic, travelogue-esque piece and tries to make it into a definitive argument about federalism, rather than a mere meditation on it. But that’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Ezra. Alas.

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