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The Discourse Report: May 16, 2023
Welcome to DiscRep, Berny Belvedere’s daily guide to the public discourse. Got something you think I should include in a future entry? Write me at email@example.com. To discuss any of today’s items, post a comment below.
What We Lose When We Push Our Kids to ‘Achieve’ by Adam Gopnik in The New York Times
Achievement is the completion of the task imposed from outside — the reward often being a path to the next achievement. Accomplishment is the end point of an engulfing activity we’ve chosen, whose reward is the sudden rush of fulfillment, the sense of happiness that rises uniquely from absorption in a thing outside ourselves.
Our social world often conspires to denigrate accomplishment in favor of the rote work of achievement. All our observation tells us that young people, particularly, are perpetually being pushed toward the next test or the “best” grammar school, high school or college they can get into. We invent achievement tests designed to be completely immune to coaching, and therefore we have ever more expensive coaches to break the code of the noncoachable achievement test. (Those who can’t afford such luxuries are simply left out.) We drive these young people toward achievement, tasks that lead only to other tasks, into something resembling not so much a rat race as a rat maze, with another hit of sugar water awaiting around the bend but the path to the center — or the point of it all — never made plain.
Our No-Win Scenario by Jonah Goldberg in The Dispatch
The Constitution doesn’t mention political parties, but the Constitution and the two-party system rest on a central Madisonian idea: make politics safer and more boring. James Madison wouldn’t put it that way, though John Adams might.
Both our formal and informal political decision-making processes are designed to force a lot of debate and contemplation, to secure buy-in from diverse coalitions of interests and stakeholders. One reason for constitutional checks and balances is to make sure that momentary popular passions don’t overpower reason with demagoguery.
The parties, meanwhile, are supposed to pick candidates who are the least objectionable to the broadest array of interests within the party coalition. Even the primaries—which I loathe—were intended to give geographically diverse voters a chance to see if a candidate has the temperament and character to be president. They’re also supposed to give the press and other institutions an opportunity to vet candidates before they get the nomination.
None of that is happening.
Liberals Grow Fearful Biden May Reward GOP for Weaponizing Debt Ceiling by Jeff Stein, Rachel Siegel, Marianna Sotomayor, and Liz Goodwin in The Washington Post
The emerging deal with Congress could extend the debt ceiling by two years — crucially, past the 2024 presidential election — in a victory for the Biden administration, while also potentially setting the government’s total spending through then. In exchange for avoiding the economic instability of a default, the White House would agree at least in part to GOP demands to set new limits on spending, while also rescinding unused covid funding and, potentially, approving a permitting deal to encourage energy production. The president on Sunday also appeared to express openness to hearing GOP proposals to impose new work requirements on federal programs — measures likely to be fiercely opposed by the left, and which the administration has for months criticized.
A Bouncy, Fresh Brand of Trumpism by Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic
Ramaswamy’s stump speech was a plea for people to resist the “cults” of race, gender, and climate—and a call to redefine what it means to be an American. That redefinition would apparently involve a few constitutional amendments and a lot of executive power. As president, he told the crowd, he’d end affirmative action and shut down the Department of Education. He’d boost the national Republican Party by telling Americans to “drill, frack, burn coal, and embrace nuclear.” He’d send the military to patrol the southern border instead of defending “somebody else’s border in God knows where.” He’d shut down the FBI and give a gun to every adult in Taiwan to defend themselves against China. He’d prohibit young people from voting unless they performed national service or passed a citizenship test. He’d ban TikTok for kids younger than 16.
What is the Debt Ceiling? (The Economist)