A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors



Mike Konczal and Peter Frase take another look at the Universal Basic Income. Konczal:

Though establishing a basic income was once at the forefront of politics, it has since become more of a Utopian, abstract project. But sometimes it is helpful to step back from the day-to-day wonk work and think Utopian.

Samuel Goldman on "expressive consumerism," superficial inclusiveness, and economic inequality:

In our time,the stories of greater social equality and economic inequality are far from unrelated. Rather, social inclusion has been used to legitimize economic inequality by means of familiar arguments about meritocracy. According to this view, its fine that the road from Harvard Yard to Wall Street is paved with gold, so long a few representatives of every religion, color, and sexual permutation manage to complete the journey. Superficial diversity at the top thus provides an moral alibi for the gap between the one percent and the rest.

Michel Kinsley on "LGBT PC":

All you need to know is that Ben Carson opposes same-sex marriage. Case closed. Carson was supposed to be the graduation speaker at Johns Hopkins Medical School. There was a fuss, and Carson decided to withdrawas speaker. The obviously relieved dean nevertheless criticized Carson for being hurtful. His analysis of the situation was that the fundamental principle of freedom of expression has been placed in conflict with our core values of diversity, inclusion and respect. My analysis is that, at a crucial moment, the dean failed to defend a real core value of the university: tolerance.The universitys response was wrong for a variety of reasons. First, Carson isnt just another gasbag. He is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Hopkins. Pediatric neurosurgery! He fixes childrens brains. How terrible can a person be who does that for a living? Yes, I know the flaw in this thinking: There is no necessary connection. As a character says in Mel Brookss movie The Producers: der Fhrer vas a terrific dancer. But Carson didnt murder millions of people. All he did was say on television that he opposes same-sex marriagean idea that even its biggest current supporters had never even heard of a couple of decades ago. Does that automatically make you a homophobe and cast you into the outer darkness? It shouldnt. But in some American subculturesHollywood, academia, Democratic politicsit apparently does. You may favor raising taxes on the rich, increasing support for the poor, nurturing the planet, and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, but if you dont support gay marriage, youre out of the club.


Commenting Guidelines

Opposing gay marriage didn't get Dr. Carson into trouble. He got in trouble for the intemperate nature of his remarks.

"in some American subculturesHollywood, academia, Democratic politics"A majority of Americans support same-sex marriage ...

All he did was say on television that he opposes same-sex marriage . . . Of course, that's not all he did. He said the following:

Well, my thoughts are that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality. It doesn't matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition. So he, it's not something that is against gays, it's against anybody who wants to come along and change the fundamental definitions of pillars of society. It has significant ramifications.

When you've mentioned gay people, pedophiles, and people who believe in having sex with animals all in the same breath, you've implied some kind of equivalence. And the fact that so many people (not here, thankfully!) insist that the arguments for same-sex marriage also function as arguments for polygamy, for adults marrying children, for siblings marrying siblings, for fathers marrying daughters, and for people marrying their dogs, make Carson's statement all the more damaging. I have long admired Michael Kinsley, and he has a legitimate point about not demonizing people who oppose same-sex marriage. But Carson's remarks were indefensible.

Crystal,Are you suggesting that if 53% of the population approves of 'gay marriage', the other 47% must be "cast ... into the outer darkness" as Matthew ascribed to "Hollywood, academia, Democratic politics"?

I've come to think that commencement speaker controversies are a relatively low cost and healthy way for us as a society to carry on the debate about what kind of society we are. So, in my view, it's fine for Johns Hopkins to invite Dr. Carson. It's fine for students to protest his invitation. It's fine for Dr. Carson to withdraw. It's fine for Michael Kinsley to express his views on the entire kerfuffle.What's less helpful for Kinsley's argument is all the ways in which Dr. Carson has in fact (recently) become "just another gasbag". To quote The Atlantic's estimable Ta-Nehisi Coates, a man who's known Dr. Carson as a public figure for over 20 years:"It's perfectly respectable to think Obamacare is bad for the country. It's less respectable to claim that Obama isn't an African-American. It's perfectly respectable to believe in a flat tax. It's less respectable to tell a room full of white people that Obama, isn't "a strong black man" or that he has "never been a part of the black experience in America." It's respectable to believe that the Ryan Budget is the key to the future. It's less respectable to believe that equating same-sex marriage with child-rape puts you on Harriet Tubman status.The corollary of that last metaphor -- the idea of liberalism as a plantation -- is especially noxious and deeply racist. It holds that black people are not really like other adult humans in America -- people capable of discerning their interest and voting accordingly -- but mental slaves too stupid to know what's good for them."

@Bruce (5/23, 9:18 am) Crystal can speak for herself, but I read her comment as a mild, to-the-point, factual rebuttal to Kinsley's implication that support for civil recognition of same-sex marriage is limited to a few liberal/extremist/insufficiently-"American" subcultures when, in fact, it is now the majority position held by the American people.We can debate the wisdom and merits of that position, but we should at least be able to agree that it is the view currently held by a (steadily growing) majority of citizens.

I know a lot of pediatric neurosurgeons. Some of my biggest heroes are pediatric neurosurgeons. But Kinsley should have found a different hill to make his stand on than Carson, who Luke has correctly identified as just another windbag, a man who's leaving the medical field to be that one more inflammatory pundit that the world so needed.

Agree that it's good to call out racism and homophobia. I just wish Commonweal would be equally concerned about sexism. (The last acceptable prejudice in Catholic America seems to be against women.)The current issue of Commonweal is typical: 9 men, 2 women. DotCommonweal has 24 men as contributors and 7 women. This thread, posted by a man, directs readers "Elsewhere" to articles by four men. No women.

Luke,It seems unsporting to criticize Kinsley for not saying in the quoted passage what he says elsewhere in the article from which I was quoting. Kinsley reports (and mocks) Carson's embarrassing remarks about NAMBLA and fruit. Kinsley also acknowledges that "a majority of Americans now support [same-sex marriage]. The day will come, probably next Tuesday at the rate things are going, when previous opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage will seem bizarre." But not everyone who supports same-sex marriage despises everyone who doesn't. The spite, and not the support, are what Kinsley is referring to when he mentions Hollywood and academia.I'd also like to take issue with Ta-Nehisi Coate's criterion of "respectability." It has the perverse effect of making rhetorical oafishness more important than bad ideas with immense public consequences. "It's respectable to believe that the Ryan Budget is the key to the future." It is, is it? If that dangerous ideological folly is respectable, then I suggest we had better not worry so much about respectability, since it seems to amount to little more than keeping your mouth clean. No doubt a Koch Brothers media empire would carefully eschew risible conspiracy theories and ridiculously anachronistic language about minorities in its advocacy of Randian economic policies. Over their brand of well-groomed extremism, I'll take bumptiousness any day. (What would the Daily Show and Gawker do without bumptious politicians?) Kinsley addresses this point in another part of that article I didn't quote:

The dean [of Johns Hopkins Medical School] was just making a move in the great game of umbrage that has clogged American politics, where points are awarded for taking offense at something the other guy said. No one, when confronted with some opponents faux pas, or some stray remark that can be misrepresented as a faux pas, ever reacts anymore with: Who cares? Instead, its: I am deeply, deeply offended by this persons remarks. She should drop out of the race immediately, or quit her job, and move into a nunnery to contemplate her sins. And we certainly cant let her speak at commencement because ...Because what?

It seems unsporting to criticize Kinsley for not saying in the quoted passage what he says elsewhere in the article from which I was quoting. Matthew Boudway,I had read Kinsley's entire column before I commented, and I don't believe Kinsley's "mocking" of Carson's comments about NABMLA and bestiality treated the comments with the seriousness that they deserved. Taken in the overall debate over same-sex marriage, they were not merely lame or looney. They were pernicious. Now, perhaps the fact that Carson "clarified" and apologized should have been counted for more. But for better or for worse (and I would say it's for better), one outrageous anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist, or anti-gay remark has serious consequences. I think Carson actually made a good point (as I recall) in withdrawing. He said graduation ceremonies were for the students, not for him. If the students didn't want him, why should they have to listen to him in the name of free speech.As I said over on Mirror of Justice, there comes a point where advocates of tolerance don't have to be tolerant. No one ever said tolerance required putting up with anything and everything. Drawing the line may be really difficult, and maybe more latitude should be allowed than is currently fashionable. But certainly Carson's remarks deserved a strong responsestronger than Kinsley's.

@Matthew Boudway (5/23, 11:25 am) Right you are. My apologies to you and to Kinsley.

"If that dangerous ideological folly is respectable, then I suggest we had better not worry so much about respectability, since it seems to amount to little more than keeping your mouth clean. "Absolutely.Oh, sorry, I thought this was in reference to Konczal and Frase and a Universal Basic Income.

Bruce,Yes, what Luke said :)It's not just a subculture thing to support marriage equality. But speaking of subcultures, one that does have a majority support for SSM is Catholicism ...

"Superficial diversity at the top thus provides an moral alibi for the gap between the one percent and the rest."

And "the rest" are surely undeserving.

Whether Kinsley or Carson like it not,  20 states plus D.C. allow marriage equality or comparable status (civil unions and domestic partnerships) and represent 43.2% of the total US population of 314 million and 39% of the states and D.C.

Tic, toc.  Tic, toc.

Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it.  Both are despotisms.  The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscieconscience, and the other of granting it.  Thomas Paine.