New Essay at The Federalist: Shelby Steele on Race and the Exhiliration and Terror of Freedom

I recently had the honor and thrill of speaking with one of America’s sharpest social critics on the phone for nearly an hour. Shelby Steele – author of the classics The Content of Our Character and White Guilt - offers wisdom in an age of silliness, strength in an age of cowardice, and bravery in an age of cowardice.

The results of our wide ranging discussion, along with some editorializing and background on my own shift from “white guilt liberalism” to belief in individual responsibility – are readable in my new essay for the Federalist.


New Essay at the Federalist: Why Was Sterling’s Public Racism Ignored and Private Bigotry Punished?

In my latest essay for the Federalist, I take a look at the controversy surrounding outed bigot Donald Sterling. Rather than indulging in the easy sanctimony of condemning a bigot who deserves condemnation, I also express fear, worry, and anger over how American society is losing its regard for the expectation of privacy, and for a culture that not only allow, but promotes and protects, free speech. We are now living under the rule of the social media mob, and it doesn’t look pretty.

Read it here.

New Essay at The Daily Beast: Stat-Happy News Ignores Journalism’s Need for Narrative

In my newest essay at the Daily Beast, I expose the arrogant conceit of “data” and “explanatory” journalists, especially Ezra Klein, who believe they transcend ideology by merely reporting statistical facts. I call on the literary journalism tradition to accomplish this task, showing how Twain, Hemingway, Mailer, Didion, David Foster Wallace, Tom Wolfe, and others, demolished the delusional narcissism of conventional journalists, like Klein, many years ago.

I also show how “data journalism” is part of a larger American trend of moving everything toward the machine. Technology is the new master, and young Americans approach it on their knees, hands folded, prepare to make any sacrifice. In the essay, I make the point that a literary journalism startup is what the culture desperately needs.

Since the Daily Beast published the essay, I’ve noticed a pattern in the responses I’ve received. Most middle aged readers understand the points I’m making clearly, while young readers can’t even begin to comprehend them.

It reminds me of an experience I recently had at a Gov’t Mule show in Chicago. The crowd was about an equal mix of millennials and silver pony tailed boomers. The silvery pony tails watched the show enthusiastically, enjoying the music, closely paying attention to the musicians, and reacting with excitement. The young fans held their “smart” phones up the entire time, pathetically trying to document different parts of the performance, I assume, for sharing on social media.

There’s more to life than machines, regardless of the benefits they bring. That goes for concerts and it goes for journalism.

Read the essay here.

New Essay at The Federalist: Street Gangs, Poverty, and The Left

What is it that prevents the left from condemning the street gang sadists who rape, rob, and murder innocent people, including children, in the poorest neighborhoods of America?

In my new essay for the Federalist, I answer that question by pointing to misguided moral relativism, liberal sentimentality, and political corruption.

Read the essay to learn about the disturbing and destructive relationship between American liberals and street gangs, and how such a relationship should exclude them from the moral universe on any discussion of poverty, crime, and urban development.

New Column At the Indianapolis Star: Gov. Pence Right to Reject Common Core

In my latest column for the Indianapolis Star, I celebrate the courage and convictions of Governor Mike Pence for rejecting the conformity and stupidity of Common Core as a standard for Indiana schools. I also warn against that dangers of allowing centralized power to dictate to states and localities what their children should learn, and how they should learn it.

Read it here.


New Essay at the Federalist – War Stories: An Interview with David Mamet

It is nearly impossible for me to measure the influence that the work of David Mamet – one of America’s greatest writers – has had on my thinking, my ideas, and, I hope, my writing.

Needless to say, I was thrilled and honored to spend 90 minutes with the literary genius and giant on the phone. The Federalist has published the result of that conversation – an essay that ranks among my best work, and one that I am very proud to have written.

The essay, because of Mamet’s brilliance and wit, contains so many gems of insight that it really becomes required reading.

I am particularly happy with the essay, because it truly gets to the essence of Mamet’s philosophy and personality. We spend time discussing his greatest work – Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, Edmond, The Verdict – along with his newest book, Three War Stories.

We also spend time on his political conversion from liberalism to libertarianism, which is similar and influential on my own same ideological travel route, and on his early life on the streets and in the theaters of Chicago.

It is my hope that the large swath of people who will continually find Mamet’s work worthy of study will use my interview and profile as a source of knowledge for many years.



New Essay at The Daily Beast: Richard Hofstadter and America’s New Wave of Anti-Intellectualism

Twenty-first century philistines, suffering from a lack of imagination and curiosity, have seized upon understandable economic anxieties since the financial crash of 2008, to shepherd an increasingly large flock of American sheep into the livestock freight carrier Pulitzer prize winning historian, Richard Hofstadter, called “anti-intellectualism.

Anti-Intellectualism in American Life—one of Hofstadter’s best, among many great books – was a pile of dynamite in 1963, when it was first published and blew a sizable hole in the house of America’s self-comforting delusions of intellectual superiority. In 2014, one can only hope that some of its initial blast still reverberates, as media commentators, university administrators, and even the President, have exposed themselves as adherents to what Hofstadter indicted as the “lowest common denominator criterion” of thought and “technician conformity” of lifestyle. Suspicion, and often outright hatred, of ideas is making American culture as riveting as oatmeal. By reading Hofstadter, one learns that the resurgence of a new anti-intellectualism isn’t new, at all. In fact, Hofstadter identified the particularly poisonous strain of the virus that now infects the American mind and kills the imagination.

Read the rest at the Daily Beast.

February Trilogy of Essays on The Free Market

One of the most profound political, and personal, changes I’ve made in my lifetime is the shift from central planning advocacy – “big government” – to robust belief in limited government and the free market. I no longer believe in centralized power, heavy regulation, high taxation, and other forms of interference in the economic system that, as Hayek explained, most effectively recreates humanity’s natural state of evolution, adoption, and adaptation.

The free market is not only best at broadening the benefits of prosperity. It also creates and maintains the maximum levels of freedom in a society, and ensures the most wild and fun amount of cultural variety and diversity.

In February, I wrote a trilogy of essays on the virtues, strengths, and attributes of the free market. In each essay, I also, as a former liberal, attempt to expose the flaws, and hypocrisies, at the heart of modern liberalism.

The first essay ran on the Federalist – “Understanding Liberal Schizophrenia About the Free Market”

This essay looks at the inherent contradictions of leftist attacks on “consumer culture”, and the leftist obession with inequality. It also argues that the free market is an affirmation of individual choice. Those who oppose the free market are often using their economic position as a cover story for the desire to limit people’s choices, and thereby gain control over their behavior.

The second essay also ran on the Federalist“Diversity and the Free Market

This essay demonstrates how the free market succeeds, above everything else, in creating and maintaining a diverse society full of cultural variety and vitality. Drawing on the development of jazz music, and the opportunities for exploration and adventure in Chicago, I show how the free market make things interesting and fun. I also undress liberal platitudes about diversity that, if put into practice, actually undermine it.

My third essay on the free market ran as a column in the Indianapolis Star. Titled “The Moral Case for Capitalism”, it is reprinted here in its entirety.

The Moral Case for Capitalism

By David Masciotra

Many believers in a robust, lively, and muscular free market have made the empty-headed error of punting on third down.

Since the financial collapse of 2008, which seemingly demolished the job market into debris, capitalism has come under heavy artillery attack from the off key chorus of liberal journalists, activists, and politicians who have not learned a new song in decades. More importantly and disturbingly, world leaders, such as President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, have made out of tune contributions to the farcical nonsense that condemns“unbridled” capitalism as the exploitative and destructive creator of vicious“income inequality.”

Libertarians and defenders of the free market have reacted to the lunacy of central planning advocacy with appropriate mockery and anger, but have largely missed the crucial truth of human history that would deflate the hot air balloon of government spending enthusiasm.

Most often, they merely make the correct, but uninspiring point that gluttonous deficit spending, coupled with the bloat of entitlement expansion, will turn the entire country into a rickshaw for the morbidly obese. You can only get so far following the liberal model, and eventually, the entire thing will fall apart.

That fact based argumentation contains compelling and undeniable veracity, but it misses the moral case for capitalism.

According to the joint research of Xavier Sala-i-Martin, an economist at Columbia University, and MIT economics professor, Maxim Pinkovskiy, since 1970, the world’s worst poverty, meaning the amount of people living on one dollar a day or less, has declined by eighty percent.

News of this stunning achievement is like a damaging secret about a gangland enforcer. No one is going to spread it around out of fear of the repercussions. The major media, much like the Pope and President Obama, would prefer to keep alive the idea that capitalism is an evil that anointed agents of goodness – themselves – must unite to regulate and eradicate.

Capitalism is the very system of economics, however, that is responsible for the reduction of poverty in Africa and Asia. Martin and Pinkovskiy credit private property, commercial activity, and free trade for the uplift of millions of the world’s worst poor.

Bono, the lead singer of U2 whose organization DATA works to“eradicate extreme poverty in Africa”, recently told students at Georgetown University that “in dealing with poverty, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid, free enterprise is the cure.”

As if the improvement in the conditions and lives of millions of the world’s poorest people wasn’t enough to demonstrate the ethical superiority of the free market over intrusive governmental involvement and interference in business, there is also staggering evidence available in the world’s richest country, the United States of America.

For all of the obsessive self-pity and envy that comes with derision of the “one percent”, all Americans remain in the one percent of the world. According to every measurement of health, safety, and welfare, the world’s one percent not only enjoys a high standard of living, but takes comfort from the continual increase in standard of living. The free market is effective at broadening the benefits of prosperity, and anyone who doubts thecase, can compare living in Miami and Havana.

Even within America’s borders, people unwilling to wear the intellectual shackles of ideology can make instructive comparisons: Would you rather look for a job in California or Texas? Would you rather raise a child in Detroit or Indianapolis?

The states and cities with lower levels of government spending, lower taxes, and less regulations are more livable. In the world and in America, the places with a stronger and freer market, have healthier and happier people.

The moral case for capitalism is easy to make, and it should amplify the voices of free market advocates, while overpowering the sputtering whimpers of its detractors, and shaming them into silence.