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In Prospect

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In Prospect

Spring 2022
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More than two years have passed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and it’s clear now that key parts of America’s public-health response—unprecedented lockdowns, shutting down in-person schooling, and mask mandates—weren’t “the science,” as their proponents claimed, but evidence-free mistakes, with disastrous economic, educational, and social effects. Some want to continue such measures indefinitely. With vaccines and herd immunity bringing the virus under control, freedom and sanity seem to have prevailed, at least for now. But John Tierney’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” offers a stark warning: we mustn’t surrender our core liberties so meekly ever again.

Covid has disrupted global supply chains, causing shortages of essential goods and driving up the costs of transporting them. Combine that massive supply shock—which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will only make worse—with unprecedented levels of debt-fueled government spending, and you get inflation spiking to levels unseen for decades. Nicole Gelinas’s “Inflation and the City” assesses the likely impact on New York’s economy and budget: a slump in Wall Street profits, public unions demanding double-digit wage hikes, and exploding construction costs—the last always a problem, even in low-inflation times, given the city’s draconian regulatory regime, as Connor Harris explains in “Deconstructing New York’s Building Costs.” All of this will make Gotham’s recovery from Covid-19 tougher. New mayor Eric Adams can’t solve the inflation crisis on his own, Gelinas argues, but smart leadership can temper its worst effects. The fragility of supply chains has Democrats and Republicans alike saying that they support the return of manufacturing to America. Yet as Steven Malanga’s “Make America Make Again” shows, the Biden administration’s policy goals seem intended to drive industry off. Malanga suggests a better way.

James Burnham’s 1941 classic The Managerial Revolution—a book that influenced George Orwell’s 1984—argued that an educated managerial class was emerging that would take control of the economy, replacing traditional capitalists. Burnham’s predictions proved only partially true, but if he were alive today, says Malcom Kyeyune, he might see wokeness as the new managerial ideology, asserting power over society on behalf of progressive managers. Kyeyune’s “Wokeness, the Highest Stage of Managerialism” explains what’s happening—and why the phenomenon is most advanced in the United States. Lawyers are part of the reason, too, contends John O. McGinnis in “Lawyers for Radical Change.” Earlier in American history, lawyers were a source for stability and republican institutions, as the Founders expected. But no longer. Just look at the American Bar Association, which, these days, pushes incessantly for social upheaval. McGinnis celebrates the work of the Federalist Society, which seeks to restore the original conception of law.

“Antiracism” teaching is ubiquitous today, but Kay S. Hymowitz’s “How Really to Be an Antiracist” says that all this agitation presumes that its intended recipients can actually read—and that’s far from the case. As Hymowitz explains, American students’ reading scores are not great generally, and for black kids, they’re truly dismal, condemning them to the lifetime disadvantages of illiteracy. The tragedy is that we know what works in teaching children to read: phonics. That disproven pedagogies remain in classroom use is an outrage.

Big government isn’t just about runaway taxing and spending. As Judge Glock observes in “The Empire of Fees,” charges and fees—many hidden from taxpayers—account for most of the growth of government and are now top sources of revenue for states and localities. Any agenda seeking to rein in government must take them into account, says Glock.

Critics on the left and the right lament America’s propensity to lock up criminals, but as Matt DeLisi and John Paul Wright counter in the myth-busting “Mass Incarceration Hysteria,” compelling data show that prisons should be fuller, not emptier. Many recidivist serious offenders avoid prison, and when they do get put behind bars, they’re often released early. It’s time for a more realistic assessment—public safety depends on it.

—Brian C. Anderson

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