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In Prospect

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from the magazine

In Prospect

Winter 2023
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America’s housing crisis is real and getting worse. A tangle of zoning and environmental restrictions has made construction of new housing harder and more expensive, especially in prosperous metro areas, with the resulting housing shortages driving up costs. As economist Edward L. Glaeser explains in “Free to Build,” the sky-high price of putting a roof over one’s head in productive cities like Los Angeles and New York makes them hard to afford for the aspiring, hurting mobility and entrenching inequality. Glaeser’s essay shows how we can liberate construction and create a more dynamic American future.

Is conservative populism a coherent project? Thus far, argues Martin Gurri in “In Search of a Right Populist Agenda,” the movement has been largely oppositional. To move forward, it needs a more positive set of goals, and Gurri discerns the lineaments of that mission—from empowering parents in education to defending the rule of law to securing American military power without ideological hubris—in the words and actions of rising GOP governors Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of New York City’s great cultural institutions, has fallen to the new barbarians of wokeism, laments Heather Mac Donald in “Barometer of Hate.” Mac Donald takes readers through a major recent exhibit, Fictions of Emancipation, constructed around an 1873 bust of a black woman by French sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Why Born Enslaved!. The beautifully rendered sculpture has always been seen, as Carpeaux intended, as an antislavery work, but today’s Met condemns Carpeaux, and other abolitionist artists represented in the exhibit, as exemplars of colonial domination of the Other. What’s obliterated in the show’s framing is any sense of shared humanity or beauty. All that’s left is hate. Charles Fain Lehman’s “Beyond Race” mines Beyond the Melting Pot, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1963 sociological classic, for an ethnic alternative to our racial obsessions.

Amity Shlaes’s “Shaming Americans,” meantime, shows how documentarian Ken Burns’s The U.S. and the Holocaust distorts history in the service of its progressive worldview. Jacob Howland’s “College of the Future” sets forth the far more optimistic, and humanistic, vision of the new University of Austin, while Jason L. Riley contemplates affirmative action’s potential demise in “Unpopular, Polarizing, and Ineffective.”

Rafael A. Mangual’s “Embracing Failure” takes the measure of the nationwide criminal-justice reform campaign. Exploding urban crime—fueled by policies that keep putting hardened criminals back on the streets—became a real issue in the midterm elections, Mangual says, but the reformers didn’t suffer enough of a rebuke to stop them cold. Expect them to keep pushing, he warns. In “Where To, New York?” John Ketcham surveys the election results in New York, where the GOP made surprising gains. He sees the Democrats at an inflection point: Do they keep pandering to radicals or, as voters seem to desire, move to the center?

The risk-management tools developed by financial economics have come under fire in recent years; but properly utilized, they remain our best defense against the kind of fearmongering and irrational policymaking that marked the Covid-19 health emergency, argues Allison Schrager in “How to Hedge Life.” Irrationality dominates the states’ approach to energy, observes Steven Malanga in “The States Power Down.” Nicole Gelinas’s “The Post-Covid States of America” details how the states that reopened earlier from lockdowns have generally outpaced more restrictive places across a variety of indicators.

Continuing City Journal’s profiles of important authors, Samuel Goldman examines the legacy of the “Balzac of the Fishbowl,” John O’Hara, whose postwar fiction chronicled life in an industrial Pennsylvania town, while Darran Anderson’s “Seer of the Selfie” assesses the striking contemporary relevance of historian Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book The Culture of Narcissism. Finally, in “Of a Scale Unknown,” Theodore Dalrymple considers the troubling lessons of the Rotherham child sexual-abuse crisis, two decades on.

—Brian C. Anderson

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