- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Only darkness

"In 'The Closing of the American Mind,' Allan Bloom indicts American youth as languid, empty, adrift. 'They can be anything they want to be,' writes Bloom, 'but they have no particular reason to want to be anything in particular… . Why are we surprised that such unfurnished persons should be preoccupied with themselves and with finding means to avoid permanent free fall?' The moral drifter has no responsibilities, no hope, and no purpose … He is the television-watcher, the apathetic consumer, the college student who stares blankly for four years from the back of the classroom, waiting, he says, for real life to begin… .

"To the drifter, everything is at best a game, a joke, an ironic play… .

"The morality behind both 'Pulp Fiction' and 'South Park' is the same: death is funny, nothing is sacred, and everything is absurd… . There is no tragedy, because there is no longing for something better; there is only darkness, and the futile laughter of a trivializing culture.

"Nor is this simply a chimerical culture without consequences. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Littleton killers, 'whooped and hollered like it was a game' (in the words of one of the survivors) as they acted out the 'Gothic' roles glamorized by popular culture and murdered 12 of their classmates. The same nation that mourns over the mayhem at Littleton chuckles at the pop nihilism that comes out of Hollywood and sees no contradiction."

Eric S. Cohen, writing on "To Wonder Again," in the May issue of First Things

Naked Hollywood

"In a country that insists on supersizing just about everything, Hollywood is downsizing at least when it comes to awards-show clothing. From Lil' Kim's notorious ensembles to the breast-revealing Mariah Carey at the American Music Awards soiree, to Jennifer Lopez's Grammy navel gazing and Cameron Diaz's Oscar neckline, this trophy season has been an unprecedented flesh parade, boasting more bronze than 'American Beauty.'

"There have been such ludicrous amounts of skin on display that attendees are now part fashion plate and part human spectacle, like couture as designed by the producers of 'Jerry Springer.' "

Nancy Miller, writing on "Bare Naked Ladies!" in the April 21 issue of Entertainment Weekly

Bigger government

"Modern government has turned out differently from what was anticipated by libertarian thinkers like Friedrich Hayek. In his great polemic 'The Road to Serfdom,' published in 1944, Hayek warned that the welfare state could metastasize into full-fledged socialism under the pressures of class envy and economic resentment and the prestige of 'rational central planning.' This was Hayek's road to servile citizens, stagnant economies, inert societies. But his fears today have an antique ring. Hardly anyone today admires government planning, and, at least in America, class and economic animosities have not grown but abated. The free market has triumphed in practical result and popular opinion; Hayek has won the Nobel Prize; billionaires can be folk heroes and even run for president.

"Yet the state has grown prodigiously. In 1947, the first complete peacetime year after Hayek wrote, government outlays (federal, state, and local) were 21 percent of gross domestic product; in 1999, they were 31 percent… . The federal government owns one-third of the American land mass, pays for 40 percent of medical care, manages nearly 50 percent of personal retirement savings, and regulates many major industries."

Christopher C. DeMuth, writing on "Why the Era of Big Government Isn't Over," in the April issue of Commentary

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