- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

Protestant spirit

“In his most famous book, ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,’ Max Weber took things a step further, past individual rewards and punishments, and argued that capitalism, the most bountiful economic system, was the direct result of a religious movement, Protestantism, specifically Calvinism.

“As luck would have it, back in the ‘60s … I ended up in mandatory chapel three mornings a week … at Muskingum College, a school with some deep and everlasting Calvinist roots. …

“Anyway, what I learned in chapel was Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, the idea that God decreed, beforehand, the salvation of some and the damnation of others. It’s the kind of doctrine that makes people anxious about whether they’re stuck from day one in the bad or the good group.

“To get some reassurance, this led people who believed this stuff to go full blast in achieving economic success, thinking that God signifies his favor by giving the best cars and top knickknacks to the elect. In short, the fat cats are God’s people, hence ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.’

“Somehow, I think the whole thing might be more complicated than that.”

Ralph R. Reiland, writing on “Fat Cats, Calvin and the Poor,” Dec. 14 in the American Spectator Online at www.spectator.org.

Still babies

“It has taken 40 years for me to come to the conclusion that if you are born a baby boomer, you are pretty much destined to die one, too. You can’t escape them. I know, I’ve tried.

“Acting half your age does not work, the boomers patented the whole forever young thing. … [T]here is no shortage of 55-year-old boomers waiting to suck the life out of you with golf, stock tips, and the time they saw Mick and Keith and the Stones. …

“What started as an effort to build a counterculture soon fragmented into niche cultures. … That continued … to the point that today, with a big boost from technology, the average American can burrow deep into one comforting culture and/or surf across dozens of cultures with equal ease. …

“Quite a bundle of contradictions, these boomers. The last generation raised on a unified, mass popular culture, doomed to always try to rebuild one, only to produce the tools that make mass culture impossible.”

Jeff Taylor, writing on “Boomer or Bust,” Dec. 14 in Reason Online at www.reason.com

‘Daily’ downer

“Publishers Weekly threw more than a few politically minded bibliophiles for a loop by naming not [former President Bill Clinton’s] protracted, excruciatingly detailed autobiography, ‘My Life,’ book of the year … but rather ‘The Daily Show’ [host] Jon Stewart’s first literary offering, ‘America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy in Action.’ …

“The running gag in Stewart & Co.’s effort is that it fronts as a textbook — a crude, sardonic, cynical textbook. To be fair, some of the lessons are genuinely hilarious — usually when they have no partisan points to score. …

“But these laughs are hardly what earned ‘America (The Book)’ [Publishers Weekly’s] highest distinction. No, that honor was granted on the basis of the book’s ‘serious critique of the two-party system’ and its reception as a ‘mock textbook with a serious political core.’

“That’s an awful lot of serious for a comedy book. Perhaps that’s because the book is serious about one thing: making it clear what a knuckle-dragging Philistine you are if you reflect on America the Beautiful with any sort of warm sentiment.”

Megan Basham, writing on “America the Lampooned,” Dec. 14 in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

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