The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

The US and the love of extremism

My deeply unscientific theory about religion in the US, compared with England, runs something like this: by 1688, England had been exhausted around 300 years of bigoted government [1], including a couple of relatively recent civil wars, to such an extent as to embrace the humiliation of inviting the King of Holland in for a reverse takeover to sort it all out.

It was then agreed that the nationalised church should continue in its privileged position, but with the religion largely sucked out.

Whereupon the English polity at home became boring and profitable, and Englishmen got their political and military jollies in foreign climes.

By contrast, there was so vast an amount of room in the American colonies that every sect and religious groupuscule could have its own wide open space, and practice its own bigotry in its most extreme form without rubbing up against bigots of differing views.

Thus it appears to me that the English tendency is to split the difference; the American tendency is to let a thousand bigotries bloom.

For example, the US has capital punishment (in Western terms, very right-wing) - and executes a disproportionate number of non-whites, to boot. But it has a system of racial preferences that I don't think Sweden at its most socialist would have stomached.

And - as came out in the flood of corporate amicus briefs in favour of affirmative action in the Michigan University cases - conservative institutions in the US support the continuance of this ultra-socialist measure.

Similarly, the impression given in the 2004 presidential campaign was of a polity where public discourse was led by conservative voices, and where liberal voices tended to go along or stay relatively quiet.

Whereas, in the likes of the blogs of Joanne Jacobs and John Rosenberg, one regularly reads [2] of school and college authorities exercising (or purporting to exercise) draconian powers to curb non-liberal speech.

For every Brent Bozell, there is a Julian Bond, united in nothing but the overwhelming compulsion to control the speech and thoughts of others: Bigots Unanimous!

  1. Henry IV signed the first state law for burning heretics in 1400.

  2. I tend not to: too depressing. Fans of Ingmar Bergman and the Baltimore Orioles could probably risk it...


Having said that, Rosenberg has a good news story from Boston: District Judge Patti Saris has terminated a hiring quota operated by the police and fire departments.

(I had thought that, under Bakke, quotas were illegal; perhaps that's only educational quotas.)

The recent opinions page of the District Court site does not have the opinion yet.

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