Christopher Caldwell

American political writer

Christopher Caldwell (born 1962) is an American journalist, author and a former senior editor at The Weekly Standard, as well as a regular contributor to the Financial Times and Slate. He is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute and contributing editor to the Claremont Review of Books. Caldwell's writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He was also a regular contributor to The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Press and the assistant managing editor of The American Spectator.

Quotes edit

  • In order to work, free-trade systems must be frictionless and immune to interruption, forever. This means a program of intellectual property protection, zero tariffs, and cross-border traffic in everything, including migrants. This can be assured only in a system that is veto-proof and non-consultative—in short, undemocratic. That is why it is those who have benefited most from globalization who have been leading the counterattack against the democracy movements arising all over the West.
  • Since the turn of the century, Europeans have been faced with the most basic question about their future: whether they have one. In some countries — especially Italy, Germany, and Austria — the native population has been shrinking for decades. Birth rates have fallen so low that each native generation is about two-thirds the size of the last. The decline was masked for a while by the size of the almost wholly autochthonous Baby Boom generation, but now those native Europeans have begun to retire and die. Non-European immigrants, especially those from the Middle East and North Africa, have rushed to claim a place on the continent.
  • Dual citizenship is a great convenience for certain favored people and those who serve them. But it shakes loose the wider society’s understanding of itself as a people — and thus shakes loose the basis on which it can secure its own rights. Citizenship rights are not just an abstract but a practical thing. They have to be not just dreamed up and proposed, but also administered and defended. They are most likely to produce a stable and just society when the people who are asserting them are the same people who are defending them.

"The fateful Nineties" (October 2023) edit

  • Democrats are the party of the university-educated. As university-generated high technology moved to the center of the American economy, Democrats quite naturally consolidated their position as the party of the country’s business and financial elite. But Democrats are also dependent on black voters, who are, on the whole, disproportionately dependent upon government programs. The alliance between university know-it-alls and hard-pressed minorities can be an effective one, but only so long as government spending is rising. And it was not.
    Clinton was able to keep the alliance alive in an era of cuts by making adroit use of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the regulations, executive orders, and court-ordered expansions stemming from it. He shunted the cost of black advancement into the private sector through affirmative action and housing finance subsidies. He opened civil rights to other groups, particularly women and gays. And—the first president to do so—he made an almost religious appeal to diversity as an American calling, casting as unpatriotic any allegiance to the traditions and cultures of the majority.
  • Important demographic distortions created conditions for a more open attitude toward both blacks and gays than had been possible before or would be possible after. A program of mass incarceration, launched as part of Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs, had landed the great majority of young black criminals in jail. For the first time in a generation, black neighborhoods became safe for non-blacks to enter and spend money in, and the non-incarcerated remainder had more in common with their non-black contemporaries than had seemed to be the case in previous generations. What had most bothered people about gays, as late as the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, was the promiscuity of the anonymous “bathhouse” scene. Then the AIDS epidemic arose, and by the time effective therapies came on the market in 1994, hundreds of thousands of the men who had belonged to that world were dead. The survivors had been selected for fidelity and bourgeois prudence, and many had shown extraordinary courage and character in enduring the worst ordeal any group of American men had undergone since the Vietnam War. The movement for gay marriage won over Hawaii’s Supreme Court in 1996 and Vermont’s in 1999.
  • Civil rights survived because it proved an extraordinary tool—unlike any in peacetime constitutional history—for contravening democratic decision-making. By withholding money, by suing states and businesses, the federal government can use civil rights law to coerce local authorities ­into changing policies; it can alter the behavior of private citizens. When Bill Clinton broadened the remit of civil rights, he didn’t have to spend money to do it. His predecessor, George H. W. Bush, had taken the first steps down this road. Bush’s Civil Rights Act of 1991 introduced punitive damages in a broad range of civil rights cases, creating major incentives to file lawsuits for race and sex discrimination.
  • In the wake of the 1992 L.A. riots, Bush lowered standards of creditworthiness for inner-city home buyers. But it was Clinton who opened the floodgates of housing credits by threatening, on the strength of misrepresented agency data, to find lenders guilty of “redlining” black neighborhoods. He used the Carter-era Community ­Reinvestment Act to pressure banks politically. Black homeownership rose by 25 percent between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. This was the era of subprime loans, which would bring on the crash of 2008 and the ensuing global recession. The American media has never been comfortable acknowledging that minority homeownership programs were at the root of an international economic calamity. But economists (notably Atif Mian and Amir Sufi of Chicago, and Viral Acharya of NYU) have understood it all along, and the progressive Cambridge University ­historian Gary Gerstle, in his recent The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order, puts the Bush-Clinton subsidies squarely at the center of the 2008 crash.

Interview with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2007) edit

  • [L]aws against Holocaust denial have done more harm than good. On a practical political level, I think that they give very intolerant mischief makers a cheap and easy way to pose as something more exalted than what they actually are, as sort of martyrs of free speech.
  • [Y]ou see evidence in the united Europe—in which there is free circulation of people and ideas—of a much more homegrown European-style antisemitism. You see a sort of waning of vigilance. You see a rise of the kind of clubby, dinner-party type antisemitism in England, where it is very strong. So I do think there is a new antisemitism, but I'm afraid it hasn't so much replaced the old antisemitism as exists alongside of it.

Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (2009) edit

  • The social, spiritual, and political effects of immigration are huge and enduring, while the economic effects are puny and transitory. If, like certain Europeans, you are infuriated by polyglot markets and street signs written in Polish, Urdu, and Arabic, sacrificing 0.0035 of your economy would be a pittance to pay for starting to get your country back. If, like other Europeans, you view immigration as a lifeline of excitement, worldliness, and palatable cuisine thrown to your drab and provincial country, then immigration would be a bargain even if it imposed a significant economic cost.
  • If one abandons the idea that Western Europeans are rapacious and exploitative by nature, and that Africans, Asians, and other would-be immigrants are inevitably their victims, then the fundamental difference between colonization and labor migration ceases to be obvious.
  • In no country in Europe does the bulk of the population aspire to live in a bazaar of world cultures. Yet all European countries are coming to the wrenching realization that they have somehow, without anyone's actively choosing it, turned into such bazaars.
  • Bizarrely, as immigration began to change Europe at its economic and cultural core, the political vocabulary remained the same as when immigration had been a fringe phenomenon. People kept talking about restaurants.
  • The policing of tolerance had no inbuilt limits and no obvious logic. Why was 'ethnic pride' a virtue and 'nationalism' a sickness? Why was an identity like 'Sinti/Roma' legitimate but an identity like 'white' out of bounds? Why had it suddenly become criminal to ask questions today that it was considered a citizen's duty to ask ten years ago?
  • One moves swiftly and imperceptibly from a world in which affirmative action can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too weak to a world in which it can't be ended because its beneficiaries are too strong.
  • When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.

Christopher Caldwell on the Situation in Europe (2017) edit

Interview with Bill Kristol (20 March 2017)
  • [T]he escalation of the radicalization of Muslims in Europe, I think, has, in the past 2 or 3 years – and you know the incidents – the Nice truck bombing, the Berlin Christmas Fair bombing, those sorts of incidents, I think, have really worried Europeans.
  • The thing I worry about in Europe is that there is a logic of escalation in some of this. That the people whose voices aren't heard have to do things to make their voices heard. Do you know what I mean? They’ll have to, you know, like, demonstrate and that kind of thing.
  • Europe can be the scene of world history even if it’s not the protagonist in world history, but it seems to show very little sign of being the protagonist.

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