The Weekly Speak - 3.11.19
The Weekly Speak is a weekly summary of what's going on in the world from a Christian worldview. Our goal is to keep you informed without being conformed. Sign up to get the Weekly Speak delivered to your inbox every Monday.
The New Left: Socialism and Antitrust
This year at South by Southwest (SXSW), a music, film, and tech festival in Austin strategically targeted by Democratic candidates, socialism has been one of the hot topics. Democratic presidential candidates used the platform to criticize capitalism and promote the socialist ideology of the “new left” to a group of people polls say are more inclined toward socialism than any previous American generation. There’s no shortage of irony here. Some of the biggest promotions at the festival include “Game of Thrones,” now owned by ATT, “Good Omens,” from Amazon, and a network of booths and interactive experiences sponsored by Google.
While Alexandria Occasio-Cortez called capitalism “irredeemable,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren expanded on the Medium article she published last week, titled, “It’s Time to Break Up Amazon, Google, and Facebook.” In it, she argues that these companies have gotten so large and span so many industries that they stifle competition and make it impossible for new tech companies to arise and challenge them. This is the classic problem with capitalism. In theory, free markets police themselves, but there is always the chance that a company could become too dominant and create a monopoly, or in this case, an oligopoly. This is not a new problem. The question is: what should we do about it? Warren advances two major solutions. First, every company that offers a public marketplace and generates over $25 billion yearly in global revenue should be considered a “platform utility” - “even if they are generally providing good service at a reasonable price.” This means they cannot own a platform and then compete in that platform. She also says they will not be able to share data with third parties.
Second, she will police and reverse illegal and anti-competitive mergers. She names Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, and Google’s acquisition of Waze as examples of deals she would work to undo, even years after they closed.
Warren’s proposal has had a split reception, many of the supporters believe it is the next step in the mounting public backlash against Silicon Valley. Others fear that this level of government intervention will actually stifle growth. The Federal Trade Commission would be the governmental body with the authority to carry out Sen. Warren’s plan, and they launched a task force last week designed to investigate the possibility of limiting or breaking up Big Tech. At the WSJ, Dan Gallagher brings a measured response to the anti-trust wave, looking at the history of antitrust legislation, and arguing that politics isn’t always the best way to regulate the economy. As one final point to think about - Warren’s plan is not socialist, at least not on the surface, and it’s reception among the Democratic left will be a litmus test for how much the term has migrated among the younger generation of Democratic supporters.
Trouble for Boeing
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has ordered all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft to be grounded after two crashes and over 300 deaths in the last six months. The cause of the crashes is uncertain, but both flights sent distress signals and lost control shortly after takeoff. Boeing is investigating the source of the problems.
The Hazards of Cake-Baking in 2019
After a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision, Jack Phillips found himself back in court. A transgender activist undertook a sting operation that landed Masterpiece Cake Shop back in legal trouble with the state of Colorado. Even though the Colorado Civil Rights Commission knew about the second case before the first Supreme Court ruling, they decided to go ahead and bring a suit against Phillips a second time. This week, the two parties came to an agreement; the suit against the cake shop was dropped and the suit Phillips had brought against the state of Colorado was dropped.
“The Democrats Have a Culture Problem” - Ross Douthat, The New York Times
Some of the most interesting stuff coming out about the 2020 election has nothing to do with the candidates - on the surface - and lots of the most tentative columns aren’t focused on the candidates because they will likely change, and change their positions, a few times in the next 18 months. The articles on the shape of the electorate are both fascinating and important. The candidates and the American people have an interesting symbiotic relationship right now; each group driving the other further toward the radical edges. Douthat’s column poses the question - will the Democrats cultivate a principled middle? A lot of people think a centrist Democrat could win 2020 in a landslide, but that candidate might not make it through the primaries. Another interesting column out this week looks at the Sanders-Trump voters, Americans more committed to populism than either party platform.
“A Meditation on Strength and Weakness” - Kevin DeYoung, The Gospel Coalition
This is a great reminder from Kevin DeYoung - “Strength is good, but for the Christian, strength is found in weakness, in despairing of ourselves instead of applauding ourselves. Suffering, therefore, is one of God’s chief ways of leading us to spiritual success.” As counter-intuitive as it might be, in God’s economy, weakness is our greatest strength.
“All the Lonely People” - Scott Devor, Tabletalk
Loneliness is getting more and more central to the human experience. I’ve noticed a drastic increase in articles and books of relationships and loneliness over the last year, and part of the reason is social media. When we settle for the appearance of relationship without the necessary benefits of real relationships, the loneliness we experience feels even deeper. The Church can and should lead the charge against loneliness. We can show the world what relationships really look like. Devor makes a great observation, part of our culture-wide problem with relationships is that we’ve forgotten how to have a relationship with God - sometimes, even in the church. This is a great starting point for our own lives, and then for evangelism, outreach, and discipleship, especially for the younger generations.
“Humanly Speaking” - Adam Carrington, Public Discourse
Free speech legislation could use a reset, never more so that after a circuit court judge rule this week that pornography should be protected under the first amendment as free speech. Carrington, a political science professor at Hillsdale, examines the purpose and rationale of the free speech clause and looks at pornography in light of Aristotle’s conception of virtuous speech. I really liked this point; “[Pornography] denies our humanity as well as our liberty by reducing our capacity for speech and leaving us with a merely bestial voice.” As Christians, we believe there are stronger reasons to oppose pornography use, but in light of this recent decision, it’s important to think through the uses and limits of free speech.