In defense of Davos, or at least its cosmopolitanism

I very much liked yesterday’s Ross Douthat piece, and I agree with most of it, and I regard him as one of the truly great columnists writing today.  Still, there was one tiny part I disagreed with, and I see the point being repeated in varying forms elsewhere, so I thought I would pull it out and add a few comments, namely:

(There is more genuine cosmopolitanism in Rudyard Kipling and T. E. Lawrence and Richard Francis Burton than in a hundred Davos sessions.)

That is Ross, do read the whole piece for context, but here are my worries.  They may be nitpicks, but actually I feel a fair amount is at stake here:

1. It seems unfair to compare Davos sessions to some rather robust, historically important, top-of-the-line explorers.  Virtually all sessions are boring, including or maybe even especially in the 19th or early 20th centuries.  How about comparing the elites of back then to the elites of today?  Then I think the Davos set would look quite good.  Or if you compare the explorers of more recent times — say Jan Morris or Louis Sarno — to the explorers of back then, still the present day looks good and possibly even considerably superior in terms of curiosity, tolerance, and a broad outlook.

Overall, I see a lot of evidence — both cross-sectional and time series — that those qualities are what economists call normal goods rather than inferior goods, or in other words those qualities rise with income.  And do we moderns not in some ways have an overall better and more accurate perspective?  Have we not read much more, learned better social science, and developed a greater facility for spotting prejudices and logical fallacies?

2. I suspect either the elites or the explorers of today are better when it comes to understanding differing perspectives of gender, neurology, sexuality, race, age (should you beat your kids?), and a variety of other dimensions.  Maybe none of these wisdoms fall exactly under the heading of the adjective “cosmopolitan,” but still they seem relevant for whether today’s elite is wiser and broader.  How many of the earlier elite were women, and embodied that set of diverse perspectives, to pose a simple comparative question?

3. I’ve never been to Davos, but I know some people who have.  They’re weird!  And I mean that in a (mostly) good way.  I am reluctant to overgeneralize about them, and I suspect they are more diverse than is often thought to be the case.  Almost by the virtue of having been invited, they are some pretty extreme outliers, consider for instance Bill Gates or Elon Musk.  I’d also like to see data on how many of them have spent serious time in say poor rural villages in less developed nations, or had other strange or diverse experiences.  The answers might surprise us.

Who amongst us knows this about CEO and billionaire Patrick Byrne of Overstock?:

“30 years ago in China I contracted Hep C.  I got a bad head wound and a ‘barefoot doctor’ they called him, sewed me up.  I’ll give you the facts, I went stage 4 last summer, seemed to have gotten through the treatment but it’s been quite harsh on me and it’s on top of a long, I’ve actually had 106 surgeries, 51 times they stopped my heart electrically, another 50 times chemically,”

Isn’t that a kind of cosmopolitanism?  And the medical treatments also have given him some pretty novel perspectives.  Patrick by the way is fluent in Mandarin and has spent years in strange and unusual parts of China, and during a time when it was far less safe and comfortable than today.

Or how about what Jeff Sachs does?  Whether or not you agree with all of his economics, it’s not easy, and I mean on both the mind and the body.  How about those Harvard MBAs who are Mormons and have done missions in exotic locales and gone door to door for two years?

Muhammad Yunus was born in a Chittagong Muslim village into a family of nine children, circa 1940.  Later “From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.”  Isn’t that a pretty incredible diversity of life experience?

Thomas Friedman, a classic exemplar of the globalist mindset and whipping boy for many, in fact spent serious time in Beirut covering the civil war, and doing original reporting in situations of very real danger, winning Pulitzers and a National Book Award for the quality of his work.  During one later four-year period, he traveled over 500,000 miles.  Nicholas Kristof is another good example of someone who really “gets out there,” in his case often in Africa but not only.

If you are curious, here’s a basic list of Davos attendees.   Note also that the very real increase in segregation by income in America — mostly a bad development and which Ross mentions — seems to be centered around the upper middle class, not the Davos set, as the very wealthy and the elites always have lived somewhat apart.

Overall I think Ross and many others are somewhat underrating Davos.  I do understand that Davos attendees may, as a whole, suffer from excess hubris, excess complacency, or be excessively fond of technocracy.  And the fact that many (by no means all) of them have not suffered very much does limit some of their perspectives.  But are they not in fact actually about as cosmopolitan as we might hope for?

Addendum: Rob Howse offers some useful remarks, and also notes the connection of the “genuine cosmopolitan” idea — a tricky concept — to Leo Strauss.  Here is his closing bit:

Is it so that the cosmopolitans Douthat despises merely retreat into comfortable and familiar neighborhoods in global cities?…[many are] working in a combat zone with Medicins sans frontiers; or persisting as a foreign correspondent in a country where journalists’ lives are threatened; or setting up a truth commission to heal wounds in a conflict-ridden nation; or soldiering as a social entrepreneur to empower women’s small business in an African village; or confronting traditional community leaders about female genital mutilation.  These are all quintessentially cosmopolitan roles, which involve real risks, real sacrifice, and often wrenching encounters with otherness.

I agree with Ross’s description that the Davos set is very often “liberal Christianity without Christ.”  But maybe that’s the most cosmopolitan philosophy going these days.  The bigger question of course is, given slow economic growth and institutional rigidification, how much that really helps us.


Davos Elites: the UK Chapter really brought home the bacon last Friday in the UK [so called 'Remain'].

God bless 'em.

The Bilderbergers are an invitation-only group of rich and powerful people who have been getting together secretly in expensive hotels since 1954 to discuss how to make the world a better place for rich and powerful people. Not surprisingly, the Bilderbergers are the subject of much conspiracy theorizing.

In recent years, they've been overshadowed by the Davos confab, which cleverly took the opposite tack: maximize publicity. Sure, it's fun to secretly hang out with your fellow Bilderbergers, but it can be more fun to boast about your invitation to Davos. The Davos strategy is to invite journalists to lecture rich and powerful guys. The rich and powerful guys treat the journalists like peers with fascinating insights, then the journalists go home and write articles about how today's crop of rich and powerful guys are so much more wonderful than you might think.

There is less conspiracy theorizing about Davos than Bilderberg because Davos hires platoons of PR flacks to tell everybody that, yes, the people who get invited to Davos do Run the World. So that takes all the fun out of it for the conspiracy theorists.

It appears the Bilderbergers may be slowly moving in the Davos direction.

Steve, what evidence do you have that the purpose of the Bilderberg group is to make the world a better place for rich and powerful people? Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.


As my grandmother said, 'it takes all kinds to make a world'

When people say "fluent in Mandarin", are we talking "he could order food at a restaurant" fluent or "he can read the legal code and persuasively debate for a change" fluent?

Most of us on here are fluent in English but we'd struggle to read the legal code. Take a look at the raw text of the PROMESA act, passed by Congress just last week. It's actually not bad, but here's one of the more obscure parts:

Section 1508(c) of the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (as enacted into law by Public Law 106–398; 114 Stat. 1654A–356) is amended—
(1) by striking “The Secretary” and inserting the following:
“(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), the Secretary”

So unless you're already familiary with the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act, you'll struggle to make sense of this. Also, I have no idea why a debt restructuring bill should impact a National Defense act.

From his Wiki: “He holds a certificate from Beijing Normal University, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese studies from Dartmouth College”.

"A certificate" of course means a short-term exchange degree. He probably can more or less manage a casual conversation, but I'd be surprised if he could read the equivalent of Twilight in Chinese.

FWIW I can read the legal code and make good arguments for change. In fact I do it often.

Fluency in Chinese and Japanese can mean almost anything, but he has the Chinese studies degree where I assume he had at least 3 years of Chinese along with the certificate and many years in the country, so he likely has excellent Mandarin as long as he was sticking with it. I bet Twilight would be no problem for him (I just looked up the first pages) nor would basic law. But as someone said, law can be so specialized he would likely have to take some extra time to discuss a specific type of more complex law unless he was doing that a lot anyway.

Oh, a certificate likely represents a semester or a year of university language study. My Japanese certificate in Yokohama was through Stanford and was a 10 month program with 4 hours of courses a day along with another 4 hours of homework. Some of the university courses are less intense, probably in China as well, but i bet Byrne was busy for as long as he was in his program.

I am arguably fluent in one foreign language (C1), conversant in another (B2), and can say a few phrases in a two more (but with a good accent). For people who don't speak any of the target languages, it's quite simple to convince them that I'm fluent in all four.

When you study a foreign language, you never quite feel like you've arrived.

something has happened to the tyler cowen i know and love that he mentions tom friedman as a positive reference for anything

I think Ross was nearing - but not quite arriving - at the point that cosmopolitanism today enjoys all the benefits but not the costs of other cultures.

Orwell and Kipling would have seen if not experienced the diseases, intolerance, violence and general ignorance of other cultures at the same time they enjoyed the positives of the same cultures. And for years at a time, cut off from their home culture by lack of modern communication and travel.

There's a microcosm of this issue playing out in Canadian schools now, where adult Syrian refugees have been placed among kids at their grade level but almost ten years younger. Emails released from a school in Fredericton after a FOI request reveal, for example, sexual harassment of girls, intimidation in classrooms and bullying of a Jewish student.

Trudeau and the elites bask in their moral exhibitionism while anonymous and ignored parents are left to agonize over the costs.

So in a way today's cosmopolitan elite not only avoid costs while enjoying the benefits of cultural diversity, but actively import and impose those costs on people who will never see a benefit.

Calling Kipling a cosmopolitan is rich. The guy was an Englishman who just happened to be born in India, but he remained an arch-imperialist and cheerleader for British colonial ventures all his life, and advocated the "white man's burden". Orwell, on the other hand......could see through people, cultures, pieties.....

Yes, Orwell hated colonial ventures so much he took a posting in Burma. And don't forget that he changed his name to one that wasn't Scottish.

Orwell's anti-colonial views arose while he was stationed in Burma.

You really, really do not get Kipling.

I doubt anyone can read Kim without being entranced by Kipling's loving portrait of India and its people.

Kipling saw more of the world - by slow ships and trains - than most frequent flyers see today by jet. Describing him merely as someone who just happened to be born in India is very weak.

As for colonialism, today it's just another word for subjugation. But in the past - when the gulf between western and non-western development was wide - people often saw colonialism as a gift. And for India it was on balance.

Post-British arrival, India saw increases in life expectancy, childhood education and per capita wealth, while being linked to each other and the world through new transport links, trade and common language.

Colonialism like most things is complex. Knee jerk ideological positions are not.

Yes, colonialism is complex. It has positives and negatives. Your post reveals a rosy view of colonialism that you seem to share with the erstwhile colonizers. And all the benefits you mention; they came much after the British arrived. Much of the first part of colonialism was spent in subjugating the native population and leeching off Indian wealth. So in the 18th and early 19th century, contrary to your assertions, Indian life expectancy would have been down, thanks to the wars the British waged on India and Indians. That the benefits British rule brought (later on, please note) may or may not redeem their earlier sins, but to talk as if that's the main feature of colonialism is to be willfully blind.

In any case, I wasn't arguing about colonialism. (You brought it up.) I was only making a point about Kipling's cosmopolitanism. And seeing a number of places on ships and trains does not make one a cosmopolitan, especially if those ships and trains are run by people of the culture you identify with, and your destination lands are ruled by your co-ethnics. You and many others seem to think that "explorer" is synonymous with "cosmopolitan". It's not.

Recall the "What have the Romans ever done for us" scene in "Life of Brian"

It not only accurately corresponds to what the British did to for the Indians, but also is pretty accurate for what the Romans did for the Jews.

The early colonialists were undeniably a bunch of pirates and brigands. But the India that they pillaged was run by people who pillaged the place worse than the colonialists. The colonialists were better able to appreciate that if they left their subjects something, there would be more to steal the next time they came to help themselves.

The British provided the Indians with law and order that the Indians conspicuously lacked.

And, yet, people like Enoch Powell (a much more recent fellow) spoke fluent Urdu and studied the culture in ways in which today's elites never shall.

What he and others had, compared to today's elites, was the certainty that their culture (the imperial British ones) was still the best, even though the others were worth studying and knowing.

Today's cosmopolitans are basically their own class of people who are less about making sense of the baffling variety of attitudes and cultural elements that are in the world than they are about integrating people from those cultures into their globalist class (which is forming its own subculture and group identity, to a certain extent). Diversity here is about experiencing a vicarious thrill of exoticism as elements of food, spirituality and aesthetics are sampled and maybe superficially integrated into their lives. This is not real cosmopolitanism. It's an ersatz version for people who want to distinguish themselves from the little parochial and provincial people milling about in flyover countries.

Why don't you learn, say, Russian, and go to Russia and try to claim Putin's "throne"? You can be the absolute ruler of all Russians. Will that make you a cosmopolitan?

Enoch Powell wanted to be part of the ruling class of India. In fact, he wanted to be the Viceroy. Learning Urdu was for him an obligation a ruler had towards his subjects. He is the farthest thing from a cosmopolitan.

5 inches is just fine.

"'Mankind." That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom... Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution... but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: 'We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!' Today we celebrate our Independence Day!". Sorry, but it's just how I feel.

Let me quote James Burnham via Sam Francis on mankind:

"In real life," Burnham wrote in 1967, "men are joined on a much less than universal scale into a variety of groupings — family, community, church, business, club, party, etc. — which on the political scale reach the maximum significant limit in the nation. Since there is at present time no Humanity or Mankind (socially and historically speaking), there cannot be a World Government – though conceivably there could be a world empire."

The best part of Ross's piece is

"They can’t see that paeans to multicultural openness can sound like self-serving cant coming from open-borders Londoners who love Afghan restaurants but would never live near an immigrant housing project, or American liberals who hail the end of whiteness while doing everything possible to keep their kids out of majority-minority schools."

It is so clear to me that most of this is about shifting costs. There is a social costs to integration and upsetting traditions which liberals make lesser educated and less well-to-do whites pay while the benefits are consumed by the elites.

Good comment.

You don't have to be sarcastic.

I actually agree with the comment. White elites live in a bubble. I lived in a Indian complex for 2 years and it was filthy, very male dominated, and I felt unwanted at all times I was moving to and from my car (mostly through glares and long stares). I actually have no issue with Indians and love curry (like all good Englishmen do) but not everything about immigrants should be celebrated and those aspects that should not be are usually borne by those who voted leave. Elites like to selectively include certain romantic aspects of immigrant culture but not be forced to address any baggage that comes along with it.

Perceived glares and long stares can be deceiving, need something more concrete.

Do you think immigrants moving into a poor part of a city have negative effects on the people living there? Keep in mind, poor americans tend to be people with lots of problems that sometime spill on to their neighbors.

You are reasoning from the fact that you hate poor white Americans to the desired conclusion that they are hateful and deserve to be murdered, and you imagine that because you hate them, you are so obviously anti racist that you will not be next to be killed by the mob.

Yes, it is glaringly and horrifyingly obvious that when immigrants move into a poor white American neighborhood, they have utterly disastrous effects on the people living there, which disastrous effect manifests in the collapse of home prices.

We see rich people paying a hell of a lot to stay away from nonwhites, and we see poor whites abandoning their homes, for which they have saved all their lives, to get away from nonwhites by moving into a small rental that costs them a lot more than their large home with garden did.

open-borders Londoners who love Afghan restaurants but would never live near an immigrant housing project, or American liberals who hail the end of whiteness while doing everything possible to keep their kids out of majority-minority schools.

Is that really about race or skin color?

I suspect those Londoners wouldn't be happy to live near a housing project occupied solely by white people born in England either. And similarly for American liberals and "majority-minority schools." I doubt they would be eager to send their kids to a public school dominated by evangelical families.

We can tell what people want by looking at housing prices, and in particular looking at the collapse of housing prices that follows whenever progressives encourage a mob of blacks to do a Krystalnacht on non blacks, as was instigated by Clinton and her accomplices in Ferguson.

And yes, the people who pay a lot of money to stay clear of the mobs that they sic upon their white social inferiors do not mind living near their white social inferiors, but are terrified of living near the mobs that they sic upon them.

Housing prices, and abrupt changes in housing prices, are revealed preference. Poor whites and rich whites mind living near colored people. Rich whites do not mind living near poor whites, as for example in Pacifica - except that they know that an area is about to be section eighted before the poor whites in that area do.

I feel like we need Taleb to chime in here on whether time in Beirut gave Friedman a better lens to see reality or whether it was the start of him being Fooled By Randomness.

From London to Paris to New York, each Western “global city” (like each “global university”) is increasingly interchangeable, so that wherever the citizen of the world travels he already feels at an expat I've listened to this story hundreds of times. Jaded travelers bragging their boredom. When you visit for a week everything looks the same. When you try to make something (working), the differences become evident and learning through failure is a must.

"How about comparing the elites of back then to the elites of today?"

You think the moderns would come off as having more exposure to cultural difference than the elites of the late 19th century? Really??? Think about it for a moment -- Curzon travelled extensively in Asia on a private basis in the years before he became Viceroy in India. He visited and wrote about Korea, for example, in an era when Korea was still largely closed and barely accessible to the Western world. And Curzon was not some robust explorer -- he had to wear a brace because of curvature of the spine, or something like that. Churchill served in South Africa and the Northwest Frontier Province, if I recall correctly. Maybe the Soudan as well? Men like Lord Cromer spent the key parts of their career overseas, not in air conditioned conference rooms surrounded by other men in suits with Oxbrige degrees, but embedded in dramatically foreign cultural contexts. And then they came home to serve in politics.

Think about men like Enoch Powell, who like every member of the Imperial Civil Service, studied Indian languages to lay the foundation for a career at the top of the Empire. Or on the American side, think about Hoover, who apparently spoke passable Chinese. Think about Taft, who was governor of the Philippines (or MacArthur, whose father was military governor).

Or as it is the 4th, let's go back centuries and remember Cornwallis, who served as governor general and CinC in India after his defeat in the American colonies. Or Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who spent his salad days fighting wars against the Marathas and Mysore.

The Anglo- American elites of the past were less diverse, racially. But they knew it. By the late nineteenth century, at least on the British side, you see them going to frankly extraordinary lengths to educate themselves about and gain experience with cultural difference, in an era where that still entailed a lot of time and effort and inconvenience and danger (though a lot less than it had 200 years prior). And these people weren't just middle class strivers or missionaries of the medicins sans frontieres types. They came home and sat in Parliament and governed the country. There's really no comparison to our modern elites. People like Obama and Jarrett, whose parents lived abroad when they were children (like Kipling) give you a dim echo of the kind of background these men had, but it is only a dim echo.

"Churchill served in South Africa and the Northwest Frontier Province, if I recall correctly. (...) Or as it is the 4th, let’s go back centuries and remember Cornwallis, who served as governor general and CinC in India after his defeat in the American colonies. Or Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, who spent his salad days fighting wars against the Marathas and Mysore."

I guess, by this token, the Soviet Army conscripts in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe--and lest we forget: Marshall Rokossovsky was Poland's Defense Minister (I guess foreign domination is truly cosmopolitan)-- and the Afrika Korps boys were the real cosmopolitans. Nowadays, it's drone this, human rights that. I mean, you don't really know a culture until you personally drop napalm on its children. Sorry, but it's just how I feel.

As I alluded to in another comment above, calling imperialists and colonialists cosmopolitan is quite ludicrous. The British in India established enclaves (little Englands) in which they and their families would spend their entire time, having little to no contact with native Indians who were not the help. Being cosmopolitan means being comfortable among people who come from a different background, and tolerating differences of culture. Imperialists and colonialists never had to do that; they considered their culture to be self-evidently superior, and if they couldn't impose it on the natives, they would become a (strictly segregated) ruling class.

Has it ever occurred to you that the devout and patriotic Hindu or Buddhist considers his culture superior to yours? Men like Kipling run rings around your understanding of the human condition.

But Sanjay seems so nice when I pick up my over priced curry dishes.

You still did not understand the Human Condition TM until you justfied military conquest, economic exploration, depriving natives from civil rights and the occasional massacre.

Straw man. And I assume you're as critical of Mohammed's brutal homogenization of North Africa and the Middle East.

This particular strawman is called... Kipling.
"And I assume you’re as critical of Mohammed’s brutal homogenization of North Africa and the Middle East."
Yeah. As much as of Joshua's brutal homogenization of Canaan. Why? Do you think Mohammed was a true (as opposed to the fake cosmopolitans, who eat Indian food) cosmopolitan (as much as the British Chinese-killers were, let's say)?

"Has it ever occurred to you that the devout and patriotic Hindu or Buddhist considers his culture superior to yours?"

So what? In any case, if you actually ask ordinary practitioners of Hinduism or Buddhism what they consider their culture to be and what they like or don't like about it, you are likely to get a huge amount of variation along national, ethno-linguistic, social class, urban v. rural, and educational lines.

And if you actually ask ordinary practitioners of Christianity what they consider their culture to be and what they like or don’t like about it, you are likely to get a huge amount of variation along national, ethno-linguistic, social class, urban v. rural, and educational lines.

@The Anti-Gnostic:

Has it ever occurred to you that the devout and patriotic Hindu or Buddhist considers his culture superior to yours?

(FYI, I was raised Hindu, though I'm pretty agnostic/atheistic now.) And sure, what you say is accurate, but I'd never call the average Hindu or Buddhist a cosmopolitan. Hindus are very parochial; I know them.


Almost all true, and all completely beside the point. The point is whether Kipling should be called cosmopolitan.

+1 very good comment

To me the list reads like resume entries describing the gap years of a group of ivy leaguers about to head into investment banking. Experiences with other cultures have increased, but they have still become commoditised. The question is more, how many of those people hold a new belief due to those interactions? A belief that is unpopular in their own group, and that they didn't expect going in?

One would think travel would make people realize that people are different and thrive under different systems. Travel by liberals only seems to reinforce their belief that inside everybody is an Occidental social democrat just waiting to get out. I include ideological conservatives in the category of liberal, by the way.

"Travel by liberals only seems to reinforce their belief that inside everybody is an Occidental social democrat just waiting to get out. I include ideological conservatives in the category of liberal, by the way."
Of course, you do. Anyone not goose-stepping around is a Red.

Of course. Anyone not totally devoted to wide open borders and multi-national corporations operating anywhere they feel like must be a Nazi.

Yeah, people "totally devoted" to wide open borders... This was what all the Imperialism -praising was about. Well, the British "cosmopolitans" opened the borders for themselves in China and India, right?

Agreed: immigration is invasion.

Well, my forefathers immigrated to Portugal (and from there to Brazil, when the full-scale colonization started), they invaded nothing. Quite the opposite, they helped to bring forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. They and those like them were the salt of Earth.
But so what, right? Polish pumbler, the Red Army, the Wehrmacht is all the same!

Is TC's brand of cosmopolitanism under attack, especially after the impending UK/EU breakup? I never thought much of Davos; it seemed like a chance for wealthy celebrities to tell each other how special they are. Oh, and network, too.

Cowen's brand of cosmopolitanism could only come under attack if they stop building crappy strip malls.

"And do we moderns not in some ways have an overall better and more accurate perspective? Have we not read much more, learned better social science, and developed a greater facility for spotting prejudices and logical fallacies?"

No. Next question.

An astoundingly hubristic comment, given that Tyler actually knows about the replicability problems in social science. Or maybe he's being Straussian again.

When Tyler says "have we not read much more?", he is thinking that reading a Wikipedia article on eg. Confucius is in some sense comparable to actually reading him.

When Tyler says we have a greater facility for spotting prejudices and logical fallacies, he assumes that it is possible to not have prejudices (whereas Nietzsche pointed out that lacking prejudices equates to nihilism).

The idea that on most social or philosphical or literary or artistic margins moderns are generally superior to the elites of earlier periods in the West is laughable. Only our technology (innovations in which have slowed in the last 40 years) is superior. This part of Tyler's cosmopolitanism has always been his weakest point. He is a modernist and post-modernist at the same time. Culturally, both strains are bad.

Hahaha. Let's shoot some Chinamen!

You aren't smart or clever so just articulate your argument. You don't have the benefit of elliptical rejoinders.

There is nothing elliptical here: the "cosmopolitan" elite Douthat praises so lavishly is the one who used to fought the Opium Wars so the Victorian drug cartel could keep selling the Chinese opium. Those were heroes little guy can look up to, not something guy that builds computers!

Opium was legal and widespread. It didn't have the reputation it has today. A plaque on a Catholic school in Singapore (now the art museum) gives thanks to donations from opium companies.

And the Chinese government didn't care about opium users - they cared that the payments in silver were leaving the country.

The world and its history is complex.

Davos? That's not the way I interpret Douthat's column, but it is a way. That was yesterday, and today is the 4th of July. And on this 4th of July the NYT has two essays on the op/ed page that defy the calendar. In the first, Robert Parkinson informs the readers that the American Revolution was fought for the main purpose of preserving slavery and defeating native Americans across the frontier, an interpretation of history that he derives in large part from the words in, and the words omitted from, the Declaration of Independence. So much for the cosmopolitans of the day. As if that were not sufficient criticism of the founders, there is an essay by James Blanchowicz essentially claiming that the scientific method is a ruse, that "[q]uantified precision is not to be confused with a superior method of thinking". I'm not sure which of the two essays would offend the founders more, since their belief in reason and the scientific method was as great if not greater than their belief in "inalienable rights"; indeed, their belief in the latter was based in large part on their belief in, and reliance on, the former. As for Douthat's "cosmopolitans", I would observe that their views are determined not by the Declaration of Independence and its message of equality, but by the Constitution and its message of property rights. The cosmopolitans of America's founding understood that equality is an essential component of freedom, a conclusion they reached by virtue of reason.

No, the American Revolution was another chapter in the English Civil War. The "founders", were by any measure traitors. Their notion of equality didn't extend to women, Africans or native Americans.

At the time, neither did anyone else's

"By any measure?" By the measure of the Enlightenment-era documents they drafted, the founders were men of high principle. By the measure of the Divine right of kings, you are of course correct.

Also, below a certain median IQ, human societies are incapable of the kind of civil order most people on this board would consider tolerable or valid to their sensibilities. That's what the founders thought of Africans and Native Americans.

Category error: Societies don't have 'median IQ's'.

"That’s what the founders thought of Africans and Native Americans": nice July 4 Straw Man ™ .

The kind of great seminars or gatherings of real thinkers in a subject don't advertise their existence. They just meet following a national professional convention. In a bar.

Douthat obviously meant that cosmopolitan people from different countries all have the same narrow range of progressive opinions, and live fairly similar lives: fancy apartments, ethnic food, HBO shows, TED speeches, vapid non-fiction books on badly supported economic arguments. And of course are mostly English speakers.

The only diversity is in their genetic stock; their culture is mostly equivalent. So you have cosmopolitan form but not cosmopolitan essence. It's your own lifestyle, surely you know what Douthat is talking about and you have met some people who criticize it.

Note the irony of modern democracy resulting in elite detachment from their nations, and instead forging loyalty to their own caste.

As foretold by de Tocqueville, another very wise man.

A related perspective focused on Harvard (it seems Crimson editors need to replace their spacebars...)

The segregation by income is a result of the influence of the elite. Obviously there are not enough elite to drive a trend if we were only talking about behavior among the elite. The trend is the result of the breakup of ethnic neighborhoods, accomplished through numerous schemes not worth going into here, and a massive social engineering project known as suburbia, again I will forgo the details. The result is the world we inhabit in which only distinctions related to ones place in the global economic/bureaucratic regime are legitimate grounds for discrimination. Obviously, this makes things easier for the people who control the economic/bureaucratic regime.

For detailed (and I mean detailed) exposition of the 20th century social engineering policies in the u.s., see e. Michael jones' "the slaughter of cities: urban renewal as runic cleansing".

Tyler, how do you think the diversity for all you cosmopolitans to enjoy actually originates? Do you realize "diversity" actually destroys diversity?

The elite goals are SCALE (Size Complexity Atomization Liberalism Elitism), not cosmopolitanism.

I could care less about Davos,which I think is an overblown publicity show, with indeed Bilderberg more powerful but quieter, whether or not they are "cosmopolitans"or not. As it is, I find it somewhat amusing to see all this blasting at rotten cosmopolitans and experts by cosmopolitan columnists in the NY Times.

So obviously what is driving this is trying to get in with all those poor misunderstood people who voted for Brexit, with many of them believing blatantly false claims spread by the Brexiteers, such as that immigrants are responsible for problems in the National Health Service, a really big issue for all those old farts voting for Brexit.

So lots here have gone on and on about how the Brexiteers are obviously bearing all these costs of the immingrants, while the rotten cosmpolitans are reaping all the benefits. This somehow does not jibe with the fact that the parts of UK voting most strongly for Brexit have the fewest numbers of immigrants. They may be poor and resentful over that, but they are not living in neighborhoods full of immigrants, and the immigrants are not responsible for their relative poverty. Unfortunately, sincere as they may be, most of these people are deluded and have been fed a bunch of baloney. But, hey, let us bash "cosmopolitans" on their behalf.

by cosmopolitan columnists in the NY Times.

He grew up in a mid-sized city in New England, went to school in Boston, and married a girl he met in college. His wife's from a similar ethnic background, grew up about 40 miles down the road from his family, came from a family about one half-notch down the social scale from his, and is in the same line of work. Mr. and Mrs. Douthat live in Mrs. Douthat's home town (as does Mrs. Douthat's mother) and, again, 40 miles down the road from Mr. Douthat's parents. He's spent about 2/3 of his life in Connecticut and the other 1/3 in Boston or Washington. He seems adequately rooted in one place.

Oh yeah, A.D., hanging out a lot in Boston. No cosmo him. Now if it were Fargo, ND, I might take your comment seriously. As it is, it is a joke.

Strange as it may seem to you, there are ordinary wage earners in Boston and around Boston. Who represented Cambridge in Congress? That's right, Tip O'Neill.

As for Ross Douthat, he spent about 5 of his 36 years living there.

Rotherham had fewer migrants than London, so why were the locals there getting so upset?

Might be some compositional differences between the migrant profiles of the global metropolis and rest of UK. And their integration... Just as there are between rich London boroughs and poor London boroughs.

Not that migration is responsible for the poverty of poorer parts of the UK. It's fairly likely it's just something that adds to their problems while lacking many discernible positives to them. But #fuckoldWhiteTrashforever, I guess.

Don't bother. Barkley and his honda civic probably get nearly run over every day by some southern, white, Navy guy in a lifted. His contempt for the type of person who voted leave is clearly understood by this simple vision of reality: he is a wannabe cosmopolitan living at the edge of urban and rural communities, the latter being ultra southern.

Rockingham County, Va. is upland South, not Deep South.

over every day by some southern, white, Navy guy in a lifted

Not a Navy guy. That's the Tidewater. Salesman for Wampler-Longacre, or perhaps an accountant at JMU who has been subject to over-the-phone abuse from Barkley, or perhaps one of his exasperated neighbors.

The NHS is funded nationally, so what relevance is regional makeup? Furthermore, another argument made is that low skilled immigration will lower low skilled wages, ceteris paribus. Why do you insist on dishonesty?

Invoking topographical/meteorological metaphors: our Cosmopolitan Class thinks to gift us all (the rank provincials) with latitudinarian perspective. This explains why the Cosmopolitan Class prefers to convene its conclaves in locales like Davos and Aspen: they think to offer (or impose) high-minded views informed by elevated thoughts.

Lowland provincials, however, reside at sea level, or just above (even cosmopolitan provincials marvel at the horizontal expanse of ocean to be glimpsed from comfortable beach resorts as upon ships at sea). Lowland provincials cultivate no deep native interest in latitudinarian perspective, though: lowland provincials are interested not so much in broad perspective as in foundational solidity, or in the perception of it, or in the imagination of it. Lowlanders are not innately enamored of mountain climbing: if they were, Switzerland would be a colony of Sicily, Aspen would be a colony of South or West Texas. Lowland provincials are not so enamored of land-locked perspectives, no matter how stunning the views or how crisp the air.

Paraphrasing that ruddy fellow: "Up is up and down is down, and never the twain shall meet". We face the simple stubborn fact that geological processes do not occur on calendars with the velocity of history.

2 is a bit of a joke. WEIRDOs clearly don't understand what anyone who isn't another WEIRDO is thinking. So they don't actually understand how most women or non-whites think. This can be most obviously seen in the blundering foreign policy of most Western nations when dealing with non-Western nations.

I did not see The Trump Organization on the list of attendees...not cosmopolitan enough?

'I agree with Ross’s description that the Davos set is very often “liberal Christianity without Christ.”'

Probably because Christ would have a few words to say to them, along the lines of these - 'And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

23Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.'

Unless Jesus decided making a whip and using it would be a better way to scourge such a group of people.

Douthat glosses over a critical distinction between the old cosmopolitans and the new. The new cosmopolitans come from the very cultures they see (or are encouraged to see) as backward. Thus, they are more like status-seeking revolutionaries than, say, intrepid explorers.

The reason that noting that many seem to have adopted "liberal Christianity without the Christ" is important is it lays bare that their viewpoints haven't come from some careful contemplative journey through possible philosophies. Instead, they were raised in cultures that were still fairly Christian, or at least still heavily influenced by Christian ideals, and so they picked up their sense of the Good from that (or from political philosophers of earlier time periods who were even more embedded in Christian cultures and whose ideals were thus heavily influences by Christian ideals). The humanist philosophy has long seemed to me to just be a form of egalitarian Christianity minus God.

But why hang on to these ideals if you reject Christ/God? These ideas were Good originally because they came from God. That was their justification. Without God, what is their justification now? That they sound good? Well, perhaps they sound good because of the pervasiveness of a Christian cultural heritage among those who adopt Christless Christianity. It isn't cosmopolitan, it is thoughtlessly adopting the morality you absorbed since you were little, despite taking the time to think through and reject its God.

Because they became hard wired into our consciousnesses over millions of years due to their supporting evolutionary survival and reproduction of social groups. Look at the Ten Commandments. Five of them are universal among all great world religions, the rest are weird and have caused stupid wars over the centuries ("Thou shalt not make graven images," ooh, let us kill thousands in an iconoclastic frenzy for the Word of God!!!). So, no murder (the Hebrew original, not the bad KJV translation of "Thou shalt not kill"), no stealing, no bearing false witness (these are the three that actually show up in US law), as well as the family values ones, honor your parents and now cheating on your spouse. These are the ones that keep societies together and doing well, without any need for having a deity to pronounce them. And the rest of the stuff the deity supposedly pronounced (aside form "Love they neighbor") is mostly sectarian drivel only good for starting senseless wars.

There's a lot more to Christianity than the ten commandments. All that talk about the poor and we're all God's creatures, hating on bankers...the only thing missing is some apostle haranguing the Jews in the New Testament about their carbon footprints.

Was Kipling an Explorer? I thought he was a just a writer, and a journalist in particular.

Perhaps it says something in Douhat's favour that a journalist from the 1890's looks through 2016 spectacles like an explorer.

Basically anyone can go to Davos if they pay the attendance fee. I imagine in it all sizzle no steak. See:

"I suspect either the elites or the explorers of today are better when it comes to understanding differing perspectives of gender, neurology, sexuality, race, age (should you beat your kids?), and a variety of other dimensions."

All of the Davos sets ideas on these matters have been massively retarded. They have harmed countless people and aren't remotely defendable based on the evidence. This is a really odd thing to bring up as a positive. Elites of previous generations had more accurate views of these things.

Cosmopolitinism - pretending to earnestly believe in a set of beliefs the practice of which is absent in your actual life.

All of these are weak defences because you've admitted Douthat's point that the uninclusiveness of modern metropolitan elites is indeed a huge moral failure.

The real question is, metropolitan elites display tribalism, sure, but relative to what? Outright xenophobia and aversion to free exchange. Douthat is making the perfect the enemy of the good and we are all playing along.

It was a hugely over-rated piece, and should have been taken apart by anyone who intuitively thinks in terms of second-best/ third-best solutions, while it is currently being given a hall-pass simply for being topical. This is a minor high for the forces of atavism - we the liberal city elites will take our world back.

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