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Easy Chair

A monthly space for the opinions and observations of a revolving cast of writers.

Unending Struggle

In 1974, a pair of scientists who would go on to win the Nobel Prize published a paper demonstrating that the chlorofluorocarbons used in aerosol sprays and refrigerators were harming…

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Attention

We live, we are told, in distracted times. The internet has destroyed our ability to concentrate, condemning us to a future of agitated doomscrolling. Our alienated children stare at their…

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Name Stakes

Since becoming a father, I have thought a lot about what exactly we’re doing when we name something or someone after someone else. Three years ago, my wife and I,…

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You Must Change Your Life

In 1829, Agathon-Jean-Francois, Baron Fain, wrote a memoir of his time serving as secretary to the emperor Napoleon. A reader searching for details about great battles or power struggles will…

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Campaign Literature

From a certain angle, Donald Trump’s presidency may not have moved the United States in entirely the wrong direction. One of the few areas to benefit from his stewardship, the…

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Another World Is Possible

When I moved to New York City in 2008, my perception of safety (and everything else) was conditioned by a lifetime of American cop shows. Though I’d grown up in…

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Solo Act

A decade ago, when my fiancée and I were living in a semilegal converted nylon factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I’d just published my first book—a coming-of-age memoir into which…

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Things to Come

On March 30, during one of the daily briefings on the COVID-19 outbreak that had so captured the hearts and minds of New Yorkers, Governor Andrew Cuomo uttered a sentence…

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A Malevolent Holiday

On the fifteenth of March in Paris, as the novel coronavirus outbreak—just deemed a global pandemic—ravaged Spain and Italy, I strapped my infant son into his stroller, grabbed a bottle…

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The Striking Gesture

“I  was not elected to do small things,” President Donald Trump said upon announcing his new Middle East peace plan at the end of January. Trump was not elected to…

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The Wanderer’s Port

I  landed in Lisbon late on a temperate Thursday in January. This was the end of an unusually pan-European week for me. I’d spent the previous two days in a…

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Losing My Religion

In the Seventies, when I came of age politically, being a lefty was all about believing that “the people” would always save us, if they just knew the truth. We…

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An Incoherent Truth

Last fall, Tobi Haslett, a young writer and critic with Marxist leanings, noticed a shift in the contours of popular intellectual debate. “Something is happening out there in the dark…

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On Courage

As of this writing, we are still about three months away from the first vote of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination—­and already “our side” seems set to tear…

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Lefty Lingo

The only letter I’ve ever sent to the New York Times was in the 1980s, objecting to the paper’s suddenly pestilent use of “draconian.” During Iran–Contra the complaint must have…

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Whiteout

This past spring and summer, political correctness—perhaps inevitably—took a full turn and became a campaign to erase the worst things that dead white men have done in our history. This…

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Patrios

“Nationalism” is rapidly overtaking even “populism” as a foremost political bogeyman. Yet progressives will often still embrace “pa­tri­ot­ism.” The elevation of the last term is meant to deflect Trump-­style accusations…

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The Deep State of Dementia

My first reaction upon seeing what was supposedly a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing what was alleged to be a mine from the broken hull of what we were…

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Semantic Drift

Regarding the purported rules of En­glish syntax, we tend to divide into mutually hostile camps. Hip, open-­minded types relish the never-­ending transformations of the way we speak and write. They…

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What We Do in the Shadows

The celebrity scandal of the year has been the discovery of just what lengths some actors will go to in order to get their children parts in our leading universities.…

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Fifty-Fifty Follies

Last spring, the BBC officially took up a “50:50 challenge” to achieve an equal number of male and female experts on news and current-events shows within the following year. We’re…

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Winning the Peace

In October 1939, C. S. Lewis delivered a sermon at Oxford’s University Church, later published under the title “Learning in War-Time.” World War II had been under way for just a…

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No Exit

For American liberals, the European Union is a bastion of social justice, secular humanism, and civic virtue. Taxed gratefully into equality, its subjects spend their days recycling kefir containers and…

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Freedom from Inspiration

The fight over which of our public monuments should remain where they are is as complicated as the American past they commemorate. For all the fighting over who and what…

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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

I have a new fear. And this one’s a doozy. I write a fortnightly column for the British barely right-­of-­center magazine (that’s left-­of-­center, in the United States) The Spectator. Having…

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The Crisis of Our Constitution

Lost in this past electoral season, one of the most vicious and frightening in American history, is how shaky the very foundation of our democracy is. Throughout Trump’s deformation of…

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The Silicon Mystique

If I’m having trouble sleeping and feel like spinning my wheels in the dark, I like to meditate on the simulation hypothesis—the idea that we’re living inside a kind of…

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The Ghosts of Versailles

Ahundred years ago this month, the First World War shuddered to a close. The end came when the armistice took effect on the Western Front at 11 am on November…

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