• Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

    Betraying the Faith of Christopher Hitchens

    Larry Taunton's new book says more about its author than about the man he claims as a friend.

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    The Problem With Inequality, According to Adam Smith

    The allure of extreme wealth can contort human sympathies, causing the public to admire the wealthy and shun the poor. 

    One of the more memorable statements of Barack Obama's presidency thus far has been his claim, in a high-profile December 2013 speech, that great and growing economic inequality is "the defining challenge of our time." In making his case Obama appealed to the authority of a seemingly unlikely ally: Adam Smith, the purported founding father of laissez-faire capitalism, who is widely thought to have advocated unbridled greed and selfishness in the name of allowing the invisible hand of the market to work its magic.

    Many a scholar has made a career, in recent decades, by pointing out that this view of Smith is a gross caricature. It has often been noted, for instance, that Smith never once used the term "laissez-faire" or even the term "capitalism," and that his two books—The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776)—are full of passages lamenting the potential moral, social, and political ills of what he called "commercial society."

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  • Brennan Linsley / AP

    How Much Will Trump Cost the Republican Party?

    The GOP needs to broaden its appeal to continue to thrive, but its presumptive nominee is busily alienating the voters it most needs to attract.

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  • Jose Cabezas / Reuters

    Hollywood Has a Huge Millennial Problem

    2016 is on pace to be the worst year for movies—by tickets bought per U.S. adult—since before the 1920s. What's going on?

    Sequels have been the lifeblood of the movie business for more than a decade. In 2011, the seven top films were all sequels, including Fast 5 and the final Harry Potter installment. Last year, the eight biggest opening weekends were all sequels, including Furious 7 and the latest Star Wars installment.

    But in the last six months, the sequel strategy seems to be deflating. Several follow-ups—including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Zoolander 2, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Barbershop: The Next Cut, and Alice Through the Looking Glass—have "disappointed or flopped outright," The New York Times reported.

    Perhaps Hollywood's funk is even worse than a sequel slump. In 2016, the film industry is on pace to sell the fewest U.S. tickets per person of any year since perhaps before the 1920s and the fewest total tickets in two decades. This is an extrapolation based on previous years' sales progressions, and a strong summer or fall could boost the final figures. But this year might even weaker than it looks. The sixth and seventh highest-grossing films of 2016—Star Wars Ep. VII and The Revenant—were actually released in 2015. Box office analysts are grim. "Hollywood is in a creative funk," Jeff Bock, an analyst, told The Hollywood Reporter.

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  • Mark Makela / Getty

    Who Will Grab the Bernie-or-Bust and the Never-Trump Vote?

    Opening the general election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump make an immediate, cross-party pitch to supporters of their rivals' vanquished opponents.

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  • Wikimedia

    A Brief Introduction to Pro-Holocaust Twitter

    Donald Trump has expressed no interest in opening up death camps for Jews should he win the presidency, but his ardent supporters on the racist right have their hopes. 

    If there's one thing I hate more than Illinois Nazis, it's Twitter Nazis.

    Correction. I don't hate them. Mainly I pity them, because their souls are so corroded, and because they are so pathetically frightened by Jews and blacks and Mexicans and gays and change and their own confused sexual identities (they are obsessed with "cucks," "cocks," and "faggots") and pluralism and, by the way, Hillary Clinton. 

    But I also feel pity for them because they're so bad at anti-Semitism. I recognize high-quality, handcrafted Jew-hatred when I see it, and the far-right, which has lately been gaining attention for supporting Donald Trump's candidacy for president (and for trolling Jews such as yours truly), is so over-the-top obvious in its deployment of anti-Semitic memes; so uncreative in the manufacturing of Judeophobic tropes (call this the banality of oven jokes); so bad at Photoshop; and so awful at spelling, that I find them as pathetic as I find them offensive.

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  • Yuri Gripas / Reuters

    Elizabeth Warren Picks Her Side

    The Massachusetts senator will reportedly endorse Hillary Clinton in the coming weeks.

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  • Antara Photo Agency / Reuters

    The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies

    The desire for theocracy in the Muslim world can be partly understood through the failures of Western secularism. 

    Ben Affleck has become an unlikely spokesman for a view on Islam held by many on the American left. In 2014, the actor made a now-famous stand against Bill Maher and Sam Harris in defense of Muslims, arguing that it's wrong to make generalizations about the religion based on ideological extremists and terrorists. "How about the more than 1 billion people who aren't fanatical, who don't punch women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and pray five times a day?" he said. 

    In his new book Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid—an Atlantic contributor, a scholar at Brookings, and a self-identified liberal—calls Affleck's declaration a "well-intentioned ... red herring." Islam really is different from other religions, he says, and many Muslims view politics, theocracy, and violence differently than do Christians, Jews, or non-religious people in Europe and the United States.

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  • Chris Helgren / Reuters

    A New Theory Explains How Consciousness Evolved

    A neuroscientist on how we came to be aware of ourselves.

    Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that's why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it?

    The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right—and that has yet to be determined—then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species.

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  • Lisi Niesner / Reuters

    The Super Rich Start Saving Super Early

    They also start investing in stocks at a young age.

    There are two personal-finance chestnuts in nearly every article about saving money: Putting money away (instead of spending it) is difficult, and people should generally save more than they already do. But despite these truisms, one subset of Americans seem to be doing pretty well at saving: the super wealthy.

    This may not seem all that surprising, but the reason isn't simply that they have more money to save. According to a new survey by Bank of America U.S. Trust, the bank's private wealth management arm, many wealthy individuals in the U.S. start saving in their teenage years. The report, "Insights on Wealth and Worth," surveys nearly 700 people and offers an inside look at the attitudes and behaviors of ultra-high-net-worth individuals. The survey's respondents have at least $3 million in assets, and 30 percent have more than $10 million.

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  • The Best 71-Second Animation You'll Watch Today

    A rock monster tries to save a village from destruction.

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  • Inside the Company That Wants to Be the Netflix of Lucid Dreaming

    The Kiev-based startup Luciding is trying to put people in control of the images they encounter in their sleep.

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  • How the Wealthy Control the Art Market

    Rich patrons often choose to fund artists' most wild and outlandish dreams. Why?

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