The problem is that once anger becomes a metric of authenticity, the incentives to public anger grow exponentially. Instead of spending our time engaged in productive discussion, we spend our time slamming each other — and earning larger and larger audiences. Then, when anyone objects, we simply label them inauthentic schoolmarms. Anger becomes its own justification.

The result is worse policy, because authentic anger in politics generally stems from frustration — and frustration in the freest, most prosperous country in world history generally stems from extremism. Thus, the angriest members of our politics are those who believe that an apocalypse is imminent, requiring immediate mob justice to avert; they are the conspiratorial thinkers who see every societal problem as a symptom of deeper ills that require the destruction of entire institutions. Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times, in praising the newly rising socialists of the Democratic party, puts it this way: “They often seem less panicked about what is happening in America right now than liberals are, because they believe they know why our society is coming undone, and how it can be rebuilt.”