Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

College admissions season

The Washington Post Magazine has a package of articles on higher education admissions and marketing, timed to the particular time of year, when high school seniors and their parents (not to mention those of us whose paychecks depend upon their decisions) are anxious.

This article, in particular, caught my attention, since it argued that name-brand private universities weren’t necessarily worth the expense. Unfortunately, the comparison is with flagship state universities and worth is measured in terms of future career and earning potential. I can’t and won’t quarrel with the conclusions, such as they are. But I will quarrel with the means of measuring "worth," which seems to set aside (probably as impossible to measure) any consideration of how life-changing or character-building (or "just" character-maintaining) a college education can be. The author is correct that you can get a decent education and build a good career network at any "elite" institution, public or private. Whether your future success depends more on your ambition and innate talent, as opposed what happens within the ivy-covered walls, is another question.

On the other hand, if college is supposed to put a seal on your character, suiting you to assume the responsibilities of a liberally educated gentleman, gentlewoman, or citizen, then other considerations ought to come to the fore. About these, we learn nothing from the article.

I’m not fonda Jill

The only excuse for this is either Stockholm syndrome or a more ruthless calculation about getting herself released. If we’re generous, we can regard her as a victim, but we can no longer regard her as a journalist. Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg.

Update: When I read the transcript yesterday, I flew off the handle. Here’s a plausible explanation of her motives. I await an unconstrained statement from Carroll herself, but the fact remains that she was exploited for propaganda purposes.

Update #2: Here’s Jill Caroll’s statement, courtesy of Jonah Goldberg. I retract my criticism of her and am glad that she doesn’t believe what her captors forced her to say.

Update and Apology: I genuinely regret writing the original post, in which I hastily overreacted to the transcript of the statement Jill Carroll was compelled to make. It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong, and doubtless won’t be the last. I regret also giving ammunition to some persistent critics of NLT.

Why the Failure to Launch?

Speaking of manliness--or perhaps it absence--Leonard Sax (who has a book coming out soon on the subject) writes in the Washington Post about what appears to be a growing phenomenon: the unmotivated 20-something male living at home with his parents. While there has been no change in the number of young women doing this, the increase among males ages 22-34 has been more than 100% in the past 20 years! I find that statistic staggering. Really?! The Sax article is a teaser, though, in that it does not really offer an explanation or cure for the problem so much as a simple diagnosis. Perhaps the book will offer more. In the meantime, he offers a link to the website of something called The Boys Project that is attempting to come to a better understanding of this phenomenon and the declining numbers of young men at college and university.

Today’s Timewasters

Well, the blogospheric diversion of the day seems to be . . . juggling. Start with Chris Bliss, and then check out this parody.

Now I’ll get back to merely juggling my workload.

Hat tip: Powerline and Jonah Goldberg.

Religion and politics in the immigration issue

Get Religion has a nice summary, replete with links, of the state of the issue. I can see how one would feel obliged to help those in need, but condoning law-breaking? Stated another way, the duty to be a Good Samaritan certainly justifies groups that aid any who present themselves for assistance, but it doesn’t yield a stance on immigration law. Nor, for that matter, does an argument regarding "the dignity of the human person" deprive a country of the right to decide who may and may not become a citizen.

Those who profess concern about the plight of people entering the U.S. illegally are obligated both to provide assistance to those who need it and to obey the law. It’s entirely possible to assist someone with his or her immediate material needs while also informing the authorities, who can then make their own determinations regarding the person’s status. I realize that those who wish to remain in the country illegally will thus be less likely to seek assistance, but churches and religious organizations can’t be in the position of actually encouraging illegal behavior.

It’s also, I think, appropriate for those who say they care about illegal immigrants to devote a greater portion of their efforts to addressing the conditions that prompted their immigration in the first place. There are at least three things they can do. First, they can assist American citizens in finding and qualifying for jobs that would otherwise be filled by illegal immigrants. To the extent that the demand dries up, there’s less incentive to cross the border illegally. And to the extent that there are needy Americans who could work, they should have the first crack at the jobs. Second, religious groups could put pressure on businesses not to hire illegal aliens. While this would likely raise the cost of doing business, and raise the costs to consumers, so be it. Why not conduct a campaign promoting goods and services made in America by American citizens? Some folks at least are willing to pay more for things produced under conditions that promote social justice; this is just another one of those. Third, they can expand their humanitarian mission work in Latin America, helping to ameliorate the economic, social, and political conditions that prompt people to leave their homes.

Or is it easier just to bash the "hard-hearted" government or to impugn the religious motives of your opponents?

Emory Conference on religion and liberal society

A fine time was had by all. Peter Lawler, Patrick Deneen, and Bob Bartlett each did yeoman duty, providing coherent comments on six different papers. Peter commented on pieces by J. Budziszewski and Craig Gay; Patrick offered remarks on Michaels Zuckert and Perry; and Bob had smart things to say about Allan Arkush and Nick Wolterstorff.

While we of course didn’t resolve anything, we did air a number of interesting issues. One set of questions had to do with the continuing importance of religion as providing a moral education in a liberal society. There were no thoroughgoing enlightenment rationalists at the table, even among those who would describe themselves as liberals. To what degree, we wondered, did liberal pluralism require a Christian or Judaeo-Christian originating culture and continuing backdrop? To what extent could Christianity and Judaism survive and/or prosper in such a setting? To what degree could Islam fit into such a pluralistic liberal order? I found myself wishing that we had been joined by a thoughtful and well-informed scholar of Islam. Calling Hillel Fradkin!

After all was said and done, the book I wanted to read was Craig M. Gay’s The Way of the (Modern) World: Or, Why It’s Tempting to Live As If God Doesn’t Exist .

And the best one-liner was Peter Lawler’s: "Thank God, life is going to continue to suck!"


I’m thinking about getting a few of these to put up around the office. Some of my favorites:





and Teamwork.

RTWT, unless you’re Tim Kettering, who’s concerned that his brain might shrink if he reads too much.

Hat Tip: Big Tent.

American Heroes

Peggy Noonan’s article today (about which I blogged below) was so good that I had to re-read it--a couple of times. Doing that reminded me of something or, to be more accurate, of someone. Otis Earl Hawkins is about as manly a man you’ll ever want to meet. Better than that, he is a gentleman--an American gentleman. Several years ago, I helped him edit and publish this fascinating account of his exploits in war and in business. Hawkins won the silver star, the bronze star, and a purple heart for his acts of bravery during his service in the Pacific during WWII. When he recounted the story of how he earned the Silver Star, I (like Peggy Noonan in her experience) was struck by Hawkins’ refusal to consider himself a hero. He was only doing his duty, he said. He could not imagine doing less. He could not imagine that anyone else could do less. If you haven’t already got a copy, order one now. It is delightful, satisfying and instructive.

This Week’s Podcast

David Foster is on sabbatical this year, both from teaching and chairing the Department of History and Political Science here at Ashland. He is writing a book on Mark Twain, and therefore is to be envied. He has spent the whole year reading and thinking about our literary Lincoln. Can you imagine the fun he is having? I had a chance to talk to him for a podcast. Most of our time was spent on Tom Sawyer.

Don’t miss it.

Kasich on the Ohio GOP

Ohio Congressman, John Kasich offers a sobering look at the problems facing the Ohio GOP. In the end, he argues, it comes down to the fact that the Ohio GOP has not had to face an effective opposition for more than a decade. They have become fat, lazy, stupid and unprincipled. Is the party over? It could be. The makings of a Democratic sweep are there, he argues, but "[t]hey [i.e., Ohio Democrats] have a long tradition of turning sure things into might-have-beens." I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on that hope if I were still an Ohioan. Now is the time to re-energize with new blood and old, reliable, and good ideas.

America as a "Big Box Store"?

Peggy Noonan writes a stirring piece on American heroism and the reasons for it. America, is special, unique, admirable and awe-inspiring. It--as Reagan and Steve Hayward (below) has noted--is not a sick society. It produces men of a character not matched in the history of the world. It has produced a people who almost deserve the blessings of Providence. But do we continue in that vein? She posits that our reluctance about the issue of immigration illustrates more our doubts about ourselves than our doubts about illegal immigrants. We inspire people to come here, she argues, but in the way a big box store inspires people to shop. We don’t give them a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves anymore.

Read the whole thing. Think about what it says about America, about manliness, about what is required to keep a people free.    

Away from my desk

I’ll be in Philadelphia through the weekend. Am only taking books. I’ll be back Sunday night.

Another Reagan Anniversary

As many media outlets are noting, today is the 25th anniversary of Reagan’s shooting outside the Washington Hilton. In the account of it that I am writing for the second volume of The Age of Reagan, I decided not to mention the name of his shooter, not even once. The bad guys get too much publicity in this world. We should deliberately overlook them when we can.

There was the usual handwringing about guns and the "sick society" of America in the aftermath of the shooting, which set Reagan up to reprise one of his favorite themes from the 1960s when he spoke triumphantly to Congress a month later. Back in the 1960s few things angered Reagan more than the charge that America was a “sick society.” He had spoken often against this theme in the past, including a 1970 speech entitled “Ours Is Not a Sick Society.” Now, before Congress and the watching nation, Reagan closed the book on that theme once and for all:

You’ve provided an answer to those few voices that were raised saying that what happened was evidence that ours is a sick society. . . Well, sick societies don’t produce men like the two who recently returned from outer space. Sick societies don’t produce young men like Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, who placed his body between mine and the man with the gun simply because he felt that’s what his duty called for him to do. Sick societies don’t produce dedicated police officers like Tom Delahanty or able and devoted public servants like Jim Brady. Sick societies don’t make people like us so proud to be Americans and so very proud of our fellow citizens.

One unexpected exception from the handwringing came from The Nation, which wrote in the aftermath of the shooting: "[Reagan’s] resilience provided a brief celebration of the tenacity of life and a reassuring glimpse at an appealing aspect of Ronald Reagan’s character. . . One half-expected to read upon awakening from the anesthesia he had quipped, ‘Where’s the rest of me?’”


Both the blogosphere and the MSM are awash in commentary right now about McCain’s "repositioning," prompted especially by his upcoming commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. E.J. Dionne, the canary in the liberal gas swamp, has already gone off on McCain, heretofore every liberal’s favorite Republican. John McIntyre of the indispensible thinks this is just the beginning of a ferocious liberal assault on McCain as he drives for the GOP 2008 nomination.

We should hope so. It will drive McCain to the right if the libs overreact. And this won’t be a bad thing, since he is likely to get the nomination unless he stumbles along the way (always possible).

Which sets up a story of the kind I usually don’t tell. Back in October I got seated next to McCain at a dinner honoring Sir Martin Gilbert when he was visiting Washington. I was startled at how likeable and engaging he was in person, even when I thought he was talking perfect rot. I argued with him about several of his main themes, and he gamely argued back in a genuine give-and-take manner (which means neither of us made a dent in the other, though I think I got him to pause once or twice over arguments he had never heard before). Above all his presence was undeniable; I began to understand why the press bus went nuts for the guy in 2000. He is much more impressive and captivating in person than on TV. He struck me as someone ready to be president. Conservatives are right to be wary of him, but at the very least we should be ready to throw the yellow penalty flag when the Left starts slinging mud at him.

The Phillips Curve

I long ago gave up taking Kevin Phillips seriously enough to bother commenting on his books, so it is a delight to see a smart liberal smack him down as Jacob Weisberg does on

Money graph:

Any potential Marxist rigor swiftly dissipates into a haze of Syriana—paranoia about the Bush dynasty and the CIA, Skull and Bones, the House of Saud, and the discredited October Surprise conspiracy. Have I mentioned that Phillips is an appalling writer? His prose is cliché-ridden, self-referential, maddeningly repetitive, and dull enough to kill weeds.


HRC woos Catholics

According to this piece, she qualifies "as one of the most overtly Christian politicians in the country." You read that right; and there’s something to it. Now read the article.

Is Marriage for White People or No People?

Joy Jones’ compelling and disturbing article in this past Sunday’s Washington Post "Marriage is for White People," recounts her own experience--or lack thereof--with marriage in the black community. Her basic argument is that black men are not groomed or ready for marriage and family when their peers among black women are seeking it. As a result, black women learn to focus on their careers (or children, if they have them) and get along without men. Then, when the men finally come around and want to settle down she argues that they bring little to the table. They haven’t got much to offer and seem to demand quite a bit--they are like another child, Jones argues. One black woman is quoted in her article saying that she wouldn’t even accept an engagement ring from Jesus Christ: "I’d tell Jesus we could date, but we couldn’t marry." There is more on this here and here.

All of this is very sad, alarming and awful in and of itself. But beyond the problem that it presents for blacks--as if that were not enough--whites should not assume that it is simply "a black thing" and shrug their shoulders in gawking superiority. I see it more as an early indicator of what is going on in society at large--in other words, a sign of what is coming for our children and what, in many cases, is already here for ourselves. The bad social seeds we are sowing as a society are simply reaping rotten fruit in the black community FIRST. There is a whole host of reasons why this might be so and I won’t go into all of them here except to say that those who are the most vulnerable in a society to bad ideas are always going to be the first to experience their ill effects. But this phenomenon is, by no means, confined to blacks. This is an American problem and it requires serious re-thinking about the role of men and women in society and the importance of marriage to it. A good place to start is (as many here have noted) Harvey Mansfield’s book Manliness.

"The Last Helicopter"

Don’t miss Amir Taheri in today’s, where he meditates on the lasting imagery of the fleeing American helicopter (from Saigon, Beruit, Desert One, Mogadishu, etc), and how Middle Eastern radicals understand that while Bush will not be driven away, they can wait for his successor to fold up and leave.

According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation’s character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.

As the saying goes, RTWT.    

More faith-based initiative

The ubiquitous Amy Sullivan, voice of the religious left in the Democratic Party, writes on the faith-based initiative in TNR. While it’s intended to be a criticism of the program, the article doesn’t amount to much. Yes, the dollars going to non-entitlement social programs haven’t gone up much in the Bush Administration. Yes, the faith-based share hasn’t changed all that much, and only a small portion of it goes to groups that weren’t well-represented in the programs prior to 2001.

This doesn’t sound like theocracy to me. And if it were seriously meant to be a political slush fund, they’d be doing more with it.

What’s more, that there are few true believers in the Bush Administration doesn’t surprise me. Most specialized programs in an Administration have only a few devoted advocates.

Why hasn’t more been made of the initiative? There’s been Congressional resistance, which has made the enactment of new legislation almost impossible. There’s the post-9/11 focus on national security, with defense expenses and policy taking up a substantial portion of the budget and of the President’s time and attention. As for the money question, the answer Sullivan offers is damning only if you accept the premise that more government spending is always a good thing.

In sum, there’s less than meets the eye in Sullivan’s criticism. Am I disappointed that more hasn’t changed after more than five years? Yes, but I’m not going to quarrel with the Bush Administration’s focus on foreign policy and homeland security, nor with its unfortunately failed effort to start a national conversation on social security. GWB is spending what political capital he has on important matters. Given Democratic resistance on all fronts, there’s only so much he can accomplish in the faith-based initiative.

Business later this week

My blogging will be light for the next couple of days. Tomorrow I’m participating in a BBC radio program(me)-- "Have Your Say"--broadcast from Ebenezer Baptist Church and focusing on two issues, religion in American life and immigration. I’m not a panelist, but rather a member of a small audience intended to interact with the panelists.

On Thursday, I’m participating as a kibbitzer in a conference on religion and liberalism, organized by Judd Owen. The principal presenters include Allan Arkush, J. Budziszewski, Craig M. Gay, Michael Perry, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Michael Zuckert. The formal respondents include Peter Lawler, Patrick Deneen, and Bob Bartlett. And then there’s a few of us comprising a small peanut gallery. It should be fun, and I’ll file a report when it’s all over.

Update: You can listen to the first hour of the BBC program by clicking on a link on this page. It was devoted to immigration and featured (among others) Phil Kent, a long-time prominent conservative leader who has taken up the cause of immigration reform. The leftists in the Ebenezer sanctuary kept insisting that immigration was an issue only because it’s an election year and certain people (we know who they are) wanted a wedge issue. I asked Kent during a break how long he’d been carrying Karl Rove’s water; he just laughed.

The second hour (which doesn’t seem to be on-line) was highlighted by the mellifluous and reasonable telephonic presence of Richard John Neuhaus. The BBC folks kept asking us if intolerance had increased in America since 9-11. In my two brief stints with the mike, I made the points that the experience of genuine religious pluralism may provide a few unpleasant moments, but that groups learn to live with one another; and that "separation of church and state" doesn’t capture the constitutional language, which I don’t have to explain to you, dear readers. I pointed out that the Abdul Rahman case exemplifies real intolerance and got the Muslim woman on the panel to say, point blank, that the Quran forbids compulsion in religious matters. Now if she could only persuade her brethren in the Middle East.... Another Muslim in the audience spoke eloquently about how religious leaders in his community reached out after 9-11 and about how his daughter, asked when she was young whether she was an Egyptian, replied that she was an American. It’s a grand country, ain’t it, full of the beautiful as well as the bilious.

One last point: our BBC hostess kept marveling at the size of the Ebenezer sanctuary (it holds 2,500) and remarking, on air, that it was full every Sunday morning (not often the experience in the U.K.). I told her off air that, by Atlanta standards, this was only a medium-sized church and there were plenty of bigger sanctuaries in Atlanta, equally full every Sunday, as well as lots of Catholic churches that can’t hold enough masses to accommodate their parishioners.


This week’s TAE Online column is entitled "Fukuyama, the Neoconvert."

Removing Card from the Deck

One of the reasons George W. Bush exasperates the Beltway Establishment is that he refuses to conform to the conventional wisdom. When the Beltway Mediacrats bray endlessly that you need to shuffle your staff, it is code for "hire some DC insiders to straighten out your problem." No doubt David Gergen stands at the ready. Lloyd Cutler and Clark Clifford can be disinterred. This Bush has refused to do.

But as the old saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day. James Baker has long said that the chief of staff job burns you out after about two years. Andy Card has been there for 5 1/2 years, working from 5 am to about 9 pm every day. This tenure has been much longer than average. He probably should have stepped down after the 2004 election. Card gets good marks in a number of areas, less so in others, which, in the grand scheme of things, means that he’s probably done a good job and deserves our gratitude. But it is long past time for him to move on.

But note that Bush is turning to an insider, Josh Bolton, as Card’s replacement. Look for the Mediacrats to say "it isn’t enough."

You Mean the Answer Really Is 42?

Now here’s a story that I’ll bet Knippenberg missed: A speculative article about prime numbers and physics that suggests the key number in a certain mathematical sequence is 42, the very number said to be the answer to everything in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Don’t worry: I don’t understand it either.)

Hat tip: Nick Danger at redstate.

Lynn Nofziger

Lynn Nofziger died yesterday. He was 81. Nofziger, I always thought, was an perfectly good fellow. I liked him. He was one of the early friends of the Ashbrook Center, spoke here in December, 1983 (soon after President Reagan opened the Center), and then again in 1992. He also wrote for us from time to time, see this and this . He was an agreeable, tough, and smart political consultant. He spoke his mind: "I am a Republican because, like Ronald Reagan, I believe that freedom is America’s most important product." He hated neckties, which he called an ornament of surfeit, and he never could pull his tight. If a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life, he was not a very serious fellow. Maybe that’s why I liked him.

I once told him that the fellow who invented the necktie was having a tough time in Dante’s ninth circle, and I wasn’t really feeling sorry for the SOB at all. He laughed and agreed but then he told me that it was probably Louis XIV (even better, said I). He liked some Croat (hence cravat) soldiers’ red neck cloths when they marched in front of him celebrating a victory over the Turks and then began using something like it on himself and some of his soldiers. Lynn was an altogether good fellow. May he Rest in Peace.

Krauthammer lays the hammer to FF

Here. A snippet:

My argument then, as now, was the necessity of this undertaking, never its ensured success. And it was necessary because, as I said, there is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the root causes of Sept. 11: "The cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world -- oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism."

Fukuyama’s book is proof of this proposition about the lack of the plausible alternative. The alternative he proposes for the challenges of Sept. 11 -- new international institutions, new forms of foreign aid and sundry other forms of "soft power" -- is a mush of bureaucratic make-work in the face of a raging fire. Even Berman, his sympathetic reviewer, concludes that "neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all -- the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them."

As they say, read the whole thing.

Manliness and a woman

David Warren writes on Manliness (and Mansfield’s book). Charming and true. In this, he praises Oriana Fallaci’s new book. Read them both. 

Fukuyama’s latest

In today’s WSJ, Francis Fukuyama and Adam Garfinkle offer their prescription for pursuing the Bush Administration’s goals of fighting terrorism and promoting democracy in the Middle East. While acknowledging that the two might have some connection in the long run, they argue that the better policy now is to decouple them:

Democracy promotion should remain an integral part of American foreign policy, but it should not be seen as a principal means of fighting terrorism. We should stigmatize and fight radical Islamism as if the social and political dysfunction of the Arab world did not exist, and we should shrewdly, quietly, patiently and with as many allies as possible promote the amelioration of that dysfunction as if the terrorist problem did not exist. It is when we mix these two issues together that we muddle our understanding of both, with the result that we neither defeat terrorism nor promote democracy but rather the reverse.

They’re surely right that democracy doesn’t in the first instance yield results we find congenial; democracy isn’t in its nature liberal in the classical sense. And they’re surely right that political dysfunction in the Middle East isn’t the sole cause of terrorism, that the failure of Western European countries adequately to integrate immigrant populations has something to do with it as well.

But I wonder whether their policy prescription is realistic, given the climate of public opinion in the U.S. They treat the GWOT as largely a low profile police and intelligence action. And they treat democracy promotion as something that should also be low profile, with as much distance from official U.S. policy as possible. This would ultimately disengage the public from both ends, which would indeed leave them to the experts, but it would also, I think, substantially diminish public support for them. You want isolationism? Then go this route.

It seems to me that the only obvious differences--and they’re non-negligible--between Fukuyama and the Democrats are, first, that FF wouldn’t basically give up on our military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and, second, that FF wouldn’t put as many eggs in the UN basket. Would the Democrats welcome him as a defector? Perhaps. Would he be influential there? On the first, no. On the second, why not? I think that his position, especially on Iraq, would prevent someone like HRC from courting him before the nomination was in hand, but I can imagine Fukuyama as an integral part of any Democratic candidate’s post-nomination effort to move toward the center. Wave bye-bye.

Update: Jon Schaff has more. He reminds of a piece that Fukuyama would do well to re-read: Charles H. Fairbanks’s "The British Campaign Against the Slave Trade," published in Marc Plattner’s Human Rights in Our Time, unfortunately long out of print. If you can’t find it any other way, send me an email and I’ll do what I can about getting you a copy of the essay.

Raid on al Sadr’s men

Here are some reports on the U.S./Iraq raid on Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, near a Mosque. The reaction to it--considering Sadr’s connection to Iran--may be worth watching. Here is the International Herald Tribune, Aljazeera, BBC, and ABC News.


Regarding my note yesterday on the Hispanic protests and citizenship, Powerline recommends a few chapters from Edward J. Erler, here and here. I thank them.

Ohio elections

George Will on the Ohio Senate race between incumbent "moderate-conservative" Republican Mike DeWine and liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown. He thinks it will be a late election night. Maybe, but DeWine will win for two reasons, and the second is more important: First, Brown will show himself to be more liberal than Dennis Kucinich and is very hostile to free trade; second, Ken Blackwell will win the GOP primary for governor, and that will help move all GOP candidates away from Taft. Blackwell has always distanced himself from Taft (partly by Taft’s choosing) and is also the most intelligent and principled Republican in the state. He will have long coat-tails. Today’s poll in the Columbus Dispatch shows that Blackwell is ahead by 11 points. I predict that Blackwell will take the primary by 20 points, if Petro doesn’t pull out.

Update: I fixed the link, sorry.

Fukuyama un-recognized

I have also read (see Joe’s post below) the two reviews of Fukuyama’s latest book, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. I have also read the book. Here is the short of it: Both reviews are better than the book. The book is thin gruel, and so was The End of History. But, the latter book--the only thing Fukuyama will ever be remembered for, if anything; and he should know a lot about "recognition", if he knows anything--was interesting because it was fun and kind of silly and made you think. It was Hegel (with a splash of Nietzsche) made recognizable. So people played with it, knowing that the fellow couldn’t actually mean it. I guessed that he either did mean it; or, he was just playing, that is, he was being an intellectual, as Nietzsche might put it. If the first, he was a fool; if the second, he was a lightweight. So I never thought too much about it. I always knew that Fukuyama was not standing on solid ground, and people like that (see the conversation on Linker below?) always end up moving; not "growing" or learning or becoming deeper, just moving. You know, like the guy who was a Lutheran, then a Unitarian, then a Hindu, then a Catholic. We have all known guys like that, and then, well, we forget about them, save for those very few quite lucid moments when they had (probably by chance) an insight. Perhaps Fukuyama had such a moment. I don’t remember, and there is no reason to do an archeology of his soul.

Sunday reviews of Fukuyama

Gary Rosen in the WaPo is worth reading as a critique of Fukuyama that takes the Islamist threat more seriously than FF seems to.

Paul Berman writes in the NYT from the left, expressing dissatisfaction with the smallness and wonkishness of Fukuyama’s "realistic Wilsonianism":

In "America at the Crossroads," Fukuyama describes the Hegelianism of "The End of History" as a version of "modernization" theory, bringing his optimistic vision of progress into the world of modern social science. But the problem with modernization theory was always a tendency to concentrate most of its attention on the steadily progressing phases of history, as determined by the predictable workings of sociology or economics or psychology — and to relegate the free play of unpredictable ideas and ideologies to the margins of world events.

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science. In my view, we are seeing the continuing strength of 20th-century-style ideologies right now — the ideologies that have motivated Baathists and the more radical Islamists to slaughter millions of their fellow Muslims in the last 25 years, together with a few thousand people who were not Muslims.

Both reviews point to significant problems with Fukuyama’s thinking--Rosen emphasizing the continuing importance of military responses and Berman the battle of ideas, both of which get lost in FF’s somewhat odd decision to display his mastery of the social scientific literature of political development. Perhaps, he thinks, if he bores us, we’ll leave the world to experts like himself.