representative government
free markets
private enterprise
individual liberty
ideas defining a free society

Report 2004: American Individualism and Societal Values

The scholars participating in this initiative examine societal behavior based on individualism rather than classes, thus confronting issues of, for example, race, gender, and ethnicity. They also study the role of culture and values in society and the interaction of wealth distribution policies, such as social welfare and Social Security, with demographic and cultural trends and individual responsibility.

The first book generated by this initiative is Never a Matter of Indifference: Sustaining Virtue in a Free Republic, edited by Hoover fellow Peter Berkowitz and published by the Hoover Press in 2003. In it, the authors reveal how, over the last several decades, public policy in the United States has weakened those institutions of civil society that play a critical role in forming and sustaining the qualities of mind and character crucial to democratic self-government. Included are discussions of how Americans deal with the tension between liberty (doing what one wants) and virtue (doing what one should) and how the upheavals of the 1960s transformed liberalism into a “religion of rights,” undermining individual freedom by demanding unbending fidelity to a political agenda. Hoover fellows who contributed to the book in addition to Berkowitz are David Davenport, Chester Finn, Stanley Kurtz, and former Hoover fellow Hanna Skandera.

In his new book, Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell moves the discussion of affirmative action beyond the United States to countries that have had similar, and often longer-lived, policies in place. It shifts the discussion away from the theories, principles, and laws to the actual consequences of affirmative action policies in the United States, India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. What emerges flatly contradicts much of what was expected from and much of what has been claimed for affirmative action.

Peter Berkowitz edited two other books associated with this initiative that were published by the Hoover Press in 2004. The first is Varieties of Conservatism, in which each contributor brings a distinctive voice to bear, illustrating the author’s overarching argument that conservatism in America represents a family of opinions and ideas rather than a rigid doctrine or settled creed. At the same time, the authors, drawn from various professional backgrounds, clarify the moral underpinnings of the varieties of American conservatism (classical conservatism, libertarianism, and neoconservatism) and shed light on the political implications of each variety. Hoover fellows Richard Epstein and Tod Lindberg contributed to the volume in addition to Berkowitz.

The companion volume, Varieties of Progressivism in America, focuses on the debates within the Democratic Party about the means — the kinds of government and citizen action — for achieving the ends around which the party unites. Led by editor Peter Berkowitz, who also wrote the introduction, the contributors provide an array of perspectives on the Old Democrats, who arose in the New Deal and gave shape to the modern Democratic Party, on the Clinton-era New Democrats, who sought to moderate the party’s message, and on the future of progressivism in America.

According to a groundbreaking new book by Hoover fellow Morris Fiorina, Samuel Abrams, and Jeremy Pope, Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, most Americans stand in the middle of the political landscape, preferring centrist candidates from either party to the extreme partisans who often emerge from the primary process, which is the opposite of what politicians, interest-group leaders, and many members of the media say, which is that the United States is deeply divided about national issues. Through solid research and thorough data analysis, the authors show how officeholders, activists, and pundits have distorted the reality of most Americans’ actual views about the social, political, and economic issues of the past thirty years. The book was published by Pearson Longman in 2004.

Hoover fellow Peter Schweizer and Rochelle Schweizer’s book on the Bush family, which is based on a series of exclusive, surprisingly candid interviews with members of the family and close friends, provides an open and insightful look at the inner workings of this very private family. Readers will find a wealth of information on the Bush family and the influence of its members on society, but, above all, they will see George W. Bush in the way his family does.

Hoover fellow Mary Eberstadt’s Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes, published by Sentinel in 2004, issues a radical challenge to the way American children are raised today and turns the spotlight on mental problems, obesity, rap music, and other troubling facts about American youth. Drawing on a wide range of medical and social science literature as well as popular culture, Eberstadt offers hard data proving that absent parents are the common denominators in many of the disturbing trends. Hoover fellow Seymour Martin Lipset and Noah M. Meltz have written The Paradox of American Unionism: Why Americans Like Unions More Than Canadians Do but Join Much Less, which was published by Cornell University Press in 2004. The authors explore why Americans, who by a clear majority approve of labor unions, have been joining them in smaller numbers than ever before. Comparing the U.S. experience with that of Canada, they explain that the relative reluctance of employees in the United States to join unions is rooted less in their attitudes toward unions than in the deep-seated American traditions of individualism and laissez-faire economic values.

In the controversial 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action case, as in so many other cases, Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor provided the deciding swing vote between a four-justice bloc of liberals and a four-justice bloc of conservatives. In Swing Dance: Justice O’Connor and the Michigan Muddle, Hoover fellow Robert Zelnick examines O’Connor’s voting history from her early days on the Supreme Court to its most important ruling to date. In addition to reviewing her earlier cases, he provides an intensive review of the University of Michigan case as it was argued. Finally, he discusses the repercussions of this case and how the university adapted its admissions programs to fit the specific requirements of the Court’s ruling. The book was published by the Hoover Press in 2004.