Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In 2019-2021, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, executive secretary of the department's Commission on Unalienable Rights, and senior adviser to the...
Many progressives think that independence from religious belief is a crucial source of the power of human rights. According to many conservatives, the spurning of faith reflects a dangerous delusion inscribed in human rights doctrine. Amid the bad blood and casual vituperation that do daily damage to American politics, correcting the error common to the left and right that human rights are one thing and religion entirely another might contribute to rebuilding common ground.
The term “liberalism” ranks among the most contested in our political lexicon. It should also be regarded as among the most vital. In the large sense, liberalism names the modern tradition of freedom. Liberalism so understood was the dominant strand in our nation’s founding. Appreciating the standard accusations against it and why it is worthy of defense is crucial to conserving the best of the American constitutional tradition.
In early July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched the Commission on Unalienable Rights. “The commission’s mission,” he explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “isn’t to discover new principles but to ground our discussion of human rights in America’s founding principles.” The announcement of the panel’s existence and mandate immediately triggered a barrage of skepticism, indignation, and anger. The misunderstandings that the criticisms embody underscore the urgency of the commission’s work.
For several decades, the number of students attending college in the United States has been growing rapidly: Over the last 20 years or so, enrollments have risen by about 50 percent, and over the last 50 years they have more than quadrupled. During this time, especially the last two decades, the polarization of our politics has markedly intensified.
On May 8, the Duke University student newspaper published a stirring letter addressed to the school community that was co-signed by 101 students and former students. The letter protested the decision of the university’s Sanford School of Public Policy to decline to renew the contract of Evan Charney, associate professor of the practice of public policy and political science, and called on the provost to reverse the decision.
A few years ago I asked a friend and business owner why he put value on a college diploma when talking with entry level talent who had majored in subjects incredibly tangential to his job descriptions. . . .
A program at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, will bring together 25 of the country’s best and brightest students in August in an effort to train the next generation of leaders in the principles of liberal democracy and the ideas that constitute the foundation of the state...
The callous taking of George Floyd’s life has provoked both peaceful protests and violent rioting in American cities. The turmoil in our streets underscores the essential importance of a criminal justice system rooted in the rule of law and of a free press that reports accurately on the actions of citizens and government officials. The questions roiling the nation about police brutality, civic unrest, and America's commitment to human rights will linger.
On Jan. 20, right on schedule and without interruption, Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. Yet all is not well. That 25,000 National Guard members had been summoned to Washington to stand watch over the city’s streets and provide security for the inauguration testified to the distrust and anger roiling the nation.
Liberal democracy -- grounded in the “inalienable” rights all human beings share -- protects, and is protected by, free speech. Good laws alone, though, cannot keep speech free. Also necessary is a public culture that promotes an accurate understanding of free speech and fosters the virtues that undergird it. The breakdown in the United States of that public culture -- particularly among the nation’s progressive elites -- is of pressing concern.
To understand the sometimes glaring gaps between candidate Obama’s promises and President Obama’s policies, it is useful to appreciate an old tension in American progressivism. . . .
Masters of the art teach that subtlety, indirection, and on occasion mis-direction are crucial to successful diplomacy...
A few years ago on a lazy Friday afternoon, my friend Ronit Vardi—a veteran journalist and longtime resident of this frenetic city perched between the Mediterranean and the Middle East—looked askance when I told her that I was headed to Jerusalem to teach a seminar on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
In the United States, conservatism and liberalism — often to the consternation of conservatives and liberals — are ineluctably intertwined. This turns out to be true of foreign affairs as well as of domestic affairs. Attention to this entwinement helps bring into focus the key question concerning the contemporary dispute about the post-World War II international order and the United States’ role in maintaining it: What policies best advance America’s interest in conserving freedom?
The yearlong controversy over the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights illustrates the potency of the intolerant and uncivil passions afflicting the nation. It also underscores the urgency of the commission’s report, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo presented to the public last Thursday in a speech in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center and in a Washington Post op-ed.
On March 30, in remarks presenting the State Department’s 2020 Human Rights Report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made good on his promise at his January Senate confirmation hearing that “the Biden-Harris administration would repudiate” the report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. (Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon chaired the COUR; I served as its executive secretary.) He did so, he said, “decisively.”
In a classic example of civic action, conservatives have undertaken a variety of initiatives to counter the upsurge in progressive efforts to enlist American schools, U.S. corporations, and all levels of government in the promotion of the doctrine that the United States is systemically racist. Progressives, who generally favor civic action, have responded with indignation, derision, and calumny.
“The CRT debate is just the latest squall in a tempest brewing and building for five years or so,” wrote Andrew Sullivan earlier this month in “What Happened to You: The radicalization of the American elite against liberalism.” Sullivan is correct that the left has turned sharply against freedom in recent years. And he vivisects the illiberal ideology about race and justice espoused by many schools, private corporations, and government agencies.
In “Why Liberalism Failed,” Patrick Deneen makes an eye-opening contribution to the critique of liberalism. Equating liberalism with the modern tradition of freedom, he distills abuses of state power, nature, culture, technology, and education that are undertaken in freedom’s name yet leave citizens less self-sufficient, less disposed to cooperate, and less capable of looking beyond material goods and social status to the cultivation of character and to the claims of duty.
America now finds itself in a moment of national crisis unlike any we have faced in decades. What are the unique strengths of American liberal democracy in facing the political, economic, and social challenges ahead? What can we learn from the American past? And why is the renewal of liberal education so essential to the long-term flourishing of the American regime?