It's college commencement time, and the question is the future of the graduates, whether we will have “capable and cultivated human beings” making this a better America, or something else. The quoted words are from the 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill in a graduation address he made, and my worry has to do with postmodernist campus leftism.
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.
In mid-May, freelance journalist Ahmed Abu Artema, an organizer of "Gaza’s Great Return March," emphasized in a New York Times op-ed the peaceful intentions of a movement that has sparked violence since late-March and led to dozens of Palestinians killed and thousands injured by Israel in defense of its border.
In mid-July, by a vote of 62-55, with two abstentions, the Knesset passed the Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. The legislation — Basic Laws in Israel enjoy constitutional status although only a simple parliamentary majority is needed to pass or repeal them — reaffirmed principles set forth in the country’s May 1948 Declaration of Independence.
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.
According to an email obtained by the Independent, Claremont McKenna College (CMC)—ranked number one for free speech among California colleges—is in the process of rolling out the Open Academy initiative. This initiative seeks to bring additional funding to expand viewpoint diversity in the Athenaeum speaker series—already recognized as a haven for speakers of many ideological perspectives —, in the classroom, and to help students build skills to engage in effective dialogue with those whom they disagree.
In his 1955 mission statement that launched National Review, William F. Buckley made plain that while it’s the job of centralized government to “protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property,” all “other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress.” Buckley added that the “profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the moral organic order.”
Is there an answer to the problem of identity politics in America? For some, the “solution” is direct. “We need to take on the oppression narrative,” conservative commentator Heather Mac Donald said at a Heritage Foundation gathering on Capitol Hill. Americans need to “rebut” the idea “that every difference in American society today is the result by definition of discrimination,” Mac Donald said during the event Monday, called “Identity Politics Is a Threat to Society. Is There Anything We Can Do About It at This Point?”
The swearing in of the 116th Congress next month returns divided government to Washington. A Democratic-controlled House coupled with a fortified Republican Senate majority is likely to exacerbate the rancor and vitriol that have suffused national politics since long before Donald Trump’s theatrical announcement in the summer of 2015 that he was running for president.
“Nothing is so obscure it does not deserve to be found.” These words are from Delba Winthrop’s 1974 dissertation on Book III of Aristotle’s Politics, a document high on the list of things that deserve to be found. When Winthrop died in 2006, her dissertation was still unpublished despite the protestations of her husband, Harvey Mansfield, perhaps the dean of conservative political philosophy in this country.
“The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967,” according to “The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion.” The report, published by a coalition of non-government organizations, describes an alarming shortage of humanitarian and commercial supplies in Gaza. Drinking water and electricity fall well below demand. Sewage flows into the Mediterranean Sea. With unemployment around 40 percent, the economy is collapsing.
In his “Theses on Feuerbach,” the young Karl Marx proclaimed, “[P]hilosophers have only hitherto interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it” (emphasis in original). Mission statements of several of our preeminent colleges and universities follow suit. The primary purpose of liberal education, according to these formal pronouncements, is not to understand the world but to remake it.
The first decade of the 21st century called into question the United States’ capacity to advance freedom and democracy abroad. The century’s second decade has provoked controversy about the relation between nationalism and liberal democracy. Greater attention to the preconditions for and impact of freedom and democracy, and to the persistence and varieties of nationalism, would contribute to the formulation of a foreign policy for the third decade of the 21st century that would be more suitable to U.S. interests and principles.
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?
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.
Patrick Deneen’s disdainful review last month in the Washington Post of George Will’s splendid new book, “The Conservative Sensibility,” reasserts fashionable misconceptions about liberalism, conservatism, and America. The review — and, more importantly, the book — provide an occasion to clarify the character of the conservatism that takes its bearings from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and from the ideas about human nature and freedom that undergird them.
We continue our preview of the new (Summer) issue of the Claremont Review of Books hot off the press. It went into the mail on Monday and is accessible online to subscribers now. Buy an annual subscription including immediate online access here for the modest price of $19.95. If you love trustworthy essays on, and reviews of books about, politics, history, literature and culture, the CRB may be for you.
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.
Key policy changes are needed to prevent the United States from being overwhelmed by rapidly rising health care costs in the years ahead, according to an article by Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, in the Spring 2008 Issues in Science and Technology...