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.
Perhaps at no time since the decade or so preceding the Civil War have debates about America’s commitment to fundamental rights been as rancorous as today. Yet at no time have fundamental rights in the United States been enjoyed by so wide and diverse a population as they are now. The contrast in contemporary America between the public rancor and the political reality reflects an estrangement from history and an accompanying loss of perspective.
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.
The never-ending controversy over Peyton Manning’s backside has several uncomfortable tensions at work: factual uncertainty, failed accountability and the urge to seek a correction now for something 20 years ago. But all of it amounts to a supercharged distraction from the real question: Why aren’t we talking about current events at Tennessee instead of a murky one 20 years ago?
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...
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?
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.
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.
While many Americans take free speech for granted, the tradition is far from universal. Many developed nations restrict speech that is deemed hurtful or offensive. And in the United States, there is increasing sentiment that some speech is not worth protecting. Is it time to reconsider the nation’s free-speech orthodoxy?
In August of 2001, President Bush announced his decision to limit federal funding of stem cell research to already established lines of embryonic stem cells, while forbidding funding for any research that required the destruction of additional human embryos. But his decision ended neither stem cell research nor the debate over the ethics of such research. How do we weigh the medical benefits of this research against the destruction of embryos? Where do we draw the line on research using human embryos and are we on a slippery slope toward even more controversial research?
The presidential election of 2000 highlighted the significant demographic divisions between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The strength of the Republicans lies in the South and in the middle of the country. But the voters that carried those regions for George W. Bush, mostly white and Protestant, are shrinking as a proportion of the overall United States population. Are these demographic changes a serious problem for the Republicans? If so, what can they do to bring groups that have traditionally been Democratic—Hispanics, blacks, and Catholics, for example—into the Republican Party?
For more than thirty years, the United States has been waging a war on drugs. This war—which takes the form of billions of dollars spent each year on drug law enforcement and interdiction, as well as harsh sentencing for drug offenses—is being called a failure by many critics. But if it is a failure, is drug legalization the solution? Just how would legalization work? And would the benefits of legalization outweigh the costs?
Should the U.S. Census stop collecting racial and ethnic data? The 2000 census asked Americans to identify themselves according to 126 possible racial and ethnic categories, up from just 5 categories in 1990. Movements are now afoot to add even more racial categories to the 2010 census. Does the collection of all these data stand in the way of the creation of a truly color-blind society? Should we drop questions of race from the census and other government forms? Or are these data critical tools in the ongoing fight to end inequality and discrimination?
More than 140 years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, his theory of evolution is still generating controversy. Although Darwinism is championed by the majority of the scientific community, some have claimed that Darwin's theory is bad science and have put forward their own, even more controversial theories. What should we make of these arguments? Is one such theory, known as Intelligent Design, merely creationism by another name, or is it a legitimate scientific alternative to Darwinism?
This week on Uncommon Knowledge, a conversation with author and historian Amity Shlaes on her new book, Great Society: A New History.
Did life on earth unfold by chance or by design? According to the natural sciences and Darwin's theory of evolution, it was by chance. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, it was by divine design. On this crucial question, science and religion appear to be irreconcilable. But are they? Does Darwinism encourage atheism? Must Christians be anti-Darwin?
In 1992, Bill Clinton received 43 percent of the national vote, but he received 83 percent of the vote from film and television writers, directors, and producers. Is Hollywood as liberal as these data suggest? If so, why? Does Hollywood have a cohesive liberal agenda that affects the films and television programs we watch?