Mary Eberstadt’s It’s Dangerous To Believe offers very clear analysis and very wrong recommendations. Eberstadt eloquently describes how the elite and powerful in today’s America have subscribed to a new religion, the religion of sexual autonomy without limit, and are increasingly using their immense power to punish heretics, in the form of traditional believers. But, because she misapprehends the historical processes at work, she fails to adequately address how the targets of oppression can, or should, respond, and her actual suggestions are harmful fantasies.
“Liberal Fascism” is really a history book, not the book of political analysis I expected it to be. I didn’t love this book (written in 2007—apparently a 2009 version is updated to include talk about Obama), even though it’s famous among conservatives. I’m not sure why I didn’t love this book. Maybe it’s because despite the book’s aggressive thesis, it is over-careful not to give offense. Maybe I think its thesis is overstated. Maybe it’s because the strain of combining a complete history, intellectual analysis, and polemic regarding the American Left for the past century shows, in lacunae in the book. Or maybe it’s because the style of writing, which I would call “unflashy expository,” just isn’t compelling to me. Nonetheless, I still think the book is very much worth reading, because the history it relates is valuable to know.
[Italics are my interlocutor; regular text is me.] Hi Charles, I’ve been pondering the Republican debacle that is Donald Trump and would love your view. I’m wondering what alternatives a Republican with coherent conservative principles is supposed to do in the coming election. Is the anti-Hillary vote a vote for Trump? Or is a conservative vote a Libertarian vote at the expense of the general election? It just doesn’t seem like there is any good option for a conservative with a sound mind. Do you lean toward Trump to stop Hillary and forego the dignity of the country, or do you vote your beliefs and vote Libertarian, preserving the dignity of the US but conceding four years of democratic leadership? Or is there another option I’m missing? ______, good to hear from you. First off, congratulations! And we’re glad you’re moving back to __________, too! This is a good question, of course, and one not frequently directly addressed, because most of the players have a particular ax to grind. That is, if you’re a conservative …
“The Fractured Republic” is a fantastically original book. It is very optimistic, yet clear-eyed, which is a rare combination. Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic. They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America’s past. Yuval Levin’s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite. It is precise and even-handed. And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt. At the same time, Levin believes that we as Americans, liberal and conservative, can jointly renew our society without retreading the past, and in this age, such optimism is no small thing.
I read this book because it seemed like it would be an interesting companion to James Burnham’s “Suicide of the West.” Burnham’s book explains and analyzes the ideology of American liberalism, circa 1960. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” in a sense continues that story; it explains how that liberalism discovered the Critical Theory leftism of the Frankfurt School, and like Gollum discovering the One Ring, did not benefit from the discovery. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” is, indeed, somewhat interesting. But it generally fails at explanation and analysis, instead being mostly a rambling diatribe preaching to the converted.
“Suicide of the West,” subtitled “An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism,” is a classic work of political science, now fifty years old. It is much referred to by conservatives but little read by conservatives. It is NOT about how liberalism is the cause of the suicide of the West. In fact, liberals will find little to object to in this book. Nor is it an attempt, in any way, to refute liberalism as Burnham defines it (although in part this is because Burnham obviously believes it to be self-refuting). Nor is it a polemic. Rather, it is Burnham’s analysis of what liberalism is, and why it dominates thinking in the West as the West dies.
“The Diversity Myth” is a twenty-year-old book that nobody would remember, despite its many virtues, were it not for that its authors (and many of the young figures in its pages) have since then become highly-visible billionaires, and, in the case of Peter Thiel, prominent public intellectuals. None of them knew that then, though (presumably!), which makes the book even more interesting.
“The Blueprint” is well written. But its predictions have now been repeatedly falsified, and it downplays critical elements in its analysis. Therefore, I cannot recommend it except as a narrow and dated historical analysis of Colorado politics in the middle of the last decade.
I think I’m well-positioned to review this book, because I grew up with Julia and David Scheeres. More precisely, we all went to Lafayette Christian School through eighth grade. Both Julia and David were in my brother’s elementary school class, one year ahead of me. Jerome, her older adopted brother, was in the class two years ahead of me. Lafayette Christian figures heavily in the story, although the story itself takes place starting two years after graduation from that school.
This is a deeply pessimistic book. Charles Murray warns, Cassandra-like, of the ill effects that are resulting and will result from the economic and cultural divergence between the upper and lower classes. Even so, he tries to be optimistic, and he succeeds in being optimistic himself, but he doesn’t succeed in convincing the reader to be optimistic.