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Can Democracy Save Us?

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed is a well-argued critical dissection of liberalism, one of the most persuasive I have read in recent years. Deneen understands “liberalism” to be one of the three powerful and all-encompassing ideologies of modern times—the other two being fascism and communism—that “proposed transforming all aspects of human life to conform to a preconceived plan…

Against the Deformations of Liberalism

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed is a blistering critique of contemporary American culture and its foundational philosophy of liberalism. Deneen’s surprising argument is that “liberalism has failed because it succeeded,” and that the bankruptcy of liberal ideas has resulted in unsustainable forms of political community…

Liberal Liberation

Patrick Deneen is certainly not the first critic of liberalism to notice that it has something of the character of religion. He is particularly adept, however, at detailing one of its most striking faith-based features. Critics of religion, especially liberal ones, like to point out the irrational tendency of believers, in the face of disaster or social collapse, to believe ever more intensely in their doctrine the more reality seems to fail to conform to it…

Notes on Reclaiming Liberalism

The eclipse of liberalism—interchangeable with what are often referred to as the values of a free society, the American creed, or American exceptionalism—is, in many narratives, the central historical fact of our time. Laments over the eclipse of liberal first principles are regularly heard by the chorus shouting into the wind that the election of…

Moral Overload

Donald Trump’s election as president was a shattering defeat for left-of-center Americans. Commentators said that Democrats had focused too much on protecting specific groups—racial minorities, immigrants, and so on—and not enough on appealing to a broad public.1 The Democratic deficit was not only in votes, however, but in style. In recent decades, the Left has…

Czech Politics: An Unfinished Play in Four Acts

The national legislative elections and upcoming presidential election in the Czech Republic could be the most consequential events since Czech independence in 1993. The elections to the House of the Czech Parliament occurred this past October, and the presidential election looms in January. Though Czech politics does not frequently make headlines in anglophone media, the…

Fiscal Balances and the Rise of Catalonian Separatism: The Misuse of Economic Theory

The question of Catalonian independence is once again receiving international attention. The secessionist movement has received renewed impetus from the institutions of the Catalonian regional government, and the Catalan people are now gravely split, almost in half, on the issue. The tension is straining the relations between the central and regional governments and affecting the…

The New Christian Zionism

Earlier this year, a new U.S. President set as destinations for his first foreign trip the landed centers of the world’s three major monotheistic faiths: Mecca, Jerusalem, and the Vatican. On his visit in Jerusalem he became the first sitting President…

Two Cheers for Tax Reform

The recently announced tax reform package is one of the few serious and intelligent proposals offered by House Republicans in years. Not surprisingly, however, everyone seems to hate it. Defenders no less than critics of the plan seem incapable of thinking about tax policy outside of the simplistic framework of Reaganomics. As a result, most…

China, America, and “Nationalism”

“Fire and fury” were expected at the annual CLSA conference in Hong Kong in September. Stephen Bannon was to deliver a frontal assault on China—on Chinese soil—and advance the proposition that the United States and China are, or should be, engaged in an epic struggle for world domination in the twenty-first century, according to the…

The Incoherence of the Economists

What is an economist? There is an easy answer: economists are social scientists who create simplified quantitative models of large-scale market phenomena. But they are more than that. Besides their scientific role, economists have achieved a social cachet that far exceeds what one might expect from a class of geeky quasi-mathematicians. In addition to being…

U.S. Policy towards Africa under Trump

This paper explores the possible policy and institutional changes affecting South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) more generally that could occur during the presidency of Donald Trump. The direction that the U.S. government is likely to take after the election…

The Verge: Reflections on a Second Civil War

“Are We on the Verge of Another Civil War?” So asks The Nation, in a headline for an interview with David Armitage, the Harvard historian and author of the recent book, Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (Knopf, 2017).  “Are We Nearing Civil War?” So asks the American Conservative, in a headline for a column…

The Great Exhaustion: Manned Space Flight and Philosophy

It is not difficult to imagine historians, several centuries from now, wondering how it could be that Americans, without really knowing how to do it, decided to go to the moon in eight short years. “What were they thinking?” these historians might exclaim! Their amazement could take two forms, however, depending on how Americans today,…

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