Alan Wolfe writes poorly about conservatism.
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The net effect of Wolfe’s uneven critique can be unintentionally humorous. Wolfe unfairly ascribes to opponents of illegal immigration “no generosity of spirit,” “no heartwarming accounts” of the American dream realized, “no sense that all cultures have something to value,” “no appreciation of the underlying universality of all people,” and “no acknowledgement” that we “could use an injection of new ideas and entrepreneurial energy.” In practice, however, “from the perspective of a Kantian commitment to openness, the least an American can do is to welcome a certain amount of immigration from Africa”—hardly a point, at least as stated, on which the average border security activist would argue.
Behind the sneering, perhaps, Wolfe isn’t so bad after all—nor, relative to the commandments of the extreme left, is his liberalism. “There is a liberal bargain with respect to immigration as there is with respect to religion,” he reasons. “Its basic premise is this: we will be open to you if you are open to us.” Wolfe points to Britain’s liberal foreign minister, Jack Straw, who “felt that something is seriously wrong when, in conversation with another person, he cannot engage in face-to-face interaction.” Saying so would have made a nice ecumenical touch, but Wolfe has left out more than one voice that would greatly strengthen his argument. The exclusion of Tocqueville, especially, is deeply perplexing, given how central Wolfe makes the inevitability of equality and modernity to his thesis.
In sum, The Future of Liberalism is seriously flawed as a book, but as a book that contains a timely, nuanced, and even brave message: liberalism is not undifferentiated leftism; its best ideas are in its past, not its future; and liberals today must reject blind progressivism if they wish to recapture their convictions. A book that fundamentally fails in its subsidiary task of tarring conservatism with a single brush, The Future of Liberalism succeeds in its primary, more important, task: reminding the political left of its deep roots in a cultural tradition right at the heart of Western civilization. Wolfe may frequently frustrate, but he seems to be heading away from the outrageous in favor of the simply arguable: good territory on which to fight political battles between fellow citizens.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?