– “Religion and Secularism” (A commentary on Michael Novak and Roger Scruton), in Religion and the American Future, ed. Christopher DeMuth and Yuval Levin (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 2008).
Excerpt: Theology is not a fruitful point of contact between the religions. Morality is. There is an important difference between Judaism and Christianity. In Judaism, morality trumps theology, practically always. In Christianity, theology trumps morality,… More
– "My 'Public Interest'," The Weekly Standard, December 18, 2006.
Excerpt: In 1965, through a series of circumstances that need not be recounted here, the stars became properly aligned so that my wish could become a reality. Dan Bell and I were able to start a new magazine devoted exclusively to domestic social and economic… More
– "A Tory Revival Starts With a 10% Tax Cut," [London] Sunday Times, March 29, 2005.
Excerpt: Although I am always reluctant to do what that famous Yankee baseball player claimed that his predecessor had done — “He learnt me his experience” — I can’t resist the temptation to answer the question being put by Britain’s Tories in the… More
– "Forty Good Years," The Public Interest, Spring 2005.
Excerpt: Yet The Public Interest, it should be said, transcended any political ideology, or even any political “disposition.” Inevitably, to be sure, my own political identity spilled over into the public perception of the magazine; there was no… More
– "It Wasn't Inevitable," The Weekly Standard, June 21, 2004.
Excerpt: It is generally conceded–even by Senator Kennedy!–that Reagan’s Cold War militancy helped bring about the collapse of Communist Russia. But that’s a deceptive statement. He didn’t help bring it about. He brought it… More
– "Robert L. Bartley, 1937-2003," The Weekly Standard, December 22, 2003.
Excerpt: Bob Bartley was one of the most influential journalists of the 20th century. He was also a most admirable human being. Although his controversial opinions, strongly expressed, made him enemies, he himself had no enemies. Petty passions were simply… More
– "The Neoconservative Persuasion: What It Was, and What It Is," The Weekly Standard, August 25, 2003.
Excerpt: Viewed in this way, one can say that the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of… More
– "The Education, So to Speak, of a Neoconservative or Why American Conservatism Is Exceptional" (Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute), October 15, 2001.
Irving Kristol Bradley Lecture The Education, so to speak, of a Neoconservative [EDITED TRANSCRIPT] A few years ago the journals rang me up and asked, do you think neo-conservatism lives, or has it been absorbed into the larger conservative movement? And I… More
– "Is Technology a Threat to Society?" The Public Interest, Spring 2001.
Excerpt: I think there is some loose thinking about this whole problem of scientists, engineers, and their social responsibilities. When scientists say they want to live up to their social responsibilities, what they usually mean is that they want more power… More
– “The Two Welfare States,” Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2000.
Excerpt: The most notable aspect of the current presidential election has been the division that has emerged between the two versions of the welfare state envisaged by the two parties. An older, masculine, paternalistic version of the welfare state is… More
– "Faith à la Carte," The Times Literary Supplement, May 26, 2000.
Excerpt: With an unprecedented level of prosperity and the end of the Cold War, the American people say they want change—it is practically un-American for someone to say he does not want change—but it is clear they will not be dismayed if they don’t get… More
– "On the Political Stupidity of the Jews," Azure, Autumn 1999.
Excerpt: The novelist Saul Bellow is fond of recalling a political incident from his youth. Saul, then an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, was, like so many of us in the 1930s, powerfully attracted to the ideologies of socialism, Marxism, Leninism… More
– “Censorship?” (A symposium), The Weekly Standard, August 23, 1999.
Excerpt: For years now, conservatives have been waiting for “the people” to rise up against the institutional elites who have imposed their culture on us. But the people can’t be bothered. There are many reasons for this. They are too busy working,… More
– “A Note on Religious Tolerance,” ConservativeJudaism, Summer 1998.
Excerpt: I am all in favor of Americans of a particular religion learning about other religions. On the other hand, I have little use for all these Christian-Jewish dialogues that are so popular nowadays. They are incredibly superficial— nothing more than… More
– "Conflicts That Can't Be Resolved," Wall Street Journal, September 5, 1997.
Excerpt: Peace processes are proliferating all over the world, along with the violence that gave birth to them. There is the Middle East peace process, of course, but peace processes are also at work in the Cyprus conflict between Greeks and Turks, the… More
– "The Emerging American Imperium," Wall Street Journal, August 18, 1997.
Excerpt: The world has never seen an imperium of this kind, and it is hard to know what to make of it. In its favor, it lacks the brute coercion that characterized European imperialism. But it also lacks the authentic missionary spirit of that older… More
– "Is There a Jewish Agenda for America?" (A Symposium), Reform Judaism, Summer 1997.
Excerpt: We Jews are a bit over two percent of the American population–and this percentage is inexorably declining as a result of a low-replacement birth rate and a sky-high rate of intermarriage. How can anyone take seriously “our” agenda?… More
– “The Welfare State's Spiritual Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 1997.
Excerpt: By now it is obvious to all who wish to see that we are experiencing a profound crisis of the welfare state. Several crises, in fact. There is the financial crisis now evident in all the Western democracies, where all governments–whether left… More
Excerpt: I remember the day very well, back in 1956, when I arrived at my office at Encounter-of which I was then co-editor-and found on my desk an unsolicited manuscript by Michael Oakeshott. This, I thought, is the way every editor’s day should begin,… More
– “The Feminization of the Democrats,” Wall Street Journal, September 9, 1996.
Excerpt: The current breakup experienced by the American family is having a profound effect on American politics, as well as on American society. One can go further and say that the social problems we are confronting, problems either created or exacerbated by… More
– “A Post-Wilsonian Foreign Policy,” Wall Street Journal, August 2, 1996.
Excerpt: Everyone from American scholars to foreign statesmen finds American foreign policy very puzzling. And so the basic tenor of all commentaries on this policy, at any time and from any source, tends to be critical. When was the last time you read an… More
– "The National Prospect" (A Symposium), Commentary, November 1995.
Excerpt: I am persuaded that a serious religious revival is under way in this country. But just how this revival will make out when it confronts the hedonism of our popular culture and the libertarianism of so many of even our politically conservative young… More
– "American Conservatism, 1945-1995," The Public Interest, Fall 1995.
Excerpt: THE Public Interest was born well before the term “neoconservative” was invented, and will—I trust—be alive and active when the term is of only historical interest. That time may even be now, as the distinction between conservative and… More
– “An Autobiographical Memoir” from Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1995).
Excerpt: Is there such a thing as a “neo” gene? I ask that question because, looking back over a lifetime of my opinions, I am struck by the fact that they all quality as “neo.” I have been a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-socialist, a… More
– “Taking Religious Conservatives Seriously,” Foreword to Disciples and Democracy: Religious Conservatives and the Future of American Politics, ed. Michael Cromartie (Grand Rapids, MI: Ethics and Public Policy Center and William Eerdman's, 1994).
Excerpt: For the past century the rise of liberalism has been wedded to the rise of secularism in all areas of American life. In the decades ahead, the decline of secularism will signify the decline of liberalism as well. Already, on the far-left fringes of… More
Excerpt: Countercultures are dangerous phenomena even as they are inevitable. Their destructive power always far exceeds their constructive power. The delicate task that faces our civilization today is not to reform the secular, rationalist orthodoxy, which… More
– "Why Religion Is Good for the Jews," Commentary, August 1994.
Excerpt: In any event, being Jewish in a multiracial, multiethnic, and religiously pluralist society is the challenge of the hour. Or, to be more precise: the challenge is to find a way of incorporating the crucial religious dimension of “being Jewish”… More
– “My Cold War,” The National Interest, Spring 1993.
Excerpt: The truth is that, by the time I came to Encounter, anticommunism or anti-Marxism or anti-Marxist-Leninism or anti-totalitarianism had pretty much ceased to interest me as an intellectual project. As a young Trotskyist in my college days, I had… More
– “The Capitalist Future,” Francis Boyer Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, December 4, 1991.
Excerpt: This cultural nihilism will have, in the short term, only a limited political effect—short of a massive, enduring economic crisis. The reason it will not happen—this is still the good news—is that a bourgeois, property-owning democracy tends to… More
– Interview with Tom Bethell, American Spectator, December 1991.
Excerpt: “The Democratic party is falling apart,” he said. “Which is lucky for us. It’s completely out of sync with the public. What’s happening to the Democratic party is the same as what has been happening to the Labour party… More
– "The Future of American Jewry," Commentary, August 1991
Excerpt: Is this picture of 21st-century America good or bad? Specifically, is it good for the Jews or bad for the Jews? The instinctive response of most Jews, committed to their secular liberalism at least as fervently as to their Judaism, will be that it is… More
– “Taking Political Things Personally,” Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1991. (A review of The American "Empire" and Other Studies of US Foreign Policy in a Comparative Perspective by Geir Lundestad and US Foreign Policy in the 1990s editedby Greg Schmergel.)
– “Books for Christmas” (A symposium), American Spectator, December 1990.
Excerpt: Here are three recommendations. They are all fiction, all twentieth century, are available in paperback, but are not contemporary. I keep meeting people who do not know these works, which I have recently reread. Not one of them has any political… More
– “It's Obscene but Is It Art?” Wall Street Journal, August 7, 1990.
Excerpt: But one interesting and important fact has already become clear: Our politics today is so spiritually empty, so morally incoherent, that—except for a few brave souls—liberals have been quick to dismiss as “yahoos” anyone who dares to… More
– ''There Is No Military Free Lunch," New York Times, February 2, 1990.
Excerpt: Will we tolerate such a diminution of our position as a world power? Are we willing to relinquish the possibility of intervening anywhere, ever, to help shape a world order in flux? Will we count on our nursing homes and day care centers, rather than… More
– “Christmas, Christians, and Jews,” National Review, December 30, 1988.
Excerpt: Once upon a time, long before the idea or phrase “sensitivity training” was born, the various religious groups in our heterogeneous society had developed a strategy for getting along with one another. It was a strategy based on civility… More
– "Freedom and Vigilance: Ronald Reagan," (Remarks for a symposium), American Enterprise Institute, December 7, 1988.
Excerpt: As Ronald Reagan prepares to leave the White House, he also leaves those of us who study American politics and American history with an interesting question: What is it that has made him so successful a president—indeed so successful a democratic… More
– "Liberalism and American Jews," Commentary, October 1988.
Excerpt: How long this condition of “cognitive dissonance” will continue, and where it will end, is not now foreseeable. Everything will depend on how the Western democracies themselves adapt to this new situation. What is certain, however, is that… More
Excerpt: But there is one area in which Washington is an intellectual center, and that is public policy: economic policy, social policy, foreign policy, today even educational policy. This area now is dominated by a wide assortment of social scientists.… More
– “Liberally Applied, It's Not Voodoo,” Los Angeles Times, April 4, 1988.
Excerpt: Let us see if we can clear up some of the myths about Ronald Reagan’s economic policies and economic performance over the past eight years. A good way to begin is to imagine that Reagan lost the election of 1980 to a liberal Democrat more… More
– “Don't Count Out Conservatism,” New York Times Magazine, June 14, 1987.
Excerpt: WHAT THE REAGAN Administration has not been able to do is articulate any kind of comprehensive conservative viewpoint. This is an Administration that from the beginning has been a transitional affair, but has lacked the self-consciousness to know it.… More
– "The Spirit of '87," The Public Interest, Winter 1987.
Excerpt: THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION is a highly paradoxical document. Rhetorically, it is dry, legalistic, lacking in eloquence. Substantively, too, while it may not in fact have been “the work of men who believed in original sin,” as James Bryce thought,… More
– “'Human Rights': The Hidden Agenda,” The National Interest, Winter 1986-87.
Excerpt: A final point: There are some conservative (or non-left) “human rights” activists who feel that this theme can be exploited for purposes of anti-communist and anti-totalitarian propaganda. It is impossible not to admire the diligence with… More
– “Room for Darwin and the Bible,” New York Times, September 30, 1986.
Excerpt: The current teaching of evolution in our public schools does indeed have an ideological bias against religious belief – teaching as ”fact” what is only hypothesis. But religious instruction in our public schools is something we have… More
– "What Every Soviet Leader Wants," Fortune, September 1, 1986. (A review of The Soviet Paradox: External Expansion, Internal Decline by Seweryn Bialer.)
Excerpt: What should American policy toward the Soviet Union be? Nobody can answer that question without confronting another: What are Soviet intentions? I am not referring to short-term, tactical intentions of the kind that an intelligence network might… More
– "The Changing World of New York Intellectuals" (A letter to the editor), New York Times, September 29, 1985.
Excerpt: In his article on New York’s intellectuals, James Atlas quotes me as saying that it was a tradition among New York intellectuals to marry money. Obviously, Mr. Atlas misheard some remark or other in the course of our brief telephone… More
– "Skepticism, Meliorism and The Public Interest," The Public Interest, Fall, 1985.
Excerpt: Indeed, The Public Interest has always emphasized the modestly positive along with the skeptical. Ours has always really been a meliorist frame of mind. The world is not coming to an end, and American society is not going to collapse, merely because… More
– “International Law and International Lies,” Wall Street Journal, June 21, 1985.
Excerpt: This new version of international law, and the liberal internationalist foreign policy associated with it, has played out its string. The senselessness of its assumptions becomes more apparent with every passing day. The American people… More
– “The Twisted Vocabulary of Superpower Symmetry” (remarks originally delivered as part of a conference in May 1985), in Scorpions in a Bottle: Dangerous Ideas About the United States and the Soviet Union, ed. Lissa Roche (Hillsdale, MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1986).
– "Jewish Voters and the 'Politics of Compassion'," (A reply to letters), Commentary, October 1984.
Excerpt: Now, compassion is indeed a virtue, much prized in the Jewish tradition. But it is worth recalling, as the etymology of the word itself indicates, that compassion is—a passion. It is one among several of our passions that can lead us to a virtuous… More
– “Reflections of a Neoconservative,” Partisan Review, no. 4, 1984.
Excerpt: Even to raise that question, of course, is to define oneself as some kind of conservative, if only an incipient kind of conservative. Just what “conservative” means, politically and culturally, in the last quarter of this turbulent twentieth… More
– "The Political Dilemma of American Jews," Commentary, July 1984.
Excerpt: In short, while American Jews have for the most part persisted in their loyalty to the politics of American liberalism, that politics has blandly and remorselessly distanced itself from them. For the first time in living memory, Jews are finding… More
– ''What's Going On Out There?" (Proceedings of a conference held May 11-13, 1984 in Washington, D.C.), The State of the Nation: A Conference of the Committee for the Free World, ed. Steven C. Munson (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1985).
– "What's Wrong with NATO?" New York Times Magazine, September 25, 1983.
Excerpt: If we have learned anything from the NATO experience of the last 30 years, it is the rediscovery of an old truth: Dependency corrupts and absolute dependency corrupts absolutely. To the degree that Europe has been dependent upon the United States,… More
– “'No First Use' Requires a Conventional Build-Up,” in The Apocalyptic Premise: Nuclear Arms Debated, ed. Ernest W. Lefever and E. Stephen Hunt (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Committee, 1982).
– "The Feminist Attack on Smut," The New Republic, July 25, 1981. (A review of Pornography and Silence by Susan Griffin.)
Excerpt: It was utterly predictable that freedom of pornographic speech and action would sooner or later come into conflict with the women’s movement. Pornography, after all, has long been recognized to be a predominantly male fantasy involving the… More
– "Ideology & Supply-Side Economics," Commentary, April 1981.
Excerpt: The terms being applied—by the media, by politicians, by economists—to President Reagan’s economic program, and most particularly to the tax-cutting aspect of this program, are “bold,” “revolutionary,” “a risky experiment,” and so… More
– “William Baroody, Sr., Recipient of the 1980 Boyer Award” (Remarks for a symposium), December 11, 1980.
Excerpt: It is a truth generally acknowledged that, the older one is, the less the likelihood of acquiring good and close friends. I count myself fortunate in having experienced some exceptions to this rule, and easily the most exceptional exception was my… More
– "Rationalism in Economics," The Public Interest, Special Issue 1980.
Excerpt: IT is widely conceded that something like a “crisis in economic theory” exists, but there is vehement disagreement about the extent and nature of this crisis. The more established and distinguished leaders of the so-called… More
– “Foundations and the Sin of Pride: The Myth of the Third Sector,” A speech before the Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations, May 30, 1980.
Excerpt: I want to make one final point, which is really my original point. Foundations came into existence originally to do all the things that needed to be done that the government did not do in the 19th and early 20th centuries. That was the right thing… More
– "Some Personal Reflections on Economic Well-Being and Income Distribution," in The American Economy in Transition, ed. Martin Feldstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).
Excerpt: It is my understanding, from surveying various studies of trends in income distribution in the United States over the past three decades, that economists have found very little significant change to have taken place. There does seem to have been a… More
– “No Cheers for the Profit Motive,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1979.
Excerpt: It is, in my opinion, as absurd to praise the profit motive—i.e., economic action based on self-interest—as it is to condemn it. The human impulse to such action is, like the sexual impulse, a natural fact. So far from being a virtue,… More
– “Human Nature and Social Reform,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 1978.
Excerpt: What it comes down to is that our reformers simply cannot bring themselves to think realistically about human nature. They believe it to be not only originally good, but also incorruptible (hence the liberal tolerance for pornography). When a slum… More
– “Toward a 'New' Economics,” Wall Street Journal, May 9, 1977.
Excerpt: It is hard to overestimate the importance of the fact that, for the first time in half a century, it is the economic philosophy of conservatives that is showing signs of intellectual vigor, while the economic philosophy of liberalism keeps tying… More
– “What Is a ‘Neo-Conservative’?” Newsweek, January 19, 1976.
Excerpt: 1. Neo-conservatism is not at all hostile to the idea of a welfare state, but it is critical of the Great Society version of this welfare state. In general, it approves of those social reforms that, while providing needed security and comfort… More
– "On Corporate Capitalism in America," The Public Interest, Fall 1975.
Excerpt: Whether for good or evil—and one can leave this for future historians to debate–the large corporation has gone “quasi-public,” i.e., it now straddles, uncomfortably and uncertainly, both the private and public sectors of our… More
– "Moral and Ethical Development in a Democratic Society" (Lecture at the 1974 Educational Testing Service conference), printed in Moral Development (Princeton, NJ: ETS, 1975).
Excerpt: Properly understood, authority is to be distinguished from power, which is the capacity to coerce. In the case of authority, power is not experienced as coercive because it is infused, however dimly, with a moral intention that corresponds to the… More
– "Taxes, Poverty, and Equality," The Public Interest, Fall 1974.
Excerpt: Taxation, poverty, and equality are all and always proper subjects for concern and reformist action. But the first step toward effective reform is to disentangle these three themes. And this first step cannot itself be taken unless one appreciates… More
– “How Hiring Quotas Came to the Campuses,” Fortune, September 1974. (A review of Anti-Bias Regulations of the University: Faculty Problems and Their Solutions by Richard A. Lester and The Balancing Act by George Roche.)
– “Republican Virtue vs. Servile Institutions” delivered at and then reprinted by the Poynter Center at Indiana University, May 1974. (Reprinted in The Alternative, February 1975.)
Excerpt: This is a serious matter. For the American democracy today seems really to have no other purpose than to create more and more Scarsdales—to convert the entire nation into a larger Scarsdale. That is what our political leaders promise us; that is… More
– “Notes on the Yom Kippur War,” Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1973.
Excerpt: One of the things that most exasperated me in Israel was the unwillingness to face up to Arab realities. Many of my Israeli friends could not confront the fact that the Arab nations do not accept, and will not in the foreseeable future accept,… More
– “The American Revolution as a Successful Revolution” (lecture delivered at American Enterprise Institute, October 12, 1973), printed in America's Continuing Revolution: An Act of Conservation (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1975).
Excerpt: As we approach the bicentennial of the American Revolution, we find ourselves in a paradoxical and embarrassing situation. A celebration of some kind certainly seems to be in order, but the urge to celebrate is not exactly overwhelming. Though many… More
– “Vice and Virtue in Las Vegas,” Wall Street Journal, September 13, 1973.
Excerpt: In short, when government gets into the gambling business it necessarily assumes the responsibilities for seeing that this business grows and prospers. In effect, it proclaims that gambling is not a necessary evil but an inherently good thing.… More
– “The Ironies of Neo-Isolationism,” Wall Street Journal, August 20, 1973.
Excerpt: To be sure, if the U.S. were to revert to a strictly isolationist position in foreign affairs, then it wouldn’t much matter whether we had a conscript or volunteer army. But the chances of any such reversion are remote, despite Vietnam. Our… More
– "Capitalism, Socialism and Nihilism," The Public Interest, Spring 1973.
Excerpt: WHENEVER and wherever defenders of “free enterprise,” “individual liberty,” and “a free society” assemble, these days, one senses a peculiar kind of nostalgia in the air. It is a nostalgia for that time when they were busily engaged in… More
– "Equality and Justice" (A reply to letters), Commentary, February 1973.
Excerpt: I still do believe that any society has to be governed by a principle of justice which legitimates particular inequalities, and that our own society is having trouble finding such a principle. But I have never believed, as you imply, that justice and… More
Excerpt: So this, it appears to me, is what the controversy “about equality” is really about. We have an intelligentsia which so despises the ethos of bourgeois society, and which is so guilt-ridden at being implicated in the life of this society, that it… More
– "Of Populism and Taxes," The Public Interest, Summer 1972.
Excerpt: There is no conspiracy—but there is a problem. It is not a problem of income distribution or of inequities of taxation. The problem is the bureaucratization of American society—and the fact that this bureaucratization has failed to accomplish the… More
– “The Need for a Philosophy of Education” (remarks originally delivered as part of a conference at Rockefeller University on February 21-22, 1972) in The Idea of a Modern University, ed. Sidney Hook, Paul Kurtz, and Miro Todorovich (New York: Prometheus Books, 1974).
– “Welfare: The Best of Intentions, the Worst of Results,” Atlantic, August 1971.
Excerpt: Is it surprising, then, that — unmanned and demoralized — he removes himself from family responsibilities that no longer rest on his shoulders? That he drifts out of his home — or is even pushed out of his home — into the male… More
– "From Priorities to Goals," The Public Interest, Summer 1971.
Excerpt: Controversies over matters of political philosophy, since they are controversies over fundamental beliefs, are exceedingly dangerous for any nation. They certainly ought not to happen too often, for they then make civilized political life very… More
– "The Urban Crisis (Cont'd)" (A reply to letters), Commentary, January 1971.
Excerpt: Usually, and fortunately, the kind of disagreement that has emerged between Mr. Zukosky and myself tends to remain “academic.” In settled times, the modes of civility in daily life are not controversial issues—though individuals may, at their… More
– "'Capitalism' and 'the Free Society'," (a reply to John K. Jessup), The Public Interest, Winter 1971.
Excerpt: Now, there is only one rejoinder that someone like Jessup can make to this point. It is the libertarian answer given by Hayek and Friedman: what legitimates a “free society” is the high degree of personal liberty it makes possible. In… More
– "Is the Urban Crisis Real?" (a rejoinder to Jerome Zukosky), Commentary, November 1970.
Excerpt: In short, I do think that the “real” crisis in America today is largely—not entirely, of course, but largely—a moral-philosophical one, and that it cannot be dealt with simply by a “practical,” pragmatic, matter-of-fact approach. This… More
– "'When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness’—Some Reflections on Capitalism and 'the Free Society'," The Public Interest, Fall 1970.
Excerpt: I use the word “conservative” advisedly. Though the discontents of our civilization express themselves in the rhetoric of “liberation” and “equality,” one can detect beneath the surface an acute yearning for order… More
– "Urban Civilization and Its Discontents," Commentary, July 1970. (Adapted from the inaugural lecture as Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Values at New York University, delivered April 15, 1970.)
Excerpt: What has happened, clearly, is that provincial America—that America which at least paid lip service to, if it did not live by, the traditional republican morality—that America which, whether on the farm or in suburb or small town, thought it… More
– "Who Knows New York?—and Other Notes on a Mixed-Up City"(with Paul Weaver), The Public Interest, Summer 1969.
Excerpt: TOMAS WOLFE once entitled a memorable short story, “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn.” Who knows New York? Not very many among the living, it would seem. New York is not different from any other city in that basic statistical data are fragmentary and… More
– Interview with R. Emmett Tyrrell, The Alternative, May 1969.
Excerpt: TYRRELL: Is the new left really that new? Where did it come from? KRISTOL: Well, what is new about the new left is its identification of a political mythology with a generational mythology. The major difference between the new left and the old left… More
– “The New York Intellectuals: An Exchange” (with Irving Howe), Commentary, January 1969.
Excerpt: Behind Mr. Howe’s perspective there lies an unexamined premise: that there is something unnatural in an intellectual being anything but politically radical, a man of the Left. The reason this premise remains unstated and unexamined is that it… More
– “Ten Years in a Tunnel: Reflections on the 1930s,” in The Thirties: A Reconsideration in the Light of the American Political Tradition, ed. Morton J. Frisch and Martin Diamond (De Kalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1968).
– "Why I Am for Humphrey," The New Republic, June 8, 1968.
Excerpt: Mr. Humphrey, in contrast, seems to me to be capable of moulding and leading the right kind of majority–one that does not wish to repudiate American traditions (and, yes, even the “American way of life”) but is nevertheless… More
– "Decentralization for What?" The Public Interest, Spring 1968.
Excerpt: I began this essay by suggesting that, at this time and this place, bureaucratic nightmares might not be the worst imaginable nightmares. I also believe that, if by some miracle these bureaucracies did not now exist, we should have to invent them, as… More
– “American Intellectuals and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, July 1967.
Excerpt: An intellectual may be defined as a man who speaks with general authority about a subject on which he has no particular competence. This definition sounds ironic, but is not. The authority is real enough, just as the lack of specific competence is… More
– "The Times: An Exchange" (a rejoinder to Clifton Daniel), The Public Interest, Spring 1967.
Excerpt: Seriously, though, I am disappointed by Mr. Daniel’s reaction to my article. That article tried to make some general points about the fundamental intellectual weakness of American journalism today and, inevitably, I took the New York Times as… More
– "The Underdeveloped Profession," The Public Interest, Winter 1967.
Excerpt: It is becoming high fashion, in some circles, to sling an occasional shot at the New York Times. The temptation is both powerful and understandable. The Times is such a big, smug, solid target that any individual is bound to add a journalistic cubit… More
– "New Left, New Right." The Public Interest, Summer 1966.
First, on all the evidence, the one worst way to cope with this crisis in values is through organized political-ideological action. Most of the hysteria, much of the stupidity, and a good part of the bestiality of the twentieth century have arisen from… More
– “One Utopian, One Sensible Way to Reconcile State and Society,” Harper's, March 1966. (A review of Freedom Through Power by William Withers and Reclaiming the American Dream by Richard C. Cornuelle.)
– "The Troublesome Intellectuals," The Public Interest, Winter 1966.
Excerpt: The American intellectual has not yet been favored with tax loopholes, nor has he been supplied with his own official depreciation schedule; but in every other respect he is now clearly regarded as a valuable resource of American democracy. … More
– “What's Bugging the Students,” Atlantic, November 1965.
Excerpt: What they seek is a pure and self-perpetuating popular revolution, not a “planned economy” or anything like that. And this is why they are so attracted to Castro’s Cuba and Mao’s China, countries where the popular revolution has not… More
– "What Is the Public Interest?" (with Daniel Bell), The Public Interest, Fall 1965.
Excerpt: The aim of THE PUBLIC INTEREST is at once modest and presumptuous. It is to help all of us, when we discuss issues of public policy, to know a little better what we are talking about — and preferably in time to make such knowledge effective.… More
– “Murder in New Jersey,” New York Review of Books, April 16, 1964. (A review of Doe Day: The Antlerless Deer Controversy in New Jersey by Paul Tillett.)
Excerpt: Paul Tillett’s Doe Day has a far more modest compass, and in it science suffers no such interesting and ironic reversals. But it, too, is enlightening in a way that few works of “political science” (or of journalism, for that matter) can claim… More
– “The View from Miami,” Encounter, November 1963. (A review of Great Britain or Little England? by John Mander, A State of England by Anthony Hartley, and The Outsiders: A Liberal View of Britain by James Morris.)
– "The Last Hundred Days," The New Republic, November 20, 1961.
Excerpt: These last hundred days have been so dizzying, so astonishing, and to some of us so dismaying a reversal of what we all took to be the inevitable course of history, that one can still hardly believe, much less explain it all. A reporter, trying to… More
– "A Treasure for the Future," The New Republic, July 10, 1961. (A review of Between Past and Future: Six Exercises in Political Thought by Hannah Arendt.)
Excerpt: The subtitle, however, may be misleading. Miss Arendt writes with passion and urgency, and she is a woman of strong political opinions. But she isn’t a political thinker in this book. She is that more valuable thing, a political philosopher. If… More
– "Deterrence" (a discussion with H. Stuart Hughes), Commentary, July 1961.
Excerpt: I have stated my own position, which is that the United States should unilaterally renounce the first use of atomic or nuclear weapons. And I mean that renunciation to be unequivocal. I am perfectly willing to face the possibility that, in a contest… More
– “Machiavelli and the Profanation of Politics,” in The Logic of Personal Knowledge: Essays by Various Contributors Presented to Michael Polanyi on His Seventieth Birthday (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961).
– “High, Low, and Modern,” Encounter, August 1960.
Excerpt: It is often said that “mass culture” is the price we pay for democracy. That all depends, of course, on what we mean by democracy. If we mean by democracy nothing more than government which is freely consented to by the people, then this… More
– “Keeping Up with Ourselves,” Yale Review, June 1960. (A review of The End of Ideology by Daniel Bell.)
Excerpt: There is no question that terribly important things have happened to America in recent decades; but “the end of ideology” is not one of them, and Mr. Bell’s title is in that respect a little misleading. The feverish urge for… More
– "Last of the Whigs," Commentary, April 1960. (A review of The Constitution of Liberty, by F.A. Hayek.)
Excerpt: Professor Friederich Hayek, who is usually thought of as a conservative and laisser-fairist, can be more accurately regarded (and clearly defines himself) as the last surviving Whig. As is generally the case, the last of the line is not its most… More
– "D-a-v-y Da-vy Crockett," Commentary, February 1960. (A review of Mark Twain and Southwestern Humor by Kenneth S. Lynn.)
Excerpt: There is nothing quite like American humorous writing in the literature of other nations. Nowhere else is humor so central to the literary tradition, so intimately revealing of the national experience, so representative of what the nation truly… More
– "Our Boondoggling Democracy," Commentary, August 1958. (A review of The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith.)
Excerpt: The Affluent Society is by far the most serious critique of “welfare capitalism” that has been written in the post-Marxian era. (It is perhaps worth remarking that, though Mr. Galbraith will be denounced in some quarters as a “socialist,” he… More
– “Old Truths and the New Conservatism,” Yale Review, May 1958.
Excerpt: Now, it may please us to think that everyone is born either a little liberal or a little conservative. It may please us so much, indeed, that we conveniently forget there was a time when no one was. The dissociation of the political sensibility is as… More
– "The Question of the Bomb," Spectator, April 18, 1958.
Excerpt: The choice for Europe is not between servitude and survival on the one hand and catastrophe on the other. That choice is out of its hands. The real European choice is between a military readiness to defend itself with conventional arms, which means… More
– “American Ambiguities,” Encounter, January 1958. (A review of The Jacksonian Persuasion by Marvin Meyers.)
Excerpt: One of the most fruitful of Professor Meyers’ insights is contained in the title. The word “persuasion,” which he defines as “a half-formulated moral perspective involving emotional commitment,” hits off exactly the strange destiny… More
– "Class and Sociology: 'The Shadow of Marxism'," Commentary, October 1957. (A review of The American Class Structure by Joseph A. Kahl and Social Stratification: A Comparative Analysis of Structure and Process by Bernard Barber.)
Excerpt: Twentieth-Century America is perhaps the most egalitarian society the civilized world has ever seen, yet nowhere has there been so much solemn brooding over “class” as in this place at this time. Doubtless this has something to do with the very… More
– "Trivia and History," Commentary, December 1956. (A review of The Crucial Decade: America 1945-1955 by Eric F. Goldman.)
Excerpt: Oddly enough, Professor Goldman’s intentions are serious, not to say honorable. He has a thesis: the “crucial decade” witnessed the culmination of a “Half-Century of Revolution” in domestic affairs which resulted in the welfare state, and… More
– "Not One World," Commentary, August 1956. (A review of American Politics in a Revolutionary World, by Chester Bowles.)
Excerpt: Basically, what Mr. Bowles has done is to follow the honorable 19th-century custom of transplanting the Whig interpretation of history—history as the unfolding story of liberty—from the English to the American scene. He divides American history… More
– “'...And People Opening Veins in Baths',” Encounter, May 1956. (A review of Tacitus on Imperial Rome translated by Michael Graves and Tiberius: A Study in Resentment by Gregorio Maranon.)
Excerpt: We have lost the habit of judging tyrants so harshly, for we are more attentive to their historical roles, their “objective” tasks, than to their human meanings. It is the supreme virtue of Tacitus that, as we read him, the mists of History fade… More
– “Bridge and the Human Condition,” Encounter, February 1956. (A review of Theory of Games as a Tool for the Moral Philosopher by R. B. Braithwaite, Aces All by Guy Ramsey, and Sorry Partner by Paul Sterns.)
– “America: Mystery and Mystifications,” Encounter, January 1956. (A review of American Government by Richard Pear, History of the United States by R. B. Nie and J. E. Mopurgo, The Great Experiment by Frank Thistlethwaite, and The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR by Richard Hofstadter.)
– “Niccolo Machiavelli,” Encounter, December 1954.
Excerpt: Since Machiavelli, a dimension has been amputated from man’s political existence. The operation was a success; but there are stitches and scars, inevitably. It is in Machiavelli we see them most clearly, for he does not hesitate to wave the… More
– "The Web of Realism," Commentary, June 1954. (A review of The Web of Subversion: Underground Networks in the United States Government by James Burnham.)
Excerpt: In The Web of Subversion, Mr. Burnham presents a terse and lucid summary of what has been discovered by various investigating committees about Communist espionage networks in the United States government. Since he knows his subject thoroughly and has… More
– "The Philosophers' Hidden Truth," Commentary, October 1952. (A review of Persecution and the Art of Writing by Leo Strauss.)
Excerpt: No doubt, there will be scholars who will respectfully dispute Professor Strauss on just about every point. They will find, as many already know, that he is a most formidable opponent. And if in time the victory goes to Professor Strauss, he will… More
– "Two Varieties of Democracy," Commentary, September 1952. (A review of The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy by J. L. Talmon.)
Excerpt: An essential defect of Mr. Talmon’s analysis is that he takes the ideology of “totalitarian democracy” as corresponding to an actual fact. In a sense he is deceived by the very myth he has set out to expose. That the Communists are sincere in… More
– "'Civil Liberties,' 1952 – A Study in Confusion," Commentary, March 1952.
Excerpt: Is it conceivable that the line was incorrectly drawn in the first place? The liberals are loath to weigh the possibility lest it give comfort to the enemy; Senator McCarthy for his part has no cause for dissatisfaction with things as they are; but… More
– "Is Jewish Humor Dead?" Commentary, November 1951.
Excerpt: Jewish humor died with its humorists when the Nazis killed off the Jews of Eastern Europe, though it seems likely that even without the intervention of Hitler this humor would not long have survived the disintegration of the ghetto community from… More
– "Flying off the Broomstick," Commentary, April 1951. (A review of Witch Hunt: The Revival of Heresy by Carey McWilliams.)
Excerpt: Perhaps the most important premise is that which sets up a fundamental distinction between the sacred and the profane—the East and the West. The former is beyond human judgment—it is still too early to say, it is a society. with growing pains,… More
– "American Humanist," Commentary, November 1950. (A review of Classics and Commercials and The Little Blue Light by Edmund Wilson.)
Excerpt: “He has a genuine classical taste, he is not often influenced by fads, and he reads, and writes about what he reads, because he honestly enjoys doing so. Literature is for him not a pretext for an impressive article but a strong taste which he… More
– "Einstein: The Passion of Pure Reason," Commentary,September 1950.
Excerpt: Einstein’s new Jewishness was not the result of his discovering a hidden Jewish self. It was, on the contrary, a new means of escaping from his self. The flight to Reason from the chaos of existence, which seemed to have succeeded so well, was now… More
– "Elegy for a Lost World," Commentary, May 1950. (A review of The Earth Is the Lord's by Abraham Joshua Heschel.)
Excerpt: More important is the fact that Dr. Heschel occasionally succumbs to what can only be called romantic simplification. Poland was not, after all, Paradise, and Eastern Europe cannot make the unconditional claim of the Garden of Eden. His statement… More
– "God and the Psychoanalysts," Commentary, November 1949.
Excerpt: Psychoanalysis was from its very beginnings disrespectful, when not positively hostile, towards all existing religious creeds and institutions. Naturally, the religious rhetoricians replied with heat, though, it must be said, with unequal light. The… More
– "The Slaughter-Bench of History," Commentary, July 1949. (A review of Faith and History by Reinhold Niebuhr and Meaning in History by Karl Lowitz.)
Excerpt: Judaism is tormented by the fact that the Messiah has not come, while the gas chambers have. Christianity is tormented by the fact that the Messiah did come, almost two thousand years ago, and what difference did it make? Hegel spoke of the… More
– "Boundaries of Belief," Commentary, March 1949. (A review of The Protestant Era by Paul Tillich.)
Excerpt: These eighteen essays by an outstanding Protestant thinker are so compact and significant that they require extended commentary and criticism. All that can be done in this brief review is to point to some of the leading themes and the way they are… More
– "Who's Superstitious?" Commentary, November 1948.
Excerpt: Outside, breathing in the gasoline-scented air of Central Park, I closed my eyes and bid nostalgic farewell to a world that knew not the redeeming truths of biology. Where Jews wore payes and garbardine coats and looked Jewish. Where Japanese ate… More
– "What the Nazi Autopsies Show," Commentary, September 1948.
Excerpt: The Nazis are human: that is what the psychiatrists tell us. We always knew that, though it does no harm to have it confirmed. But the Nazis are also non-human: that is what we, their wounded fellow-creatures, have to tell the psychiatrists and… More
– "Christian Theology and the Jews," Commentary, April 1948. (Christianity and the Children of Israel, by A. Roy Eckardt.)
Excerpt: Mr. Eckardt, who is an exponent of “neo-Reformation” Protestant Orthodoxy as preached by Paul Tillich and Reinhold and Richard Niebuhr, has chosen a difficult and delicate subject: With the decline of religious liberalism—whose central dogma… More
– "How Basic Is 'Basic Judaism'?: A Comfortable Religion for an Uncomfortable World," Commentary, January 1948. (A review of Basic Judaism by Milton Steinberg.)
Excerpt: It is social philosophy that is his talking point, and not religion. Judaism, Rabbi Steinberg finds, has an immanent political doctrine that adds up to “political democracy, to a modification of capitalism in the direction of democracy, and a world… More
– "Nightmare Come True," Commentary, October 1947. (A review of The Other Kingdom by David Rousset, Smoke over Birkenau by Seweryna Szmaglewska, and Beyond the Last Path, by Eugene Weinstock.)
Excerpt: We wish that the men in Buchenwald had acted differently, that there had been more human cooperation and self-sacrifice. But how would we have acted? What would we have done in the face of the diabolical trap that forced the prisoners to stand… More
– "The Myth of the Supra-Human Jew: A Theological Stigma," Commentary, September 1947.
Excerpt: It is time, I think, that a distinction is drawn between that concept of the “chosen people” which plays a unique role in Jewish theology—as an affirmation of the loving contract between God and man—and the more modern interpretations that… More
– "In Hillel's Steps," Commentary, February 1947. (A review of In Darkest Germany by Victor Gollancz.)
Excerpt: In the eyes of the British public, Victor Gollancz is probably one of the outstanding Jewish laymen in the country. When one considers the fact that he is neither especially active in Jewish affairs, nor is the recipient of the notoriety which goes… More
Excerpt: I was quite unprepared for Adam, for his peculiar insensibility, his directness, his momentous inertia. He didn’t at all fit the picture that I had imagined—or that had been imagined for me—of the liberated Jew.
– “The Moral Critic,” Enquiry, April 1944. (A review of E. M. Forster by Lionel Trilling.)
Excerpt: The liberal flatters himself upon his intentions, problems, “and prefers not to know that the good will generates its own that the love pf humanity has its own vices and the love of the truth its own insensibilities.” He is paternal and… More
– “James Burnham's 'The Machiavellians'" (as William Ferry), Enquiry, July 1943. (A review of The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom by James Burnham.)
Excerpt: The atmosphere, these days, contains a good deal more of what is called ‘realism’ than is usually considered desirable for healthy progress. In some measure this is a natural symptom of the ebb of insurgent liberal-socialist thought. The… More
– “Other People's Nerve” (as William Ferry), Enquiry, May 1943.
Excerpt: The January-February and March-April issues of Partisan Review have featured a discussion of the “New Failure of Nerve.” It has been interesting, provocative reading, as could have been expected given such substantial contributors as… More
– “A Christian Experiment” (as William Ferry), Enquiry, January 1943. (A review of The Seed Beneath the Snow by Ignazio Silone.)
Excerpt: To Thomas Mann’s dictum: “In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms,” we may add the observation, drawn from current intellectual trends, that our political destiny is on the way to being formulated in… More
– “Auden: The Quality of Doubt” (as William Ferry), Enquiry, November 1942. (A review of The Double Man by W. H. Auden.)
Excerpt: Auden is certainly one of those “whose works are in better taste than their lives.” His early verse, ideologically viewed, was brashly positive, didactic, clever, facile, and possessed of a nasty Stalinist bent. The undercurrent of… More