The Brooklyn Burkeans

Jonathan Bronitsky, "The Brooklyn Burkeans," National Affairs, Winter 2014.


By the time Kristol and Himmelfarb moved back home to New York in 1958, they were entrenched in the classical-liberal tradition and, therefore, primed to react negatively to the sweeping, progressive agendas of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Their fervent disapproval of some premises and programs of the Great Society, which relied on aloof academics and wonky bureaucrats to cure America of poverty, illiteracy, and social divisions, was not the result of an epiphany. It was the result of a conviction, built up over two decades by that time, that human institutions, in the words of their friend Michael Oakeshott, “are the product of innumerable human choices, over long stretches of time, but not of any human design.”

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