The Perennial Trashing of Bourgeois Democracy

Academic Questions 15:4 (September 1, 2002), 23–26; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


What began in nineteenth-century Britain as a serious critique of the new liberal democracy became, in twentieth-century America, a contemptuous “bourgeois bashing,” almost a way of life for some of campus radicals. But if not American liberal democracy, with all its vulgarity, then what? What’s the alternative? Their intellectuals might, with reason, prefer Parisian “creme caramel” to American apple pie, but they cannot, with reason, prefer Moscow’s Marxism to America’s liberal democracy, if only because Marxism suffered an un-Marxist–i.e., unhistorical–death in Moscow. In fact, of course, this country, however numerous its imperfections, is now, as Abraham Lincoln said it was in 1862, “the last, best hope of earth.” It is this because the cause of justice, equality, tolerance, human rights, all the values Nussbaum favors, depends not on the so-called World Community–Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China?–but absolutely on this country and the willingness of its citizens to defend it against its enemies. In this article, the author points to the knee-jerk condemnation of any American national resoluteness as evidence of the rejection by the Ivory Tower of principles that have made this country the “last, best hope of earth.”

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