Religion and Secularism– “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”– "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– "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– "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
Notice to Our Readers– "Notice to Our Readers," The Public Interest, Spring 2005.
Excerpt: The issue you hold in your hands will be The Public Interest’s last. No journal is meant to last forever, and this one won’t try to. We have decided, after forty years, to call it a day.
It Wasn’t Inevitable– "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– "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 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– "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?– "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– “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
Arguing the World– Arguing the World: The New York Intellectuals in Their Own Words, ed. Joseph Dorman (New York: Free Press, 2000). (Transcript of TV interviews from 1998.)
Faith à la Carte– "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– "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?– “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
The Coming Clash of Welfare States– “The Coming Clash of Welfare States,” American Outlook, Winter 1999.
There is No “Third Sector”– "There is No 'Third Sector'" (An interview), Philanthropy, November/December 1998.
Politics Reaches an Endpoint– “Politics Reaches an Endpoint,” Wall Street Journal, July 29, 1998.
Liberties and Licences– "Liberties and Licences," Times Literary Supplement, July 9, 1998. (A review of Freedom and Virtue: The Conservative/Libertarian Debate edited by George W. Carey.)
A Note on Religious Tolerance– “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
Petrified Europe– “Petrified Europe,” Wall Street Journal, February 2, 1998.
Income Inequality Without Class Conflict– “Income Inequality Without Class Conflict,” Wall Street Journal, December 18, 1997.
Conflicts That Can’t Be Resolved– "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– "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?– "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– “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
The Tipping-Point Election– “The Tipping-Point Election: Will Future Americans Look Back at the 1996 Vote and Say 'Bingo'?” American Enterprise, November/December 1996.
The Right Stuff– “The Right Stuff,” Prospect, October 1996.
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– “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– “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
Age Before Politics– “AgeBefore Politics,” Wall Street Journal, April 25, 1996.
Sex Trumps Gender– “Sex Trumps Gender,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 1996.
Educating the Urban Poor: The (Only) Legitimate Function of the Public Schools– "Educating the Urban Poor: The (Only) Legitimate Function of the Public Schools," Michigan Law & Policy Review, 1996.
Taking His Measure: Five Historians Weigh Newt on the Scales of Time – and Against Other Leaders– “Taking His Measure: Five Historians Weigh Newt on the Scales of Time – and Against Other Leaders,” Time, December 25, 1995/January 1, 1996.
The National Prospect– "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– "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– “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
America’s “Exceptional” Conservatism– “America’s ‘Exceptional’ Conservatism” from Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1995).
Children, Hollywood, and Censorship– “Children, Hollywood, and Censorship,” The American Enterprise, September/October 1995.
America Dreaming– “America Dreaming,” Wall Street Journal, August 13, 1995.
Times of Transformation– “Times of Transformation,” Wall Street Journal, June 13, 1995
America’s “Exceptional Conservatism”– “America's 'Exceptional Conservatism',” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1995.
The People’s Revolution– “The People's Revolution,” Washington Post, February 17, 1995.
Who Now Cares About NATO?– “Who Now Cares About NATO?” Wall Street Journal, February 6, 1995.
Taking Religious Conservatives Seriously– “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
Countercultures– "Countercultures," Commentary, December 1994.
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
Life without Father– “Life without Father,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 1994.
The Jewish Future I: Judaism & Liberalism– "The Jewish Future I: Judaism & Liberalism" (A reply to letters), Commentary, November 1994.
The New Face of American Politics– “The New Face of American Politics,” Wall Street Journal, August 26, 1994.
Why Religion Is Good for the Jews– "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
The Tragic Error of Affirmative Action– “The Tragic Error of Affirmative Action,” Wall Street Journal, August 1, 1994.
Sex, Violence and Videotape– “Sex, Violence and Videotape,” Wall Street Journal, May 31, 1994.
The Inevitable Outcome of ‘Outcomes’– “The Inevitable Outcome of 'Outcomes',” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1994.
Russia’s Destiny– “Russia's Destiny,” Wall Street Journal, February 11, 1994.
From Perot to Buchanan– “From Perot to Buchanan,” Wall Street Journal, November 24, 1993.
Too Clever by Half– “Too Clever by Half,” Wall Street Journal, October 12, 1993.
Clinton’s Illusion – Spirit of the ’60s– “Clinton's Illusion – Spirit of the '60s,” Wall Street Journal, August 19, 1993.
A Conservative Welfare State– “A Conservative Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, June 14, 1993.
Two Parties in Search of Direction– “Two Parties in Search of Direction,” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 1993.
When It’s Wrong to Be Right– “When It's Wrong to Be Right,” Wall Street Journal, March 24, 1993.
My Cold War– “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 Coming “Conservative Century”– "The Coming 'Conservative Century'," Wall Street Journal, February 1, 1993.
“Family Values” – Not a Political Issue– "'Family Values' – Not a Political Issue," Wall Street Journal, December 7, 1992.
Multi-Culturalism, “Political Correctness,” and America’s Traditional Diversity: Does America, on Balance, Uphold Human Dignity?– "Multi-Culturalism, 'Political Correctness,' and America's Traditional Diversity: Does America, on Balance, Uphold Human Dignity?"
AIDS and False Innocence– “AIDS and False Innocence,” Wall Street Journal, August 6, 1992.
All That Jazz– “All That Jazz,” The National Interest, Summer 1992.
“Peace Process” That Heads Nowhere– “'Peace Process' That Heads Nowhere,” Wall Street Journal, June 18, 1992.
America’s Mysterious Malaise– “America's Mysterious Malaise,” Times Literary Supplement, May 22, 1992.
Men, Women, and Sex– “Men, Women, and Sex,” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 1992.
Reply to William Buckley, “In Search of Anti-Semitism”– “Reply to William Buckley, 'In Search of Anti-Semitism',” National Review, March 16, 1992.
What Shall We Do with the NEA?– “What Shall We Do with the NEA?” Wall Street Journal, March 16, 1992.
Does the Spread of American Popular Culture Advance American Interests?– "Does the Spread of American Popular Culture Advance American Interests?" (An AEI symposium), March 10, 1992.
Reflections on Love and Family– “Reflections on Love and Family,” Wall Street Journal, January 7, 1992.
The Capitalist Future– “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– 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
How to Restructure Wall Street– “How to Restructure Wall Street,” Wall Street Journal, November 1, 1991.
A New Age of Faith?– “A New Age of Faith?” Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 1991.
The 1980s – Looking Beyond Reagan– “The 1980s – Looking Beyond Reagan,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1991.
The Future of American Jewry– "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
The Tragedy of ‘Multiculturalism’– “The Tragedy of 'Multiculturalism',” Wall Street Journal, July 31, 1991.
Standing Room Only– “Standing Room Only,” Times Literary Supplement, July 16, 1991.
Standing Room Only– “Standing Room Only,” Times Literary Supplement, July 12, 1991. (A review of American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion by Judith Shklar.)
The Conservatives Find a Leader– “The Conservatives Find a Leader,” Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1991.
Tongue-Tied in Washington– “Tongue-Tied in Washington,” Wall Street Journal, April 15, 1991.
Taking Political Things Personally– “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.)
After the War, What?– “After the War, What?” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 1991.
The G.O.P. Message: A State of Disunion– “The G.O.P. Message: A State of Disunion,” New York Times, January 27, 1991.
Foreword to Resonant Lives: 50 Figures of Consequence– Foreword to Resonant Lives: 50 Figures of Consequence by Paul Greenberg (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1991).
The Challenge of a Political Reversal– “The Challenge of a Political Reversal,” Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1990.
Books for Christmas– “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
What Won, and What Lost, in 1990– “What Won, and What Lost, in 1990,” Wall Street Journal, November 16, 1990.
Hoover, Nixon, Carter…Bush?– “Hoover, Nixon, Carter...Bush?” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 1990.
Defining Our National Interest– "Defining Our National Interest," The National Interest, Fall 1990.
The Gulf: Born-Again Isolationists…– “The Gulf: Born-Again Isolationists...,” Washington Post, August 22, 1990.
It’s Obscene but Is It Art?– “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
12 Years and Out!– “12 Years and Out!” Washington Post, June 10, 1990.
In Search of Our National Interest– “In Search of Our National Interest,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 1990.
Inflation: Almost Never What It Seems– “Inflation: Almost Never What It Seems,” Wall Street Journal, May 16, 1990.
Bush Is Right about Lithuania– “Bush Is Right about Lithuania,” Wall Street Journal, April 11, 1990.
Conservatives’ Greatest Enemy May Be the GOP– “Conservatives' Greatest Enemy May Be the GOP,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1990.
There Is No Military Free Lunch– ''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
The Map of the World Has Changed– “The Map of the World Has Changed,” Wall Street Journal, January 3, 1990.
Does “the West” Still Exist?– Does “the West” Still Exist? (A symposium), Committee for the Free World, (New York: Orwell Press, 1990).
Second Thoughts: A Generational Perspective– “Second Thoughts: A Generational Perspective,” Second Thoughts: Former Radicals Look Back at the Sixties, ed. Peter Collier and David Horowitz (New York: Madison Books, 1989).
On the Character of American Political Order– “On the Character of American Political Order,” In The Promise of American Politics: Principles and Practice after Two Hundred Years, ed. Robert Utley (New York: University Press of America, 1989).
Sometimes It’s Over Before It’s Over– “Sometimes It's Over Before It's Over,” Wall Street Journal, December 1, 1989.
Education Reforms That Do and Don’t Work– “Education Reforms That Do and Don't Work,” Wall Street Journal, October 24, 1989.
The Way We Were– “The Way We Were,” National Interest, Fall 1989.
Forget Arms Control…– “Forget Arms Control...,” New York Times, September 12, 1989.
End Game of the Welfare State– “End Game of the Welfare State,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1989.
Who Needs Peace in the Middle East?– “Who Needs Peace in the Middle East?” Wall Street Journal, July 21, 1989.
This Is the Place to Be– “This Is the Place to Be” (Interview with Ken Adelman), Washingtonian, July 1989.
Some Kindergarten Remediation– “Some Kindergarten Remediation,” Wall Street Journal, June 22, 1989.
The End of History?– “The End of History?” (A symposium), The National Interest, Summer 1989.
A Smug NATO Is Letting Germany Secede– “A Smug NATO Is Letting Germany Secede,” Wall Street Journal, May 2, 1989.
Cries of “Racism” Cow Crime Fighters– “Cries of 'Racism' Cow Crime Fighters,” Wall Street Journal, February 28, 1989.
The War against the Corporation– “The War against the Corporation,” Wall Street Journal, January 24, 1989.
A reply to “Liberalism and American Jews”– "A reply to 'Liberalism and American Jews'" (A reply to letters), Commentary, January 1989.
Christmas, Christians, and Jews– “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
Bush Must Fight the GOP Energy Shortage– “Bush Must Fight the GOP Energy Shortage,” Wall Street Journal, December 21, 1988.
Freedom and Vigilance: Ronald Reagan– "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
The Conservatives Have Better Ideas– “The Conservatives Have Better Ideas,” New York Times, October 30, 1988.
Voodoo Economics or Voodoo Economists?– “Voodoo Economics or Voodoo Economists?” Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1988.
Liberalism and American Jews– "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
The Question of Patriotism– “The Question of Patriotism,” Wall Street Journal, September 16, 1988.
The Trouble with Republicans– “The Trouble with Republicans,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 1988.
The Soviets’ Albatross States– “The Soviets' Albatross States,” Wall Street Journal, July 22, 1988.
The Bizarre Social Security Surplus– “The Bizarre Social Security Surplus,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 1988.
A Cure for Takeovers’ Social Ills– “A Cure for Takeovers' Social Ills,” Wall Street Journal, May 13, 1988.
The Reagan Revolution That Never Was– “The Reagan Revolution That Never Was,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 1988.
Why I Left– "Why I Left," The New Republic, April 11, 1988.
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– “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
War on Drugs? Then Get Serious and Use the Military– “War on Drugs? Then Get Serious and Use the Military,” Washington Post, March 28, 1988.
There’s No “Peace Process” in Mideast– “There's No 'Peace Process' in Mideast,” Wall Street Journal, February 19, 1988.
American Jews and Israel– “American Jews and Israel” (A symposium), Commentary, February 1988.
U.S. Foreign Policy Has Outlived Its Time– “U.S. Foreign Policy Has Outlived Its Time,” Wall Street Journal, January 21, 1988.
The Reagan Doctrine and Beyond– “The Reagan Doctrine and Beyond” (A symposium), American Enterprise Institute, 1988.
Not the Deficits– “Not the Deficits,” Forbes, December 14, 1987.
Taking Glasnost Seriously– “Taking Glasnost Seriously,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 1987.
Ideological Subdivisions– “Ideological Subdivisions,” Public Opinion, November-December, 1987.
Look at 1962, Not 1929– “Look at 1962, Not 1929,” Wall Street Journal, October 28, 1987.
Ethics Anyone? Or Morals?– “Ethics Anyone? Or Morals?” Wall Street Journal, September 15, 1987.
The New Liberal Isolationism– “The New Liberal Isolationism,” Wall Street Journal, August 11, 1987.
Nuclear NATO: A Moment of Truth– “Nuclear NATO: A Moment of Truth,” Wall Street Journal, July 9, 1987.
Don’t Count Out Conservatism– “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 War of the Words– “The War of the Words,” Wall Street Journal, June 11, 1987.
Of Lords, Sirs, and Plain Misters– “Of Lords, Sirs, and Plain Misters: An Exchange between Irving Kristol and Max Beloff,” Encounter, June 1987.
NATO Edges toward the Moment of Truth– “NATO Edges toward the Moment of Truth,” Wall Street Journal, April 14, 1987.
Should U.S. Withdraw from NATO? The Case For– “Should U.S. Withdraw from NATO? The Case For,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 8, 1987.
Economic Notes and Footnotes– “Economic Notes and Footnotes,” Wall Street Journal, March 2, 1987.
Wills’ America: A “Sophisticate” Takes Revenge– “Wills' America: A 'Sophisticate' Takes Revenge,” Washington Times, February 9, 1987. (A review of Reagan's America by Garry Wills.)
Should America Quit NATO?– “Should America Quit NATO?" (A symposium), The East-West Papers, February 1987.
The Missing Social Agenda– “The Missing Social Agenda,” Wall Street Journal, January 26, 1987.
U.S. Needs the Will to Be a Winner– “U.S. Needs the Will to Be a Winner" (A symposium), Insight, December 29, 1986-January 5, 1987).
The Spirit of ’87– "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– “'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
Why Did Reagan Do It?– ''Why Did Reagan Do It?” Wall Street Journal, December 17, 1986.
On Economic Ignorance– “On Economic Ignorance,” NYU Business (New York: NYU Press, 1986).
The Force Is with Reagan– “The Force Is with Reagan,” Wall Street Journal, October 24, 1986.
On the Reagan Presidency– "On the Reagan Presidency" (A symposium), American Spectator, October 1986.
Room for Darwin and the Bible– “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
Schools Can Do This Much– “Schools Can Do This Much,” Wall Street Journal, September 8, 1986.
What Every Soviet Leader Wants– "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
Abandon Your Lordships– “Abandon Your Lordships,” [London] Times, August 26, 1986.
The Background to a Sluggish Economy– “The Background to a Sluggish Economy,” Wall Street Journal, July 31, 1986.
Should America Go It Alone?– “Should America Go It Alone?” (A symposium), TheEast-West Papers, July 1986.
Who Should Succeed Reagan?: Some Preliminary Thoughts– “Who Should Succeed Reagan?: Some Preliminary Thoughts" (A symposium), Policy Review, Summer 1986.
American Universities in Exile– “American Universities in Exile,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 1986.
The David I Knew– “The David I Knew,” Wall Street Journal, May 9, 1986.
Why a Debate over Contra Aid?– “Why a Debate over Contra Aid?” Wall Street Journal, April 11, 1986.
New York Intellectuals– “New York Intellectuals,” Washington Times, April 7, 1986. (A review of Prodigal Sons: The New York Intellectuals and Their World by Alexander Bloom.)
Now What for U.S. Client States?– “Now What for U.S. Client States?” Wall Street Journal, March 3, 1986.
“Global Unilateralism” and “Entangling Alliances”– “'Global Unilateralism' and 'Entangling Alliances',” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 1986.
Three Economic Notes for 1986– “Three Economic Notes for 1986,” Wall Street Journal, January 9, 1986.
Ideas Shape Every Generation– “Ideas Shape Every Generation,” in
The passing of Irving Kristol last month at the age of 89 coincided with the death, at a much younger age, of the intellectually serious conservatism he did so much to foster. As a liberal who was fond of both, I've been feeling the loss.
In the heyday of Kristol's influence in the 1980s, Republicans styled themselves the party of ideas. Whatever you thought of those ideas—challenging Soviet power, cutting taxes, passing power back to the states, ending affirmative action, cutting off welfare benefits to the undeserving poor—they represented a genuine attempt to remodel government around a coherent vision. Today, as during the pre-conservative stage of Kristol's career in the 1950s, the Republican Party takes itself much more lightly. It has fallen back upon what Lionel Trilling once called "irritable mental gestures"—crankily rejecting liberal attempts to come to grips with the country's problems without offering any plausible alternatives. Since the last election, it has been the brain-dead home of tea parties, pro-life amendments, and climate-change denial.
Those on the right frustrated with the paltry politics of today's GOP may find some inspiration looking back at Kristol's best work, which was done in the late 1960s and 1970s, when he was hovering somewhere between left and right. With his friend Daniel Bell, Kristol in 1965 founded the Public Interest, one of the really important American political magazines, and went on to edit it for the next 40 years. The circle around the Public Interest—including Daniel Patrick Moynihan, James Q. Wilson, and Nathan Glazer—was composed of liberals disturbed by the drift of then-regnant liberalism. Kristol and his colleagues accepted FDR's New Deal as both a political reality and a minimum standard for an advanced society but worried that the 1960s drift toward value-free social policy was undermining it. They wanted to fix government, not break it further.
The Public Interest's full archive has been digitized by National Affairs, a self-styled successor, and it's a good place to ponder what a sophisticated challenge to dominant liberalism might look like today. A typical issue from 1967 includes a piece on the failure of Pruitt-Igoe, the notorious public housing project in St. Louis that was later dynamited. Another article argues that little progress had been made in the previous two decades in reducing poverty, defined in relation to median income. A series of essays asked whether LBJ's attempt to apply cost-benefit analysis to federal programs would really result in more effective government. (It didn't.) The magazine's stance, rooted in empirical social science, was one of scholarly skepticism about whether liberal goals were attainable through Democratic programs.
As that skepticism deepened, the democratic socialist writer Michael Harrington dubbed the tendency neoconservatism. A brilliant publicist, Kristol claimed the slur as a badge of honor and sought to define it as a political philosophy. "Neo-conservatism is not at all hostile to the idea of the welfare state, but it is critical of the Great Society version of the welfare state," Kristol wrote in Newsweek in 1976. His more famous formulation was that a neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged—sometimes softened with the grace note "by reality." But the goal of the neoconservatives—who in those days were still principally focused on domestic rather than foreign policy—remained better government, more mindful of tradition, and respectful of the values of the people.
How did this prudent outlook devolve into the spectacle of ostensibly intelligent people cheering on Sarah Palin? Through the 1980s, the neoconservatives became more focused on political power and less interested in policy. They developed their own corrupting welfare state, doling out sinecures and patronage subsidized by the Olin, Scaife, and Bradley foundations. Alliances with the religious right skewed their perspective on a range of topics. They went a little crazy hating on liberals.
Over time, the two best qualities of the early neocons—their skepticism about government's ability to transform societies and their rigorous empiricism—fell by the wayside. In later years, you might say Kristol and the neoconservatives got mugged by ideology. Actually, they were the muggers. "It becomes clear that, in our time, a non-ideological politics cannot survive the relentless onslaught of ideological politics," Kristol wrote in 1980. "For better or for worse, ideology is now the vital element of organized political action."
There was no clearer sign of that shift than the effort by Kristol's son, William, to prevent any health care reform legislation from passing in 1993—on the theory that the political benefit would accrue to the Democrats. Today, that sort of Carthaginian politics has infected the entire congressional wing of the GOP, which equates problem-solving with treasonous collaboration. Though the president has tried to compromise with them in crafting the last missing piece of the social insurance puzzle, even allegedly moderate Republicans are not interested in making legislation more effective, less expensive, or in other ways more conservative. They are interested only in handing Obama a political defeat.
This is no good at all. Without a substantive challenge, liberals grow smug and lazy. They overreach and overspend. Conservatives need to return to civic responsibility, not just to check their opponents, but to offer the country a valid alternative. They need some new neoconservatives. They need the old Irving Kristol.