The Way We Were
The best and worst of 2011.

The August riots in England — a 2011 worst


It’s nearly New Year’s Eve. To commemorate the occasion, NRO asked its friends and contributors to answers some questions: What were the best and worst developments of 2011? And what’s the best and worst we can expect in 2012?


How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
Still to ourselves in every place consign’d,
Our own felicity we make or find.

Samuel Johnson gave these lines to his friend Oliver Goldsmith, to add to his poem “The Traveler.” So it has been with me for 2011. Since my best and worst are personal, I will consign them to myself.

Public affairs are sometimes predictable, though, so I can answer the forward-looking bonus question: There is a possibility that Barack Obama will begin his retirement from the presidency in November, and not a moment too soon — although, come to think of it, if he loses, he will be eligible to run again later (as well as pull a John Quincy Adams and seek lower office).

National Review senior editor Richard Brookhiser is author of Madison.

Worst of 2011: The August riots in England, which illustrated several unhappy truths about modern Western society, most notably the one enunciated by Angela Merkel in February: “Multikulti ist gescheitert.” Also the one our own James Burnham expressed a half-century before: “Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide.”

Best of 2011: A tie between (a) the end of the Shuttle program and (b) Wendi Murdoch defending her man.

Worst to come in 2012: Over we go!

Best to come in 2012: Electoral defeat of Barack Obama.

— John Derbyshire is an NR contributing editor.

The best of 2011: the opening of the U.S. branch of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, whose mission is to treat Down Syndrome and to spur major medical progress that may be as little as ten years away.

The worst of 2011: the March 11 earthquake 80 miles east of Honshu, Japan, that left so much loss of human life and physical devastation in its wake.

The year 2012 holds great potential as a time of clarifying debate about the most fundamental questions of civilization: Can we live indefinitely beyond our means, are eternal values like the meaning of marriage and human life dispensable, and is religious freedom any longer at the pinnacle of human rights?

— Charles A. Donovan is president of the new Charlotte Lozier Institute.