The Corner

That Brooks Column

If I remember correctly, David Frum remarked at the end of his book on the Seventies that America by the late 1990s was a ‘newly cautious’ society, not a ‘remoralized’ one. I think that Brooks is closer to the truth here: whatever the reasons people have adopted more conservative lifestyles (to use a debatable shorthand), the habit of acting virtuously tends to promote virtue. I’m a little less inclined than Brooks (and most conservatives) to judge some societies as more virtuous than others; it may be that Americans have gotten more virtuous in some respects while getting less so in others. Certainly the period during which Americans became less virtuous in the eyes of conservatives–say, the 1950s to the mid-1990s–saw improvements in certain virtues (such as fair dealing with people of different races). Ok, this has now become a ramble. Let me close it off by saying that Brooks has become one of my three favorite conservative columnists who aren’t working for NR or NRO–the other two being Charles Krauthammer and George Will.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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