Magazine March 5, 2018, Issue

Letters

(@realDonaldTrump handout via Reuters)

What Liberalism Is Good For
“A better system will not automatically ensure a better life,” Václav Havel wrote 40 years ago, in the context of Communism in the Eastern bloc. “In fact, the opposite is true: only by creating a better life can a better system be developed.” Patrick Deneen incorporates that quote in his preface to Why Liberalism Failed, implying that Westerners in liberal democracies today are caught in a political system analogous to that of the totalitarian regimes of Eastern Europe last century.

David French in his review (“Liberalism’s Failure — and Its Success,” February 5) finds Deneen’s view unduly pessimistic. What Deneen objects to, he suggests, is liberal democracy informed by the French Revolution. Liberal democracy informed by the American Revolution is the system under which the very virtues — resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, frugality, the communitarian spirit, etc. — that Deneen holds up as necessary ingredients in some impending post-liberal order have been flourishing for centuries.

French’s analysis rings true. A more basic criticism of Deneen’s argument, however, is that he blames liberalism for our failure to maintain “the classical and Christian” values against competing assumptions about what constitutes the summum bonum. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”: John Adams understood what many of us have forgotten, that liberal democracy is not an end in itself. It’s a means that makes it possible for us to cultivate classical and Christian — or broadly religious — virtues to which we and our societies are called. If we have failed to honor that call, let’s place the blame where it belongs, on ourselves, and resolve to use our time, talents, and freedom to better ends.

Anthony Thomas
Macedonia, Ohio

Exposing the Swamp Creatures
I disagree with the implication in the “Trump tweeted” item in the Week (February 5, 2018). Near the end, you write, “It is up to Trump’s appointees, not some shadowy ‘deep state,’ to prioritize FBI investigations.” Assuming the existence of the deep state, appointing, prioritizing, and leading responsibly will not produce proper agency behavior. Swamp dwellers will serve up foot-dragging at best and mutiny at worst. Draining the swamp calls for active measures. One such is going public, thus Trump’s tweets are loud and frequent.

So, is there a deep state? I think so. “Burrowing in” is the practice of converting a political appointment to a career. Over decades the result is upper management in government infected with former political hacks, and uneven treatment — investigations of enemies are zealously pursued while investigations of friends are slow-walked. Draining the swamp is an admirable conservative goal. All aboard, NR.

Andrew Mercer
Annandale, Va.

The Editors respond: Assuring agency effectiveness is a matter of will and competence, not tweets. “Swamp dwellers” who fail to follow lawful directives can and should face an array of disciplinary measures. Bureaucrats are often unaccountable, but that’s often because political appointees don’t hold them to account.

Tweets, by contrast, do virtually nothing to exercise real power. They don’t change policy. They don’t trigger employee discipline. They ignite public controversy, but unless that controversy is followed by actual changes in policy or personnel, they tend to disappear quickly.

Effective agency leadership can trigger real change. In Health and Human Services and the Department of Education, we’ve seen actual, substantial reversals in policy executed competently and professionally. It is possible to do the right thing, the right way.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

The Week

The Week

 In his new official portrait, as in his presidential rhetoric, Barack Obama just couldn’t quite get clear of the Bushes.
Culture

The Week

In his new official portrait, as in his presidential rhetoric, Barack Obama just couldn’t quite get clear of the Bushes.

Most Popular

Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Culture

Two NFL Apologies

So Drew Brees defended the American flag and all it stands for, said he didn’t agree with kneeling for the national anthem and correctly described this gesture of open disrespect as disrespect. "Is everything right with our country right now?" said the Saints' future Hall of Famer. "No, it is not. We still have ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Chesterton’s Cops

Conservatives are big on “Chesterton’s fence.” That’s G. K. Chesterton’s principle that you cannot reform what you do not understand, that you should not for the sake of convenience knock down a fence until you understand why it was put up in the first place. When encountering a fence in his way, ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Media

The Unrelenting Assault on President Trump

There has never been a presidential campaign in the United States where the administration was so massively opposed by the principal media outlets as in this election. Nor, in at least a century, have the national political media so widely and thoroughly discarded the traditional criterion for journalistic ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More
Media

The Media’s War on Words

I recently ran across a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer that lays out four racist words and phrases that should be banished from the English language. It begins like this: Editor’s note: Please be aware offensive terms are repeated here solely for the purpose of identifying and analyzing them honestly. ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More

Canceled, &c.

There was a headline last week: “Boeing Communications Chief Resigns Over Decades-Old Article on Women in Combat.” Find the story here. It explains that “Niel Golightly abruptly resigned on Thursday, following an employee’s complaint over an article the former U.S. military pilot wrote 33 years ago ... Read More