Magazine May 20, 2019, Issue

Letters

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To Be Continued

Half a century ago, as a leader of the Young People’s Socialist League, I debated leaders of Young Americans for Freedom. Had you told me that someday I would be chided in National Review, of all places, for being too anti-socialist, I would have thought you were nuts.

That, however, was the thrust of Paul Hollander’s treatment (May 6) of my book, Heaven on Earth: The Rise, Fall, and Afterlife of Socialism. Sadly, since writing that, Hollander has died. As passionate anti-Communists, we were comrades-in-arms in Cold War debates. I mourn him. I trust it is speaking no ill to say his criticisms were misplaced.

He included positive words (“an informative introduction”) but taxed me for not stressing “the fundamental differences between authoritarian (or totalitarian) state socialism . . . and social-democratic societies, [which] are politically liberal . . . and seek to reduce economic inequalities through high taxes and . . . social services.”

He objected, too, to including fascism and “African socialism” in my book. Apparently, he did not want the reputation of social democracy tarnished by less savory socialisms. I doubt any reader will come away imagining I view them all alike. But I wanted to trace how this single idea of unparalleled seductive power, “socialism,” weaved its way through history and across the world, shaping the 20th century. It was a phantom, pursued in myriad ways without ever becoming flesh.

True, social democrats did the best with it. Setting out after full-on socialism, they settled instead for welfare states while preserving capitalism, the goose whose eggs paid the bill. While other socialisms exacted appalling human costs, theirs did not.

To Hollander, it seems, that last point is paramount. But Heaven on Earth focuses on the larger story: How did an idea so seemingly humane cause so much suffering?

Joshua Muravchik

 

Trumping Civility

Mr. Ponnuru may have missed the mark in “The Post-Mueller Presidency”  (April 22). He says, “It is [Trump’s] character, and not Russia or health care or immigration or the economy, that has been and remains the top political issue in America.”

It would not matter what Trump’s perceived character flaws were. The Democrats have always slung mud at their opponents. Trump has flaws. We accept that. But he’s the man protecting our nation and what it stands for.

Duane Linstrom
Gilroy, Calif.

Ramesh Ponnuru responds: How much of the population gets swept up in the debate over a politician’s character, and how much other topics of political conversation get swept aside, varies with the times. During the reelection campaign of George W. Bush the top issue was war and peace. Over the last few years, it has been President Trump’s character. That issue divides Americans into three groups. In descending order of size: those who oppose Trump and cite his character as a principal objection to him; those who support him and emphasize the positive aspects they see in his character; and those who generally disapprove of his character but generally support his policies. Mr. Linstrom has ably stated a position in the debate over the top issue of the moment.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue

In Defense of Markets

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

The Week

The Week

Until Biden’s poll numbers come down, we advise the women of Iowa and New Hampshire to keep their distance.

Most Popular

Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

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Education

The Shame of the Teachers’ Unions

No other group has shown as much contempt for its own work during the coronavirus crisis as teachers. Their unions are actively fighting to keep kids out of the classroom and also to limit remote instruction, lest it require too much time and attention from people who are supposed to be wholly devoted to ... Read More
World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

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World

Massive Explosions Devastate Beirut

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We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More

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We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The World’s Worst Idea

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
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Almost a decade ago, I wrote a little book called The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism. When Regnery asked me to write the book, I was happy to do it but wondered whether a book on socialism, a brief conspectus of its grotesque failures, would be necessary or useful. I wondered why anybody would be ... Read More
Culture

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Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More
Culture

Monsters Galore

Vanity Fair, that peerless assessor of all things political, has bravely come out with the shocking opinion that the movies, TV, and our much-vaunted national media-industrial complex don’t hate right-wing women as much as they ought to, leading to the unjust and the always unhappy conclusion that people such ... Read More
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Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More
U.S.

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Cultural suicide used to be a popular diagnosis of why things suddenly just quit. Historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee cited social cannibalism to explain why once-successful states, institutions, and cultures simply died off. Their common explanation was that the arrogance of success ... Read More