Magazine | May 20, 2019, Issue


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


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

Economy & Business

Who Owns FedEx?

You may have seen (or heard on a podcast) that Fred Smith so vehemently objects to the New York Times report contending that FedEx paid nothing in federal taxes that he's challenged New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger to a public debate and pointed out that "the New York Times paid zero federal income tax ... Read More

The ‘Welfare Magnet’ for Immigrants

That term refers to a controversial concept -- and a salient one, given the Trump administration's efforts to make it harder for immigrants to use welfare in the U.S. A new study finds that there's something to it: Immigrants were more likely to come to Denmark when they could get more welfare there. From the ... Read More

The Kaepernick Saga Drags On . . . off the Field

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Elizabeth Warren’s Plan Nine from Outer Space

Time for another episode of Strange Thoughts with Elizabeth Warren. “Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more Americans every year,” Senator Warren said on Twitter. “On World Day of Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I’m sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost ... Read More