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

Law & the Courts

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged?

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged?

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department ... Read More
Elections

The Media’s Bernie Sanders Makeover Begins

Just you watch: By the time Election Day rolls around in November, liberal columnists will be telling us that Bernie Sanders is the “real conservative” in the presidential race. Many among the center–left commentariat are struggling to come to terms with the likelihood that the Democratic Party will ... Read More
Elections

The Media’s Bernie Sanders Makeover Begins

Just you watch: By the time Election Day rolls around in November, liberal columnists will be telling us that Bernie Sanders is the “real conservative” in the presidential race. Many among the center–left commentariat are struggling to come to terms with the likelihood that the Democratic Party will ... Read More
Elections

There’s Zero Chance Bloomberg Would Pick Hillary

There’s no better evidence that Mike Bloomberg’s chances of getting the Democratic nomination are on the rise than the fact that the opportunistic Hillary Clinton is already trying to grab a piece of the action. The Drudge Report startled the political world on Saturday by noting that “sources close to ... Read More
Elections

There’s Zero Chance Bloomberg Would Pick Hillary

There’s no better evidence that Mike Bloomberg’s chances of getting the Democratic nomination are on the rise than the fact that the opportunistic Hillary Clinton is already trying to grab a piece of the action. The Drudge Report startled the political world on Saturday by noting that “sources close to ... Read More
Religion

Getting Real About Christianity

Charlotte, N.C. -- There were women weeping in a chapel here. One woman named Veronica was nearly inconsolable. She was talking about the crucifixion of Christ as if it was happening right then and there. She was feeling it. She was seeing it as the consequences of her sins. She was overwhelmed by the love of a ... Read More
Religion

Getting Real About Christianity

Charlotte, N.C. -- There were women weeping in a chapel here. One woman named Veronica was nearly inconsolable. She was talking about the crucifixion of Christ as if it was happening right then and there. She was feeling it. She was seeing it as the consequences of her sins. She was overwhelmed by the love of a ... Read More

Socialism . . . But?

For once, conservatives were ahead of the curve. American conservatism functioned as a political mass movement in the postwar era not because of the rhetorical gifts of its chief expositors (William F. Buckley Jr. et al.) nor because of the intellectual prowess of its best and most creative minds (ask George ... Read More

Socialism . . . But?

For once, conservatives were ahead of the curve. American conservatism functioned as a political mass movement in the postwar era not because of the rhetorical gifts of its chief expositors (William F. Buckley Jr. et al.) nor because of the intellectual prowess of its best and most creative minds (ask George ... Read More