National Review / Digital
The Week

(Roman Genn)


Lance Armstrong has had a dramatic life. He survived cancer to win the Tour de France seven times — seven times in a row. He set up a foundation, Livestrong, to help those affected by cancer. Throughout his cycling career, he “doped,” which is to say, used illegal, performance-enhancing drugs. And all the while, he lied about it, hotly and viciously. He lied to friends and associates. He lied to reporters on and off the record. He lied with a fiery, self-righteous, Clintonian conviction. He hounded, harassed, and slandered those who told the truth, and sued them, and sometimes won. Finally, when organized cycling had left no doubt of his guilt, he partially confessed, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He did it in his accustomed style: self-righteous, rationalizing, Clintonian. Armstrong is 41 years old, and has plenty more living to do. There will be no cycling glory, but he can live better, and we hope and trust he will.

That politicians do not cease to be self-interested upon taking public office is hardly an original insight — Plato knew as much — but James M. Buchanan made a science out of it, and in the course of his life’s work changed our understanding of the nature of the political enterprise. Working with his longtime colleague Gordon Tullock, Buchanan established what is today known as public-choice theory, the key insight of which is that individuals in the public sector respond to self-interested incentives in much the same way that individuals working in markets do — “politics without romance,” Buchanan called it. He helped make the mysterious failings of politics a good deal less mysterious. His work led both to technical economic insights and to a broader understanding of the real forces at work in political institutions. Buchanan was no stranger to the operations of the state: His grandfather was a governor of Tennessee in the 1890s, and he himself served on Admiral Nimitz’s staff during World War II. He was a champion of strong constitutional limits on government and a lifelong skeptic of political ideology. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 1986 and was a major force in making the George Mason University economics department a center of innovative thought. Dead at 93. R.I.P.

Numbers never tell the whole story, but in baseball they’re the place to begin. Over the course of his 22-year career, Stan Musial won seven batting titles, appeared in four World Series, and contributed to three world championships for the Cardinals, the only team he ever played for. He shines even brighter in the light of various statistical metrics that have been developed since his retirement in 1963. In career total bases, Musial ranks second, behind Henry Aaron; in runs created, third — one place behind Babe Ruth, and one ahead of Aaron. Baseball cognoscenti are quick to emphasize Musial’s rightful place in such elevated company, although average fans outside St. Louis need constant reminder. In’s list of the most underrated athletes in the history of sports, he’s No. 1. A gentleman, he was never ejected from a game and is said to have never ignored a fan’s request for an autograph. He was a model of civility when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in the 1940s. “Stan Musial is the nicest man I ever met in baseball,” his teammate Bob Gibson said, expressing a sentiment echoed by many over the years. Musial proved Leo Durocher wrong. Dead at 92. R.I.P.

Pauline Phillips (Abigail Van Buren to you) was in her heyday one of the most widely read women in the world. The other, Eppie Lederer (a.k.a. Ann Landers), was her twin sister. We don’t know what it was in the water of Sioux City, Iowa, but it turned two daughters of Russian Jewish immigrants into international advice mavens. Pauline assembled her nom de plume from the Bible (“Blessed be thy advice,” says David to Abigail, 1 Samuel 25:33) and the eighth president. “Dear Abby,” the column she began writing in 1956, was a pint-sized dose of good sense and mild voyeurism (people do that?), all leavened by her wit. She did not lead any of the great, mostly damaging social changes of the Sixties, but generally followed them at a discreet distance. As the millennium drew down she relinquished her responsibilities to a daughter, who continues the column. Dead at 94. R.I.P.

February 11, 2013    |     Volume LXV, No. 2

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Mackubin Thomas Owens reviews Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present, by Max Boot.
  • Ronald Radosh reviews Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956, by Anne Applebaum.
  • David G. Dalin reviews Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight against Zionism as Racism, by Gil Troy.
  • Robert VerBruggen reviews The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond.
  • Andrew Stuttaford reviews Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium, by Mark Edward.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Zero Dark Thirty.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .