– George H. Nash, author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, reviews Rod Dreher’s just released Crunchy Cons. Dreher seems to be going for the longest subtitle record:
How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of counterculture conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party).
And therein lies the significance of “Crunchy Cons.” It is a reminder of the enduring tension on the right between those for whom the highest social good is freedom–the emancipation of the self from statist restraint and oppressive custom–and those for whom the highest social good is virtue: the formation of character, the cultivation of the soul.
[. . .] Because Mr. Dreher offers no detailed blueprint for cultural renewal, some may dismiss his book as just another lifestyle manifesto. This would be a mistake. Like it or not, Mr. Dreher raises concerns that will not go away. America today is more broadly free and prosperous than any society in human history. We are gloriously “free to choose.” But choose what?
– Over at Books & Culture Kenneth G. Elzinga reviews a fascinating book I would at to my list if it wasn’t so long: The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth by Benjamin M. Friedman. Elzinga recommends the book to both sides of what might be called the economic culture wars:
But let me state what I trust is obvious: The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth is an important book on an important subject. Alfred Marshall, the great Cambridge economist of an earlier generation, left the study of mathematics as a young man and turned to economics because he wanted to help the poor. Benjamin Friedman continues in this grain. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth deserves to be widely read, and no doubt will be. The next time the world’s capitalists and the anti-capitalist protesters gather in Davos, Freidman’s book could be distributed and read with profit by those in the streets and those in the conference rooms.
– In case you missed it, NRO had an interesting interview yesterday with the authors of the forthcoming Washington’s God. The co-authors, Michael and Jana Novak, happen to be father and daughter. Here is a snippet:
Q: How does your account most differ from other biographers or general historians?
A: Religion is not a prominent theme in most of the biographies of the past hundred years. Three points about Washington’s religion are usually made: Washington was at best a lukewarm Anglican. Two, on balance, he was a Deist, not a Christian. Three, though he spoke often of Providence, he seemed to mean something like the Greek or Roman fortune or fate, not the biblical God.
We found that a careful study of the evidence overturns all of these conventions. Some, more thoroughly than others.
Q: Was Washington a Deist, or not?
A: Washington’s names for God sometimes sounded deist, but the actions his prayers asked God to perform belong to the biblical God, not the god of the philosophers. Washington believed that God favored the cause of liberty, and should be beseeched to “interpose” his actions on behalf of the Americans- and he often called for public thanksgiving for the many ways in which Americans “experienced” God’s hand in events. He believed God could inspire thoughts and courage in human hearts, and give men fortitude to persevere in extreme difficulties. He held that praying for favors imposed duties on him who prayed.
Washington’s reflections on the workings of Providence were deep, and hardened by the crucible of experience. On these matters, he was a Christian, not a deist.