America at Risk
Threats to Liberal Self-Government in an Age of Uncertainty
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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The purpose of this book can be simply stated: to set forth and examine the most important dangers confronting America today. With that aim the editors sought out political analysts whom we had reason to think first-rate. Then we encouraged each to select a problem that he or she thought particularly serious. The result is this volume of essays...
Part One: Wages of Empire
The Transatlantic Predicament
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The current lull in the transatlantic shouting match is a good time to survey the situation on the Western front, although relief at our renewed comity risks blinding us to the huge continental drift that has already taken place. The dispute about Iraq brought to light a profound divergence about the world, and what we are supposed to do in the world, between Europeans and Americans, which the provisional convergence...
American Democracy: The Perils of Imperialism?
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Is the United States an empire? For roughly a hundred years, radical critics of American foreign policy have regarded this question as otiose, a little like the question “Is the pope a Catholic?” In September 2006 the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez brandished a copy of Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States...
Part Two: Creeds and Parties
Defending Liberty: Liberal Democracy and the Limits of Public Power
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The defense of liberty is the distinctive aim of liberal democracy. By monopolizing force and respecting the rule of law, even autocracies can protect individuals’ lives and security. In modern circumstances, however, only liberal democracies have given sustained and effective attention to the preservation of liberty. They do so in two different ways...
A Clear and Present Danger: The Doctrine of Political Nonfoundationalism
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The greatest threat to America today comes from a theoretical doctrine that has been offered in all sincerity as the friend, even the savior, of liberal democracy. For want of a universally accepted name, this doctrine will be designated here by the label of political nonfoundationalism. Political nonfoundationalism holds that liberal democracy is best maintained by renouncing public reliance on a first principle...
The Dangers of Conservative Populism
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Conservatism is at its best when liberalism is at its worst. Fortunately for American conservatives, liberals chose to be at their worst for a considerable portion of the post–World War II period. After uniting most of the country around a national security consensus in the early years of the Cold War, and then carrying forward an ambitious sense of national purpose, including a bipartisan commitment...
Part Three: A Divided People?
The Future of the Liberal Family
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Recent evidence of a “baby bust” across most advanced liberal societies raises warning signs of a potential crisis. A new “specter” is haunting Europe (and not it alone): a precipitous decline in birthrates. Even as liberal societies succeed beyond all previous economic measure, many of them, it seems, are failing to sustain themselves at the most basic level: maintenance of a constant, liberally acculturated population...
Political Voice in an Age of Inequality /
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Since the colonists chafed under the rule of the British king, a commitment to equality has formed a thread in American political discourse.1 But perhaps uniquely among values on which democracies rest, equality is a vexed concept. The men who met at Philadelphia to write the Constitution that continues to govern us were not equally committed to equality. With Shays’s Rebellion and the threat of civil disorder in the background...
The Real Immigration Crisis
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A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Toronto, where a colleague presented his research on the challenges of border control in Europe. He prefaced his remarks with the observation that Western democracies would be able to deal with mass migration only when they faced up to its inevitability. Fair enough. The next day, after the conference ended...
Religion and Polarization
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Today America is divided over religion to a degree we have not seen since the anti-Catholic efforts of the Know-Nothing Party in the nineteenth century and the Ku Klux Klan in the twentieth. And in those earlier conflicts, the struggle was at least between two religious traditions, Protestantism and Catholicism. Now the struggle is between people of any faith (Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish)...
Part Four: Dilemmas of Self-Government
The End of Savings
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In late 1999, as the world prepared to welcome the new millennium, many were looking back at the twentieth century and wondering which of its many creations would endure. From the heart of Manhattan, Broadway looked back on myriad triumphs and failures and in this last year of the century had real cause to celebrate. The year marked the fiftieth anniversary of Arthur Miller’s classic tale of the American Dream...
Rational Control, or Life without Virtue
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In what follows I shall make a very small beginning to describe a danger that appears, at first blush, to be an irritation at worst and at best, an actual benefit. It arises from what appears, again at first blush, to be a benign intent to improve the lot of not just one individual or another, or this society or that, but of everyone and all humanity. It employs the noblest faculty of man in tandem with the lowest...
The Corruption of Democratic Leadership
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A great danger is something that is more than merely important or attention-grabbing. Such a danger reaches into the deep structure of things. In fact the peril may be so deep and slow-moving that, focusing as we do on what is momentarily noticeable, it might scarcely seem noteworthy. As with diseases in our physical bodies, so with the body politic—the gravest threats are likely to have a sinister hiddenness...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 4 Tables; 5 Figures
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Contemporary Political and Social Issues