The lulls of the summer just past allowed some time for reading and reflecting, and three books in particular are worthy of review:
The American Republic, by Orestes A. Brownson. Originally published in 1865, when the nation had just weathered its most serious challenge to its continued existence, Brownson provides a timely (for now as well as then) exposition on the nature, authority, origin, and constitution of the American state in light of the challenges posed by secession and reconstruction. His most penetrating concept is that of the origin of republican government through the “providential” constitution of the people. It is a powerful statement of American exceptionalism and rivals Alexis de Tocqueville’s work as the best analysis of American-style democracy.
Natural Rights and the Right to Choose, by Hadley Arkes. Of all the rhetoric in the pro-life/pro-choice debates, this is the best presentation I have read of the grounding of the anti-abortion movement in the doctrines of “natural rights” that formed the main teaching of the American Founders and Abraham Lincoln and how the political class has, over the past thirty years, convinced itself to leave these principles, and their grounds, behind. A must for anyone concerned with a moral defense for either side of the abortion debate.
Terror and Liberalism, by Paul Berman. It has been described as “the first philosophical and political guide to the era that began on September 11, 2001.” Berman is a political liberal who traces the war on terrorism to its origins in the modern impulse to rebel that came from the spiritual inspiration of the French Revolution and mutated through the 19th century into the suicide and murder cults that informed the totalitarian movements of the 20th century. He relies on many historical sources, the most chilling of whom is the Islamist scholar Sayyid Outb, and he is equally condemning of the foreign policy “realism” of the political right as of the naïveté of the political left in the West’s response to the malignancy.