The Right Nation


This past week National Review Online featured five excerpts from a new book by British authors about the distinctives of American conservatism -- The Right Nation by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. The authors are respectively the U.S. editor and Washington correspondent for the Economist.

From the fourth excerpt, "Right from the Beginning":

The life span of the American conservative movement is comparatively short. The life span of America's exceptional conservatism, on the other hand, stretches back to the country's birth. The United States has always had conservative instincts: suspicion of state power, enthusiasm about business and deep religiosity. But for most of its history America has been so comfortable with its innate conservatism that it has had no need of a political movement to articulate conservatism's principles or harass its enemies.

The article goes on to discuss the moderation of America's revolutionaries and to explain why the US has never had a potent socialist movement. And there's this interesting note illustrating that America isn't such a young country:

Galileo was offered a chair at Harvard University, which was founded in 1636, before Charles I had his head cut off.

Here's a comment that misses the mark, somewhat:

But because they conceive of themselves as a new nation, Americans don't feel any need to make a cult of newness in the way that some Britons and French do. They have not disfigured the center of Washington with aggressively new buildings, as modernists have felt the need to update London.

I'm not sure if they mean downtown Washington or the Mall. A couple of the Smithsonian Museums are aggressively modern. And a major battle in the War on Poverty involved the destruction of the old buildings where poor people lived and made a living and replacing them with modernist housing projects. (The places for these people to make a living were not replaced.) But in the authors' defense, the impulse to destroy came mainly from political elites enamored with European socialist solutions, not from ordinary Americans.

The other articles in the series are:

The Right Nation
A Different Conservatism
The Right Rules
Right Roots
Faith, Fortune, and the Frontier

A few more interesting quotes:

  • "Not only has America produced a far more potent conservative movement than anything available in other rich countries; America as a whole is a more conservative place."
  • "In no other country is the Right defined so much by values rather than class. The best predictor of whether a white American votes Republican is not his or her income but how often he or she goes to church.... Yet despite the importance of values, America has failed to produce a xenophobic "far Right" on anything like the same scale as Europe has. The closest equivalent to a European hard-Rightist is Pat Buchanan, and his political fortunes have waned rather than waxed.... In Colorado Springs, conservatives see immigrants mostly as potential recruits, rather than as diluters of the national spirit.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 19, 2004 6:30 PM.

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