Russell Jacoby's article is a trenchant, pithy analysis of Mr. Barber's book. I know that this is taking some liberities, Sir, but I would like to go on a bit of a tangent.
Mr. Barber is, in my judgement, of a breed. A very clever person (he did manage to get a book published), who doesn't like the world so presumes to analyze the mechanics which brought these dire straits then offers prescriptions for salvation. The problem is that this is solipsistic hubris. This is the inherent fault of all political theory and ideology. In the words of the Bard: "There are more things in this world, Horatio, than are thought of in your philosophy".
The only reliable guide to humanity is human experience. History, for all its faults and ambiguities, must be our touchstone. The proof is in the pudding. Our modern Western world has brought prosperity and happiness undreamt of by our ancestors. You might quibble about causation and correlation but the underlying cultural fabric of the civilized world is Christianity.
The seminal event in modern history is the "The Declaration of Independence." "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". These words cystallized the Christian ethic. These words were were not written by a man who was notably pious nor an ardent Christian. They did lead to another event of equal importance, "The Constitution of The United States". From the preamble: "We the people of the United States,..." This was eloquently illuminated by Abraham Lincoln: “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.” You don't win in the big game of changing the world unless you play by these rules.
As to Mr. Barker, I admire him. I wish him health, wealth and happiness. He has worked hard to produce a work that the formidable thinkers of The Nation have taken notice of. Certainly an accomplishment well beyond my history and capabilities.
May 14 2007 - 1:32am