THE FALL OF LEWIS LAPHAM
Lewis Lapham, whose broadside against contemporary conservatism is reviewed on page 36, has been editor of Harper’s since 1983 (in addition to an earlier stint). He has become as strongly identified with the magazine as Mencken was with The American Mercury or Ross with The New Yorker. That lonely eminence makes him something of a target for critical potshots from his lessers. Thus, when libertarian Reason‘s blog pointed out that Lapham had written about the GOP convention in an issue of the magazine that appeared before the event took place, a wave of much tsk-tsking coursed through the media and Lapham rightly apologized to his readers. Jack Shafer of Slate was even inspired to expatiate at length on how it just goes to show how predictably liberal Harper’s is these days. Frankly, dears, we don’t give a damn. Lapham’s Harper’s article merely asserts that the “speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths” of conservatism, i.e., “government the problem not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maiden’s prayer.” Seems to us a fair summary of the Republican rhetorical gusts of August.
Forbes magazine’s annual celebration of the 400 richest Americans has just appeared. As a kind of companion document we recommend another report, I Didn’t Do It Alone: Society’s Contribution to Individual Wealth and Success. The authors are Chuck Collins, Scott Klinger and Mike Lapham, of Responsible Wealth, a group of affluent Americans who advocate reducing economic inequality and champion the estate tax and taxing the rich. Their report features stories by wealthy people crediting their success to social advantages, luck and privilege. They are contrasted with self-proclaimed self-made types who deny a debt to society (www.faireconomy.org).