Time to Choose Again
Re “End Notes,” by Daniel Luban [Feb. 8/15]: My long-held belief is that the system itself matters less than the values and history that underpin it and animate it. For example, Russia was never going to be a free and fair society under any system without overcoming its dark medieval past of serfdom and czars. And it hasn’t yet, despite radical attempts to do so in the early 20th century.
The story was different in the United States. The Great Depression forced a reckoning, and that resulted in a reaction that manifested variously around the globe. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal saved capitalism by counterintuitively taming its wilder impulses and instead federalizing the respect and support of ordinary people. This legacy remained even as the ’80s began a repudiation of the common good again in favor of naive assumptions about the benevolence of capitalism.
Who are we Americans? It is time to choose again. It doesn’t matter what system we choose. It is what we choose, what we insist on valuing.
The Rule of Lawbreakers
David Bromwich’s “Passion Will Be Our Enemy” [Feb. 8/15] is yet another one-sided tribute to the rule of law. We read about mob rule and the vandalism that accompanied some of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. What we don’t hear about is the chronic lawbreaking by government and law enforcement, the supposed upholders of the law.
Hitchens and Faith
Re “Let a Thousand Biographies Bloom,” by David Nasaw [Feb. 8/15]: The conclusions in my book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist were not, as Mr. Nasaw writes, “without any real evidence.” No, as reviewers at The Times of London, The Wall Street Journal, Christianity Today, and others noted, they were based on Christopher’s own writings and public statements. Never mind reading my book—which Mr. Nasaw clearly did not—did my critics bother to read his?
This charge, which Mr. Nasaw unwittingly perpetuates, was part of an effort to discredit my book, similar to the one described by Elizabeth Harris in The New York Times to derail Stephen Phillips’s proposed biography. The attack was multipronged: that I was not really Christopher’s friend (a charge Christopher himself anticipated and refuted); that I was simply out to make money, which can be said of any author—even Christopher Hitchens; that I had claimed Christopher had converted on his deathbed. If only it were so. David Frum peddled this fantasy in an article and tweets about a book that bears scant resemblance to the one I wrote. Indeed, I wrote the last chapter in anticipation of such an accusation.
At the request of Peter Hitchens, I never returned fire. But Mr. Nasaw’s article has provoked me. To see Carol Blue-Hitchens doing this again to another author is too much.
Larry Alex Taunton