5.7.13

THE POVERTY OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.

Arthur Schlesinger wrote his The Crisis of the Old Order: The Age of Roosevelt in the late 1950s, by which time he thought there was sufficient time to reflect on subsequent events and sift the evidence.  The Age to which he refers is actually the end of World War I until the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, or, in the vernacular of Presidential Hagiographers, the Wilson (good), Harding (bad), Coolidge (meh), and Hoover (oops) administrations.  I purchased the 2002 reprinting in 2003, which includes a preface speaking to Enron and obliquely the dot.com bubble.  Had Professor Schlesinger lived to see the aftermath of 2008 ...



Book Review No. 16 complains, though, that there's been precious little learned by the political class or by Presidential Hagiographers since 1918 or since 1958.  Professor Schlesinger's 2002 preface includes the assertion, "Self-correction calls for compelling leadership."  Despite a passing remark by a critic from the left of the Democratic Party for its false faith that the right President can Get Things Done, the Presidential Hagiography (at least for Democrats) goes on.  Never mind the utopianism of Woodrow Wilson, enhanced by the first manifestations of Moral Equivalent of War (the mobilization for World War I, to return in augmented form after World War II).  Never mind that wage growth lagged productivity growth during the 1920s: still the same disputes over Capital and Government.  Never mind the predictions, in 1928, of a permanent Republican hold on the White House.

There are, however, a few items to encourage further thought.  Herbert Hoover, the last endorsement by Herbert Croly?  So much for business Republicanism, it's worth remembering that Theodore Roosevelt was one of the darlings of the self-styled progressives, as was Robert LaFollette.  Then consider Robert LaFollette wanting to limit the powers of the Supreme Court (see page 101.)  Perhaps critics to the right (affirmative action, school desegregation) and left (voting rights, Bush v. Gore) ought respect that proposal, rather than perpetually wrangling over who sits on the High Bench.  Calvin Coolidge, choosing not to seek the nomination but leaving open the possibility of a draft, recognizing that his approach to governance might not be valid for all time?  Gotta be a dissertation in there.  Sacco and Vanzetti, executed because the social order demanded it?  Is there an echo in the George Zimmerman trial?

Those ideas, however, are submerged in the Presidential Hagiography Consensus.  There's still work to be done in clarifying the interaction of the Citizen and the State.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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