This book has a promising, if not a bit academic introduction – pointing to the current drift from pragmatism and mixed center as the philosophical basis of the United States, to a one-note mentality centered around a deceptive concept of individualism. A drift from “yes, both” to “this only”.
E. J. Dionne makes the case:
At the heart of this book is a view that American history is defined by an irrepressible and ongoing tension between two core values: our love of individualism and our reverence for community.
(..) We are not very skilled at balance anymore. That is why we have lost our gift for reasoning together.
(..) The United States rose to global preeminence because in accepting our commitments to both individualism and community, we were able to see democratic government as a constructive force in our national life and to use it in creative ways.
(..) We must recover our respect for balance and remember its central role in our history. We are a nation of individualists who care passionately about community.
To the no compromise crowd:
This extreme individualism sees the “common good” not as a worthy objective but as a manipulative slogan disguising a lust for power by government bureaucrats and the ideological ambitions of left-wing utopians. This view has transformed both American conservatism and the Republican Party.
And to protective government, something that failed:
In our history, government has far more frequently been a liberating force that operated on behalf of the many. This has been true not just since the New Deal but also from the beginning of our national experiment.
(..) The intervention of democratic government has often been necessary to protect individuals from concentrated private power. It is government’s failure to live up to this duty that gave rise to the anti–Wall Street protests.
The introduction is beautifully written, very thoughtful and detailed, but dancing a little bit around WHY things have changed like this.
But a good read so far.