Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book review: Harry V. Jaffa, The Doughface Dilemma

This slim volume, by the legendary Straussian scholar at Claremont, is a masterpiece of political invective, particularly noteworthy since it comes from one conservative exposing the noxious and antidemocratic underpinnings of another--or in this case, of a whole movement.

Although this pamphlet may appear to be nothing more than a salvo in an obscure internecine battle among conservative thinkers--and it is that--it is something more than that.  Jaffa meticulously lays out the case that the American Enterprise Institute strain of neoconservatism takes its philosophy, intentionally or not, from the thought of John C. Calhoun, and is essentially that of the Confederate States of America.  It would be well for progressives to pay close attention to Jaffa, because he outlines the fundamental principles on which liberalism is based.  They may not like the specific policy choices he derives from this examination, but they will find no more pointed dissection of the dominant brand of modern conservatism--and they may find, unsettlingly, that some of their own ideas stem from the same flawed principles.

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