CUTTING EDGES: Making Sense of the Eighties by Charles Krauthammer

CUTTING EDGES: Making Sense of the Eighties

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A wide-ranging collection of thoughtful (sometimes, self-consciously so) essays that afford a consistent progress report on America's sociopolitical life since the start of the 1980's. Most of the pieces included here were originally published in The New Republic where Krauthammer settled after a brief career in psychiatry. ""Medicine taught me science, a crucial form of literacy without which one misses the singularity of this country,"" he observes in his introduction. ""Doctoring taught me about real suffering, which I can now distinguish from more literary forms of anguish.""The compilation's offerings vary in approach, length, and subject matter, but the end result is a spirited defense of liberal values (like those espoused by John Stuart Mill) which have as much to do with freedom and the obligations of power as alleviating social ills. Thus, Krauthammer laments the blurring of moral distinctions, e.g., promiscuous application of the term genocide to ""almost every kind of perceived injustice, from Vietnam. . .to Third World birth control."" He chides not only secularists and sectarians whose holy war threatens the worthy middle ground of civil religion but also the Reagan administration's evident unwillingness to be candid on the score of its supportable backing for Nicaragua's contras. Likewise, he mourns the passing of liberal internationalism and the emergence of a new isolationism. While Krauthammer responds confidently to many of the era's great questions, including nuclear deterrence ("". . .the freeze is not a plan; it is a sentiment.""), he does not overlook either passing fancies or issues that bristle with moral ambiguities. In fact, the author skewers the ""loopy thinking"" of Jane Fonda's Workout Book with the same judicious relish as he undermines apologists for so-called pay equity (in an entry titled ""From Bad to Worth""), capitalism (""which, though the first system in history to lift men out of economic misery, randomly visits misery on selected groups""), and Baby Fae's doctors (who failed to heed the Kantian injunction that human beings must be treated as ends, not means). Engrossing commentary from an elegantly analytic mind.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1985
Publisher: Random House