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SUICIDE OF THE WEST by Jonah Goldberg


How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy

by Jonah Goldberg

Pub Date: April 24th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-101-90493-0
Publisher: Crown Forum

A conservative political commentator sees democracy and capitalism in peril.

Goldberg (The Tyranny of Cliché: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, 2012, etc.), a National Review senior editor and member of the Fox News All-Stars, continues the passionate, polemical celebration of conservative values—and disdain for the liberal left—that informed his previous two books. The health and future of our nation, he argues, are being undermined by tribalism (read: identity politics) and a wrongheaded conviction that the state can be “the only source of meaning in our lives.” As a conservative, he disparages both the tea party, which he once heartily supported, and Donald Trump. The tea party “married populism to the principles of the Founding, demanding the government live within its means and abide by the Constitution,” but it fell into tribalism after being unfairly branded by the media as “racist yokels and boobs.” Trump, “boorish and crude,” lacks character, much less consistent beliefs in any ideology. True conservatism, Goldberg asserts, “is a bundle of ideological commitments: limited government, natural rights, the importance of traditional values, patriotism, gratitude” and “the beliefs that ideas matter and that character matters.” Gratitude ranks high in that list, and the author insists that Americans should be thankful for what he—drawing on scholars such as Ernest Gellner—calls the “Miracle,” modern capitalism. Emerging in 18th-century England, the Miracle “is an attitude, expressed in new ideas and the rhetoric that accompanies them.” Among those new ideas was an “ideology of merit, industriousness, innovation, contracts, and rights.” Before the Miracle, “notions of betterment, innovation, and improvement were seen, literally, as heresy.” But the Miracle rewards “earned success,” which, the author asserts, “is the secret to meaningful happiness.” As for economic inequality, the author claims that the free-market system is “the only anti-poverty system ever invented.” A supporter of immigration, Goldberg also supports assimilation; civil society works best “in ethnically or culturally homogeneous communities.”

A fairly straightforward conservative argument that partisan politics and lack of reverence for capitalism portend the demise of democracy.