Neoconservative gadfly Lind bites fiercely at right and left -- and just about every American institution in between. The author, executive editor of the National Interest, has garnered much attention with his articles on the decline of intellectual conservatism, immigration reform, and other touchy subjects. His first book will add fuel to several fires he's already set. Seeking to define the American character -- a construct that seems increasingly abstract in the era of culture wars, canon reform, and the Republican Third Revolution -- Lind traces the transformation of American society from its English origins to its multicultural present, a trajectory that he handles with all the depth of a junior-college survey course. He is more interesting when he moves into more controversial areas. Quoting Lyndon Johnson approvingly, he demands that the United States establish a policy of zero-net immigration and ask of would-be citizens, ""What can you do for our country?"" Defending his position at length, he decries conservative nativism and liberal relativism alike, arguing that unskilled immigration works to the disadvantage of the American underclass and benefits only the wealthy. He has unkind words for current smash-the-welfare-state dogma, remarking that ""the white overclass can afford to be indifferent to the decline of the wages and quality of life of the average American because its members have devised ways to insulate themselves from rotting cities, poor jobs, crumbling urban public schools, wandering maniacs, crime."" No orthodoxy escapes Lind, whose text provides endless material for debate. His fondness for hyperbole and farfetched historical analogies sometimes undermines his arguments, and many readers will dismiss his simplistic call for a western European cultural ideal based on multiparty democracy and proportional representation as no more than a pipe dream. (For another look at redefining American identity, see David A. Hollinger, Postethnic America, p. 608.) Still, an intelligent albeit unfocused foray, far richer -- and much worthier of serious consideration -- than the usual polemic.