Correspondence . . . .

PASSION, POLITICS, AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

In the May issue of the Review, Professor David Broyles judged our book, American Government: Origins, Institutions, and Public Policy, to be "the best text available." Yet in view of the severity of his criticisms, this judgment seems to reflect more a low opinion of the other texts than a positive evaluation of our own.

Broyles objected to our text on two main grounds: first, that by defining the United States to be some sort of modern liberal regime, we elevate the subpolitical above the political; and second, that we undermine "spiritedness" and thus weaken our defenses against totalitarian governments. While it might be interesting at some point to discuss our differences with Broyles, we must use the limited space available to perform the unpleasant task of correcting at least some of the misrepresentations of our book that occurred in his review.

We begin with Broyles's contention that we undermine "spiritedness." Broyles bases this charge on the claim that we espouse a "Jeffersonian" as opposed to a "Hamiltonian" view of foreign affairs. He summarizes our position as follows:

. . . . these authors believe, it is necessary to overcome the Hamiltonian disposition to believe that "self interest was the motive force behind the foreign policy of all nations" (p. 603). It is necessary, they say, to employ instead the Jeffersonian view that standards of individual behavior can become the standards of nations.

But this is not what we say. While we use the Jeffersonian position to explain how many in the United States have viewed foreign affairs, and while we judge it in certain respects-but not the respect Broyles discusses-to be right, we explicitly deny what Broyles says we affirm. The conclusion to the chapter in question begins as follows:

 

The experience of the United States has in general demonstrated that Hamilton was more correct than Jefferson: the relations among the great collectivities that make up the world's state system cannot be governed merely by the same maxims which Amer­icans follow, either in their private lives or in their domestic politics. (pp. 633-34)

Broyles then searches our book for a phrase to prove an alleged softness toward totalitarianism. We somehow ignore, he tells us, the Founders' teaching about foreign affairs and "ignominiously treat the difference between freedom and totali­tarianism as 'an ideological split that exacerbates world tensions'" (p. 634). The great ignominy appears in the text in the following sentence:

 

Since World War II, when the protective isolation that the United States had enjoyed since the early nineteenth century ended, Americans have been relearning the lessons the founders taught. Today, those lessons must be applied in a foreign policy setting characterized by a continuing need for military security, an ideological split that exacer­bates world tensions, countervailing forces for cooperation, and a decline in the usefulness of the distinction between foreign and domestic policies. (p. 634)

The passage clearly suggests not only the need to learn from the Founders, but also the greater problems that we face in making foreign policy today in a more difficult international setting. The point about the rise of ideological conflict as a feature of the modern situation in international affairs-a feature which differentiates it from the situation among the chief world powers of the nineteenth century-is a standard theme in the analysis of international relations, developed at length, for example, by Raymond Aron. How this point undermines spiritedness is unclear. And it is inaccurate, not to say ignominious, to imply that we fail to recognize the differences between the two systems:

 

In the Soviet Union, for example, the state owns all the major industries and controls the labor unions. It determines what is taught in the schools (there are no private schools), and it runs television, radio, and major newspapers. The aim of such systems is the total control of society by the state-hence the term "totalitarian" government. . . . It is testimony, however, to the resilience of the human spirit that such massive efforts at brainwashing meet resistance and that governments employing these techniques, despite all their efforts, must also have the recourse to terror. (pp. 14-15, 119)

Similar distortions characterize Broyles's pres­entation of our position on the character of the American regime. Certainly there are differences between us and Broyles here, for we evidently committed a mistake (in Broyles's view) by arguing that the United States is some kind of liberal regime. Fine. There is room, we suppose, for argument over whether the Declaration of Independence meant in part to say, as we claim, that public authority "should for the most part remove itself from imposing a specific end or way of life on its citi­zens. . . ." (p. 7).

But while it is accurate to say that we classify the United States as a kind of liberal regime, Broyles for some reason feels the need to distort our position and depict it in the most extreme light. He begins by summarizing the properties we assign to modern liberal regimes and quotes us to the effect that modern government "does not 'recognize responsi­bilities of saving souls and managing the economy'" (p. 8). Broyles takes this quote out of context and from a sentence in which we are summarizing others' ideas. The sentence reads: "These thinkers [i.e. Locke and Smith] held that government should desist from its previously recognized responsibili­ties of saving souls and managing the economy, tasks which it often pursued by arbitrary and tyrannical means" (p. 8).

Even though we are naive enough to believe that the Founding had something to do with establishing certain principles of individual liberty, we make absolutely clear on the very same page that the Founders did not intend to establish a regime that was "liberal" in the sense of recognizing the primacy of every claim to individual rights:

 

[T]he original defenders of Liberalism, who intended to confine the sphere of government, never proposed completely ending governmental support for certain values and community standards, especially at the state and local levels. Accordingly, debates over the government's role in shaping the nation's way of life did not end in 1787, although the terms of the debate shifted dramatically and the range of permissible forms of government intervention were greatly reduced. (p. 8)

Broyles continues on the same theme by asserting that we take as "examples of liberty . . . speech uttered for any purpose that moves the speaker, a competing but equally whimsical demand for privacy, and women's campaigns for claims they deem 'equal.'" Broyles's account would suggest that we somehow endorse these claims. But the discussion is quite clear in pointing out that these are rights that some proclaim. The reader is then presented with the very different views of writers like George Will and Harry Clor, both of whom are more than able to hold up their end of the argument. While we make no judgment at this point, we conclude the section as follows:

 

Yet at the same time, the founders were aware that a republican form of government depends in some measure on the existence of certain moral attributes within the populace. The acceptance of Liberalism was not, accordingly, meant to end all political and cultural debate about the "way of life" in society. (p. 11)

Let us cite one final example of how Broyles misrepresents our position. While lecturing us on our "misunderstanding of fundamental political principles" regarding certain important constitu­tional developments, Broyles provides a summary and commentary on what is supposed to be our view:

 

According to the authors, constitutional principles were in flux when the suffrage was extended, first to blacks and then to women, and when the social welfare state was adopted. Each of these changes has "added a distinctly new element to the original political system" (p. 144). This might come as something of a surprise to those who inaugurated the changes. Neither the various extensions of the franchise nor the welfare state was initially proposed as a change in the regime. Rather, their advocates claimed they were fulfillments of the regime's ideals.

There he goes again! The quote he cites (from p. 144) is from a completely different context and refers not to the matters Broyles is discussing (i.e., suffrage and the welfare state), but to the advent of political parties as institutions. Here is the sentence we wrote, from the chapter on political parties:

 

As agents of change that emerge in part from the mass public, parties have added a distinctly new element to the original political system. (p. 144)

Broyles has once again twisted our words. While we clearly have certain differences with him about the process of constitutional change, we state as clearly as possible that the claims of suffrage were related to first principles of the regime:

 

Beginning in the 1840s women began to organize to achieve the right to vote. The movement for women's equality, like that for the blacks', could appeal to basic American principles to gain support. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, a crucial milestone in the national coordination of the women's movement, adopted as its statement of principles the Declaration of Independence (with, of course, the clear understanding that it meant that "all men and women are created equal"). (p. 596)

This reply has no doubt been as tedious to read as it was to write. It could have gone on much longer, all to the same effect. Why Professor Broyles should have failed to present an accurate statement of our views is a mystery to us. It is all the more mysterious in that in some instances our position would seem to be much closer to the one he would like us to hold than the one he accuses us of holding. We would welcome the opportunity to engage in a real exchange on the substance of our differences, but only if he begins by respecting our "right" to a fair hearing.

– James Ceaser
University of Virginia

– Lawrence S. OToole
Auburn University

– Joseph M. Bessette

– Glen Thurow 
University of Dallas

 

DAVID BROYLES REPLIES:

Professor Ceaser and his associates forego the opportunity to discuss their differences with me, and undertake instead to correct what they consider to be my misrepresentations of their text. This is understandable. But if they had confronted the differences, it would have become clear that I have not misrepresented them at all.

The authors put forward some alternate citations which, on the whole, do more to confirm my criti­cism than to invalidate it. Rhetorical necessities oblige this emphasis-necessities to attract the largest possible audience by means of showing an apparent neutrality toward a great variety of dis­parate reader interests. It is often hard to be sure of the authors' true purposes, but I remain convinced that my selections represent the text better than do the authors' own afterthoughts.

As they reiterate here, the authors of American Government do indeed find it necessary for America to behave toward other nations inconsistently with republican "maxims which Americans follow, either in their private lives or in their domestic politics." To make external actions consistent with internal, it would be necessary to subordinate the former to the latter, according to the logic of the text. It would be necessary for America to "exhibit buoyant confidence in pressing its example on the rest of the world" (p. 612).

This is what my full sentence originally said about the chapter on foreign policy. Unfortunately, only a part of the sentence was quoted in the response. The interesting point is that in the book, and reiterated here, is a view that republican government-another weary example of "the great collectivities that make up the world's state system"-lacks the spirit to defend itself. It can only adopt that spirit, as it is forced to do so by international conflict, in tension with its republican principles.

As if to confirm this, the authors go on to insist that there has been a "rise of ideological conflict" in the modern situation. Ideologies are, by definition, rationalizations for regimes that cannot defend their principles before the world. On the other hand, if the American regime is a just one, those actions necessary to defend it against aggressive tyrannies are presumptively just, and not inconsistent with the justice of domestic policies.

The authors' unspirited republicanism is a regime where human freedom is not an intrinsic expression of the regime's justice. Rather, it is an expression of random choices for "values." Such choices are essentially arbitrary and not grounded in nature. It does not alter the essentially whimsical character of values to present arguments for and against them, as the text does. . . .

Furthermore, it does not detract from the whimsical character of values to say that a govern­ment dedicated to their pursuit must forbid certain options in order to maximize the total range avail­able to most people. Unspirited republicanism must, in the words of the text, "depend in some measure on the existence of certain moral attributes within the populace."

Thus, central to the text's analysis is its distinction of values from facts. With respect to the American regime, the facts of the political order are portrayed as instrumental to the values of society and culture. These values are quite con­ceivably also the values of a totalitarian political order. The totalitarians claim their cruelty is only temporary and instrumental, and their claim is never rejected. The reader is left to muse on the possibility that the cruel politics of totalitarians are but inept means toward their ultimately praise­worthy ideological aims. The text is indeed soft on totalitarianism, despite the authors' denials, because its criticisms of totalitarianism can easily be read as criticisms of technique only. In fact, it will in all likelihood be read this way by students whose characters incline them toward political life. Such students will likely become partisans for international liberalism.

My characterization of the text can be most easily verified in the light of its organization. Society precedes and then overshadows Constitu­tional offices. Civil rights, public opinion, interest groups, and political parties, matters subordinate to Constitutional politics for the Founders, have been moved to center stage. Why are these subjects not presented within the context of the Founders' presentation and defense of the American Consti­tutional order? The Founders were not economic royalists, to use the words of an earlier generation. Nor were they less interested than we are in helping the poor, or involving the public in political life, to use the contemporary words of this text. They certainly should not be presented in a fashion which forecloses discussion of these contemporary accusations.

Already endangered by a massive Soviet arms build-up, America seems equally threatened by domestic lawlessness, pornography, and listlessness. Meanwhile, authors who should know better join their current political science brethren by ignoring the analysis and prescriptions native to the political teaching of the American Founders. Instead, they all too often lapse into the orientation and concerns of contemporary liberalism and its academic entre­preneurs-an approach which rightly has been said to fiddle while the Western democracies are consumed, sacrificing everything, even life, by forgetting those high purposes which once elicited the devotion of serious men.

 

Wake forest University

 

MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON

To the Editors:

I dissent from your review of Moscow on The Hudson (May 1984). You say the film praises or portrays America as a place whose essence and greatness recedes with the freedom to be decadent. I don't see this in the movie. Vladimir, alone among the Russians, does not rush around Bloomingdale's to buy jeans. The opulence of Bloomingdale's is not the final cause of his defection. He wants to be free. What's wrong with that? No respect for the duties that accompany freedom, you say. I disagree. When the KGB men try to force Vladimir back on the bus, a policeman ends the argument by saying to the KGB, "This is New York City, he [Vladimir] can do whatever he wants!" (The audience I was part of laughed and cheered at this line.) Ah, you say, nihilism-stark, naked, nauseating nihilism.

But the rest of the movie demonstrates other­wise. Vladimir can't do whatever he wants. There are limits to freedom. He can't play great jazz. He forms friendships, with a black and a woman, that impose duties on him-duties that he comes to accept. (Compare Vladimir's relationship with a woman in America to what we see of his relationship to a woman in Russia.) It is true that Vladimir becomes disenchanted at one point. But the lesson is this: It is difficult to be free. The movie performs a wonderful service by reminding us of this, especially by doing so through a pointed contrast with the U.S.S.R. Besides, Vladimir is rescued from his self-pitying disenchantment by a fellow Russian immigrant who more or less tells him to stop acting like a baby and to start appreciating what he has. Another valuable lesson.

Contrary to what your review implied, all of the characters assume the duties of American citizenship. (None of the characters, not even finally the unscrupulous Cuban lawyer, aims only at money-making.) The movie opens with Vladimir giving aid and comfort to an immigrant. He thus shows that he understands and acts on the founda­tion of all duties for an American, a citizen in a nation of immigrants and strangers: He assumes the duty of helping another immigrant and stranger. What could better demonstrate the meaning of the root of all American morality, the belief that all men are created equal, than the willingness to accept and help strangers, immigrants, with their odd speech, peculiar manners, and strange foods and beliefs? It is a rather prosaic demonstration but very true, I think, to the way our principles appear in everyday life. Vladimir does appear more comfortable among his fellow Russian émigrés, but that only reinforces the wonderfulness of American generosity toward strangers. In one sense it is against human nature to be generous to strangers, and that contrariness to nature is what gives American generosity its nobility. Vladimir and his immigrant friends in the film (including his black friend) come to share in that nobility. The film reminds us of that nobility and of our duties.

Besides, how could the Review dislike a movie that exposes the sham of so-called "economic and social rights" by having Vladimir and his black friend discuss how bad unemployment is and then have Vladimir respond to the remark that "slavery may have been bad, but at least there was work" by saying "Sounds like the Soviet Union." That's Vladimir's first joke in English and one we should not forget.

Finally, your review of "Moscow" almost seemed to despise the simple, homely character of American duty, a condescension toward America typical of the bourgeois-baiters on the left, who also disliked the film. The attack ended by invoking the need for the sterner virtues called forth by war. But we are a modern republic, not an ancient one. Given the record, I'll take our "bourgeois" way rather than the various modern alternatives.

– David Tucker
Arlington, Virginia