Matt Purple, managing editor: I have just finished Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic, back in 2016 when it was released. Levin is a man of the Right, but amidst the redwood questions that have blotted out our old political paradigms, he comes off as a moderate. Asked to choose between individualism and statism, he sees both as corrosive and inextricably linked to each other. Man cannot live on bread and circuses alone, and presented with little else in the way of community, he will inevitably turn to the federal government, a distant behemoth befitting of lonely times. The challenge, Levin says, is to replenish those middling institutions that act as padding between individuals and the state: churches, community centers, families, town councils.
On the old Left-or-Right question, Levin mostly distributes pox. The Left he accuses of embracing too much individualism in man’s moral life and too much statism in his economic life, hearkening back to the 1960s when such an overlap seemed possible. The Right, meanwhile, went libertarian on economics and consolidationist on cultural matters, driven by nostalgia for the 1980s. Neither of those time periods, Levin insists, is retrievable in a world where the Internet-and-iPhone genie is very much out of the bottle. Our task is to accept that we are more individualized than we used to be, that ages past are behind us, and set out to build the sturdy-yet-diffused communities that make sense in our time. Levin thus cautions against both reaction and harum-scarum attempts to rebuild everything from the ground up. Edmund Burke, who co-starred in Levin’s earlier work The Great Debate, creaks around in The Fractured Republic, too.
TAC’s staff had the opportunity to meet Levin last week at a D.C. restaurant that, we didn’t realize, was also hosting a watch party for the Panama-Belgium World Cup game. It was an insightful conversation periodically interrupted by bedlam whenever Panama took a goal shot. Levin stressed that his wonkish policy journal National Affairs is doing very well, and said Donald Trump ironically offers the intellectual Right its best chance at revival, since he’s tossed everyone’s first principles up in the air. I hope he’s right. What to read next? Inspired by a that Jack Howard Burke recently wrote for TAC, I may have another go at Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, a modern conservative classic. I take some issue with Bloom’s ideas, but few writers have styled so many insights so beautifully. Or maybe it’s time for some lighter fare. I hear Christopher Buckley has a new novel out.
Daniel Kishi, associate editor: The Front Porch Republic emerged in the aftermath of the Great Recession, advocating for such principles as political decentralization, economic localism, and cultural regionalism. By extolling the long-forgotten and often-ignored virtues of limits and place, it quickly became an indispensable voice in a national discourse that was becoming increasingly incoherent.
After laying dormant for a year or so, FPR resumed publication of essays on a regular basis this spring, this time under the able editorship of Jeffrey Bilbro. It also recently published a new book of essays titled Localism in the Mass Age: A Front Porch Republic Manifesto. Edited by Mark T. Mitchell and Jason Peters, it features many of the FPR stalwarts: Patrick J. Deneen, Jeff Polet, John Cuddeback, and Jeremy Beer to name but a few.
The collection of 30 essays covers such topics as politics and economics, art and education, and technology and popular culture, all of which reaffirm the values that made, and continue to make, FPR a unique and necessary platform. Favorites thus far include: TAC’s own Bill Kauffman on returning to his hometown of Batavia (and what might well be the most eloquent ode to a minor league baseball team I’ve ever read); David Bosworth on the demise of virtue in virtual America; Michael P. Federici on eschewing Wilsonianism and Bushism and embracing realism and restraint instead (very TACish); and Mark T. Mitchell with practical advice for city- and suburban-dwellers (such as I) who have a romantic (and perhaps naive) longing for a more agrarian way of life.