Lincoln’s Fathers

Abraham Lincoln

One afternoon on their way to court, Abraham Lincoln made a startling confession to his law partner and future biographer William Herndon. As they made their way along a rutted, bumpy Illinois road, Lincoln said that his mother, Nancy Hanks, was illegitimate. Her father was a “well-bred Virginia farmer or planter…”

Review: ‘Generation Unbound’ by Isabel Sawhill

Supreme Court Birth Control

Articulating the belief of many conservatives, Senator Marco Rubio recently said that “the greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty is one that decreases the probability of child poverty by 82 percent. But it isn’t a government spending program. It’s called marriage.”

Henry Kissinger’s ‘World Order’: An Aggressive Reshaping of the Past

Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger projects the public image of a judicious elder statesman whose sweeping knowledge of history lets him rise above the petty concerns of today, in order to see what is truly in the national interest. Yet as Kissinger once said of Ronald Reagan, his knowledge of history is “tailored to support his firmly held preconceptions.” Instead of expanding his field of vision, Kissinger’s interpretation of the past becomes a set of blinders that prevent him from understanding either his country’s values or its interests. Most importantly, he cannot comprehend how fidelity to those values may advance the national interest.

A Satan of a Certain Age

The Financial Times Oxford Literary Festival, Oxfordshire, Britain - 27 Mar 2014

Partially as a consequence of being much admired, the novelist Ian McEwan has also been much criticized. The dominant trend of the complaints, aside from the general notion that he has been overpraised, is that he is too much a creature of his class: that the upper-middle-class, relatively powerful, relatively wealthy characters who populate his books (and, presumably, his life) are obnoxious in ways to which his narrative gaze is blind. It is said that they, and he, mistake their padded bourgeois concerns for proper objects of Serious Novels.

Review: ‘Putin’s Kleptocracy’

Vladimir Putin

Prominent 19th century Russian historian Nikolai Karamzin famously described the Russian government in one word: voruyut—they steal. This description remains true today.

Russian scholar Karen Dawisha’s new book, Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? covers the latest episode in Russia’s long and painful history of government venality: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Putin is “both a product and a producer” of Russia’s pervasive corruption, according to Dawisha. The decay is on a scale few in the West truly understand. “In the West it might seem remarkable that anyone whose whole career is marked by allegations of corruption should rise to become a three-term president of any country,” she writes about Putin, “In Russia it is less surprising.”

It’s A Dog’s Life

Photo provided by Rowan Scarborough

As a national security writer for the Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough usually writes about weighty topics such as Islamic extremism and Russian aggression. But in his most recent work, Scarborough takes on dog parks. In a witty novel, he draws from six years of personal experience to satirize fanatical dog lovers and the eccentric communities in which they live.

The Future and Its Enemies

Depiction of a futuristic city

In 2011, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, worried that the future might be over.

In a cover story for National Review, the entrepreneur and investor argued that, “when tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains.” Only drastic changes, he said, could sustain the centuries-long (and historically atypical) stream of progress that the rise of the West has represented.

The Liberal Gilded Age

San Jose skyline

The vision embedded in the Founding documents of the United States was of a free and equal people. At the time of the nation’s founding, this was not so much a fantasy but—with the obvious and inhumane exception of slavery—empirical reality. Class distinctions were extant, but they were not necessarily pronounced. The same was true of inequality in wealth and status. Northeastern financial families like the Schuylers had an edge over the yeoman farmers of Shenandoah Valley, of course, but it was nothing compared to the rigid class divisions in continental Europe.