Why the Left Should Miss Irving Kristol

It was sad to hear that Irving Kristol passed away this afternoon. The founding father of neoconservatism leaves behind an extraordinary legacy as a promoter of ideas, as a mentor to so many on the right, and as a father and husband. At a time when neoconservatism is so wildly resented on the left, it's worth remembering the noble tradition that Kristol founded most notably through The Public Interest, the small journal he introduced to the world in 1965 with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Daniel Bell. Later, Nathan Glazer would replace Bell. The journal brought appropriate skepticism and rigor to the prevailing faith in government that held sway at the apex of the Johnson administration and Nelson Rockefeller's big government rule in New York. The magazine asked important questions about whether programs really worked and what were the limits of public action. If you were a serious student of public policy you could disagree with the magazine but you couldn't ignore it. Whether it was James Q. Wilson on crime or Nathan Glazer on affirmative action, the magazine was essential reading and Kristol himself. I remember being recently out of college, working in public policy and being enamored of this essay on the twentieth anniversary of the magazine's founding and the appropriate skepticism the magazine brought to bear on what seemed to be deep seated panics of the time--a fear of "automation," for instance or the "urban crisis." Other journals and institutions would try to reform liberalism from within--The Washington Monthly and The New Republic, where I worked. The now much-dismissed Democratic Leadership Council comes to mind, too. But the first broad strokes of a serious criticism of modern liberalism were painted by Kristol. You don't need to agree with everything he wrote--or certainly with where his disciples took the country--to admire his work on this sad day.

Presented by

Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors at a world-class life sciences lab are trying to change the way people think about their health.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Videos

Why Is Google Making Human Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

Just In