The Magazine

My 'Public Interest'

A personal account.

Dec 18, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 14 • By IRVING KRISTOL
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That our magazine was able to produce and publicize first-rate scholarly work reveals that the American academic community, ideological as it had become, nevertheless to some degree continued to respect old-fashioned academic standards. Will it last? That's not for me to say. What I can say is that my years at The Public Interest permitted me to observe how the idea of "national greatness" can be consistent with a welfare state that does not frustrate the spirit of enterprise and that does not instill risk-aversiveness as a universal virtue.

We have seen in the case of Europe how a social democratic welfare state discourages population growth as well as economic growth, and suppresses the virtues traditionally associated with "manliness" in foreign policy. Europe is now paying a terrible price, to the point where it is in the process of losing its historic identity, because of the sovereignty it has accorded the social democratic ethos over both domestic and foreign policy. That the two are inseparably intertwined has never been more convincingly demonstrated.

True, the American version of "national greatness" has recently run into some local difficulties out there in the Middle East, and I suppose that the idea itself will be muted for some time ahead. But I note that the American population has just reached 300 million, with 400 million pretty firmly projected for 2040. So my grandchildren will be living in a country with the world's third largest population, the strongest economy, and the most powerful military establishment. Our critics may demand ever-greater humility from our ever-greater power; that would be a historic first were it ever to happen. So, for better or worse, "national greatness" is being thrust upon us.

I realize that my Public Interest, linking its work in economic and social policy to our national destiny as a world power, is a special interpretation that others will find questionable. But I trust that expanding the role of The Public Interest as I have done will surely not diminish its historic significance.

--Irving Kristol