New Mag on the Block
The quarterly journal National Affairs debuts.
7:00 AM, Sep 8, 2009 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Let us be among the first to welcome, with trumpets and fanfare, the new quarterly, National Affairs.
In his note in the first issue, editor Yuval Levin explains the magazine's purpose:
"National Affairs is a new quarterly journal that aspires to help Americans think a little more clearly about the challenges of governing ourselves. We will publish essays about public policy, society, culture, politics, and the world of ideas, with an eye to what a responsible and thoughtful American ought to know and to think about, and with a special concern for domestic policy and political economy, broadly understood."
As Levin goes on to say, the time is right for such a journal,
"because the challenges of governing ourselves today are great and daunting, and are poorly understood. In the wake of a bewildering economic crisis, the foundations of America's post-war economic order have suddenly come into question. We are struggling with the exploding costs and inefficiencies of health care and entitlements, and fiscal disaster looms as our society ages. Americans are anxious about barriers to social mobility, threats to the country's competitiveness, and our economic and educational edge in an era of globalization. We are in the midst of a long-term breakdown of traditional social, cultural, and family arrangements, which has hit the weakest among us especially hard. Some of our key governing and regulatory institutions--especially those designed to address an array of 20th-century needs--are showing signs of strain and decay that call for reform....Meeting our challenges will require us to think a little more clearly about them. To think a little more clearly means first of all to be better informed, and National Affairs will publish essays that bring to bear hard facts and figures and employ the social sciences, even as we remain aware of their limitations. It also means thinking more deeply, and we will publish essays that look to the philosophical foundations of our public life. And it means thinking constructively, so that we will publish not only diagnoses but, when possible, proposals for plausible remedies."
"National Affairs will have a point of view, but not a party line. It will begin from confidence and pride in America, from a sense that our challenge is to build on our strengths to address our weaknesses, and from the conviction that chief among those strengths are our democratic capitalism, our ideals of liberty and equality under the law, and our roots in the longstanding traditions of the West. We will seek to cultivate an open-minded empiricism, a decent respect for the awesome complexity of life in society, and a healthy skepticism of the serene technocratic confidence that is too often the dominant flavor of social science and public policy. And we will take politics seriously."
The first issue, checking in at an impressive and handsome 180 pages, is chock-full of serious but lively contributions. I was particularly struck by two essays, by Bill Schambra and Bill McClay, that explore the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Obama's technocratic liberalism--and its limitations and deficiencies. But there are terrific contributions by Jim Capretta (on "The New Middle-Class Contract), Luigi Zingales (on "Capitalism After the Crisis"), and many more.
So take a look at nationalaffairs.com, subscribe, and instruct all your friends and associates to do so too.
And while you're taking a look, note that the complete archives of National Affairs' great predecessor, The Public Interest, are available for the first time at the website. These 40 years of Public Interest articles are an incomparable resource for those who were too young to benefit from them at the time--and for those of us who were around but might not have a perfect memory of everything PI published.
Between the new National Affairs and the newly available Public Interest archives, we're going to have an extraordinary amount of material that can stimulate fresh thinking, and penetrating re-thinking, about many of our fundamental domestic problems and challenges. This will be a great boon not just to conservatives but to all thoughtful students of American public policy and politics in the years ahead.
Congratulations to Yuval Levin and his colleagues--Meghan Clyne, Hillel Ofek, and Kevin Vance--for a fine inaugural issue. Time to get to work on the next one!
William Kristol is editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.