I had to read several books for a class I took recently. I wanted to give you a quick review of some of them.
This first book, Slouching Towards Gomorrah was the main book in the class. The class, by the way, was History and Philosophy of Education from a Christian Perspective. The book was used as a launch point for our main paper. It is written by Robert H. Bork. Those a bit older than me remember him for the hotly contested Senate debate as to whether he should become a Supreme Court Justice under appointment by President Reagan (I don’t remember this at all, but all my older friends do).
The book starts out necessarily slow and difficult. I say necessarily because you really have to have an understanding of terms like “Modern Liberalism” to follow what he is driving at in the book. If you could somehow skip the first section of the book and get into the meat of it, the book would be much easier to read. In fact, once I did finish that section, I really did have problems putting the book down. It took me several months to trudge through that first section (I was not too persistent) which covers about 120 pages. The next 250 pages I read in 4 days.
At that point (part 2) you move into the examples of how modern liberalism plays out in today’s society. There are many interesting examples and case studies that he walks the reader through. It is definitely worth making it through the first section to arrive at parts 2 and 3.
His basic premise is found on page 5 and says: “The defining characteristics of modern liberalism are radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than of opportunities) and radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification).”
Though “equality” and “individualism” seem to be opposite terms to describe a philosophy, he goes on to explain that equality is sought in areas of competition and merit whereas individualism is used in the pursuit of pleasure and arts where there is no competition. Equality is sought in schools and in the work force. As a radical liberal you cannot allow for one person to excel over another. This is where Affirmative Action, Outcome Based Education and Political Correctness have their basis. Individualism comes into areas of euthanasia and abortion.
The ideals that the US is built upon (i.e.: ability to work hard and get ahead as well as the right to own your own property) are negated with radical egalitarianism. We all must be the same. If someone is smarter, or stronger, or prettier, he should be held back so those who cannot excel in those areas have an equal outcome. This is not about equal opportunity. Opportunity should be equal for everyone. But the outcome should be based on the individual. You cannot expect a person with an I.Q. of 50 to compete in business like a person with an I.Q. of 125. They should both be allowed to try, but the outcome should be based on their abilities. But, not in the mind of someone who fights for radical egalitarianism.
Radical individualism brings about chaos. When everyone is allowed to live as an individual without being subject to order and reason, you end up with chaos. This individuality, of course, cannot overstep the bounds of other people’s equality.
I did not like the way the author made certain assumptions about the reader. It was like the book was written for the 55+ crowd. I did not grow up in the 50s and 60s. I don’t know who the Black Panthers are. And, it was never explained in the book. There are several references to groups and movements from the 50s to 70s that were totally lost on me. A few lines to explain groups like the Black Panthers would have gone a long way to helping younger readers. I am 37, so no spring chicken, but there were many references that I just did not understand in the book.
All in all, it was a good read. I have heard about the book for several years and was glad to be forced to finally read it. I may have eventually gotten around to reading it anyway, but this was as good a time as any. Plus, I get college credit for it this way.
Published in 1996. The edition I read was updated in 2003. Harper Collins. 418 pages. You can click on the picture of the book to be taken to Amazon.com’s website about the book.