One of the reasons that the Claremont Review of Books is my favorite magazine is that each issue constitutes a virtual education in politics. Another of the reasons is that the CRB wages intellectual battle on behalf of the founding principles of the United States. (Subscribe online here.) The editors of the CRB have made available a few of my favorite pieces from the just-publshed Fall issue.
One of the manifold pleasures of reading the CRB is its occasional demolition of the work of a liberal icon. Alan Dershowitz may not be a liberal icon anymore — his stalwart defense of Israel seems to have deprived him of that status — but he has earned the respect of many (myself included) for a certain kind of principled liberalism. In his new book, Professor Dershowitz attempts to set forth a philosophical account of the principles underlying his liberalism. It is this philosophoical account of his principles that comes in for demolition in the CRB review of Dershowitz’s new book.
Professor Hadley Arkes reviews Dershowitz’s Rights from Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights: “The rights and wrongs of Alan Dershowitz.” Professor Arkes generously reviews the book — generously in the Socratic sense. He points out to Professor Dershowitz with clarity and wit how badly he goes astray — as he does go astray — in trying — as he does try — to be moral in a (Dershowitzean) world where nothing is right or wrong. With Socratic generosity, Arkes invites Dershowitz to a moral and reasonable conversation, which Dershowitz can only refuse by being immoral and unreasonable.