Ira Stoll on the Continuing Debate Between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

What sound like fights between capitalism and socialism or
between “religious traditionalism and secular cosmopolitanism,”
turn out to be battles between “progressive liberalism” and
“conservative liberalism,” echoes of the more than 200-year-old
dispute between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke. That’s the argument
of Yuval Levin, whose The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas
Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left
is published this week
by Basic Books. Mr. Levin provides a valuable service by dusting
off the writings of Burke and Paine and by clearly, concisely, and
accessibly summarizing them in a way that highlights their
relevance to contemporary politics and policy. The monarchist Burke
and the religious skeptic Paine, an early supporter of the bloody
French revolution, would seem to be unlikely models for today’s
American politicians of either party, concedes Ira Stoll. But Mr.
Levin has made a convincing case that, 200 years later, we can
still learn from both men.

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from Hit & Run

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