Books in Brief

The Retreat of Western Liberalism, by Edward Luce (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press; 240 pp., $24.00).  Almost by the author’s admission, the title of this book is a falsehood.  Liberalism is not retreating.  It is being pushed back by “populists,” which is what liberals call people who are against liberalism because they are, for the most part, old-fashioned democrats in an age of illiberal democracy.  Edward Luce is an Englishman who works today as the American correspondent for the Financial Times.  As a former speechwriter for Larry Summers when he was the U.S. secretary of the treasury under President Clinton, Mr. Luce does not like populists at all.  Indeed, he finds them frightening, and believes they are likely to be even more so after President Trump has departed the scene and is succeeded by someone who thinks as he does but is far more competent in realizing his agenda.  “Populists,” he says, operate by identifying and persecuting scapegoats (immigrants, Muslims), and by disseminating false news.  “For populists, facts are either with them or against them.”  (The same cannot be said, apparently, of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN.)  Luce was encouraged to write this book by friends immediately following the election of Donald Trump who as President, he...

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