In the overgrown garden of Spring books, three authors stand out as worthy of attention. Two are new blossoms, one a hardy perennial. And each has been cultivated in one of the Claremont Institute's fellowship programs.
Start with the perennial: Dinesh D'Souza (Publius Fellow, 1983) has already written several best-sellers, including Illiberal Education and Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. In his latest book, What's So Great About America, he puts his characteristic verve into rebuking the assorted whiners, sad-sacks, and fanatics of anti-Americanism, reminding us that not only does the United States aspire to noble ideals, but that the reality is pretty damn good, too.
Not that we don't have our problems. Government by bureaucratic fiat and judicial mandate (abetted by Congressional cowardice) creeps like kudzu through our national life. A particularly maddening example is laid out in appalling detail by Jessica Gavora (Lincoln Fellow, 1996) in Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title IX. Gavora shows how a noxious mixture of feminism, affirmative action, and social engineering tranformed a law written to prevent discrimination against women in higher education into a policy of massive discrimination against men in collegiate athletics. Across the country, men's sports teams are being cut back and eliminated to achieve "gender equity." If not enough women want to play field hockey, the men must not be allowed to wrestle or run track.
That is logic that only brilliant minds like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Sidney Blumenthal can fathom. And to tell the tale of how such intellectuals have shaped, and mis-shaped, American politics we have Tevi Troy (Publius Fellow, 1991). His smart, engaging volume, Intellectuals and the American Presidency takes us from Franklin Roosevelt's "brain trust," through Kennedy's Camelot, to the present day to show the dangers as well as the virtues of professional thinkers in politics.
The place of wisdom in politics, or more particularly the problem of the claim to wisdom in politics, is an ancient one, and Troy does not solve it (then again, neither did Plato). What is certainly true, however, is that when smart people get involved in government and public policy they ought to go in with some understanding of first principles, and a moral seriousness that comprehends the prudence at the heart of all decent politics. That is what the Institute's Publius Fellows and Lincoln Fellows programs aspire to teach. And with these three fine books by our graduates, we have some reason to believe we are succeeding.